Q&A: daycare crisis

Corinne writes:

"Sigh. I’m looking for some suggestions here on how to fix a daycare meltdown for our 1 year old son. This is my second week back to work, and our daycare provider (very sweet older lady who looks after another boy about 16 months old) told me this morning that she’d like me to look for another caregiver for my son. The issue is she can’t get him to take naps, and then he is cranky (of course) and difficult to deal with. At home, he takes 2 – 1.5 hour naps a day. I think the issue may be that she doesn’t have enough time to spend quietly with him to get him down. I had been taking him there for the last few months to get him slowly adjusted and he did fine – but her husband was home on leave and there to help with the other one. Now that he’s back to work, it seems that things have gone sideways. I think the two very young boys are just too much for her.

So, needless to say, I’m at a loss. Returning to work is of course guilt-addled and difficult. I tried my best to set things up so that the transition would be easier for my son by getting him used to this daycare provider, and now everything has been thrown upside down. I love my job (I mean really love… dream job… kind of job I went to school for 10 years to land) but I’m left wondering if I need to just quit and be a SAHM. So now for the advice ask: do you have any suggestions on how to fix the current daycare situation (how she could possibly get him to nap/multi-task with 2 kids under 18 months), or do you think that I should just accept that this isn’t going to work out? The follow up is, do you have any experience with nannies? Is the live-in arrangement horribly awkward and difficult? Is it like slave labour to import someone from overseas (I live in Canada and we have a live-in caregiver program that makes it very easy to secure a work visa for a nanny)? Are the costs out of control?"

Oof. This bites all around. It sounds like your provider doesn't want to be your provider anymore, so I think you have to accept that it isn't going to work out. I can't imagine taking care of two kids under 18 months at the same time, and I'm not an older lady, even. It sounds like she just bit off more than she can chew, and you guys are the ones who are having to pay for it. If she was direct enough to tell you to find someone else, then it sounds like her mind is made up, and you don't want someone who's not really committed caring for your son every day anyway.

I can't really speak specifically to having a live-in nanny. Is there a reason you're thinking live-in instead of having a regular nanny who goes back to her own home at the end of the work day? Or is that not done where you live? There are different kinds of daycare situations that seem to vary by region. Where I live in NYC, people use daycare centers or live-out nannies, and occasionally live-in nannies, but home-based daycares aren't common. In the city I grew up in, home-based daycares are the norm, and a live-in nanny is something from the movie "Mary Poppins," not real life.

So I'd start asking around at the playground or wherever you talk to other parents about what type of care they have and what made them choose it. (If you don't see lots of parents in real life, there's got to be a Google group or Yahoo group or some kind of parenting message board somewhere for your area.)

The other parents will also be able to answer your questions about cost. Again, costs are going to vary by region, but also by situation. For example, two kids in daycare might be more expensive than having a nanny in some areas, so parents of two pull kids out of center-based daycare to go with a nanny. Or it might be possible to find a nanny share situation, which would make the cost lower. So there's probably more flexibility in configuration of care and cost than you realize.

About the "slave labour" question: It depends on how you treat the person. If you see this person not as an individual with rights and thoughts and feelings but as a job function, then, yeah, it is like slave labor. But if you see your nanny as a person with whom you're contracting for her talents and services, then you'll be able to work it out. My assumption is that people applying from other countries for nanny positions in Canada are doing it of their own free will in an effort to find a better life for themselves. It's up to you to accept your role in helping your nanny pursue a better life.

(It's a really, REALLY good idea to write out a contract that you and the nanny sign outlining expectations and responsibilities on both sides so everything's clear from the get-go. There will still be stuff you have to deal with as it comes up, but if you have a basic outline that you agree to, things will go more smoothly.)

I'm sorry that this is happening now, right when you went back to work and are dealing with that emotionally. (But you love your job, and that's awesome!) It sounds like you want a caregiver who can give your son the one-on-one time that he needs to be able to nap well. So I'd explore the idea of live-out nannies, live-in nannies, nanny shares (sharing a nanny with another child of the same age would give your son a playmate, while sharing a nanny with a child in school would give you plenty of one-on-one time for your son but also some mixed-age socialization with the older child) and nanny arrangements. To me it sounded like you were suggesting being a SAHM out of frustration, but if you did decide to try it for awhile it doesn't have to be permanent–plenty of people spend a few years caring for their kids and then go back into the paid workforce, so it might be another thing to consider if it feels comfortable right now.

