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Do you have those friends who read three books a week, do yoga before work, take long evening walks with their partner, and can't stop talking about how great meditation is for your mental health? Yes, me too...and they don't have children.

As a mother of a 5 year old and a toddler, I have this conversation with most of my friends a lot.

Yes, I should be practicing self-care...but when on earth would I?

We all KNOW as parents how important it is to take care of ourselves. When we can stay connected to our own well-being, it overflows onto our children and we're more patient, loving, joyful parents. However, knowing and doing are completely different things.

Between drop-off, and work, and pick-up, and soccer, and dinner, and bedtime, and sleep (well, we'll call it sleep), when on earth do we find the time or energy to run...or bike...or stretch...or meditate...or really do anything for ourselves? I personally get caught in a constant cycle of I should, I will, and I didn't today. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe on Sunday. Maybe next Sunday.

The reality is that the struggle is real. It's hard. But, at the end of the day you are better for it, and your kids will be better for it too.

To get you started, here are 45 self-care ideas that can help you unwind in under an hour. Some are big, some are small, but all of them are doable.

1. Take time to dream about you.

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Taking time to think about yourself will boost your self-confidence and trust in your own abilities. This is a must when doing the hardest job in the world — being a parent. So, set some time aside and settle into the idea that you are amazing!

2. Get a massage

Who is going to argue with this one? The benefits of massage are overwhelming, and research shows regular massage will reduce stress and anxiety AND help you sleep — umm, sleep? No one should have to tell a tired mom that statistic more than once. If you need more reason that that, check out 9 Healthy Reasons to Make an Appointment Today.

3. Go to yoga

Yes, we love to hang out in our yoga pants whenever we can, but actually DOING yoga is great for you too! Yoga is a wonderful way to get in your "me time" while also reaping benefits for your body and mind. Need some ideas on where to get started? Seek out local Yoga studios, or start at home with a few beneficial poses like these: 5 Great Yoga Poses for New Moms.

4. Meditate

Meditation can have an impact on many areas of your life including helping to decrease stress, better manage your emotions, let go of mental distractions, and be more present and attentive with your kids.The bonus? Teaching your kids a skill like meditation early in their lives will have major benefits for them later in life too. Although finding time for daily practice may see overwhelming, it's so worth the time. Find a meditation practice that fits your schedule and vibe—there are many free online options and apps to help you get started.

5. Declutter something

Clutter can have a psychological impact on parents, which in turn can adversely affect their kids. Who needs more things sucking our brain power and energy, when we already have tiny humans working their hardest to do that? This doesn't mean you have to get rid of everything, but streamlining and getting rid of junk can drastically reduce stress and even take some checkboxes off of your to-do list. Get inspired by reading 'How getting rid of 'stuff' saved my motherhood.'

6. Unplug

Let's face it, we are way too attached to our devices. Don't miss out on life! Find out why it's important to unplug, and the benefits it can have in your life.

7. Take deep breaths at a stop light

This is a way to sneak in meditation with no excuses for lack of time. Don't check Facebook — take a few deep breaths and focus on the present. Check in with yourself in the nooks and crannies of your day, and you will feel better for it!

8. Get a manicure or pedicure

Self-care with instant results! There is no denying that a little pampering will make you feel good.

9. Stretch

Another opportunity to be still, reflect, and take care of your body. Carrying your little one around too much? Stretching loosens your muscles which relieves muscle fatigue and increases blood flow. Need more proof? Here are 7 Incredible Results You Can Get From Stretching Every Day.

10. Choose a healthy snack

Eating healthy has a wealth of benefits, but don't feel bad for that drive-through meal from last night when you were exhausted. Start fresh and reap the benefits today by choosing something with whole grains or healthy fats. Nutritious snacks can help with weight and improve your overall health.

11. Go for a walk or run

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Self-care requires that we take a daily preventative approach to the care of our bodies. What does that more than exercise? Bonus? More time to yourself. Stuck in the house during nap time? Check out this Easy 10 Minute Workout for Busy Moms.

