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7 reasons you're not taking care of yourself, mama—and how to fix them

You know it's important. You hear phrases like "you cannot pour from an empty cup" or "put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others" and you nod in agreement. It's true. Deep down you know it. But for some reason, you just aren't doing it.

You set out each week with plans to take some time for yourself. You get lost in daydreams thinking about an afternoon pedicure with girlfriends or a day reading the latest novel by the pool and you get excited. You start thinking about how to make those things happen.

You'll just ask your partner to cover the kids one of these Saturdays. You can trade them for the next weekend! Or you'll finally hire that babysitting service you've been wanting to try out. You'll call your girlfriend and magically find a weekend where no one has travel planned, or soccer practice, or a birthday party... oh and when everyone is healthy. Yes, you'll do that!

But... you never do. Something always comes up. Finding childcare feels hard. Swapping with your partner isn't as simple as it sounds. It's just easier to do what you've always done. I'm guessing none of that makes you feel energized. That your life starts to feel like groundhog day after a while, and that you start feeling upset. You're upset at yourself. For never doing anything for you.

What if you could figure out the root of the issue? The real reason you're not making the time, and find a solution.

1. "There's just not enough time."

This is probably the number one reason most moms don't take time for themselves. They argue that every second of their day is already filled with commutes, drop-offs, pick-ups, work, cooking, bath time, playing, laundry and chores and they're lucky at the end of the day to have a few spare minutes to catch a TV show or scroll through Facebook. With everything we have to do, how can we possibly find time for something fun or something focused on us?

What if you changed your vision of what self-care could look like? Have you tried any self-care activities and set a timer to really know how long it takes? What if self-care looked like dancing to your favorite song, listening to a podcast on your drive to work, writing one page in a journal, or sitting down for a minute in the morning to drink your cup of coffee and stare out the window?

If it's something that you enjoy, something that makes you feel good, or feel grateful to be alive, then that is self-care. Nothing more. The key is to just start and then to recognize that what you're doing is taking care of you. It's not lucky that you have these five minutes, it's deliberate, and it's necessary.

2. " I feel guilty not spending my free time with kids."

When you're a mom and you already have a full plate, there is a common feeling that time outside of what you "have" to do, should be spent with your little one. If you're a working mom, this could be because you're not with them all day. If you stay at home, you might want to give them more of your full attention.

Taking some time for yourself is not saying that you shouldn't still want to spend time with your baby. In order to truly enjoy that time, and be present in those moments, you need to feel happy and cared for yourself. So if you decide that self-care for you right now is an entire afternoon away at the spa or on a shopping trip with your mom, that's okay. You can miss your baby while you're away, but you shouldn't feel guilty. We all deserve and need, a little time for ourselves. And maybe you'll decide that for now, self-care will be something that you do while your little one sleeps, either early in the morning, during afternoon naps on the weekends, or in the evening after they're asleep. Either way, you will notice, if you haven't already, that you appreciate the time with your family even more after you've been away.

3. "But I watch TV every night... that's what works for me."

Catching up on your latest Netflix binge or competition show can be a good thing. Some nights you just need that time to put your feet up, check-out and let your mind focus on something other than daily life. For a lot of moms, this is time that you connect with your partner, too. Date nights may be few and far between for this stage of life, but at least you can share the experience of watching a show you both love at the end of a long day.

Taking time for yourself doesn't mean giving up your shows, however, consider whether zoning out in front of the TV every single night is really leaving you feeling energized and empowered to do life again tomorrow. Compromise is definitely at play here. Could you experiment with giving up one evening of TV watching for something else that challenges you, that taps into an interest you've maybe forgotten, or allows you to fully relax in a way that an exciting show does not? Or could you use that time to work toward a goal that is important to you, perhaps do something fun with your partner that allows you to talk about something other than household logistics and kids? One night. And see how different that feels from your normal routine.

4. "It's too hard to find childcare."

This is a challenging one and unique to each household situation. If your self-care options only include activities that will take you away from home, this will be a requirement, but you could approach a solution from two angles:

  1. Get creative with childcare. Find a mother's helper that will allow you a little bit of peace and quiet within your own home while this sitter-in-training plays with your kids in another room. Swap time away with your partner—maybe you each get one evening or one weekend morning a week to yourself and you trade. Or swap time with another mom! Especially when kids are out of the baby phase, it's often not any harder to supervise a group of playing kids than it is to watch just your own. Challenge each other to take this time for yourself and make it fun! And if all other options fail, build your babysitter directory. It's so important to have sitters you like and trust. You just never know when you'll need one.
  2. Rethink your self-care options. Opt for activities that are short, can be done at home, and can be squeezed into early mornings, naptimes, or evenings after the kids go to bed. Childcare issue solved because you won't need it!

