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Oh, Mama, that granddaughter of yours. That sweet, strong daughter of mine. Nowadays, she insists on putting on her shoes without my help.


Sometimes, I have to close my eyes and think about something else while she does it.

Sometimes, I have to walk into another room and busy myself with another task.

Sometimes, it is so hard for me to just let her do it herself. We need to get out the door.

There are times when she overcomplicates the process, and I think, sweetie, it could be so much easier if you just let me help. I see her frustration and the way her confidence is shaken when she doesn’t get it straight away.

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It’s hard for me, but I let her do it. I’m there for her if she asks for help, to offer an encouraging word, or to acknowledge her perseverance, but at the same time, I have to step back, and let her try to figure it out on her own sometimes.

I’m starting to see now that this is what you’ve been doing for me.

And Mama, I want to thank you.

Ever since she was born, and especially since her little sister was born shortly afterwards, my text messages and calls to you have increased exponentially. “Mama, I need your help.”

It’s the cry from our children that causes us to come running. It’s the cry that makes us want to drop everything and fix our babies’ problems.

But sometimes, being there for our children means just that—being there.

Thank you for being there, Mama.

Thank you for being there when I called you, cradling my slightly feverish newborn and panicking as I looked up the number for the emergency room.

Thank you for telling me that yes, you knew it was scary, and yes, you knew how worried I was, even when you knew that it was most likely the common cold she’d go on to experience many, many more times.

Thank you for being there when I needed to vent about how I wasn’t coping with the sleep deprivation, how I resented every person in existence who got to sleep for more than two hours at a time, how unfair it was, and how I didn’t recognize myself anymore.

You didn’t tell me to try this or that, sleep train, give her an extra bottle, or provide a fix-it-all solution. You listened and you let me cry tears of exasperation because when you have a baby that won’t sleep, the desperate helplessness needs to come out somehow. You knew that, and you were there.

Thank you for being there when the parenting choices I make differ to yours.

Thank you for saying things like, “Hmm...that’s interesting”, or “I hadn’t considered that perspective before,” when I tell you about a new book I’ve read or a school of thought to which I’ve subscribed.

Thank you for respecting me when I manage my children’s behavior differently to how you would have done it.

Thank you for not criticizing, dismissing or telling me I’m doing it wrong. You’re letting me forge my own path as you look on, assuring me of your support regardless of whether or not I admit that your way was the right way, after all.

Thank you for being there at three in the morning, when I have a baby finally asleep in the crook of my arm in a still, silent room, as we speak through text messages so we don’t wake anyone up.

Thank you for making it safe for me to tell you things like, “Today, I’m sick of being needed by everyone,” or, “Today, I wish they’d just grow up already.”

You’re on the other end of the tunnel, probably missing being needed and wondering how the age of littles has passed you by so quickly, but you tell me that you know—you know it’s exhausting, and overwhelming, and just about impossible some days.

When you don’t tell me to cherish every moment, that it’ll all pass so quickly, or that I should be grateful to even have these beautiful children in the first place—even if that’s all true—you allow me to be my whole, imperfect self with you. And I can’t tell you how priceless that is, Mama. I don’t need to tell you because you already know.

You’ve been here, where I am now, deep in the trenches of motherhood. And now, you’re here again, but in a different, almost poetic way—you’re here for me.

So Mama, thank you. Thank you for just being there.

I know it can’t be easy watching your own baby, who has babies of her own, trying to figure out something you mastered a long time ago, four times over. It can’t be easy to give her space, watch her grapple with something, and learn the hard way sometimes.

But I suppose you know, as I am learning now, that a huge part of being there for your child is to assure them of your unwavering support whenever, and however, they need it, while they navigate their own uncharted waters, even if you already have a pretty good map of those waters from when you embarked on a similar voyage seemingly not so long ago.

I guess, Mama, that our experiences of motherhood, although separated by decades, are not so different, after all.

And I thank you for being there for me, Mama, while I navigate mine.

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There are few kids television shows as successful as PAW Patrol. The Spin Masters series has spawned countless toys and clothing deals, a live show and now, a movie.

That's right mama, PAW Patrol is coming to the big screen in 2021.

