Print Friendly and PDF

[Editor's note: When we shared 'Self-care' is not enough to fix how much moms are burnt out, the response was overwhelming. It hit a nerve, as mothers from across the globe expressed their collective burnout. We heard two things: 1). I feel that way too, and 2). How do we fix this? In response, Motherly introduces our new editorial franchise offering expert-based solutions that address the very real burnout that mothers are facing. It is not going to be easy to make this better, but if we take small steps and work together, we can impact serious change.]

After a full day of work and being with my kids, I am exhausted. It is not an unfamiliar feeling, as I know many mothers—close friends and clients—echo similar sentiments. It is a common experience that women are exhausted at the end of the day. Many describe it as being "touched out" and others are experiencing the impacts of burn out.


Then, a text comes in from a dear friend, asking me for help.

"Just say yes, Tracy," my internal dialogue tells me. "Don't let others down. You don't want to upset your friend. It won't take that long."

This dialogue is a strong one—it tells me to ignore what I am feeling at this moment and it tells me to care for others without considering what I need.

So I plow forward and give what the other person is asking. Afterward, I collapse even further into my bed, none the more rested than when I first laid down.

Women often care for others before we care for ourselves. We are used to being the primary caregivers, so naturally, we put others first.

We are trying to balance heavier loads than ever before. Work. Children. Friendships. Household. Relationships. Family. Our own interests and well-being. It becomes impossible to manage all of the demands that are placed on us. And yet we keep caring and giving to others.

There are many signs that you tend to be a caregiver and put others first:

  • You don't say no to others as you feel guilty
  • You don't suggest something or do something your way
  • You don't ask your partner for help but easily offer to help them
  • You constantly feel drained and tired from others' requests.
  • You describe yourself as a "doer." You thrive on doing things, instead of allowing yourself to be in the moment. As a "doer," you are busy thinking of the next moment, and you feel filled up when you care for others.
  • You hold yourself to a high standard and keep caring for others because you hate letting others down. And, you might even begin to feel resentful over time.

But I have to ask: What does caring for others give you?

Many will say they don't want to upset others, they feel obligated to give to others, and they feel responsible for how others feel. But caring for others is a way to avoid feeling negative issues in your relationships. Some of my clients say they don't want to let someone down. And sometimes caring can be a form of avoiding what you are genuinely struggling with.

For myself, it took me a while to realize that by ensuring I was always available for others (including my husband at bath time or at the slightest moment when a child fussed), I was feeding my self-worth. The rules in my mind sounded something like this, "If I am always available to my friends, then I am worthy. If I show up for others whenever they need me, then I am good enough."

But the challenge is that caring in this way for a period of time can be unhealthy, especially when you are maxed out—as we often are in motherhood.

That text message I responded to? I started to feel resentful towards my friend for needing me. But when I step back from that moment, it is not my friend that is responsible for me saying yes in response to her text—it is me.

I am responsible for my choices.

We need to talk about a word that often sounds dirty to many of my clients: boundaries.

Every client or couple that shows up in my office talks about difficulties with boundaries in some way. It is a word with a lot of impact on the wellness of you and your relationships. I like to think of boundaries like the elephant in the room—we all have them, they are always there, but we often don't talk about them.

If you identify with the challenge of saying no and being a caregiver, here are nine steps to help you learn how to say no, mama:

1. Tune in to when it is too much.

We have early signs that tell us we are taking on too much, and that we are exhausted. For some, these could be bodily experiences, like feeling tension in our shoulders or feeling exhausted all the time. Others might experience physiological symptoms like shortness of breath, dizziness or difficulties sleeping, or emotional symptoms like anxiety, frustration or irritability with your children).

A strong sign of having a heavy load is that you are viewing others negatively or feel like others are taking advantage of you.

2. Identify what giving to others is costing you.

Giving to others is a beautiful quality, and we need people like you. But there are people in your life that require you to be at your best—your children need you.

The analogy I like to use is a cell phone battery. You only have so much battery power to go about your day. What will you use it for each day? What is most important to you?

For some, making a list and prioritizing this helps to identify what needs to stay and what you need to say no to. Remember to acknowledge the cumulative effect of multiple small gives. Texting back all of your friends in one day and responding to messages on social media might be too much. It's okay to take a step back and pause.

3. You are not responsible for other's thoughts and feelings.

I want you to read that last sentence one more time.

So often I hear from clients, "I could never say no, that would hurt their feelings." Yes, saying no might hurt their feelings. But you are not responsible for that.

