Parenting Twice Over
by Mommy MD Guide Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
“What’s a split mom,” you ask? We’re women who’ve had children 10 years or more apart. Here are my thoughts on the best—and worst—parts about being a “split mom.”
Five Great Things:
Different Needs Mean Different Challenges
- Because my sons are so different in ages, they have vastly different needs. One way to meet every child’s needs is to find a way to meet each child’s needs independently since they aren’t competing for the same attention in the way that three boys close in age would demand. For example, my older son, Chad, most needs “been-there-done-that” advice and support in terms of his role as a new parent and spouse, balancing work and family, and planning for the future. But Oakley and Gatlin need me more for hands-on parenting and teaching them the skills they’ll need to be healthy, happy adults. This ranges from checking their homework, making sure they go to bed at a reasonable hour, and holding them accountable for their household chores.
Where was this the first time around?
- Medical advances are constantly in motion but it becomes even more apparent to a mom with children of varying ages. When my oldest son was born, there was no such thing as cord blood banking! But by the time I was pregnant with her two younger sons, the technology was really beginning to develop. I was glad to have a second chance to consider banking my babies’ cord blood, it really showed me things can change between pregnancies. Today, the medical advancements are even further along with cord blood being used to treat a number of blood and immune diseases. For more information, visit www.cordblood.com
Parenting Act – Take 2
- Having children at different stages of your life provides the opportunity to experience the benefits of two very different parenting experiences! As a younger mom you have the benefits of having lots of extra energy to with keep up with a child’s antics and adventures. While you may give up some of that endurance if you enter parenthood once again as an older mom, more maturity, wisdom and patience can help you to draw on the greater perspective that time brings. On this subject, maturity and experience can often result in a more positive and relaxed parenting style. As you have been able to learn from mistakes and see older children blossom into great people, you don’t have to micromanage your younger kids in ways you may have done with an older child. Having raised one son to maturity and seeing what a wonderful, responsible person he’s become, I realize being a good role model is one of the greatest gifts I can give to my children.
A Little Extra Help
- From a purely practical perspective, older kids can help out with younger ones!
Five Challenging Aspects of Being a “Split Mom”:
One on One Time
- It’s easy to feel pulled in so many different directions when children’s needs can vary so dramatically based on their age. Setting aside time with each child individually at least once a week can be a way to cope with this dilemma while also keeping track of what’s going in their lives. It can be as simple as a phone conversation with a grown child while fitting in going out for a meal after a younger child’s sporting event.
Bringing Them Closer
- For many “split moms” it is difficult not to wonder if maybe your children aren’t as close as siblings who are closer in age to one another. I keep a consistent look out to find ways to foster relationships of older and younger siblings by not only encouraging them to spend time together as brothers but also by providing them with the means to make it happen. When Chad brings his new family to visit us, I send him out with Oakley and Gatlin to go bowling, while I take my daughter-in-law and my granddaughter shopping.
- From a career standpoint, split parenting raises ongoing difficulties in “getting ahead” in your work ambitions. At a time when many women your age are empty-nesters and making tremendous accomplishments in their careers, you are likely taxiing teenagers around town to football games and pizza parties.
Different Life Lessons
- How children of “split moms” experience financial lessons can vary dramatically – for both the good and bad. When Chad was growing up, I was a broke, starving medical student. Chad learned the value of hard work, and he learned how to live happily on a squeaky tight budget. Now that I’ve graduated from medical school and been working for decades, I’m much more comfortable financially, and I don’t work nearly as hard as I did in my younger years. I worry that my teenagers aren’t learning those same lessons about hard work and budgeting as well as Chad did.
Staying Fit = Keeping Up
- As a more mature mom it can be difficult to find the energy to keep up your younger kids. It gives me a huge incentive to take better care of myself and should be for all the other ‘split moms and dads’ too!
by Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Cord blood banking is a topic being discussed more often by physicians and expectant parents. The dizzying array of information on the Web can be difficult to sift through. Here are my top tips to help soon-to-be parents sift through some important issues when selecting a family cord blood bank.
Do Your Research and Do It Early:
- Talk to family and friends and your physician or midwife to get recommendations.
- Check online for testimonials and reviews. What is the bank’s reputation?
- Don’t assume it’s best to enroll with one close to home. A bank’s headquarters and its storage facility may not even be in the same state.
Know the Regulations and Requirements:
- Has the bank registered with the U.S Food & Drug Administration (FDA) and met all state regulatory requirements?
