Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Mom Feature: Meet Melanie

Meet Melanie Hansbauer

Hi, I'm Melanie. I'm a stay-at-home mom to three children under 4 and no, I'm not crazy. Our children are Greta (age 3 and a half), Otto (age 2) and Selma (3 months). Before we had kids, I taught at a Montessori school for six years and did home visitation with first-time moms for two years. Currently I am an adjunct professor at Xavier University in their Montessori education program.

We live in Newport, KY.  And even though sometimes I get envious of my friends' finished basements and sprawling backyards, and even though sometimes I get frustrated by our 100-year-old house and all its aches and pains, I love living in an urban setting. We can walk to local pizza places and local ice cream shops. We can take a stroller ride to the Reds game or the purple people bridge. 

What else? I'm married to my high school sweetheart. We started dating when I was 14 and he was 16, and the rest is history. 

When do you feel like you're doing your best job as a mom?

I think I'm doing my best job as a mom when it's 8 pm and everyone's asleep. Just kidding.

One really big part of the the Montessori philosophy is remembering to 'follow the child'. For instance, when Otto was about 15 months old, all he wanted to do was climb up and down the stairs. So I told myself that there must be something within him, some sort of inner drive that he needed to fulfill. I needed to recognize that this was a skill he was working on right now, and rather than fight it (which I wanted to), it would serve us both to just go with it and help him on the stairs. Not only did it help him learn to maneuver the stairs more quickly, but I think it moved him through the phase of wanting to be on the stairs because it went from being off limits to something that was encouraged (and therefore not as much fun).

Or when Greta was around 2 and a half and she wanted to spend every moment upstairs in her room, changing in and out of clothes like a teenager getting ready for her first date. I decided to think of it as her 'needing' to change her clothes. She was definitely working on the skills of getting dressed and undressed by herself and what better way to work on that than to change your clothes 10 times a day? 

I realize that this idea of following the child isn't always possible, but it's definitely when I feel I'm at my best.  When I look at my children - really look - and really listen to not only their words but their actions and the meaning behind them. 

You knew this one was coming... when do you feel like you're doing your worst job?

When life gets in the way and that idea of 'follow the child' becomes impossible, or at least starts to feel impossible. When I say things like, "let's not get that toy out right now" because it's too much trouble to put away. When someone spills their drink for the third time at lunch, and I roll my eyes and sigh with exasperation instead of just laughing it off. 

I feel like I'm at my worst when I let worries and stresses from other aspects of life spill over into how I treat my children. If I'm worried about a commitment I have in the evening, sometimes I am distracted all day long and find myself being short with them or more easily frustrated. 

Sometimes I wake up in the morning, and I can FEEL that it's going to be an off day, for whatever reason.  And on those days, I lay in bed for a minute and think to myself, "I will make this a good day for my children". I think this over and over. I think about the day and about activities we can do or things I can say or not say to change the course. I try to WILL the day to be a good one.  It doesn't always work, but sometimes it helps me get in the right state of mind. 

What surprised you the most about motherhood?

What hard work it is. Am I right?  Being a mother is so rewarding, but man is it exhausting.

I think right now I'm finding it hard to balance motherhood with other aspects of my life, and that's definitely something that no one told me would happen. It's hard to find time to go to the gym or have dinner with friends or read a good book. Sometimes it's difficult to find time to shower or even go to the bathroom. I never really thought about what would happen to the rest of me when I became a mom. That said, I wouldn't trade it for anything. I get comments all the time about how crazy I must be for having three children so close in age, but I feel so very blessed.

What is your go-to activity when kids are melting down around you?

An all-out dance party. Nothing breaks the mood more than turning music up loud and shaking it - all parties included. By the time you boogie to a few songs, everyone forgets what was about to cause that tantrum in the first place.

Also, with my kids, it's almost always being hungry or tired that causes those meltdowns. So sometimes we just need a snack, even if it's 30 minutes before dinnertime. Or a little rest on the couch or in our beds, even if we just got up.

Going outside, playing in water and playing with playdoh are also some good meltdown-avoiders for our family. 

What have your children taught you?

Not to be so caught up in what other people think. 

Like it or not, oftentimes I'm someone who gets worried about what other people think. Is my house clean when someone stops by? Should I wear my workout clothes to the library again? etc etc. Truth is, my kids don't care about any of those things. Truth is, they think I'm awesome. They don't mind if the toilet needs scrubbed or if I need to comb my hair or any of that stuff.

Okay fine, Greta told me the other night that I "smelled sweaty", but most of the time they think I hung the moon. And if they think so highly of me, then I should think highly of myself as well. 
What will you miss the most about these years with young children?

I think I'll miss all those moments that seem so small and so mundane... brushing clean hair after a bath, reading that last book before bed, holding their hand on a neighborhood walk. I'm so excited to watch our children grow and to see who they will become. Our neighbor was sitting outside the other evening with her grown son, just having dinner and talking and laughing. I know that will be really special too, but it's the tiny moments of their childhood that I think I'll miss.

You can follow Melanie and her family on her blog:

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