Our favorite recipes that take less than 35 minutes to cook

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We know you already do so much, mama. From errands to laundry and answering emails from your boss—or just answering to that tiny boss in your house—preparing home-cooked meals can be hard to fit into an already packed schedule. (Not to mention finding healthy choices that your toddler won't throw across the kitchen!) But getting a nutritious, tasty home-cooked meal, snack, or dessert on the table shouldn't be such a chore.

That's why we've rounded up some of our favorite, easy-to-whip-together meal ideas—and they all take less than 35 minutes to make.

Even better, they're guaranteed to please even the choosiest family member.

​Garlic Roasted Tomato, Corn + Spinach Flatbread

By Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

Serves: 5

Time to cook: 20 mins

Ingredients

Sauce

Pizza

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500-degrees. If using a store-bought crust preheat oven to suggested temperature on package directions.
  2. Make the sauce: In a medium bowl, stir to combine the tomato sauce, olive oil and salt. Set aside.
  3. Make the pizza: Using the back of your hands, stretch the dough into a 10 x 14-inch rectangle and transfer to a large parchment lined baking sheet. If using a store-bought crust, place on parchment paper.
  4. Spread the sauce evenly across the dough, leaving a 1-inch border. Scatter the corn, cherry tomatoes, sliced garlic, and remaining red onion slices. Arrange chicken slices over top, if desired, and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12 to 14 minutes until the rim is golden brown and the bottom of the pizza is crisp.
  5. Transfer the pizza to a cutting board, top with baby spinach, remaining slices of red onion, crumbled feta, and drizzle with olive oil. Cut into 10 square slices and enjoy.

Pro tip: Flatbread can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Chocolate, Banana, Raspberry Quinoa Bowl

By Andrea Marcellus

Serves: 1 Serving, One-Hand Portion

Time to cook: 10 mins

Ingredients

  • 1/4 cup quinoa (cooked)
  • 1/2 cup banana (sliced)
  • 1/4 cup raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon almonds (sliced)
  • 2 tablespoon dark chocolate chips
  • 2 tablespoon milk (or milk alternative)
  • 1/2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Instructions:

    1. Place cooked quinoa in pot and add milk, chocolate, vanilla, maple syrup and salt. Heat over medium-low heat until everything is combined and quinoa is thick, about 5 minutes.
    2. Place in bowl and top with bananas, raspberries, almonds... let your imagination go bananas!

    Lemon Garlic Chicken Zoodles

    By Andrea Marcellus

    Serves: 1 Serving, Two-Hand Portion

    Time to cook: 12 mins

    Ingredients

    • 1 zucchini (spiralized or julienned)
    • 1 chicken breast (cubed)
    • 1/4 cup cherry tomatoes (halved)
    • 1 tablespoon garlic (minced)
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    • 1 pinch salt and pepper
    • 1 pinch crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

    Instructions:

    1. In a skillet over medium heat add olive oil and garlic. Once garlic is fragrant, add cubed chicken.
    2. Once chicken is mostly cooked, add cherry tomatoes and allow those to cook until they blister, about 5 minutes.
    3. Next, add the zoodles, lemon juice, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and mix together.
    4. Eat while contemplating the word "zoodles."

    Mixed Veggie Fritter

    By Andrea Marcellus

    Serves: 4 Servings, One-Hand Portion

    Time to cook: 10 mins

    Ingredients

    • 3 tablespoon zucchini (shredded)
    • 3 tablespoon cauliflower (finely chopped)
    • 3 tablespoon butternut squash (shredded)
    • 3 tablespoon broccoli (finely chopped)
    • 3 tablespoon carrot (shredded)
    • 3 tablespoon spinach (shredded)
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon onion powder
    • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
    • 3 tablespoon almond flour
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 teaspoon yogurt (whole milk or plant-based // Optional)
    • 1 Pinch salt and pepper

    Instructions:

    1. In a large bowl, combine the veggies—and any other veggies you want to add—with egg, flour, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and pepper.
    2. In a skillet over medium heat add olive oil. Form patties with hands and add to skillet.
    3. Allow fritters to brown about 3 minutes each side. Remove from pan and top with Greek yogurt (if using).
    4. Divide any fritters you're not enjoying right now into a serving container for later in the week.

