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My love—

Remember that night a few months ago? When the sight of us putting our three kids to bed most likely looked like a tiger trying to swaddle a freight train. There was screaming, tears, and tantrums. And the kids were pretty bad too. I cried to you while I nursed the baby and wondered why it was all so hard.

Things are different now. Not perfect—not even remotely close. And not even always good. Sometimes we still have bad moments. And by moments I mean days. And by days I mean weeks. But still, mostly better.

When we decided to switch our parenting style from "OH MY GOD JUST PLEASE DO WHAT I ASK ONE TIME" to a more peaceful approach, things started turning around. I had decided to dispense with my previous philosophy of, "Don't read parenting books! Just go with your gut!" and started reading everything I could get my hands on.

Raising Your Spirited Child seemed like a good place to start, seeing as how the other day I had caught my oldest child yelling at his brother, "Just do it! I'll catch you! I promise you're not going to die!"

From there, I moved on to Peaceful Parent, Happy Child which seemed like a good antidote to the working title of my autobiography, Hot Mess Mom, Feral Children. I read every article I could find on peaceful parenting. And while some of it made you roll your eyes when I started reading it out loud to you, slowly, it all started coming together.

While we've made a lot of changes (hello, earlier bedtime), looking back, here are the three things we did that I think helped the most in creating a more peaceful, and less chaotic, home:

1. Start taking care of ourselves.

Self-care doesn't have to mean a spa day. But you have to do a few things: Get as much sleep as you can. Eat three meals a day. Participate in some sort of exercise that isn't picking up toys. Go outside regularly. Drink water.

For you, it's working out. For me, it's getting out of the house alone. Deciding to protect that time with the ferociousness we do our kids' bedtimes has meant we snap less. It's easier to not lose your temper when I know in a few hours, I have a break coming.

But self-care can be even simpler than that. Taking a deep breath before I dive into the age-old dispute of 'but-I-was-playing-with-it-first' can help me remember that this is not an emergency, and we're all doing just fine.

2. Start appreciating our kids for who they are.

Remember when our second kid would call colors by the wrong name for so long we thought he was colorblind? And then we realized he knew the correct names, but just enjoyed being stubborn?

Sure, our kids are stubborn, demanding, and wild. But when we finally tuck them into bed at night, pull out our phones and start flipping through pictures of them, we remember their other sides.

They aren't stubborn—they have plans that they like to see through. They aren't demanding—they are inquisitive and want to know exactly how the world works. They aren't wild—they are enthusiastic and energetic.

(Okay fine, they are a little wild.)

Too often, at the end of a long day, it had been us-versus-them in the dinner, bath, and bedtime battle. We forgot to enjoy our kids—to laugh and play with them. Taking time to set aside the long game of raising good humans and remembering to enjoy them in the moment has shifted our perspective immensely.

3. Stop trying to win, and start trying to work out solutions.

Remember having this conversation a million times?

Kid: I want to go to the park!

Us: Okay! That is actually a feasible request. Put your sandals on and let's go.

Kid: NO! I DON'T WANT TO PUT ON MY SANDALS! Us: PUT YOUR SANDALS ON OR WE WON'T GO TO THE PARK.

Kid: (Dissolves).

Whenever we start trying to win a battle of wills with our children, we've already lost. In a power struggle, kids have the upper hand.

They say idiocy is trying the same thing over and over and expecting different results. But nevertheless, that was our primary parenting approach.

So instead of getting into power struggles, we decided to start focusing on solutions. At first, it was a little weird to start giving them the power to make some decisions. We were the parents and shouldn't they just do what we say? I mean, yes, preferably, but we tried that tactic and it didn't work so onto plan B.

Us: Why don't you want to put on your sandals?

Kid: The wood chips at the park get stuck in them and hurt my feet!

Us: Oh, well yeah. Totally makes sense. How about your tennis shoes?

Kid: Okay! That is actually a feasible request. (Puts on sandals.)

Us: (Sigh from here to eternity and head to the park.)

I started looking for other opportunities to solve things that we were constantly battling over. They got dressed for the day before breakfast to lessen the leaving for school battles. I took out all the clothes in the drawers they were refusing to wear anyway. When they argued over a toy, I asked them to come up with a sharing plan of their own to satisfy both their needs.

