A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
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By Shelley Hopper


Ahhh, motherhood. Sweet, sweet motherhood. Behind the lack of sleep and momnesia, there’s so much beauty in everyday moments and memories.

It’s no secret our littles grow way too fast and suddenly turn into 2 and 3-year-olds who seem to be going on 13. Whether it’s getting through a new growth spurt, a new bedtime routine, beginning potty training, enrolling in preschool, or the little cherub who decided it’s a good idea to phase out of naps at 2-and-a-half-years-old…we get it.

The list of questions on how-do-I-survive-this-grow. We’ve been there. We feel for you. We support you. And the daily or weekly glass of wine or workout that gets you through the ups and downs.

With that, here’s our round-up of how you know you’re a mama to a toddler, and the firecracker that they are.

1. You soon learn that Legos are your worst nightmare, and you fear stepping on one more than you fear stepping on a bee.

2. You’re lucky if you (ever) get anywhere on time, which is basically a half hour late according to the mom clock.

3. You traded designer handbags for grab-and-go-rough-and-tough durable bags back in the infant days, and make sure those mini suitcases are filled with wipes and snacks—at ALL times. Because Lord help you if you head out for errands and forget snacks for the hangry monster that will appear out of nowhere; even if they ate all their breakfast!

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4. You basically do not own any white or nice item of clothing, because what’s the point? The risk of every and all kinds of stains will find their way right to you—smears of any kind have become a dangerous look to any wardrobe these days.

5. Speaking of stains—forget only packing a change of clothes for your mini. You probably keep a spare set of clothing (and if you don’t, you should) in your car since toddlers are basically little drunk people who are a liability to any outfit.

6. When you get in someone’s car who doesn’t have kids, you’re shocked at how clean it is. “Is this brand new? It looks so clean and smells so nice.” “No, Mama, it’s like four years old…..” Wait, what? Cars can look this clean when they’re not fresh off the lot? Mind. Blown.

7. You might think you’re the boss, but you’re not. Your toddler is the king or queen of your castle, and won’t let you forget it.

8. When your friends without kids spend the day with you, they’re home asleep by 5 pm or pouring a glass of wine beforehand, wondering how in the world you manage the chaos all day. Oh, those sweet little things and how innocent they are pre-parenting.

9. Is it bad to want noise-silencing headphones or dream of quiet, uninterrupted bathroom breaks, showers, or meals? No, most definitely not. What is silence? That’s a thing?

10. The toddler tornado is SO real. Or, also known as a category five hurricane that blows through with gusts up to 100 mph, with no predictable weather pattern. You feel it. Your house feels it. And your partner or family never fail to walk in the door during the eye of the storm and ask, “What have you been doing all day and why is the house so messy?!” The. Nerve.

11. You sing Hallelujah and say a prayer for your former favorite TV shows to Rest In Peace. Perhaps you'll remember to DVR them and manage to get through a series within a year. But they've most likely been replaced with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Princess Sophia, Blaze, or some other annoyingly lovable, quotable show on Disney Jr. or Nick Jr.

12. Your sanity and appearance will be questioned daily, and probably like 16293 times within a 12-hour span. But your heart has never been so full (or your hands). Good thing under-eye concealer and eye-brightening shadows can help mask three years of sleep deprivation.

13. Speaking of sleep…are there people who truly sleep for 8-10 hours uninterrupted and in peace without flailing limbs knocking them in the face or body parts throughout the night? Because let’s be real, you probably haven’t slept in or so solidly since college. The toddler who originally falls asleep so sweet and angelic magically seems to turn into an octopus-like creature with eight arms in the middle of the night. All of which end up on you or smacking you.

14. No small item is safe. They’re either trying to eat it or throw it at your face. You become a ninja overnight and have all-star catching abilities.

15. Is there such thing as a car ride where shoes stay on? As if you weren’t running late already, now you get to wrestle the little cat in your backseat and try to put their shoes back on (for the tenth time of the day).

