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I wrote a 'By the time I'm 40' list in my 20s—and it's time to start crossing things off

We all have one. The list. A list of dreams and goals that we hope to have accomplished by the time we are 40. The list usually makes an appearance at some point in our early to mid-20s.

We may journal it, think it through, and tuck it away in the back of our minds, or perhaps write it down on a piece of paper, fold it up, and stow it away in a safe place. That's what I did. I can't tell you where that list is now but I can still go back into my mind, unfold that piece of paper, and read the words written on it as easily as if I was holding it in my hand. I can see my old handwriting and the neatness of youth and remember the feeling of having so much time. I can feel the passion and determination of year 21. The absolute certainty in my mind and the fire in my heart when I wrote it.

We choose to cross the items off of our list by age 40 because it's a safe age. To someone in their early 20s, 40 is far enough away that we are certain we will have enough time to accomplish our goals by then. I mean 40 is years and years away. Isn't it?

Then life goes on. The list sits in the back of our minds. Like a gentle whisper it quietly reminds us of its existence. But we are in our 20s and we have nothing but time so we silence the whispers. We will get there. We have time.

Suddenly 30 is upon us. The whispers become a bit louder. They tug at our sleeve, tap us on the shoulder. Remember us? Don't forget your list. But life gets real, in the gritty and unexpected way that life does.

You find yourself navigating stormy seas that the sunny blue skies of 21 could have never prepared you for. You learn what it means to choke back your emotions and do what must be done to get by. To pay the bills. To care for the children. To survive. You make sacrifices, and you take detours, and you tell yourself: One day I will get to the list. One day.

Then 35. Those whispers are now a wind, rustling leaves and shaking branches. And we pause. Oh yes, 35 is always a time for pause. We listen for a short while. Maybe as we blow the candles out on our cake. Or perhaps after an extra glass of wine lowers our defenses and allows those whispers to be heard. Detours have taken us so far away from the words of 21, but that's okay. We have time. But the leaves continue to rustle, and the branches creak.

We turn 39. Those winds become a tornado. They grab our thoughts, twisting and turning them and demanding attention. The list. What about the list?

At least, that's what happened to me. One month away from 39 and those whispers became a scream, demanding to know: If not now, when? Life becomes so very real in your 39th year. You have watched loved ones and friends lose battles with illness and lose their lives. Time becomes such a concrete thing. It's no longer something that you think you will have forever, but something on loan with an expiration date. Something so much more precious than you could've ever imagined before. And that list…

Don't get me wrong. I have crossed things off the list. I desperately wanted to be a mother and have a large family. Check and check. But what I haven't yet crossed off are the things that feed my soul and fill my heart with a different kind of fulfillment. Those 21-year-old passions may look different, but they don't change. Not really.

The trouble is life comes along, reads the list, and tells us (in the logical and matter-of-fact way that life talks) that the list is unrealistic. How can the dreams of a silly-hearted 21-year-old with stars in her eyes make any sense in the very real and harsh light of life?

Then we make the sacrifices and we take the detours because we have to. But that list is like a song from your youth. It plays over and over and over again, in the back of your mind. Just like true passions, they don't change, and they won't be ignored.

Suddenly I was facing the reality of 40 looming at the end of my 39th year, and that damned, persistent, familiar list was absolutely refusing to be ignored any longer. It consumed me. Because again, if not now, when? My 39th year. It was time.

I decided to pay my 21-year-old self a visit and take another look at that list. Two items jumped out of my memory and into the present:

1 | Become a writer. Write your book.

2 | Follow your dreams. Don't let this world make you forget who you are.

I had always written. Words were my sanctuary when I was filled with emotions that I couldn't express in any other way. But over the years I had stopped writing. Sometimes the emotions became too much for paper and often being a wife and a mom was so consuming that I simply didn't bother to write. I was suffering for it. I had forgotten that before I was a mom and a wife, I had been a writer. I realized that my list wasn't so much about accomplishing goals and dreams as it was remembering who I was.

So I wrote. The words flowed and my heart soared and I realized that I needed to remember who I was. I was missing that piece of myself that I had let go of over the years.

Revisit your list. Don't wait too long. You may have left some important pieces of yourself behind. Find them, and cross them off. Your list is waiting.


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Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

What does that mean?

It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

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Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

1. Use positive reinforcement.

Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

2. Be simple and direct.

Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

3. Re-think the "time out."

Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

4. Use 'no' sparingly.

When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

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To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

So here's what I want you to know, mama.

If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

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No one decides to be a stay-at-home mom for the paycheck—but if we were to earn one, it would put us in league with some CEOs. Although it doesn't do much for the bank account, a survey that calculated what the average salary would be for a stay-at-home mom is mighty validating. (Remember this next time anyone asks what you do all day.)

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