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The anticipation of having your first baby might make 9 months seem like forever. But before you know it, you are weeks away from meeting your little one, and it's time to prepare! What better way to lay the foundation for this new adventure in your life than with a Baby Shower! Traditional Baby Showers are lovely and have their purpose, but why not provide a unique experience for yourself and your guests? If you are looking to buck the trend of pacifier bingo and toilet paper games, we have a few shower activities that are easy to execute at any budget. 1. Baby Time Capsule. This is a simple and sweet activity to create for your guests. Have your everyone write either predictions or wishes for your little one to be opened on his or her 18th birthday. You can create your own instruction sign with a chalkboard or have a chalkboard sign designed for you. Then add decorative paper, envelopes and a special box to store, and display the notes written by your guests. There is plenty of inspiration on Pinterest and wonderful artisans on Etsy, like SquishyDesignsByMe, who can assist you in the execution of the Baby Time Capsule. Hardest Part? Making sure that box stays sealed until year 18!

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Credit: SquishyDesignsByMe

2. Advice Clotheslines Display. Can’t wait until the 18th birthday? Have guests write words of encouragement or advice for you, and hang them on a simple Advice Clothesline Display at the shower. This display is easy to execute and can add to the décor of the shower. At the recent City Registry Event hosted by Well Rounded, there was an activity that utilized a Clothesline Display. The words of encouragement or advice can be saved after the shower. Then take the time to read them while you are nesting - there may be some valuable tips you don’t want to miss!    

Credit: Jonica Moore Studio

3. Baby Advice Photo Booth. Step this idea up and create a Baby Advice Photo Booth. Create your own backdrop using streamers, garland, fabric or decorative fans. There is a lot of inspiration to create backdrops online. Give your guests a whiteboard or chalkboard so they can write their advice. Then click and shoot! Save these moments in a beautiful album for you and your family to enjoy.

Credit: Image on www.indulgy.com

4. Perfume Bar. If you would like to have your guests create something memorable for themselves and try a new experience consider having a Perfume Bar at your shower. Guests can create their own scent from various oils with guidance from experienced aestheticians or from a custom guided plan. Their new scents can be packaged in beautiful bottles with a personalized label.

Credit: B. Lee Events LLC

5. Mini Spa. What expectant mother does not relish the idea of being pampered? Create a Mini Spa within your baby shower by setting up stations for guests to receive quick manicures and indulge in luxurious back rubs and hand massages. Keep the pampering short and sweet but enough to satisfy you guests. Planning Tip: We recommend steering clear of providing blowouts for your guests as they can be quite loud and time consuming. Written by B. Lee Events, a leading full service event planning, coordinating and consulting company in New York City led by sisters in law Brandy Carbone and Lisa Cokinos. After many years on Wall Street, we decided to leverage our experience and skills to bring professionalism and diligence to the event planning industry. It’s our goal to simplify your event planning process and to help you create beautiful and lasting memories.

Credit: B. Lee Events LLC

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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As mamas, we naturally become the magic-makers for our families. We sing the songs that make the waits seem shorter, dispense the kisses that help boo-boos hurt less, carry the seemingly bottomless bags of treasures, and find ways to turn even the most hum-drum days into something memorable.

Sometimes it's on a family vacation or when exploring a new locale, but often it's in our own backyards or living rooms. Here are 12 ways to create magical moments with kids no matter where your adventures take you.


1. Keep it simple

Mary Poppins may be practically perfect in every way, but―trust us―your most magical memories don't require perfection. Spend the morning building blanket forts or break out the cookie cutters to serve their sandwich in a fun shape and you'll quickly learn that, for kids, the most magical moments are often the simplest.

2. Get on their level

Sometimes creating a memorable moment can be as easy as getting down on the floor and playing with your children. So don't be afraid to get on your hands and knees, to swing from the monkey bars, or turn watching your favorite movie into an ultimate snuggle sesh.

3. Reimagine the ordinary

As Mary says, "the cover is not the book." Teach your child to see the world beyond initial impressions by encouraging them to imagine a whole new world as you play―a world where the laundry basket can be a pirate ship or a pile of blankets can be a castle.

4. Get a little messy

Stomp in muddy puddles. Break out the finger paint. Bake a cake and don't worry about frosting drips on the counter. The messes will wait, mama. For now, let your children―and yourself―live in these moments that will all too soon become favorite memories.

5. Throw out the plan

The best-laid plans...are rarely the most exciting. And often the most magical moments happen by accident. So let go of the plan, embrace the unexpected, and remember that your child doesn't care if the day goes according to the schedule.

6. Take it outside

There's never a wrong time of year to make magic outside. Take a stroll through a spring rainstorm, catch the first winter snowflakes on your tongue, or camp out under a meteor shower this summer. Mother Nature is a natural at creating experiences you'll both remember forever.