16. You have to reheat your tea or coffee at least five times throughout the day because heaven forbid you get to finish a cup in one sitting. Do they make caffeine IVs yet? And you don’t even remember what eating a warm meal is like since you have to chop your mini’s meal up into little chunks before even considering sitting down in front of your plate.

17. You immediately panic when your kids are present, not napping, and there is silence. They very well may be coloring the walls, “painting” the dog, setting a new makeup trend by using all of yours, re-organizing your cabinets (that you just sorted), or jumping into the piles of your freshly washed and folded laundry. They say silence is golden, but that goes out the window in toddler land.

18. Little white lies sneak up on your tongue….that food you don’t want to share? “Sorry, buddy, it’s soooo spicy.” “Wayyyy too hot.” “You’re allergic.” #Shameless

19. You listened to your pediatrician and kept your little angel away from electronics until they were two years old. But now that they throw the most insane tantrums in the middle of grocery aisle number eight? “Hey, want to watch a show?” You have to stay home from work because they had to stay home from school? Cartoon marathon so you can get through emails. No judgment. Just understanding that sometimes a few minutes of peace are worth any cartoon in the world.

20. You realize how weird and downright wacky some bedtime stories are. What the heck were some of these authors on?! Of course, most are beautiful and full of warm and fuzzies, but some are more bizarre than you ever remember hearing when you were little. And there's no chance you're getting past bedtime before reading at least 5-10 books since toddlers all seem like they just downed a cup of coffee right before bedtime.

21. Things that would have completely and utterly disgusted you pre-parenthood have become your norm. They’re still awful, of course, but the thought of getting peed on or boogers flicked on you when you were in your 20s versus surviving infanthood and now toddlerhood, does the word gross even have meaning anymore?

22. Your house is no longer properly feng shuied or decorated with tasteful items on your coffee table. Magazines get shredded, vases get broken, and picture frames get chucked across the room. Because of that, there isn’t one thing that’s left under 3’ shelves. Except for dirty hand prints. And you immediately regret going over to friend's houses who don't have kids, because your little monster, ehem, angel, probably just destroyed all their most valuable, precious things.

23. You once dreaded going to the park in fear of awkwardly socializing with other moms, or being surrounded by little monsters you don’t know. But now, if you don’t make it to the park or a strenuous activity, you’re stuck with what feels like a rabid dog in a cage the rest of the day.

24. You question who on earth invented the mini potty-training toilets. Why do they come in ten pieces? Why are they so hard to clean? Why do boys pee on every inch of the bathroom EXCEPT in the potty? Why do toddlers take poops as big as grown men? We’ll never know….oh the bathroom mysteries.

25. Happy hour is no longer at 5 pm involving drinks with girlfriends. It’s more like happy 10 minutes; the interval between when your kids are finally asleep and before you pass out by 9 pm.

26. You follow a healthy lifestyle. Wine is made from fermented grapes, so it’s basically a fruit, and you're fully convinced it most definitely counts as a daily fruit serving.

27. You turn into superwoman when you’re running errands. Remember the days you used to poke in Target for an hour and enjoy yourself? Now you have the superpower of getting in and out within 20 minutes. BUT, that being said, you also sneak away to Target when you’re kidless and happily enjoy trying on clothes, getting a caramel latte, and buying $100 worth of things you don’t actually need.

28. People actually shut the door when they need to use the bathroom? Are peeping toms frowned upon? Cue Justin Bieber’s, What Do You Mean?

29. Speaking of Justin Bieber, when did he turn into an adult? Does that mean we’re old now? Wasn’t he our age? I’m so confused. And you’re confused who any modern pop star is. Because they’re like 12. And we’re like….shhh.

30. You have to buy wrinkle cream, under-eye lifting serums, and dye your gray hair. Hair starts to grow in weird places, skin begins to sag, and when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror, you realize you’re slowly resembling your mom. Here’s to hoping she has good genes!

31. Your phone used to have like 20,000 photos of your newborn napping peacefully, accomplishing all their "firsts" and special milestones, crawling down the hallway, etc. Now, you're lucky if you snap one photo a week of your active toddler since you're too busy chasing after them and making sure your phone isn't being flushed down a toilet.