    Creamy Tomato Soup

    By KidStir

    Serves: 4

    Time to cook: 25 mins

    Ingredients

    • 1 cup chopped onion
    • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup cream
    • Small bunch fresh basil, chopped
    • Salt and pepper to taste
    • 1 cup cheddar cheese cubes, optional

    Instructions:

    1. A grown-up should heat the olive oil over medium heat in a soup pot. Once hot, add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Turn off the heat.
    2. Blend the whole tomatoes and all the juices in a blender. Add the cooked onion and garlic, and blend until smooth.
    3. Carefully pour the pureed tomatoes into the soup pot. Turn the heat to medium-high.
    4. Stir in the cream and cook for about 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste and extra cream, if you'd like.
    5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Stir in cubes of cheese, if you'd like. Top with chopped fresh basil and pass the salt and pepper!

    Orange Quinoa Salad with Pomegranate + Tangy Turmeric Dressing

    By Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

    Serves: 8

    Time to cook: 30 mins

    Ingredients

    Dressing

    • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed juice, from 2 mandarin oranges
    • 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
    • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
    • 1 clove garlic, smashed
    • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    • 1 tablespoon honey
    • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
    • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
    • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

    Salad

    • 2 cups dry Sun Harvest Organic Whole Grain Red and White Quinoa*
    • 1, 15-ounce can Sun Harvest Organic Garbanzo Beans*, drained and rinsed
    • 1/2 cup chopped green onions
    • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
    • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
    • 3 medjool dates, pitted and chopped
    • 1 cup pomegranate arils
    • 1/2 cup chopped pistachios
    • 8 mandarin oranges, peeled and sliced
    • *Available at Smart & Final grocery stores

    Instructions:

    1. Make the dressing: Combine all ingredients for dressing in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Set aside and discard the smashed garlic clove before serving.
    2. Cook the quinoa: Place the quinoa in a large saucepan with 5 cups water over medium high heat. Bring to a boil and drop down to a simmer for 15 to 20 minutes and cook until tender. There will be some water leftover. Drain, rinse with cold water, and drain again. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
    3. Make the salad: To the mixing bowl, add the chickpeas, chopped green onions, parsley, cilantro, dates and half of the pomegranate arils and pistachios. Pour over the dressing and toss to coat. Transfer to a large serving plate and top with the sliced oranges. Top with the remaining pomegranate arils and pistachios and enjoy immediately.

    Pro tip: Salad will keep well covered in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days.

    Grilled Chicken Sandwiches with Slaw + Spicy Mayo

    By Patricia Bannan, MS, RDN

    Serves: 4

    Time to cook: 30 mins

    Spicy Mayo + Slaw

    • 1/4 cup First Street Premium Real Mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup low-fat plain Greek yogurt
    • 4 teaspoons cayenne pepper style hot sauce
    • 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    • 1/4 teaspoon First Street Garlic Powder
    • 5 cups Sun Harvest Coleslaw
    • 1/4 small red onion, thinly sliced

    Grilled Chicken and Assembly

    • 2, 8-ounce Sun Harvest skinless, boneless chicken breasts
    • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
    • Freshly ground black pepper
    • 1 tablespoon Sun Harvest Avocado Oil, for grilling
    • 4 seeded buns or ciabatta rolls
    • 1/4 cup First Street Sliced Hamburger Dill Pickle Chips
    • 1 jalepeño, thinly sliced

    Instructions:

      1. Make the Slaw: In a small bowl, whisk the mayo, yogurt, hot sauce, lemon juice, and garlic powder until combined. Add the coleslaw and red onions to a large bowl and pour over half of the spicy mayo mixture, reserving the other half of the mayo for serving. Toss the slaw until coated and place in the fridge until ready to serve.
      2. Grill the Chicken: Prepare a grill. Place the chicken breasts in a plastic bag and lightly pound out until ¾-inch thick in size. Slice each breast in half, pat to dry, brush with oil, and season with salt and black pepper. Grill the chicken over moderate heat, turning once, until just cooked through, about 14 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 165 degrees. Let rest for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, halve the sandwich rolls, add to the grill, and heat for 2 to 3 minutes.
      3. Assemble the Sandwiches: Spread the reserved spicy mayo evenly over the cut-sides of each roll. Layer the bottom half of each roll with a piece of grilled chicken and top with slaw. Place a few pickle chips and jalapeño slices over the slaw and top each with the remaining half of roll. Enjoy!

