A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

This essay is part three of a series on birth. Read more about unmedicated childbirth, epidural births and more. You’ve got this.


As a birth photographer, I’m asked to capture some of the most important stories of a family’s life. I step into their birthing space and document the small and big moments that unfold. I tell the story of their son or daughter’s entrance into the world. The struggle, the fear, the pain, the joy.

These stories are beautiful stories.

But in the world of social media, I often see just one type of birth story held up as the ideal: an unmedicated vaginal birth (ideally at home, in the water), where a beautiful woman labors peacefully and then clutches a just-born baby to her chest. As a birth photographer, I’ve captured some of these births, and yes, they are beautiful.

But I’ve also seen beauty in other places. I’ve also found immense inspiration at births that take place in the hospital and in the operating room.

Cesarean births are beautiful births, and they require immense strength and bravery.

In the moments leading up to surgery, a cesarean mother must hold onto the strong and fierce love she has for her baby.  She lets fear wash over her... and then she lets it drift away. Although she knows a cesarean birth is the best choice for her, she also knows she’ll endure major surgery with real wounds and scars.

Some women have weeks to mentally prepare for a cesarean, but many have just days, hours or minutes. Suddenly, everything she envisioned when meeting her child has changed: the room she’ll be in, the position she’ll be in, who will be surrounding her. We humans don’t tend to do well in situations of sudden change. And yet these brave women find a way to let go of their pride and connect with an inner strength that allows them to enter the operating room and give birth to their child.

And then the actual surgery happens. The actual cutting and suturing. Full recovery often takes months. And while most of us would like to curl up with a bowl of ice cream and a stack of movies after a major surgery, C-section mothers do just the opposite: they nurture and love and bond with their needy, beautiful babies.

Emotionally and physically, these women are SO strong. And this strength isn’t just necessary on delivery day; this strength must endure in the weeks and months and years ahead—as their bodies and souls heal, crafting new dreams with their little ones in their arms.

Becoming a mother leaves all of us with scars. Some of them are emotional, some of them are physical. C-section mothers often have both. And yet their scars are powerful reminders of the bravery and fortitude they possessed when bringing their children into the world. These scars mark the door their children passed through as they left one world for the next. These scars are beautiful and worth celebrating.

Image by Monet Nicole

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If you've got a Tuo Convertible High Chair by Skip Hop, you should check to see if it is part of a newly expanded recall.

Back in January, the company recalled about 7,900 of the chairs in the U.S. (and another 2,000 in Canada) after learning the front legs on the highchair can detach from the seat.

Now the recall has been expanded to include about 32,300 chairs sold in the United States, and an additional 8,600 purchased in Canada. The chairs were also sold in Australia and Mexico.

In the first recall, the Consumer Product Safety Commission reported "Skip Hop has received 59 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching, including eight reported injuries that resulted in a lip cut and bruises to children." Skip Hop expanded the recall to more model numbers after receiving 17 reports of the legs of the high chairs detaching, but no injuries have been reported.

The initial recall impacted grey chairs purchased between December 2016 and September 2017, but the expanded recall impacts charcoal grey models (style number 304200) and versions of the high chair in a silver and white with clouds design (style number 304201) purchased between June 2017 and December 2018.

The high chairs were sold at Target, Babies "R" Us, Buy Buy Baby, Kohls, Dillards and through Amazon and Skiphop.com between June 2017 through December 2018, and retailed for about $160.

The impacted date codes (which can be found on the back of the chair, on the "warning" sticker, are as follows:

HH5/2017, HH6/2017, HH7/2017, HH8/2017, HH9/2017, HH092717, HH030518, HH05182018, HH05312018, HH092917, HH010518

Refund process

On its website Skip Hop asks that parents take a photo of the date code on the chair, as well as a photo of the seat being cut as in the photo above (you need to write your name and the date on the chair before snapping the pic). Upload your photos into Skip Hop's product refund form and you should receive an email confirming the shipment of your e-gift card or refund within 5-7 business days, according to Skip Hop.

"We encourage consumers with affected product to immediately stop using the product," the company says in a statement.

