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Every once in a while—probably on the rare days when I remember to match my socks and put on mascara—another mama will see me with my four children and get the (mistaken) impression that I know what I'm doing. Sometimes they ask me things I know the answers to, like what aisle the diapers are in at our local grocery store. But other times the question they ask me is hard.

The other day, I got one of these questions. A friend had just been through five days (that is not a typo) of labor and had finally delivered a beautiful baby, her first. She asked me if I could recommend anything, herbal or the like, that would increase her energy so she could heal and take care of her baby and her house and do all of the other things that a regular life requires.

When I read her email, it sounded frantic and stressed to me. I worried for her. In my opinion, she was a superhero, and yet in hers, she was falling short. When I walked away for a while and came back to reread it, I realized her tone was normal. That frantic voice had been my own. Her email had hit a nerve with me, because while her circumstances were different, her situation was universal.

This is what we do, isn't it? We try so hard, and want to do so much. When we fall short of our own expectations, we adjust us instead of adjusting the expectations. We go to bed later, or set the alarm earlier. We sacrifice our yoga class or our ladies night and trade it for an extra load of laundry or yet another trip to the grocery store. We become martyrs.

I saw myself doing this recently. Life had become especially stressful and overwhelming, as it does, and I decided that a daily workout was in order. It's healthier than wine or a pint of ice cream in front of Netflix, I reasoned, so I started to set the alarm earlier and earlier.

When it went off, I resented it. I would still put my feet to the hardwoods and lay out my mat, but my breathing was stiff and my moves lacked heart.

I was so tired.

And I couldn't focus. I was there on my mat, only feet from my washer and dryer, thinking, Maybe I should just throw a load of laundry in, or, If I skip this and unload the dishwasher, I can leave for work five minutes earlier, or If I got in the shower right now, I might even have time to shave my legs!

Eventually, I'd give up trying and go find a chore, thinking I would thank myself later on the backend for the work I did on the frontend.

There's a problem with that though: there will always be another chore.

I've yet to find the last one myself. They keep popping up like a game of Whac-A-Mole. I fold and put away the last load of laundry and return to find the basket full of that day's clothes. I clean the kitchen to a shine and, five minutes later, greasy fingerprints smear along each cabinet at four different heights.

I can safely say that there has never been a time in recent memory when I have settled onto the couch after a long day and thought, "Whew! That was a tough day. But at least everything is done."

I also have a nagging suspicion that if, by some miracle, I did finish it all, it would be sort of anti-climatic. I doubt Ed McMahon would ring my doorbell, holding balloons and an oversized check. And that is probably a good thing, as I would not be wearing a bra or decent pants.

I thought for a long time before I responded to my friend's email.

I thought about how I drink too much coffee in the mornings, chasing wakefulness, but finding jitteriness instead, and then drink calming tea in the afternoons to bring my heart rate back down to a reasonable level. I thought about the evenings when I sometimes drink too much wine, chasing relaxation, and wake up instead with a headache, needing more coffee, and a full repeat of the cycle.

I thought about one of my lifelines, an ongoing group text with close friends, where we each can find each other saying things like, "Is it okay to not shower and spend three hours watching Netflix in my bed on a Saturday afternoon?" Everyone inevitably answers, "YES! Absolutely," giving each other permission to relax freely, even when we struggle to give that permission to ourselves.

The more I thought about that woman who labored for five days, the more I wanted to tell her what a hero I thought she was. Because it's important to think about how much we have achieved instead of how much we haven't.

When one of the girls in my group text wrote, "Is it okay if…" I immediately told her she was a hero, too, just for getting out of bed each morning when she didn't really feel like she could.

Later, when I shared my chocolate with my 4-year-old, even though I really wanted the whole thing for myself, I thought, Well, now I am kind of a hero, too.

If we want to keep saving the world, us heroes have got to rest. While sometimes it can feel selfish or even indulgent to take time for ourselves, no one wants a sad, broken mama. We need to take time to do the things that heal us.

When I finally sat down to write that new mother back, I said this:

"I know just the thing for you! It's a widely known remedy that can heal or at least put a dent in almost anything that ails you. It's free, and anyone can do it, regardless of athletic ability. This miracle, sweet mama, is rest. Give yourself permission to honor your body's needs, because you just came through battle, and you are a hero."

And then I took my own advice.

Sometimes I still wake early and do sun salutations until my arms shake and sweat drips onto my mat. Other days, my alarm goes off and I make my way downstairs, unfurl my mat, lie down on it, place a blanket over my body, and go back to sleep.

Because sleep is good. And I'm a hero.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.


Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

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

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"


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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)

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Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Life

Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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