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No one will deny that parenting is tough. In fact, I think the only people who had an easy time parenting were Victorian Era royals who had hired help to do the job, or maybe the parents of the babies in Baby Geniuses.

But a great way to maintain your mental health as a new parent is by practicing minimalism as much as possible in other aspects of your life.

Minimalism, for these purposes, can be divided up into three areas: minimizing possessions, minimizing activities, and minimizing people.

1. Minimize possessions

It's a good idea to start with possessionsIt's a good idea to start with possessions. It may seem odd to say this, since having a baby often means getting a lot of gifts from friends and family all at once. But often, having too much stuff lying around can make you feel scattered or less in control of you life, which is not how you want to feel when you have a baby running around.

It's important to ask yourself which of your things are helpful at this point in your life and which aren't. That way, you can separate out those things that you use currently and take good care of them and then set aside the others.

Now, that doesn't necessarily mean you need to get rid of all of those things you're not using at the moment in one fell swoop (in fact, deciding what to keep and what to donate may put some unnecessary pressure on you during those first few months), but it does mean packing away those things you might not want to keep so they are out of sight.

I found that just packing up my old clothes I didn't wear as much and putting them in the basement made me feel infinitely less cluttered. It's tough to stay current and organized with your possessions, but as your baby grows and you want to have room for his or her special things, you will be thankful that you did it. It's a small way to maintain simplicity in one aspect of your new and unpredictable life.

2. Minimize activities

Another thing you need to minimize when you become a mom is your to-do list. I found that it was most difficult to maintain my mental health as a new mom when I tried to do too much. In those first few months I was trying to be a cool, adventurous mom, while also working part time, taking an online class, keeping up with social commitments, practicing my hobbies (reading, writing, music, etc.), and on and on.

Needless to say, I grew exhausted pretty quickly.

A good way to minimize your to-do list is to be realistic about it. Parenting is going to take up 90% or higher of your list most days, and I think it's a good idea to be proud of yourself for completing those parenting tasks along the way (I often had things like "bath time" or "nap time" on my to-do list in those early months because, though it seems silly, it felt good to have everything laid out before me and then be able to cross things off when they happened).

You will want to do lots of other things as well, but having too much going on can make you feel overwhelmed very quickly. A simple way to minimize those other things on your to-do list is to hit all major categories with only one thing during the first year or so as a parent.

So pick one chore on which to focus each day (and if you feel like doing a few others, you can give yourself extra credit!), pick one friend or family member to visit with each few days or week (because you know they are going to be calling all the time trying to plan a time to see the new baby, but you just can't be planning visits in all of your spare time), pick one hobby to enjoy during your free time (read one book, or learn one new skill).

This way, you will be doing the things you should be doing to maintain your mental health — like cleaning your house, spending time with others, and having time alone — but you won't be trying to fill those major categories with too many little tasks along the way. Sit down with your spouse (or babysitter, or a helpful friend) and show them your list so they will know when you will need their help, and vice versa.

And I cannot stress this enough: schedule alone time. Schedule alone time. Schedule alone time. You need alone time. Your babysitter will understand.

3. Minimize people

This is a really important aspect of minimalism, which I think people often overlook as new parents. Many times new parents get caught up in introducing their new baby to all of their friends and family and contacting those friends and family about all the cute little milestones along the way. And while that's all well and good, people can clutter the brain just as easily as possessions can.

New parents can get caught up with contacting other people, especially during a time when friends and family are constantly accessible thanks to social media. But text messages and missed calls will pile up during those first few months, and there is just no way you will be able to have the social life you once did (at least for a little while).

The best way to minimize people in your life is to decide which people are the most important to you. I am a list-maker, as we can all tell, and I often make lists of people with whom I would like to stay in contact. For me, this list includes people who I feel support me and contribute positive energy to my life.

It can be fun to hang out with friends who throw exciting events or have good stories to tell, but as a new parent, you need to maintain contact with those friends who connect with you on a deeper level. And actually, having limited free time will make it much easier for you to tell who those friends are.