      Pro tip: The best part about these sandwiches is that you want to keep piling on more slaw to top your sandwich, so make extra and keep crunching!

      Marshmallow Stars

      By KidStir

      Serves: 1 pan of marshmallows

      Time to cook: 30 mins

      Ingredients

      • 2 envelopes unflavored gelatin
      • 1/3 cup cold water
      • 1 1/2 cups sugar
      • 1/4 cup water
      • 1/4 cup corn syrup
      • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
      • Cooking spray
      • Confectioners' sugar

      Instructions:

      1. Put 1/3 cup of water into the bowl of an electric mixer. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water.
      2. Whisk the sugar, 1/4 cup of water, and corn syrup in the saucepan over medium heat. Once the sugar is dissolved, stop whisking and heat the mixture until it boils. Place a candy thermometer into the saucepan and turn off the stove when the mixture reaches 240 degrees. This is a job for grown-ups only because the liquid gets very hot.
      3. Carefully pour the hot liquid over the gelatin. Beat on high speed for 10 to 12 minutes or until nice and fluffy. Mix in the vanilla extract.
      4. Lightly spray the baking pan with cooking spray. Then use a rubber spatula to transfer the gooey marshmallow mixture into the pan.
      5. Allow the marshmallows to set overnight on the countertop. This can take 12 to 15 hours.
      6. Lift the marshmallow block out of the pan with a spatula and place on a cutting board dusted with confectioners' sugar. Then use a star cookie cutter to cut out the marshmallow stars.

      Cajun Shrimp

      By Andrea Marcellus

      Serves: 1 Serving, Two-Hand Portion

      Time to cook: 25 mins

      Ingredients

      • 1/2 cup shrimp (peeled and deveined)
      • 1/4 red bell pepper (chopped)
      • 1/4 zucchini (chopped)
      • 1/4 cup corn (frozen)
      • 2 basil leafs (julienned)
      • 1 tablespoon dry white wine
      • 1 tablespoon parsley
      • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
      • 1 tablespoon cajun seasoning
      • 1 pinch salt and pepper

      Instructions:

        1. In a medium bowl combine together shrimp, Cajun seasoning, salt and pepper
        2. Place veggies on one half of a foil sheet and add shrimp on top. Sprinkle parsley and basil leaves over top.
        3. Add olive oil, white wine, salt and pepper. Fold other half of foil over and fold in sides to seal packet. Place in oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through.
        4. It's like camping food, but way cooler, and no bears.

        Speed Crepe with Nut Butter, Berries + Coconut

        By Andrea Marcellus

        Serves: 6-8 servings, One-Hand Portion

        Time to cook: 5 mins

        Ingredients

        • 2 tablespoon coconut flour (Can sub or combine with oat, almond, whole wheat, or other favorite flour!)
        • 1 tablespoon nut butter
        • 1/4 cup mixed berries
        • 1 tablespoon shredded coconut (unsweetened)
        • 3 eggs
        • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
        • 1 pinch salt

        Instructions:

          1. Beat eggs with a fork and then blend in the rest of the ingredients. (You can also use a blender or food processor if you don't mind the cleanup.)
          2. Place a piece of parchment paper in the microwave and a TBSP of the mixture in the center of the paper. Spread the mixture with the back of the spoon until fairly thin.
          3. Microwave on high for 1 minute. Continue in increments of 30-seconds until crepe is fully cooked. Time will depend on your microwave.
          4. Remove parchment paper from microwave and allow crepe to cool.
          5. Repeat until all the batter is gone. Save remaining crepes for later in the week.
          6. Once crepe is cooled to touch add berries and shredded coconut to crepe.

