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Glimpses

Snapshots of our lives

February 7, 2013

Money Doesn’t Make Babies

Being a mom in the US and having had to deal with an inferior governmental support system to raise my kids, a current debate in Germany has caught my attention. What can the government do to turn the declining birth rate around that is threatening to lead to a collapse of the social system and lack of qualified workers in the future?

Over the past years the German government has shifted more and more tax money into making having kids affordable. Let’s start with maternity benefits.
There is a freaking designated law protecting mothers!
  • They are not allowed to work 6 weeks before estimated due date until 8 weeks after birth.
  • During that time they are being compensated for their income loss at 100% of their net-salary.
  • They have the right to leave their job for up to 3 years with the guarantee to be able to go back to the same job afterwards.
  • They have the right to be able to work part time during the first three years of their child.
  • Pregnant women are forbidden from working jobs that could harm the baby or mother and the employer has to give them a different task for the duration of pregnancy. During this time they also cannot be laid off or fired.

Beyond that, the so-called “Parent Money” is paid to parents for up to 14 months after the birth of a child as a compensation for lost income if one parent is staying home and caring for the child. It is generally 65% of your net-income. Then there is also the “Children Money”: In Germany every family gets 184 Euro ($246) per child per month until the child starts to have an income or turns 25. No conditions or income limitations tied to it.

Daycare and preschool are heavily subsidized, or even free in some communities.
But apparently all that massive spending is not working. It might make parenthood more affordable and easy on the parents that have kids anyway, but the money does not magically make people reproduce.
“Money doesn’t make babies” was a headline in the German news that caught my eye and made me start to think about what a government could do to convince me to have another child. To be clear – I am done with having kids. The certainty of this decision rose from 99% right after Felix birth to 100% as of right now. Having done the first two kids completely without any financial support from the government, you would think that money could make a difference to me. What if I had an extra $500 a month? Or $1000 or $2000? I would probably find a thousand other ways to spend that money on my existing family rather than on a new baby. Felix could go to daycare so that Linc and his parents get more work done. Milo could do more extracurricular classes. We could start saving for their college funds, etc., etc. In short – the government couldn’t pay me enough money without going broke to get me to make another baby.
So now the German politicians and anybody else involved in the debate are looking into other ways to facilitate reproduction, particularly among young and educated citizens. The compatibility of raising kids with having a career is being brought up a lot. Childcare options need to me more widely available, work hours more flexible, pay rates and employment opportunities equal between mothers and child-less people.
Well, Germany, I can give you that perspective as somebody who is working with a highly progressive company in a very flexible job that allows me to raise children while having a perfectly fulfilling career: It doesn’t make me want to have another baby either. Babies make the same job exponentially harder, regardless of how flexible it is. Sleep deprivation, distraction by sick children or other parental concerns, make it really hard to focus sometimes and you have to push yourself way harder to get the same results as back in the days when you were well rested and all that mattered was yourself and your own pleasure. Maybe if I had the right to be able to work part time, it would make life with children and career easier. But I still wouldn’t have another baby because of it.
In my eyes what it all boils down to is that a government can do whatever they want and it won’t change people’s attitude towards having children or how many they want to have. Some people want 3-4 kids and they will do it regardless of any circumstances. Some people want only 1 or 2 kids, and nothing can change their mind. The reality is that more and more people move over to the 1-2 kids spectrum, rather than pursuing the big family model.
Without quoting any studies or other scientific backup I’m gonna go ahead and use my own opinion to explain this phenomenon. Young people today want to fulfill themselves. As freely and long as possible. We have an abundance of different career paths, opportunities for great life experiences, travel, etc. We delay having children as long as possible.
What if being a mother is part of your need to fulfill yourself? Then you have satisfied that longing after one child. Maybe, only maybe, you will have a second baby to give your first child the opportunity to experience siblinghood. But anything beyond that would restrict your and your family’s opportunities unnecessarily. Everything would get more expensive, traveling and luxuries not longer affordable in the extend that we like, and life just more complicated and restricted. Three kids outnumber the parents. Three is the magic number when everything gets out of balance. When you have fewer hands than kids to handle.
It’s not for me. And nothing can change that.

February 1, 2013

Undoing The Mess

Welcome back to LincNic’s home renovation show! After a 5 month baby break we are back in business. Not quite full force yet, but with a totally manageable project – our walk-in closet. I have been waiting to tackle this project ever since we moved in and am especially excited about it since  this is not only about making a space look nicer, but also more functional. It’s no secret that I am a sucker for beautiful things, but most of you also know that functionality is even more important to me. With little time and money to spare, I like to have my life and household organized to maximum efficiency. If there is an empty corner in my house, I’ll take a storage ottoman or additional cabinet over a decorative vase any time. Form follows function, people!

Master Closet-3

And this builder grade closet just wasn’t cutting it for me. Yeah, it’s nice and big, but what good is that if I can’t use half of the space? The main conflict here is that I am not a clothes hanger, but a folder. It’s way faster for me and the sweaters don’t get stretched out. So, if you look at my side of the closet, there were only two shelves to hold my stacks of clothes – only one of them really within my reach. And a lot of empty space in between.

