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The other night I sat around the dinner table with my husband and four of our closest friends—two other couples who welcomed babies shortly after we did. Being all about a year out from childbirth, I asked my two girlfriends what stands out to them as the most impactful thing anyone did for them during the early days of parenthood.

Immediately we began reminiscing about the late-night text messages with other new moms, the ongoing support from our friends, the love and encouragement we received from each other, the care packages left on our doorsteps, the lactation support groups that gave us hope, and so much more. While no one at the table had it easy—far from it most days—there was no denying that we had a village to support us and that we returned the love tenfold.

I then asked the men at the table the same question. Aside from them all appreciating an extra hand to wash dishes or to cook dinner, there wasn't much else. No supportive text messages. No one checking in on them. No one leaving them care packages. No support groups. Nothing. And up until this conversation, they'd never even thought twice about it.

These men—my husband top of the list—are three of the best dads I know. They are phenomenal husbands, amazing fathers, successful professionals, and outspoken about how much they love their families.

In fact, our friend and family group is composed almost entirely of this type of man. And yet, even in the strongest circles, we—the collective we of society—aren't even coming close to supporting and acknowledging fathers in a way that recognizes their important and irreplaceable role in the family structure.

Yes, we as moms undeniably have the hardest and arguably the most important roles throughout pregnancy and the early years and we deserve every bit of the support we receive and so much more. And now more than ever, we are finally being surrounded with platforms of empowerment that should've been given to us long ago.

But to my husband, and every partner out there whose actions go unseen or are marked as less important, I want you to know that you are seen too. Your role, no matter how small, tedious or repetitive it seems some days, matters significantly.

So to my husband who has sacrificed so much, I see you.

I see the thankless hours you've spent staying up late sanitizing bottles and the coffee you leave on my nightstand every morning so I can have my first sip without getting out of bed.

I see the loads of laundry you've folded and the dinners you lovingly make every night.

I see the smoothie you leave for me in the fridge before you leave for work at 6:15 am and the full tank of gas in my car each Sunday.

I see the late nights you've spent staying up with me while I nurse our daughter and the back tickles you still give me every night as I fall asleep.

I see the trips up and down the stairs at all hours of the day to refill my water and the smile on your face when I ask for the millionth time.

I see the way you loved over me while I carried our baby and how you genuinely would've done anything to make me comfortable.

I see the doctor's appointments you never missed and the way you teared-up every time you heard our daughter's heartbeat.

I see the fire in your heart that shows me there is nothing in this world you wouldn't do for our family.

I see the way you love our daughter, and the way you give her all the good in you and so much more.

I see your silliness and sweetness, and I see your childlike spirit and fierce protective nature in all that you do for her.

I see the way you see me. From baby bump to stretch marks, I've doubted myself plenty but I've never doubted that you love me for me and that you find me irresistible—even in the rawest of moments. I see your compassion toward me and the tenderness in which you have embraced this beautiful, emotional, and messy stage of life together.

I see your commitment to supporting your family and the pain you experienced when you had to return back to work just days after our daughter was born. I see the letter you wrote your company advocating for a paternity leave policy and how eloquently you expressed the importance of fathers being present in their children's lives from an early age. I see that despite a broken system, you won't let anything get in the way of what you value most.

I see your loneliness, and your longing to find connection in parenthood outside of just our relationship. I see a husband and father who does not fit media's mediocre standard of fatherhood—you are a person who has risen above any and all societal expectations to put family on the highest pedestal and to flip the conversation. I see you lead others in making the exception the norm and I see you wear fatherhood as a badge of honor.

Partners, I see you.

While not every father is deserving of praise and many mothers take on the role of mother and father, the picture of fatherhood is changing for the better. In a world that is giving moms a voice and long overdue support and recognition, let's not forget to empower fathers too. The emotions and experience may be different, but the importance is the same and our children will be better for it.

To my husband, I am strong on my own, but I am so much stronger with you by my side.

I see you, my love.

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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).

News

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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