"Consumers can find more information about this expanded recall by clicking on our website www.skiphoprecall.com, emailing our customer service team at recall@skiphop.com, or calling 888-282-4674 from Monday to Friday, 9:00 AM to 5:00 PM EST."

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The holiday season is upon us. Tis the season for joy and giving… and the perennial "I want" monster. Kids, young and older, tend to ramp up their requests for toys, treats and all manner of "stuff" this time of year. Of course, it's not surprising given the onslaught of ads, promotions and sales that they see on every screen or media outlet this season—however, as parents, the constant barrage of requests can be overwhelming.

Sure, we want our kids to have nice gifts, but we may fear in the back of our minds that we are raising kids who are too spoiled or not grateful enough.

How do we balance this desire to gift while still fostering a sense of meaning and gratitude during this season? Here are some tips.

1. Help kids focus on the abundance in their lives.

In our culture, it's easy to focus on the things we don't have. Social comparison is probably at the highest it's ever been thanks, in part, to social media posts. In past generations, comparison was maybe only with our neighbors or classmates. Now social comparison has no boundaries with pictures of friends' vacations and cars being posted on social media daily from all parts of the world. Even if our kids are not on social media, they still experience the comparison pressure.

A meaningful way to combat this pressure is the same way people have been doing it for centuries: by practicing gratitude. This old quote is as true today as ever, "Gratitude turns what we have into enough." Helping kids focus on the good things in their lives can be simple but effective in keeping the attention off of requests. Additionally, it can help us adults be intentional about our focus as well.

For young children, focusing on gratitude can be as easy as finding a joyful aspect of each day when you are sitting around the dinner table. Even on the hardest day, there is usually some little thing for which to be grateful.

If you want to get a little more creative, something like a "reverse" bucket list can be fun. Instead of making a list of all the things kids want to do (or purchase), you focus on the things you've done that have brought joy to your family. Contentment and gratitude become of the center of the conversation instead of "I want." You can also do a reverse advent calendar, where your family does one positive thing a day (donating goods to a shelter, sending Grandma a card, etc.).

2. Help them see outside themselves (and their situation).

Young children are inherently self-centered, but it's no fault of your parenting or your child, it's simply brain immaturity. Before the age of about four, their brains have limited skill in understanding the feelings and mind of another person.

That being said, as kids mature, you can help them understand the world around them and people who live in different circumstances than their own. Many of us grew up in the generation where our parents told us to clean our plates because "there are children starving out there." Perhaps well-meaning, this guilt-inducing approach to understanding poverty may not always have the results we want.

Instead, kids might respond better to having authentic interactions with fellow residents that live different experiences than their own. Perhaps there are residents in your town who really need extra support, like refugees or underemployed individuals who you can reach out to through a local charity.

Many church or community groups know of families that need "adopting" for whom you can provide gifts and food. If you are able to actually meet the family in person or at least learn their names, this can make the giving much more meaningful for kids.

Trying to authentically engage with people that are different from our typical neighbors also raises many questions and topics for conversation with kids. Serving a meal at a homeless shelter may prompt an in-depth discussion of poverty and its causes.

These conversations can be challenging for parents, but are often necessary to help kids really understand others. By opening their eyes to the needs of others, kids gain a whole new perspective on their own wants and needs.

3. Guide them through uncomfortable feelings.

Part of the pressure in the season of "I want" is dealing with kids' uncomfortable feelings when the inevitable let-down occurs. No matter how many gifts or experiences you offer, no parent can provide everything. Kids will inevitably experience disappointment in some form or fashion. It turns out, this is actually a good thing.

In coping with the small disappointments and stresses of life, kids can actually grow in empathy and emotional maturity. The key for parents is to guide them through the uncomfortable feelings instead of trying to make them disappear.

When your child feels sad or disappointed about something (not getting the gift of their choosing, for example), instead of trying to distract them with an activity, allow them to feel those uncomfortable emotions long enough to really process them.

