A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
Print Friendly and PDF

Parenting is always a challenge, but parenting in public, or under the critical gaze of extended family, can be some of the hardest moments.

Not only do we have to be extra creative to help our child cope in a way that doesn't infringe on the rights of others. We have to do it in front of an audience! An audience that we suspect is judging us as bad parents. It doesn't matter whether it's grandparents thinking we spoil just a bit too much, or supermarket cashiers thinking we might be a little mean. If we were good parents, our child wouldn't be acting up to begin with. Right?

Actually, wrong. Even well-adjusted, wonderful children of parents we would all admire have their moments. I still remember the doozy of a tantrum my son had in the car when he was three, when we were driving with my dad and stepmom. I think they were actually surprised that my son turned out to be such a great kid.

My insight from that experience? My son was in the right. I would have done things differently if we were alone. But because they were there, I compromised my own instincts, and didn't listen to my son. Sure, the grandparents thought they should outrank a toddler. But looking back 23 years, I see clearly that my son experienced my going along with them as a betrayal of our relationship.

FEATURED VIDEO

Did my son come out okay? Yes, of course. As long as we're usually empathic with our kids, those failures of empathy are fine. In fact, he probably learned something about how we can repair rifts in relationships, and even about sticking up for himself. But as a result of that experience, and many, many stories I have heard from parents, I'm here to encourage you to stick to your parenting convictions, even in public, and even with grandparents.

Would your child be better behaved in public if you were a more authoritarian parent? Maybe. But we know that parenting style doesn't encourage healthy development and it only lasts for as long as you can physically control your child.

Of course you need to set limits with your child, whether that's about jumping on Grandma's couch or running through a restaurant. But you can set limits without resorting to punishment. Instead of threatening kids with consequences if they don't behave, why not help your child become the kind of person who understands what behavior is appropriate, and who wants to behave that way?

Here's how.

1. Tend to basic needs.

Be pre-emptive. Don't take a tired, hungry child anywhere. Even if you're going to a meal, assume your child will be hungry before the food is served and bring snacks. If you're in the grocery store, head first to the foods you will let them eat, and choose something for them to snack on while you shop. Before you walk into Grandma's, let your child run and roughhouse outside for a few minutes, and pour your love into them while they giggle. The more connected they feel to you, the calmer they'll be, even when they get over-stimulated by all the relatives.

2. Prepare your child.

Explain, even to a baby, what will be happening. Describe what you will do, and any expectations you have for your child's behavior.

"At Grandma's we hold hands and say a blessing, like this. During the blessing, only the person who is offering the blessing speaks. The rest of us will be quiet and listen."

3. Invite your child to contribute positively.

Describe the situation and explore with your child what kinds of contributions would be helpful.

"At the restaurant, the waiters are rushing around balancing food. How can we help them do a good job and not spill things?"

As you discuss visiting family or friends, practice hellos and goodbyes so your child is more comfortable with those often-tricky greetings.

4. Stay present to your child.

Often when children "act out" in public or when they're visiting relatives, it's because they feel our attention is elsewhere. That makes them a bit insecure, so they act out to get the reassurance that we're still attending to them. For instance, if you expect to spend an airplane flight relaxing, you can count on your child needing to interact with you fairly constantly. The more we can stay connected with a child, the less he will act out, always.

5. Find a way to involve your child.

It's simply not developmentally reasonable for a young child to watch quietly while you're in the hardware store. Their job description is to learn about the world through hands-on exploration. So let them touch when you can, and ask them questions:

"Look at all the different sizes of screws... This is such a tiny screw.... what could it be used for?"

Let them help you find and test the screw driver you need, and pay the cashier. This will always take more time than if you just pull them along, but you'll finish the errand with a happier—and more intellectually curious—child.

