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I am not too proud to admit that there has been a time or two when I've given my child my phone to watch something while I caught a few more z's after an early wake-up call. And I'm not too proud to admit that chicken nuggets, shredded cheese and carrots sticks is one of my go-to dinners. I'm not too proud to admit that I have outright cheered when my child has been old enough to help me do something or get something for me, easing the load of motherhood just a little bit. (Honey, could you throw this diaper out for Mommy, please?)

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If you want to call this "lazy parenting" I won't be offended. I have come to embrace this laid-back parenting style. It fits me like my "lazy mom" uniform (aka capsule wardrobe) of yoga pants and t-shirts does—naturally and comfortably. It speaks to my soul. It just gets me.

How?

1. I don't worry until there's something to worry about.

(Aka, I take it easy on my nerves when I can.)

There are plenty of instances with raising children where the "something to worry about" comes up. So when those times arise—when my preschooler has a 104-degree fever, my toddler keeps repeating a fresh word, my teething baby seems so uncomfortable—I typically worry. But there's also a LOT of things that I *could* worry about (like whether I should be buying everything organic or what other people think of my mom abilities) that I try really hard not to get caught up in.

For example, you won't catch me following my older kids around the playground reminding them to be careful. I keep my eye on them of course, but I also let them do their thing. I will run as fast as humanly possible when they actually need me, but otherwise, I'll be pushing my 7-month-old on the swings.

2. I teach my children to do things for themselves.

(Aka helping them become independent humans.)

Now, when you call this 'Montessori', it sounds more pleasant, I think. And that's what I am doing. I am teaching my child to be self-sufficient. And right now since they are four and two (I let the 7-month-old off the hook with this stuff for the time being) that looks like moving their cups and plates to a cabinet they can reach.

Or ordering a Brita filter with a spout so they can get water when they are thirsty. Or teaching them to put their dishes in the dishwasher when they're done, watering the garden, picking out their own (weather-appropriate) outfits, putting their own toothpaste on their brush and brushing their teeth, or letting them take a shower and wash themselves (I still need to be in there, but I can be answering emails, etc. if I need to).

My 4-year-old can now buckle both car seat buckles by herself. I do a check once she's done, but she is really good at it and I've only had to fix it once. I know this sounds so small in the grand scheme of things, but I feel like it was a game changer. I guess when you have three kids you'll take the wins in efficiency where you can…

3. I encourage my kids to play with each other.

(Aka I'm helping them build strong social skills.)

My husband and I joke around with each other about the fact that we created baby #2 and baby #3 so that they'd all have people to play with. So they can entertain each other when we need to get something done.

Siblings are nice to have around for companionship and entertainment, for sure, but I do get that some people only want one child or maybe a family is experiencing infertility or a long adoption waitlist—so many a sibling to play with isn't the answer. But, fear not! Friends, cousins, neighbors, classmates—scheduling a play date even for an hour or two can give you a much-needed break.

It's not like you could go run errands or say, "See ya! I'm going to take a nap!"—you still have to be around to supervise and whatnot, but you can probably cook dinner or get another task done that's on your list without having to entertain at the same time.

And believe me—the whole "playing with each other nicely" does not always work. There's fighting, arguing and yelling. But then there's the laughing, the singing, the dancing, the pretending together. And so even if you get 15 minutes, let's consider that #winning, shall we?

4. I buy things that make all of our lives easier.

(Aka I spend our money wisely and efficiently.)

Why get shoes with laces that you have to tie when they're little when God (or someone else) created velcro? (Save those laces for when they're a bit older…) We've been gifted a step stool for each child that we keep in the bathroom so I don't have to pick them up every time they need to wash their hands. We also encourage them to pick it up and move it about the house as they need to reach things.

We've bought kid-safe chopping knives so I can have little sous chefs help me during dinner prep and a small broom so they can help us sweep after dinner.

So, sure, maybe this is "lazy parenting" at its finest… but if you're going to call me 'lazy,' please also call me 'creative' and 'efficient', too. 😉

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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).

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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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