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Michelle Obama has some advice for Meghan Markle (and all of us)

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Few people can understand what Meghan Markle is going through the way Michelle Obama can. Being a mother in the international spotlight isn't something many people will experience in the way that these two women will and have.

Obama and Markle are inspirations to many, but the advice Obama offered to Markle in a new interview with Good Housekeeping is something all mothers can take to heart.

"So my biggest piece of advice would be to take some time and don't be in a hurry to do anything," the former First Lady said when asked if she had any suggestions for the new Duchess (and soon to be new mom).

"Like me, Meghan probably never dreamt that she'd have a life like this, and the pressure you feel—from yourself and from others—can sometimes feel like a lot," she said.

But whether you're a mama in the White House, Kensington Palace, or just a regular home on a regular street, pressure to do well and to do more can feel overwhelming, and that internal pressure Obama talks about can be the worst.

Especially at this time of year it's okay to slow down, focus on yourself and your family. Obama explains that when she first got to the White House, she was mostly "worrying about my daughters, making sure they were off to a good start at school and making new friends before I launched into any more ambitious work. I think it's okay—it's good, even—to do that," she said.

There's a time to take on ambitious projects in life, and it's okay if this year or this month isn't your time, mama.

If you just moved into a new house, or you're having your first Christmas with your kiddo, or you're just returning to work after your maternity leave and carrying a pump with you, it is okay to just do that—get your feet under you and get used to this new season of life—if that's what you need.

Now, that's not to say there is not a time and place to get ambitious, mama. Obama has some thoughts on that, too, of course.

Speaking at Brooklyn's Barclays Center to promote her new book, Becoming, over the weekend, Obama opened up about work-life balance, as journalist Touré tweeted from the event.

The Cut reports Obama told the crowd: "That whole 'so you can have it all.' Nope, not at the same time...That's a lie. And it's not always enough to lean in, because that sh*t doesn't work all the time."

Yes, the former first lady cursed (so you can tell she's pretty passionate about this) and apologized to the crowd, telling them, "I forgot where I was for a moment.'

The concept of 'leaning in' is of course the subject of another book by a high profile woman, Sheryl Sandberg, now COO at Facebook. In her controversial 2013 bestseller, Lean In: Women, Work and the Will to Lead, Sandberg suggested working mothers should press forward in their careers and that we should "take opportunities and make an opportunity fit for you, rather than the other way around."

Although it obviously worked for Sandberg, she has said the 2013 book should not be the end of the conversation, and has expressed some concerns over the lack of progress made since its publication.

In a 2017 interview with USA Today she explained: "In terms of women in leadership roles, we are not better off. We are stuck at less than 6% of the Fortune 500 CEO jobs and their equivalent in almost every country in the world. There were 19 countries run by women when Lean In was published. Today there are 11. Congressional numbers have inched up a tiny bit. And so, overall, we are not seeing a major increase in female leadership in any industry or in any government in the world, and I think that's a shame."

It is a shame, and it's why Obama was so impassioned at the Barclays Center.

Sometimes we can't have it all. Sometimes opportunities won't work for us, because they are built for people who aren't us. And if we as a society want more women to lead, we need to give them the opportunity through things like parental leave, affordable childcare, and work cultures that truly value work-life balance.

So if you are in a season of life where you can't lean in, don't feel bad. You may need to spend this season planting the seeds for the more ambitious seasons to come.

Obama's advice to Meghan Markle is something we all need to hear: It's okay to be driven, it's okay to be ambitious, and it's okay to take your foot off the gas when you need to. Give yourself permission to slow down (even if it's just for now).

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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[Editor's Note: We support parents in making the best infant feeding choices for their family, whether that be formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, donor milk or any combination of feeding methods.]

Feeding babies takes a lot of effort, no matter what a baby is eating. Parents need support whether their baby is drinking breastmilk, formula or both, but we know mothers often don't feel supported in either choice. Mothers who choose or have to use formula often feel stigmatized, while mothers who breastfeed often get shunned for public breastfeeding or find themselves needing to pump in a workplace that offers no lactation room.

Individual mothers pay when society doesn't support parents in breastfeeding their babies. Formula can be expensive, but when workplaces discriminate against nursing moms, it's an expense some women have no choice but to take on. But that's not the cost we're discussing here.