- Is the bank accredited by the American Association of Blood Banks (AABB)? Accreditation, which requires audits every two years, is evidence that your sample is screened, processed, and stored following the strictest quality assurance guidelines.
Be Picky with the Process:
- What delivery method is used to transport the blood? Samples can be destroyed because of improper transit. A reputable bank should use a medical courier company.
- Ask about collection and storage methods, as well as published rates on cell viability to ensure the bank is using the best available technology to save your cells so they will be ready in the event that you might need them.
- Find out if they’ve facilitated any successful transplants. A red flag should go up if a bank has a high volume of cord blood units in storage but has never used a unit for transplant. This could mean transplant surgeons have rejected their cord blood which could mean its procedures are not careful or thorough enough.
Business and Stability:
- How long has the bank been in business?
- Is the bank involved in any research or clinical studies with prestigious medical research institutions? A bank on the cutting edge of research would likely play a stronger and supportive role if the cord blood was needed in treatment for your child.
- How profitable is the company? It’s important to realize cord blood banking is a business. If the bank goes out of business it could mean the cord blood units will be no longer be retrievable.
There’s also an online education site that might help parents understand all of their cord blood banking options.
Practicing good health habits isn’t always easy for busy moms, but the reward is a longer, healthier life. When it comes to maintaining good health and living longer, scientists have identified four key behaviors that have the greatest impact.
- Eat a nutritious, balanced diet.
- Exercise regularly.
- Don’t smoke.
- Don’t drink alcohol.
Adopting these behaviors dramatically reduces your risk of dying from heart disease or cancer, and it can also cut your risk of premature death to that of a person 12 years younger. With so much work to be done, every mom can benefit from better health and an extra 12 years of life!
Mom Was Right—Fiber Is Good for You
Your mom has always known that a high-fiber diet is good for you, and now she has hard evidence to back her up. Scientists studying the effects of high-fiber diets have discovered that the stuff your mom called roughage does more than ward off constipation. Fiber plays an important preventive role in diseases like diverticulosis, cancer, heart disease, and obesity.
All fiber is good for you, but there are two different types, each with important health benefits. Water-soluble fiber is found in products like oat bran, whole-wheat products, and the skins of fruits and vegetables. If you want to lower your cholesterol level, water-soluble fiber is the type for you.
Insoluble fiber is found primarily in the bran layers of cereal grains, and is removed during the refinement process. Insoluble fiber won’t lower your cholesterol levels; it functions mainly as a bulking agent, increasing the weight of your stool and helping whisk it through your colon to its ultimate destination.
The current recommendation for fiber intake is 20 to 35 grams a day, with roughly equal amounts of soluble and insoluble fiber. That’s a lot—most of us eat less than half that amount.
You don’t have to eat a bale of hay to get your fiber, but it’s difficult to get all you need from just fruits and veggies. It takes about five servings of fruits and vegetables and six servings of whole-grain, unrefined breads, cereals, and legumes (like dried beans) every day to get the recommended amount. If you can’t manage to work all of these good foods into your diet every day, a high-quality fiber supplement might be a great option for you.
The Rewards of Maintaining a Healthy Weight
Maintaining a healthy weight isn’t just about looking good in your favorite pair of skinny jeans. It can also help you feel more energetic and self-confident, while it improves your health and saves you money to boot. Keeping the extra weight off dramatically reduces your risk for dozens of diseases, including obesity, diabetes, cancer, and heart disease. Because you’re likely to stay healthier longer, insurance companies routinely offer lower monthly premiums to folks who maintain a healthy weight. As a bonus, you’ll look great in your favorite skinny jeans, and with the money you save on health insurance, you can buy a new pair!
Antioxidants Promote Better Health and a Longer Life
There’s no doubt that we need oxygen to live, but surprisingly, oxygen has some negative effects in the human body. One of the leading theories on aging is the oxidation theory, proposed by scientists who compare the aging of the human body to the rusting of old car. When any metal that contains iron is exposed to oxygen, a compound called iron oxide—better known as rust—is formed through the process of oxidation. Oxidation of the human body results in a similar type of deterioration—it’s a natural but unfortunate consequence of living in an atmosphere full of oxygen.
Oxygen works its destruction in the body through the formation of toxic compounds called free radicals. These unstable molecules are bursting with excess energy, and they stabilize themselves by transferring their energy to innocent bystanders in the body. If the energy is transferred to a key cell or tissue, serious damage or dysfunction can result.
