When you think you’re at wits end, know there’s a way through. Always.

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When our son was 6-weeks-old he went through a growth spurt, causing him to wake what seemed like every hour of the night to eat. I knew this would happen. People told me it would. I experienced it with my daughter. But even with this knowledge I still found myself feeling frustrated. I NEED SLEEP! Why was my son not understanding this!?


I thought, “He is going to wake up our daughter. Then no one is going to get rest. Tomorrow is going to be horrible. Ugh, all I want to do is sleep!” My attitude and thoughts quickly spiraled out of control. I was ready to yell at my baby.

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I was actually becoming angry. Then I felt guilty for being angry at my sweet baby boy. He doesn’t know any better. Have you ever been there?

First, check your thoughts

As I sat with my crying baby in my arms I knew something needed to change. I was tired of feeling angry and as I sat there crying with him I realized, I need to take control of my thoughts. But how do I stop myself and actually do this in the heat of the moment?

The first step to changing your thoughts is to recognize what you are thinking.

It sounds simple, but when I took a step back and analyzed my thoughts I realized my thoughts weren’t rational. Had I made it through the day before without much sleep? Definitely! The next time I started to feel frustrated and about to lose my patience, I took a step back. It’s okay if my baby cries for a few minutes in his crib. He is safe and I need to give myself time to check my thoughts. I’m a better mom when I do this.

Instead of focusing on the negative, I need to trust I will have the strength to get through the day.

Second, find perspective

When I find myself losing my patience and ready to scream at my kids, I try to keep perspective. This stage won’t last forever and I will sleep again. I am not alone in this.

My husband is here to support me and I have the support of many family and friends. Instead of panicking and worrying, I’m learning to cherish these moments. Time moves so quickly and I don’t want to always focus on the next best thing while missing out on the present time.

Third, recognize big feelings

Another thing I’ve realized is I need to be more aware of my own emotions. I need to ask for a break when I need it, without feeling guilty. If sleep is a priority for me, then I need to start making it a priority! That means not staying up an extra hour to scroll through Instagram.

Every now and then it’s good to take a self-analysis and see how you are doing. Don’t let your big feelings reach a boiling point. Take a few moments before you reach your breaking point to refresh and reset.

It’s OK to ask for help or ask for a break. It doesn’t make you a bad mother. It makes you human.

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Possessing endless energy and short attention spans, toddlers need a lot of entertainment provided by us. They are also easily distracted, so you can use this to your advantage by switching up these ideas and doing them all over again throughout the course of a day.

Here are 20 easy activities to entertain your toddler—bookmark this list for your next long day at home!

1. Play with toys

Break out the cars. Dump out the blocks. Grab some Barbies or trains or animals or anything. It may make a mess, but it's easy to clean up and will keep your little one occupied for a minute at least, maybe two if you make cool crashing noises with the cars.

2. Feed them snacks

Toddlers not only get hungry quickly, but they also get bored easily—snacks are a win/win. Feeding them snacks keeps them from getting hangry, and at the same time, it gives them something to do. Plus, trying to pick up little cheerios is great for their fine motor development. Score!

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3. Take them on a walk in the stroller

Sometimes a child just needs to sit buckled in a stroller so they can't run rampant, causing havoc wherever they go. They may even sit willingly if they are distracted by all the cool stuff outside. They can hear the birds, feel the wind, and see the flowers. Point out different things you see and hear. Bring snacks and toys if you want them to last longer on the walk. Keep moving so they don't get bored. And seriously, buckle them in. Not for safety reasons per se (although that really is the main reason), but for containment of the ever escaping toddler.

4. Take them on a walk to the mailbox

Other times they need to get out of the house and get their little legs moving. Take a walk over to the mailbox. Let them help you get the mail. Walk back. That should cover at least a minute or two and get them to move around a little bit. You can even do this multiple times in a row. Have you toddler make laps around the mailbox if you have to in order to get them to burn off some energy.

5. Take them to the park

This can be either amazing or not. It all depends on if there are swings. A trip to the park is glorious when you can sit there and do nothing while your toddler runs and climbs and gets all his energy out. It's not when you have to do all the work swinging him and he just sits there, relaxing. So, it may be a good idea to avoid parks with swings if at all possible until they're old enough to swing themselves.