          Tiny Pies

          By KidStir

          Serves: 12 mini pies

          Time to cook: 35 mins

          Ingredients

          • 1 apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
          • 2 tablespoons sugar
          • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
          • 2 teaspoons orange juice
          • 1 tablespoon butter
          • 1 pie crust (we used a store-bought organic pie crust)
          • Milk and egg (for brushing on pie tops)

          Instructions:

          1. Mix the chopped apples, sugar, cinnamon, and orange juice in a bowl. Set it aside to get nice and juicy.
          2. Unroll the pie crust and place it on a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap on your countertop. Cut out twelve 2 1/2 inch circles with a round cookie cutter or rim of a glass. Press each one into a muffin cup.
          3. Gather the dough scraps and roll them out. Use tiny cookie cutters to make decorative shapes or cut thin strips for lattice toppings.
          4. Add 1 rounded tablespoon of filling to each cup. Dot with a tiny piece of butter. Add a top crust with slits, a pie crust star, or a lattice top. Pinch the edges with the tines of a fork to seal.
          5. Brush the mini pies with a beaten egg mixed with a little milk. Bake in a preheated oven at 375° for 15 to 17 minutes or until the filling bubbles and the crusts turn golden brown. Let the pies cool for just a few minutes in the pan, then carefully remove each one by running a sharp knife around the edges and popping it out of the pan.

          Pearl Brownies

          pearl brownies

          By Twenty-Five Eight

          Time to cook: 30 mins

          Ingredients

          • 2 cup organic almond flour
          • 1/2 cup arrow root powder
          • 2 tsp aluminum free organic baking powder
          • 1/2 tsp Himalayan salt
          • 1 Tbsp freshwater pearl powder (we use Sun Potion)
          • 3 eggs
          • 1/2 cup organic avocado oil
          • 1 1/2 cup organic maple syrup
          • 3/4 cup organic cacao powder
          • Optional:
          • 1/2 cup organic. chocolate chips
          • 1/2 cup organic chopped almonds, toasted
          Instructions:
          1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
          2. In a large bowl mix dry ingredients together, set aside.
          3. In a second bowl whisk wet ingredients together.
          4. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and fold gently until combined. (Optional: Fold in chocolate chops and/or almonds)
          5. Pour batter into a prepared baking dish.
          6. 6. Bake 20-25 min.
          7. 7. Remove and let cool.

          **Always check with a physician before ingesting.

          Creamy Asparagus-Artichoke Soup

          Creamy Asparagus-Artichoke Soup

          By Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson, RD, LD for Eating for Pregnancy

          Serves: 4

          Time to cook: 15 mins

          Ingredients

          • 3 tablespoons olive oil
          • 1 medium-size onion, chopped
          • 1/2 cup canned white beans, drained and rinsed
          • 4 cups stock or water
          • 1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
          • 16 ounces green asparagus, tough ends trimmed, stalks cut into 1-inch pieces (4 cups)
          • 1 (13.75-ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained
          • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried tarragon (optional)
          • Freshly ground black pepper
          • Squeeze of lemon juice (optional)

          Instructions:

          1. Heat the olive oil in a 6-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes. Add the beans, stock, and salt and bring to a boil. Add the asparagus, artichoke hearts, and tarragon, if using, and return to a boil.
          2. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
          3. Remove from the heat.
          4. Allow the soup to cool slightly, then puree it.
          5. Adjust the seasoning and consistency, add the lemon juice, if desired, and serve.

          Pro tip: You can replace the asparagus with an equal amount of broccoli or zucchini. Garnish with nuts and seeds for extra nutrition.

          Gingery Cran-Bran Muffins

          Gingery Cran-Bran Muffins

          By Catherine Jones and Rose Ann Hudson, RD, LD for Eating for Pregnancy

          Serves: 15 regular muffins or 52 mini muffins

          Time to cook: 35 mins

          Ingredients

          • Cooking spray (optional)
          • Bran or similar cereal
          • 1 cup boiling water
          • 1/4 cup canola oil or melted unsalted butter
          • 3/4 cup sugar
          • 1 cup buttermilk
          • 1 large egg
          • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
          • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
          • 1/4 teaspoon salt
          • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
          • 1/2 cup dried cranberries or chopped dried apricots (optional)
          • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
          • 1/3 cup chopped candied ginger (optional)

          Instructions:

          1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Spray the muffin wells with cooking spray or line with muffin liners.
          2. Place the cereal in a small bowl and pour the boiling water over it—do not stir. Set aside.
          3. Combine the canola oil and sugar in a large bowl and whisk together. Add the buttermilk and egg and whisk again. Add the flour, baking soda, salt, and ground ginger and whisk just until well combined. Add the cereal mixture and mix with a spoon, then add the dried cranberries, walnuts, and/or candied ginger, if using, and mix just until combined. (The batter will be quite thick.) Let the batter sit at room temperature for 10 minutes.
          4. Stir the batter, then divide evenly among the prepared muffin wells. Bake until a tester inserted into the center of a muffin comes out clean: about 20 minutes for regular muffins, about 12 minutes for mini muffins. Transfer the muffins to a wire rack to cool.