A new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters suggests that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year.

The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through "through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices." To be clear, the site isn't targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it's a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.

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The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.

Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. In the U.S., where only 24% of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.

Though many of the developing countries in the tool have higher percentages of breastfeeding than the United States, the costs of not breastfeeding the remaining children are higher. This is presumably because the risk of the associated diseases is already higher in those countries (due to factors like poverty, water quality, etc.).

Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children's lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.

Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it's hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool's developer, health economist Dylan Walters.

"We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being," Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive's website. "Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society."

The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.

Such laws may make sense in countries where access to clean water makes formula feeding difficult, but in wealthy nations like the United States, where formula feeding is a safe and legitimate choice, some worry limiting information about formula stigmatizes and patronizes mothers who are capable of choosing what is best for their babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for their first six months, and then receive a combination of breast milk and other nutrition until they are 2 years old. UNICEF estimates that globally as of 2016, 43% of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life, and 46% continue until age 2. A recent survey found 1 in 4 Americans do not believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in the clear view of the public, and while 90% of Americans say they believe women should be allowed to pump at work, about 1 in 3 do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room.

The discrepancy here between what is recommended and what is actually supported is shocking. Mothers are being told to breastfeed, but then are also being told to cover up, or that they can't pump at work. When there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding it shouldn't be shocking that breastfeeding rates in America are lower than the WHO would like.

This lack of support and mixed messages are making the work of motherhood—something that is already deeply emotionally and mentally draining—even harder. The conversation about infant feeding should not be about supporting one type of infant feeding over another, it needs to be about supporting women in motherhood and in their choices. The cost of not doing so is staggering.

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Need a way to make your kids really, really, really happy? Here's some news that just might do the trick: Every child's favorite song is hitting a stage near you for a 100-city live tour. Yes, we're talking about "Baby Shark."

Baby Shark Live! is coming to a ton of U.S. cities (and Canada, eventually) and the first tour dates were just announced.

The pre-sale tickets go on sale this week! The tour kicks off October 3 at the Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium in Spartanburg, South Carolina, and the last tour stop is the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on November 10.

We know what you're thinking. How can a single song (epic as it may be) sustain a whole show? Well, there will be other songs performed too. Your kids can also rock out to favorites like "Five Little Monkeys," "Wheels on the Bus," "Jungle Boogie" and "Monkey Banana Dance."



The show will be produced by Pinkfong (which is the South Korean firm that brought us the tune in the first place) in partnership with Round Room Live. It promises to provide an immersive experience for kids like the live Pinkfong performances that are already happening in other parts of the world.

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This represents the song's next step towards total world domination: In addition to becoming a total musical sensation among children everywhere, there's already a "Baby Shark" TV show in the works — chalk it all up the fact that there's a scientific reason why this song is always (always, always) stuck in your head.

Interested in taking your children to see this phenomenon come to life? You can buy tickets here.

We'd recommend acting fast. If through-the-roof YouTube views are any indication, this show is going to sell out faster than you can sing the iconic "doo-doo-doo-doo-doo-doo" line!

Here is the full list of tour dates:

Oct. 3 - Spartanburg Memorial Auditorium — Spartanburg, SC
Oct. 4 - Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts – Orlando, FL
Oct. 5 - Straz Center - Morsani Hall - Tampa, FL
Oct. 6 - Broward Center for the Performing Arts - Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Oct. 7 - Florida Theatre - Jacksonville, FL
Oct. 8 - Saenger Theatre - Pensacola, FL
Oct. 10 - HEB Center – Cedar Park, TX
Oct. 11 - Smart Financial Centre - Sugar Land, TX
Oct. 12 - Comerica Center - Frisco, TX
Oct. 13 - Mahalia Jackson Theater - New Orleans, LA
Oct. 14 - Shreveport Municipal Auditorium – Shreveport, LA
Oct. 15 - BOK Center - Tulsa, OK
Oct. 16 - Majestic Theatre - San Antonio, TX
Oct. 18 - Ikeda Theater - Mesa, AZ
Oct. 19 - Terrace Theater - Long Beach, CA
Oct. 20 - Center for the Performing Arts - San Jose, CA
Oct. 23 – Eccles Theater - Salt Lake City, UT
Oct. 24 - Paramount Theatre - Denver, CO
Oct. 26 – Stifel Theatre – St. Louis, MO
Oct. 27 - Clowes Memorial Hall - Indianapolis, IN
Oct. 29 - Des Moines Civic Center - Des Moines, IA
Oct. 30 - State Theatre - Minneapolis, MN
Nov. 1 - Riverside Theatre - Milwaukee, WI
Nov. 2 - Rosemont Theater - Rosemont, IL
Nov. 3 - Fox Theatre - Detroit, MI
Nov. 4 - Byham Theater - Pittsburgh, PA
Nov. 5 - Santander Performing Arts Center - Reading, PA
Nov. 6 – The Bushnell Performing Arts Center- Hartford, CT
Nov. 7 - Tilles Center - Brookville, NY
Nov. 8 - Kings Theatre - Brooklyn, NY
Nov. 9 – Emerson Colonial Theatre - Boston, MA
Nov. 10 – Academy of Music - Philadelphia, PA