Originally posted on FIT4MOM.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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It's 5 pm. You just got home from a busy day at work, dinner is nowhere close to being started, and the afternoon shenanigans have taken ahold of your little ones. They need some time to decompress from their busy day and, let's be honest, you need a few moments to transition into the last part of yours, too.

Your child asks, "Mooooom? Can I watch a show?"

Cue parenting inner-dilemma.

You want to say yes, but you also have fears about technology. How much is too much? Is it bad for my children? Will it isolate my children from me?

Sara DeWitt, the vice president of PBS KIDS Digital, said in her TED Talk that this last question is a big concern for parents. We desperately want to be connected to our children, and for our children to be connected to the world.

Unfortunately, she says, the "fear and skepticism about these devices hold us back from their potential." The truth is, high-quality educational screen time can actually build connections (more on that in a minute). Even more exciting, did you know that the right screen time can help your child develop empathy?

Empathy is a skill, but as a society, we are losing it. A shocking study found that empathy drops by about 40% by the time kids get to college. In a world fraught with inequities, divisiveness and conflict, rebuilding empathy is paramount. Motherly mamas agree. In the 2019 State of Motherhood survey, you told us that your top priority was to nurture kindness with your children.

But how do we do this? Telling our child to "be a kind person" is great, but in order to truly understand, they need to see empathy in context. By using digital content as a prompt for communication and conversation, it becomes one of the many tools we have at our disposal to help guide our children on the path to becoming empathic, kind people.

Enter PBS KIDS.

Raun D. Melmed, MD, FAAP, a developmental and behavioral pediatrician, and author of the Monster Diary series told us that, "our children have unprecedented access to wonderful educational opportunities through digital media. Interactive, nonjudgmental apps can enhance cognitive development (processing and organization, visual-spatial awareness, pattern recognition and even reading), social and emotional awareness, and even moral development."

When we control technology—and not the other way around—the potential is enormous.

The American Academy of Pediatrics says that "media can have educational value for children starting at around 18 months of age, but it's critically important that this be high-quality programming, such as the content offered by Sesame Workshop and PBS."

Researchers looked at the impact of watching PBS KIDS' series, Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood, and the results were pretty inspiring. Children who watched the show for 30 minutes each day for two weeks demonstrated improved empathy, the ability to recognize emotions and increased social confidence.

But, here's the catch: In order to experience this growth, children needed to have recurrent conversations about what they saw with their parents.

Nicole Dreiske, Executive Director of the International Children's Media Center and author of The Upside of Digital Devices: How to Make Your Child More Screen Smart encourages parents to utilize screen time "in the same way that they would use story time: to build trust, emotional intelligence, and empathy." By spending just 10 minutes discussing what happened in a show, children can experience significant benefits.

Knowing the science behind the benefits of screen time is great. But when that afternoon struggle hits, it can be hard to remember exactly what to do, so DeWitt encourages parents to make a plan—here's how.

How to make a screen time plan for your family

Ask yourself the following two questions:

1. What do I want my kids to get out of their digital media time?

Do you want them to have an opportunity to be creative and think outside the box? Pull up PBS KIDS ScratchJr. Is there something going on at home or in school that requires learning about sharing? Share the "Daniel Shares his Tigertastic Car" episode of Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood with them.

Consider your goals, and then choose media accordingly.

2. What do I want my kids to get out of their digital media time? How can it support our family schedule and priorities?

It is okay to factor your needs into the equation, mama. Deriving benefit from your child's screen time is no need to feel guilty. Go ahead and start dinner, or send that email, or yes (gasp), put your feet up and relax for a bit.

Once you've figured out your 'why,' it's time to consider the 'how.'

1. Communicate the plan to your kids (and be clear about limits).

Kids do best with clear boundaries and expectations. This will be especially important if you are implementing changes to how screen time is done in your home.

You could say, "You can play the Wild Kratts game for 30 minutes while I work on dinner, and then we are going to go outside and flap our wings as bats do! Do you think we should eat mosquitos for dinner like they do?!"