If these renegade free radicals manage to penetrate the control centers of our cells, they can scramble our precious genetic material. Some researchers estimate that our DNA receives about 10,000 free radical “hits” every day. If these hits aren’t intercepted by our natural defenses—or by the antioxidants we get in our diet—DNA damage occurs, triggering abnormal cell growth or cell death. Free radicals are thought to play a key role in virtually every disease and ailment associated with aging, including a weaker immune system, cataracts, heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
How can get more antioxidants in your diet? Whole, natural foods are the best sources of the disease-fighting, immune-boosting compounds. Virtually any plant food, including pomegranates, cacao beans, blueberries, and broccoli, is a great source.
Taking Anti-Inflammatory Drugs in Early Pregnancy Doubles the Risk of Miscarriage
By Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Pregnancy has its fair share of aches and pains, but taking anti-inflammatory drugs while you’re expecting isn’t the best way to deal with your discomfort. According to a new study* published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, anti-inflammatory drugs taken in early pregnancy more than doubles the risk of miscarriage. The researchers found that the risk of miscarriage was 2.4 times greater for women who took any type and dosage of non-aspirin, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) in early pregnancy.
Non-aspirin NSAIDs comprise a class of drugs that includes naproxen, ibuprofen, diclofenac, and celecoxib, and these are some of the most common medications used during pregnancy. In recent years, physicians have expressed concerns about the use of these drugs by pregnant women, although the results of previous studies examining the risks have been inconsistent.
Canadian and French researchers designed a new study to determine the risk of miscarriage associated with the types and dosages of non-aspirin NSAIDs, examining a total of 4,705 cases of miscarriage up to the 20th week of gestation. Of these miscarriages, 352 (7.5 percent) occurred in women who took non-aspirin NSAIDs. Of the 47,050 women in the control group who did not suffer a miscarriage, 1,213 (2.6 percent) were exposed to non-aspirin NSAIDs. Exposure to non-aspirin NSAIDs was defined as having filled at least one prescription for any type of the drug during the first 20 weeks of pregnancy or in the two weeks prior to the beginning of the pregnancy.
The researchers concluded that the use of non-aspirin NSAIDs during early pregnancy is associated with significant risk (2.4-fold increase) of having a spontaneous abortion. Dosage of non-aspirin NSAIDs did not appear to affect the risk. Earlier studies indicate that the use of non-aspirin NSAIDs during early pregnancy also increases the risk of major congenital malformations in infants. With this in mind, non-aspirin NSAIDs should be used with caution during pregnancy.
If you’re pregnant and you’re suffering from minor aches and pains, talk to your doctor about other ways to deal with your discomfort.
*Hamid Reza Nakhai-Pour, Perrine Broy, Odile Sheehy, and Anick Bérard. Use of nonaspirin nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs during pregnancy and the risk of spontaneous abortion. CMAJ, September 6, 2011 DOI: 10.1503/cmaj.110454
By Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH
Pregnancy is an enchanting time of joyous expectancy for the mother-to-be. You’ll find yourself contemplating with awe the miracle of the new life that you carry inside of you. You’ll spend countless hours eagerly anticipating the arrival of your little bundle of joy. Thank heavens you have something so wonderful to look forward to! You’ll need to hold that thought as you endure some of the less-than-wonderful realities of nine long months of pregnancy.
Unless you’re extremely lucky or genetically gifted, your first trimester might feature a bit of morning sickness and fatigue. Under the influence of your rampant hormones, you might become a bit of an emotional fruitcake. But not to worry. This too will pass!
You’ll experience equal parts delight and dismay as your body evolves to assume its new, pumpkin-like dimensions. With the promise of your precious baby, you’ll gladly accept the battle-scars of pregnancy: Stretch marks, hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and slightly-wider hips. No problem!
If you’re like most expectant women, you were fully prepared for the physical changes of gestation, but you might not have been warned about the total loss of privacy that accompanies every pregnancy. I’m not talking about the loss of modesty that occurs at the latex-covered hands of your obstetrician or midwife. By now, you’ve come to realize that as long as you’re pregnant, a number of folks will be peering closely at your private parts. That’s not the worst of it. The greatest loss of privacy you’ll experience stems from the tremendous fascination that friends, family members, and even total strangers have with your pregnancy.
These people have heard and heeded the adage that it takes a village to raise a child, and they like to get involved in their child-raising duties the minute your pregnancy makes itself evident.