One friend might be excited that you are prioritizing yourself, and the other may feel hurt—it is then their responsibility to cope with their own feelings.

We all have our thoughts, feelings, opinions, desires, wishes and values. We are separate people. And it is our responsibility to cope with our inside experiences. You cannot control how others feel. Instead, we are responsible for how we communicate and say no to other people.

4. Say no.

You can say no in many kind and caring ways.

If you whisper your no, the other person will not hear you, and will likely push again.

If you scream, "Can't you see how overwhelmed I am?!" (a more aggressive remark) or mutter, "Yeah sure, 'I'll help you just after I change two diapers and do a million other things," (a passive-aggressive remark), it may not be the kindest way to express that you are overwhelmed.

An assertive, kind and caring ''no'' sounds like, "I know you need my help right now (empathize with the other person). However, I am not able to give you help (state what you need). Next time I would like to be able to help you (clarify for next time)."

Notice that your ''no'' does not include an apology. You do not need to apologize for having a boundary. You have a right to say no.

5. Take the broken record approach.

Remember, if you are a caregiver others will not be used to you saying no. Whether it's a coworker asking you to help with a project, a boss calling you after working hours, or a family member asking you to do a task, these people are likely not used to hearing you set boundaries.

They might even say, "But it 'won't take that much time," or "Just this time." If you change your no, you teach others that they can push and make you change your mind. Once you have decided to say no, maintain your boundary and repeat it. "'I'm not able to do this," over and over again.

6. Slow down.

Life moves so quickly. In a few clicks, I have enough items showing up to my front door to dress my newborn, entertain my toddler and host a play-date.

I can be in contact with 10 people at a time.

My child is asking for a snack, while I'm nursing my newborn, while also texting a friend to let them know I'm going to be late for our playdate.

Sound familiar? We move so quickly all day long.

Setting boundaries and learning to say no will take you slowing down. Before responding to someone's request, consider giving yourself some time away to reflect on what the other person is asking you, and whether you truly have the energy to provide them with.

Often, the answer is no, but you need space first to find that no.

7. Let go of your guilt.

Guilt is a powerful emotion, and mothers are particularly prone to experiencing it. Our society and social media place tremendous pressure on mothers—to have it all, to do it all, and to get it all perfect. It is no wonder that when you begin to prioritize your own wellness that you feel guilty.

The challenge with guilt is that the more you avoid doing something out of guilt, the more you will feel guilty. It becomes a vicious cycle. If you feel guilty for saying no, I encourage you to begin to say no!

8. Become your dearest friend.

What would you say to your closest friend if she said no to helping you? And could you say this message to yourself?

Self-compassion is showing kindness and caring towards ourselves for our struggle. If you struggle with saying no, try acknowledging the struggle and then allowing yourself to say whatever it is to yourself that you would say to your dearest friend. You might even come up with a mantra or statement and put this somewhere to remind yourself during times of saying no.

9. Lean on others that also respect your boundaries.

Fill yourself up with those who are understanding when you say no. If you are someone that tends to help others, you likely don't ask for help often. When we are busy giving to other people, we minimize our own needs. By doing this, others don't know that we need help

But we all need help and support at some point.

So what might you ask for help with? Maybe you start by asking for 20 minutes between meal time and bedtime to yourself. Perhaps you take an hour to yourself on the weekend. Perhaps instead of trying to problem solve something on your own, you reach out for advice. Or, you let others know how you are feeling in this moment.

Dear mama, the extreme exhaustion of this stage is real. Taking more "me time" is not enough—and we need to reconsider how we are in our relationships. We are hard-wired to connect with others. It's important to us. So re-evaluating your boundaries and learning to put yourself first can be incredibly challenging – but this is key when life's demands are changing in front of you moment-to-moment.

Remember that while so often our children bring us joy, this season in life is also incredibly hard. And you are doing your best.

You might also like:

The very best of Motherly — delivered when you need it most.
Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Subscribe for inspiration, empowering articles and expert tips to rock your best #momlife.

Thanks for subscribing!

Check your email for a confirmation message.

I'm usually that girl who shells out for premium leggings, and I still think they're fun as a treat, but I've now bought these so-called "compression" leggings in multiple colors. And since 74% of you told us in a recent Instagram poll that you live in leggings, we hope this practical hot tip can help make #momlife a little easier for you, too.

