A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

One of the first things I learned in medical school is that medicine is, indeed, an art—not a science.

So is parenting.

This is something I learned long after becoming a pediatrician, but shortly after becoming a parent. Having grown up in a home with a mother who is truly an artist (the paint-to-canvas kind), and my own natural proclivity for all things science, the marriage of science and art was an easy one for me to embrace.

Both parenting and doctoring require life-long learning. I've been a doctor for 11 years and a parent for only five, and every day I learn something new about both.

Here are 10 of the most important lessons I've learned so far.

1. It's important to be present.

Smart phones, iPads, laptops have permeated our worlds. They can enhance our lives, making it easier to reach friends and family across the globe, making it possible to work from the comfort of our own home and to call teenage children when they are out…. But these devices can also diminish our quality of life and undermine our intent to connect.

We must disconnect in order to connect with our children. This can be quite challenging, but I aim to find time each day to turn my phone off, put it in another room or just vow not to check it for some period of time. Then I try to forget about it and be present with my children. Try this. I dare you.

2. Each child is different.

Your child will sleep. And eat. And walk. And stop sucking their thumb. And use the potty. Child growth and development is a process. And it is not a competition.

Try not to compare your child's development with your friend's children, or even with your other children. Each child is unique in his or her own way and will follow their own unique trajectory for physical and psychological growth. Relish it.

3. Sometimes patience is the best medicine.

Whether it is an ear infection, a stomach bug, potty training or learning to walk – sometimes you just have to wait. We can find ways to make our child feel more comfortable, but there is not always a medicine to "fix" what is broken or speed up what seems slow. I know how hard it is to see my own children uncomfortable—whether it is a fever and runny nose from a winter cold or vomiting from a stomach virus.

Occasionally, during these times, (when I am thinking more like a mother and less like a doctor), I, too, will seek reassurance. I call my pediatrician friends and ask them to help me remember that all is progressing normally and to remind me there is, indeed, nothing more to "do" other than to provide comfort and love. (Don't undervalue these remedies!)

The human body is an incredible machine and children are resilient. Sometimes the prescription from your doctor is to just wait. So in a world where we expect immediacy from most everything—make room for patience.

4. Good habits start early.

From good sleep and healthy eating, to manners and values: Lay the foundations as soon as possible and build on them. A patient of mine once asked me "at what age should you teach manners?" The answer is from day one!

Children model adult behavior. Treat your spouse with kindness and respect, and your children will naturally learn to treat their friends (and you) the same way. Don't swear at home unless you want your 3-year-old swearing too. Say your own pleases and thank yous, and your children will learn that vocabulary from you the same way they learn Mama, Dada, car, house, cookie and other words.

Even nonverbal children can learn please and thank you with hand gestures or sign language. Remember you are the most influential model for your children.

5. Enjoy the moments.

Especially the small ones. Even the embarrassing ones. Those moments are beautiful and unique. Of course we oogle and applaud over a child's first step, or first word. But often it's the smaller moments that can really tug at our heartstrings—if we just take the time to soak it in.

Some of those moments for me are listening to my boys sing in the car. Watching them stop to pick up a leaf on the street then delight in it's beauty. Their amazement as a firefly flickers on and off in in their hands. The feeling of their arms squeezing me a hug goodnight. Watching them willingly share a favorite toy without being prodded to do so. Hearing their laughter. Reading them books. Listening to their questions.

These small moments are what add the beauty and color to life. Don't take these moments for granted.

6. Be flexible + compromise.

Some parenting rules DO need to be black-and-white (e.g., don't touch the stove, don't open the door for strangers, put infants on their back to sleep), but many things don't.

Figure out what matters to your family. Define the lines. Then let the grays in. Whether that means an extra half hour of TV, staying up past bedtime or, as we have been known to allow, having a Nutella and marshmallow sandwich for breakfast. Choose your battles.

7. Be creative.

And I don't just mean being clever about using recyclables for art projects. I mean using spontaneous creativity to overcome parenting hurdles. Thinking outside the box in parenting is essential. There are times when planning is good—but also times when winging it can be better!

Like my husband inventing "The Splinter King" (naturally, a friend of the Tooth Fairy) to come and leave coins under our son's pillow after the successful removal of a splinter. Using "noodle paint" (i.e., pesto or tomato sauce) to color pasta for my picky-eating-very-artistic-child. Floating Cheerios in the toilet bowl as target practice to make potty-training fun.

The list goes on and on. Embrace your own family quirks, allow your unique family culture to emerge, but remember to never stop creating!

8. Ask for help.

If you don't have family nearby to help you, ask friends, neighbors, colleagues, babysitters or your doctor. Raising a child is not easy, no one does this alone and we all need some help and support.

9. Make mistakes.

It's the only way to learn anything, even parenting. Just don't repeat them and don't drown in the guilt of whatever error or oversight you may have made. Learn something from your mistake, then move on and do it better the next time. (Remember, children are resilient, physically and psychologically.)

10. Have fun. (And drink coffee.)

Being a mother is the hardest fun I've ever had. Enough said.


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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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