I had a ‘yes day’ with my kids like Jennifer Garner: Here’s how it went

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After reading an article about Jennifer Garner’s annual ‘yes day’, I felt inspired to give this concept a try in our household.


I have always tried to practice positive and mindful parenting, but recently I have noticed that my “yeses” are few and far between. Sadly, it seems that “no” feels like a much more natural response—especially when you have a 7-year-old boy who has little inhibition when it comes to his requests.

While I am not one to typically follow the lead of a celebrity, the thought of a day of saying “yes” sounded somewhat liberating. Constantly dismissing my child’s never-ending questions and requests, no matter how ridiculous they may seem, can leave us both feeling defeated.

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Once I decided to embark on this challenge, I sat down with my calendar to find a day that would be conducive to 24 hours of “yes”.

I also laid out a few ground rules to ensure we didn’t drain our bank accounts or end up at Chuck E.Cheese (because that is where I draw the line).

A week later, at 6:30 am, our “yes day” began—starting with a massive amount of snow which meant we were likely homebound.

My husband informed me that he would be conveniently spending most of the day on his school campus—his way of telling me that he would not be participating in our fun little activity. So, it was just the two of us.

I’m not sure if I was following the “rules” or not, but I decided not to announce that it was “yes day,” so my son was not aware of what was to come—although, knowing him, I was certain he would figure it out soon enough.

By 9:15 am: My son had already had a cupcake, watched two hours of Teen Titans Go, ate 12 cough drops (I learned these are pretty much candy), played floor hockey in the living room, and taught me how to play a game called ‘garbage,’ which we proceeded to play 10 times in a row.

By 10 am: I was ready for a nap and was guzzling down my third cup of coffee.

“Can I have some coffee, Mom?”

Hesitantly I agreed and my 7-year-old and I shared in the creamy deliciousness. Weird.

As the day went on, the requests got more and more frequent and I found myself becoming increasingly reluctant with each “yes.”

“Want to play another round of go-fish, Mom?”

“Sure”.

“Mom, can we make a fort in my room?”

“Yes.”

“Mom, can we play hide-and-seek?”

“Yes”.

“Mom, can I eat this chocolate muffin…in your bed?”

“Really? Yes.”

“Mom, can we go get ice cream?”

“Uhh you sure you want to walk to get ice cream in the snow?”

“Nah.”

Phew, dodged that one.

The afternoon continued on like this and by 4 pm I realized my son hadn’t had any real food and we were about to start our eighth game of go-fish. We had literally played games and ate junk food from the moment we got up and it was clear it wasn’t ending anytime soon.

I was surprised by how tired I felt without having ever left the house and by 5 pm I was texting my husband with my own request…“DO NOT COME HOME WITHOUT WINE!”

At 9 pm, after agreeing to let my son go to sleep an hour later on a school night, I tucked him in and read three stories per his requests.

Finally, after what seemed like our own Groundhog Day time-warp, I climbed into bed and despite my exhaustion, could not fall asleep (likely due to all of the sugar I had consumed throughout the day.)

As I laid there trying to quiet my mind, I started to reflect on the day.

I realized that aside from all of the out-of-control requests for sweets, most of what my son asked for was my time.He wanted to play with me and he wanted my undivided attention, and when he got it, he was the happiest I’d seen him in a while.

I realized that in my day-to-day attempt to keep the household running smoothly, the furniture clean, and our schedules on track, “no” had become an automatic response.

I realized that although I love that connection time with my son, I often don’t make it a priority as I get lost in my to-dos.

I realized that it took committing to a day of “yes” and gritting my teeth as the words came out, to recognize my son’s true creativity and imagination.

Although I strongly believe there is still a place for the word “no,” this long, exhausting day taught me that “yes” is powerful and that it is something I have truly struggled with as a parent.

I want my child to have space to explore his passions without constant limitations that are often enforced simply to try and control what feels like chaos.

What I learned from this day is that incorporating a few more “yeses” can make all the difference to my son.

Although cupcakes for breakfast is not going to become the new norm, I can easily curb my responses to show him I do value our time together and his desire for more than what I’m currently giving him.

Not every day can be a “yes day” and not every response felt appropriate to answer that way—but when my son looked at me with true excitement and the biggest smile and said, “Mom, this is so much fun isn’t it?”

“Yes” is exactly the response I wanted to give.

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I've always been a bit of a workout snob. I had strict, unflinching rules about what constituted a "real" workout for years—and I scoffed at anything that came up (in my mind) as inadequate. First, a real workout lasted at least an hour and had better leave me dripping in sweat. It required putting on workout clothes and going to a gym or boutique studio and resulted in muscle soreness that made it difficult to wash my hair in the shower the next day.