So why compression? While we'd never advise going to extremes, we're not opposed to a little help keeping everything in place. To be clear, this isn't about hiding—we're all for celebrating our bodies (and especially our bellies) at every stage. But adapting to an ever-changing shape can be distracting, and a little extra support around the stomach and hips can feel amazing after birth and help you focus on what's important.

What these $20 leggings have on even my most expensive pairs is that they are thickmeaning they don't snag in the wash, sheer out when I squat, or (heaven forbid) rip when I bend over. Their durability makes them perfect for both household chores and high-intensity workouts. They're also warm, making them well-suited for transitioning between seasons. And once your wardrobe fully changes over, the same brand makes compression shorts that are equally comfy.

Homma Premium Thick High Waist Tummy Compression Slimming Leggings

amazon leggings

As for the whole compression thing? Once they're on, I honestly don't notice anything but how flattering they are when I catch my reflection in the mirror. The 88% Nylon, 12% Spandex blend keeps it tight without feeling, well, too tight. Think of the compression like a gentle hug, or a guardian angel that just wants to bless your curves all day long. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to order another pair.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Mornings can be so rough making sure everyone has what they need for the day and managing to get out the door on time. A recent survey by Indeed found that 60% of new moms say managing a morning routine is a significant challenge, and another new survey reveals just why that is.

The survey, by snack brand Nutri-Grain, suggests that all the various tasks and child herding parents take on when getting the family out the door in the morning adds up to basically an extra workday every week!

Many parents will tell you that it can take a couple of hours to get out of the house each morning person, and as the survey found, most of us need to remind the kids "at least twice in the morning to get dressed, brush their teeth, or put on their shoes."


According to Nutri-Grain, by the end of the school year, the average parent will have asked their children to hurry up almost 540 times across the weekday mornings.

We totally get it. It's hard to wait on little ones when we have a very grown-up schedule to get on with, but maybe the world needs to realize that kids just aren't made to be fast.

As Rachel Macy Stafford, the author of Hands Free Mama, Hands Free Life, writes, having a child who wants to enjoy and marvel at the world while mama is trying to rush through it is hard.

"Whenever my child caused me to deviate from my master schedule, I thought to myself, 'We don't have time for this.' Consequently, the two words I most commonly spoke to my little lover of life were: 'Hurry up.'" she explains.

We're always telling our kids to hurry up, but maybe, maybe, we should be telling ourselves—and society—to slow down.

That's what Stafford did. She took "hurry up" out of her vocabulary and in doing so made that extra workday worth of time into quality time with her daughter, instead of crunch time. She worked on her patience, and let her daughter marvel at the world or slow down when she had to.

"To help us both, I began giving her a little more time to prepare if we had to go somewhere. And sometimes, even then, we were still late. Those were the times I assured myself that I will be late only for a few years, if that, while she is young."

It's great advice, but unless we mamas can get the wider world on board, it's hard to put into practice. When the school bus comes at 7:30 am and you've gotta be at the office at 8 am, when the emails start coming before you're out of bed or your pay gets docked if you punch in five minutes late, it is hard to slow down.

So to those who are making the schedules the rest of us have to live by, to the employers and the school boards and the wider culture, we ask: Can we slow down?

Indeed's survey suggests that the majority of moms would benefit from a more flexible start time at work and the CDC suggests that starting school later would help students.

Mornings are tough for parents, but they don't have to be as hard as they are.

[This post was originally published May 17, 2019.]


Teaching science to your child can sound kind of daunting. Don't be put off by memories of high school physics, though—science for little kids should be fun!

Science activities for toddlers and preschoolers are all about exploration and supporting the natural curiosity within each child. Children are born curious. All we have to do is provide the tools to explore the world around them, and encourage them to ask questions and follow their interests.

While science for little kids is all about fun, there is no reason to dumb it down. Feel free to use real scientific terminology wherever you can (kids are surprisingly receptive to it), and introduce the scientific method by asking kids for their hypothesis before you do an experiment together: What do they think will happen? Why?


Whether you're interested in STEM-based projects to do at home or just need ideas for helping kids explore their world, these activities can help your family incorporate science education into your everyday life.

Here are 9 easy science activities and experiments to do with preschoolers and toddlers.

1. Observe a life cycle

science activities for preschoolers

Butterflies are fascinating to children, and not only because they're beautiful. The process of transforming from a caterpillar to a butterfly can seem pretty magical.

Butterfly kits let your child watch the process of a life cycle up close. For toddlers, just observing the caterpillar, looking closely at the chrysalis and watching the beautiful butterflies that (eventually) emerge is enough. For preschoolers, you may want to prompt them to draw what they see at each stage, or to write a few words about the process.