Allowing this emotional space is what builds resilience over the long term. You can offer emotional support and listen, but try not to rush them "back to happy" too soon. Once they calm down, you might offer some insights into how those emotions relate to other kids who are struggling or disappointed. In this simple act of emotional support, you've just helped your child build emotional intelligence and empathy for others who experience disappointment. Now that's the best gift you can provide for your child!

4. Model gratitude and kindness.

As much as we want our kids to focus on gratitude and giving instead of receiving, it is often a challenge for us to not get immersed in consumerism this time of year. The culture of purchasing this time of year is overwhelming. Even if we are mostly buying gifts for others, it can be challenging not to get caught up in the "fear of missing out" feeling when it comes to finding the best deal or coolest gift.

Unfortunately, our kids might pick up on this "fear of missing out" feeling too. Once they reach school age, kids often compare wish lists or holiday outings their family has experienced. As with most things parenting-related, we really have to practice what we preach when it comes to fostering gratitude.

We can model these values by showing our appreciation to store clerks, wait staff or others who have to work during holiday times. Kids are always watching and these little acts of kindness can make a big impression.

Modeling kindness is, of course, a year-round goal but this time of year we can help our kids show gratitude in special ways to those around them. Perhaps kids can show gratitude for those they interact with like teachers, bus drivers, or grandparents by making cards or special treats. Make a list together of who you want to thank.

The holiday season doesn't have to be filled with the dread of constant requests and wish lists from the kids. By changing our attention, we can use this season as a time for emotional growth and lessons in gratitude.

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It would be so great if we could be in two places at once because as mothers, we're often trying to do that.

We want to be there for every moment and milestone, but the fact is, we can't. Sometimes we're in the other room when baby takes their first steps and sometimes we have to be at work during our kid's big ballet recital.

That's exactly what happened to Busy Tonight host Busy Philipps on Friday. Her 5-year-old, Cricket, had a ballet recital, but Busy had to work. Luckily, FaceTime came to the rescue.

"Being a working parent sometimes is unbelievably heartbreaking and hard but thank god for FaceTime (even if it's blurry),' she captioned an Instagram post showing her screenshot.

Busy is so right. It is hard to have to make choices and admit that we can't be everywhere at once. Motherly's 2018 State of Motherhood Survey found 78% of mothers surveyed have mixed feelings about combining a career and motherhood, and that "there are real tradeoffs".

Having to FaceTime into your kid's dance recital so that you can smash glass ceilings in a television genre dominated by men—yeah, that's a tradeoff.

But it is also okay.

It's okay for Busy to love her job and not be physically present for this one recital, because (if you follow her on Instagram, you know) she's present and engaged in so many other moments of Cricket's little life.

Our kids know that we are there, that we love them, and that we would be there for every moment if we could. But the reality is that (even if you are a stay at home parent) there are times when you will miss something.

Obviously, someone was at Cricket's recital, holding up their iPhone, and Cricket will know that she had people in the audience and that Busy saw her in action.

Being a working parent can be unbelievably heartbreaking, but she's making it work, and so are you, mama.

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You're living the dream—you've asked your boss if you can work from home, or you landed that flexible position, or maybe you decided to strike out on your own as a consultant. Now comes a new challenge: How do you make your home into a workplace when it's already home to your (sometimes rather loud) family?

Through clever scheduling, a few ground rules and some hard core #momhacks, mamas have figured out how to share their workspace with little ones.

If you dream of being a working mom and a stay-at-home mom, take some tips from these mothers who've made the most of flexible work options (and a whole lot of inner drive).

1. Be honest with your clients

If you're working from home, be transparent about that from the get go. That way, if a child does bust into your office or the dog starts barking while you're taking a call, you can just keep going without having to explain away the background noise.

Sarah Hamaker is a mother of four between the ages of 10 and 15, and she also works as a certified parenting coach. She says she always starts phone conversations by telling her clients that she works from home—and they may hear a child in the background. "Most people were very understanding," Hamaker explains.

The mute button on her headset helped, too. Whenever she wasn't speaking, she'd hit the mute button so the conversation appeared to be a little quieter.

