Print Friendly and PDF

There are feet and elbows and squeals and shrieks, followed by laughing—lots of laughing—thumps and grunts. I watch, waiting for my youngest to smack his head on the coffee table or my oldest to sit a little too long on the middle one’s chest, worried that it’s not really fun until someone gets hurt.


I don’t know if it is amusement, amazement or annoyance I feel as I watch their dad in the middle of it all, tossing them around, spinning them and flipping them, altogether keeping the energy at a frenzy, sweating and panting right along. And I wonder who is having more fun?

FEATURED VIDEO

To a mom, all the noise and pummeling can be more than a little bit alarming. But lots of research suggests that regular roughhousing sessions make for happier, more successful children.

In fact, in Top Dog, a book about the science of winning and losing, authors Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman argue that roughhousing can give your kids a competitive edge and help them learn to thrive in an increasingly dog-eat-dog world.

We know intuitively that something magical is going on when dad gets down on the floor and lets little ones give it to him. Even if we are more than a little uneasy with all the activity, somehow we know the special give and take that goes on is fundamental to how our kids relate to him.

But are we aware of how that relationship affects how our kids see the world and themselves in it, or that roughhousing can help protect against childhood depression?

Maybe if we understand that roughhousing is a good way for kids to release aggression, or that it teaches our kids how to set boundaries, we can relax and enjoy watching the show.

As moms, every fiber of our being has been devoted to nourishing, nurturing and protecting our babies from before that first beautiful cry was heard to those first wobbly steps and beyond. The journey has brought us closer and made us more connected and in tune with our children than we could have ever imagined.

The first few years, our children’s development requires more from us, with dads as active participants who, for the most part, follow our lead. But by nature, there comes a time and place where dads’ involvement and subsequent bond grows independently and quite importantly.

"A mother’s bond is established in infancy, and researchers believe that dad's bond is expressed a little later, when the father serves as a secure base allowing the child to explore and take risks," says University of Georgia researcher Geoffrey Brown, lead author of a 2012 study in the Journal of Family Psychology on fundamental questions about how fathers bond with children.

What is roughhousing?

Roughhousing is essentially mutual, aggressive, interactive, high-trust play in which no one is actually getting hurt. Kids feel more relaxed, connected, and happy after roughhousing. This is critical in establishing a deep and lasting bond with dads that lays the foundation for the part of their development that helps them function successfully in the world and pave the way for future generations’ success and happiness by properly socializing kids to be good parents themselves. The good news is that roughhousing comes in many shapes and sizes, so dads who are more adverse to the extreme physicality of many forms can easily find others that suit their style better.

Recent research has shown that roughhousing serves an evolutionary purpose. Unlike many other animals, humans need their fathers well beyond just the act of making the baby. Based on research by MacDonald and Parke, fathers play key roles in optimum development of psychological and emotional traits like empathy, emotional control and the ability to navigate complex social relationships.

"Perhaps out of worry for their kids' future financial security, dads across human cultures mostly focus on preparing children to compete within society. They give advice, encourage academic success and stress achievement," says David Geary of the University of Missouri and author of Male, Female: Evolution of Human Sex Differences.

By roughousing, dads "rile them up, almost to the point that they are going to snap, and then calm them down," explains Geary. "This pattern teaches kids to control their emotions—a trait that garners them popularity among superiors and peers," he said. "As adults, they are more likely to form secure relationships, achieve stable social standing and become able parents. In this sense, a father who takes care of his children also gives his grandchildren a leg up."

Science supports the need for this kind of activity.

"We know quite a lot about how important fathers are in general for a child's development," says Richard Fletcher, the leader of the Fathers and Families Research Program at the University of Newcastle in Australia (UON), in an interview on ABC News.

Though all the rolling around and noise on the floor may look like theres just a lot of fun being had, Fletcher and UON researchers believe that the most important aspect of roughhousing is that it gives children "a sense of achievement when they 'defeat' a more powerful adult, building their self-confidence and concentration."

In their study, researchers watched film of 30 dads roughhousing with their kids. "When you look at fathers and their young children playing, you can see that for the child, it's not just a game. They obviously enjoy it and they're giggling, but when you watch the video, you can see that child is concentrating really hard. I think the excitement is related to the achievement that's involved," Fletcher says. "It's not about a spoiled child not wanting to lose, I think that child is really striving for the achievement of succeeding."

What it does to your child’s brain

There is a lot of science to reinforce the value of roughhousing. A lot of it can be tied to one salient fact: Roughhousing releases brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).

Based on research by the Child Mental Health Centre’s Margot Sutherland, when kids roughhouse, the brain recognizes this as a small stressor. As heart rate increases, the brain thinks they are fighting or fleeing some danger. To protect the brain from stress, BDNF is released, which repairs and protects the brain while improving it’s learning and memory capabilities. Stimulating neuron growth in the cortex-amygdala, cerebellum and hippocampus regions of the brain, BDNF is vitally important and responsible for the development of memory, higher learning and advanced behavior, such as language and logic–skills necessary for academic success. This growth underpins a myriad of benefits for our kids.

