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A bright teenager wrote to tell me she found my blog using the following search words: "how to remind my mother I am a human being with feelings.” The young lady explained, “I could do a million things right, but my mom could still find the flaws, and that ruins the whole day.”


At that sight of those words, my eyes became wet. I cried for this young woman. I cried for her mother. I cried for my own little girl who used to pick her lip in the back of the car after our stressful departures. I cried for the woman who sat behind the wheel aching with regret for expecting so much of a 6-year-old child.

For years, I justified my overly critical behavior by telling myself I was doing it to help her—help her become more responsible, capable, efficient, and prepare for the real world.

I told myself I was building her up.

But in reality, I was tearing her down.

I vividly remember the day my mother was visiting from out-of-town. My two daughters were playing alone in the basement. My younger daughter began crying hysterically. I ran downstairs fearing she was seriously hurt.

The first question out of my mouth was directed at my older daughter. “What did you do?” I asked angrily.

My child didn’t bother to explain that her little sister had slipped on the library book that was sitting on the bottom step. There really was no point. My beautiful child with humongous brown eyes that once held so much optimism looked defeated. Silent tears of a broken spirit slid down her face. My daughter knew it didn’t matter what she said, she’d still be wrong; it would still be her fault.

And there was my mother standing beside her, a silent witness to the whole ugly scene.

As my older daughter ran off to the sanctity of her bedroom, an unexpected question came out of my mouth. “You think I am too hard on her, don’t you?” I snapped.

My mom, who’d experienced her own difficult parenting moments and struggles, held no judgment in her eyes, only sadness. Her simple response of “yes” only confirmed what I knew in my heart.

I mustered up the courage to find the words that needed to be said. Apologizing didn’t come easily for someone who strived to make everything look perfect all the time, but I knew what needed to be said.

I found my child crumpled up like a dejected rag doll on top of her bed—her face puffy and red from crying.

“I’m sorry,” I mumbled.

My daughter didn’t move.

I sat down on the edge of her bed and began saying things I’d never said to another human being—not even myself.

“I feel mad inside a lot. I often speak badly about myself in my head. I bully myself. And when I bully myself, it makes me unhappy and then I treat others badly—especially you. It is not right, and I am going to stop. I am not sure how, but I will stop. I am so very sorry,” I vowed trying not to cry.

My daughter looked unsure as to what to do with this confession, this unusual offering from her mother who rarely admitted any wrongdoing. I didn’t blame her for the skeptical look she gave me. I understood why she didn’t say anything back, but somewhere in those eyes I saw hope—hope that things could be different.

I knew I had to silence my inner bully: The voice that was prone to criticize my children and myself. The one who set unrealistically high standards. The one who could never be pleased. The one who blocked grace from entering our home.

I realized that my inner bully was a destructive force that prevented me from living and loving fully. Not only would it destroy my chance at true fulfillment and joy, it would also rob my child of hers.

During prayer time one morning, I heard three powerful words: ONLY LOVE TODAY. ❤️

Those three words stirred a hope and an optimism in me I hadn’t felt in years. Maybe it wasn’t too late to create new, positive patterns in my heart and home. I desperately wanted to believe.

Within the hour, I had a chance to try it. The first critical thought that popped into my head arose as I was preparing to leave the house. I looked at my reflection and thought, “You look fat. You can’t go out looking like that.”

“Stop!” I assertively thought to myself, shutting down any further criticisms. Then I quickly turned away from the mirror and recited these words: “Only love today. Only love today.”

I used the same strategy when interacting with my child a few minutes later. Before any harsh words came out of my mouth about the way she was sloppily packing her bag of things, I cut off my inner critic by saying, “Stop. Only love today.” Then I swallowed the hurtful words and relaxed my disapproving face.

Within mere days of using the “stop” technique, I noticed a change. With a more positive thought process, it was easier to let go of the need to control, dictate and criticize. In response, my daughter began taking more chances and began revealing her true passions. She started movie making and website design on the computer. She made doll furniture and clothing to sell in the neighborhood. She began baking new recipes without any help. Nothing she did was perfect—nor was it mess-free or mistake-free.

But the moment I said something positive, I saw her blossom a little more. That is when I began to clearly see beyond the mistakes and messes to what was truly important.

I began noticing my child’s inner beauty rather than looking for perfection on the outside.

I began paying more attention to the person she was rather than the successes she achieved.

I began letting her be who she was meant to be instead of some idealistic version of her in my head.