When we take a problem solving approach, rather than our tried and failed power struggle approach, I remember to ask them why they are finding the task at hand so offensive. Seven times out of 10, the answer breaks my heart. They're scared of the dark, or they are worried about school tomorrow. The other three times they are usually over-tired or hungry. Or both. (Usually both.)

Are things perfect now? No. Did. I call you and beg you not to work late again tonight because I was going to lose my mind? Yes. (Self-care, honey. Self-care). But are things getting a little calmer at our house? Yes.

I mean, I set off the smoke alarm regularly while making dinner and someone is usually yelling at me to wipe their butt and the baby is taste-testing crumbs off the floor left and right. But I can handle that.

When I was big and pregnant with our first kid, we couldn't really comprehend the chaos we were bringing into our lives. We dreamed about walks in the park and reading Goodnight Moon while we snuggled in bed. Life isn't like that all the time.

Maybe our loud, rambunctious, and at times challenging family isn't what we pictured originally. But this is what we've always wanted. A family where we work through the hard times together. A family that chooses, first and foremost, to put love first.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

Our Partners

For parents of babies and toddlers, diapers are a big expense that can represent a substantial portion of a family's monthly grocery budget, but when families fall on hard times and get support paying for groceries, diapers aren't covered. Programs like the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) are meant to fill families nutritional needs, not hygiene needs, so you can't buy diapers with a SNAP card (also known as food stamps).

This week San Fransisco county became the first county in America to offer free diapers to families who use SNAP, (known at the state level as CalFresh). Starting this month, parents in San Fransisco who use CalFresh qualify for a free monthly supply of diapers thanks to the San Francisco Diaper Bank, a partnership between the Human Services Agency (HSA) and Help a Mother Out (HAMO). This is made possible by a $2.5 million grant from the California Department of Social Services.

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It's good to see communities recognizing that diapers are as necessary as food. Studies indicate that when mothers don't have the diapers they need for their babies their mental health suffers, but that an "an adequate supply of diapers may prove a tangible way of reducing parenting stress, a critical factor influencing child health and development"

"It costs like $25 for one box of diapers. I remember the time when I had to decide between buying milk and buying diapers. No parent should have to go through that. You have no idea what this program has meant for me," San Francisco Diaper Bank participant Hanen Bouzidi explains.

Without the extra help, parents like Hanen end up at the mercy of convenience stores that separate the large boxes of diapers to sell them individually. It's one of those times when being poor means you have to spend more money: You can't afford a $25 box containing 96 diapers, so you have to spend $1 on one individual diaper at the corner store just to get your baby through the day.

And while many people are quick to suggest low-income parents take up cloth diapering, it is not practical for every family. If the only laundry machines you have access to are coin-operated and outside your home, you may not have the money or the time to launder them. Plus, most laundromats won't let you wash them and some childcare providers will only take kids who are wearing disposables. In short, cloth diapers are a wonderful solution for many families, but they are not a practical solution many families using SNAP cards. That's why San Fransisco's move to provide free diapers is so important.

Some lawmakers in other parts of the country are trying to introduce legislation to provide free diapers to families who need them, so we could see other areas following San Fransisco's lead in the coming years. This is important because no child should be at risk for the physical problems that can happen when parents feel they have no choice but to reuse or overuse diapers, and no mother should be forced to carry the weight of the guilt of diaper need.

Providing diapers to families who desperately need them improves the health of moms and babies, and removes a barrier that keeps moms from accessing childcare and early childhood education programs.

News

This week marked World Kindness Day, but in Pittsburgh, PA the hometown of the late Mr. Rogers, it was also Cardigan Day—a chance to celebrate an icon of kindness and his iconic knitwear.

That's what staff at UPMC Magee-Womens Hospital were doing when they dressed all the babies like Mr. Rogers in hand-crocheted cardigans and sneaker-style booties made by nurse Caitlin Pechin.

Pechin says crocheting is something she does for fun and while making all the little outfits took several hours, she "really enjoy[s] making things for all the babies because they look so cute in them."

They absolutely do!

