Need a minute,
mama?
Get the best of Motherly—delivered to your inbox.
(We thought so.)
Subscribe to the Motherly Minute
for need-to-know parenting
news + top product recommendations
delivered daily to your inbox.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy
and Terms & Conditions

Welcome to
#Team Motherly.

Check your inbox for an email
to confirm your subscription
—we can’t wait to start bringing
the best of Motherly right to you.

Print Friendly and PDF

The thought of my kids being given yet more stuff at their birthday parties fills me with dread. It’s one thing to be gifted thoughtful and carefully monitored (read, overbearingly controlled by moi) gifts by family members and like-minded friends, it’s another to be given the inevitable surplus clutter that comes from your little one’s 25 fellow schoolmates, no matter how well intended it is. What if there was another way? Turns out, there IS! And what’s more, it’s an important, educative and quite brilliant way of showing our children how they can make a meaningful difference to the world.

FEATURED VIDEO

Requesting charitable donations in lieu of gifts is an enduring trend amongst adults that has crossed into the child’s arena at full tilt. It is a valuable means of fostering the idea of giving to those in need, building a social awareness and nurturing kindness and altruism at a time when both consumption and self-absorption seem to be at a depressing peak. Not to mention, you get less crap in your house.

How so, you ask? Some philanthropic pointers, below.

USE THE DAYMAKER PLATFORM.

Daymaker is an innovative online kid-to-kid giving platform designed to help parents “create habits of compassion and generosity in their children.” Partnering with non-profits including The Boys & Girls Clubs of America and Communities in Schools, the website enables children to give to others their own age year-round, with targeted projects. May’s focus is named Summer Swing and provides opportunity to deliver books to low-income children. Come July the Back to School drive will enable young humanitarians to fulfill individual wish lists for the new school year. We love Daymaker’s ability to overcome the limits of seasonal giving and its smart format for children to proactively direct their generosity in a modern and very tangible way.

BUY A GIFT CARD FOR SOMEONE IN NEED.

With an alarming amount of natural disasters happening on US soil, gift cards are a well-practiced way to help child victims of hurricanes, floods and the like, closer to home. Donated via the usual suspects -- Amazon,Target et al -- your child can then take on the ultimate challenge (and, one hopes, pleasure) of purchasing items not for themselves, but for children in real need. Have goods mailed directly to charities on the ground, including Save the Children and Portlight or contact local community organizations who are living it daily. Alternatively, some groups have registries set up that you can employ; Sheltering Arms NY is just one example, with its registry on Amazon. We’ve encountered this idea often, most recently in support of child hurricane victims in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico.

NAME YOUR CHARITY.

If a particular charity is close to your family’s heart, request that donations be made in your child’s name. The downside here of course is the lack of physical affirmation, although some organizations will provide a letter of thanks, or similar. Regardless, monetary gifts are not to be sniffed at and the model of generosity still upholds. Choose something meaningful to your child (like Art Start or Free Arts for your creatives, or a local animal shelter for your pet lover) or simply keep it closer to home - and more relatable - by opting to help a group who’s good work your family can see in action (local food banks, community groups). Good opportunities also arise with those who’s causes are currently in the news and hence top-of-mind, such as UNIDOS or CFVI.

SUPPORT A SCHOOL WITH DONORS CHOOSE.

When a child is particularly privileged or simply lucky enough to attend a well-funded school, here’s a sure way to show them just how fortunate they are. Another monetary led option, this one is much more interactive than a simple donation. Here, your child can use their birthday cash to fulfill specific requests made by teachers – whether it be for basic materials or a specific upcoming project - and later, see exactly how their donations have helped other children in the classroom. Every donor gets a thank-you letter from the teacher, photos from the classroom and a report of how each dollar was spent. Top marks to Donors Choose for simultaneously cultivating an appreciation of just how important our schools are.

RE-GIFT!

It’s an oldie but a goodie -- instead of passing a gift along to someone else on the birthday schedule, take these items to a local homeless shelter or charitable group. Even better, make your intent known to your party attendees beforehand, so that their gifts can be bought with purpose. New York-based charities like Toys for Tots and Room to Grow are excellent resources to help facilitate donation drives. You can take it one step further and give your (older) child a reality check with a trip to the shelter to hand over said gifts in person. In the same vein, I have some California friends whose accidental order of an oversized cake became a lesson in giving when they took it and their children to LA’s Skid Row. Handing out slices of your birthday cake to the homeless, alongside food trucks donating their own surplus, is what you call a stellar teaching moment. Happy birthday, kid!

Fay Cantor-Stephens; a Brit by birth but NY-er at heart, is a former fashion editor and PR gal who now juggles three children, a dog and her old sense of self. There’s a husband in the mix there too and a strange, unrelenting desire to increase her child army tenfold.

Photography via Daymaker.

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.