Once you know what you're looking for, start asking around for recommendations. (It's too bad you're not in NYC–the economic crisis here is leaving tons of great nannies out of work so you could find someone great within a week.) If I had to trust either recommendations from friends or from an agency, I'd go with friends every time.

What are the childcare norms in your area? How did you find childcare? Are you happy with your situation? Are there any cost anomalies that flummox you?

Q&A: 20-month-old weaning

Emily writes:

"I have a problem that I'm not sure how to approach, and I think I needyour help splitting it up and looking at it from different angles using
your (soon-to-patented, I hope) Moxie Method.

My son is almost
20 months old and, with all the usual nostalgia and mixed feelings
about it, I'm ready to wean.  We've been down to just a morning and an
evening feeding for months now, so I decided to start by dropping the
morning feeding and take it from there.   It turns out that my son was
quite willing to drop the feeding and doesn't usually think twice about
it provided it is my husband and not me who gets him out of his crib in
the morning.

 After a week of nursing once a day, however, my milk supply seemed
to drop off precipitously.   I've long suspected that the two feedings
we have left are more about comfort and cuddling than nutrition, but
now that there's really, truly nothing left at the end of a feeding,
nursing often becomes very uncomfortable and unpleasant.  Despite this,
my son doesn't seem at all inclined to drop the bedtime feeding.  It is
quite ingrained in our bedtime routine — I nurse him after a story and
then put him more or less awake in his crib and sing a song — and,
well, I don't know how to proceed.  I quickly went back to the morning
feeding to try and salvage my milk supply, and I'm wondering what the
heck to do now.

Do I drop the morning feeding anyway and figure he'll eventually
lose interest in the bedtime feeding if I really do lose my milk, and
in the meantime just put up with the discomfort?  Are there mothers out
there whose babies kept nursing even after there was little or no milk
left, and how long could they stand it — urrrr — did it go on?

Do I keep the morning feeding and wait… for what?

Do I
try and wean him completely?   On the rare occasions I'm out for the
evening he goes to sleep relatively easily with my husband or my
mother-in-law (sometimes with some tears, but then again he sometimes
cries when I'm putting him to bed, too).  But I suspect I'd have to
leave our apartment for this to work, and that feels like weaning by
desertion to me.

Do I try to explain to my son what's going on and rely on him to understand somehow? 

Breastfeeding
has been such a positive experience, I want to bring it to a graceful
and satisfying conclusion for both of us, I'm not sure how.  If you
have any advice, I would so appreciate it."

Weaning is hard. Some of it is logistics, but mostly it's the emotional stuff that's hard.

I think that in order to wean without causing yourself a ton of regret and guilt, you need to get to the place where you understand that nursing isn't the only way your child gets the ultimate comfort, and that weaning is a natural and healthy stage that can increase your bond with him, and his bond with other people.

If you're reading this and thinking, "No way!" then you're not at that place, and it's not the right time for you to wean. If you really need to wean for one reason or another, then start working on your feelings to be able to get yourself there. Otherwise, instead of feeling just the normal weaning-guilt all of us feel (whether we weaned after one feeding or 5 years), you'll be really torn up about it for awhile, and that's not good for you or your child.

I have not experienced personally discomfort while nursing with low supply, so I can't tell you what to do about it. I'm hoping that maybe some of the readers may have experienced it and can comment.

It does seem like this discomfort with one feeding a day is forcing you into an all-or-nothing situation. So, at this point, you just need to decide if you're ready to wean or not. I think there's this myth that the "natural" way to wean is by mutual decision between mother and child, and it all happens peacefully and one day the child just stops and the mother is exactly ready for it. That's bull, IME and from observing every other weaning situation I've known the details of. One of you always wants to wean more than the other one does. My mom is still upset that I stopped nursing sooner than she thought I would, and I'm 36. And I definitely pushed both of my kids into weaning when they would have gone on for longer. I've never heard of a single nursing couple who just stopped together with neither one pushing the agenda. (If this happened to you, please comment!)