The big-screen version of PAW Patrol will be made with Nickelodeon Movies and will be distributed by Paramount Pictures.

"We are thrilled to partner with Paramount and Nickelodeon to bring the PAW Patrol franchise, and the characters that children love, to the big screen," Spin Master Entertainment's Executive Vice President, Jennifer Dodge, announced Friday.

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"This first foray into the arena of feature film marks a significant strategic expansion for Spin Master Entertainment and our properties. This demonstrates our commitment to harnessing our own internal entertainment production teams to develop and deliver IP in a motion picture format and allows us to connect our characters to fans through shared theatrical experiences," Dodge says.

No word on the plot yet, but we're gonna bet there's a problem, 'round Aventure Bay, and Ryder and his team of pups will come and save the day.

We cannot even imagine how excited little PAW Patrol fans will be when this hits theatres in 2021. It's still too early to buy advance tickets but we would if we could!

News

In the middle of that postpartum daze, the sleepless nights, the recovery, the adjustment to a new schedule and learning the cues of a new baby, there are those moments when a new mom might think, I don't know how long I can do this.

Fortunately, right around that time, newborns smile their first real smile.

For many mothers, the experience is heart-melting and soul-lifting. It's a crumb of sustenance to help make it through the next challenges, whether that's sleep training, baby's first cold, or teething. Each time that baby smiles, the mother remembers, I can do this, and it's worth it.

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Dayna M. Kurtz, LMSW, CPT a NYC-based psychotherapist and author of Mother Matters: A Holistic Guide to Being a Happy, Healthy Mom, says she sees this in her clinical practice.

"One mother I worked with recounted her experience of her baby's first smile. At eight weeks postpartum, exhausted and overwhelmed, she remembered her baby smiling broadly at her just before a nighttime feeding," Kurtz says. "In that moment, she was overcome by tremendous joy and relief, and felt, for the first time, a real connection to her son."

So what is it about a baby's smile that can affect a mother so deeply? Can it all be attributed to those new-mom hormones? Perhaps it stems from the survival instincts that connect an infant with its mother, or the infant learning social cues. Or is there something more going on inside our brains?

In 2008, scientists in Houston, TX published their research on the topic. Their study, "What's in a Smile? Maternal Brain Responses to Infant Facial Cues", takes data from the MRI images of 26 women as they observed images of infants smiling, crying, or with a neutral expression.

The images included the mother's own infant alternated with an unknown infant of similar ethnicity and in similar clothing and position. In each image, the baby displayed a different emotion through one of three facial expressions; happy, neutral, or sad. Researchers monitored the change in the mothers' brain activity through the transitions in images from own-infant to unknown-infant, and from happy to neutral to sad and vice versa.

The results?

"When first-time mothers see their own baby's face, an extensive brain network appears to be activated, wherein affective and cognitive information may be integrated and directed toward motor/behavioral outputs," wrote the study's authors. Seeing her infant smile or cry prompts the areas of the brain that would instigate a mother to act, whether it be to comfort, care for, or caress and play with the baby.

In addition, the authors found that reward-related brain regions are activated specifically in response to happy, but not sad, baby faces. The areas of the brain that lit up in their study are the same areas that release dopamine, the "pleasure chemical." For context, other activities that elicit dopamine surges include eating chocolate, having sex, or doing drugs. So in other words, a baby's smile may be as powerful as those other feel-good experiences.

And this gooey feeling moms may get from seeing their babies smile isn't just a recreational high—it serves a purpose.

This reward system (aka dopaminergic and oxytocinergic neuroendocrine system) exists to motivate the mother to forge a positive connection with the baby, according to Aurélie Athan, PhD, director of the Reproductive & Maternal Psychology Laboratory (a laboratory that created the first graduate courses of their kind in these subjects).

These networks also promote a mother's ability to share her emotional state with her child, which is the root of empathy. "A mother cries when baby cries, smiles when baby smiles," Athan says.

While there's a physiological explanation underlying that warm-and-fuzzy sensation elicited by a smile, there may be other factors at play too, Kurtz says.