Though social media is a good way to stay in touch with friends as a new parent, it can also add unnecessary clutter. It can make it easier for those friends who you know aren't adding positivity to your life to stay in touch with you, which means time wasted talking to people who are not going to offer much return on your investment.

I've found that an easy way to distinguish friends on social media who are worth taking the time out to talk to as a new parent and those who aren't is to take note of how those people are reaching out to you. If they are taking the steps to message you, email you, or even call you (does that still happen?) to ask how things are going, chances are that they are really interested in how things are going. If they just like every baby photo you put up; the chances are that they aren't looking to put in the work that your friendship will now require.

Familial relationships aren't so different from friendships, and new parents should also spend their time with family members who make them feel relaxed and comfortable. If you find yourself always arguing or becoming frustrated by certain family members, it's a good idea to keep them at a distance during your first few months as a new parent.

It's quite common for new parents to feel overwhelmed by the task, to be sure. But in order to maintain your mental health as a new parent, you will need to keep the other parts of your life from overwhelming you also. Minimalism is a good way to control the parts of your life that you can control so that you are able to enjoy the new parts that are a little more unpredictable.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, but in many households, it's also the most hectic. Many parents rely on pre-prepared items to cut down on breakfast prep time, and if Jimmy Dean Heat 'n Serve Original Sausage Links are a breakfast hack in your home, you should check your bag.

More than 14 tons of the frozen sausage links are being recalled after consumers found bits of metal in their meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall of 23.4-oz. pouches of Jimmy Dean HEAT 'n SERVE Original SAUSAGE LINKS Made with Pork & Turkey with a 'Use By' date of January 31, 2019.

"The product bears case code A6382168, with a time stamp range of 11:58 through 01:49," the FSIS notes.

In a statement posted on its website, Jimmy Dean says "a few consumers contacted the company to say they had found small, string-like fragments of metal in the product. Though the fragments have been found in a very limited number of packages, out of an abundance of caution, CTI is recalling 29,028 pounds of product. Jimmy Dean is closely monitoring this recall and working with CTI to assure proper coordination with the USDA. No injuries have been reported with this recall."

Consumers should check their packages for "the establishment code M19085 or P19085, a 'use by' date of January 31, 2019 and a UPC number of '0-77900-36519-5'," the company says.

According to the FSIS, there have been five consumer complaints of metal pieces in the sausage links, and recalled packages should be thrown away.

If you purchased the recalled sausages and have questions you can call the Jimmy Dean customer service line at (855) 382-3101.

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Flying with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old isn't easy under optimal conditions, and when the kids are tired and cranky, things become even harder.

Many parents are anxious when flying with kids for exactly this reason: If the kids get upset, we worry our fellow passengers will become upset with us, but mom of two Becca Kinsey has a story that proves there are more compassionate people out there than we might think.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Kinsey explains how she was waiting for her flight back from Disney World with her two boys, Wyatt, 2, and James, 5, when things started to go wrong, and the first of three kind women committed an act of kindness that meant so much.

After having to run all over the airport because she'd lost her ID, Kinsey and her boys were in line for security and she was "on the verge of tears because Wyatt was screaming and James was exhausted. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says 'here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!'" Kinsey wrote in her Facebook post.

Within minutes, 2-year-old Wyatt was asleep on the airport floor. Kinsey was wondering how she would carry him and all the carry-ons when "another mom jumps out of her place in line and says 'hand me everything, I've got it.'"

When Kinsey thanked the second woman and the first who had given up her place in line they told her not to worry, that they were going to make sure she got on her flight.

"The second woman takes evvvverything and helps me get it through security and, on top of all that, she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight," Kinsey wrote.

Kinsey and her boys boarded, but the journey was hardly over. Wyatt wolk up and started "to scream" at take off, before finally falling back asleep. Kinsey was stressed out and needed a moment to breathe, but she couldn't put Wyatt down.

