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The holiday season is upon us, but let's just say that this doesn't exactly conjure up feelings of holiday cheer and excitement for everyone. To many people the holidays are an incredibly stressful period of time for a variety of reasons. Within a very short time period there is a lot to juggle, and let's face it: As mamas, we often feel like that exponentially expanding to-do list falls squarely on us.

There is the planning of parties, buying gifts, the endless to-do list, making decisions about social plans, shopping for outfits to wear to said social plans, wrapping up the work year and coordinating winter vacation plans—just to name a few.

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The mental load of pulling off a successful holiday season is no easy feat and it's common for anxiety levels to run high. If our mental loads get too heavy and we feel like we are carrying them alone, we may start to resent our partners or support system and take the stress out on them. Ideally, we should share the load with our partners or village, making for a less anxious and more joyous holiday season.

Here are nine strategies to help share the mental load and ease your holiday stress, mama:

1. Pick a good time together + schedule it

We're all guilty of wanting to unload on someone else when our stress levels are high. If it's not a good time, your partner or family member may not be receptive and you will be left feeling disappointed. Rather than set yourself up for that, have a planned team huddle at a scheduled and agreed time when you are both available, willing and most receptive.

It could be in the evening after the kids are asleep, an early morning chat before the day starts, a phone conversation or during a night out. Put it on your calendars and plan to give your undivided attention.Throughout the holiday season, I encourage several of these plus check-in points and updates.

2. Write it down

Before you can share your mental load you have to identify what is on your (or your partner's) mind. Begin by making a list of all the things you need to do with the timeframe (making it as detailed as possible), and all the things you feel worried about with the holiday season. Mental load isn't just the tangible concrete tasks, but the added weight of how we feel about these tasks and the things that concern us.

3. Be mindful of your tone

When communicating, make sure your tone is supportive, encouraging and fun. This isn't a time to criticize and argue. Remind yourself that the more you can be in it together, the better it will feel for both of you.

4. Delegate tasks

Look at the list together and decide which tasks each of you can accomplish best. Each of you has strengths (and weaknesses), so delegate based on strengths, availability and interests.

For example, if you are really creative about gift ideas but your partner is the best bargain finder, make a list of items you want to purchase and have them do the actual purchasing. If your partner doesn't get riled talking to family about holiday logistics but you do, have them be the family liaison.

If you want to control everything and want your partner to take the kids out for the day to give you time to get it all done, that works too. Whatever the breakdown of tasks, ensure you are both on the same page about them.

Remember, if you choose to take ownership of something on the list, you can't also resent your partner for not doing it—that's not fair. If you want them out of the kitchen when you cook, let's not complain "Why am I always the one cooking?" When we delegate and accept the tasks we have divided, we want to also be okay doing so.

5. Learn to let it go

Once something has been delegated, let it go! Your partner is a different person than you and will inevitably do things differently than you—perhaps on a different timeline than you would want or in a different way than you want.

Part of reducing your mental load will be becoming comfortable that it will be done differently than you want, but that it will still get done. If you delegate and also then micromanage what you have delegated, you are not actually reducing your stress. In fact, it may feel even more stressful than just doing it yourself!

6. Offer positive feedback

It's easy to harp on the things we don't like about our partner. Remember, the more you criticize, the less likely that your partner will want to be in it with you. If your partner feels that nothing can ever be done right by you, they will stop even trying and resentment will only further ensue. If efforts (for both of you) are acknowledged and praised, you are much more likely to want to do more of it. Besides, wouldn't you rather have a happy relationship than have the perfect color napkins at your holiday table?

7. Communicate—don't mindread

How great would it be if everyone around us knew exactly what, when and how we wanted things all of the time? Unfortunately that's not reality. No matter how long someone knows us or how much someone loves us, that doesn't mean they know what is going through our minds and what exactly we want at any given moment!

Since we can't expect our support system to mindread, we need to be really clear and specific about what we do want.

It's also important to be clear about how you are feeling. Rather than internalizing and feeling angry or concerned about a situation, communicate it. If we don't actually verbalize it, it will still come out, just in less than ideal ways. If you feel concerned about a family dynamic, talk it through so you don't feel like you are shouldering it alone. Sometimes talking about it can also give us another perspective.