So when you're ready to wean, whether it's now or in another week, or month, or 9 weeks, or whatever timeframe you set, you'll wean. You'll talk to your son about it for a few days before the last day (who has a ton of receptive language, and will be able to understand that there's no milk anymore, even if he doesn't understand why or how). And then you'll stop in the morning the same way you did before. And if he still wants to nurse at night, you'll leave the house for bedtime for a few days. It's not "weaning by desertion" unless he's actually deserted, and being with a loving father or grandparent who is happy to comfort him isn't being deserted at all–it's just a different kind of comfort than nursing is.

You'll probably find that once you've weaned you do more snuggling and talking and other forms of comforting. (Your son will also probably get sick at some point in the next month, and you'll blame the weaning and feel guilty about it!) But this is all part of the process. It's good for both of you to stick together through this stage, and you'll come out of it fine. But part of that is your being OK with the decision. So if it feels wrong now, wait a little while, and when it feels right you'll be ready to commit.

I just want to remind anyone reading this that if you're doing 3 or more feedings a day, don't go cold turkey if you can help it because it can throw you into PPD and give you mastitis. Instead, drop one feeding every few days so it's more gradual on your body.

Comments? Tales of weaning?

Orlando update

Actual Q&A below this, so scroll down! Apparently the Marriott World Center is a great place to meet, and since I don't have a car it's going to be tough for me to get anywhere else. I'm proposing Monday, March 23 at 11 am at the Marriott World Center. But I'm not sure where, as I've never been there. Anyone have a landmark we can meet at? And is that time OK for the people coming with kids?

Q&A: resources for “the talk”

Frequent commenter and lovely person Bobbi writes:

"I'm hoping that, while you probably don't havemuch expertise in this area yet, maybe some of your readers do, because I'm
stumped.  My oldest daughter is 9.5.  She is a really innocent 4th
grader who goes to Catholic school, so she really doesn't know ANYTHING
yet.  She was extremely curious about the development of my pregnancies in
utero, and asked lots of questions about how the babies got out of me, but never
once inquired as to how they got in there.  I have 4 kids, so getting
some alone time to hang out with her doesn't happen as often as it should, but
we try.  Last night we went to church and then shopping, just the 2 of
us, and I took the opportunity to start to preface the sex
talk.  Well, the conversation was an epic fail, with her sobbing over
the weirdness of it all (and I never really got into anything – I was just
prepping her for it coming).  SO.  I backed off, and told her I'd
leave it alone until she's ready or curious.  I told her I'd be getting a
book that explained things, and that she could take a look whenever she wanted
to know more.  For the record, she had much the same reaction to the Santa
truth.  Like she wants to know, but mourns the loss a bit.

Anything anyone can recommend?  Any good book
recommendations?  I've never done this before, and I'm feeling like I'm
doing it all wrong.  I want her to be as comfortable as she can asking me
anything (I never was with my mom, so maybe she'll never be either, but I'm
hoping).  This is so much harder than I expected it to be!

Thanks…"

Bobbi is right that I don't have expertise in books about how sex happens for kids. (My 7-year-old knows the technicalities of how it happens, because he asked while I was pregnant with his brother and I told him, but the younger one hasn't asked anything yet so we haven't gotten to it, although his friend's mom's pregnancy makes this a perfect time. And, frankly, at this point we're too busy talking about love and being married and being divorced, etc. to have time to talk about sex. Although last Friday's comment section made me vow to include "making your partner come every time" as an integral part of the future sex talks. Anyway.)

I could go back and look up the books people always used to recommend, but the last time I remember thinking about this topic was a few years ago. I'm sure there are more resources out there now, so I'm hoping you guys can chime in with the best recommendations for her daughter's age and stage.

I wonder if your "prepping" her for the talk is what made it such a fail. It seems like so many times we put our own expectations onto kids and what they're going to think about things, and then it turns out that they're just so much more able to take it for what it is than we think.