Before you start the show, Dreiske recommends planting the communication seed: "Today we're going to notice what we're feeling and what the characters are feeling."

2. Discuss what your kid played or watched.

When screen time is over, strike up a conversation. Dreiske suggests open-ended questions that help to "[create] a special space in which your child feels safe enough emotionally to confide in you about their experiences. Let the child's emotion or feelings 'lead' the talk rather than being obscured by your feelings." You can try the following starters:

  • How did you feel when… ? Why?
  • How do you think that character felt?
  • What if that happened to one of your friends?

3. Find a balance of activities.

Like everything in life, screen time is best in moderation. It is important that children know that screen time is one of the many options they have for activities. Exercise, outdoor play, reading, coloring and more are also incredibly important.

If there is a show or game your child particularly loves, DeWitt suggests finding the non-screen time version of it. "For example, if the kids in Dinosaur Train start a nature collection, suggest a nature walk through your neighborhood after they've watched. If your child likes Ready Jet Go!, use the Ready Jet Go Space Explorer app to look at the stars together and then continue exploring the night sky away from the screen. In other words, we can make digital media as a jumping off point for family fun!"

Sara DeWitt writes, "It helps to remember digital media is simply a tool, just like books, toys and art supplies. As parents, we have the power to decide how and when to use these tools with our kids."

When used thoughtfully, and with love, high-quality screen time is an incredibly powerful way to foster empathy and kindness in the next generation.

This article is sponsored by PBS KIDS. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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On Tuesday Connecticut became the eighth state (including D.C.) to pass and enact a paid family and medical leave program when Governor Ned Lamont signed the Paid Family and Medical Leave bill into law.

Today was a win for family leave advocates in Connecticut, as it's been a long road to getting this bill passed. At one point it was even suggested that Lamont would veto the bill, but in the end, lawmakers came to a consensus that it is in the best interest of parents, babies and basically everyone in Connecticut.

"We all agreed on the need to pass this landmark support for working families so they don't have to choose between the job they need and the family they love, or their own health," Lamont said earlier this month.

On Tuesday, he spoke again about how this was a victory for lawmakers and workers.

"Adopting this program means that workers who need to take time off for a new baby or recover from illness are not punished financially, and businesses do not risk losing good workers during those emergencies," he said.

Connecticut's plan is widely regarded as the most generous in the United States because workers will get 12 paid weeks of work to take care of a new baby, sick family member or take care of themselves. The benefits cover 95% of lower wage earner's pay, up to $900 a week.

Oh, and anyone experiencing complications from pregnancy can take an extra two weeks of paid leave to recover from that.

👏👏👏

Workers in the state will be able to start collecting these benefits in 2021 and the plan is funded through a 0.5% payroll tax, much like what other states and countries do.

In a statement to Motherly, Catherine Bailey the Deputy Director or Campaign for Paid Family Leave at Connecticut Women's Education and Legal Fund explained the campaign (a coalition of more than 75 organizations that has fought for paid family and medical leave) applauds the paid family and medical leave plan.

"Paid leave is a critical step forward for women's economic security, especially for low-wage workers and women of color who are an increasing number of primary breadwinners to their families."

She believes the plan will "provide economic stability when women and families need it most - when they need to care for themselves or a loved one, or welcome a new child."

Good job, Connecticut.

[Correction: A previous version of this post said 12 weeks is 4 months, it's not quite 3 months. We regret the error.]

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There are many heartwarming stories out there about people with different disabilities defying the odds. So many that Leigh Merryday Porch, mom to a 10-year-old autistic boy from Florida, felt the need to share her story—which paints a different perspective—on Facebook.

Merryday Porch told People in an interview "the accomplishments are beautiful, what's disturbing are the lessons people try to take away—that if you just follow the formula someone else did, that any child with a disability can do the same. It's oversimplified and ultimately hints that any other outcome is less worthy."