12. Just be still

It only takes a minute. Look around and notice your surroundings. Take a breath — and there you go. Yes, we're sneaking meditation practice into your busy day again...you won't regret it.

13. Find the sun and warm up in it

Not only does this feel amazing, it has benefits such as soaking up essential vitamin D. Scientists at the Norwegian Institute for Air Research have created a calculator to tell you how much time you need to get the right amounts of vitamin D — but feel free to splurge!

14. Laugh

It's TRUE, laughter is the best medicine.

15. Call a friend you haven't talked to in awhile

Self-care is about connection with yourself, but don't forget that connecting with others is good for your soul too!

16. Write in a journal

Writing requires mindfulness. Journaling helps balance emotions, and requires you to set time aside to think and dream. Believe it or not, it has many health benefits, and bonus — you can write down all of those amazing things your little ones say that you never want to forget (and you will.) Grab a journal like this one and get writing.

17. Help someone

Donate to the food bank, help an elderly friend with their groceries, mow your neighbor's lawn. Believe it or not, helping others has been shown to make people happier, and let's be honest—it feels great. Plus, generosity is contagious — so just a little goes a long way!

18. Make a connection with someone you don't know

Connections open up a world of possibilities. What better gift can you give yourself than the opportunity for something great? Maybe it's a career shift, maybe a new mom friend (we know how hard those are to find). So take a leap and put yourself first by stepping outside of your comfort zone and making a new connection.

19. Plan a vacation

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You may not be basking in the sun or getting couples massage yet—but you can think about it, and science says that may give you the boost you need until it's time to hit the beach—or slopes, or mountains. According to an article in the New York Times, a study showed that a large boost in happiness comes from the simple act of planning a vacation.

20. Watch the sunset

Nature is beautiful—soak it in. Take time to think about the passing day, and practice gratitude for what you have encountered in your journey today.

21. Watch the sunrise

Set your intentions for the day. Do you want to be more patient today? Do you want to try something new? Setting intentions requires time for inner reflection, and a chance to start new daily, despite what happened yesterday. Not sure of your intentions today? Here are 30 Intention Setting Prompts to get you started.

22. Read

Whether you want to learn something new, or just be taken away for awhile, reading helps reduce stress and brain fog. So, work that most important muscle in your body! Can't find time? Here are a few ideas to sneak in reading time for busy moms.

23. Cook your favorite meal

Okay, this might just sound like more work, and, maybe it is — but do it for you! Scrap the family orders and make something that you love. Take time to soak in the aromas, enjoy the quiet time chopping and prepping, and reap the benefits of a healthy, delicious meal.

24. Listen to your favorite song (or album)

According to Neuropsychologist Daniel Levitin's research, music can positively alter brain chemistry, and boost chemicals in our brain that support things like immunity. Plus, how do you not get happy when you hear your favorite song?

25. Practice gratitude

The benefits are endless. Research by UC Davis psychologist Robert Emmons shows that simply keeping a gratitude journal can increase well-being and life satisfaction. Really, there is science behind it!

26. Get rid of clothes that are old or don't fit

Believe it or not, your wardrobe could be dragging you down. A study in Fashion Theory Journal found that 85% of women keep things in their closets that don't fit. Take some lessons from the KonMari Decluttering Method, and get rid of old items that you haven't worn in years.

27. Just breathe

Are you catching on to a theme? In case you aren't convinced, here is some scientific information on why your brain needs more downtime.

28. Paint or color

Jump in with your little, or get your own coloring book — coloring is trendy and it's great for you! Plus, it's a great time to bond with your child. Feeling childish? Find out why coloring is so great for your mental health.

29. Drink water

60% to 70% of your total body weight is made up of water, so it's not hard to understand why this is good for your health. Pregnant? Are you breastfeeding? Now your water consumption has an impact on your little one too. Drinking water can also help with your skin, fight fatigue, protect your muscles, help with achy joints, and more!