I'm thinking specifically about death, or dying pets, and anything that our culture has taught adults to fear. Since our culture fears sex, it seems like this is another area in which we bring a whole bunch of stuff to the table that our kids don't need to have as issues. So I'm wondering if maybe doing the prep is what freaked her out, and if you just jumped ahead to the technical part and was really matter-of-fact about it, that she wouldn't be absolutely fine with it. It's really the other stuff that's tricky anyway (stupid messy emotions, making everything complicated…).

As an aside, the idea that she's sheltered from all this stuff at Catholic school makes me laugh and wonder if it's just the Catholic school that I went to for junior high that was so blatantly naughty! Those kids from St. [Name Redacted] were just light-years ahead of me in sexual knowledge and practice, cursing, drinking, smoking, and everything else. Now I'm wondering if there was just something special about the school I went to.

Honestly, though, it's going to be OK. It really is. The bottom line is that she's going to learn about sex whether you tell her or not. So you're not doing some big, innocence-smashing thing by having the (series of) talk(s). Instead, you're making sure she gets correct information before she gets really incorrect and potentially damaging information from somewhere else. There is no "wrong" here, just uncomfortable for you. And you've already done so many uncomfortable things for your kids that you know you can make it through this one, even if it makes you want to be swallowed up by a hole in the ground.

Book recs? Stories of telling your own kids? Stories of your mother being extremely uncomfortable while telling you, but giving you the info you needed?

Product Review: DreamBox Learning Math Online Games

(There's a sleep post just under this one, so scroll down.)

The people at DreamBox Learning sent me a free trial of their online games that teach math to kids in Preschool through Grade 2, so we gave them for a test run here Chez Moxie.

In the interests of full disclosure, I should tell you that one of my freelance jobs is training for a different company that makes video games that teach kids math, but they are geared towards kids in grades 3 through early high school. So I know plenty about video games as teaching tools, as well as the interplay of math content and game play. (And if anyone's a math teacher out there, particularly for grades 4-8, who wants a highly engaging activity to get kids to drill themselves on math without even realizing it, shoot me an email and I can direct you to that company. It's only sold to schools right now, not individuals.)

So I came to DreamBox both as an interested parent, but also as someone who knows what online games can do if they're done well. Overall, I was highly impressed with the site and the games, for a lot of reasons:

  • The parental controls are complete but not excessive. I said to R, "Will you test out a video game someone sent me to try?" and he was up and playing within about 5 minutes of the time I said that, even though I had to set up an account for him and one for T, and what he was allowed to do on it and how I wanted to be notified, etc.
  • It has a lot of content. Enough different games for the kids to stay interested, and enough content within each game to make it engaging while reinforcing skills. It covers pre-math skills all the way up through skills for second grade.
  • It's leveled for the age and skills of each child. It starts out with some games that test the child's level of ease with manipulating a mouse and tracking and following directions, then starts in testing the child's level of skill at math. From there it adjusts as the child's skills increase.
  • The games are fun. The kids get to choose their own characters, and then pick from a bunch of different games in the adventure park. There's a pirate, and all kinds of other goofy stuff that I couldn't keep track of, but the kids loved. It's real games, not just math exercises with cute graphics.

The one bad thing about the game, from my perspective, was the narrator's voice, which sounded a little too enthusiastic in a Dora kind of way (Classic Dora, not the new, tarted-up Dora who no one will watch). I think hours of that would grate on my nerves something awful, but I also wouldn't let my kids play the game for hours. (The DreamBox people recommend 15 minutes a few times a week.) On the other hand, the music was so much better (read: quieter and less frenetic) than most of the video game music. So it might be a draw.

Also, and this isn't at all the fault of the game, my son R is used to playing more action-oriented games with a more adult feel, so he only went about 10 minutes per playing session before he wanted to go back to something involving chases or jumping or dirtbikes (I don't allow shooting games, but dirtbikes are fun). So I think if you have a kid who has either no gaming experience, or experience with games like Club Penguin and Wii Sports, they'll love this. But a kid who plays more adult games with more adult graphics might find it a little young in terms of look and feel. (R was still happy to start playing it every few days, he just didn't stick with it for long.)

T, who is almost 4, was just barely able to play the game by himself. So I think the ideal starting age would be 4 or above, with some mouse fluency.

DreamBox Learning is $8.95 a month, and you can do your own free two-week trial before you sign up. Check it out at www.dreambox.com.