6. Play in the backyard

Sometimes this is all the outside time you can muster, and that's OK. Take a book out in the backyard and read while your child plays with toys, digs in the dirt, or pulls old, curdling milk jugs out of the recycling bin. OK, I don't really recommend allowing that last one, but if your child is anything like mine, it's inevitable. So be prepared to hose down the cement and your child if this happens.

7. Give them a bath

You don't even have to wash them, just let them play in the water. It's like a trip to the pool, but without all the hassle of sunscreen and bathing suits. And cold water. And life jackets. And the fear of drowning. And having to be in public with other people. And pool monitors who think you're the worst parent in the whole wide world. Yes, baths are a great substitute for taking a toddler to the pool.

8. Play-Doh

A little messy, but always interesting. Give them some forks or cookie cutters to cut and smoosh the Play-Doh, or popsicle sticks and beads to stick into it. A lot of fun can be had with a jar of this stuff. But don't make it from scratch. It's only 50 cents to buy it at WalMart, and the store bought kind is much softer.

9. Wash dishes

My toddler LOVE LOVE LOVES to play with water. Standing on a chair in front of the sink while the water runs on a trickle keeps him occupied for a good, long time—like three minutes, at least. He just fills a cup and dumps it out over and over and over and over again. Just keep towels on hand for when your child dumps it on the floor over and over and over and over again.

10. Tickle them

This can even turn a grumpy mood around when tickling turns crying into laughing. Of course, it could always make it worse, so prepare to bail on this idea if that's the case.

11. Chase them

All my kids have loved the “I'm gonna get you" game. When my oldest was about four, he called it the “crawl guys eat you" game. I guess because dad would crawl around on the floor, chasing the “guys" (the two and four-year-olds) and pretend to eat them when he caught them. It's not as creepy as it sounds, I promise.

12. Enlist other people, if possible

Have a playdate or meet friends at the park so you can have a little adult conversation while the little ones entertain each other. Or trade babysitting with a friend so you can take turns getting stuff done (or take a nap) without any kids.

13. Let them look at themselves on your phone

My child always grabs my phone and asks for the “baby." He loves to see himself. If you can record a video of your toddler looking at himself on the phone, even better, he'll love to watch it later.

14. Activity songs

My son loves “The Eensy Weensy Spider," “Little Bunny Foo Foo," and “This Little Piggy." Sometimes it calms him down when he's throwing a fit. Sometimes.

15. Read a book, or two, or five

Or read the same book five times in a row. My child loves Brown Bear, books with pictures of babies, and books where we make sound effects as we read.

16. Video game controllers

When the older kids are playing video games and the toddler wants to steal their controllers, we give him his own controller—usually one for a different gaming system, so he doesn't mess up what they're doing. He somehow still manages to, but it at least keeps him occupied for awhile.

17. Run an errand

If you're super desperate to kill some time and get out of the house, running an errand is a great way to serve two purposes at once. You get something productive done, and your toddler stops asking you to play with cars for the 395th time. Although, wrangling a toddler at the store is no small feat. I don't recommend doing this if you can help it.

18. YouTube Kids

If all else fails, pull out your phone and put on the children's shows that are on YouTube Kids. Sometimes—especially in the doctor's office waiting room—it's the only thing that will keep them entertained long enough to stop jumping off the furniture.

19. Lay on the floor and let them play on you

This is a legit parenting tactic. Just bring a few toys over and lay there letting them climb and play all over you. This works especially well when your child doesn't nap, doesn't like being left alone, and you are just plain out of energy.

20. Lay them down and pray they take a nap already

Even if your child doesn't like to nap, try it anyway. Maybe you'll get lucky and they'll fall asleep, or maybe they'll just play in their crib or cry for a bit—either way, you get a few minutes before you give up and rescue them. Or lay down with them in the hope that they'll eventually get bored and go to sleep. This is a long shot.

With their short attention spans, each of these ideas may only work for about a minute or two with your toddler, so having a few lined up for quick rotation is ideal. Toddlers are just developing their imaginations, so be sure to use your's and put your own spin on whatever works best with your child!

Learn + Play

The anecdote went viral on LinkedIn and Facebook: An executive noticed one of his employees, a mother, crying at her desk. She explained that her child is sick, she had no sick days left and couldn't afford to miss work. He wrote her a check and sent her home to her child. It's a modern-day working mom fairytale.