"After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says 'you look like you need a break' and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to baggage claim, hands him to [Kinsey's husband], hugs me and says "Merry Christmas!!" Kinsey wrote.

👏👏👏

It's a beautiful story about women helping women, and it gets even better because when Kinsey's Facebook post started to go viral she updated it in the hopes of helping other parents take their kids to Disney and experience another form of stress-relief.

"What if everyone that shared the story went to Kidd's Kids and made a $5 donation?! Kidd's Kids take children with life-threatening and life-altering conditions on a 5 day trip to Disney World so they can have a chance to forget at least some of the day to day stressors and get to experience a little magic!!"

As of this writing, Kinsey has raised more than $2,000 for Kidd's Kids and has probably inspired a few people to be kind the next time they see a parent struggling in public.

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Ah, the holidays—full of festive cheer, parties, mistletoe... and complete and utter confusion about how much to tip whom.

Remember: Tipping and giving gifts to the people that help you throughout the year is a great way to show your appreciation, but it's never required. Ultimately, listen to your heart (and your budget) and decide what's right for your family.

Here is our etiquette guide to tipping and gifting everyone on your list.

Teachers

You can decide if you'd like to do a class gift.

  • Ask people to contribute what they can, if they'd like to
  • Sign the gift from the entire class—don't single out the people that weren't able to contribute
  • Idea: a small gift and then a gift card bought with the rest of the money, and a card signed by all the children

...or a personal gift.

  • Amount/value is very up to you—you may factor in how many days/week your child is in school and how much you pay for tuition.
  • Anywhere from $5-$150 has been done.
  • Idea: a personalized tote bag and gift card, with a picture drawn by your child

Babysitters, nannies + au pairs

  • Up to one night's pay for a babysitter
  • Up to one week's pay for a nanny or au pair.
  • Homemade gift from the child

Daycare teachers

  • $25-70/teacher and a card from your child

School bus driver

  • A non-monetary gift of $10-$20 (i.e. a gift card)

Ballet teacher/soccer coach

  • Consider a group gift or personal gift (see teacher gift above)
  • Up to $20 value if doing a personal gift

Mail carrier

  • A gift up to a $20 value, but they are not allowed to receive cash or a gift card that can be exchanged for cash.

UPS/Fed Ex

  • A gift up to a $20 value, depending on the number of packages you get. Avoid cash if possible.

Sanitation workers

  • $10-30 each
  • Make sure you find out if the same people pick up the recycling and the trash—there may be two different teams to think about.

Cleaning person

  • Up to one week's pay

Hair stylist

  • Up to the cost of one haircut/style

Dog walker

  • Up to one week's pay

Doorman

  • $15-80 each depending on number of doormen

Boss/Co-workers

  • You are not required to give your boss a gift. In some instances, it may be inappropriate to do so—so you'll have to think about what seems right for you
  • Never give cash
  • Consider giving an office gift—bring coffee or donuts to the office for everyone, buy an assortment of teas for the staff lounge, replace the microwave that everyone hates, etc
  • Organize an office Secret Santa—it's a great way to boost morale and have fun, without needing to decide who to buy for. (Hint: We love Elftser for easy Secret Santa organizing!)

Neighbors

Hey mama,

It's the time of year again.

You know what I'm talking about. From Halloween to New Years Eve, where all the sweets and treats come out in full force, and it seems like the universe is plotting to take you down.

You may feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all. After all, history has taught you that you can't make it through the holiday season successfully.

Maybe you can't get by without eating all the holiday treats and feeling like a failure. Maybe you end the holidays vowing to be a better person and start the New Year on the latest detox diet. You are all too familiar with the guilt and shame that comes with holiday eating cycle and how this robs you of joy of the season.

You may have managed to contain some element of self-control over the year. Maybe you carefully avoid those treats that you know you can't simply eat one of, or maybe you've skipped dessert and stayed clear from all the sweets. Maybe you've felt like you're doing well on your latest diet and are worried about how this incoming holiday treat wave will sabotage your success.