2. Get a gym membership

Sometimes, a work call is just too important to risk an interruption. If you don't require everyday child care, but do need a quiet call every once in awhile a gym membership can be a lifesaver.

A gym with on-site childcare is essentially an on-call babysitter, says Traci Kantowski, communications director with Trust Transparency Center. "I regularly take advantage of gym childcare when I need to be able to focus, or have an important call because I know my kids are cared for," Kantowski says.

Bonus: You can also actually just hit the gym.

3. Designate an area of your home for work

Kantowski's children know they need to knock before entering her office, but not every family can devote an entire room to mom's workspace. If all your bedrooms are full, you can still carve out a designated area just for your work, even in small spaces. Closets can make great compact work spaces, thanks to DIY ideas and products like this closet-to-office conversion kit from the Container Store.

If your office or desk is in a high traffic part of your home, a pair of noise-cancelling earphones can help you focus while your kids play with their other parent, grandma, the babysitter or each other.

4. Get a hotspot plan

For many, the point of working from home is to spend more time at, well, home. But for many mamas, working from home is appealing because it also allows us to be away from our desks. Ballet practice, carpool duty, library time—these are all things you can make time for when you're not commuting, but you might have to squeeze in some work while chauffeuring the kids around.

Make sure your cell phone plan includes hotspot access, so you'll be able to sneak in work time from the carpool line, the pool and the indoor playspace, Kantowski says.

5. Use electronics in case of emergency

Screen time guidelines suggest parents keep video time to a minimum, but, one work-at-home mom, Julianne Robicheau says sometimes a little screen time goes a long way to helping mama get her work done. Robicheau started her skin care company, Robi Luxury Skin Care, when her child was a year old, and says that, in a pinch, Ryder and his team of pups have come to save the day.

"Of course, I don't feel like mother of the year when I do this, but sometimes, work needs to get done and I have to rely on babysitter Paw Patrol," she says

​6. Let them help

Robicheau often lets her 4-year-old help her when it comes to photoshoots and putting together shipments. "I'm raising them to just roll with it," she says, explaining that she even brings her kids to most business meetings. "I shot a marketing video with a videographer from home with both kids around," Robicheau says.

Bonus: this method teaches kids about work ethic, and there are plenty of long-term benefits for kids who see mom working.

7. Reserve special toys for key work moments

When her children outgrew napping, Stephanie Woodson, who writes sewing and craft tutorials for her web site, Swoodson Says, transitioned them to quiet time with audio books and puzzles in their room so she still had a chunk of the day to herself. "Reserving special toys or crafts for busy days is key: A sensory bin or magazine collage activity can keep them happy for a long time," she says.

8. Share childcare with other work-from-home parents

If you know of other work-at-home-parents, you can swap children with them, giving each parent a day to work while the other parent watches everyone's kids, says Swoodson, who did this many times.

9. Wake up early

Allison Carter, creator of Confetti Party Plans, wakes up an hour earlier than her children to set her daily goals, check her email and plan her social media so that when her children wake up, she gets to focus on breakfast knowing that she already accomplished something before she actually started her day.

10. It doesn't matter *where* you're working from

Sonja Thompkins is a homeschooling mother of a 5 1/2 -year-old and an online business coach for brick and mortar boutique owners. She says she uses her gym, the library, fast food restaurants or even the car to work—as long as her child is entertained, and even takes video calls. "Clients truly don't care about your perfectly curated office backdrop," she says. "I used to think they did."

11. Batch work when you can

Thompkins' husband is an army reservist and a firefighter who works in 48-hour shifts. But when he's home, he takes over so she can crank out as much work as possible. "I use a project management app to keep me focused on the tasks I need to accomplish, which is great for my productivity," she explains.

If you're just starting out as a work-at-home parent, you'll soon figure out that you'll need to adjust your expectations, your technique and your methods as your family grows.

What works for a toddler (race to the computer to get two hours of solid work time while he naps!) will change drastically when he's a preschooler (schedule a playdate and practice some hands-off parenting so you can snag a few sneaky hours).

In the end, it's all about flexibility. And isn't that what working from home is all about?

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