How to Set Expectations with a New Sitter


There is nothing worse than coming home from a fabulous date night to find your children are still not in bed and the house is a mess.  While it is easy to just blame the sitter, perhaps she didn’t know what you expected of her that evening.  Katie Kavulla from SheKnows shares these tips for making sure you and your sitter are on the same page:

Be realistic
You can’t expect your occasional sitter to do it all—and do it all exactly the way you would do it. “A couple rules of thumb when setting expectations—ask her to have the house back to the state it was in when she got there and pick one thing that’s important to you for her to accomplish—getting the kids to bed on time, running the dishwasher after dinner…whatever you pick.”

Think about what you expect in advance
Consider sending her an email in advance about what you expect.  “Writing an email will help you compile your thoughts and it will her a chance to think about questions in advance.”

Make yourself clear verbally
Even you sent an email earlier, you should still take the time to verbally explain things before you leave. “When she arrives, walk her around the house and tell her what you expect.” In addition, make sure you have a copy of the written instructions—with the addition of important numbers—posted where the sitter can easily see it for reference.

Tell your children what to expect before you go
Whatever it is you expect your children to do (take baths before bed, put away toys, etc.), be sure and tell them this in front of the sitter.  “Make that clear while everyone is listening. A lot of miscommunications between sitters and parents come from the kids after you’re gone.

If your new sitter goes above and beyond your list of expectations, consider giving her an extra tip to show your appreciation—good sitters are hard to find!

And if she doesn’t work out on the first try? “If your sitter missed the mark this time, give her a second chance, but let her know before she leaves what you expect next time she comes over.”

Share with us your tips for working with a new sitter. And, if you’re looking for sitter recommendations, head over to our The Branch-Sitters Facebook group.


Tips for Traveling with a Toddler


If traveling is part of your holiday agenda, you may be wondering how to keep your sweet toddler busy and comfortable during long car rides, airplane trips and hotel stays.  Here are some tips inspired by an article written by Jodie Lynn:

  • Plan Ahead
    Make sure you know what you will be doing ahead of time.  Not only does this allow you to plan around nap times and feedings schedules, but it helps with packing. Throw in an extra jacket for colder climates, or crayons for entertaining while waiting for the big family dinner at the restaurant. If you will need bigger items such as strollers and high chairs, call ahead to your hotel to see if they are available or ask local family and friends if you can borrow them upon arrival.
  • Be Flexible
    Let your child’s schedule dictate your plans.  “Choose the best times to travel depending on your child’s napping patterns. Maybe traveling earlier or later in the day than you’d previously considered would be best,” writes Lynn. .  In addition, have a bag filled with sticker books, drawing boards or magnetic storyboards—anything that can be used in a pinch when plans go awry.
  • Pack Snacks
    You can never have too many snack options. Pack snacks in easy, go-to containers that can go from bags to cars to hotel rooms quickly
  • Bring Extra Items
    Don’t just pack extra clothes, also pack extra items that are favorites of your child—such as a blanket or stuffed animal.  “It’s much better to be safe than sorry in this situation when you’re sightseeing, eating out, or in a hotel room,” says Lynn.
  • Create a Playlist
    Familiar music is one of the best ways to ease a fussy child.  Before you leave, create a playlist of some of their favorite songs—encourage them to help you pick them out.

Read the entire article here.

What tips do you have for traveling with your toddler?

Parenting Burns More Than 50,000 Calories a Month


From running after kids, to picking up socks, to wrestling little ones into car seats and bathtubs, all that parenting is burning calories—50,000 of them per/month!

According to Parents magazine, a new report looked at the daily activities of 1,000 parents with kids between the ages of 3 and 6, and found completing daily parenting tasks scorches almost 1,500 calories.  One of the “exercises” they evaluated with the help of is carrying small children, which burns an equivalent amount of calories as doing- 218 burpees. “Between preparing meals, making beds, moving household items, and dressing kids, we parents seemingly have CrossFit beat,” says writer Melissa Willets.

So why don’t we all look like Jennifer Lopez?  “I’m guessing it’s because between folding sheets, sweeping, taking our kids to swim lessons, karate, ballet, and horseback riding, and making sure they are having the best, most fun childhood ever, we often neglect our own health and well-being,” writes Willets.

So, yes, you may now have an excuse to cutback on the burpees, but we encourage you live a healthy lifestyle and make self-care a priority.  “Because hunting down a missing puzzle piece, while wearing a toddler in a carrier, with a load of laundry that needs folding on our hip, can only do so much to keep us in shape.”

Read the full article here.

Navigating Parenting Challenges & How to Refocus


There is only one thing we know for sure when it comes to parenting: It’s hard work.

“Parenting is the most rewarding job imaginable, but it’s hard too,” writes the Edgewood Clinical Services’ team on their recent blog. “Each stage of parenting has its challenges from infant sleep regression to the day they are navigating their parenting challenges. How do you cope when you lose sight of the parenting joys?”

Here are some tips for how to step away from the parenting chaos and refocus:

Create daily habits of connection with your child
From setting aside time to laugh and play together to creating 15 minutes of one-on-one time with each child, creating connection is a crucial part of parenting.  Edgewood shares some great examples of daily habits that create connection here.

Lose the guilt and trust yourself
Embrace the parenting choices you have made without comparing them to anyone else–this includes embracing the way your child is uniquely wired.

Take care of yourself
Self-care isn’t selfish, it’s necessary.  Do whatever it takes to carve out time to do things taht bring refreshment to your soul.

Read the entire blog post here.  And be sure to share with us what tips you have or keeping yourself focused on the joys of. parenting.