The male executive is the hero in the story, but frustrated women who were raised on Spice Girls-era girl power don't want to wait around for someone else to set them free from punishing corporate policies. These women want to be their own heroes (and their own bosses). And when a friend slides into their DMs to tell them they can be, well, they desperately want to believe it.

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But the hard truth is that girl power never completely grew up to become women's empowerment and a culture that paid lip service to gender equality without making progress primed a generation of mothers to be the perfect targets for multi-level marketing (or MLMs as they're commonly referred to).

A population already burdened with so much unpaid work in the service of their families ended up doing even more unpaid labor to serve companies' bottom lines, and we need to ask ourselves why.

We have entered an era of MLM reckoning. The alarm is sounding about the damage MLMs can do to women and their families but if you listen closely, there is another sound here: The sound of opportunity for companies that can actually live up to some of the promises MLM fails to keep.

The era of MLM backlash

For years multilevel marketing got a pretty decent edit in popular culture—the pink Cadillacs helped—but in recent years a new awareness has been building. Debunking the myth of MLMs is in vogue.

It's been more three years since John Oliver's critique of the industry went viral and the documentary Betting on Zero, which details the controversy surrounding one MLM company, was released. There are several popular podcasts detailing the downside of MLMs, and multiple subreddits, Facebook groups and online communities dedicated to advocating against a business model in which 75% of the salesforce doesn't turn a profit.

It seems consumers are becoming more MLM-savvy, but this new awareness came at the expense of so many mothers. Thankfully, the media has been taking notice, especially of LulaRoe, an MLM empire built on leggings and female empowerment but plagued by lawsuits and stories of women gone bankrupt.

By the industry's own admission 75% of people who sign up to sell for an MLM company are women. The Direct Selling Association, the MLM industry's national trade association states that the average direct seller makes $5,702 in profit, but the AARP Foundation suggests that more than half of those in MLMs who make money make less than $5,000 in a year and that the majority (73%) of sellers either break even or lose money.

If you've been on the internet much in the last couple of years you probably already know this. Vice did a documentary on it. Truth in Advertising released an investigative piece. From The Washington Post to the Huffington Post, media was busy in 2019 telling us that MLM are hurting women.

The question is, are we ready to stop the pain?

But in 2020 women are still joining MLMs because these companies are offering something that is missing from the lives of so many: Support and a flexible opportunity.

Motherly's second annual State of Motherhood survey found 85% of moms don't think society understands or supports mothers, and that while financial need is the top reason for moms participating in the workforce, "desire to participate in work outside the household" is a significant motivational factor as well. Today's moms need and want to work, but they want to work for companies that don't expect them to pretend they don't have children. The survey suggests that some moms are leaving their jobs because of the "inability to strike a work-life balance or the work culture not being supportive."

When asked what would help, moms said longer, paid maternity leave, childcare, flexible schedules and remote work opportunities. MLMs promise mothers the flexible, remote jobs they so desperately want.

Motherly's survey isn't the only one to highlight the need for better work-life balance. A recent survey by Flex Jobs found more than half of stay-at-home parents stay out of the workforce longer than they would like to.

"Without flexible work options, for example, 36% of stay-at-home parents we surveyed said that they actually wanted to return to work but their job was too inflexible to accommodate their needs as a working parent. Thirty-four percent turned to freelancing to bring in some income while staying at home with their kids, and 11% tried multi-level marketing businesses," explains Brie Reynolds, a career development manager and coach at FlexJobs.

It's clear that there is an eager talent pool that is going untapped, and Reynolds is hoping to see that 11% go down as more legitimate companies offer the kinds of opportunities parents are seeking. According to Reynolds, the number of people working remotely in the U.S. has increased 159% between 2005 and 2017.

"The most common work-from-home job titles include a huge range of professions, showing that companies are applying remote work to a wide variety of professions: teacher, writer, developer, analyst, sales representative, nurse, accountant, and project manager, for example. Hopefully, as more legitimate remote jobs become available, the need for parents to try risky MLM programs to find the flexibility they need will greatly diminish," she says.

Anti-MLM advocates say awareness of the problem isn't enough

Katie Young is the co-host of the podcast Sounds Like MLM but OK, which examines the impact of MLMs on sellers, and an administrator for a Facebook group by the same name. The group has more than 130,000 members, some of whom have been in, and left, the MLM industry.

"The former sellers are a really solid chunk of people that are joining this community because they are the people that have been personally impacted by the harm that the companies can do," Young explains.