To some degree, I saw my workouts as a punishment for whatever bodily sins I had committed earlier in the day, like eating a cookie. The horror.

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As I got older, though, and thankfully worked through a lot of my body issues, my idea of what made a "real" workout started to shift. I started to find ways of moving my body that were enjoyable as well as strengthening, and exercise became my version of therapy, something that helped me feel more centered mentally as much as physically.

One rule remained, though: I was not a home-workout kind of girl.

To be fair, I thought I had tried. But after a few unsuccessful attempts at getting a sweat on with a DVD in my living room, I quickly dismissed the idea that you could get a real workout at home.

Then I had a baby.

Suddenly, scheduling a spin class in the city became impossible (unless I wanted to add babysitting expenses to my already hefty gym membership dues). As I took my 6-week exercise hiatus post-labor, I would sometimes crave a workout and wonder, "What am I going to do now?"

And while I stumbled across a few videos with instructors I liked that challenged my body, it wasn't until I met Karena and Katrina that something really clicked.

Fitness trainers and real-life best friends, Karena and Katrina are two California girls who co-founded Tone It Up and started posting workout videos on the beach—only to find that they soon had an insatiable social following.

From those few free online videos, they've built a fitness empire that extends into videos, workout gear and apparel, nutrition, and, recently, an online nutrition program and studio accessible through an app (monthly membership costs $12.99, or you can sign up for the year for $83.99—a much lower cost than most studios or gyms).

I've done a lot of TIU videos in the last two years because I love the way the girls talk about our bodies (and how actually challenging the workouts are), but recently I decided to try the membership to see if it really did help me create a better routine for my fitness.

I committed to five consecutive days of workouts, telling myself that that was the minimum amount of time I would have to dedicate to see any kind of result, physical or mental. And, you know what? Something interesting happened.

For one, it was much easier than I anticipated to stick with my goal.

Most of the live studio workouts are about 25 minutes, and they're offered every hour or half hour (depending on the time of day) so it's easy to find one that works for you. If for whatever reason I wasn't able to make a live class, they have dozens of on-demand videos (some that are eight minutes or less!) that it's easy to mix-and-match into a full 20- to 30-minute workout. There's even a TIU Pregnancy channel with prenatal-friendly workouts that can be subbed in if needed.

Each morning of the five days, I would wake up, have a small snack, drink a glass of water, and take my TIU class. The time flew by, thanks to the trainers' bubbly (but not annoying) personalities and the quick pace of the workout. Before I knew it, I was hitting the shower and getting on with my day.

After only five days, I knew I had found something I could stick with.

For one, the app makes it incredibly easy to fold a daily workout into your routine. You can look at the studio classes for the week and "sign up" for the times you want to take, and then your phone will alert you when it's time to sign in—no "I got distracted and forgot" excuses!

For another, the incredible variety of classes ensure that not only do you work out your entire body every few days, but it also makes it really hard to get bored. Instead, I found myself looking forward to seeing what the girls had in store for me each day. I even found the workouts easy to do with my busy toddler nearby—sometimes she even joins in, hopping around the living room with me or performing her own adorable squats and pushups.

Plus, it's hard to beat the emotional encouragement.

The trainers are all women with their own fitness stories and journeys, and their goal is to help you feel strong and healthy and enjoy the process—not just feel like you need to lose weight or like you're being punished for something. At the end of each workout, I felt proud and powerful for what I had just done—and I couldn't wait for the next one.

Most importantly, I love the example my home workouts help me set for my daughter.

Fitness is a regular part of our lives, not because we need to change ourselves or because we're paying some penance, but because it keeps us healthy, strong, and confident. Moving our bodies feels good, and every time she sees me make time for my own health, I know I'm setting the tone for how she should treat herself for the rest of her life.

Plus, the new muscles that have started to peek through my arms and shoulders? Those don't hurt either.

Life

A short work week provides the perfect opportunity for us to teach our children about kindness—and to look at the world around us and see all the beautiful things others are doing.

Whether it's standing up for ourselves against unfair criticism (we see you, Meghan Markle!) or wishing good things for people all around the world, there's good happening out there. Mothers are making things happen for their kids every day despite a lack of support from society—and there are people seeing the pressure society is pushing on new moms and saying "no, this is not okay."

And to prove that, here are the stories that went viral this week:

This mama perfectly sums up what everyone gets wrong about maternity leave

I took four and a half months away from work after I gave birth to my twins. And yes, those days were full of sweatpants and dirty hair and Netflix and couch cuddles—but make no mistake: They were grueling. They were mentally, physically and emotionally exhausting. And they were certainly not a vacation.