Why we roughhouse

Some parents worry that roughhousing teaches kids to be violent and impulsive. In their book, The Art of Roughhousing, Anthony DeBenedet and Larry Cohen claim instead that roughhousing “makes kids smart, emotionally intelligent, lovable and likable, ethical, physically fit, and joyful.”

Other studies have indicated that kids who aren’t allowed to roughhouse can develop inappropriate responses to aggression, imagining threats where none exist, according to research by Daniel Paquette, a Professor of Psychoeducation at the University of Montreal.

"Parent-child roughhousing enables kids to explore aggression within the context of an emotional bond. By practicing aggression in a safe environment as a kid, they learn to be comfortable with it and take more risks as an adult, whether it’s by standing up to a bullying colleague or asking for a raise. In particular, fathers play a critical role in helping kids develop these skills," he says.

In Paquette’s surveys of children’s behavior for the University of Montreal, kid-initiated roughhousing peaks at around three or four, but continues until about age 10. During that time, Psychologist Anthony Pellegrini has found that "the amount of roughhousing children engage in predicts their achievement in first grade better than their kindergarten test scores do."

Roughhousing is a fun and safe place to teach your kids that failure is often just a temporary state and that victory goes to the person who is resilient, sticks to it and learns from his mistakes.

As a parent, resilience and grit are two of the best things you can help your kids develop. "Since resilience is a key in developing children’s intelligence, resilient kids tend to see failure more as a challenge to overcome rather than an event that defines them. This sort of intellectual resilience helps ensure your children bounce back from bad grades and gives them the grit to keep trying until they’ve mastered a topic," says Pellegrini. The ability to bounce back from failures helps your kids face challenges and reach their full potential, living happier lives as adults.

Though on its surface it appears rather brutish, roughhousing is really quite sophisticated, requiring the coordination of three aspects of human intelligence: physical, social and cognitive. When in concert, these aspects provide the sweet notes of our kids’ lives, but when out of balance can make for some sad music.

10 ways kids benefit from roughhousing

1. It rewires the brain, making kids smarter.

Roughhousing requires our kids to adapt quickly to unpredictable situations. In his book, Wild Justice, evolutionary biologist, Marc Bekoff, says, "The unpredictable nature of roughhousing actually rewires a child’s brain by increasing the connections between neurons in the cerebral cortex, which in turn contributes to behavioral flexibility. Learning how to cope with sudden changes while roughhousing trains your kiddos to cope with unexpected bumps in the road when they’re out in the real world."

2. It teaches children about taking turns and cooperation.

Roughhousing teaches kids the concept of leadership and negotiation. Physical games require the give-and-take of negotiation to establish the rules upon which everyone needs to agree in order for all to have fun. This is excellent preparation for both professional success and committed relationships.

Roughhousing also requires taking turns with the dominant role. Whether you’re the wrestler or the wrestlee, everyone has to take turns in for the fun to continue. Kids don’t want to keep playing if they are constantly on the losing side.

3. It toughens kids up.

Occasional scuffs and scrapes are a byproduct of roughhousing and are bound to happen. Rather than coddle, dads tend to distract their kids from the pain with humor or some other task.

In a study of 32 subjects in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, researchers found that many fathers walk a fine line during roughousing between safety and risk, allowing children to get minor injuries without endangering them. Learning to deal with and manage minor discomforts while roughhousing can help kids handle the stresses they’ll encounter at school and work.

4. It teaches kids to take risks.

Beckoff states that roughhousing is good for learning because "it provides an opportunity for making mistakes without fear of punishment." And because "fathers play a particularly important role in the development of children's openness to the world," writes Paquette, "they also tend to encourage children to take risks, while at the same time ensuring [their] safety and security, thus permitting children to learn to be braver in unfamiliar situations, as well as to stand up for themselves."

5. It helps kids manage aggression.

Some parents fear that roughhousing will lead to aggression and that we should always be “safe” with our children. While this is a concern, studies perfomed at the University of Regensburg in Germany suggest that it actually has the opposite effect.

Children who roughhouse at home are less violent, presumably because they feel a strong connection with their fathers and because they learn the difference between healthy roughhousing and aggression. As psychologist John Snarey says in his research-turned-book, How Fathers Care for the Next Generation, "Children who roughhouse with their fathers... quickly learn that biting, kicking, and other forms of physical violence are not acceptable."

Girls have aggressive feelings, too, and few know how to deal with them. Roughhousing provides the same benefits to them as it does to boys. Occasionally, roughhousing can lead to tears—play may have activated feelings that needed to come out, and they are coming out in tears rather than laughter and body slams. It turns out that roughhousing can help "mean girls" access their feelings more directly, which cuts down on the meanness.