7. Share your childhood memories

Chances are if you found it magical as a child, then your kids will too. Introduce your favorite books and movies (pro tip: Plan a double feature with an original like Mary Poppins followed with the sequel, Mary Poppins Returns!) or book a trip to your favorite family vacation spot from the past. You could even try to recreate photos from your old childhood with your kids so you can hang on to the memory forever.

8. Just add music

Even when you're doing something as humdrum as prepping dinner or tidying up the living room, a little music has a way of upping the fun factor. Tell Alexa to cue up your favorite station for a spontaneous family dance party or use your child's favorite movie soundtrack for a quick game of "Clean and Freeze" to pick up toys at the end of the day.

9. Say "yes"

Sometimes it can feel like you're constantly telling your child "no." While it's not possible to grant every request (sorry, kiddo, still can't let you drive the car!), plan a "yes" day for a little extra magic. That means every (reasonable) request gets an affirmative response for 24 hours. Trust us―they'll never forget it.

10. Let them take the lead

A day planned by your kid―can you imagine that? Instead of trying to plan what you think will lead to the best memories, put your kid in the driver's seat by letting them make the itinerary. If you have more than one child, break up the planning so one gets to pick the activity while the other chooses your lunch menu. You just might end up with a day you never expected.

11. Ask more questions

Odds are, your child might not remember every activity you plan―but they will remember the moments you made them feel special. By focusing the conversation on your little one―their likes, dislikes, goals, or even just craziest dreams―you teach them that their perspective matters and that you are their biggest fan.

12. Turn a bad day around

Not every magical moment will start from something good. But the days where things don't go to plan can often turn out to be the greatest memories, especially when you find a way to turn even a negative experience into a positive memory. So don't get discouraged if you wake up to rain clouds on your beach day or drop the eggs on the floor before breakfast―take a cue from Mary Poppins and find a way to turn the whole day a little "turtle."

Mary Poppins Returns available now on Digital & out on Blue-ray March 19! Let the magic begin in your house with a night where everything is possible—even the impossible ✨

Americans are having fewer children than in decades past, and the cost of childcare is absolutely a factor. Millennial parents are struggling to afford childcare and some are hoping for relief in the form of a federally-funded universal childcare policy. Some politicians are campaigning on it, but most baby boomers are far from sold on the idea.

While surveys suggest that the rising cost of childcare is keeping many younger Americans from having as many children as they would like, they also suggest that older Americans are strongly opposed to universal childcare.

According to a Hill-HarrisX survey released earlier this month, 72% of registered voters 50 and older believe day care costs should be paid by parents, not a federally funded universal childcare program or a subsidy that would halve costs.

And while much of the current political conversation is focused on who and what is trending among millennials, baby boomers outvote millennials and Gen-Xers, so even if the policy is popular among today's young mothers and fathers, there will likely be more grandmothers and grandfathers at the polls.

So why are older Americans not into the idea of subsidizing childcare?

For one thing, as Bryce Covert wrote for The New Republic last year, "Most Americans have long considered child care to be a personal problem rather than a collective one."

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Colvert's opening line is so obvious to anyone who has brought up the cost of childcare (or housing or student loans) at a family dinner only to have a relative reply, "if you can't afford a child, don't have one."

But maybe we should reply, "if a generation can't afford to have children, you won't have them when you need them."

The U.S. Census Bureau projects that within a couple of decades there will be more Americans over the age of 65 than under the age of 18. We need younger generations to care for the older ones, but if parents aren't supported, there will be fewer young people.

For Americans of all ages, we need to address this childcare crisis. Maybe universal childcare isn't the solution, but we need to accept that this is a problem that impacts the future of the entire country, not just parents.

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Like many modern couples, before getting married and having kids my husband and I spoke frequently about our plans to be true partners in life—to share in the household responsibilities equally and to co-parent our children in a way that defied the stereotypical norms of our society.

Then we actually had kids and we quickly learned that it was a lot more complicated than that.

Even as members of the millennial generation, we were born into a society in which gendered expectations have been rooted in our way of thinking, living and doing. Although growing up in progressive households molded our expectations and ideas, that background didn't prove enough to fully counter the pervasive inequalities that restrict partners from co-parenting as hoped.

The gender divide begins from day one of parenting

During my first pregnancy, the myth of equally co-parenting became apparent all too quickly. My husband had to choose between taking time off to come to my prenatal visits or using that time to lengthen his paternity leave, which was five days long. I asked him to do the latter and he willingly (albeit regretfully) obliged. Still, that did not prevent one of my midwives from commenting on his "lack of presence" during my prenatal care. It felt like a lose-lose situation.