6. When your child gets restless, don't ignore it.

Most of us get more anxious, and try to move faster. We say, "We're almost done shopping ... be patient for a few more minutes." But a young child simply can't do that. They need your help to get back in balance, so they don't fall apart. So instead of speeding up, start by slowing down and taking a deep breath. Then, take a minute to reconnect—hug, make eye contact, sing to them softly, or twirl them around. That might be enough to shift your child's mood and give you time to complete your errand—with both of you in a good mood!

7. Find ways to honor or redirect your child's impulses.

"You want to run! Let's go back outside the store for a few minutes to run, since you've been sitting in the car. Then, when we come back in the store, let's walk THIS way!"

Exaggerate your silly, slow walk, to get your child laughing. Laughter dissolves tension and creates more positivity.

8. Start with empathy and listen to your child before you jump in to problem solve.

Once a child feels heard and understood, they're more likely to be able to calm themselves.

"You seem pretty mad ... What's going on?... So you're upset because your cousin said .... This is a tough problem .... You want X and your cousin wants Y .... I wonder how we can solve this?"

9. When possible, set your usual limits even when your child resists.

When your child wails "But I WANT the candy, I NEED it!" of course you acknowledge how much she wants it. But that doesn't mean you buy it, unless you want to buy it every time. Instead, you empathize and redirect her longing toward a food you feel good about her eating. She might screech the first four times, or even have a good cry that necessitates you leaving the store. Eventually, she will learn through experience that you don't buy the candy, but instead you'll buy her any fruit she wants.

An airplane, though, or any situation where you can't leave, is obviously not the time to let her have a good cry. So forget about long-term development (that's why you keep situations like planes and restaurants to a minimum during the early years) and go for distraction. If she wants to get up and run during takeoff, empathize:

"You want up! It's hard to wait."

Tell her when she can get what she wants: "As soon as the plane is in the air, you can get up!"

Tell her what she can do with that impulse: "Your body wants to move! Can you wiggle in your seat like this?"

Involve her in what's happening: "Look! we''re taking off! The plane is going up!"

Then distract. Pull out a special treat or small wrapped book or toy you brought just for this moment, "Look, a surprise! What's in it?"

10. Move your child to a more private place.

If your child has a meltdown, it's impossible to attend to him and also finish your shopping. Just scoop him up and remove him from the situation. Maybe you can go to your car, or to an out of the way spot at the mall where you won't be disturbing other people. Just as important, you won't be tempted to parent as onlookers think you should, so you can follow your own parenting instincts.

As always, empathize with how upset he is:

"You want to run around the aisles, but I need you to stay in the cart. I know it's hard to stay in the cart, but you can do this. Let's make it fun for you."

Feeling understood usually calms kids. When he's done crying, hold him and comfort him. If he's still awake, decide if the two of you are up for another try, and if so, how it can work for both of you.

"Maybe for the last bit of shopping, you can walk next to me and help me find things, and then sit in the cart again at the checkout."

11. Keep calming yourself.

Children can be expected to exhibit childish behavior. There's no shame in your child's needs clashing with the household need to get food for the family. The only possible embarrassment here is in responding to that clash by becoming a parent you don't want to be. So when you feel that happening, stop, take a deep breath, and shift gears. Use a mantra, like

"This isn't an emergency .... She's acting like a child because she is a child ... She needs my help to cope."

12. Come up with something to say to any onlookers who comment.

Mostly, you can ignore other people and just move your child to a more out of the way spot. But occasionally, a store clerk, or your mother-in-law, will try to intervene to distract your child. So it's best to prepare yourself with a standard answer that reassures that person that despite your wailing child, it's not an emergency and you don't need them to fix your child or anything else. Something like "He'll be okay ... We just need a little time alone."

13. Remember your first responsibility is to your child.

When your child is screaming on the airplane and all eyes are on you, naturally you want to control your child to keep her quiet, even if control isn't your usual approach. And yes, the other passengers on the plane have a right to a calm flight, too. But focusing on them will just make you more anxious and undermine your ability to help your child. Until you help her with whatever problem is causing her to scream, she will probably keep screaming, so better to ignore everything but staying calm and connecting with your child. The truth is, the other passengers are much less interested in judging you than in having a quiet flight.

