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family-meeting

Even when you're doing your best to keep things simple in your home, family life can be full at best. Too often it's downright frazzled and unruly. Most weeks, it feels as though my family is racing in too many directions—and we're not alone. I frequently catch the what-have-we-signed-up-for smiles from other parents during pick-up and drop-off times.

I often see friends share one of those memes touting all of the reasons dance or gymnastics or soccer (or whatever) is worth the time and sacrifice. Usually, I nod my head in agreementIt's gratifying to watch my daughter's confident smile as she masters a challenging dance routine. Other times, it feels as though her schedule is preventing the rest of us from having a normal human existence.

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The truth is, we all have different thresholds of feeling busy and overwhelmed. My own family crossed our threshold last fall when too many activities pulled us in too many different directions. It was time for us to make some changes.

The most useful tool we adopted was the weekly family meeting.

Family meetings give us the time—just 20 or 30 minutes—to pause for a moment and evaluate how the week behind us has gone and what the week ahead has in store. These meetings are an opportunity to explain why we've said no to an exciting new hobby or event, and more importantly, they remind us what we are saying yes to and why.

Of course, these meetings aren't magical. We're not significantly less busy. But the load feels lighter. Life has fewer white caps and more still waters than it did a year ago.

The practical tools below will help you stay committed to your family's priorities, and double check them regularly. If you follow through with regular family meetings, along with the other tips listed below, a few wonderful things can happen:

First, you'll free up actual, measurable time, by eliminating items from your family calendar that aren't working for you.

Second, you'll communicate your core values—directly and repeatedly—to your children. You'll have built-in opportunities to ground your whole family in the reasoning behind your decisions about whether or not they can do, have, or buy whatever is bewitching them at the moment.

Third, you'll strengthen your entire family's sense of empathy and responsibility for one another, by taking the time to ask and listen to each member's goals, fears and joys.

Fourth, you'll teach responsibility, by setting high expectations for whole-family contributions to chores and meal preparation.

Finally, you'll feel less busy, even with a full calendar. When what remains has been chosen—intentionally—and with the big picture in mind, you no longer resent the next thing on your to-do list. And if you're anything like me, you'll feel physically lighter moving through the world on purpose, making space for what you love, what you intend to do more of, and what brings you joy. It's a change in perspective that can change your whole world.

Here's how to host family meetings to nurture a calm, connected family:

1. Create a family mission statement.

I'm not talking about one of those cute signs with house rules. I'm talking about a framework for your family's priorities, a screening tool to remind you that when time is limited (and it is), you may have to say no even to some of the fun stuff.

Ask your family to chime in on a few key questions before you craft your statement:

  • What are our top 10 priorities as a family?
  • What are we doing to live these priorities?
  • How would we each spend free time if we could do anything?

2. Schedule weekly-ish family meetings.

Research continues to place family meetings at the very center of a well-communicating family. Download this important, nuanced printable meeting agenda from Doing Good Together™ to get started. In my experience, even my most reluctant child absorbs the conversation during family meetings. Often, they'll weigh in later. Plus, you'll discover more about the stresses, worries, and hopes of your children than you otherwise might.

3. Assign chores—and stick to them.

Surprising research says that doing chores, beginning at a youg age, is a proven predictor of adult success. It teaches responsibility, competence, perseverance, the value of hard work—and the idea that in a family we help one another out. Not surprisingly, children who are regular chore-doers turn into adults who are more likely to respond to other people's needs.

4. Work hard toward a goal.

In the meeting agenda linked above, each family member is asked to share something they will "work hard" on each week. This is a space to set goals. Kids who practice setting and reaching goals, even simple ones like finishing a special book or getting all their homework done before dinner, at a young age, are more likely to stick with challenging tasks as they grow older. For more on this, check out Angela Duckworth's Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance.

5. Have fun!

Make time at the end of your meeting for a board game, a good book, a family dance party, or a walk in the park.

Our first family meeting was not the glorious, start-the-year-with-a-bang event I hoped it would be. Instead, it was a ragged affair with a few tears and one full-scale protest, as one child accused the other of getting better chores. Yet, everyone came back around and eventually we did have an interesting conversation about why pitching in makes the load lighter and teaches everyone useful skills.

Family meetings are an excellent way to tame the frazzled business of modern life. They instill a sense of ownership over family duties. And there is no better way to regularly reflect on how well we are living out our values.

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By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

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Hands-Free Pumping Bra

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Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

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Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

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Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

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Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

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Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

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Washable Breast Pads

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Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

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Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

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Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

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

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I never wanted to be a mom. It wasn't something I ever thought would happen until I fell madly in love with my husband—who knew very well he wanted children. While he was a natural at entertaining our nephews or our friends' kids, I would awkwardly try to interact with them, not really knowing what to say or do.

Our first pregnancy was a surprise, a much-wanted one but also a unicorn, "first try" kind of pregnancy. As my belly grew bigger, so did my insecurities. How do you even mom when you never saw motherhood in your future? I focused all my uncertainties on coming up with a plan for the delivery of my baby—which proved to be a terrible idea when my dreamed-of unmedicated vaginal birth turned into an emergency C-section. I couldn't even start motherhood the way I wanted, I thought. And that feeling happened again when I couldn't breastfeed and instead had to pump and bottle-feed. And once more, when all the stress from things not going my way turned into debilitating postpartum anxiety that left me not really enjoying my brand new baby.

As my baby grew, slowly so did my confidence that I could do this. When he would tumble to the ground while learning how to walk and only my hugs could calm him, I felt invincible. But on the nights he wouldn't sleep—whether because he was going through a regression, a leap, a teeth eruption or just a full moon—I would break down in tears to my husband telling him that he was a better parent than me.

Then I found out I was pregnant again, and that this time it was twins. I panicked. I really cannot do two babies at the same time. I kept repeating that to myself (and to my poor husband) at every single appointment we had because I was just terrified. He, of course, thought I could absolutely do it, and he got me through a very hard pregnancy.

When the twins were born at full term and just as big as singleton babies, I still felt inadequate, despite the monumental effort I had made to grow these healthy babies and go through a repeat C-section to make sure they were both okay. I still felt my skin crawl when they cried and thought, What if I can't calm them down? I still turned to my husband for diaper changes because I wasn't a good enough mom for twins.

My husband reminded me (and still does) that I am exactly what my babies need. That I am enough. A phrase that has now become my mantra, both in motherhood and beyond, because as my husband likes to say, I'm the queen of selling myself short on everything.

So when my babies start crying, I tell myself that I am enough to calm them down.

When my toddler has a tantrum, I remind myself that I am enough to get through to him.

When I go out with the three kids by myself and start sweating about everything that could go wrong (poop explosions times three), I remind myself that I am enough to handle it all, even with a little humor.


And then one day I found this bracelet. Initially, I thought how cheesy it'd be to wear a reminder like this on my wrist, but I bought it anyway because something about it was calling my name. I'm so glad I did because since day one I haven't stopped wearing it.

Every time I look down, there it is, shining back at me. I am enough.

I Am Enough bracelet 

SONTAKEY  I Am Enough Bracelet

May this Oath Bracelet be your reminder that you are perfect just the way you are. That you are enough for your children, you are enough for your friends & family, you are enough for everything that you do. You are enough, mama <3

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