8 ways to take care of yourself emotionally—and why it’s important for your kids

Healthy adult relationships are based on a balanced give-and-take. This balance is particularly important in relationships we're heavily invested in. While this may sound like a no-brainer, achieving such a balance may be easier said than done, especially if you grew up in a household where this balance was heavily skewed.

In families where a parent is struggling to address their own emotional needs, children will turn the tables on care giving and attempt to care for the parent. It can become their primary task to provide care for their parent so that the parent will, in turn, be able to provide a minimal level of care for them. As a result, children internalize skewed ideas about their role in the world, their ability to address their own needs appropriately, and their ability to respond to others' distress without taking on the role of compulsive rescuer.

How mamas take care of their emotional needs directly impacts how their children will connect with others as adults. Here are eight steps to ensure that both your and your children's emotional needs are addressed so that they can enjoy healthy relationships as adults:

1. Accept care + support when you need it.

When needs are not met, it is easy to fall into a pattern where you expect kids to support your emotional needs. Being preoccupied with whatever is bothering you can cause kids to shift into "caretaker" mode, while you might not don't realize the issues that they are currently grappling with. When you access and accept care and support for yourself, you have more resources to address your child's needs.

2. Be aware when your children try to take care of you.

When children see that your needs have been overlooked or neglected, they will begin to "monitor" your emotional state by regularly checking in to see if you're "okay" or they will try to please you by being good.

Sometimes, more subtly, they do this by acting out in ways that draw the parent's attention. If you recognize that children are exhibiting a caretaking behavior, it is important to check in with how they are doing by emphasizing your interest in their well-being, paying attention to their emotional state and offering support and presence in a consistent manner.

3. Allow kids to see you repair conflicts.

Perhaps you are stressed about events within a marriage or over the pressures at work. Either way, you have to show them what resolutions of conflict look like, too. When you are able to, allow your children to witness the resolution of an argument or conflict.

4. Model relationship balance.

When you don't allow kids to see you seeking help and support, you inadvertently send a message that they shouldn't ask for help, either. Though you may explicitly tell your children that they can rely on you and turn to you when they are in distress or in need, it sends a conflicting message when you do not turn to others, especially to a partner, for care.

5. Model healthy relationships.

It might seem obvious, but parents should never allow kids to see them being mistreated by others. There is no better way to reinforce a distrust of other people than to model for children an acceptance of being mistreated.

The message is one that results in a child developing a reliance on self-sufficiency as a way of protecting themselves from relying on others. It also may result in kids growing up to take on "hard cases" (people who mistreat others) in an attempt to "fix" them, rather them allowing themselves to seek and develop relationships of mutual reliance. Instead, model what healthy relationships look like and have open conversations about that.

6. Avoid indulging in and expressing self-pity.

Parents shouldn't complain that the world and other people "don't treat us right" without looking for and talking about solutions. The root of self-pity communicates that you cannot find solutions to unhappiness or healthy ways to solve problems. When appropriate, encourage your entire family to work towards a solution together.

7. Seek + exhibit relationship equality.

When parents dominate or are dependent upon others, they commit to a relationship dynamic that isn't equal. In this case, it prevents kids from developing respect and mutuality and will, most likely, recreate relationship dynamics where one partner plays the stereotype of an authoritative parent and the other plays the role of erring child. Having opening discussions about equality and splitting roles between both parents can help kids understand a healthy relationship model from an early age.

8. Show healthy interdependence in key relationships.

When parents are self-sufficient in relationships, it can become a treasured asset that kids wish to emulate. This is a surefire way to ensure that kids will not allow themselves to build reliance, collaboration and partnership in their adult relationships.

If we allow our kids to see us taking care of ourselves by looking for appropriate support in the right times and places—especially in times of crisis and emotional upset—we model healthy reciprocity. When we make this a conscious practice, we communicate vital messages to our kids about what healthy and balanced connections with others look like.

How parents take care of themselves and allow others to contribute to their care determines how children experience care. This experience creates the foundation for ‎how children see themselves as being worthy of being cared for and capable of caring for others throughout their lives.

In this sense, the importance of parental self-care and the impact of it cannot be stressed enough. Despite the fact that it is so often a low priority, parental self-care is, ironically, the highest priority for children's well-being.

Rarely is a woman more concerned with what her body needs than when she's pregnant. We start to question and research everything, right? From swearing off turkey sandwiches to diving down the rabbit hole of prenatal supplements that make up what we lack, the stress of overthinking is real, mama.

One of the main reasons we launched the Motherly Shop is to help take some of that stress away. We've tracked down the best brands and products developed by people (and in many cases, women!) that truly work to serve the needs of real mamas, especially throughout the overwhelming transition into motherhood.

That's why we knew we had to introduce mamas-to-be to the science-backed and expertly-formulated protein collagen for pregnancy from Needed. And as one of our bestsellers, it's clear you've been looking for it, too.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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