The facebook post, which has been shared over 250 times, reads:

"If you have an autistic child, you've seen the stories. Friends tend to tag you in them or PM you to share. They're stories of autistic kids who didn't talk but do now, children who sing the national anthem, young women who compete in beauty pageants, and those on the spectrum who graduate from college. And you don't mind the stories, because human beings persevering in the face of adversity is a beautiful thing.

But invariably, somewhere in the story is a quote that goes something like this:

"When experts told her her son would never talk, never have friends, never graduate, she declared 'Over my dead body.'"

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Those quotes are all sorts of inspirational—for some. But if you have a child whose disability is severe, such quotes are felt like a slap. Because some disabilities cannot be overcome. They can be accepted, worked with, planned for, and accommodated, but no amount of parental love and determination can erase them. Callum is not going to go to law school. He's simply not wired for that, and I can't rewire him. The fact that I can accept that and love him unconditionally does not reflect him having not been raised by someone willing to try harder.

Because—over my dead body—will he be relegated as somehow less worthy for not doing the unexpected and unrealistic. The presence of an autistic adult in the world who doesn't make the newspaper is not a statement of failure. Not of society, not of his family, and certainly not of himself. And other than steadfastly insisting he be given every reasonable opportunity any other person has to live, learn, and grow, no other declarations need be made—and no dead bodies required."

Thank you for your honesty mama.

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Life

You can write up a birth plan and pack your hospital bags well in advance, but here's the truth: Having a baby doesn't always go according to plan. You can anticipate a vaginal delivery and wind up having a C-section, go into labor before you've completed your nursery, find yourself very pregnant days after your due date has passed...or, in rarer cases, you could end up having your baby before you've made it to the hospital or birthing center where you'd planned to deliver.

Take Jessa Duggar Seewald, for example. The Counting On star recently gave birth to her third child, a little girl named Ivy Jane Seewald. But while the TV personality didn't plan on having a home birth, that became her reality when she went into labor ahead of her due date.

"My water broke right here in the kitchen," Jessa explains in a video from TLC. "Our birth plan through this whole pregnancy was that we would deliver at a birthing suite at the hospital with a midwife there. However, the morning that my water broke was the morning that my midwife had left town for a week."

Jessa and her husband, Ben, go on to explain that she was about 10 days ahead of her due date and wasn't expecting to have the baby early at this point. When Jessa and Ben realized they'd inevitably deliver before they could proceed with their plan, they decided to call another midwife in and go for a home birth. At that point, Jessa opted to speed up her labor with the help of a castor oil smoothie (note: You should chat with a medical professional before trying this at home) and some light exercise.

The video follows the mother of three through much of her labor and, eventually, the birth of her baby girl... which happened right there on the Seewald's couch. Don't worry: The sofa was covered with pads before the big moment!

Home births are totally an option for some moms 

Unfortunately, Jessa encountered something pretty scary after she delivered: Her bleeding wouldn't stop, which prompted the family to call 911. Luckily, all appears to be well with both the mama and her sweet daughter now.

Jessa's home birth wasn't like most home births, which can be a totally viable option in specific situations.

"Home births are a wonderful option for women with low-risk pregnancies, who want to have low intervention births in the comfort of their own home," says Diana Spalding, Digital Education Editor for Motherly, who is also a pediatric nurse and midwife. "ACOG [the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists] states that while they believe hospitals and in-hospital birthing centers to be the safest place to have a baby, women should be supported when they choose home birth in the presence of [a qualified midwife]. If you are considering a home birth, a bit of research is involved. Reach out to local home birth midwives to have in-depth conversations about your specific scenario. And don't forget to contact your insurance company—it's not always covered."

As wild as her birth experience was, Jessa isn't the only celeb mom to have had a home birth—she follows in the footsteps of fellow mamas like Hilary Duff. It just goes to show that delivering a baby looks different for each mama, but whether it goes according to plan or not, it's all pretty beautiful.

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Some women are more at risk than others when it comes to being pregnant. Black moms are up to four times more likely to die from complications of pregnancy and childbirth and another group, Native American and Alaska Native women, are also dying from complications in childbirth at a disproportionate rate.

