I see you, single mama—and I know how hard you're working

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By Shelley Hopper.

Dear Single Mama,

I see you doing everything, literally everything , with all your heart and all your will.

Nursing all night or warming up bottles. Doing each diaper change, outfit swap, kitchen cleaning, toilet scrubbing, meal prepping and cooking, lunch box packing, dog walking and pooper-scooping (little humans and fury friends).

I see you doing every pre-school drop-off and pick-up, getting your little one to and from activities, play-dates, chaperoning field trips when you can or leading carpools to and from soccer/dance/football/karate/girl-scouts/boy-scouts.

I see you helping with homework after a long day at work when you're exhausted but still hands-on being your little one's number one tutor and fan.

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I see you having to call out sick from work one too many times to stay home with a sick baby or toddler because it's just you at home. I see you trying to balance it all, and you are doing a freaking incredible, amazing job.

Because whether you've been a single mom from the start of your pregnancy, or you experienced the loss of your significant other, or went through a divorce or an intense custody battle, or got walked out on, left to fend for yourself and your cub, you are a mother and a great one.

I know some days are SO hard. So exhausting. Seem to never end or go by way too fast.

I know the loss of a spouse, physically or emotionally, is one of the hardest things to go through as a human, as a woman, and as a mother. But you are still here. Your kids are fed and kind and smart and talented. And so are you.

Whatever you've been through that got you on this road called "single parent" avenue, you are navigating it with such grace, courage and strength.

So, single mama, please know you are so loved, cherished and appreciated; whether it's through the eyes of your best friends, your family, or your little ones, they see you, too.

Everyone sees how hard you work to provide, to educate, to be there—ALL IN. Night after night and day after day. Even when you don't see it in yourself, others most definitely do.

I know some days you will question your sanity, this life, and how you got here. But please know that even in your darkest hour, you are so bright and such an incredible human and mama.

Whether you're in the midst of custody or into a new season of single mamahood healing after the loss of a partner or divorce, you will get through this. As the quote goes, "a ship is safe in the harbor, but that's not what ships were built to do," by William Shedd, the same goes for your journey of motherhood and co-parenting or single parenting.

Adjust your sails, face the winds, and grab your compass and your heart. You will get through the stormy seas and feel sunshine again. You will learn that as each day passes, you are stronger than the day before. You will learn to let the wall you've built so strong and so tall down a little when needed. You will learn to love again, trust again, and truly believe that you are where you're meant to be and that everything happens for a reason.

Don't be afraid to be sad. Don't be afraid to cry. Don't be afraid to get angry.

Learn to be vulnerable.

Don't be afraid to lean on your friends and your family for support.

Learn to ask for help and trust that people want to actually be there for you.

Don't be afraid to read 12387 articles on single parenthood so you can relate to someone.

Learn you are not alone.

Don't be afraid to get into therapy and join a support group.

Learn to navigate and express your feelings; be open to freeing yourself from your past.

Don't be afraid to try meditating, acupuncture, or breathing exercises for stress relief.

Learn that you need to take time for yourself.

Don't be afraid to TREAT YOURSELF.

Learn to budget and save where you can—go see a financial advisor. But, also make time to invest in self-care—schedule a massage, mani/pedi, facial, go out just "because", or attend your favorite concert if you can plan ahead.

Don't be afraid to get back into the dating scene when it feels right—let your hair down and get dolled up, because, you deserve it.

Learn to let your guard down (when and if you're ready).

But also, don't be afraid to hide from the world if that's what you need right now (big fan of Katy Perry Grace of God as an anthem to cry it out in a closet or blast in the car).

Learn that being a single mom isn't easy, but you won't feel so stuck forever.

Don't be afraid to be the best mama you know how to be, simply by doing what feels right and when.

Learn to have faith in yourself and your situation.

Don't dwell too much on your past, and stop focusing on your flaws or questioning how and why you got here.

Learn to let things go (in time) and trust that everything happens for a reason.

Remember a healthy happy woman is a healthy happy mama who can raise healthy happy babes.

I see you single mama, because I'm in your shoes.

I know how it feels to want to rip the eyeballs out of anyone who says "OMG it was so hard to be a 'single/solo mom' it when my husband was gone on a work trip!" (Because, how dare they even think that's the same thing as being an actual single mama?!)

Being a single mom typically means not having a partner to come home and ask you about your day, tell you they're proud of you, help you live off a two-income pay check, help you run errands or watch the baby and kids, cook a meal for you, or emotionally support you via texts and phone calls throughout the day or after a sleep regression.

I know how hard it is to go through the rollercoaster of change, grief, loss, anger, pain, feeling alone, facing heartbreak, stress, tears, anxiety, depression, trauma, the quest to seek "balance", and all the sleepless nights tossing and turning causing over-exhaustion.

I know how it feels to ask WHY and HOW.

I know how some days life seem so unfair and painful and like everything was taken away from you in the blink of an eye (no matter how many warning signs there may have been leading up to divorce or separation). But I also know how beautiful it is to have a special one-on-one bond with your babes and to let go, move on and heal. Because YOU deserve it, first and foremost.

And I know there are bright days ahead where you look back on this chapter and say "I did it." You'll look back and see how many obstacles you faced, but you still kept going. You'll look back and see all the sacrifices you made, but see how they paid off.

You'll look back and say I AM STRONG. I AM CONFIDENT. I AM LOVED. and this was just a page out of my book that's not done being written yet.

Originally posted on FIT4MOM.

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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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