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motherhood and coronavirus uncertainty

Being a mom is challenging, even under the best circumstances—managing everyone's schedules, trying to anticipate needs and helping new souls learn to regulate their emotions while making sure some fun is mixed in too. Mothering in a time of unprecedented uncertainty and fear is even more challenging. And yet, here we are.

Right now, there are endless self-help articles and social media posts framing this time as an opportunity to relax, unplug, read a backlog of books, find new shows to binge and closets to clean out. And this is fantastic advice for anyone who has the time to do those things.

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But that's not the reality for many moms, particularly not those with very small children who need near-constant supervision and engagement. So what do we do? How do we manage our time, support our kids, and keep our houses running all while confronted with anxiety that can at times feel crippling?

As a mom of three small kids—currently 6, 4 and 2—and a psychotherapist specializing in maternal mental health, mothering through uncertainty and anxiety is front and center in my personal and professional life right now.

Here's what I've been sharing and suggesting.

1. Throw out ALL the "shoulds"

Screen time. Schoolwork. Dietary habits. As moms, we are inundated with what we "should" be doing in all of these areas (and more). But here's the thing about our current life circumstances: no one has ever done this before and therefore, all of the normal shoulds do not apply.

Each child, parent and family have a unique set of circumstances and needs. What works for one family would be absolutely disastrous for another.

So what if your neighbor's kids seem to spend their whole days playing out in the yard? That may work well for them. It doesn't work when parents are working remotely and need to be inside for conference calls and emails all day.

So what if your child's classmates submit their daily e-learning activity by 10 am each day? That's hard to accomplish when you're on your own until your partner comes home at 5 pm.

So what if you blow through your usual 60 minutes of screen time before breakfast? This isn't a new forever rule. It's what you're doing to make it through right now.

Now is the time to temporarily put the rule books aside. Experiment with mixing things up until you find what works best for you and your family today. And be willing to change it tomorrow if it no longer works.

2. Embrace a mom-first mentality

Our kids need us more than ever right now, so it seems counterintuitive to say you need to put yourself first. But it's absolutely essential.

Whatever it takes to protect your mental health is the top priority. Why? Because if you're frazzled or overwhelmed by anxiety, you cannot co-regulate with your child.

Co-regulation is the psychological process that occurs when we join with someone who is upset and dysregulated and use our calm state to help them return to a calm state. This is what you do when you see your child get a minor boo-boo and sit down next to them on the floor, holding them while breathing deeply and slowly, stroking their head and speaking in a soothing tone.

It's not just mom's hug that cures most childhood ailments, it's mom's ability to co-regulate.

In order to keep my kids calm and feeling safe, I need to be able to stay calm and safe myself. So if that means some extra screen time, or mac and cheese for dinner yet again, in order to lessen your mental load, do it. If that means taking a bath after bedtime instead of tackling the dishes, do it. If that means family TV time in your bed in the morning so you can get an extra 20 minutes of rest, do it.

It's easy to feel like you're being selfish when you start implementing this mindset, but here's the key thing to keep in mind: doing this is a necessary part of meeting your child's emotional needs during an extremely difficult time.

3. Make a list of what you can do

Right now we are acutely aware of the things that have been taken from us. The things we can't do. The things we are being forced into. It's easy to fall into an "I have no control over anything" mentality. And yes, there are certainly plenty of things we have no control over—that's always the case. But there are still plenty of things we can do and plenty of things we can control.

Sit down by yourself or with your family to brainstorm a list of things you can do:

Now that you have a list of what you can do, it's time to start figuring out what you can still control. Find a quiet time, perhaps after bedtime, and get to work. What can I control in the midst of the outside chaos? I can set a daily schedule for my family. I can do some meal planning so I know what we will be eating each day. I can determine how much social media and news I consume each day.

If I focus solely on what I don't have, my emotional state will follow and become more negative. If I can also acknowledge the things I do still have, my emotional state will stay more in balance.

The bottom line: Uncertainty is stressful, but it can become less so when we lean into change for a short stretch of time.

None of these changes are forever—you're not signing up for a lifetime of relaxed rules and unlimited screen time and chaos. Sooner or later (and hopefully sooner), we'll all find out when the kids are going back to school, when we're allowed to commute to work again, when life will return to something closer to normal. Until then, you're just taking it day by day. Take control of what you can, and release the rest.

Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Tenth & Pine: Gender-neutral and butter-soft basics for littles + bigs

In 2016, after a stage four endometriosis diagnosis and a 10 year battle with infertility, Tenth & Pine founder Kerynn got her miracle baby, Ezra Jade. As a SAHM with a Masters in Business, she wanted to create a brand that focused on premium quality, function, comfort, and simplicity.

She sought out premium, all natural fabrics and factories that shared her core values, practicing environmentally friendly manufacturing methods with fair and safe working conditions for employees. As a result, her made in the USA, gender-neutral designs check all the boxes. The sustainable, organic basics are perfect for everyday wear, family photos and any adventure in between.

Lucy Lue Organics: Sustainably and ethically-produced modern baby clothes

This family-owned and operated business was started by a mama who wanted out of corporate America after the birth of her son. Thoughtfully designed to mix-and-match, Lucy Lue's sustainably and ethically produced collection of modern organic baby clothes only uses fabrics that are "environmentally friendly from seed to seam." Their gorgeous, earthy tones and comfy, minimalist styles make the perfect addition to first wardrobes from birth through the first years.

Sontakey: Simple bracelets that speak your mind

Sontakey has been such a hit in the Motherly Shop that we knew it was time to expand the line. And since these beautiful mantra bands look so stunning stacked, more options = more fun.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Every week, we stock the Motherly Shop with innovative and fresh products from brands we feel good about. We want to be certain you don't miss anything, so to keep you in the loop, we're providing a cheat sheet.

So, what's new this week?

Meri Meri: Decor and gifts that bring the wonder of childhood to life

We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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Chrissy Teigen/Instagram

When Chrissy Teigen announced her third pregnancy earlier this year we were so happy for her and now our hearts are with her as she is going through a pain that is unimaginable for many, but one that so many other mothers know.

Halfway through a high-risk pregnancy complicated by placenta issues, Teigen announced late Wednesday that she has suffered a pregnancy loss.

Our deepest condolences go out to Chrissy and her husband, John Legend (who has been by her side in the hospital for several days now).

In a social media post, Teigen explained she named this baby Jack.

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"We are shocked and in the kind of deep pain you only hear about, the kind of pain we've never felt before. We were never able to stop the bleeding and give our baby the fluids he needed, despite bags and bags of blood transfusions. It just wasn't enough," she wrote.

She continued: "We never decide on our babies' names until the last possible moment after they're born, just before we leave the hospital. But we, for some reason, had started to call this little guy in my belly Jack. So he will always be Jack to us. Jack worked so hard to be a part of our little family, and he will be, forever."

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