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For the first time in a long time, grace was present. It was mine for the taking. It was mine for the offering. And over time, grace became a peaceful and permanent inhabitant of our home. And as a result, a loving bond was established between my child and me.

My daughter recently entered middle school. We talk in the sanctity of her room at night. She asks me which outfits look best. She paints my nails whenever I have something special to attend. She tells me her hopes for the future. She tells me her worries. She tells me things she doesn’t tell anyone else. Each morning she likes me to walk with her to the bus stop. And each time she does, I send up a prayer of gratitude for this sacred invitation. I came painfully close to missing such invitations.

As my child leans in for a brief side hug before walking up to the bus stop, I think of the bright young lady who found my blog through a Google search. I think of her mother, and hope the following message will someday reach her:

If you think criticizing, belittling or critiquing yourself will make you smarter, fitter or more valuable, please reconsider.

If you think badgering, bullying, or constantly correcting your child will make him or her more likable, more confident, or more successful, please reconsider.

Because the truth is this:

It’s hard to love yourself with a bully breathing down your neck.

It’s hard to love yourself when the one person who’s supposed love you unconditionally doesn’t.

It’s hard to become the person you’re supposed to be when you aren’t allowed to fall down and get back up.

If we want our children to become who they’re meant to be, let’s ease up ourselves. “Mistakes mean we’re learning” can be healing and empowering words when said to oneself or to another human being.

Let’s stop the ridicule. Let’s stop the pressure. Let’s stop the impossible pursuit of perfection.

Today stands in front of us open to change, open to second chances, open to grace.

Only love today, dear one. Only love today.

Because love is a good place to start a new beginning.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Burnout is something we all experience and stress from your finances may play a major part in that. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to combat financial fatigue and finally feel like you're in a positive relationship with your money.

Here are a few tips that will help to reduce your money stress—to ensure that you're equipped with an actionable plan to take control of your finances and finally meet your money goals.

1. Know where you stand

The best way to counteract getting overwhelmed is getting organized. First thing's first: rip off the band-aid, look at how much your household has spent (and on what). Spend time checking your bills and looking at your bank account balance and credit statements to get a clear picture of where your finances are at.

2. Adjust your budget

Rewrite your budget to fit your current reality. Budgeting can help you see where you can cut unnecessary expenses and increase flexibility in your family's choices down the line. If you have to tighten your belt for the first month or so of the year to ensure you're paying back your holiday debts, so be it.

If budgeting feels overwhelming, start with an app that can simplify it. Mint, for example, allows you to create budgets that make sense for you. You Need a Budget breaks down your spending as well.

3. Take action to boost your credit score

Here are three ways to do just that:

  1. Set up autopay: Whether or not you make payments on time is the most important element in the calculation of your credit score. As long as you pay your bills on or before the deadline, your score will be in good standing. Turbo is a great, free resource to monitor how your credit score is affected by your bill payments.
  2. Know your credit utilization: Something that we don't always take into consideration is our credit utilization. Your credit utilization is the ratio of your credit card balances to credit limits. If you're using your credit cards responsibly and paying bills on time, you will lower your credit utilization percentage, thus increasing your credit score.
  3. Keep old accounts open: Your credit age makes up 15% of your credit score, and the only way to increase the age is to keep old accounts open and avoid opening new ones.

4. Set clear goals and hold yourself accountable

Does your family have big vacation plans, or maybe a new house is on the horizon? Make sure that you're considering both short and long-term goals early on, so they don't creep up on you. Be honest with yourself from the get-go so you can plan and prepare for your upcoming expenses. Once you've set your goals and your focus is on getting back on track, hold yourself accountable by setting regular check-ins to track your progress.

5. Be easy on yourself

Events, like the holidays, birthdays or vacation are meant to be celebrated, and that means festivities, fun and (maybe) some frivolousness. Don't beat yourself up if your bank account looks different than you expected after they're over. As long as you're actively working toward your financial goals, being consistent and being patient with yourself, your bank statements (and financial fatigue) will even out.

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Baby clothes are SO cute.

Maybe it's because they are typically either designed to make children look like little bears or mini-adults. Or maybe it's because they're just so tiny? 🤷 Any which way you look at it, they're beyond adorable. I mean—what human can resist an infant who looks like a tiny, soft bunny?

Cute as they are, they're also kind of pricey. And babies grow quickly, which means they need new sizes quickly. Oh, and also they get poop and spit-up on a lot of stuff, and then they eventually graduate to stains that are of the paint and peanut butter variety.