Whatever you're worried about, the fear is real and paralyzing, taking up that precious mental space as your thoughts are consumed about food and your body.

It may be hard to think about anything else when you mind is controlled by the rules that dictate what you should and shouldn't be eating. Maybe seeing your spouse or kids eat those holiday treats creates more anxiety for you and sends you on the brink of losing your mind as these food issues become all consuming.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, where is this fear coming from and why is it controlling your life?

Do you ever feel like a failure at eating because you inhaled that bag of fun-sized candy bars or scarfed through a dessert faster than anyone could say, "Trick or Treat?"

Are you embarrassed that something as normal as food feels like such a struggle?

Does overeating or an emotional eating episode send you on a downward tailspin in self-loathing?

How many times have you stepped on the scale, only to feel miserable about yourself for the rest of the day?

I want to let you in on a secret.

You are not failing, mama.

That desire to eat all the holiday foods or binge on sweets doesn't mean that you've screwed up or that you have no self-control.

You're not a failure for wanting to eat all the things you don't normally let yourself eat or for breaking all the food rules you've set in place to give you more "control."

You don't need more willpower, another diet or more ways to become disciplined.

What you need, sweet mama, is permission.

Permission to eat those foods that you crave every year, like a slice of your Grandmother's special holiday dish or the piece of pumpkin cheesecake everyone's eating at your office party.

Permission to decorate holiday cookies with your kids and actually enjoy eating one too, not pretend like you don't want one, only to eat a plateful once they've gone to bed.

Permission to actually keep food in its proper place, so it's not stealing your joy, energy and mental space.

And you know what?

When you've given yourself permission to eat, including all those sweets and treats that are normally off-limits, they suddenly lose their power over you. And when food doesn't have power over you, you will have freedom to live a life that isn't bound by what you can and cannot eat.

Let me tell you something else: feeling like a failure around food is NOT your fault. It doesn't mean you don't have enough self-control or will power. There is nothing wrong with you.

What's to blame are the abundance of food rules: unrealistic food rules that make you feel unnecessarily guilty for eating or shameful in your body. (i.e: "Don't eat sugar", "Don't eat carbohydrates", "That's not allowed on the diet", "Don't eat anything too high in fat", "Don't eat after 6pm", "Don't eat all day if you're having a big meal at night").

You are not the problem.

Food rules, diets, etc. THAT is what is wrong.

You weren't made to live or thrive under a list of rules of what you should or shouldn't eat. It's not an issue of self-control.

The truth is that trying to follow a diet or a rigid set of food rules is like trying to negotiate with your toddler—you just can't win. And it's not for lack of trying, it's that the rules of the game are created for you to fail. So why try to play a game where the odds are against you?

You can opt-out of diet culture NOW to enjoy a truly peaceful holiday season that doesn't end with self-loathing or a New Year's resolution to diet and start the cycle all over again. Because the truth is, there are no good and bad foods or rules you are have to follow. When you can let go of all those judgments and emotional hang-ups that you've attached to eating, you learn to trust yourself to make your own choices and view food for what is really is - just food.

So choose being present over being perfect with the way you eat (because no such thing exists anyway). Calm the food chaos by giving yourself permission to eat, taste, and celebrate.

Enjoy the treats, if that is what your body is craving. Take back for yourself what all the obscure food rules and dieting have taken away from you all these years. Take in the memories, the flavors of the season - because you deserve it.

This holiday season, commit to putting yourself on a new path, one that doesn't end in self-destruction.

Give yourself permission, not only to eat, but to embrace a new way of living that isn't defined by your body size or what you can or cannot eat.

You can choose food freedom over food rules, and by doing so, you are choosing to live. You are choosing to be present for your children and experience the moments and memories that might otherwise be missed when your mind is imprisoned by food rules.

It's never too late, mama. The time to start is now.

Remember—you are not failing. Start by giving yourself permission today.

Originally posted on Crystal Karges.

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