7. It increases social and emotional intelligence.

“The ability to differentiate between play and aggression translates into other social skills that require people to read and interpret social cues,” says Pellegrini. Kids need to learn when to stop. In a report published in Behavioral Neuroscience, Jennifer Mascaro and her colleagues at Emory University state that, "rough play mimics aggressive actions, and requires accurate reading of social cues to determine when the rough and tumble tickling or fighting has gone too far, or if someone is feeling hurt. That requires evaluating other people’s emotional state and determining when the feelings pass the threshold from fun and play to fear and anger."

Play expert and founder of The National Institute for Play, Dr. Stuart Brown, says that the “lack of experience with [roughhousing] hampers the normal give-and-take necessary for social mastery and has been linked with poor control of violent impulses later in life. When kids roughhouse they learn to tell the difference between play and actual aggression," making them more well-liked, compared to kids who have a hard time separating the two.

Moreover, kids learn how to regain self-control, which makes them more confident in their emotional lives.

8. It teaches kids about boundaries, ethics and morality.

When we roughhouse with our kids, they learn the difference between right and wrong and about the appropriate use of strength and power. Roughhousing also teaches children about setting limits and boundaries while being safe when they play with others.

In nature, self-handicapping is one of the most amazing illustrations of moral behavior in animal play. "When we roughhouse with our kids, we model for them how someone bigger and stronger holds back. We teach them self-control, fairness, and empathy. We let them win, which gives them confidence and demonstrates that winning isn’t everything and you don’t need to dominate all the time," say DeBenedet and Cohen.

According to Bekoff, this is moral behavior because the larger the animal cares more about both players having fun together than it does about winning. Kids learn that actual strength is showing compassion to those weaker than you.

9. It makes kids physically active and can protect them from depression.

"Being active, getting sweaty and roughhousing offer more than just physical health benefits. They also protect against depression," says Tonje Zahl, a Ph.D. candidate at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), and first author of the article on the study findings which were recently published in the February 2017 issue of Pediatrics.

Her new study supports that this kind of physical activity protects against depression. The researchers at the NTNU examined just under 800 children when they were six years old and conducted follow-up examinations with about 700 of them when they were eight and ten years old to see if they could find a correlation between physical activity and symptoms of depression. They found that the more the kids engaged in activity that caused them to sweat and pant, the less incidence there was of depression.

10. Roughhousing builds a better bond.

The rough play fathers engage in is just as important as the gentle mothering that mothers do. Roughhousing offers dads a chance to show physically their affection to their kids in a fun and playful manner. Throwing kids up in the air and catching them, or swinging them upside-down, builds kids’ trust in you—by taking part in somewhat risky activities with you, your kids learn that they can trust you to keep them safe. And as dads tumble around with kids, the closeness and physical activity release the parenting hormone, oxytocin, which boosts feelings of bonding and closeness.

It’s not just for dads and sons

Just as fathers can be super midnight soothers, mothers can be awesome roughhousers. This is especially important, since not all children have fathers. "If a mom does it, the child will learn the same thing," says Catherine Tamis-LeMonda, a professor of developmental psychology at New York University. And moms who roughhouse with their kids give them a whole new set of behaviors to figure out and learn from.

All kids need loving physical contact, and both boys and girls need to get it from their fathers. In roughhousing, dads and kids get the endorphin rush of athletics as well as the oxytocin rush of a good hug, benefitting both the same way that the release of oxytocin does when a child is being comforted or is nursing.

Importantly, DeBenedet says roughhousing can benefit both genders, often in different ways. “For boys, it’s a way to learn physical interaction that isn’t violent or sexual. For girls, it’s finding a way to make sure their voice is heard.”

So, what can you do to remain sane while watching all of this go down?

  • Be aware of the surroundings Keep your kids away from areas where they can get hurt. Also, keep in mind that a child’s joints are prone to injury when roughhousing.
  • Watch for and respect clues Ensure that roughhousing has not gone too far and that everyone is still having fun.
  • Don’t roughhouse right before bed Kids need some time right before bed to relax and ramp things down so they can get into sleep mode.
  • Remember that roughhousing is for girls, too While boys are naturally prone to engage in roughhousing, make sure you don’t leave girls out of the fun. Studies show that girls who roughhouse with their fathers are more confident than girls who don’t. And some studies even indicate that roughhousing can prevent your little angel from being a mean girl that psychologically terrorizes other girls.

The Art of Roughhousing recommends specific things you can do with your kids while roughhousing, along with helpful illustrations showing you how to do them. Also, you can visit the website for additional roughhousing ideas.

In the end, roughhousing may be alarming but is truly necessary for proper development to take place—all that tumbling and tackling helps develop strength, flexibility and complex motor learning, in addition to concentration, cardiovascular fitness, and coordination. Additionally, tossing kids in the air and spinning them around provides early vestibular stimulation (the input that your body receives when you experience movement or gravity), which is important for balance and may be a building block for future athleticism.