A book about butterflies (or this one for toddlers) can further support their interest.

Take this activity a step further by creating a butterfly garden in your backyard, or finding a local butterfly garden where you can release the butterflies.

2. Create a habitat

science activities for preschoolers

Is your child fascinated by roly polies, ladybugs or snails? Creating an insect habitat, whether in a bug box or just a corner of your backyard, is a great way to stoke that interest.

What do ladybugs eat? Where do they like to sleep? These kinds of questions can really inspire a child to think like a scientist and are super easy to answer, either though a trip to the library or a quick Google search.

3. Sink + float

science activities for preschoolers Plastic animals in bath Getty Images

This is the simplest possible experiment, but that doesn't make it any less fun. Fill a container (or the bathtub) with water, gather some objects, and ask your child which objects they think will sink, and which they think will float.

Then let them experiment! A toddler will most likely just play in the water with the objects, and you can point out that some sink to the bottom and some float on top.

For a preschooler, you may want to encourage them to categorize which items sink and which float. They can make a list, or simply divide the objects into two piles. Then you can compare the categories and talk about why some things sink and others float.

You can do "sink and float" again and again with different themes. Try using objects you find in nature or using items from the kitchen.

4. Build a marble run

science activities for preschoolers Getty Images/iStockphoto

Using simple materials such as paper towel tubes, cardboard, yarn, tape and glue, challenge your preschooler to make a ramp for a marble to go down. (Toddlers can do a version of this experiment using a rubber ball in place of a marble.) Your child can experiment to see what slopes and what materials make the marble travel the fastest!

5. Watch the weather

science activities for preschoolers

Observing the weather is something even young toddlers enjoy. Talk to them about the vocabulary for different types of weather and invite them to help you check the weather before getting dressed each day. If they enjoy this, try setting up a weather station they can be in charge of, and let them play mini meteorologist.

6. Stargaze

science activities for preschoolers Getty Images/Tetra images RF

If your goal is to ignite your child's curiosity in science and the world around them, anything outer space-related is a pretty good bet.

Try reading a book about space (this one is great!) to inspire some real-world stargazing. You can invest in a telescope if they're really into it, or you can also enjoy a special stargazing time with your child using no equipment other than a blanket for the backyard—and maybe a cozy snack or some hot cocoa.

Look up into the night sky together and talk about what you see. You don't need to be a NASA scientist or know the names for all the constellations: The moon and the big dipper are plenty fascinating for a little kid.

With regular stargazing sessions, your child will start to notice things like the phases of the moon, the movement of the moon across the sky, and the way that stars form "pictures" in the sky. They might even see a shooting star! That is the kind of experience that will not only spark their interest in science, but that will stay with them as a special memory forever.

7. Study animals

science activities for preschoolers

Have you ever known a 3-year-old who can name every player on the Yankees, or can rattle off the names of more dinosaurs than you've ever heard of? Young children can absorb so many words—why not put that skill to good use?

This science activity comes straight from the Montessori classroom and encourages young children's desire to absorb precise and rich language.

Choose an animal they're interested in and help them learn the scientific names for the body parts. It's extra fun to choose an animal your child has real life experience with, like a dog or a squirrel. You can use the Montessori parts of an animal puzzle and labels, or simply use a drawing or photograph of the animal and label the parts for your child.

8. Experiment with ice

science activities for preschoolers

Fill two ice cube trays, one with water and one with salt water. Put them in the freezer (or outside, if it's cold enough where you live!) and observe to see which freezes faster.

Freeze some small toys (like these Toob animals) in ice and ask your child for ideas on how to get them out.

There are tons of easy experiments you can do with ice whether it's winter or summer—in winter, watch things freeze outside, and in summer you can watch them melt!

9. Make a rainbow

science activities for preschoolers

Few scientific activities are simpler than making a rainbow with a prism and sunny window, which really does bring the science of rainbows alive for children. Place the prism in a basket by a window, along with a book about rainbows (and maybe rainbow-colored crayons and paper) to inspire your child to explore independently.

10. Catalog a collection

science activities for preschoolers

Does your child collect little bits and bobs everywhere? Do they come home with pockets full of rocks or feathers?

Instead of lamenting the small piles of pebbles you find all over your house, show your child how to organize their collection in a scientific way. Help them come up with a system of sorting their treasures however they like (size? color? type?) and provide a certain spot in the house or backyard where the objects belong.