          Pro tip: No buttermilk in the fridge? Make your own by adding 1 tablespoon of cider vinegar to 1 cup of milk. Vegan? Use your favorite nondairy milk made into buttermilk and omit the egg.

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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.

          FEATURED VIDEO

          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

          Self-care is one of the most important things pregnant women and new mothers need to focus on for so many reasons. If we don't look after ourselves, we have nothing to give to others.

          Now that you are pregnant, there is no better time to begin thinking about your long-term health and happiness (I know you have already been thinking about baby's, after all).

          If our car's gas tank is empty, we don't expect it to run... we head to a gas station and fill it up! This is exactly what we need to do for ourselves. We need to fill ourselves up before we can give to others—including a baby.

          FEATURED VIDEO

          Our lives are moving at an alarming pace and very often self-care is seen as selfish.

          I know this firsthand because I did it for years. During my pregnancy I was incredibly healthy but I did it all for my baby and not for myself. I only realized this after I had my son.

          After his birth, I completely neglected my self-care and myself, which did not help my postpartum depression. During my recovery, I realized that self-care is not only important, but essential. We so freely give everything to our children.

          My plea for new moms is to value your own care just as much as that of your new child. During pregnancy, self-care is important for both mom and baby. This philosophy should be carried through post birth.

          After your baby is born, it's so important to eat well, rest when you can, and stay hydrated. As soon as you feel ready, get out for some fresh air with baby. Just remember not to push yourself too hard. Your body is still recovering!

          Keeping stress low and practicing daily happiness habits are also important.

          Sometimes it's easy to get caught up in everything we are doing wrong as a mom, so I like to keep a gratitude journal to remind me of the good things I have, and the amazing things I have done as a new mom. It helps to keep me focused on the positives in my life. No matter how bad my day is there is always something to be grateful for.

          Once I started to value myself enough to eat well, exercise, talk kindly to myself, and practice daily happiness habits, I began to understand the power of self-care and what it truly means not only for ourselves, but for those we love.

          I now have more time (believe it or not), patience, energy and vitality for my son and my life.

          Practicing self-care does not mean you are shirking your responsibilities.

          As a parent, there is no better way to instill confidence and self-esteem into your kids than to be a happy and healthy role model.

          Rome wasn't built in a day and sometimes we need to learn (or re-learn) to like ourselves and value ourselves when we become new moms.

          The small changes I have made over the past few years have led me on a path of wellness and true contentment—a feeling I have always craved but was never able to find.

          After I had my son, I stopped hinging my worth on external things like property and job status. I started to look within and face my fears. It's been a rocky road—some days fraught with fear and others filled with bravery. But, I have been giving life my best shot.

          Life

          Each day, licensed clinical social worker Ofra Obejas has appointments with a number of parents—with the idea that this is a designated time for them to decompress, turn their attention inward and concentrate on the counseling session. Yet, Obejas says she has noticed a disappointing trend: Many clients don't disconnect for that brief period.

          "Parents have sat in therapy session with me and checked every time their phone alerted them, 'In case that's my kid calling me,'" she tells Motherly. "The smart device allows parents to never be away from the child."

          Unlike in generations past, today's parents can be always "on" due to everything from high-tech baby monitors to a stream of pictures and updates sent to their phones. That's what we at Motherly have termed "continuous parenting," and the risk is it not only sets parents up for fatigue, but also sends children unhealthy messages about their own boundaries.

          FEATURED VIDEO

          The answer isn't to erase our kids from our minds every so often—because that simply isn't possible. But we can benefit from making the effort to step back from actively "parenting" every now and then.

          Parents spend more time than ever with their kids

          According to a recent study from The Economist, American moms now spend twice as much time with their children compared with women 50 years ago. That works out to be an average of 125 minutes per day of devoted mom-child time. (Kudos to dads, too: Since 1965, they have tripled the time spent with their kids. It's now up to an average of 59 minutes daily.)