And there is one more surprising bonus: Roughhousing makes parenting easier by providing a positive outlet for big feelings so they don’t get worked out in more problematic ways. If we use roughhousing to improve communication and to impart values that influence our children’s attitude at home, with peers and at school, we can learn how they react to success, failures and obstacles, and we can build a special bond to guide them through troubled times. We lay the groundwork to better our present mutual relationships and those relationships of generations to follow.

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

The anecdote went viral on LinkedIn and Facebook: An executive noticed one of his employees, a mother, crying at her desk. She explained that her child is sick, she had no sick days left and couldn't afford to miss work. He wrote her a check and sent her home to her child. It's a modern-day working mom fairytale.

The male executive is the hero in the story, but frustrated women who were raised on Spice Girls-era girl power don't want to wait around for someone else to set them free from punishing corporate policies. These women want to be their own heroes (and their own bosses). And when a friend slides into their DMs to tell them they can be, well, they desperately want to believe it.

FEATURED VIDEO

But the hard truth is that girl power never completely grew up to become women's empowerment and a culture that paid lip service to gender equality without making progress primed a generation of mothers to be the perfect targets for multi-level marketing (or MLMs as they're commonly referred to).

A population already burdened with so much unpaid work in the service of their families ended up doing even more unpaid labor to serve companies bottom lines, and we need to ask ourselves why.

In 2019, we have entered an era of MLM reckoning. The alarm is sounding about the damage MLMs can do to women and their families but if you listen closely, there is another sound here: The sound of opportunity for companies that can actually live up to some of the promises MLM fails to keep.

The era of MLM backlash

For years multilevel marketing got a pretty decent edit in popular culture—the pink Cadillacs helped—but in recent years a new awareness has been building. Debunking the myth of MLMs is in vogue.

It's been more three years since John Oliver's critique of the industry went viral and the documentary Betting on Zero, which details the controversy surrounding one MLM company, was released. There are several popular podcasts detailing the downside of MLMs, and multiple subreddits, Facebook groups and online communities dedicated to advocating against a business model in which 75% of the salesforce doesn't turn a profit.

It seems consumers are becoming more MLM-savvy, but this new awareness came at the expense of so many mothers. Thankfully, the media has been taking notice, especially of LulaRoe, an MLM empire built on leggings and female empowerment but plagued by lawsuits and stories of women gone bankrupt.

By the industry's own admission 75% of people who sign up to sell for an MLM company are women. The Direct Selling Association, the MLM industry's national trade association states that the average direct seller makes $5,702 in profit, but the AARP Foundation suggests that more than half of those in MLMs who make money make less than $5,000 in a year and that the majority (73%) of sellers either break even or lose money.

If you've been on the internet much in the last couple of years you probably already know this. Vice did a documentary on it. Truth in Advertising released an investigative piece. From The Washington Post to the Huffington Post, media was busy in 2019 telling us that MLM are hurting women.

The question is, are we ready to stop the pain?

But in 2020 women are still joining MLMs because these companies are offering something that is missing from the lives of so many: Support and a flexible opportunity.

Motherly's second annual State of Motherhood survey found 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports mothers, and that while financial need is the top reason for moms participating in the workforce, "desire to participate in work outside the household" is a significant motivational factor as well. Today's moms need and want to work, but they want to work for companies that don't expect them to pretend they don't have children. The survey suggests that some moms are leaving their jobs because of the "inability to strike a work-life balance or the work culture not being supportive."

When asked what would help, moms said longer, paid maternity leave, childcare, flexible schedules and remote work opportunities. MLMs promise mothers the flexible, remote jobs they so desperately want.

Motherly's survey isn't the only one to highlight the need for better work-life balance. A recent survey by Flex Jobs found more than half of stay-at-home parents stay out of the workforce longer than they would like to.

"Without flexible work options, for example, 36% of stay-at-home parents we surveyed said that they actually wanted to return to work but their job was too inflexible to accommodate their needs as a working parent. Thirty-four percent turned to freelancing to bring in some income while staying at home with their kids, and 11% tried multi-level marketing businesses," explains Brie Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.

It's clear that there is an eager talent pool that is going untapped, and Reynolds is hoping to see that 11% go down as more legitimate companies offer the kinds of opportunities parents are seeking. According to Reynolds, the number of people working remotely in the U.S. has increased 159% between 2005 and 2017.

"The most common work-from-home job titles include a huge range of professions, showing that companies are applying remote work to a wide variety of professions: teacher, writer, developer, analyst, sales representative, nurse, accountant, and project manager, for example. Hopefully, as more legitimate remote jobs become available, the need for parents to try risky MLM programs to find the flexibility they need will greatly diminish," she says.

Anti-MLM advocates say awareness of the problem isn't enough

Katie Young is the co-host of the podcast Sounds Like MLM but OK, which examines the impact of MLMs on sellers, and an administrator for a Facebook group by the same name. The group has more than 130,000 members, some of whom have been in, and left, the MLM industry.