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Research shows that fathers crave more guidance and support through their transition into fatherhood. Yet, this isn't readily available, which sends a loud and clear message to new parents right from the start: Fathers don't need to learn how to parent, because they won't be the primary parents.

Our current prenatal care system leaves much to be desired, as anyone who has been rushed through a health care appointment can attest. But women at least have routine touch points with their providers where there is the possibility of deeper communications. Partners don't have that. Yes, some attend the prenatal visits—but this is a privilege not available to most couples.

Societal gender-based assumptions become barriers

From the moment we become parents, we begin to experience the gender stereotypes and social norms we have come to accept as, well, norms: The lack of changing tables in men's restrooms. The marketing of baby dolls to little girls. And the comments. Oh, the comments.

"Did daddy dress you today?"

"Oh, is it is daddy-daycare today?"

My husband was never asked if he planned to continue working or stay home with the baby. He is never asked how he manages to balance a career and a family. We simply do not think to ask these questions of men. He also, admittedly, never goes to sleep at night with an overwhelming sensation of was I good enough today. That's my societal baggage to enjoy.

Somewhere along the way, and over and over again, I absorbed the notion that a "good mom" looks and acts a certain way — and I believed it, to my core. It's the same ideology that keeps me up at night consumed with "mom guilt" for all the day's imperfections, while my husband sleeps peacefully next to me.

We have never once had a conversation in which we discussed who would take on the role of "master birthday party planner," "creator of holiday magic" and one thousand other responsibilities that tend to land on moms. Nor did we ever discuss who would rake the leaves or call the car mechanic—because those were obviously my husband's jobs.

For all our progressive and feminist proclamations, we certainly landed firmly in our expected — and oh-so-stereotypical — roles. Interestingly, a 2018 survey from the Pew Research Center highlighted the discrepancy between the percentage of moms who believe they were socialized into their roles (66%) versus the number of fathers (31%). Rather, fathers were more likely than mothers to say their parenting style was primarily attributable to their biology.

Signs of progress also highlight where we need to do more work

By and large, our society has made women the assumed primary parents and men the assumed primary breadwinners.

But that's not to say we're without progress: According to the Pew Research Center, when compared to fathers in the 1960s, today's fathers spend more than twice as much time on household chores, and three times as many hours taking care of their children. In 40% of households, women are the sole or primary breadwinner, compared to 11% in 1960. For the first time in history, women in the United States are more educated than men—36% of millennial women have earned a bachelor's degree or higher, compared to 28% of men.

And yet.

Our lived realities do little to reflect these changes. Consider the pay gap in the United States: Overall women's salaries are 20% less than men's. Add in racial inequalities and the numbers are far worse—a Hispanic woman, for example, garners only 53% of a man's salaries.

The Motherhood Penalty is a documented phenomenon for mothers in the paid workforce. For example, mothers are considered to be 12% less committed to their jobs than women who are not mothers and are six times less likely to be recommended for hire.

In other words, mothers are not regarded as good employees and are therefore less likely to get the job—despite studies that show the exact opposite. Motherly co-found Liz Tenety writes that, "over the course of a career, mothers are the most efficient workers around."

Between the gender pay-gap and the rising cost of childcare, it is no wonder that more women change career paths when they become parents than men. Many women realize that they will spend more on childcare than they bring home in salary, and decide that it makes the most economic sense to leave their paid work. Motherly's State of Motherhood Survey found that 50% of women made changes to their careers after having a baby, most of them becoming stay-at-home moms. Meanwhile, 58% of partners' careers stayed the same and 29% scaled up.

Nearly two-thirds of partners expressed the wish to spend more time with their kids, but couldn't because their work demands were too high, or their bosses expected them to be at work for long hours.

This disparity merely scratches the surface of the issue, though. To have the option to scale back on one's career means that someone else in the household can earn what the family needs to get by, which is not a possibility in single-parent households.

Making the changes we can

We are the products of a society that is heteronormative, patriarchal and built on systemic racism—all problems that are intertwined. Living in it means that we have to fight for true parenting equality at every turn. And the truth is that we don't always fight — sometimes we do just give in and fall into our expected roles.

Now let me be clear, my ability to spend a day not fighting is a privilege granted to me as a white, cis-gendered, heterosexual, middle-class, English speaking, documented citizen. Being too tired to fight is not a right that many of our fellow mothers have.

Are we the generation to fix it? No, we are not. This problem is more than a generation deep, and it is going to take many seasons of parents to change the culture. Our indoctrination began long before we were conceived. And, by the time we become aware of it, we are fully immersed in its mess.

Does that mean we leave it alone? Also, no. Not even close.

We do the work. Every day.