Of course, that didn't stop the comments about how I must be "getting so bored" or questions about how I was "passing the time." Because we have this weird societal idea that parental leave is a vacation. And newsflash: It's not.

That's why we're applauding Anna Whitehouse, the founder of Mama Pukka, for posting about this very idea. "A reminder to businesses: Maternity/ paternity leave is not 'a holiday'. It's not 'a nice break' and it is not time off," Anna writes in a LinkedIn post.

"It's a heady cocktail of anticipation, expectation, arrival and survival. It's stripping yourself back to a primal state and nakedly navigating blocked milk ducts, torn stitches, bloody sheets, broken minds, manically Googling blackout blinds," the mother continues. "You are needed. Every second you are needed—if not in person, in mind. It is a job. Without sick days. Without fair remuneration. It is the most privileged position in the world but it takes balls, guts (often with no glory), boobs and any other extremity you can put to work."

👏👏👏

Maternity leave is the perfect representation of motherhood's demands: You're in pain, recovering from serious physical trauma, dealing with an unfathomable hormonal shift—but you can't really stop to take care of or even check in with yourself because there's a little person (or a few little people) who depend on you for survival. And the weight of that? It can feel crushing.

Maternity leave is a perfect exercise in selflessness and tenacity. It's certainly not the stuff vacations are made of, that's for sure.

So thank you to this mama for making a truly important point. Because there is this unfair idea that mothers have a few weeks or months to simply check out...when in reality, that's simply not the case. Maternity leave is demanding. It's hard. It's isolating. It's essential. It is so many things happening all at once...and none of them feel anything like a break.

This viral video shows a mama helping her baby walk for the first time 

A beautiful 4-year-old girl named Kinley and her mama are inspiring people everywhere with an incredible viral video in which Kinley learns to walk. Kinley was diagnosed with cerebral palsy, a disorder that affects motor skills, at age 2.

Kinley's mom, Shanell Jones, shared the footage of her daughter walking in January of 2019 and another video a year later—and the progress is remarkable. The post has been viewed nearly 3 million times.

"It brings joy to my heart that my daughter is bringing hope to people," Shanell tells Good Morning America. "People reached out saying, 'I didn't feel like my child was ever going to walk, but this video helped me have faith.'"

It's not just the progress the little girl is making that inspires. It's also her mother's constant encouragement. We love listening to this mama cheer on her beautiful daughter. What an amazing, inspirational duo!

This viral hospital sign shames parents for phone use when we really need empathy

Think back to when you first welcomed your baby. Do you remember how you felt? How exhausted, how dazed, how vulnerable you were in those early days? If you've been through it, you know that the last thing a new parent needs is to feel shamed...especially a new parent who is still at the hospital.

Unfortunately, parents at one hospital likely did feel shame...and it's thanks to a very questionable sign posted on its wall. British parent Dr. Ash Cottrell posted a photo of the sign Twitter...and let's just say it's rubbing users the wrong way.

"I'm on SCBU [special care baby unit] with my 5 day old. This poster makes me sad…," he writes alongside the photo of the sign.

The printed sign essentially shames new parents for looking at their phones.

"Mummy & Daddy . . . Please look at ME when I am feeding, I am much more interesting than your phone!!! Thank you," the signs reads.

The special care baby unit is for babies who don't need the NICU but still aren't well enough to go home. A baby may go to the SCBU to be put on oxygen or a feeding tube or to treat low blood sugar or jaundice. It's a stressful time for parents who might want to send updates to family or just check their feed for a moment of relief.

"When your baby is in SCBU you have no option than to sit and look at your baby. All day. For hours. You can't take them home & cuddle & snuggle & be mum. If, for some of those hours, you look at your phone to relieve the tedium of hours on the ward, nobody should tell you off." one Twitter user replies.

This sign is SO not what a new parent needs to see—especially a hormonal mom who is likely putting immense pressure on herself already. So mama, take it from us: You're allowed to look at your phone. Because you're human.

News

Perhaps because I've been an entrepreneur since the age of 25, or maybe because I'm now a mom and I work grueling hours, I've been asked this loaded question more times than I can count:

"How do you manage it all?"

The good news is, I have an emphatic answer. It's a rule I've been inadvertently testing for two decades throughout every phase of my life and career. I've watched it hold true for my friends who have big, high-pressure careers, as well as my friends who are incredible, wildly busy full-time mothers. And yes, even for men (not that anyone's asking them).

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The not-so-good: It isn't something people always want to hear.

Because, truthfully, I "manage it all" by ruthlessly editing my life into what I call three baskets. And stopping myself when I'm tempted to see what happens when I try carrying four.

Here's how the theory works: Everyone has a set of priorities, or baskets, that require our time and energy. The first catch? There are four major basket categories—Work, Relationship, Kids, and Self—but if we want to operate at the highest level, we cannot carry more than three of these baskets at once.