11. Plant a seed

science activities for preschoolers

For toddlers and preschoolers, something as simple as planting a seed is a perfect scientific activity. To increase their interest, choose a seed or pit from something you're eating, like an apple, avocado or peach. Choose something that grows in your area and invite your child to help you plant the seed. They will be fascinated watching it sprout and grow.

12. Read science books together

There are so many wonderful science books out there for kids. Books like Ada Twist, Scientist, What Do You Do With an idea? and The Most Magnificent Thing celebrate children's curiosity and introduce the scientific method.

Of course you can also find countless books at the library on various aspects of science to encourage your child's interests, whether that's snails or volcanoes!

Whatever kind of scientific activity you choose to do, just remember to let your child lead the way. It might not turn out how you expect, but the goal is really just to encourage your child to explore with curiosity.

Learn + Play

Wouldn't it be nice to throw on mascara and instantly look well-rested? Let's set the scene: You've been up all night caring for your sick toddler and you look extremely tired. You quickly apply a waterproof, lengthening and volumizing mascara and poof—tired eyes begone. Sounds like a magic trick, right? But we have a few mascaras in our makeup bag that can do just that, mama.

These are our favorite mascaras to use that make us look well-rested and ready to conquer the day, even if we're running on just a few hours:

Tarte surfer curl mascara

Tarte surfer curl mascara

Whether you're prepping for hot yoga, a day at the beach, or just keeping up with the kiddos, Tarte's latest mascara is perfect for a mamas active lifestyle. It's a vitamin E- based mascara that delivers sweatproof, weightless volume without the clumps. Pro tip: Just do the top lashes for a more natural look.


Fenty Beauty by Rihanna full frontal volume, lift + curl mascara

Fenty Beauty by Rihanna full frontal volume, lift + curl mascara

This popular mascara was designed to deliver Rihanna's full lash look, and we must admit, after three applications, our lashes turned out thicker and fuller than ever. The key to this formula is that it's paired with aflat-to-fat brush that customizes what you need. The fat side holds lots of product to quickly load and lift lashes, while the flat side defines and curls each lash.


Maybelline lash sensational mascara

Maybelline lash sensational mascara

Not ready to spend loads of money on a beauty product? We hear you. That's why we love this liquid ink formula from Maybelline. It coats from all sides for full coverage with a featherlight feel. Just be careful with your application—it requires a good makeup remover to remove.


L'Oréal voluminous lash paradise mascara

L'Or\u00e9al voluminous lash paradise mascara

If a deep black color is what you're after, this mascara will get you there in the best way possible. The soft wavy bristle brush gives lots of volume and the 200 bristles catch every lash for a full fringe effect. No, seriously—get the results you crave in only two coats!


Stila Cosmetics magnum xxx mascara

Stila Cosmetics magnum xxx mascara

Suffer from thin, straight lashes that never seem to curl? This creamy, non-clumping formula is buildable and gives instant volume. It's also pretty cool that the blossom-shaped fiber wand is carved in a curved silhouette that dispenses just the right amount of formula on each individual lash for lots of volume.


Marc Jacobs velvet noir major volume mascara

Marc Jacobs velvet noir major volume mascara

When we heard that this mascara was inspired by Marc Jacobs' first beauty memory of his mother shaving fibers from a velvet ribbon to create her own faux lashes, we knew this was something special. This mascara gives smudge-proof length and volume in three strokes or less.


IT Cosmetics superhero mascara

 IT Cosmetics superhero mascara

If black mascara leaves you with raccoon eyes by the end of the day, this mascara might be your new bestie. Developed with plastic surgeons, and clinically tested, it provides both length and volume in one coat. Also, the formula contains collagen, biotin and peptides to condition your lashes as you coat.


Too Faced better than sex waterproof mascara

Too Faced better than sex waterproof mascara

Without question, the original better than sex mascara lives up to its name, and the waterproof feature on this one is an added bonus. The hourglass-shaped brush was designed with extra stiff bristles to maximize the performance of this super black, collagen-fueled formula. But, once on your lashes, prepare to rub for a long time to get it off.


Lancôme monsieur big mascara

Lanc\u00f4me Monsieur big mascara

This is one of Lancôme's bestselling mascaras and we get why. For starters, it's a creamy formula with a gel-like texture that does not require touch-ups. It also brings a ton of volume, without the flaking.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

Beauty + Style Shopping Guides
Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.