According to Young, the promise of profit isn't the only thing prompting women to sign up to sell candles, shakes and clothing: It's also the promise of a supportive community. Additionally, Young believes MLM recruitment tactics prey on mom guilt.

"It's like, 'Don't you want to stay home with your kids? Don't you want to be the one to raise them?' There's a lot of pressure and a lot of shame," says Young, who adds that when messages like these come from a friend they carry more weight.

"They're making people feel bad about the way that they're living their lives and thinking that they're going to be better people and better parents by joining those these companies," she says.

Young hopes that the public backlash against MLM companies, combined with more flexible and legitimate work opportunities will help prevent more people from being hurt, but she is not holding her breath.

She believes MLMs will not lose their luster until lawmakers take action against them and non-MLM companies realize what parents are up against, because even in the era of MLM reckoning, when Googling a company serves up so many headlines about devastated sellers, people are still signing up.

The MLM horror stories shared in Young's Facebook group and the viral Facebook post about the hero executive have one thing in common: They shouldn't have happened. And if we create a culture that supports working parents we can stop them from happening again.

[We reached out to LulaRoe for this story but have not heard back from the company. We also reached out to Herbalife and the Direct Selling Association. In response to this article the organization provided several links to its website.]

[This post was originally published on Apparently on September 24, 2019. It has been updated.]

News

Are you on the quest to lessen your consumption but haven't found out how to do that when your kids are constantly outgrowing clothes and you're always buying new pieces every few months? According to a report from Quantis, you aren't alone. The apparel and footwear industries together account for more than 8 % of global climate impact, which is greater than all international airline flights and maritime shipping trips combined. That's a scary thought.

But there are several ethical fashion brands attempting to address these problems. And now more than ever, kids clothing brands are going the sustainable route, understanding that waste is an endless resource, not trash.

I recently took a trip to the Pitti Bimbo trade show in Florence, Italy to unearth new and innovative brands that are making a splash in the industry. With more than 5,000 buyers from almost 80 countries and 10,000-plus visitors, I was in good company.

Among the hundreds of brands, I found a special bunch with a truly green heart that are attentive to materials, ethical production and sustainability.

Here are five sustainable clothing brands that believe in limiting the impact we have on the earth for our children, and they all ship internationally:

Jackalo

Jackalo

After years of frustration with the clothing options for her active older son, and a total lack of hand-me-downs (due to wear and tear of kids clothes) for his little brother, Marianna Sachse founded Jackalo to bring back old-fashioned quality to kids clothing.

Jackalo's mission is quite simple: Change the way kids clothing is produced and what happens when kids have outgrown them. Aside from practicing organic and sustainable farming practices, Jackalo offers discounts on future purchases when customers send back their used Jackalo products for repair or trading. Here's how it works: when your kid outgrows any Jackalo clothing item, send it back to them in exchange for a $15 discount on your next purchase. They will clean it, make any necessary repairs, then post it for resale at a discount. Anything that can't be repaired will be upcycled or recycled responsibly.

Editor's pick: Mac coverall
$130

Faire child

faire child

If you love vintage pieces but value modern textiles and manufacturing, you've probably heard of Fairechild. Their pants, jackets and suits are completely waterproof, chemical-free and made of recycled materials. "I don't want to make clothing that has a negative impact on the environment," said founder and designer, Tabitha Osler. "It is simply not an option for the world anymore."

Faire child's products remain completely waterproof under pressure so, yes, it can withstand the toughest, outdoorsy child. Moisture stays out whether they're kneeling on damp ground, sitting in snow or wearing a backpack. Osler's motherhood also opened her eyes to the importance of time spent outdoors. This was the main driver behind her desire to design clothing that would let kids be outdoors all day, every day in comfort.

Next month, Faire child is launching rain gear made of fabric derived from waste, and that can be upcycled again and again.

Editor's pick: Dungaree
$98

Maison Tadaboum

Maison Tadaboum

Maison Tadaboum was born in 2019 in Paris from the idea of Julia Valverde Vicente to offer fun, gender-neutral clothes for kids on eco-friendly cotton fabrics. The Parisian brand pays special attention to the environmental footprint and quality of its products, which is why their fabrics are all Oeko-Teks certified, which is a worldwide certification system for environmentally friendly and socially responsible production facilities in the clothing industry. And with sizes ranging from 6 months-11 years old, there is something for every kid.