5. "I have too much to do around the house."

We all have a million things that need to get done. There are regular chores that just keep our house running smoothly and then there are the projects that we create for ourselves to make life easier in the long run. Chances are, there will always be something on your chore list. So put off doing something around the house and swap in an activity that is fun, relaxing and just for you.

As with time and childcare, you will have to make compromises. What can you delay doing, what can you finish faster than you thought, or what can you complete that's "good enough," instead of perfect, that will allow you to move on to doing something for you?

6. "I'm too exhausted."

In those early years of parenthood especially, this is a common state of being. If you aren't already in the habit and routine of taking care of yourself, it can be hard to get started when you're tired, exhausted and run-down. So start small. Maybe taking care of yourself is having a smoothie for breakfast, trying a new supplement or getting a physical. Maybe it's a 10-minute walk around the parking lot at lunch, or a quick stretch in between meetings, something to get your body moving. Then maybe you move to a little break on the weekends where you spend a few minutes doing something fun, just for you. Or maybe you jump-start some self-care by scheduling a girls' night out and diving in head-first for a much-needed change in routine and change in scenery.

It's going to be hard to get started, but having a plan, setting aside and scheduling the time, and then following through on that commitment to yourself could be just what you need to get out of this stage of exhaustion.

7. "I don't know what 'fills' me up."

To this, I say, experiment! Pinterest is filled with lists of ideas of self-care activities, big and small. Print one of those and start crossing them off as you try them. Be sure to keep notes as to how you felt and whether it's something you would do again.

Another good idea is to think back to the activities you did as a kid. Did you take lessons, play on a team, doodle or craft, spend time outdoors? Go back to some of those things that used to make you happy before you had adult responsibilities.

Which excuse have you been using? Are you ready to do one small thing to take care of yourself? If you need someone to help hold you accountable, find an accountability partner. Until then, may we fill up our own cups and put on our own oxygen masks so that we can show up and be amazing mothers and kick-ass women!

Originally posted on Mother Nurture.

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Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

[Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's emotional journey with postpartum anxiety.]

I see you, mama.

I know you don't want to feel this way. I know you're terrified of everything in the world right now. I know you want to wrap your baby in a bubble and keep them safely in your arms forever. I know you can't "sleep when the baby sleeps" because you are too nervous to drift off in case they stop breathing. I know you don't want to let anyone near your little one because they could be carrying an illness. I know you've cried in the bathroom and begged for the voice to stop. And I know you love your child more than anything in the world.

I know because I was you.

I was in the 10% of estimated women who are affected by Postpartum Anxiety (PPA) but had no idea what I was experiencing. I worried about EVERY little thing but just brushed the fears aside, thinking this was just normal of first-time motherhood. But it was something more.

I lived in constant fear that my son was either going to get hurt or he was going to die.

It started the first week of being home from the hospital. I was so scared of SIDS that I actually googled "How much sleep do I need in order to survive?" I would only get two to three hours, not because my child was keeping me up, but because I was scared he would stop breathing and I wouldn't be awake to save him.

I would religiously wash all of his clothes with baby detergent and if I thought I mistakenly used regular detergent, I would rewash everything. I was afraid he would get a skin rash if I didn't. If my husband had the slightest hint of a cold, I would banish him to the guest room and handle all of the baby duties on my own until he was fully recovered.

I would wash and rewash bottles because I was afraid they weren't clean enough and convinced myself if I didn't then he would catch a rare illness. When we supplemented with formula, I wasted multiple cans because I was so scared I didn't measure it correctly, so I would dump it and start over.

I didn't want to be this way. I didn't want to let PPA be the thief of my joy, but anxiety doesn't care who you are or what you've been through. I knew my previous miscarriages attributed to my PTSD, which manifested into anxiety.

I knew I needed help.

I cried so many nights as my husband and baby boy slept because I just wanted to feel "normal." I didn't want to overanalyze every bump or rash or cough, I wanted to enjoy being a first time mom, but I felt like I was drowning.

On top of the anxiety was guilt. I had wanted this baby so badly—I wanted to feel joy, happiness, and gratitude, and yet I felt overwhelmed, sad, and miserable. What was happening?

I would tell myself not to worry, I'd try to convince myself a regular cold was just a cold. But then a voice would come into my head and make me second guess myself. What if it was a serious infection and became fatal if I ignored it? So I rushed my baby boy to the doctor every time I thought something was wrong.