Q&A: How do I change the bedtime routine?

Laura writes:

"My 2.5 year old son has always co-slept with us.  (Except for 2weeks or so where he decided he wanted to sleep in his own bed, and
then we would have to get up at least one or two times a night to get
him back to sleep.  When he came back to our bed, it was so much easier
that we didn't push it).

So the usual routine starts at 7:30 pm: pajamas, brush teeth, 3
books (less if they are long) and then lights out. If he has a bath, we
start at 7 pm. We pat his back to get him to go to sleep, which is
something we started when he was 2 because they do it in daycare.  He
used to fall asleep by about 8 or a little after, but this has gotten
progressively later and later.  Now he usually doesn't fall asleep
until 9 or 9:30, and sometimes later!

The other problem is that for the past month, I have fallen asleep
with him when i was putting him to bed (I lie down with him while I am
patting him).

So I never get any me time, or any time with my husband while my
son isn't there.  My husband has had primary care giver duties since I
went back to work full-time last November (he works from home), and he
is starting to feel really overwhelmed.

We used to have a 6 am wake up time for him, but that got
progressively later and later.  My husband wants to let him sleep in,

I want to figure out how to change the routine so that my son
doesn't need us there to fall asleep, so that I can have some "me time"
back.  We would like to transition him to his own bed by the time he is
3, but I would be willing to start earlier if it meant that he would
sleep on his own.

I would love some help with this – I feel like this is the root of
a lot of other issues that are coming up lately, and I am hoping that
if we can address this, other things will also improve."

Oh, I completely feel your pain. I remember waking up every night at 1 am on the floor next to my older son's crib, drooling. I think a huge part of the problem is that he's 2 1/2.

Remember the theory by Ames & Ilg (of the Gessel Institute of Human Development) about equilibrium and disequilibrium? They basically observed that toddlers/preschoolers would go through phases of equilibrium, when they're learning all the time, are realtively even-keeled, and are pleasant and cheerful and fluent both emotionaly and physically. This seems to last about 6 months, aand happens right around the year mark.

Then they'd go through a period of disequlibrium, when they were cranky and disorganized and uncordiated. These were the times kids tripped and fell a lot, started stuttering out of the blue, and developed sleep problems even if they hadn't had them before. This phase also seems to last around 6 months, and happens at the half year.

So I think that your idea that his going-to-sleep issues are at the root of his other problems may be somewhat on, but it may also be that all of the stuff going on is just symptomatic of his being 2 1/2. (If you meant you and your husband, not your son, were having issues because of the sleep stuff, then you're probably dead on about that.)

The bad news is that I don't think you're going to have enormous success in changing his sleep routine at this point. It's the same idea as not trying to change anything during the 4-month or 9-month or 18-month sleep regression. e's just got so much else going on right now, and is so off-kilter in general, that trying to change the sleep could completely blow up in your face. You'll probably have way more success if you wait until he's closer to 3. (I think many parents will agree that 3 is just far easier than 2 1/2 in general.) I think getting him to fall asleep on his own is kind of a pipe dream at this point.

But I think there's plenty of wiggle room in his schedule to give you and your husband a little ease so you're both not going nuts wth no time to yourselves. (Together alone I can't do much about, unfortunately.)

First, I would accept the fact that his sleep time is actually 9 or 9:30. And starting at 7 or 7:30 means you're spending two full hours getting him to sleep. I remember that phase, and it was unbearable. Just thinking about starting it made me want to cry. What would happen if you started at 8:30 instead? If he's not going to fall asleep until 9:30 anyway, then your keeping the consistent start time isn't doing anything, so at least give yourself a little less work by starting later.

Then, I would alternate who gets him to sleep. This means every other night one of you gets some alone time, and the other one gets the shaft. (Because the likelihood that you're going to fall asleep while getting him to sleep is pretty high.) But that means that you're sharing the load a little, so there's going to be less resentment. And resentment is the last thing you need at this point on top of the going-to-sleep stuff.