Editor's pick: Friends for life shirt

$75

Filobio

filobio Baby sleeveless dress in linen cotton denim

This Italian brand began with the idea to create 100% organic cotton garments for babies, in an effort to preserve the environment and little one's health. This basic idea, supported by a fair-trade model, has evolved into the brand using natural fibers such as hemp and merino and cashmere wools in all their garments. Taking it a step further, all of the accessories, such as buttons, appliqués, labels and embroidery, are completely toxin-free.

"We like taking care of this planet which our children will inherit, as much as we like taking care of their health today," says a brand rep at the show. "We ensure that everything happens through beauty."

Editor's pick: Baby sleeveless dress in linen cotton denim
$71.75

CORA Happywear

CORA Happywear

CORA happywear may create clothes for women, babies and kids with natural and organic materials like eucalyptus, bamboo and organic cotton, but the essence of the brand is in the story behind it. "Courage is the core value of our brand and is derived from the Italian word 'coraggio,'" says Elisabeth Tocca, the founder and CEO of CORA Happywear. "Isn't courage something you always need as a mother? We want to support women to courageously live their lives as family mothers in a cheerful, self-conscious way that inspires other women."

And with every product sold, CORA sends 2% of each sales to Plan Italia, a program committed to removing all the barriers that prevent girls from completing their studies, such as early marriages, female genital mutilation, early pregnancies and all forms of violence.

Editor's pick: All organic cotton trouser
$19.50

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

Lifestyle

I read and heard it all before. Toddlers are terrible. They are little dictators who go out of their way to make things hard. The 'terrible twos' and 'threenager' years made me nervous even when they were only in our future.

And then our son grew into a toddler and I realized that I love being a toddler mom way more than when I was a newborn mom.

You see, I didn't quite love the newborn days as much as everyone told me I would. Yes, I loved that little squishy tiny baby who would nap for hours cozied up in my arms, but I also felt so isolated from the world, touched out and exhausted.

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I really tried enjoying the stillness of snuggles in bed and the smell of the back of his head, but as much as I tried I just didn't. It was okay—but nothing out of this world like I thought it'd be.

As he started growing and becoming more interactive, I started to enjoy this new stage. Making him laugh would be the highlight of my day and I have endless videos to prove it. We would sit on the couch and make funny noises and he would look at me and giggle and I felt complete. Then he started sitting up and grabbing toys. We could play hide and seek and his face would glow every time I revealed the toy he thought had magically disappeared behind me.

It wasn't long before sounds that wanted to be words starting appearing in our lives. He knew the cow said "moo" from me reading the same book over and over again so he started saying it with me, and I'd be lying if I didn't say back then I thought my baby was an absolute genius for doing so.

He learned how to walk and I was so excited about not having to carry him everywhere. Sure, at first we took it very slowly and there was a lot of hand-holding and gentle exploring, but soon he was making his way up and down the playground choosing where we were going next without me making those decisions for him. He was showing his preferences—the slide always wins over the swing set and sitting in the playhouse is way more fun than the monkey bars.

His language skills exploded and he started telling us about his friends—little kids he plays with at the endless playdates our nanny organizes to keep him entertained and social— in choppy sentences. He slowly made up words, like bluebee for blueberries or flyfly or butterfly, that were used regularly in our conversations.

And as all these new things were happening and he was growing into a toddler, my enjoyment of being a mom grew more and more, too.

Don't get me wrong, not all days are easy. He's had his share of tantrums, rejecting food he used to love, not wanting to be around one of us (mostly me now that I'm super pregnant with his twin siblings) and keeps taunting our dogs by pulling their tails and taking over their beds. And yet I love it.

I love it because I get to see a glimpse of the person he will be.

I love it because all of those long and endless hours of playing with him—like stacking blocks, practicing saying "please" or even potty training—are finally paying off.

I love it because he can now tell me what song he wants to listen to, even if that song is The wheels on the bus for the millionth time that day.

I love it because I have so much fun playing pretend. We usually dig up sand (our carpet) and put it in a bucket (an imaginary one) and sometimes the stuffed animals come over and eat some of that sand.

I love it because his wild toddler imagination allows me to explore my own imagination, the one I've put on pause for so long because I was busy doing adult things, like having a job and paying bills.

His toddler world is so much fun and I enjoy being a part of it, every single day.

Life
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