"The former sellers are a really solid chunk of people that are joining this community because they are the people that have been personally impacted by the harm that the companies can do," Young explains.

According to Young, the promise of profit isn't the only thing prompting women to sign up to sell candles, shakes and clothing: It's also the promise of a supportive community. Additionally, Young believes MLM recruitment tactics prey on mom guilt.

"It's like, 'Don't you want to stay home with your kids? Don't you want to be the one to raise them?' There's a lot of pressure and a lot of shame," says Young, who adds that when messages like these come from a friend they carry more weight.

"They're making people feel bad about the way that they're living their lives and thinking that they're going to be better people and better parents by joining those these companies," she says.

Young hopes that the public backlash against MLM companies, combined with more flexible and legitimate work opportunities will help prevent more people from being hurt, but she is not holding her breath.

She believes MLMs will not lose their luster until lawmakers take action against them and non-MLM companies realize what parents are up against, because even in the era of MLM reckoning, when Googling a company serves up so many headlines about devastated sellers, people are still signing up.

The MLM horror stories shared in Young's Facebook group and the viral Facebook post about the hero executive have one thing in common: They shouldn't have happened. And if we create a culture that supports working parents we can stop them from happening again.

[We reached out to LulaRoe for this story but have not heard back from the company. We also reached out to Herbalife and the Direct Selling Association. In response to this article the organization provided several links to its website.]

[This post was originally published on Apparently on September 24, 2019. It has been updated.]

News

Are you on the quest to lessen your consumption but haven't found out how to do that when your kids are constantly outgrowing clothes and you're always buying new pieces every few months? According to a report from Quantis, you aren't alone. The apparel and footwear industries together account for more than 8 % of global climate impact, which is greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined. That's a scary thought.

But there are several ethical fashion brands attempting to address these problems. And now more than ever, kids clothing brands are going the sustainable route, understanding that waste is an endless resource, not trash.

I recently took a trip to the Pitti Bimbo trade show in Florence, Italy to unearth new and innovative brands that are making a splash in the industry. With more than 5,000 buyers from almost 80 countries and 10,000-plus visitors, I was in good company.

Among the hundreds of brands, I found a special bunch with a truly green heart that are attentive to materials, ethical production and sustainability.

Here are five sustainable clothing brands that believe in limiting the impact we have on the earth for our children, and they all ship internationally:

Jackalo

Jackalo

After years of frustration with the clothing options for her active older son, and a total lack of hand-me-downs (due to wear and tear of kids clothes) for his little brother, Marianna Sachse founded Jackalo to bring back old-fashioned quality to kids clothing.

Jackalo's mission is quite simple: Change the way kids clothing is produced and what happens when kids have outgrown them. Aside from practicing organic and sustainable farming practices, Jackalo offers discounts on future purchases when customers send back their used Jackalo products for repair or trading. Here's how it works: when your kid outgrows any Jackalo clothing item, send it back to them in exchange for a $15 discount on your next purchase. They will clean it, make any necessary repairs, then post it for resale at a discount. Anything that can't be repaired will be upcycled or recycled responsibly.

Editor's pick: Mac coverall
$130

Faire child

faire child

If you love vintage pieces but value modern textiles and manufacturing, you've probably heard of Fairechild. Their pants, jackets and suits are completely waterproof, chemical-free and made of recycled materials. "I don't want to make clothing that has a negative impact on the environment," said founder and designer, Tabitha Osler. "It is simply not an option for the world anymore."

Faire child's products remain completely waterproof under pressure so, yes, it can withstand the toughest, outdoorsy child. Moisture stays out whether they're kneeling on damp ground, sitting in snow or wearing a backpack. Osler's motherhood also opened her eyes to the importance of time spent outdoors. This was the main driver behind her desire to design clothing that would let kids be outdoors all day, every day in comfort.

Next month, Faire child is launching rain gear made of fabric derived from waste, and that can be upcycled again and again.

Editor's pick: Dungaree
$98

Maison Tadaboum

Maison Tadaboum

Maison Tadaboum was born in 2019 in Paris from the idea of Julia Valverde Vicente to offer fun, gender-neutral clothes for kids on eco-friendly cotton fabrics. The Parisian brand pays special attention to the environmental footprint and quality of its products, which is why their fabrics are all Oeko-Teks certified, which is a worldwide certification system for environmentally friendly and socially responsible production facilities in the clothing industry. And with sizes ranging from 6 months-11 years old, there is something for every kid.

Editor's pick: Friends for life shirt

$75

Filobio

filobio Baby sleeveless dress in linen cotton denim

This Italian brand began with the idea to create 100% organic cotton garments for babies, in an effort to preserve the environment and little one's health. This basic idea, supported by a fair-trade model, has evolved into the brand using natural fibers such as hemp and merino and cashmere wools in all their garments. Taking it a step further, all of the accessories, such as buttons, appliqués, labels and embroidery, are completely toxin-free.