30. Hire a sitter and do whatever you want

I'm not going to elaborate on this one, you know "me" time is good for you. Schedule time just for you to do whatever you want, and don't get caught running for groceries or catching up on housework. If you're feeling lost, take this time to do a few items on this list!

31. Re-Prioritize

Motherhood mode can take over and make you feel in a constant spin to keep up. Slow down, trust yourself, and take time to align your highest priorities and your to-do list. Take time to consider what must be done, what should be done, and what can wait...and focus on the things that matter most!

32. Ask for help

You've seen it, you may even be one—moms don't ask for help. But asking for help doesn't make you anything less than a superhero. And, the truth is, we generally are least likely to ask for help when we need it the most.

33. Plant flowers

Gardening can reduce stress, clear your mind, and help you sleep better. Add in the benefits of getting extra vitamin D from above, and you have a great cocktail for a happy mommy.

34. Go to bed early

Moms are notorious for not getting enough sleep. This can have an incredibly negative impact on your health and well-being. Can't get to bed on time? Here are a few additional tips on how to combat new mom sleep deprivation.

35. Create a quiet space and go there

In today's constantly connected world, finding time along has become a lost art. But, creating some time for solitude can have major benefits for your health.

36. Take a long shower or bath

More time for yourself is good for all of the reasons above. Put the kids to bed and take a minute (or twenty) to relax, reflect, and rejuvenate for the day ahead. Solitude can change your brain in amazing ways.

37. Shop for yourself (no kid clothes allowed)

When is the last time you actually did this? And no, I don't mean a last minute ad- on to the Amazon Prime diaper order you placed last week. It doesn't have to be big, but it has to be for you.

38. Get a beauty treatment

As moms we take care of everyone else before ourselves. Sometimes that means forgetting to shave, or letting your eyebrows grow uncontrollably across your face. So get a wax treatment (if that's your thing), book a quick facial or get your hair done. Your children think you are beautiful no matter what, but sometimes the littlest things can make us feel beautiful again.

39. Listen to an energizing podcast

Podcasts are a great way to stay connected, learn something new, or just be entertained. Listen during the mundane tasks of your day. Here are a few ideas for parenting podcasts to get you started. Or, want to build on your self-care practice, here are a few podcasts on becoming your best self.

40. Visit your favorite museum

Museums are a great way to learn something new, get inspired, and to share something you love with your children. Stimulate your own mental juices, and be an awesome mom at the same time by hitting a local museum on a rainy afternoon.

41. Take a community education class

Take time to nurture your mind by learning a new skill or taking on a hobby. Often moms feel guilty for taking time out of the day to do something on their own, but stepping out of toddler talk to time with adults can keep us sane. We promise, it's not selfish to take care of yourself!

42. Sing

In the shower, in the car, on a kid-made stage in your living room—singing has a ton of benefits like reducing stress and releasing muscle tension. It's a fun and energizing way to improve your well-being. Add in a little air guitar and your kids will think you are awesome.

43. Have coffee with a good friend

It's easy to feel isolated in this incredible journey of motherhood. Your friendships are so essential to your spirit during this time in life when you will be stretched to your limits. Take time to nurture your friendships by getting together with a good friend sans kids, and focus on your friendships that will get you through this crazy life!

44. Acknowledge and release your stress

Another short meditation practice that you can do anywhere, any time, and even in the heat of the moment. It will help you be a more present person, and a more mindful parent. See crazy coming? Stop, identify, and release! Find more tips on reducing stress in just two minutes a day.

45. Revel in the absolute joy of being a parent

Kiss your babies, smell their heads, dance with them to crazy music Because it's the most amazing, important, impactful thing you will ever do, and you are awesome at it!

My message to you, new parents and pros... make time. You are important. It doesn't have to be all or nothing! Do little things every day that take care of you. Maybe just start by doing one a day, maybe you do as many as you can. It's called practice for a reason and it doesn't have to be perfect. Start today, and make yourself a priority now and every day after.


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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

News

Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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