By subscribing, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions

As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

This article was sponsored by Kinder. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


Our Partners

Sydni Lane, a trauma nurse and Instagram influencer is on the front lines of fighting the coronavirus pandemic and she shared a very powerful message with us this week—she's scared. She's scared of contracting this virus and bringing it home to her family, including her asthmatic children. She's scared for her safety. She's scared people still might not be taking this as seriously as they need to be.

Because she doesn't have enough personal protective equipment (PPE) at work. Because her face is bruised from wearing a mask for over 13 hours. Because she fears we may not have started social-distancing as a collective nation early enough. Because even though she accepted a job as a nurse in the ER, the day she'd have to fight a global pandemic likely hardly ever crossed her mind.

FEATURED VIDEO

And because this seems to be only the beginning for her and her colleagues as they prepare for the peak to hit eventually. She is understandably scared.

She wrote—

"I broke down and cried today.

"I cried of exhaustion, of defeat.

"Because after four years of being an ER nurse, I suddenly feel like I know nothing.

"Because my face hurts after wearing an N95 for 13 hours, which happens to be the same N95 I wore yesterday for 12.5 hours, and the same one from all last week.

"I don't know how many times I've heard the statement 'but this is what you signed up for.' Just, no.

"I signed up to take care of sick patients, yes. I did not sign up to be unprotected by their sickness (although my hospital is busting their [butts] to try to protect us). I did not sign up to be yelled at by angry patients because our government failed to be prepared. I did not sign up to risk mine and my family's health and safety because people wanted to go on their vacations after they said NOT to.

"An ER nurse in New York died today of COVID-19. He was in his 40s and had very mild asthma. That's it. This is not just a tall tale, this is the real risk. I have to go into every patient's room and in the back of my mind I think 'this could be the patient that gets me sick... that kills me. This could be the patient that gives me the virus I bring home to my children or asthmatic husband.' This is my new reality.

"But this is only the beginning. We haven't even scratched the surface of the impact of what this illness is going to make on our country.

"And I'm scared."


Our hearts go out to these healthcare workers who are—no doubt—superheroes. They are risking their lives to ensure the safety of ours. They're separated from their loved ones. Some may even be experiencing personal and even financial hardship right now. They are treating patients around the clock under extreme circumstances and, honestly, there are not enough words in the dictionary to accurately explain our depth of gratitude.

What we can do is help. If you have the means to, donate. Donate to Feeding America. Think of a friend or family member working at a hospital and Venmo them any dollar amount—even just enough for a coffee. If you know how to sew, make medical masks for your local hospital.

More importantly, reach out to them and ask them how they are. Let them know you're thinking of them and how grateful you are for their work. I bet they could use the encouragement right about now.

Life

Bestselling author, professor and researcher Brené Brown is well-known and loved for her inspirational approach to life's challenges (and for her Netflix special The Call to Courage)‚ but even she acknowledges that the coronavirus pandemic presents a whole new set of challenges for families.

"Collectively, what I see is a growing weariness. I think we're tired, physically, emotionally, spiritually exhausted," Brown said on Monday in an interview for the Today Show, adding that part of the challenge is acknowledging that we're in it for the long haul. "We're going to have to settle into a new normal, while grieving the old normal, which is a lot to ask of people."

FEATURED VIDEO

With schools and workplaces closed and social distancing measures in effect across the country, many parents are pulling triple-duty at home right now as full-time caregivers, homeschool instructors and workers. At some moments, it can (understandably) feel as if parenting through coronavirus requires more than we have to give.

Enter Brown's "family gap plan," which can help families bridge the gap during tough moments.

As Brown explains it, "I'd say (to my husband), 'Steve, all I have is 20%.' And he's like, 'Hey, I've been holding down the fort here. All I got is 20.' So we'd say, 'Okay, we've got a gaping 60%. What are our rules when we don't have 100% as a family?'"

Brown stresses the importance of keeping lines of communication open as a family: "Let people know where you are." She and her husband have a policy of being honest with their children about moments when they feel low-energy or high-stress.

"I'll say, 'We have to make 100 as a family. I've got 20, and your dad's got 20. What do we do to get to 100?' And it's about the way we talk to each other, the way we show up with each other, extra kindness...and takeout."

In fact, Brown's kids helped come up with the set of rules their family follows whenever there's a "family gap" and things aren't adding up to 100%:

  • No harsh words
  • No nice words with harsh faces
  • Say you're sorry
  • Accept apologies with a "thank you" (as opposed to "okay," which can sound frosty)
  • More knock-knock jokes and puns

Every family is different, and your family's way of bridging the gap may call for a different set of rules (and the truth is, it's okay to not be okay sometimes). But as tactical, actionable advice for keeping the peace at home goes, the more humor and kindness, the better.

News

It was 8 pm on Sunday night and the kids were in bed. I was in the middle of urgent work emails for my mental health clinic to ensure we were prioritizing the health and care of our clients in light of the novel coronavirus spread. My work demanded my attention.