8. Manage expectations

The holidays are naturally going to heighten our stress levels. The more we can articulate our expectations of how we want things to go and what we are feeling anxious about, the better we will be able to manage and game-plan for our stress.

For example, if you have different expectations about what it means to be on time for a party or an airplane flight, talk about it in advance and come up with a plan together. Figure out what time specifically you will plan to leave rather than a vague let's get there on time.

9. Find humor

While it's last on the list, I think this is one of the most important tips I can give. It's so important to laugh. Find a way to be a team in the holiday season together and laugh about the things we may find stressful. Know that when you laugh at it together, it takes the weight of the situation away and also brings perspective.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

For parents of babies and toddlers, diapers are a big expense that can represent a substantial portion of a family's monthly grocery budget, but when families fall on hard times and get support paying for groceries, diapers aren't covered. Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are meant to fill families nutritional needs, not hygiene needs, so you can't buy diapers with a SNAP card (also known as food stamps).

This week San Fransisco county became the first county in America to offer free diapers to families who use SNAP, (known at the state level as CalFresh). Starting this month, parents in San Fransisco who use CalFresh qualify for a free monthly supply of diapers thanks to the San Francisco Diaper Bank, a partnership between the Human Services Agency (HSA) and Help a Mother Out (HAMO). This is made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the California Department of Social Services.

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It's good to see communities recognizing that diapers are as necessary as food. Studies indicate that when mothers don't have the diapers they need for their babies their mental health suffers, but that an "an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development"

"It costs like $25 for one box of diapers. I remember the time when I had to decide between buying milk and buying diapers. No parent should have to go through that. You have no idea what this program has meant for me," San Francisco Diaper Bank participant Hanen Bouzidi explains.

Without the extra help, parents like Hanen end up at the mercy of convenience stores that separate the large boxes of diapers to sell them individually. It's one of those times when being poor means you have to spend more money: You can't afford a $25 box containing 96 diapers, so you have to spend $1 on one individual diaper at the corner store just to get your baby through the day.

And while many people are quick to suggest low-income parents take up cloth diapering, it is not practical for every family. If the only laundry machines you have access to are coin-operated and outside your home, you may not have the money or the time to launder them. Plus, most laundromats won't let you wash them and some childcare providers will only take kids who are wearing disposables. In short, cloth diapers are a wonderful solution for many families, but they are not a practical solution many families using SNAP cards. That's why San Fransisco's move to provide free diapers is so important.

Some lawmakers in other parts of the country are trying to introduce legislation to provide free diapers to families who need them, so we could see other areas following San Fransisco's lead in the coming years. This is important because no child should be at risk for the physical problems that can happen when parents feel they have no choice but to reuse or overuse diapers, and no mother should be forced to carry the weight of the guilt of diaper need.

Providing diapers to families who desperately need them improves the health of moms and babies, and removes a barrier that keeps moms from accessing childcare and early childhood education programs.

News

This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

They absolutely do!

😍😍😍

The sweetest little neighbors

The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

News

American humorist Josh Billings said something over a century ago, and it still remains today: "Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take." Advice is hard to take, but so easy (and often fun) to give. But, when it comes to parenting advice, most mamas are all ears. We're always ready to get the best tips on how to raise happy, successful humans.

That's why we looked to the parenting threads on Reddit where mamas discuss their cures for mom burnout.

Here's the best parenting advice Reddit mamas swear by to cure burnout:

1. Hire help

"Get yourself a mother's helper. They're someone who's there when you are for the most part. They can supervise, play with the kids, take to the park, make lunch, help with chores and sometimes if they're old enough watch them while you shop/run errands. I used to find them at the high school in my area that ran a child development class, they had background checks and training in child development. You could also try local daycares to see if anyone wanted hours outside of those. Everyone needs a break sometimes." — Mudd82

2. Don't be afraid to do nothing

"You need the time to rest in the evenings. After kid goes to bed, take a bath. Run an errand if you need to. Maybe husband can take over bedtime and bath every other day so you get to sit on the sofa and do nothing." — KatesDT

3. Share the load

"My wife and I go every other night with the toddler. I do bed time one night and she does bed time the next night.