The other thing I might do is look at the the morning schedule your husband is working. I suspect that he's letting your son sleep in because your husband needs a little "him time" in the morning before your son wakes up, and that's totally valid. (Those sweet beautiful minutes of alone time are worth gold.) If he's not, and he just thinks your son deserves to sleep in, then maybe you guys want to rethink that. It's possible that waking him up earlier will make him go to sleep sooner (in which case you could start the bedtime routine at the same time and he'll fall asleep earlier). Of course, its also possible that waking him up earlier won't make him go to sleep earlier at all. So if you decide to go that route, give it a good 3-4 days and then assess what's going on.

Also, I'd check in with the dyacare to find out what the kids are doing all day. I think a lot of people who are at home with a 2 1/2-year-old feel like their main survival tool is making sure the kid gets tons and tons of exercise in the morning. So much that the kid is just flat worn out before naptime. It seems like that exercise in the morning helps work out some of the negative symptoms of the disequilibrium. So if your daycare could be giving him some more running-around time (or dancing or pogo-sticking or whatever they do) in the morning, encourage them to do it.

I would NOT try to get him into his own bed right now. I think that would put you in the same position as the questioner last week (who was pregnant and trying to switch beds and potty train at the same time) of getting into a really unstable situation. If you think about it, bedtime is pretty consistent right now. It sucks big time, but at least it's consistent.

I don't know what's making you want him in his own bed "by the time he is 3" (I'm guessing some externally-motivated timeline), but I think your life physically, emotionally, and logistically will be easier if you can adjust that to "when he's around 3." It's just going to be soooo much easier to get him to buy in to going to sleep on his own once he goes back into a phase of equilibrium. 

Also, if you guys have any ease financially at all, sit down and think about what you could outsource. If your husband's overwhelmed, and you're working full-time, and your son isn't going to sleep with ease, then finding some time or space by outsourcing is going to be worth it for you as a family. Cleaning, food prep, laundry, etc. can all be outsourced at various levels of expense, and will help you guys get through this tough phase.

Anyone else? Tales of bedtimes stretching out to 2+ hours? Night after night of waking up in the morning, still fully-clothed and in your child's bed? Hours of screaming and trying to keep your kid in his or her room because you tried to sleep-train at this age? Getting kicked in the kidneys when your kid was in your bed?

Peekonomics

The lovely people at Peek have put together a terrifying site at peekonomics.com showing how much you can save by getting a Peek to do your mobile email and texting instead of your current phone provider. It makes a strong case for keeping your current phone and dropping the text plan and just getting a Peek instead for texting and emailing. (Also, they just struck up a deal with Costco to sell you a Peek with lifetime service for $399.99, which pays for itself in 18 months!)

They're looking for feedback from you, so feel free to comment on what you like and don't like, and what you'd suggest.

Q&A: a question about sex

Clare writes:

"My partner and I have been together for about five years and we have a18-month old child. We used to have sex a few times a week before the
baby came along and our sex life was pretty normal.  Since the baby has
been born, I have absolutely no sex drive whatsoever.  I just couldn't
care less about it.  I'm still nursing, so that's what I attributed my
lack of sex drive to until I analyzed it a little further: we have bad
sex.

I can count the number of times my husband has made me orgasm on ONE
hand. He rarely tries to please me, not with his mouth, not with his
hand, nothing.  The few times he has tried to go down on me I've cut it
short because it just wasn't going anywhere.  I know men aren't mind
readers when it comes to what we have, but part of me just feels silly
having to give directions after this long of being together, and I'm
terrified that I'm going to hurt his feelings, or worse– that even with
directions, he'll still suck.  (I do orgasm during sex, but always with
my vibrator. Sometimes I don't bring it out in the hopes that he'll
take some initiative and try to please me, but nope–it's the vibrator
or nothing.)

I think what the biggest problem is, is that it's now become normal.
 My previous partner and I were also having really bad sex for two
years (he too made no effort to please me)- so after a combined total
of about seven years of bad sex, I just accept it.  What IS that?!  I
used to have great sex! I was blessed with partners who knew what they
were doing, or at least took cues from my breathing or noises that they
should keep doing exactly as they're doing, but those days are long
gone.

Bad sex is contagious too! Because my husband doesn't really try to
make me enjoy it, I've become a bit spiteful and never give him oral
sex anymore (I used to, up until the baby was born) because I don't get
anything in return. I've almost stopped trying to be good at actual
penis-vagina sex too, because I feel so hurt that he doesn't care about
my needs. It's a vicious circle and I don't know how to stop it! Are we
doomed to have worse and worse sex for the rest of our lives?"