"We like taking care of this planet which our children will inherit, as much as we like taking care of their health today," says a brand rep at the show. "We ensure that everything happens through beauty."

Editor's pick: Baby sleeveless dress in linen cotton denim
$71.75

CORA Happywear

CORA Happywear

CORA happywear may create clothes for women, babies and kids with natural and organic materials like eucalyptus, bamboo and organic cotton, but the essence of the brand is in the story behind it. "Courage is the core value of our brand and is derived from the Italian word 'coraggio,'" says Elisabeth Tocca, the founder and CEO of CORA Happywear. "Isn't courage something you always need as a mother? We want to support women to courageously live their lives as family mothers in a cheerful, self-conscious way that inspires other women."

And with every product sold, CORA sends 2% of each sales to Plan Italia, a program committed to removing all the barriers that prevent girls from completing their studies, such as early marriages, female genital mutilation, early pregnancies and all forms of violence.

Editor's pick: All organic cotton trouser
$19.50

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Lifestyle

I read and heard it all before. Toddlers are terrible. They are little dictators who go out of their way to make things hard. The 'terrible twos' and 'threenager' years made me nervous even when they were only in our future.

And then our son grew into a toddler and I realized that I love being a toddler mom way more than when I was a newborn mom.

You see, I didn't quite love the newborn days as much as everyone told me I would. Yes, I loved that little squishy tiny baby who would nap for hours cozied up in my arms, but I also felt so isolated from the world, touched out and exhausted.

FEATURED VIDEO

I really tried enjoying the stillness of snuggles in bed and the smell of the back of his head, but as much as I tried I just didn't. It was okay—but nothing out of this world like I thought it'd be.

As he started growing and becoming more interactive, I started to enjoy this new stage. Making him laugh would be the highlight of my day and I have endless videos to prove it. We would sit on the couch and make funny noises and he would look at me and giggle and I felt complete. Then he started sitting up and grabbing toys. We could play hide and seek and his face would glow every time I revealed the toy he thought had magically disappeared behind me.

It wasn't long before sounds that wanted to be words starting appearing in our lives. He knew the cow said "moo" from me reading the same book over and over again so he started saying it with me, and I'd be lying if I didn't say back then I thought my baby was an absolute genius for doing so.

He learned how to walk and I was so excited about not having to carry him everywhere. Sure, at first we took it very slowly and there was a lot of hand-holding and gentle exploring, but soon he was making his way up and down the playground choosing where we were going next without me making those decisions for him. He was showing his preferences—the slide always wins over the swing set and sitting in the playhouse is way more fun than the monkey bars.

His language skills exploded and he started telling us about his friends—little kids he plays with at the endless playdates our nanny organizes to keep him entertained and social— in choppy sentences. He slowly made up words, like bluebee for blueberries or flyfly or butterfly, that were used regularly in our conversations.

And as all these new things were happening and he was growing into a toddler, my enjoyment of being a mom grew more and more, too.

Don't get me wrong, not all days are easy. He's had his share of tantrums, rejecting food he used to love, not wanting to be around one of us (mostly me now that I'm super pregnant with his twin siblings) and keeps taunting our dogs by pulling their tails and taking over their beds. And yet I love it.

I love it because I get to see a glimpse of the person he will be.

I love it because all of those long and endless hours of playing with him—like stacking blocks, practicing saying "please" or even potty training—are finally paying off.

I love it because he can now tell me what song he wants to listen to, even if that song is The wheels on the bus for the millionth time that day.

I love it because I have so much fun playing pretend. We usually dig up sand (our carpet) and put it in a bucket (an imaginary one) and sometimes the stuffed animals come over and eat some of that sand.

I love it because his wild toddler imagination allows me to explore my own imagination, the one I've put on pause for so long because I was busy doing adult things, like having a job and paying bills.

His toddler world is so much fun and I enjoy being a part of it, every single day.

Life

As any parent knows, newborns need to eat a lot to keep fuel in those tiny tummies. For breastfeeding mamas, that can translate to nursing sessions anywhere, any time of day—which can make it feel like a full-time job.

These mamas have been super honest about their breastfeeding journeys, proving that while breastfeeding is beautiful, it can also be challenging, boring or require a lot of multitasking.

Ashley Graham enjoying a “multitasking sunday”

Breastfeeding takes a lot of time and energy. We see a lot of stock photos of moms staring down serenely at their baby during nursing sessions but in real life, sometimes mama needs to look at her phone.

That's why we love this snap Ashley Graham posted of her "multitasking Sunday".

Sometimes in early motherhood, it feels like you're glued to the couch or the bed and we love that technology can keep us connected to the world during a time that can be isolating.

Caterina Scorsone breastfeeding on the set of Grey’s Anatomy

The set of Grey's Anatomy is a breastfeeding-friendly workplace, according to Grey's star (and Motherly podcast guest) Caterina Scorsone.