Master Closet-2

Lincoln’s side was dealing with other issues. He is neither a clothes hanger, nor a folder, but a putting-them-downer. Whatever has been taken off the shelves or racks, just ends up laying around somewhere.

Master Closet-1

We tried to make up for the lack of shelf space by using this big ass dresser which is taking up half of the closet.

Master Closet-4

On top of the dresser we don’t have enough organized space to hold all my earrings and the stuff that spills out of Lincoln’s pockets every evening.

Master Closet-8

 

Master Closet-9

The trash can is ugly black plastic and the black hamper so deep that I almost fall in head first every time I try to find those black socks in there.

Master Closet-6

So, what was the logical first step? Creating a hot mess in our bedroom.

Master Closet-10

Then it was time to rip all the stupid wire shelving out and make some swiss cheese.

Master Closet-12

Why, you ask? Because some genius decided to use threadless screws aka nails together with bolts to attach the shelves to the walls. So instead of being able to screw them out, my only option was to pull as hard as possible and try not to tear down my interior walls completely.

Master Closet-11

Two rounds of spackling ensued and left me with this blank slate.

Master Closet-13

Now this is where the real fun starts. Here’s the plan:

  • Paint the walls a grayish blue
  • Hack and install white Billy bookcases from IKEA
  • Build in some racks to maximize space usage
  • Get some nice storage bins for small things like socks
  • Bring in a tall mirror and an ottoman to sit on
  • Get a prettier laundry hamper and trash can
  • DIY some custom lamps
  • DIY a jewelry organizer for the wall
  • DIY an organizer for Lincoln’s pocket stuff
  • Find a solution to temporarily hold clothes that will be worn again
  • Get and hang some wall art
  • Maybe a rug
  • Do the happy dance!
January 23, 2013

Kiddisms Part Two

Location, location, location – Milo’s main concern these days, seems to be about where things are. Here are some of his recent outtakes:

  • I’m offering Milo to carry him piggy backed to his room. Accidentally I walk into Felix’s room instead of his. Milo totally concerned: “Where did my room go?”
  • After not having gone potty for 4 hours and before getting into the car for our ride home I am trying really hard to get Milo to pee at the mall. So we go into the ladies room together and I go potty first in the hopes that he will want to copy me. Milo: “Mommy, where did your penis go?”
  • This morning Milo walked into my closet that is currently undergoing renovation, then runs to me in the bathroom to announce: “Mommy, my house is broken.”

 

January 18, 2013

A Not So Merry Christmas

This year one of my big goals is to start all Christmas preparations way earlier than usual, so that I can finally experience a season of joy and peace rather than chaos and stress. But before that, let’s just wrap up last year real quick, shall we? 2012  was Felix’s first Christmas and Milo’s first time that he really understood what was going on. I had big dreams and plans to make it very special for our boys, but then life happened. Felix got very sick (sinus and ear infection, plus a bad cough with wheezing and trouble breathing) and Milo had a super emotional cranky phase. On top of that both kids were teething. Nobody in our house got nearly enough sleep and between December 17 and 27 we just wished for it all to be over.

We barely managed to get all Christmas preparations done and just wanted the kids to get better. The negative highlight of our holidays was spending Christmas Day with Felix at the urgent care clinic. No wonder we didn’t quite feel the festive spirit, right?

At least Milo didn’t seem to notice, so he had a good time with ripping presents open. We were wondering beforehand whether we would go with the whole Santa story or not. In the end we just kept it unspecific were the presents came from and I don’t think Milo cared enough yet. So maybe we will revisit this philosophic question this year. And are wishing for only one thing: Healthy and happy kids.

On these photos we look deceivably happy and healthy, but I swear we were all miserable inside. At least we won’t forever be reminded of a not so merry Christmas by these photos.

January 18, 2013

I’m Bigger!

That’s Milo’s favorite sentence these days and he can’t seem to stress it enough. Notice how he is not only big, but bigger? What he is trying to say is that he is a big boy and trust me, we are holding him up to this statement as often as needed. I think he got it from preschool, where the older class is allowed certain things that the little ones can’t do.

In some aspects Milo is really becoming a big boy. He goes to preschool 5 mornings a week and is learning so much. His speech is exploding and now 80% English and in full sentences. He is holding conversations with his friends and they can play totally self sufficiently together. Also, just like a big boy, Milo has a girlfriend. Actually, one in school (her name is Veda. They show each other their lunch boxes if you know what I mean ;-) and a different one in his free time (Lilia). He is definitely into older, dark haired girls. And they love him too.

