From One Mom To Another: A Pediatrician's Mother's Day Message
By Diane Arnaout, M.D.
Normally, this is the time of year where I would write a heartfelt letter to moms for Mother’s Day. But given our unique, uh, pandemic situation … nothing is normal. So, instead, let me tell you what my heart feels.
Since mid-March, I have never felt so much like a doctor. And I have never felt so much like a mother. I have never felt – I mean really FELT, like deep in my core – those roles as much as I have these past 7 weeks.
Let’s evaluate my performance as both, shall we?
As a pediatrician, I encourage a thorough and varied education for kids and encourage parents to consistently uphold expectations.
(Yesterday, we literally couldn’t handle any homeschooling because my 6-year-old was having a tiny mental breakdown about his broken Lego set, my daughter threw her letter cards in the trash, and my qualifications as a home teacher are basically a solid nil. I propose giant pay hikes for all teachers ASAP.)
As a pediatrician, I stress the importance of a full night’s sleep. It’s so necessary to keep bedtime consistent to ensure children are getting enough!
(Says the lady who literally can’t understand how her 6-year-old can stay awake until 10 p.m. with enough energy to spare to run a small country - and I swear, child, if you get up out of bed one more time to tell me how your “eyes feel weird, not bad, just weird and I probably should watch some TV or eat something to help it oh and mommy did you know that a scorpion could probably beat a tarantula in an epic battle?” I will lose it.)
As a pediatrician, I ask you to consider socialization of your children, whether that be enrolling them in school, going on playdates, or simply a walk to the local library or park.
(OK well, yeah that’s a no right now.)
As a pediatrician, I ask you to get your children as much fresh air and exercise as possible. Minimum one hour a day!
(When it rains, when it’s too hot, when it’s too cold, or the wind isn’t right, or there is a breeze in the next state, or when just life happens - we are literal lumps. Couch lumps. Sometimes I can’t tell my daughter from a pillow. I literally lost her for 25 minutes the other day because she became a part of the couch.)
As a pediatrician, I tell you to offer your children three well-rounded meals daily. Offer 4-5 fruit or vegetable servings each day. A treat here and there is fine, of course!
(Last night, my kids ate frozen cheese pizza for the third night in a row. No fruit. No vegetable. Just pizza. And if they don’t get to pick out a piece of candy afterwards, God help us, it’s World War 3 in my household and if I hear any more screaming I may literally start bawling in the front yard so yeah, Twix bar? Sure, kid.)
As a pediatrician, I ask parents to set an example for their kids – your strength during these hard times is their strength!
(I have cried alone in my bathroom more times than I can count.)
As a pediatrician, I ask that you limit screen time for your children to less than two hours each day.
(Ask me to recite Olaf’s entire monologue from Frozen 2. Ask me. And prepare to be stunned as I have watched that movie now 54 times and now have it fully memorized. And if I desperately have to get work done? Let me tell you about my friends “Shark Boy and Lava Girl”.)
As a pediatrician, I want you to approach discipline wisely and effectively. Use positive reinforcement for the behaviors you want, and try varying methods to dissuade the behaviors you don’t want.
(Some days in my house, I yell more than I talk in a normal tone. Some days are really hard. Some days are really, really hard. I reach out to others for a break or for help on those really bad days. Click here to find resources to help you during this stressful time.)
I’m not divulging my shortcomings to you as a mother to prove anything to you other than… it’s OK, Mom. You’re human. Guess what? I am too. Just because I’m a pediatrician doesn’t mean I follow my own advice 24/7. And I certainly can’t do that during something as unprecedented as a silly little global pandemic.
Mothers, give yourself a little grace. We’ve never done this before – and no matter what that scientist or leader on television says – none of us know how long this will last. We can’t excel at all things on all days. We can only do our best as parents.
I’m here with you, and I see you trying really hard.
So if your family needs that second (or third) movie…do it. If you need time alone, it’s OK – you’re not a bad parent. If you need to just throw a frozen pizza on the table…I feel you, sister.
Use the extra time you’ve been given to soak in those children. Soak them in! Soak in their funny laugh at this age, and save all those drawings. Get in some giggles during that goofy TV show together. Watch their legs and hair curls grow longer on those walks.
Because things will get back to “normal” eventually, whatever that is for you – and those moments won’t be as visible or obvious. So soak it in! And fail sometimes with me. The beautiful part about motherhood is that if they consistently feel your love and protection, no mistake will be too great. And you can always start over tomorrow.
"I didn’t realize how important the job of the pediatrician was until I had kids of my own. My education, experience in medicine, and cocky attitude made me feel like I knew it all before my first one came around. He proceeded to make me very aware of how little I actually knew.
Thankfully he survived, as did the next one, and they’ve helped me to grow and to help YOU, the parent, in so many ways. Sure I’m here to make sure your kids are healthy and happy at all ages. But I’m also here to make sure you’re educated, to make sure your family is thriving, and to make you feel confident in caring for your kids. From diaper rashes to sleep problems to school difficulties - I’m here to help.
I write a lot about common problems and ailments online – you can find me busy on Facebook and Instagram, and I write articles for the Cook Children’s Checkup Newsroom blog. A lot of stuff you’ll hear me say in the office will be typed out on there, too. And we’re in a day and age where the internet helps make connections – you can connect with me on there, or e-mail me anytime.
It takes a village to raise a child – and I’m so grateful to be a part of yours. And as Master Yoda teaches us – “Always pass on what you have learned.” I fully plan to!"