"Nursing my baby at work. This is what feminist infrastructure looks like; workplaces that support working women, families, children and their development," she captioned this post published on her Instagram feed in February 2020.

"While also beautiful, breasts are miraculous tools for nourishment and motherhood rather than solely sexualized objects of the male gaze. For any women who are hurting, I deeply and lovingly hope that you can release and heal any shame you have accepted or taken on as a result of your feeding choices. And for the women who want to breastfeed but feel self conscious about it, I hope you can feel free and excited to nourish your baby in a way that has fantastic health benefits for you both," she wrote it a previous Instagram post.

Christina Anstead's postpartum selfie is peak #momlife 

Have you ever looked at a social media post from a new mom and wondered how she could look so put together and perfect despite having just had a baby? If so, you're not alone. The perfectly staged photos of new mothers posing with their impeccably dressed babies in their spotlessly neat homes are pretty common these days. And while they're lovely to look at, sometimes they can leave other new mamas wondering why their own realities don't look so idyllic. That's why we love when a new mother shows the messy side of new motherhood — and Christina Anstead just joined those ranks.

Christina, who welcomed baby Hudson London just two weeks ago, just gave us all a look at her new mom reality, and the unfiltered image shows something many of know all about: Leaky breasts.

In the photo, Christina lies in bed wearing a nursing tank with coloring foils in her hair. She's holding her baby, and you can clearly see a wet spot on her tank top. We all know this is way too real — leaky breasts are par for the course for new moms, even though no one seems to warn you about this!

Christina captions the photo "#MOMLIFE". Both her husband and her followers are loving the image. "☺️👏🏼👏🏼👏🏼🔥🔥 love this! Love you! Cutest leaky boob mumma ever x," husband Ant Anstead writes. A follower adds "Out of all the pictures I've seen of you this is actually my favorite and you look the most beautiful! You're so in your element.!💜".

We're right there with them: This photo of Christina is real and relatable, and we love that she's showing the incredible multitasking moms do every single day. And she's practicing self-care by coloring her hair, which is wonderful to see (be sure to take care of yourself, mama! Whether that means sitting down to eat a nice, hot meal or having your hair done).

New motherhood is beautiful, but it's certainly not perfect. Unwashed hair, days-old clothes, serious under-eye bags, a messy home and, yes, leaky breasts are all part of the phase — and we love that this famous mama is showing that.

Jessie James Decker is a backseat breastfeeder

By the time her third child was born, Jessie James Decker had a few tricks up her sleeve when it came to breastfeeding on the go—including how to get situated in the backseat of the car to nurse her son while he was strapped into the car seat.

Decker doesn't recommend mamas go without a seatbelt like she did, but sometimes, a bad day out with the baby calls for extreme measures. When little Forrest couldn't stop crying on the way home from his mama's photo shoot, his mama did what she had to do.

"I hopped in the back seat with Forrest and fed him with boob out leaned awkwardly over the car seat to calm him down," Decker says. "On the way home I cried, I got stressed and anxiety, and I was just a mom trying to do my best just like we all are no matter the situation."

Ali Wong says “breastfeeding is a blast”

Some #breastfeeding posts on Instagram remind us that breastfeeding is beautiful. But comedian Ali Wong's breastfeeding posts remind us that (just like motherhood in general) there are times that it doesn't feel so beautiful (and that's okay).

"Breastfeeding is a blast," she sarcastically captioned a photo of herself during a nursing session.

In her Netflix special Wong joked that "Breastfeeding is brutal. It is chronic physical torture. I thought it was supposed to be this beautiful bonding ceremony… Breastfeeding is this savage ritual that just reminds you that your body is a cafeteria now! It don't belong to you no more."

Wong's humor is refreshingly honest and reminds the rest of us that it's okay if breastfeeding doesn't feel beautiful all the time.

Amy Schumer is pumping with no shame

When Amy Schumer went back to work two weeks after giving birth to her son, some internet commenters were quick to dish out mom shame, suggesting that she needed to "at least let the stitches dissolve first."

In the comments section of her Instagram post, Schumer joked "I've always wanted to be mom shamed!!!!"

The next day she posted a photo of herself pumping breastmilk and captioned it "sending out love to the moms shaming me for doing standup last night!"

Schumer went back to work because she loves what she does, but many moms go back to work and pump because they have to—and nobody should be shamed for that.

Some mamas pump at work, some nurse at home and some fill bottles with formula to send to day care. We may do things differently but we're all doing our best.

Tia Mowry nurses with love

Tia Mowry's breastfeeding story proves that mamas can have totally different experiences with different children. She wasn't able to nurse her son Cree for long, but found it easier with her daughter Cairo.