4 Ways to Teach Your Child Thankfulness


The entire month of November is one filled with gratitude and thankfulness and while we are all busy making our lists of what we are thankful for in our lives, it is also good for us to share this practice with our children—regardless how young they may be.

Our friends at Crème de la Crème Naperville have a blog on how teach thankfulness to your children.  Here are some of their tips:

  1. Teach them about what is truly important
    Especially during this time of year when children are bombarded with promotions for treats and toys, it is important to remind them how valuable non-material things are—such as spending time with family, playing with friends, etc.
  2. Encourage kindness and helpfulness
    Young children love to help out and the holiday season is a great time to show them what they can do to help family, friends, and people in the community. Donate some old clothes or gather food for a canned food drive.
  3. Put things in perspective
    Make sure to engage your little ones in conversations about the needs of others. Talking to them about how some people do not have everything they need might inspire them to give as well.
  4. You cannot always get what you want
    Saying “no” from time to time is beneficial for many reasons- primarily it teaches children to be thankful for what they do have and to not take things for granted.

Click here to read the entire blog post and share with us how you are teaching your children to be thankful this holiday season.

The Moms Network: November Episode Premieres This Friday


The November episode of The Moms Network premieres on NCTV17 this Friday, November 1 at 9 PM and our co-hosts and guests are talking fertility issues and family planning.

Get a sneak peek of the show with the clips below and be sure to watch the full episode this Friday at 9 PM on Channel 17 and via simulcast and also on-demand video.

Thank you to DuPage Medical Group for being the presenting sponsor of this month’s episode.



4 Creative Halloween Pregnancy Announcements


If one of your treats this Halloween season is to announce to family and friends that you are expecting a new baby, you might want to grab one of the 16 creative announcement ideas from

While they were all fun and festive, here are four we thought were frightfully creative.  See all 16 ideas here.

Are you making a Halloween announcement this year? Let us know the creative way you shared the big news.





What’s the Deal with Teal?


Thanks to one of our Branch partners, UrgiKids,  for bringing this great iniative to our attention:

Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE) is making it easier for families managing food allergies to still have a very happy Halloween.  According to the organization’s website, the Teal Pumpkin Project is a worldwide movement that offers an alternative for kids with food allergies, as well as other children whom candy is not an option, to still have a fun and positive Halloween experience.

Here’s how you can participate:

  • Provide non-food treats for trick-or-treaters
  • Place a teal pumpkin in front of your home to indicate to passersby that you have non-food treats available
  • Add your home to the Teal Pumpkin Project map
  • Spread the word! Share the Teal Pumpkin Project with your friends and family


You can still offer regular candy, just be sure to keep food treats in a separate bowl.  The website offers some great ideas for non-food treats–such as glow sticks, crayons, and bouncy balls—and has lots of free resources you can use to help spread the word. Check out the site here.

Will you be participating in the Teal Pumpkin Project this year?  Let us know!

Avoiding the Retirement Savings Gap


Branch community member Anita Knotts recently reminded us just how important it is for ALL women to be proactive when it comes to planning for their financial future.

“A new study from the Boston College Center for Retirement Research suggests that it is not just single and divorced women who are at risk,” writes Anita. “Married women in two earner households can also be financially vulnerable. Often only one of the partners has saved in a workplace retirement plan. Plus, the study found spousal benefits through Social Security decline or fully go away for two-earner couples, making income replacement from Social Security more difficult for couples.”

What can we do now to secure our financial futures?  Anita shares some strategies in her latest post for Calamos Investments:

  1. Determine how much income you are going to need in retirement to cover your expenses as well as how much you expect to receive from things such as social security, pensions, etc.  If there is a shortfall, that’s how much you will have to save.
  2. Make investing for retirement a priority. Maximize your workplace contribution or set aside additional money in an IRA or Roth IRA.
  3. If you are married, make sure both spouses’ separately save for retirement.
  4. It is important to have savings in both spouses’ names. How assets are itled can be meaningful later to demonstrate you have financial status.
  5. Take advantage of catch-up contributions starting at age 50 for both IRAs or workplace 401(k) contributions.
  6. If necessary, be aggressive about reducing spending/ increasing savings.

Read Anita’s entire post here.

Why Good Cop/Bad Cop Parenting Might Not Work


When it comes to parenting, if you’ve gotten comfortable in your role as “good cop” or “bad cop” you may want to read this.  The folks at SheKnows spoke to several experts for their take on why “good cop/bad cop” parenting doesn’t work.  Here are a few things they discovered:

  • It Divides the Family
    Good cop/bad cop parenting illustrates that mom and dad are not on the same page and this is confusing to kids.
  • It Creates Instability
    If the rules are always changing, depending on which parent is in charge, kids won’t have a sense of security, which should be the cornerstone of every household. 
  • It Makes Kids Choose Sides
    Kids start to follow a pattern of asking the “easier” parent for things they want, which ultimately ends up with kids choosing sides or picking a “favorite.”
  • It Can Create Unhealthy Gender Labels
    If one parent in a different-sex couple is always being the “nice” one, it encourages gender bias and assumptions at a young age.
  • It Pits One Parent against the Other.
    Having to always be the enforcer — for homework, chores, and other tasks — can make one parent feel resentful toward the other.

In the end, supporting each other and each other’s parenting style is key.  “Parents need to support one another in the decisions that are made. Parenting is challenging and everybody has their  own parenting styles,” says Tammi Van Hollander, LCSW, RPT in the article

Click here to read the entire article from SheKnows.



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