The lesson? The cost of baby clothes (and don't get me started on shoes that fit them for two seconds) adds up, but on the other hand—with the amount they grow and stain things—you sort of feel like you need a lot and that you're always looking for the next size stuff.

I swear, I just brought up the 18-month clothes, but now I need to get the 24-month size clothes out. (How is such a large part of motherhood constantly cycling through clothing that fits/doesn't fit your baby anymore?)

Cue: Hand-me-downs.

I found out the sex of my babies each of the three times I was pregnant: girl, girl, and then girl again. So, let's just say, we have gotten our money's worth with children's clothes over the years. Plus, my kids have cousins around the same ages so we've gotten a fair share of hand-me-downs from them, along with random pieces like snowsuits or extra swaddle blankets from friends. They've all been a godsend.

I've always been kind of sentimental about clothes—I can often tie memories to what I was wearing. My 21st birthday party? That very short blue and green floral number. The night my husband proposed to me? An ugly work outfit that I changed out of before we went out to dinner to celebrate (😂). My hospital stay for my youngest daughter? New black pajamas I treated myself to.

But somehow—likely the extreme cuteness levels—baby clothes kick the sentimental levels up about a hundred notches.

I remember the first piece of baby clothing I got as a gift when I was pregnant with my oldest daughter. It was a sweet pink one piece with a little teddy bear in the center. It had an eyelet detail to it and the feet looked like little bear paws. My mom gave it to me the night we told our families that we were having a little girl.

I remember imagining how the tiny little human inside me would be able to fit into this tiny little outfit.

I remember imagining what it would be like to button her into it and hold her while wearing it.

I remember finally dressing her in it and marveling at how amazing all of this was. I was a mother, and this was my baby.

I remember buying each of my children's coming home outfits and what they wore for their first Christmas. I remember seeing each of them in specific outfits that the other one wore, truly in awe that this was a new human we created, in the same outfit the other human we created wore.

I remember putting a hand-me-down sweater on my daughter that was once her father's sweater. I never knew clothes could melt my heart until that day. Seeing some of the one piece pajamas my girls wore all the time—like those monkey jams and the multicolored striped Zutano onesie—bring me back to the time of my life when I was a "new mom" again.

But then I remember thinking, okay, we have a LOT of clothes, and we can't keep them all. Even if we have another baby at some point down the road, we need to get rid of a lot of stuff now. It's overwhelming.

So, as Marie Kondo might advise, I've sorted through the clothes that no longer fit my kids and I've kept the pieces that still spark joy. Those pieces are now used as doll clothes or are safely tucked away in my children's memory boxes in the basement so that they can have them when they're older.

The rest? We have either passed them on as hand-me-downs to other families or we've donated them. And honestly, giving another family who could use our hand-me-downs (we've spared them the ones with poop and spit-up stains!) feels just as great, if not greater, than scoring helpful hand-me-downs for your own kiddos.

It's one way the village is there for you in motherhood. I can't, unfortunately, get to my sister and my niece five hours away from me to drop off a container of soup for dinner or to take her to the park to give my sister a break for an hour—but I can pack up my daughter's clothes and bring them down the next time we visit.

In the busyness of our day-to-day, my friend and I can't nail down a time to get the kids together—but she can lend me a snowsuit for my youngest to use—coming in the clutch and saving me about $50.

Getting a bag of hand-me-downs from another mom is equivalent to getting a big, genuine hug from a mama who knows how hard this all can be. She is thinking of you, reaching out to you and extending a helping hand. And the best part is that this helping-hand-me-down chain can continue because the clothes she gives you can then be passed along to another mama and so on and so on.

Who knew that these little cute pieces of clothing could connect us all in such a gushy, beautiful way?

To all the mothers who have passed their hand-me-downs on to another mama in need—thank you. Keep on thinking of ways to help your fellow moms when you can, because we really are all on this wild ride together.

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Christmas Eve is a rare birthday, and it's a fitting birthday for a baby girl who was a gift to her own family, and those of other sick babies.

When Krysta Davis was four months pregnant with her daughter, Rylei Arcadia Lovett, Krysta and her husband Dereck got some heartbreaking news. Baby Rylei had Anencephaly. Her brain was underdeveloped to a fatal degree. Doctors gave Krysta the option of having Rylei then, in her second trimester, or carrying her to term so that her tiny organs could be donated to babies who needed them.

