A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

I got into the field of psychology because I wanted to help others, and this desire to help came from my ability to easily empathize. I never knew just how valuable empathy was as a parent until I started noticing the narration running through my mind as my daughter would cry, whine or scream.


I will be the first to admit that when I first became a parent I was not able to consistently use empathy. I was anxious and frustrated that I could not figure out how to help my very tearful (and reportedly colicky) baby during those first few months, and every time I thought I had the parenting routine down, developmental changes made me shift everything.

Fast-forward a couple of years—I noticed my daughter crying at bathtime and found myself saying in my head, “She really gets upset when water gets in her eyes. She’s really scared that shampoo will get in her eye.” I then wish I had bought curved rinse-cup that would fit up against her forehead. I also thought the tear-free shampoo wouldn’t bother the eyes until I decided to try it and noticed how annoying it felt, as my eyes were feeling like they were reducing to raisins.

My point in saying all this is that empathy was the one of the keys to keeping myself calm.

I would reflect what she was expressing to me,“You really don’t like it when we wash your hair. You are worried that water and soap will get in your eyes,” but I knew that I still had to get her through it and continued to say, “We will try and make sure that water does not get in your eyes.”

How would this look if I were not coming from a place of empathy?

Well, for one, I may lose my cool because I may view her as an obstacle to getting her own hair clean thinking in my head, “Just let me clean your hair so that this can be done with!”

I may raise my voice and make it even more difficult for her to manage her feelings, as she may feel that she is unsafe to express her feelings with me or that her interests are not my priority. This pattern can continue for many months or possibly even years—with my frustration only increasing and her ability to see me as an understanding parent diminishing.

And no one wants that. So here’s how we can parent with more empathy:

1. Be aware

Notice what you are saying to yourself as your child begins to whine or cry. Are you finding yourself frustrated that your child is not listening? Do you keep nudging them to get through the difficulty by saying, “You’re okay.”

If this is you, know that you are not alone. In fact, we have likely all been here at some point. Instead of being really hard on ourselves for having been there, let’s just notice it.

Notice why it is difficult to tolerate the tears or frustration that your child is experiencing. Are you taking this as a reflection of you as a parent?

I will tell you right now that whining and crying does not mean that you are doing something wrong as a parent.

It is simply the current mode of expression while your young child is learning language and learning how to regulate himself in order to express themselves through words. Their brain is nowhere nearly as developed as yours, so it is important to shift the expectation you have for your child. Research now says that the brain is not fully developed until about age 25.

2. Take time for yourself

You have to take care of yourself in order to take care of others—If your cup is empty, you have nothing else to give. Self-care does not necessarily mean manicures and massages.

For me self-care is waking up at 5 a.m. to exercise for 15 minutes, have my cup of tea, eat breakfast without distractions, and do a little bit of something I enjoy (like writing or reading). And yes on some days this is not realistic and sleeping in a little bit longer becomes my self-care.

What does it look like for you? Taking care of yourself can be those little things that actually make a big difference. For example, actually taking a lunch break at work and using part of the time to go for a walk or setting limits to how many events, birthdays and get togethers you commit to.

Overall, I notice that self-care really means slowing ourselves down and being intentional with our decisions. It’s so easy to move from one thing to the next never letting ourselves catch a break. So if nothing else, work on slowing down as a part of your self-care.

3. Put yourself in your child’s shoes

Empathy is going to be the key to getting out of your own head and into your child’s. You will not easily shift to an empathic point of view if you are not aware of your own perceptions and neglecting yourself. This is why I put it for step three.

Sometimes it is helpful to think back to when you were a child and recall what you needed when you were tearful or upset. Keep asking yourself, “What is my child trying to tell me right now? What does my child need from me right now?” This will help you get to an empathic understanding of your child rather than focusing on, “How can I get them to stop their crying/whining?”

4. Identify their emotions

Here you are going to help your child gain the words to express himself. For example, “It looks like you are upset because we have to leave the park. I know it can be hard to say ‘good-bye’ when we are having fun. We will be coming back to the park tomorrow.”

5. Stay calm

It is incredibly important to remain calm above all. If there is anything you forget, please DO NOT forget this one.

By staying calm you are showing your child that you are able to handle the situation.

Often times we have this idea in our heads that we are showing that we are in charge when we raise our voice or yell.

Helping our children be calm, starts by showing them how. If you want to help your child feel secure, you need to remain calm so that they know you feel like you can handle it. If you must, go ahead and fake it until you make it here.

Take a few minutes to get yourself in the right space before responding. And if you notice yourself being reactive, see my next step.

6. Take the time

Give yourself room to grow. These changes will definitely not happen overnight. You might find yourself forgetting to fill your cup, stressed by many things at once, and raising your voice at your child.

You will make mistakes. We all do.

The most important thing you can do when this happens is become aware of it and acknowledge your mistake to your child. For instance, “I was upset and yelled. It was not okay for me to yell. What I wanted to tell you is that I see that you are upset, but we still need to go. I am here to help you go back to the car.”

So much of this requires us to unlearn the things that we have been taught through our own families, friends, and through society. The more we practice this, the easier it will become.

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

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.

You might also like:

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.

You might also like:

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.

You might also like:

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.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.