I went to the pediatrician over 20 times in my son's first year of life. One time I went because I thought he had a cancerous mole, which turned out to be a piece of lint stuck to his hair. I felt like I was losing control of myself.

Eventually, when my son was 3 months old, I went to a therapist for help. I needed someone to hear me and give me the tools to overcome this. I am not without daily anxiety, I still have many fears and I have to bring myself back to reality, but I work on it every day. I cope and I make an effort to continue with my therapist so I can beat this.

Even though this topic is hard to write about, I have no shame in my story. Carrying a child is hard, giving birth is harder, and jumping onto the roller coaster of motherhood is one hormonal, wild ride.

Mamas, we are allowed to not be okay and we have every right to make that known. I wasn't okay and it took every ounce of strength I had to get myself out of the darkness.

If I could tell you anything about struggling with this, it is this: PPA is real, it is not normal, and getting help is okay. Do not feel ashamed, do not feel embarrassed, and don't for one second think you owe anyone an explanation.

Do not let a single person make you feel like you are less of a mother. You are a magnificent human being, a loving mama bear, and you will get through this.

I see you, and I'm holding space for you.

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Ready to bring a baby on board? Feelings of excitement can often be met with those of financial concern as you prep for this milestone. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, as of 2015, the cost of raising a child is $233,610—a number that can make anyone's jaw drop to the floor.

But before you start to worry, here are ways you can become more financially savvy before the baby is born:

1. Budget for healthcare costs

The cost of delivering a baby can vary by state, but suffice it to say it can be thousands of dollars. Castlight Health found that the lowest average cost of delivery was $6,075 in Kansas City, MO and the highest average cost $15,420 in Sacramento, CA. Costs are even higher for a Cesarean delivery.

The first thing you want to do is check your insurance and see what they will cover so what you will be responsible for. Then create a separate savings account so that you can cover any costs that you're on the hook for. You can set up automatic savings after each payday up until the baby is born to help assist with any healthcare costs associated with delivery.

2. Cut your expenses

Before the baby arrives, do a spending audit and see where you can slash some expenses. Free up any leftover money to help cover the increased costs that will come, such as food, clothes, and formula.

If you're struggling with how to do that, take a look at all of your expenses and write next to each either"want" or "need." Look at your "want" list and see which expenses are ones you can either eliminate or cut back on. If it doesn't bring you joy or add value, ditch it! You might even find subscriptions that you didn't know you had.

3. Go for second-hand goods

Of course, there are some things you definitely want to buy new for baby, but things like clothes and toys you can get second hand and save a lot of money. Your baby will grow so fast and buying new clothes every few months can add up. If your family members or friends have old baby clothes or toys they're willing to part with, it will save money and you can pay it forward down the line.

4. Look for sales or coupons

Clothes and toys are items that you can buy second hand, but products, like a car seat and crib are best new. You want to be up-to-date with safety and know what you're getting. Before going shopping, search for sales or coupons before you head out. A little research online can go a long way and save you hundreds.

5. Have a garage sale

If you need to make room for baby, it's time to get rid of items that you no longer use or need. Take all of the stuff you are planning to get rid of and have a garage sale to make extra money. You can also try selling online on Craigslist, Poshmark and OfferUp too.

Take the money you earn from selling your stuff and put it in your savings account earmarked for your baby.

6. Get a 529 plan

It's never too early to save for your baby's college. You can open a state-sponsored 529 plan which is a tax-advantaged savings account for education-related costs. Instead of asking for gifts or toys from family and friends, you can request money to go toward a 529 plan. It will be an impactful gift that will help your child in the future and help lessen the financial burden on you.

7. Prep now instead of later

Your whole world will change when your baby arrives, so in order to save money, time and stress, create a plan now. Is there a family or friend close by who can babysit if you need some rest or have to run an errand? Ask them now if they can help out.

Start preparing meals in bulk that can be in the freezer and easily made so you don't have to think about food. Put your bills on autopay so that you don't miss any payments and get hit with late fees. Know how long you can get maternity or paternity leave and understand how that will affect your income and budget. Getting all of this ready ahead of time can help you in the long run.

8. Purchase life insurance

While thinking about why you need life insurance can be a bit stressful, preparation is essential, especially when you're adding another member to your family. Life insurance will provide financial support if you had a loss of income due to something happening to either you or your partner.

9. Understand any tax benefits

The birth of your baby will affect your taxes, which can actually end up putting more money back into your pocket. Do some research online and see how a dependent will change your taxes in your state, such as new exemptions available. Or, find a trusted accountant or tax specialist in your area who can walk you through your options.

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.


The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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