Gives a few hours of alone time."— jonahsnarc

4. Take advantage of nap time

"During his nap time, try to do things that will help you recharge. Reading, a long shower, painting, gardening, whatever hobby you have that is fulfilling for you. I know for me that nap time is valuable time for chores or sleeping." — etherealbadger

5. Have a baby proofed room

"Aggressively baby proof one space in your house just for the kiddo. Get rid of all chokeables, protect the outlets, anchor the furniture. Having a room where the worst that can happen is they fall over of their own accord can give you a little mental peace." — avesmaria

6. Drink water

"Drink water. The health and beauty benefits are totally worth having to pee." —apotatopirate

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7. Encourage independent play

"Start teaching your child how to play alone. Maybe with a kitchen timer and start with small increments of time. They can play by themself for X minutes and then when the timer goes off, you play with him a little. Gradually increase the amount of time as you go. While they are playing, do something for yourself." —Domina_Mollia

8. Take a shower—alone

"My self-care consists mainly of uninterrupted showers! My husband knows that's my tiny slice of sanity." —moondruidmum

9. Find a quiet place

"Sometimes my self-care is as simple as going through the drive through at Starbucks, parking on a quiet street somewhere and watching Netflix on my phone while I drink it. I also enjoy baking, walking around places like Hobby Lobby or Target, or just taking a long bath." —MrFoxSox

10. Put on some music and let go

"I like to turn on Beyoncé and bake cookies while dancing and singing along." —MollyStrongMama


Life

Going through infertility let me know that there are some things in life that I just can't control. For someone who already has a hard time relinquishing control in life (call me a bit of a control nut!), entering the world of IVF was not only hard physically and mentally, but it also was incredibly difficult because it showed me things about myself that were at odds with this journey.

I realized how much I had needed to be in control of my life, how much I took for granted that my life path most often "always worked out" the way I imagined it would and I also realized how impatient I was.

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IVF treatment strips away a lot of yourself. You are forced to give up control and forced to wait….a lot. In our case, both my husband and I had potential issues and the two of us pulled away from the rest of our friends whose sperm romantically found their partner's ripe egg and impregnated them the old fashioned way.

While we were undergoing a lot of things physically and emotionally in a dark, isolating world of blood labs, doctor's offices and at many times, what seemed like barbaric tests. Something made me very "hush-hush" about it and I'm usually a wide-open book about everything. I guess you could say I was ashamed, I felt like it was a weakness or a flaw.

I only opened up about our struggle with fertility when I, finally, had a successful pregnancy and realized that once you go into the world of IVF there's no turning back. I was now an "IVF person." I became really passionate about the world of infertility especially once I started talking to others who went through it. This was one of the things that I felt now defined me, I had an "infertility journey," I was a #ttcsister, and because of IVF, I became a mom.

I embraced it and became proud of it. I launched my business by sharing my infertility story and it was so much a part of who I was. It motivated me to start to form an in-person community of women, pregnant, trying to conceive, or already moms based on my struggles with motherhood... before they even started! All while pregnant and then giving birth to my daughter.

Then a year and a half later I accidentally got pregnant.

The truth is, I never went back on birth control after having our baby because I didn't want to go through getting off of it again. Some people might not be able to relate to thinking you can't get pregnant on your own. They can't imagine the idea that you and your husband's test results indicate that the likelihood of pregnancy without IVF is basically zero.

But somehow, one of my husband's sperm in the millions of sperms that were morphologically corrupt found its way to my egg at the perfect time. The interesting part is that one of the most prominent thoughts I had when this happened was that I now felt like an imposter. How could I just get knocked up?!

I was helping and advocating for infertility and it was actually approaching National Infertility Awareness Week. I spent several weeks hiding just like I did during my last pregnancy.

Then, one day at work, I felt so sick from morning sickness and I couldn't tell anyone why. I went into the bathroom and just cried. Not just because of how debilitating the sickness was, but because of how alone I felt. Here I was trying to bring moms together yet I was isolating myself.

I was experiencing every IVF veteran's dream and I wasn't happy. I was feeling badly, torn, upset and just irrationally guilty and I needed support. I picked myself up, walked out of that bathroom and told every one of my colleagues at work "I'm pregnant, by mistake, and I need help."

The truth is, I've realized that just because I dodged IVF and some of those hardships this time around and truly feel like I was given the biggest stroke of luck, it doesn't change what I went through to get my first daughter. It also doesn't change my passion for advocacy in infertility and fighting with all my might for motherhood.

Life
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