          Experts credit this to increasingly flexible work schedules and options to punch in from home. Likely also at play is the fact that the newest generation of moms and dads are embracing the duty like few before, with 99% of millennial parents reporting they truly love parenting.

          We're leaning into parenting—but are we overdoing it?

          It's one thing to identify first and foremost as a parent and take pride in that role. It's another thing, however, to confuse our sense of worth with our children's accomplishments, which is something former Stanford University dean of freshmen Julie Lythcott-Haims says was commonplace among the parents she encountered.

          "When I ask parents why they participate in the overprotection, overdirection, hand-holding frenzy, they respond, 'So my kid can be happy and successful,'" she writes in How to Raise an Adult. "When I ask them how it feels, they respond, 'Way too stressful.'"

          This constant investment in children's lives can take a toll on the parent-child relationship when the parent doesn't take time for him or herself, too. "The parents feel that they 'sacrificed' their own time for the benefit of the child, even though during much of that time there was no direct engagement with the child," Obejas says of those hours spent shuttling kids around town or waiting outside the doctor's office. "The parents' own emotional and mental cup becomes empty, and when the child asks for more attention, the parents feel like they have already given enough."

          The expectation of constant contact 'is draining for the brain'

          Even outside the category of helicopter parents, the expectation that we should constantly know what our children are doing is problematic. "'Always on alert' didn't start with children," says Obejas. "It started with devices and apps designed to be addictive. It overtaxes our fight or flight response and leads to toxic stress when levels of cortisol and adrenaline don't ever subside."

          Compared with the days when it was the norm for kids to roam free until the streetlights came on, it's commonplace today for parents to expect regular updates of their kids' exact whereabouts either by texts or GPS tracking tools.

          "While this can be a safety backup, it increases the type of hypervigilance we know is draining for the brain," says Urszula Klich, licensed clinical psychologist and president of the Southeast Biofeedback and Clinical Neuroscience Association. "[This] can also cause incredible anxiety as parents hear and read things they wouldn't normally be subject to, that is, let's face it, a normal part of kids growing up."

          Roles have reversed

          Not so long ago, parents would go to the store or out on a date only with the faith that everything was fine at home. Now? That's almost unthinkable—as we've instead shifted to the mentality that our children or their responsible caregivers should be able to contact us at any given moment. Despite the good intentions at play here, this comes at an expense.

          "In what other job do you never get a break? It is truly exhausting to never get to turn off the parent brain," says LMHC Jasmin Terrany, author of Extraordinary Mommy: A Loving Guide to Mastering Life's Most Important Job.

          Driving this is the trend toward maternal gatekeeping, which describes the subconscious desire to micromanage child care even when someone else is perfectly capable of holding down the fort. As uncomfortable as this may feel, it's healthiest for everyone when parents can hand over the reigns on occasion.

          "We must have regular practices to refuel," Terrany tells Motherly. "We don't need to feel guilty about taking this time for ourselves—our kids will not only learn that self-care is essential, but when we are good, they will be good."

          This is also how we let our children know another adult can attend to their needs, which is an important step in fostering their sense of independence and confidence. As Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, previously told Motherly, "Let your partner actually figure it out on their own and know that the system survives even when you are not there."

          Being 'always on' can degrade quality time, too

          Much of being "always on" is a two-way street: Not only do we bring our children into our work days and social lives, but we also bring other obligations home with us in the form of emails sent to our smartphones and mid-playtime breaks to check social media.

          "Our children need us, the parents to be 'there,'" says Tom Kersting, licensed psychotherapist and author of Disconnected: How To Reconnect Our Digitally Distracted Kids. "They need us to talk to them, play with them and be present with them. This is literally impossible if we are multitasking between the iPhone and our interactions with them."

          As expert as we may consider ourselves at multitasking, there is also something to be said for setting boundaries. "In today's world it's become difficult not to carry that phone around you all the time, even more so when your job is tied to it," says Klich. "Set boundaries for yourself for when you will check, even if it's once an hour, and stick to that making it clear to the kids what you are doing and why."

          And when we're away from the kids, remember this hack: Calls from favorite contacts can still come through when you're on do not disturb mode. So tell your partner or your babysitter or your kids to call if it's a true emergency—and then allow yourself to go off the clock. You'll be better for it.

          [This post was first published June 25, 2018.]

          News

          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
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