My partner walked into the room. I looked up and paused and saw the uncertainty in his eyes. I could see that he needed me.

This was one of those moments. This was a bid for attention.

Bids for attention are our attempts to connect with our partners—to be seen, to be appreciated, to be acknowledged, to be given affection. They can be small bids (like making eye contact and smiling) or bigger bids (like asking for help). Often it is not about what someone says or does, but rather the meaning behind the action.

FEATURED VIDEO

When your partner asks, "How was work today?" (or even just, "What's up?") what they are really asking is, "Will you talk to me?"

If they glance over and smile at you, what they really want to know is, "Will you notice and connect with me?"

For some, reaching for connection with our partner takes the form of actual verbal requests for help, as in "I need help" or even "I feel like you don't love me."

For others, nonverbal expressions are how we attempt to connect—for affection, care and engagement.

On that Sunday night, my partner didn't say anything. It was all in the look on his face.

I could have said "I have to do this!" and dismissed him from the room. I could have made a list of the things that were necessary to get done. I could have ignored him altogether.

But how we respond to these bids for attention in our relationships is key.

We can either turn towards our partner and see these bids for attention, or we turn away and shut them down. Dr. John Gottman, the relationships researcher, clinical psychologist and founder of the Gottman Institute, found that couples who were still married six years after their initial research meeting turned towards each other 86% of the time, while couples who ended up divorced turned towards each other 33% of the time.

So how do we respond to bids for attention?

One way of responding is by turning towards your partner. This is you seeing your partner's attempt to connect. This is you deciding that whatever is going on for you can wait because you can see that your partner needs you. This is you, at times, putting aside your own feelings, and seeing your partner's.

What does turning towards look like?

  • Smiling back and holding eye contact.
  • Sharing the feeling that comes up at that moment.
  • Responding to touch and letting your partner know you feel them there and appreciate their efforts to connect.
  • Asking what your partner needs in the moment.
  • Seeing your partner's emotion and reflecting it back to them.
  • Asking how you can help them in this moment.
  • Asking a following up question.

The challenge, of course, is that during times of stress and overwhelm, or when we feel disconnected and distressed, we get stuck in turning away from our partners.

Turning away takes a number of forms, too. Sometimes it looks like walking away and not acknowledging your partner, or passing each other in the hall and not meeting your partner's gaze. It may also look like staying away from your partner instead of going to them, or changing the topic when difficult things are brought up. It may also be minimizing the other person's experience ("it's not a big deal") or coming back with a defensive response. Maybe you don't even respond to your partner at all.

Missing these bids for attention sends our partner the message that we don't see them and that they are not important. This slowly erodes the health of your relationship.

We all miss bids for attention at times—particularly during times of stress and struggle. We must learn to tune into our partner and see them when they are asking—silently or out loud—for connection. What are the ways your partner tries for your attention? Have you shared with your partner how you try to get their attention?

On that Sunday night, in the middle of a pandemic, I chose connection. I paused my work and connected with him. I asked him what was going on for him, and I held him close.

You can choose to respond to your partner during this difficult time. You can choose to see your partner in front of you and create closeness and responsiveness. Because this is a time when we all need to create connections.

Love + Village

Chances are, social distancing boredom is starting to set in. You've cleaned your home, watched your favorite Netflix movies (several times), cooked several meals from your stockpile and you've managed to do this all while homeschooling your little one. Good job, mama!

While we can manage our own boredom, trying to keep our kids entertained has been a real challenge. These days our saving grace has been a host of indoor activities, and now, neighborhoods are creating "bear hunts" to help kids minimize boredom even more.

The idea was inspired by the children's book We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and is exactly how it sounds. You walk around your neighborhood in search of stuffed bears in windows. Put simply, it's the perfect way to get fresh air while practicing social distancing. Even more, it's the perfect distraction that unites neighborhoods and families.

FEATURED VIDEO

To get in on the action, visit the "Going on a Bear Hunt" website to find out where the bears are near you or how to start the hunt in your town. Once you've decided your path, sing "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" song to add some fun to your experience.

Shanna Bonner Groom, who spearheaded the recent bear hunting initiative in the Stewart Springs neighborhood of Murfreesboro, Tennessee told TIME that she got the word out by posting the idea in her neighborhood's private Facebook group after seeing it floating around on social media.

"Within hours, everybody was responding and wanting to join in," she said. "Everybody's trying to enjoy this time at home with each other but do social distancing at the same time. So we're trying to come up with some fun activities."

The bear hunt isn't stopping in the United States, in fact many have spotted bears in cities as far as London and New Zealand.

"To the parent (it's gotta be a parent) who came up with this idea, THANK YOU. Explaining to a 4-yr-old why playdates aren't allowed anymore is heartbreaking, so "Going on a Bear Hunt" during our walks is the distraction we needed," says London-based mama, Daniele Hamamdjian.

Indeed, the world needs as many furry friends as possible right now.

News
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.