"If I wasn't able to bring my baby home, at least others could bring theirs home," Davis told ABC affiliate News Channel 9.

As heartbroken as she was, Krysta carried her baby girl for five more months, giving her body time to grow the organs that would be such an amazing gift to families who were in a kind of pain the Lovetts know all too well.

Doctors told the couple that Rylei would probably live for about 30 minutes after birth, but Rylei held on for an entire week. "There's no way to describe how amazing it felt. When you go to thinking you'll only have 30 minutes with your child and you get an entire week," Davis told News Channel 9.

For that week, Rylei got all the cuddles and skin-to-skin contact a baby could ask for. "I wouldn't trade this week for anything in the whole wide world," she wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to Rylei's memory, adding that she was so proud of her daughter and the fight she put up.



Rylei was then taken for surgery, and although some of her organs were no longer viable due to oxygen loss, some very important ones were.

"They said her heart valves will go toward saving two other babies and the lungs will be sent off for research to see what else can be learned about Anencephaly from them," Krysta wrote.

Krysta and Dereck only got to hold onto their baby for a week. It's not fair and that pain is unimaginable. But now, two other families will get to hold their babies for a lot longer. It can't take away Krysta's pain, but it does make her happy to know that somewhere, another mama is holding a little piece of Rylei.

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One morning, after a rousing rendition of up-every-two-hours-with-a-teething-baby, bleary-eyed and fully-caffeinated, I texted my best friend:

I am 100% done having children. I can't do this again.

She came through with some sympathetic words, mood-lightening emojis and a gentle reminder that this is temporary. "It's the fatigue talking," she suggested.

But no, it wasn't just the fatigue talking. That morning, sitting like a zombie in my office cube, I meant it. The night before, as I rocked my youngest and stroked her wispy baby curls, I knew I was done.

She chewed on her fingers and looked up at me with wide eyes and a tear-stained face. We locked eyes, and while I didn't resent her at that moment (how could I?), I did feel a sense of finality with this stage of motherhood.

I realized that I'm ready to move on. I'm ready to watch her grow into a person and move beyond the baby years.

Eventually, life moved beyond that evil emerging molar, and we settled back into our routine. I returned to being a functioning member of my team at work. And at home, I'd catch myself smiling, looking at my two girls as they played together with my husband. This is what our family is meant to look like, I thought. Life is loud and full and happy. I don't need anything else.

Then, one night as we were getting ready for bed, after a visit with some friends who are expecting their first baby, my husband said it: "I miss when you were pregnant."

My heart raced a little—surely he didn't mean it. He must just be having a weak moment after seeing our friends with their baby. HE had been the one who was adamant that two children was enough for us. HE had been the one to quickly shut down any "what ifs" that I'd raised. How could he be saying this right after I told myself we were done?

So, I reminded him. "No, you don't. You don't miss my cankles or carpal tunnel syndrome or my high blood pressure. Or my complaining and flopping around trying to get comfortable in bed with no less than six pillows. Really, you don't."

But he missed the other stuff, he said. The magic of it all—feeling the baby move, wondering if it was a boy or a girl and what our family dynamic would be like when the baby arrived. "Relax," he'd said. He was just being wistful. He assured me that there were no more babies are in our future.

As he rolled over that night and went to sleep (easily, might I add), I lay awake reliving his words. I knew what he meant. Growing a family together is a special time, one filled with awe. After this particular conversation, I was 75% sure we were done having kids.

Life settled back in again, but this time my 4-year-old threw me. She climbed up on the couch, into my lap, and put her arms around my neck.

"Mommy," she sighed and paused dramatically as though a big proclamation was looming. She pulled back and looked me in the eyes, "I'd like a brother."

I laughed it off and explained that she had a sister, which was so great. I only had a sister, Daddy only had a sister and we are all very happy people. She brushed me off after a couple of minutes and ran off to play.

But then I found myself thinking. What's one more kid, really? We know what we're doing. We'd be so much more relaxed. We already have a minivan for cryin' out loud!

In my heart of hearts, I believe we are done. I'm grateful for what I have and I love our family, but there are small moments where I catch myself wondering if a little boy would round us out. If we just waited until our youngest was a little older…

It's these moments of second guessing myself—the wondering, the daydreaming—that get me. But it's also the big moments of practicality and reason (hello, day care costs) that then reel me back in. We're doing fine just the way we are.

So, like I said…

That's how I know I'm 50% sure we're done having children. 😜

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