[A version of this post was first published June 18, 2019. It has been updated.]

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We're just over half way through 2019 but it is already a year for the history books. A record number of women were sworn into Congress this year, and a royal baby with American roots has arrived!

Of course for mamas who are welcoming their own babies, 2019 will have more than just historical significance. It will be the year that changes their lives.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2019, they've got plenty of company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2019 (so far):

Real Housewives of Potomac star Ashley Darby is a mama! 🎉

Another Bravo star has become a mom! Ashley Darby of RHOP just welcome's a baby boy with her husband Micheal. Micheal has two children, but this new little one is Ashley's first. She hasn't yet released the baby's name, but she did post an intimate photo taken during the early hours of her son's life. In the picture, she is seen sleeping in a hospital bed while Micheal enjoys some skin-to-skin time with the baby.

"I never thought this day would come," Ashley captioned the pic.

She continues: "When I learned I was pregnant, I started thinking about when I'd feel the first kicks. Then, when I was feeling the flutters, I wanted to know when I'd finally start to show. After watching the bump grow, my mind went to birthing day (WILL THIS REALLY HAPPEN?!) And when the day finally came that this sweet child came into our world, it felt like the sunniest day after a sky filled grey. The most sensational day of our shared life. Mickey and I are savoring every moment with our wonderful son ♥️"

[A version of this post was originally published February 1, 2019. It has been updated.]

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Every parent out there knows that caring for a sick child isn't just heartbreaking, it's absolutely exhausting. Jaiden Cowley knows this all too well: The single mama's daughter, Amira, was born with a heart defect and has been waiting more than a year for a heart transplant.

Last week, when Amira ended up in the emergency room late at night for her ongoing heart issues, Jaiden reached out for a helping hand. She desperately needed a coffee to get her through the night, but she also couldn't leave her sweet baby to get one for herself.

So the single mother who moved to Toronto to be closer to its Hospital for Sick Children reached out to her virtual Mom Squad, a Facebook group that allows moms to connect. But she didn't expect the outpouring of generosity she received.

As first reported by TODAY, Jaiden posted the following message to the group, writing: "Is anyone at sickkids right now? I have a huge favor to ask. I'm in the er and I can't leave my daughter alone, but I really need a coffee."

She hoped another mom would coincidentally be in the hospital—she didn't expect a perfect stranger to go out of her way, but that's exactly what happened. A woman named Elizabeth drove to the hospital and presented Jaiden with a coffee half an hour later.

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"To some it was just a simple cup of coffee, to me her bringing it to me meant I could stay awake and alert for my daughter. I was able to properly advocate for her," Jaiden tells Motherly.

Elizabeth wasn't the only amazing mama who came forward to help: Another reportedly sent Jaiden money so she could treat herself to coffee, and several others offered to help in any way possible.

"It meant so much to me," Jaiden tells TODAY. "Going through this as a single mom has been a lot. It's exhausting. But now I don't feel so alone."

She later told Motherly: "No act of kindness goes unnoticed. No matter how small you think it may be to that person it means the world."

We couldn't love this story more! It's such an important reminder that mamas can do amazing things when they help each other out in times of need. We all need a little support sometimes, and if this story is any indication, there are still incredibly kind people out there who are willing to offer it.

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