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I sat in bed, haphazardly staring at my phone, my thumb robotically scrolling through Instagram posts of moms clearly doing it better than I was. My back ached from my hunched posture, but adjusting my body felt like too much work. From down the hall, a little voice called out, "Mom, I can't sleep," and all I could muster were the words, "Okay, babe." No solutions offered, no words of consolation. Because I had run out of solutions, run out of words.

Cautiously, my sweet husband asked, "Babe? You doing okay?"

I considered the question. I ran through the mental load quietly yet oppressively pressing in on me—the ever-present worry, guilt, stress.

I thought of the ways so many women I know answer that question. Not the "So great! How are you?!" we say a little too loudly to make it sound more believable. The real answers that we share when we feel like it's okay to be vulnerable:

I am running on fumes.
I am depleted.
I don't even know.

But I shouldn't complain. I am lucky in so many ways. I love being a mother. I love my life.

So instead of laying it all out there, instead of addressing the vulnerable parts, I simply replied, "I'm fine, babe. Today was just… hard."

"Okay, well let's find some time this weekend for you to do something by yourself for a few hours." He's embraced my "self-care is important for moms" soapbox, and tries as hard as he can to help me live it.

But the truth is that self-care is not enough. And it's time that we stop telling moms that a simple act of self-care will undo the years of culture-induced overwhelm that is causing us all to burn out.

There is no bubble bath that will hush the constant underlying buzz of anxiety.

There is no girls-weekend-away that will undo the isolation of a fourth trimester spent without a village.

There is no nap that will revive the energy poured into balancing a career with motherhood.

There is no glass of wine that will ease the accumulating effect of all the ailments we "haven't had time to see a doctor about."

Moms are burnt out, and our society needs to start caring.

Motherly's 2019 State of Motherhood survey found that 51% of moms feel discouraged when it comes to managing the stress of work and motherhood. About one-third of moms said that their mental and physical health is suffering. And 85% of moms said that our society does not do a good job of supporting mothers.

Eighty-five percent.

Society is asking you to nurture in an environment that does not nurture you back.

So, darling mama, please hear me: You are not imagining your burnout. And your burnout is not your fault.

You are burnt out because from the moment you announced your pregnancy or plan to adopt, you were bombarded with unsolicited advice and stories about how awful your upcoming experience would be.

You are burnt out because you had to return to work before you were ready, and then shamed for not breastfeeding your baby for long enough.

You are burnt out because you feel like you have to continually justify your decision to leave the paid workforce.

You are burnt out because you eat leftover goldfish and sandwich crusts for lunch.

You are burnt out because you are constantly juggling the pressure to spend ample time being truly present with your child with the pressure to have a clean and decluttered home.

You are burnt out because you after a day of constant toddler-touching, you feel like you should be fresh, sexy, and available for your partner.

You are burnt out because the news is exhausting and defeating.

You are burnt out because not a day goes by without something reminding you of the baby weight you still haven't lost. Of that perfect body lost.

You are burnt out because you are constantly reading and hearing new advice about the "best" way to raise your child—and balancing that with the contradictory ways your family and in-laws are telling you to do it.

You are burnt out because no matter how many coupons you cut, how many vacations you don't take, you still can't find a way to dig yourself out of debt.

You are burnt out because you know your child shouldn't watch another show on TV, but you just don't know how to make dinner happen without it.

You are burnt out because your third babysitter in two months just gave their two-week notice, and the waitlist for daycare is impossibly long.

You are burnt out because you miss your friends.

You are burnt out because you've poured from your cup for so long that you've forgotten how to tilt the cup upright and save some for yourself.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Mama, you are not doing it wrong. It's just that hard.

And your burnout is not your fault.

Now some of the answers to these problems are obvious, but most are not. Because these are not problems you have created. These are manifestations of cultural shortcomings that leave moms hurting. Though it's not right or fair, it is up to us to fix them, because it doesn't seem like anyone else is going to.

It's not taking a bubble bath, and it's definitely not having an extra glass of wine at night.

It's about being vulnerable.

By saying that you refuse to buy into the notion of the perfect mother or the perfect wife.

By being authentic, even when you are authentically burnt out.

By being honest.

If you haven't had a chance to watch Brene Brown's Netflix special, I cannot recommend it enough. In it, she talks about how courageous it is to be vulnerable. In a 2013 interview with Forbes, Brown said:

"Vulnerability is about showing up and being seen. It's tough to do that when we're terrified about what people might see or think. When we're fueled by the fear of what other people think or that gremlin that's constantly whispering 'You're not good enough' in our ear, it's tough to show up. We end up hustling for our worthiness rather than standing in it."

But mama, what if you did stand in your worthiness? Even if your house is messy. Even when your toddler is melting down in the grocery store. Even when everything feels like it's falling apart.

What if you stood among the mess and declared your worthiness?

By saying no.

By asking for help.

By stating what you need, without apology.

And by holding space for other mothers to do the same.

You might get ignored at first. You might get some side eyes. But by being vulnerable—by putting it all out there, owning your story, and supporting other mothers as they claim their worthiness, we start to make it better.

Being vulnerable is incredibly uncomfortable. The good news is that no one on this planet is braver than a mother.

Let down your guard, mama. It won't be easy, not one bit. But your bravery will inspire another mama and before you know it, we'll have a culture shift on our hands. And then, we can really enjoy that bubble bath.

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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).

News

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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