We talk about injustices, with each other and our children. We own the biases we have inherited and we explore our shadows so that we can understand them, even when it is uncomfortable.

For me, it starts with baby steps—which usually means voicing the needs I normally keep quiet.

As I write this, my daughter sits beside me, home sick from school. When she woke up coughing this morning we did not have a conversation about "who was going to stay home with her?" I just automatically started shuffling my calendar around, and my husband automatically started getting dressed for work. I felt the resentment start to creep in, but realized that this shift is on me, just as much as it is on him. I called him and asked him to leave work early to take over, so we could at least share in the upheaval of a sick kid.

This pushed the limits of my comfort zone, something that is never easy to do. But, my belief is that by doing so, my children's comfort zones will naturally be even wider—so they can then push for more when their time comes. It may take generations, but progress is better than complacence. The future doesn't have to be the past.

Originally posted on Medium.

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Pregnancy can be a dream come true, but it can also be really hard. Jessica Simpson is so excited to welcome her third child, a girl named Birdie, but this pregnancy has not been easy on the 38-year-old mama.

She's been hospitalized multiple times and been dealing with swollen feet and heartburn so bad she has to sleep in a chair. It isn't easy being this pregnant, but Simpson's latest selfie proves she makes it look good and has a sense of humour about it.

She fashion mogul posted a bikini photo with the best caption ever: "Jess-tation".

😂😂😂

The fun photo comes not long after she revealed she's been hospitalized four times in the last couple of months.

"After a week in the hospital for bronchitis (my fourth time in 2 months), I'm finally home!" she wrote in a March 3 Instagram caption. "Coughing with Birdie has been a crazy painful journey. I am slowly getting healthier every day."

According to Healthline, bronchitis is quite common in the winter months, and being pregnant can make it even more uncomfortable as it can be harder to take deep breaths.

Her honesty on Instagram is a good thing because pregnancy can be challenging but, for some reason, society talks a lot about women glowing and craving ice cream, but not a lot about how difficult it can be physically and emotionally.

Thankfully, Jessica is feeling better and doesn't have too much longer to go in this pregnancy.

"I am slowly getting healthier every day. Baby girl was monitored and is doing amazing! 🙏🏼 I am on my way to healthy and counting down the days to see her sweet smile. Sending love and prayers to all the mothers who are going or have gone through this. OUCH."

Pregnancy isn't easy for every mama. It can be downright not fun. But the good news is that the physical discomfort will end, mama.

One day you will have your baby in your arms, not your belly. You will no longer be "Jess-tating". You will sleep in a bed again, not upright in a recliner. Your feet will fit into regular shoes.

We get it, Jessica. Hang in there mama. Birdie is almost here!

[This post was originally published March 4, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Garner have a lot in common. They are both actors, they're both moms of three, and they're both having a laugh clapping back at magazine headlines suggesting they're pregnant.

Witherspoon shared the cover of the latest issue of OK! on her Instagram recently, tagging Jen Garner in the caption and asking "Can we raise our imaginary babies together?"

"We are going to be the cutest imaginary family," Garner replied. "I'll just go ahead and move in now."

As much as we are all for an alternative reality where Witherspoon and Garner are BFFs who move in together to raise their children, it's pretty clear that isn't happening in the real world.

What is happening is speculation about women's bodies, which isn't cool. In this case, a magazine linked Jen Garner's supposed fondness for sweaters to a secret pregnancy and not, you know, sweater weather.

But women in the public eye have to put up with pregnancy rumors nearly constantly. Just recently, Kate Middleton, the Duchess of Cambridge was said by tabloids to be three months pregnant, a rumor she totally shut down by drinking Guinness on St. Patrick's Day.

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And of course, no woman in history has been pregnant as often as the tabloids have made Jennifer Aniston out to be, something she's written at length about, noting that the speculation is hurtful to her on a personal level, and is damaging on a societal level. "If I am some kind of symbol to some people out there, then clearly I am an example of the lens through which we, as a society, view our mothers, daughters, sisters, wives, female friends and colleagues," she wrote for Huffington Post in 2016. "The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing."

"We use celebrity 'news' to perpetuate this dehumanizing view of females, focused solely on one's physical appearance, which tabloids turn into a sporting event of speculation. Is she pregnant? Is she eating too much? Has she let herself go? Is her marriage on the rocks because the camera detects some physical 'imperfection'?" Aniston wondered in her essay.

Like Aniston, Garner and Witherspoon are frequent subjects of false stories that say more about our society than they do about the women they claim to be reporting on.

It's good to see these two powerful women clapping back at companies that make money peddling pretend pregnancy narratives. As much as we love a *real* pregnancy announcement, we're bored to death of bump speculation. Women—those making the headlines and those consuming them—deserve better.

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