14. Assume the support of your audience.

In the same way that audiences root for performers to succeed, the people watching actually want you and your child to succeed. They know kids can be unpredictable and unreasonable. They may assume the situation would get resolved faster if you did it their way, but imagine how impressed the grandparents will be when they see your son pull himself together because you've empathized.

"Oh, Sweetie, you really wish you could have another cookie, I know! Tell me how many cookies you would like to eat? 10,000?! Oh my goodness, would you be as tall as the sky then?"

And what about the times when, inevitably, you're embarrassed about the way your child is behaving? You will probably want to have a quiet conversation with the grandparents at some point to explain why your parenting philosophy is going to raise emotionally intelligent grandchildren, and why punishment won't. But those strangers in the grocery store? You'll never see them again. Smile ruefully and say, "Sometimes we all have bad days." Nobody can disagree with that.

Originally posted on Aha Parenting.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.

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

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Our Partners

[Editor's Note: We support parents in making the best infant feeding choices for their family, whether that be formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, donor milk or any combination of feeding methods.]

Feeding babies takes a lot of effort, no matter what a baby is eating. Parents need support whether their baby is drinking breastmilk, formula or both, but we know mothers often don't feel supported in either choice. Mothers who choose or have to use formula often feel stigmatized, while mothers who breastfeed often get shunned for public breastfeeding or find themselves needing to pump in a workplace that offers no lactation room.

Individual mothers pay when society doesn't support parents in breastfeeding their babies. Formula can be expensive, but when workplaces discriminate against nursing moms, it's an expense some women have no choice but to take on. But that's not the cost we're discussing here.

A new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters suggests that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year.

The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through "through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices." To be clear, the site isn't targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it's a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.

FEATURED VIDEO

The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.

Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. In the U.S., where only 24% of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.

Though many of the developing countries in the tool have higher percentages of breastfeeding than the United States, the costs of not breastfeeding the remaining children are higher. This is presumably because the risk of the associated diseases is already higher in those countries (due to factors like poverty, water quality, etc.).

Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children's lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.

Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it's hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool's developer, health economist Dylan Walters.

"We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being," Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive's website. "Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society."

The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.

Such laws may make sense in countries where access to clean water makes formula feeding difficult, but in wealthy nations like the United States, where formula feeding is a safe and legitimate choice, some worry limiting information about formula stigmatizes and patronizes mothers who are capable of choosing what is best for their babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for their first six months, and then receive a combination of breast milk and other nutrition until they are 2 years old. UNICEF estimates that globally as of 2016, 43% of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life, and 46% continue until age 2. A recent survey found 1 in 4 Americans do not believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in the clear view of the public, and while 90% of Americans say they believe women should be allowed to pump at work, about 1 in 3 do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room.

The discrepancy here between what is recommended and what is actually supported is shocking. Mothers are being told to breastfeed, but then are also being told to cover up, or that they can't pump at work. When there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding it shouldn't be shocking that breastfeeding rates in America are lower than the WHO would like.

This lack of support and mixed messages are making the work of motherhood—something that is already deeply emotionally and mentally draining—even harder. The conversation about infant feeding should not be about supporting one type of infant feeding over another, it needs to be about supporting women in motherhood and in their choices. The cost of not doing so is staggering.

You might also like:

News

"This time I'm really prepared," I think to myself as I board yet another plane with my now very active and mobile toddler. By the number of things I'm carrying you'd think I'm moving across the country, but actually, we are only going away for a few days. I have snacks, favorite toys, the lovey, books he likes us to read on repeat.

I will not have a screaming child on this flight. I. Will. Not.

Before I was a parent, I was one of those annoying passengers who would huff and puff when a baby started crying on a plane. I say this with full guilt because I cannot believe I was so mean. In my (tiny) defense, I used to travel A LOT for work and my time on the plane was either to catch up on sleep or decompress so the last thing I wanted to have was a screaming baby next to me.