😍😍😍

The sweetest little neighbors

The babies looked so cozy and cute and they even got a visit from the woman who was closest to Mr. Rogers, his widow, Joanne Rogers. "She was so sweet and so sincere and just wished us the best of luck as new parents," Kristen Lewandowski, whose first child, Mary Rose, was among the cardigan-wearing newborns, told Good Morning America.

"She told us to support one another and we thought that was great advice," Lewandowski explained.

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but his legacy lives on

The new movie about Mr. Rogers—A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, starring Tom Hanks—hits theaters on November 22. Mr. Rogers has been gone for 16 years, but the new film and the way we talk about kindness today proves that his legacy lives on in 2019.

"When I was little, I watched Mister Rogers' Neighborhood with my grandmother, my grandma Mary, who we named our [daughter] Mary after," Lewandowski's partner, Michael, explains.

Mrs. Rogers reportedly loved getting to meet little Mary Rose and the other babies and told their parents she was sure her husband would have loved to meet them, too.

A Mr. Rogers sweater for Mrs. Rogers

The babies weren't the only ones donning cardigans at the event. Mrs. Rogers wore a cardigan that belonged to Mr. Rogers, and the nursing staff wore t-shirts designed to mimic the tie-and-cardigan look Mr. Rogers was known for.

The whole event was absolutely adorable and has us thinking a lot about the lessons Mr. Rogers taught us (and looking forward to seeing another beloved icon, Tom Hanks, play him.)

The movie hits theaters this Thanksgiving 

The reason why people are dressing babies up as Mr. Rogers 16 years after his passing is the same reason why Tom Hanks wanted to play him: He was the personification of kindness in a world that needs more of it. He brought love and empathy to a medium that is usually used to sell breakfast cereals and plastic toys. But Mr. Rogers wasn't pushing artificial ingredients and consumerism: He just wanted us kids to love each other and ourselves.

"I think that, when Fred Rogers first saw children's programming, he saw something that was cynical," Hanks said at the Toronto Film Festival, explaining why he wanted to take on this role.

"And why in the world would you put a pipeline of cynicism into the minds of a 2 or 3-year-old-kid? That you are not cool because you don't have this toy, that it's funny to see somebody being bopped on the head, that hey, kids be the first in line in order to get blah, blah, blah. That's a cynical treatment of an audience, and we have become so inured to that that when we are met with as simple a message as hey, you know what, it's a beautiful day in the neighborhood, [it's a reminder] that we are allowed...to start off feeling good," Hanks shared.

Mr. Rogers was a pioneer in using screen time to raise empathetic and kind kids and he made an impact on a generation.

Let's all take a look at these little neighbors and feel good today

There is something so pure about Mrs. Rogers visiting these babies, who are dressed like her husband because of the kindness of a maternity ward nurse. In a world where there is so much bad, let's look at all this good—and all these adorable babies who could become the next icon of kindness.

News

American humorist Josh Billings said something over a century ago, and it still remains today: "Advice is like castor oil, easy enough to give but dreadful uneasy to take." Advice is hard to take, but so easy (and often fun) to give. But, when it comes to parenting advice, most mamas are all ears. We're always ready to get the best tips on how to raise happy, successful humans.

That's why we looked to the parenting threads on Reddit where mamas discuss their cures for mom burnout.

Here's the best parenting advice Reddit mamas swear by to cure burnout:

1. Hire help

"Get yourself a mother's helper. They're someone who's there when you are for the most part. They can supervise, play with the kids, take to the park, make lunch, help with chores and sometimes if they're old enough watch them while you shop/run errands. I used to find them at the high school in my area that ran a child development class, they had background checks and training in child development. You could also try local daycares to see if anyone wanted hours outside of those. Everyone needs a break sometimes." — Mudd82

2. Don't be afraid to do nothing

"You need the time to rest in the evenings. After kid goes to bed, take a bath. Run an errand if you need to. Maybe husband can take over bedtime and bath every other day so you get to sit on the sofa and do nothing." — KatesDT

3. Share the load

"My wife and I go every other night with the toddler. I do bed time one night and she does bed time the next night.