Your belly and the little bundle of joy that resides inside become public domain of the village. Well-meaning villagers will find it absolutely imperative to interrogate you about the status of your pregnancy, the events surrounding the conception, and your post-partum plans. Nothing is sacred.
Unsolicited and erroneous advice will flow freely from the villagers. Regardless of their age or experience, everyone you know, meet, or pass in the supermarket aisle will have a strong opinion about how you should deliver, name, feed, and discipline your child for the next 18 years.
Older, seasoned mothers generally feel obligated to recount their pregnancy-related miseries and delivery-room war-stories to you. They’re eager to welcome you to the sisterhood of women who have walked through the fire of the reproductive process and lived to complain about it.
All of this attention is tolerable in small doses, but the slight-nosy-to-downright-rude inquisitions are often more than a mere mortal mom can bear.
Having two babies in two years, I had 18 months of pregnancy to ponder the most frequently asked questions and to formulate the snappy retorts that I wish I had been brave enough to use.
Undoubtedly, the number one FAQ is, “Do you know what it is?” Your reply, (with all of the innocence you can muster): “Why yes! We’re quite certain it’s a baby! We’ll know for sure after the ultrasound!”
The second question most often posed to moms-to-be is, “When’s your baby due?” Inquiring villagers desperately want this information. Give it to them. To save your breath, you might want to have some cards printed up. Be sure to include the exact date and time of delivery and a map to the hospital. Invite them to bring a friend, a camera, and a bag lunch.
People who know your spouse will find it necessary to ask, “Is your husband happy about the pregnancy?” My favorite, unused response: “I’ll let you know after we get the results of the paternity test!” Make sure you give your inquisitor a big wink and a poke in the ribs for added effect.
Tactless villagers with excessive concern for your financial security and emotional wellbeing often inquire, “Did you plan this pregnancy?” You are perfectly within your rights to counter with a question of your own, like, “Did you plan to be rude?”
Although these FAQs will annoy you, they can’t touch the very real problem of the belly-rubbers. Belly-rubbing villagers will not hesitate to rub, pat, caress, or croon to your belly and its contents, often positioning themselves for up-close and personal, face-to-belly interaction.
You may have to fight the impulse to flop down on the ground, roll over, and shake your leg in the air when a belly-rubber gets her hands on you. You probably won’t be able to stop her It’s difficult to defend your belly when you can’t reach it all, and in your condition, you certainly won’t be able to make a run for it. You might feel a little better if you return the favor and rub the belly-rubber’s belly while she’s rubbing yours.
There’s a reason that expectant mothers used to sneak off to the woods as their due dates approached. It was to escape the loving, annoying attentions of their fellow villagers.
If the villagers are driving you crazy, remember, they’re only doing their jobs. The moment you give birth, they’ll focus all their wonderful efforts and energies on welcoming your baby to the world, and your entire village will help you raise your precious child.
When my sons were little, I always felt as if I had a hundred things to do, and at least half of them needed to be done immediately. There were clothes to wash and fold, floors to sweep, meals to make, and phone calls to return. It was a challenge for me to put all these pressing tasks completely out of my mind at breakfast, lunch, and dinner so that I could focus my attention on preparing healthy, delicious meals. The temptation was great to call out for pizza and hot wings, but I knew that it was critical to get my kids eating right from the start.
Children need a balanced diet consisting of three meals a day and two nutritious snacks, that provides key nutrients for growth and development including:
- Protein: to build healthy muscle and tissue
- Carbohydrates: the body’s primary source of energy
- Fat: stored for energy and to transport essential fat-soluble vitamins
- Calcium: to support healthy, strong bones and teeth
- Fiber: to help keep the gastrointestinal system clean and running smoothly
Of course, I quickly learned that I could prepare the healthiest food in the world, but my kids might not eat it! That’s when I realized that eating should be fun. Kids are more likely to eat fruits, vegetables, and other nutritious foods if they’re fun and easy to eat.
If you can get your child to put her hands on his food, there’s a good chance it will end up in his mouth! Cut your child’s food into fun shapes and sizes. For example, you can cut apples into building blocks, slice celery and carrots into quarters to make logs, and cut broccoli and cauliflower florets so that they look like miniature trees.
Kids love dipping and decorating their food, and this often leads to eating! Fill a small container with yogurt or a wholesome type of salad dressing, such as one made with olive oil, and allow your child to dip away. Or fill a squirt bottle with yogurt or salad dressing and allow her to decorate her food. Nutritious food can be fun, and when it is, kids will eat it!
—Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a mom of three and grandmom of one, coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, and a member of the PediaSure Mom Brigade.
Fostering good childhood nutritional habits can lead to lifelong healthy eating habits. But that’s easier said than done. Moms today race through life at speeds that should be envied by NASCAR drivers, but our pit stops are all to easy to make at the local drive-thru. Do you want fries with that? Who can resist?
With parents pulled in so many directions at once and so many less-than-ideal nutritional choices so easily available, some children don’t eat the nutritious foods they should. This is a real problem because every growing child needs protein, calcium, fiber, and other critical nutrients.
I was determined not to introduce chicken nuggets and French fries to my children until they had sampled every fruit and vegetable under the sun. One of the physicians in my residency program had started feeding her daughter chicken nuggets when she was just a baby, and that child didn’t want to eat anything else. If she couldn’t have those chicken nuggets, she’d clamp her jaws shut, and then she would refuse to eat whatever she was offered.
I figured that if babies found chicken nuggets and French fries that addictive, I’d just bypass them altogether. I started feeding my boys tiny pieces of bananas and grapes and other fruits, and then moved on to bits of cheese, meat, and cut-up vegetables. Fortunately, none of my boys ever developed a serious addiction to chicken nuggets or French fries.
—Rallie McAllister, MD, MPH, a mom of three and grandmom of one, coauthor of The Mommy MD Guide to Pregnancy and Birth and The Mommy MD Guide to Your Baby’s First Year, and a member of the PediaSure Mom Brigade.
As a wife and the mother of three sons, it has come to my attention that in general, individuals with an XY chromosomal makeup tend to be a teensy, tiny, bit less industrious in some domestic tasks than individuals with XX chromosomes. Simply stated, many males don’t seem to be inclined to work as hard around the house as most females. Although this tendency may be observed at any age, it is never more apparent than in the teenage years. As the sole woman in my household, I’m in charge of the laundry. I have scooped up and laundered countless pairs of wayward dirty socks, briefs and boxers, casually dropped on the bathroom floor or draped across the nearest bed.
Fortunately, I actually derive a measure of satisfaction from doing the laundry, so I really don’t mind the work. But I do worry, from time to time, that this careless casting off of clothing is a sure sign of—God forbid—laziness in my teenage boys. As a card-carrying Type A workaholic, I rank laziness right up there with irreverently sassing one’s mother or skipping school to hang out at the local pool hall.
To add fuel to the fire of my maternal concern, my two teenage boys often seem incapable of dragging themselves out of bed in the mornings or remembering to take out the trash. If not for my interference, I feel certain they could remain virtually motionless on the couch for days on end, playing games on X-Box or texting their friends. In my darkest moments, I’m convinced that these are sure signs that my teenagers will grow up to be unemployed ne’er-do-wells, still living in my basement in their late twenties.
Fortunately, my 27-year-old son, Chad, recently dispelled my fear that teenage lethargy invariably leads to adult laziness. Last month, I drove with my daughter-in-law, Lindsey, to attend a homecoming ceremony for Chad and his fellow Marines who were returning from an eight-month deployment to Afghanistan. As we drove to the military base, I asked Lindsey about some of the men in Chad’s unit: a soldier fondly known as “Biscuit” and one called “Grease” by his buddies. As she shared the latest news about these Marines, it occurred to me that my son might also have a nickname.
“Does Chad have a nickname?” I asked, bracing myself for a potentially unflattering moniker.
“Yes!” Lindsey laughed. “The guys call him ‘Chuck Hustle.’ They say he works harder and faster than anyone, and they have to run to keep up with him. ”
I was speechless. Tears of maternal joy and pride sent my carefully-applied mascara streaking down my cheeks. My lovable, easy-going Chad, the former X-Box-playing, late-sleeping, laundry-producing, couch-warming teenager had matured into an enthusiastic, hard-working, Staff Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps known as “Chuck Hustle.”
Moms of teenage boys, take heart. The rapidly growing bodies of adolescent boys require lots of sleep and rest. Until they are emotionally mature, they may not see the need to voluntarily pick up their dirty clothes or take out the trash. In spite of experiencing bouts of teenage lethargy, chances are excellent that our teenage sons will grow up to be happy, hard-working and self-sufficient young men. When the realization hits you, let’s hope you’re wearing waterproof mascara!