"In my clinical practice, I often observe a stunning exchange between a mother and her baby when the latter smiles at her. A mother who is otherwise engaged in conversation with me may be, for that moment, entirely redirected to focus on her little one," Kurtz says. "This kind of attention-capturing on the part of the baby can enable and cultivate maternal attunement—a mother's ability to more deeply connect with her infant. The quality of attunement in early childhood often sets the stage for one's relationship patterns in the future."

Whether a physiological response, a neural activation, simple instinct, or the tightening of emotional connection, the feeling generated by babies' smiles is a buoy in the choppy ocean of new parenthood.

And while the first smile may be the most magical by virtue of its surprise and the necessity of that emotional lift, the fuzzy feeling can continue well into that baby's childhood and beyond. It keeps telling parents, you've got this!

[This was originally published on Apparently]

Life

Chrissy Teigen is one of the most famous moms in the world and definitely one of the most famous moms on social media.

She's the Queen of Twitter and at least the Duchess of Instagram but with a massive following comes a massive dose of mom-shame, and Teigen admits the online comments criticizing her parenting affects her.

"It's pretty much everything," Teigen told Today, noting that the bulk of the criticism falls into three categories: How she feeds her kids, how she uses her car seats and screen time.

"Any time I post a picture of them holding ribs or eating sausage, I get a lot of criticism," she explained. "Vegans and vegetarians are mad and feel that we're forcing meat upon them at a young age. They freak out."

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Teigen continues: "If they get a glimpse of the car seat there is a lot of buckle talk. Maybe for one half of a second, the strap slipped down. And TV is another big one. We have TV on a lot in my house. John and I work on television; we love watching television."

Teigen wants the shame to stop, not just for herself but for all the other moms who feel it. (And we agree.)

"Hearing that nine out of 10 moms don't feel like they're doing a good enough job is terrible," she said. "We're all so worried that we're not doing all that we can, when we really are."

The inspiration for Teigen talking publicly about mom-shame may be in part because of her participation in Pampers' "Share the Love" campaign. But even though Teigen's discussion coincides with this campaign, the message remains equally important. Advertising can be a powerful tool for shifting the way society thinks about what's "normal" and we would much rather see companies speaking out against mom-shame than inducing it to sell more stuff.

Calling out mom-shame in our culture is worth doing in our lives, our communities and yes, our diaper commercials. Thank you Chrissy (and thank you, Pampers).

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Dear fellow mama,

I was thinking about the past the other day. About the time I had three small boys—a newborn, his 2-year-old brother and his 5-year-old brother.

How I was always drowning.

How I could never catch my breath between the constant requests.

How I always felt guilty no matter how hard I tried.

How hard it was—the constant exhaustion, struggling to keep my home any kind of clean or tidy, how I struggled to feed my kids nutritious meals, to bathe them and clean them and keep them warmly dressed in clean clothing, to love them well or enough or well enough.

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Those years were some of the toughest years I have ever encountered.

But mama, I am here to tell you that it doesn't last forever. Slowly, incrementally, without you even noticing, it gets easier. First, one child is toilet trained, then the bigger one can tie his own shoelaces, then finally they are all sleeping through the night.

It's hard to imagine; I really really get it.

It is going to get easier. I swear it. I'm not saying that there won't be new parenting challenges, that it won't be the hardest thing you have ever done in your life. It will be. But it will get easier.

These days, all of my kids get the bus to school and back. Most of them dress themselves. They can all eat independently and use the toilet. Sometimes they play with each other for hours leaving me time to do whatever I need to do that day.

I sleep through the night. I am not constantly in a haze of exhaustion. I am not overwhelmed by three tiny little people needing me to help them with their basic needs, all at the same time.

I can drink a hot cup of coffee. I do not wish with every fiber of my being that I was an octopus, able to help each tiny person at the same time.

I am not tugged in opposite directions. I don't have to disappoint my 3-year-old who desperately wants to play with me while I am helping his first grade bother with his first grade reading homework.

And one day, you will be here too.

It's going to get easier. I promise. And while it may not happen today or even next week or even next month, it will happen. And you will look around in wonder at the magnificent people you helped to create and nurture and sustain.

Until then, you are stronger and more resilient than you can even imagine.

You've got this. Today and always.

Love,

A fellow mama

Life
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