Well, this is a juicy question for a Friday in March.

(Before we go any further into Clare's specific issue, I want to say that if you were having good sex before the baby but are feeling lack of desire now, many many women find that their libido comes back when their menstrual cycle returns and/or they stop nursing. If you want your cycle to come back but don't want to stop nursing, see if you can go for a 7 hours stretch without nursing every day for a few weeks–in some women that's enough to bring it back, while others have to completely wean for several months before it will return. You're probably somewhere in between. If you're completely done nursing for awhile and have your cycle back and still no libido, get your thyroid levels checked. If you were not having good sex before you had a baby, then you have a different issue to deal with than hormone levels.)

Claire, you're not alone. I'm sure there are tons of us that are or were partnered to people who didn't do it for us sexually. There's a theory that you can teach someone to be your perfect lover, but I think there has to be an initial spark, and that you can go from good sex to amazing sex, but it's awfully hard to go from bad sex to anything else.

Unfortunately, I think women get this idea from the larger culture that you date "bad boys" but marry "good guys" and that sets us up for some strange expectations for long-term partnership or marriage. It's almost as if we seek out men with whom we have no spark, because those are the guys we think are going to be good bets for the long haul, or good fathers, or whatever we're supposed to be looking for.

Here on the other side of a bad marriage, I've realized that sex is important. Really important. I think sexual chemistry is a huge indicator of other areas of
compatibility in a relationship. Now I would only ever marry someone
who completely knocked my socks off sexually, because I just think the
sex is a barometer of the rest of how you relate and your expectations
of each other. But that's not anything that helps Claire, or anyone else who looks around and realizes she's married to someone she's always had bad sex with.

Claire's situation is going from bad to worse, in that resentment is building up, and the two of them seem to be shutting down progressively. I think there are a couple of ways to address that. One way is for Claire to bite the bullet and have an honest talk with her partner (when they're not in bed) about how she sees the two of them pulling away from each other. They can talk about it and decide to make a commitment to being more proactive about each other's pleasure. Or Claire could just decide she was going to start changing the way she reacts, and become more generous with her partner, in hopes that that will open things up between them and her partner will start to reciprocate.

This still doesn't solve the larger issue, which is that they've always had bad sex. And there have to be reasons that that's true. Maybe Claire had a set of expectations of herself and her partner that made her enter into a long-term relationships with someone who wasn't satisfying her. It sounds like those expectations may be changing. I certainly don't want to tell people who have an otherwise good relationship to split up–that just doesn't make much sense. But how long can people live with bad sex (tapering off into no sex) between them? It seems like an unsolvable problem.

So I'm turning it over to you. Not asking for an answer necessarily (although if you have one, please post it!). I'm really just hoping you guys will post your stories and data points. If you and your partner have a sexual spark, has it always been there, or did it take time to develop? Has anyone started out with mediocre sex and improved it? If the sex is bad in your partnership, how do you deal with it? Could you live in a sexless marriage? Are you living in one?

Please feel free to comment anonymously! (Put www.google.com or www.fake.com in the URL field, and if it tells you it's not accepting the data, cut and copy your comment, then refresh the page and paste the comment into the text box and try again. I have no idea why that happens.)

Still trying to educate about PPD…

Hey guys, remember the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act that provides legislation and funding to educate new moms about PPD and provide screening and resources? It's up in Congress again, so we need to sign the petition in support of it. It'll take 30 seconds, and could save women's lives.

And you know the topic that's dearest to my heart is preventing PPD in the first place. If you haven't already downloaded my free PDF "14 Tips To Prevent PPD" and given it to your favorite pregnant lady or new mom (or her partner), please do it now!