But I am that mom now. And I wish I could go back in time and apologize to all those parents I gave nasty looks to in an attempt to make them feel bad. Because now I know, oh… I know.

Travel is annoying for everyone. Think about it: the waiting around the airport, the rushed boarding, everyone being grumpy as they try to fit their carry-ons in the overhead compartment, the tiny seats.

FEATURED VIDEO

Now, look at it from the perspective of a child. It's a new place, you can't really go anywhere, there are weird noises and smells and you are confined to a tiny tiny place you can't really explore. Plus, you have a bunch of strangers looking at you. And the pressure in their ears. It must be really confusing when you don't know what is happening.

Recently a mom in one of my Facebook groups asked if she should bring little candy bags with a note apologizing for her baby's cries to distribute to her seatmates on a plane. The answers were all the same: Don't. Because this is the thing, we can't go around life apologizing for our kids being kids and for us being the best parents we can be.

What I do distribute when I fly with my son is smiles. He starts screaming because I don't let him play with the tray table and someone gives me a look? I smile at them.

He gets cranky because he's trying to get comfortable to take that nap he wasn't able to because of a change in schedule? Yup, I smile.

I don't apologize, I try to not get frustrated. I just let everyone else know with my smile that "I know, toddlers are a handful huh?"

Most of the time it works, and if it doesn't, too bad for them.

What we need more of, though, is people helping out parents in stressful situations (like air travel, or any travel to be honest). I will never forget the flight attendant who gave me extra packs of cookies after seeing how into them my son was. Or the person who asked people to wait for the bathroom so I could cut the line and change him out of his blowout diaper.

I will be forever grateful to everyone that cooed and smiled and said hello to my son from the gate to baggage claim. I wish I could go back and thank the woman who held my son after she saw me fumble with all the bags and the stroller so I could get everything ready without him running away from me. This is what we need more of.

We parents already deal with tons of stress on a daily basis—are they eating enough, did they have enough playtime, are they having too much screen time, am I keeping them active enough?—that we don't need the judgment of passengers when we choose to (literally) embark on an adventure with our kids to show them the world.

So next time I travel without my son, I will be that helping hand for any parent I see. And mama, if your baby is crying, screaming and kicking on what seems like a never-ending flight, take a deep breath and smile at everyone around you, you will be landing soon.

You might also like:

Life

Before my son was born, I had no idea how good my sleep life was. On the weekends especially, it wasn't unusual for me to sleep in until noon. Sometimes 1 pm if it was a really late night. (Anyone else ever finds themselves kind of hating envying their pre-mom selves? No? Just me? 🤷🏽♀️)

I remember being pregnant and everyone saying, "Get as much sleep as you can now." I knew that having a newborn meant sleep deprivation, but I felt like everyone was being so extreme in their advice to me. Yeah, you don't sleep, but they start sleeping through the night eventually right? Like at 2 months old, right?

(Oh, pre-mom me. You naive, sweet soul.)

Let's say those first two weeks home were truly eye-opening. Actually, literally eye-opening. Because it was a rare moment when I could actually close my eyes. The first night home was especially brutal.

I had not slept well in the hospital—not being able to get used to the low buzz of the hospital sounds, having random nurses or doctors come in and out of my room, and oh yeah, staring at this squishy little newborn alien that was now mine to take care of and be completely responsible for. (That thought alone is enough to keep any woman lying awake when she should be sleeping, regardless of her child's age.)

FEATURED VIDEO

So that first night home, I craved sleep. All my tired mind and sore body begged for was rest. In my own bed. For at least 12-14 hours straight. I went to bed earlier than I ever had before. The baby was sleeping soundly in his bassinet next to me and I thought it was my chance to catch up on what I was owed.

One hour later, the little one was crying and hungry. I popped out of bed to feed him. He settled down, I changed his diaper and got him back to sleep. Back to his bassinet. Back to my bed.


