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*We collaborated with eeboo to celebrate their new Hue Do You Love Plush Animal Series and to show how breaking traditional gender molds can start with something as simple as playtime.

I had the best intentions to raise an open-minded, caring individual when I found out I was pregnant with my son. I read all of the books, heard all of the stories and witnessed examples of childhood behavior that I stored away in my brain for some time, waiting for the right moments to use this knowledge. But when my son came home from Pre-K one day telling me that a classmate said that he couldn’t like a certain toy because it was for girls, it confirmed that I was kidding myself in ever thinking I could prepare myself for motherhood.

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And I realized that this was only the beginning of these gender conversations I foolishly thought we liberal parents were immune to since we were, of course, visibly excited by the request of ponies, or a pink and purple leopard kitty, from my then truck-obsessed kiddo.

I realized then, we’d need to commit ourselves to keeping that gender conversation open. To constantly remind my son, myself and everyone around us who would listen that there is no such thing as boy stuff and girl stuff. That there is no such thing as acting like a boy or a girl because every child is an individual.

Now this isn’t happening overnight. But taking the gender labels off toys -- and especially off dolls -- really helps. I’ve seen the effect playing with dolls has on my son. Doing so has taught him so much, and taught us so much about the endless possibilities when you open your home to genderless play.

Here’s a few reasons we think all boys should play with dolls.

1. Imagination. The beauty of a doll is that you can watch a child’s imagination go where it wants to without limits. Some days that doll will be a baby, others it’s an airplane, or even a ball (being hit by a lightsaber that he is pretending is a bat, of course). Introduce a friend in the mix and the possibilities are endless.

2. Empathy. Playground bullying is real. And while I don’t believe there is such a thing as a bad kid, there is bad behavior. I want to raise a boy that is empathetic and can put himself in someone else’s shoes. A doll can be a great way to roleplay situations, talk about feelings or simply learn how to care for something.

3. Language. When you introduce dolls at a young age, it can be a great way to help your baby learn new words. Act out a scene for your child, teach your baby where certain body parts are, or even let him have a conversation with his doll in a language all his own.

4. Comfort. There’s something so sweet and wonderful about watching your child create an attachment to a doll or lovie. His little sidekick will have the power to help him be brave on that first day of daycare or scare away those monsters under the bed.

5. Breaking Gender Walls. There’s no such thing as boy toys or girl toys. I repeat: there’s no such thing as girl toys or boy toys! Let’s all say this to our boys and girls and watch them flourish to their fullest potentials.

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Lifestyle photography by Stylish & Hip Kids for Well Rounded NY.

Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:


Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking. Late Wednesday night news broke that Rivera was missing and presumed drowned after her 4-year-old son, Josey, was found floating alone on a rented boat on Lake Piru in Ventura County, California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Sheriff's Department Capt. Eric Buschow said the mother and her preschooler were swimming near the boat Wednesday afternoon. Josey got back into the rented boat after the swim but his mother did not. The preschooler was later found by other boaters, sleeping alone in the boat. Rescuers were able to figure out who he was because Rivera's wallet and identification were on the boat.

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Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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