Q&A: transferring to twin bed with a whole lot of complication

Maggie writes:

"I have a 27 month little boy who is going through lots of changes,forced on him by his expecting parents.  I'm 7 months pregnant next
week, we just bought him a twin bed with all the bells and whistles and
he's been in it for naps and bedtime for 3 weeks.  All 3 weeks have
been different, the first week was great, no issues, just a dragged out
storytime, cuddle time scenario and then down for the count.  The next
week was a little easier, like he was getting used to the transition
from the crib and had no issues.  Then came the week from hell which
was last week, here's what's been happening, I'm literally at my wits
end:

*Screaming, shaking trembling child shows up in our room asking to crawl into bed
*I give up immediately as I'm a big pushover, pregnant and just plain tired
*Husband gets up very early so as the week progresses he moves into the guest room, no help to me for that part
*Naps become insanely impossible, will not sleep without me, I'm having trouble laying in a twin bed with him due to my size
*Two days I found myself screaming at my 2 year old and it really upset me to know that I had lost control
*One of the two days I lost control, I ended up holding the door handle so he couldn't get out which made me feel even worse!

We
then installed a gate in his room on Friday and everyone had a good
night's sleep.  Saturday he scaled the gate and came back into the room
and then last night we put a gate on top of the other gate in which he
preceded to climb.  Figuring he was going to hurt himself my husband
took him into the guest room with him and laid down until he had to get
up at 5ish.  The gate is obviously not going to work, I don't know what
to do as I really don't want him in the bed because the baby is coming
and will be sleeping off and on in the bed, bassinet, etc. I nursed 27
month old until he was 2 and plan to go as long as I can with the other
one, so……

How can I do this without losing my mind?  I would really like to
have my husband in bed with me, we are all so out of sorts,
sleep-deprived and I'm super impatient to boot.  I need your help, I'm
begging at this point as my girlfriends and family have given me a lot
but I'm ready to install a lock on the outside of the door as he will
not stay in the bed.  That seems so damaging to me, I mean he's my
baby, have I pushed him into this too soon?

P.S.  We are also potty training…."

I'd say maybe every fifth email I get sounds really complicated and then at the end the writer includes a P.S. that unravels it all. This one is almost the ur-P.S. that makes the whole thing make sense.

You know that whole thing about how people want things cheap, fast, and quality? And you can have cheap and fast, cheap and quality, or fast and quality, but not all three? Well, I think in this situation you can have pregnancy, maybe bed-changing and pregnancy, or maybe potty training and pregnancy, but not bed-changing, potty training, and pregnancy all at the same time.

It's just too much. For him. And for you. You're all overloaded, and that's making him freak out, and you guys feel like it's super high-stakes. But it's not. I mean, what happens if he's not in a bed before the baby comes, but is back in a crib? Or what happens if he's still in diapers? There's no shame, and no medical reason for either one, so if this is causing you this much stress, then why on earth put all of you through it?

So. Pick either the bed, or the potty training, or maybe neither. If it were me, I'd back off both the bed and the potty training, because the pregnancy alone is probably causing enough anxiety for him. He's old enough that he knows something's going on with the baby coming, even if he doesn't understand that completely. Talk to him and tell him that you're going to go back to the way it was before in whichever area you choose. Talking to him and letting him know that you're giving him back whatever you were trying to change is going to help ease his stress.

If you do decide to keep working on one or the other, be really specific with him that it's about him, not about getting ready for the baby to come. And if you feel yourself feeling out of control at any point, that is a huge signal for you to back off because it's too much for both of you. You do NOT want to get into a battle of wills with a kid in which you end up physically forcing him to say in his bed. For one thing, it's the last thing that will lead to sleep for either one of you. But more than that, if you get into a cycle of control and dominance by physical size, you're building a pattern that devalues both of you. (Plus, he's going to be bigger than you are when he's 15, and then it'll all be over.)

If you can keep the change manageable, it's going to go better for you. I can't guarantee that he'll stay in his bed more easily if you cut out the potty training, because it might still be too much for him with his anxiety about the baby coming. But it certainly won't be more difficult to work on the bed issue if you cut out the potty training. You might find that he doesn't need to resist the bed and be in with you if the potty training pressure is gone.

People don't usually talk about "backing off" as a valid parenting technique, but it's a huge tool in controlling the situation (instead of trying to control your child). It's the least sexy but potentially most effective way of dealing with change, especially for toddlers. 

Does anyone have stories of making changes that didn't work the first time, but went better after you backed off for awhile to give your kid some breathing room?