Thirty minutes later, it happened again. How can he possibly be hungry again? I thought. I stared at my husband and that's when we both realized we had a long night ahead of us.

The next morning (or really, what felt like the continuation of one very long day), I got up and wondered how I was going to do this. I hadn't slept. I felt like a shadow and my mind was as foggy as ever. I was walking around in what felt like a completely foreign postpartum body, and now my sleep-addled brain was going, too.

How do people 'mom' like this? I thought.

They just do, I would later realize.

Moms who are sleep-deprived just get through the day and do what they need to to keep their family's world—and their own—spinning on its axis.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms get up and make breakfast. They get their kids dressed for school, buckle them into their car seats and make it to pre-school dropoff on time.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms remember to bring their pump to work. They get dressed for the big meeting, pat each hair perfectly into place and walk into the building looking and acting like the boss they are.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms serve up the no-foam, double-shot mocha latte with Stevia instead of sugar the customer orders. They remember to hold the bread, serve the ranch on the side, and ask the cook if there are any peanuts in the recipe.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas tame the tantrums. They soothe their 2-year-old in the middle of the aisle in Target during an epic meltdown and they still don't forget to grab the milk they went shopping for in the first place.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas sing funny songs to make the baby laugh. They tickle chubby baby bellies, they rock their precious one to sleep for as long as it takes to see those soft baby eyelids flutter closed and content.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas get themselves ready for that first day back at work from maternity leave. They sit at their computer facing a blank screen and know that they can do this today, even though they miss their baby desperately. Because they are ridiculously good at their job.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms change that 6th diaper of the day. They wipe up the 50th time the baby spits up. They put away the same toy for the 8th time that day.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms ask their friends or partner how their day was. They listen intently to the problem or great thing that happened and commiserate or celebrate accordingly.

Even though they're sleep deprived, moms rally to go out for girl's night. They answer the distraught message their best friend sent them—even if it is a day (or three) later. They cook up an extra meal for the neighbor who just had a baby.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas check their babies' temperatures. They wait for fevers to break. They call the doctor in the middle of the night. They lay beside their children on tiny twin mattresses, offering comfort for stuffy noses and worn-out little bodies.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas want to feel like themselves. So they stay up late. To get a little bit of me time and binge-watch Younger or The Bachelor or finish reading that novel or listen to that podcast that she'd heard such great things about.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas push to check off everything on their to-do list. They squeeze in one more load of laundry or finish cleaning that last pile of dishes so it won't be waiting tomorrow. They go around the house checking windows and doors to make sure everyone is safe. They stay up worrying even though they desperately need to sleep.


As my newborn grew into the toddler he is now, I learned more and more what I could accomplish on two, three, four, hours of sleep. I became amazed—and still am—by what I see my fellow mamas and myself achieve.

Just imagine how much more we could get done on a full night's sleep.

You might also like:

Life

Maisonette is a go-to destination for high-quality baby and children's fashion and products, and they just launched their very own baby registry to make preparing for your new bundle of joy that much simpler. 🙌

When growing a family, functionality is just as important as style, but that doesn't mean you have to skimp on having a nursery that is beautiful, mama. The Maisonette Baby Registry offers endless registry essentials and exclusive products from layette bundles and teething sets to Moses baskets and knit clothing. Plus, they're featuring plenty of top-rated gear to cover you from newborn stages and beyond.

"With the introduction of the Maisonette Baby Registry, we wanted to create a one-stop destination for first time parents and parents expecting their second or third child—not just for what you need, but for the extra-special items that parents actually want," sais Sylvana Ward Durrett, co-founder and CEO of Maisonette

If you're a fan of the Maisonette aesthetic, you can now create a registry (or shop for another mama!) right on their website. Even better? They're collaborated with several influential mamas, like Daphne Oz, Diane Kruger, and Lily Aldridge so you can check out their very own registries for a little inspiration.

FEATURED VIDEO

We can't wait to look through the curated registry picks. 🎉

Shop the Maisonette Baby Registry

You might also like:

Shop
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.