Six weeks after Cairo's birth Mowry wrote on Instagram: "Wasn't able to breastfeed Cree for long because of low milk supply! However, this time around I have plenty. Lots of teas, water, #fenugreek, and a high protein diet has contributed! More importantly, say no to stress!! I'm able to pump 12 ounces alone in the morning for my little brown suga!"

Hilary Duff knows her limits

When Hilary Duff announced that she was done breastfeeding her daughter Banks, we supported her choice.

"I am a working mom of two. My goal was to get my little girl to six months and then decide if I (and her of course) wanted to keep going. Let me tell you. Pumping at work sucks," Duff wrote on Instagram.

"I needed a break. I was going to break," she writes. "With the stress of a dropping milk supply and a baby that was getting bored or not caring about nursing when I was available to. I was sad and frustrated and feeling like a failure all of the time. When really I'm a bad ass rock star."

Deciding to stop breastfeeding is a valid choice and we appreciate Duff's honesty.

Pink takes a hike

Sometimes mamas need to stop breastfeeding, and sometimes they need to find a way to just keep on going.

When son Jameson was a baby, Pink proved that breastfeeding didn't have to mean sitting at home in a glider. With some assistance from a baby carrier and a perfect position for Jameson, the multitasking mama was able to go about her hike like it was no big deal.

Chrissy Teigen teaches the next generation

When Chrissy Teigen's son Miles was still in that newborn stage and breastfeeding constantly, her oldest, daughter Luna, decided that mama should breastfeed her doll, too.

When she wasn't holding babies and dolls to her breasts she was holding pumps to them, because Chrissy isn't just the Queen of Twitter, she's the queen of multitasking.

Jessica Alba juggled work and breastfeeding

Jessica Alba is another multitasking mama who made the most of every minute of the day and every ounce of breast milk when her son Hayes was a newborn. She brought the little guy to board meetings at the Honest Company offices, breastfed him in Target fitting rooms and, like Duff, eventually decided to switch to formula.

"I felt like he wanted to nurse 24/7, which was obviously really challenging when you're trying to go back to work," Alba told Motherly in 2018.

She wasn't just busy with the Honest Company in the early weeks and months of Hayes' life, but also shooting her TV series with Gabrielle Union, 'LA's Finest.' The timing of the opportunity wasn't ideal, but the project was.

"I was actually bummed about it, I really did want to take four months but I got the pilot offer and it just happened to be shooting, so it cut into my maternity leave," she said.

"Also my milk supply was challenged with him. I felt like I had the most milk with Honor [her oldest daughter] and then it got less with Haven [her middle child] and even less with Hayes. And so that was just tough for me," she explained.

Thandie Newton proves mamas can breastfeed anywhere

Mothers in America are often challenged about their right to breastfeed in public, but actress Thandi Newton's throwback Insta post shows that moms is a great reminder that mothers in America are free to breastfeed anywhere, whenever they need to.

American mothers "have the right to breastfeed your baby wherever and whenever your baby is hungry," according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services' Office on Women's Health.

"This is what my body is made for. And the rest is my choice. #Freedom," Newton captioned her nursing selfie.

Eva Longoria Baston breastfed while making TV

Eva Longoria has an amazing career as an actress, producer and director, and she's also a first-time mom who has spent the last year breastfeeding on set.

"Here are pics of me directing while breastfeeding Santi during filming of @GrandHotelABC," Eva captions her post. "Women multitask everyday & I was lucky to have an amazing crew & cast that supported my new motherhood + career goals!"

The fact that she shared this look at her life with her followers means a lot to moms everywhere who are struggling with endless feedings, taking care of a million things at once, and public breastfeeding in a society that doesn't always normalize the act.

She's totally right: Having supportive colleagues helps a ton. Research shows that support from colleagues is essential for moms when it comes to pumping and nursing at work.

Gisele Bündchen 'grammed her breastfeeding glam session

In 2013, the super model proved she's also a super mama by multitasking a full-on beauty session while breastfeeding. Recognizing what a team effort it was, Bündchen captioned the post, "What would I do without this beauty squad after the 15 hours of flying and only three hours of sleep."

Tess Holliday was inspired by her fellow supermodel mama

Tess Holliday followed in Gisele's footsteps after her youngest was born, posting this photo to Instagram. It that proves that breastfeeding mamas can not only multitask, but also don't have to conform to certain body ideals to look amazing postpartum. Any size, any shape, any time, anywhere—breastfeeding mothers like Holliday are normalizing breastfeeding and our bodies

Padma Lakshmi proves you don't need a team

Without a beauty squad on call, Lakshmi took her multitasking to "level 💯" by using a nursing pillow to free up her two hands. It takes a brave woman to attempt mascara while breastfeeding, but the Top Chef host clearly pulls it off.

Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy.Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.

Whether a mama is trying to feed her baby on the go or while she's getting glam, it isn't always easy. Motherhood is about trying to do your best even when it feels like 100 things are going on at the same time—and yet we manage, like the super mamas we are.

[This post was originally published June 12, 2018. It has been updated.]

News
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.