Native American and Native Alaskans make up just 2% of the total U.S. population but account for the second highest number of maternal deaths in the only industrialized country where maternal deaths, overall, are rising. They are approximately 3.3 and 2.5 times more likely, respectively, to die while pregnant or as new moms than white women are.

Alarming statistics released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in May 2019 show that between 2011–2015, black women had the highest maternal death rate at 43 deaths per 100,000 live births, followed by American Indian and Alaska Native women at nearly 33 deaths. Thirteen white mothers died in the same time period.

"Racial disparities in maternal mortality are staggering" 

"More women die in the US from pregnancy-related complications than in any other developed country," the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) states on its website. According to the ACOG, the "racial disparities in maternal mortality are staggering…"

According to the CDC, 60% of maternal deaths are preventable. The leading causes of deaths during pregnancy, birth and the first year after childbirth include cardiovascular conditions, infection, and hemorrhage, but preventative strategies—including improving access to care and how it is coordinated and delivered—could save lives.

And in order to save lives, we have to acknowledge that Native American and Native Alaskan moms are dying because the health care system is failing them.

Meet Nicolle Gonzales 

Nicolle Gonzales is a Dine' Nurse-Midwife and the founder of the non-profit Changing Woman Initiative (CWI), in Santa Fe, New Mexico. A Native American-centered women's health collective, CWI aims to improve the health of expectant mothers, but Gonzales tells Motherly that she's been frustrated by a lack of information around native women's health available to medical professionals.

"When I attended conferences where they claimed to focus on Native American women's health, I found them sharing data that did not tell the full story about why our health outcomes were so bad," said Gonzales. "Further, blames seemed to be placed on native women and that it was their behavior that was the cause. I also saw the same old health frameworks being used to address known health disparities and then they would sit back and wonder why the outcomes were still terrible."

Gonzales witnessed many Native American women struggling with navigating the western medical healthcare system throughout her career. She saw assimilation practices from birth and on, that stopped Native American families from "bringing their loved ones into this world in a culturally supported and ceremonial way."

The disconnect helped inspire Gonzales to launch CWI in the fall of 2018.

Prenatal care can be culturally centered and accessible

It's on a mission to renew cultural birth knowledge, promote reproductive wellness, to support healing through holistic approaches and to strengthen women's bonds to family and community. The non-profit organization also provides training to increase the number of Indigenous midwives and encourage policy advocacy related to native women's health.

Gonzales believes some of the reasons behind the higher rates of birth mortality in Native American women are socio/economically and culturally linked. There are longer wait times to see obstetricians and/or midwives in native communities because of the remoteness of some reservations, she explains. Sometimes it's a lack of having a Medicaid card at the time of appointment, having no transportation or not making prenatal care a priority, Gonzales continues.

She believes taking the initial steps to seek medical care are crucial and wants to see moms better supported to do so. "First-trimester prenatal visits are very important. They identify health risks early, genetic screenings can be done sooner, and social circumstances and resources can be brought in," Gonzales says.

According to Gonzales' expertise, native women are at higher risk for adverse birth outcomes due to higher rates of gestational diabetes, hypertension, obesity, blood clotting disorders, drug addictions and limited access to healthcare education.

A less talked about cause of birth mortality rates for Native American women is intimate partner violence, she added. "There are limited places Native American women can go for safety and they are more likely to experience this or die from violence during their pregnancy."

The Changing Woman Initiative

The CWI also provides expectant mothers with access to healthy foods, plants and traditional medicines and time with a traditional doctor commonly called 'a medicine person.' It's a one-of-a-kind approach to a serious problem and the CWI is working to change the statistics from within its own community.

In the next three years, it aims to provide an Indigenous doula and peer counselor training to over 100 women in New Mexico.

The CDC study states that reducing pregnancy-related deaths requires reviewing and learning from each death, improving women's health, and reducing social inequities across the life span, as well as ensuring quality care for pregnant and postpartum periods, and for providers and patients to work together to optimally manage chronic health conditions.

America cannot save the lives of Native mothers if it doesn't understand why they are at risk, and supporting women who can provide culturally appropriate care—and listening to them—is vital.

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