Your baskets may be different from mine, except for one: We all have a Self basket. This contains anything that fuels your mind, body and soul. It's the first and easiest one to put down when we have too many baskets, but it's actually non-negotiable. We have to care for ourselves—whether it's with sleep, exercise, meditation, worship, or dinner with friends—or we will eventually, inevitably burn out.

And that's the other catch. Because if you accept that you must put the oxygen mask on yourself, at regular intervals, you're really only left with two baskets. This means that if you have a basket for Self, Work, and Kids…then you may not be able to be the perfect partner, all of the time. If you have baskets for Relationship, Kids, and Self…you may not be able to go full-throttle in your career, right now.

Skeptical? Think about the periods in your life when you've felt the most frazzled or out of control. For me, it's always when I'm sneaking an extra basket—trying to go all in at work, and as a mom, and as a partner, and to somehow also look the part of a CEO in the fashion business and consistently get enough sleep to function.

The hard (and also freeing) truth is that we simply cannot do all of these things, all of the time. But we can pace ourselves and deliberately and strategically carry different baskets throughout different phases of life.

For example, you might decide that for the window while your kids are young, going big as a mom is your top priority, and another basket may have to wait. Or you might be like me, who for many, many years, was deep in the throes of building a business, and has relied on a small village of Amazon, Postmates nannies, and housekeepers so I could devote two whole baskets to Work. Or you may decide that just for the summer, you'll dial it back at the office to be fully present with your partner and on family vacations and know that come fall, you'll shift into high gear again.

Choosing just three baskets isn't easy. In fact, it's really hard. And It's blatantly counterintuitive to a culture that tells women, especially, that we should be the picture of perfection in every domain.

But there are a million ways to arrange your baskets, and a million ways to define success. For me, accepting the limitations of my time and energy forces me to get incredibly clear about what I value most.

Which, if you ask me, is a much better question to ask women we admire.

[This article was previously published on 'Mother.']

Work + Money

Here I go again, wearing my troubles on my brow. Troubles and worries this furrow cannot hide—at least not from you, my love.

You know me all too well.

You know the one thing I need when I'm sad isn't a girl's night out, but instead, a good hard cry in your arms and for you to tell me I'm enough. Not enough because of my motherhood, my job, or my cooking, but simply because I'm enough.

You know that even though you've told me I'm sexy a million times in one evening, I'll need to hear it again in a few days when I'm in my sweat pants, no makeup on, eating a tub of freezer burnt ice cream, feeling real grumpy from PMS.

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You know that when I get anxious and afraid, I don't need you to coddle me or become a codependent accomplice to my fears, but instead I need you to give me a gentle nudge back to reality.

You know me all too well.

You know how embarrassed I was about you witnessing me poop myself during labor, so you still deny that you saw it to this day.

You know that when I say, "I'm fine," it really means "No, I'm not fine, but I'm too stubborn to say so."

You know that me not wanting sexy time after the kids have gone to bed has nothing to do with motherhood fatigue, but rather how much I hated my body today.

You know that when you tell me to do something, I won't do it out of pure rebellion, but if we're honest, that's one of the reasons you love me so much.

You know that when I get all dolled up, ready to hit the town, the more makeup I put on, the more insecure I'm feeling about myself.

You know how guilty I felt after yelling at our 8-year-old for being an 8-year-old, so you made sure you told me what an amazing mother I was for the mere fact of feeling guilty and apologizing for it.

You know that when I'm feeling off, you need to fill in the gaps in household work, so I don't completely get overwhelmed with tasks.

You know that me dieting is never a good idea, so you tell me even more times than usual that I'm beautiful and perfect just the way I am.

You know that my laughter comes out most when it's ignited by you—you never stop trying to be funny, just so you can hear me laugh again.

You know that when you look at me that way, it still gives me butterflies, so you make sure you do it at least once a day.

You know that loving me is a choice, but it's never felt like a choice—more so like the reason you live.

You know that after a fight, it's harder for me to forget than for you, so you hold me extra tight for as long as it takes to get back to us.

You know that I wished I had more friends, but hesitate to make an effort because I'm afraid of rejection.

You know me enough to know that I never want you to stop knowing me more deeply, so you keep discovering and learning more about who I am, even after 10 years together.

You know me all too well, my love.

So much so, that I can no longer hide my sorrows, my laughter, my insecurities, my flaws or failures. You've seen it all; you know it all. And despite it all—despite knowing everything about me, you still love me.

Thank you for loving even the darkest parts of me.

Thank you for being loyal to even the worst of me.

Thank you for being exactly who you are. I love you.

Life
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