Milo is now also using the toilet big boy style. About three months ago he started to become interested in the potty and voluntarily used it every time before bath or bed time. Sometimes also in the morning. Since he showed interest, knows how to pull pants down, and can say what he needs, I figured we’d give official potty training a shot. For Thanksgiving I had 4 days off and with united efforts Linc and I started mission potty training:

  • Day 1: Put Milo in underwear or without pants and sit him on the potty every half hour to get him into the routine of going potty and avoid accidents. Successfully even through the Thanksgiving party. We still put on a diaper for his nap and at night.
  • Day 2: Spacing potty visits out to every 1 hour. One accident. Milo had been holding his poop for two days because he doesn’t want to do it in the potty, then it plopped just out on the floor when he was without pants.
  • Day 3: Milo is tarting to say when he needs to go potty, but you gotta be fast because it comes out the same minute. So, we still put him on the potty eery hour. Another poop accident. This time in the pants.
  • Day 4: Discouraged by the poop accidents and the fact that Milo doesn’t seem to be able to hold stuff in, I put a diaper on him in the morning. But he doesn’t want it, so I explained to him how he needs to hold the pee in when he feels it coming and that he can use his hands to hold his junk if needed. He totally got it! (Sometimes I still underestimate this child’s brain growth and tend to give up instead of explaining things. Gotta get rid if that habit. He’s a smartie after all.) From then on we only put Milo on the potty before leaving the house or sleepy time and relied on him to let us know when he needed to go. No accidents! He’s successfully holding everything in until we get to a potty. even when out and about.
  • Day 5: First preschool day without diapers. I deposit 3 extra pants and underwear, but he doesn’t need them.
  • Day 7: After one week with diapers only for sleeping, the nap diaper is now staying dry. So we skip it and only keep the night diaper.
  • Day 30: Night diapers have been dry for two weeks, so we ditch them as well and never looked back.

That’s how Milo became completely dry within only a month. Much easier than anticipated.

He IS my big boy.

December 6, 2012

Family of Four

You ask – we answer.

So, how are we doing as a family of four?

  • Milo is still great with Felix. He sings him songs, makes him smile, and generally just cares for his wellbeing. When we are driving in the car and Felix starts to cry, Milo tells him ” No weinen, Felix. Gleich da” (“Don’t cry Felix, almost there”) He even said it the other day without Felix in the car when we were approaching our house and then got all concerned when he noticed that Felix wasn’t with us.
  • Milo is good with us now too. Right after Felix’s birth he had a major power struggle / tantrum phase. Whether it was related to Felix’s birth or just coincidence (Hello terrible twos!), we will never know. There were weeks when he would do only the opposite of what we said, not follow the simplest request, and throw things on purpose just to provoke us. All day long. Every single chore like a diaper change, getting him to eat, or change his shirt became a power struggle. But somehow we got through it. With lots of patience and persistance. I guess Milo understood that some things in life are non-negotiable and the only place his tantrums will get him is his room.
  • We, the parents are close to a burn out. We are basically just functioning. Taking care of babies, work, taking care of errands, sleep for a few hours. Repeat. At the end of the week we really miss spending quality time with each other and somehow manage to squeeze in an hour long in-house date night. But with Felix becoming less needy and Milo being pretty cooperative these days, things are definitely starting to look up.
October 10, 2012

The Booby Trap

Disclaimer: This is a post about female breasts – mine to be precise – and there won’t be any photos. This is a vent about my love-hate relationship with breastfeeding.

I breastfed Milo for 6 months and thought about quitting every single day. In the end a dehydrating attack of food poising made the decision for me. I am hoping for something similar to happen with Felix again. Not the food poisoning (most liquid evacuation of my body ever!!!), but something that gets me off the drug at a reasonable point of time.

Yes, breastfeeding is a drug. Once you start it, it is really hard to say no to the rush of Oxytocin from it – that blissful hormone that balances out at least a little bit of all the other stress. Why did I start breastfeeding? Because it’s the natural thing to do, it’s best for baby, and it’s free. Also it is kind of convenient not having to remember to pack any more stuff in the diaper bag (bottles, formula). And not having to clean bottles. I also can’t deny that I really dig my temporary boob enlargement. Finally some normally sized breasts that fill out bras.

It will be a sad day when they disappear forever. But also a liberating day. Breastfeeding is a very exhausting one-person job. A job that is entirely on me – day and night. If you know me, you know how independence is the essence of my being and being pinned down like that is causing slight symptoms of depression. Not only because of breastfeeding, but in combination with total exhaustion I secretly cry a little bit every day.

I hate breastfeeding with a passion. When baby just wants to use me as a pacifier for hours, when I have to be sitting down in a quiet spot at an event instead of being able to join in on the fun. When the boobs get too full and you have to abort any activity or outing after 3 hours just to get back home to being sucked empty again. Also, breastfeeding is very messy. Milk. sprays. everywhere. I go through at least three burp cloths a day just to catch half of the leaking milk and will still find milk spots on all our couches. For something that’s so natural, breastfeeding is not as easy as it should be. I think I don’t know any mom who hasn’t had issues with undersupply, oversupply, baby not latching right, food sensitivities via breast milk, etc.

My boob’s problem is a forceful let-down. Meaning that the milk shoots out very fast and strong. Causing baby to pull off and it spraying everywhere. Alternatively causing him to gulp, swallow lots of air, and become very gassy and miserable. I could pose the question if this really best for me and my baby, but it doesn’t matter because I know I will keep going anyway.