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In writing this article, I have hit delete and started from scratch three times now. (Third time's the charm!) Truth be told, I feel conflicted about this story. The struggle has probably been around since the cavemen and even more prevalent in today's age of “Pinterest parenting."


Mommy guilt.There, I said it.

We have all felt it. From the moment baby is conceived (or maybe even before), our entire being is flooded with this feeling. It may ebb and flow, like the tides, but it is always there.

During pregnancy alone, I could have filled a diaper pail with all of the guilt I placed on myself. In those 40 weeks, I ate too much chocolate, not enough leafy greens, and I even drank a Diet Coke or two (or six). It only got worse when my son was born.

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Mommy guilt consumed me on a daily basis.

Why lie? It still does.

When I walked in on my son playing with the cords on my husband's laptop, I felt guilty for yelling…and a little worried that my neighbor heard.

I then proceeded to feel guilty about passing by the park to run errands instead.

After a re-route to the park (in lieu of grocery shopping),I felt guilty for pressuring my son to take one bite of fish at dinner.

After dinner, I felt guilty for letting him watch 15 minutes of a movie. What can I say, I was too wiped to do anything else with him.

After he goes to sleep, I will feel guilty for taking 45minutes to watch House of Cards instead of catching up on work.

My whole day is filled with guilt. From sunrise to sunset (and it's spring in Sweden, so we are talking about loooong days). With the constant struggle to face this guilt, isit any wonder I am so exhausted at the end of the day?

I have a feeling this nagging sense of culpability consumes many of us mamas. We almost feel like there is some mystical presence peeking through the window, keeping an eye onus and judging when we fall short.

We have all had our fair share of fails as parents. Whether we are running on 3 hours of sleep and literally can't stop the “Just go to sleep!" rant before it pops out, or we accidentally bonk little one on the head while lifting him from the car seat, I know we feel those moments even more than our precious babes.

So, what's the solution?

After much consideration, I have decided that it is unrealistic to simply “stop feeling guilty."

Guilt is what makes us better parents, after all.

The fact that we feel guilty simply means we haven't completely given up on caring. It may be a pain, but I think guilt is an adaptive trait, promoting better parenting (and happier kiddos) with every generation.

Instead of trying to ditch it completely, there are a few things us mamas can do to harness and channel our inner guilt.

Embrace it. Just a little bit.

If there is something in your daily routine that regularly makes you feel uncomfortable, think of ways you might change it.

Of course, we can't change everything that makes us feel guilty. We must choose our battles.

I will probably ignore my guilt and concede a few minutes of screen time for my tot after dinner tomorrow (and forgive myself later). But, I will also embrace my guilt and try to cut down on yelling at my little one for making mischief. He is a child, after all!

Stop comparing your apples to another mama's oranges.

Even as a child “expert," I still feel like I am winging it most of the time.

I dare you to find one mother out there who really has it all figured out. I don't care how many picture-perfect family photos we are bombarded with on social media. It simply isn't a representative picture of reality.

This is why it is crucial that we stop trying to compare our parenting realities to other parents' showpiece moments.

The time spent comparing ourselves to other mamas could be better spent enjoying time with our children…or at least folding the laundry.

As long as our children's needs for safety and security are being met, everything else will get done in your own uniquely effective way, mama!

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Focus on your accomplishments.

Some of my best friends are the most inspiring (and intimidating) mothers I have ever met.

One entrusted her one-year-old son with a Montessori bed, another gives her daughter daily outdoor time to “become one with nature," and one actually added a custom-made backsplash to her daughter's play kitchen.

These women inspire me to be a better mother...when they aren't making me question my competency as a parent (and human being). I simply must remember to think of my own accomplishments as a mother when thoughts of inferiority start creeping up.

It's true. We could all benefit from a little self-praise each day.

Before you go to sleep tonight, ponder 2 or 3 things that went well with your little one during the day.

Even if it's just that you spent 15minutes playing with your babe without checking your phone, or you didn't burn dinner during the witching hour.

Being a mother is hard. Without a pat on the back once in a while, burn out is imminent.

Take criticism out of the equation.

Sure, we know that every child is unique. Every family has different needs. Every mother has different philosophies and principles. Yet, it is almost second-nature to judge a mother for making different decisions from our own.

As mamas, we know firsthand how challenging motherhood is.

The next time you feel yourself judging another mama, try to remember how hard parenthood really is. Whether a mother chooses to introduce a pacifier at one week or uses a front-facing car seat before four years (gasp), she probably has a good reason for her decision—and has likely already faced her inner guilt trip.

If it helps, try to think of one specific reason that mother might be doing what she is doing.

Today I did a mini-eye-roll at a mother for jaywalking with her impressionable daughter on a busy street. But, I stopped myself and tried to think of why she might be in such a rush. Maybe she was hurrying to pick up a second child from preschool. Et voila. Judgment replaced with compassion and empathy.

Sometimes I notice myself worrying about what other mothers will think of my actions as a parent. I even find myself justifying and prefacing every questionable decision I make as a mother for fear of being judged.

Yes, yes, my son is having a piece of blueberry pie for lunch today. But, I promise, he has eaten vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy nuts for every other meal this week…

Why do we feel the need to explain ourselves? We need to own our parenting choices. Scratch that. We need to rock them. #babyfoodie#enjoylife #onfridayswehavepie

We are our own harshest critics. What we all need from each other is support, reassurance, friendship, and inspiration.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

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In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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