Gives a few hours of alone time."— jonahsnarc

4. Take advantage of nap time

"During his nap time, try to do things that will help you recharge. Reading, a long shower, painting, gardening, whatever hobby you have that is fulfilling for you. I know for me that nap time is valuable time for chores or sleeping." — etherealbadger

5. Have a baby proofed room

"Aggressively baby proof one space in your house just for the kiddo. Get rid of all chokeables, protect the outlets, anchor the furniture. Having a room where the worst that can happen is they fall over of their own accord can give you a little mental peace." — avesmaria

6. Drink water

"Drink water. The health and beauty benefits are totally worth having to pee." —apotatopirate

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7. Encourage independent play

"Start teaching your child how to play alone. Maybe with a kitchen timer and start with small increments of time. They can play by themself for X minutes and then when the timer goes off, you play with him a little. Gradually increase the amount of time as you go. While they are playing, do something for yourself." —Domina_Mollia

8. Take a shower—alone

"My self-care consists mainly of uninterrupted showers! My husband knows that's my tiny slice of sanity." —moondruidmum

9. Find a quiet place

"Sometimes my self-care is as simple as going through the drive through at Starbucks, parking on a quiet street somewhere and watching Netflix on my phone while I drink it. I also enjoy baking, walking around places like Hobby Lobby or Target, or just taking a long bath." —MrFoxSox

10. Put on some music and let go

"I like to turn on Beyoncé and bake cookies while dancing and singing along." —MollyStrongMama


Life

Going through infertility let me know that there are some things in life that I just can't control. For someone who already has a hard time relinquishing control in life (call me a bit of a control nut!), entering the world of IVF was not only hard physically and mentally, but it also was incredibly difficult because it showed me things about myself that were at odds with this journey.

I realized how much I had needed to be in control of my life, how much I took for granted that my life path most often "always worked out" the way I imagined it would and I also realized how impatient I was.

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IVF treatment strips away a lot of yourself. You are forced to give up control and forced to wait….a lot. In our case, both my husband and I had potential issues and the two of us pulled away from the rest of our friends whose sperm romantically found their partner's ripe egg and impregnated them the old fashioned way.

While we were undergoing a lot of things physically and emotionally in a dark, isolating world of blood labs, doctor's offices and at many times, what seemed like barbaric tests. Something made me very "hush-hush" about it and I'm usually a wide-open book about everything. I guess you could say I was ashamed, I felt like it was a weakness or a flaw.

I only opened up about our struggle with fertility when I, finally, had a successful pregnancy and realized that once you go into the world of IVF there's no turning back. I was now an "IVF person." I became really passionate about the world of infertility especially once I started talking to others who went through it. This was one of the things that I felt now defined me, I had an "infertility journey," I was a #ttcsister, and because of IVF, I became a mom.

I embraced it and became proud of it. I launched my business by sharing my infertility story and it was so much a part of who I was. It motivated me to start to form an in-person community of women, pregnant, trying to conceive, or already moms based on my struggles with motherhood... before they even started! All while pregnant and then giving birth to my daughter.

Then a year and a half later I accidentally got pregnant.

The truth is, I never went back on birth control after having our baby because I didn't want to go through getting off of it again. Some people might not be able to relate to thinking you can't get pregnant on your own. They can't imagine the idea that you and your husband's test results indicate that the likelihood of pregnancy without IVF is basically zero.

But somehow, one of my husband's sperm in the millions of sperms that were morphologically corrupt found its way to my egg at the perfect time. The interesting part is that one of the most prominent thoughts I had when this happened was that I now felt like an imposter. How could I just get knocked up?!

I was helping and advocating for infertility and it was actually approaching National Infertility Awareness Week. I spent several weeks hiding just like I did during my last pregnancy.

Then, one day at work, I felt so sick from morning sickness and I couldn't tell anyone why. I went into the bathroom and just cried. Not just because of how debilitating the sickness was, but because of how alone I felt. Here I was trying to bring moms together yet I was isolating myself.

I was experiencing every IVF veteran's dream and I wasn't happy. I was feeling badly, torn, upset and just irrationally guilty and I needed support. I picked myself up, walked out of that bathroom and told every one of my colleagues at work "I'm pregnant, by mistake, and I need help."

The truth is, I've realized that just because I dodged IVF and some of those hardships this time around and truly feel like I was given the biggest stroke of luck, it doesn't change what I went through to get my first daughter. It also doesn't change my passion for advocacy in infertility and fighting with all my might for motherhood.

Life
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