Ask A Mom: Surprise Pregnancies and Summer Schedules
WBTV's Molly Grantham tackles your parenting questions in this ongoing series
Q: I’m 42 and just found out I’m pregnant. Big surprise. I have two kids in middle school and thought I was done having babies. I feel guilty because my husband and I aren’t excited about it and I don’t know if our kids will be either. How do we tell them the news and get everyone excited about being a family of five?—Name withheld
Dear Name Withheld: We’re living parallel lives. I found out I was pregnant with our “surprise!” third child at age 43 and wasn’t excited. In fact, I was petrified and a little pissed. Life was set. We’d sold our baby stuff, both kids would be in school, but now… Dear God… I was going to have a new baby? What was I to do with a baby? That wasn’t the plan. I’d say to anyone who had the misfortune of asking me about pregnancy and my belly, “I AM 43.” Like it was some medical illness. Every pathetic, embarrassing, privileged excuse in the book went through my mind as to why I shouldn’t be pregnant.
Admitting all that now is ugly. I hate typing it, and I’m thinking about backspacing, honestly, but I won’t. I want you to know you’re not alone. Feelings are real. We have them for reasons and admitting them is important. If you’re not excited, you’re not excited; someone telling you to “get excited!” will only have the reverse effect.
But here is a little good news:
Heart always wins.
Your heart (and maybe a few hormones) will most likely solve this problem naturally. As upcoming weeks turn into months, time will massage your mind and soften fears. My suggestion is to try not to burn things down as you wait to get to a better place. This gift of human life was—for some reason yet unknown—sent your way. Keep sitting with your thoughts, and growing body, and let love take the lead.
As for how to tell your other children, it doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive. That only creates more pressure for you. The main thing is to let them form their own opinion. I scotch-taped sonogram photos underneath plastic kid plates, and after dinner one night said, “Turn them over for a surprise.” Watching their happy, floored reactions was medicine for my own confused soul.
Also, you happened to ask this in July of 2021, exactly one year after the birth of my third child. I add this truth in case it brings you comfort: I could’ve never predicted a year ago how much a baby would complete our family. He is the fifth wheel we didn’t know we needed. Over the past year he has reminded us of priorities, the importance of adaptability, and has created responsibilities for the other two kids. At 10 and 6, they are seeing the evolution of life through their little brother’s growth. Watching them, watch him, has maybe been the best blessing of all.
Good luck. Breathe. It’ll be okay.
Q: What should a daily schedule look like in the summer? I want to keep up with chores and reading logs so they have some structure, but it’s their vacation too. How should responsibilities be divided, as the skill difference from a 7-year-old to a 14-year-old is a vast difference. —Jess
A: Great question, Jess. Some parents continue summer lessons, while some throw schooling out the window for three months. Some families are hardcore on chores, while others let things slide. It felt easy to say, “anything goes!” but didn’t want to walk the fence on this answer. So, I took your question to Charlotte-Mecklenburg School educator Sue Hooper, who has worked for decades with mostly elementary-aged students. She wasn’t wishy-washy at all.
“Even though it’s summer vacation, daily schedules with responsibilities are important,” she says. “While routines can look different for each family, there are guidelines to follow. First, consider how much sleep your child needs every night. Many pediatricians recommend 9 hours for kids between 5 and 12 years old, and 8 to 10 hours for teens. It is important to set a definite bedtime for Sunday through Friday even in summertime, and to keep them consistent except for special occasions.”
Hooper suggests knocking reading logs out early in the day.
“Most teachers try to have literacy first thing in the morning, so if you dedicate at least 30 minutes after breakfast that will most likely mimic what they’ll have in school,” she says. “Once kids are school-aged, they can read independently. But with my own three girls I would sometimes engage us together by reading a book aloud after our quiet 30 minutes. You can go to the library or bookstore together, or look online to choose a book. Even after your child is an independent reader it is important to continue reading aloud to them. You can ask questions to get everyone talking.”
After reading, Hooper says hit the chores. Just get them done.
“Set a timer so everyone knows how long they have,” she says. “A daily chore chart can also help. After that, they’re free the rest of the day.”
She says having a schedule has lots of positives, a big one being an easier transition for back-to-school in the fall.
Q: I signed my 5-year-old daughter up for soccer camp because big brother (8) has done it for three years and loved it. But when I drop her off, she cries and screams and they have to peel her off my leg. I made her go for the first two days, then just gave up. Husband was furious about the wasted money and says we should teach her to follow-through on commitments. I don’t want to force her to do something she doesn’t want to do. How should we handle this one?—Holly
A: Every child is different, but the lesson about commitments and follow-through is also real. I hear you on both accounts.
My gut instinct is to not make a child with legitimately zero interest in a sport or activity—to the point of screaming, crying, and peeling her off your leg—go to that sport or activity. If she hates it that much, forcing her won’t help her, the camp counselors, or your soul. If my husband insisted on her attendance despite tantrums, I’d make him drop her off. (That would solve the problem quickly.)
Maybe, as a compromise, you could try calling soccer camp organizers and ask if the remaining three days could credit towards your son’s next visit? If the days you don’t use with your daughter could be put toward his future registration, it might not feel as wasteful. Explain the situation. You don’t need a refund—you know you signed her up with the intention of going all week—but let them know it’s just not working. It’s worth a shot. Surely your daughter is not the first young “player” with her own strong opinion about the camp.
Thank you guys for always asking what’s on your mind. Please, keep the thoughts coming. My job is to ask questions all day, every day, so I say from experience… there’s no such thing as a dumb one.