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When we first became parents my husband and I would take turns waking up in a panic to check on our sleeping angel. We worried about everything – his health, happiness, and future. During the night I used a flashlight to check on the up and down movements of his chest. During the day, I wondered if he loved me back, and if others knew how to support his neck.  


Any amount of crying panicked me as if our attachment would be put in immediate jeopardy. I fretted over mosquito bites, milk-intake, and my inability to get all three snaps of a onesie fastened in one sitting. I avoided any proximity with strangers, and would have gladly put him in a bubble.

Thankfully, we now laugh at most of the worrying we did, and take comfort in knowing we aren’t the only ones who suffered from baby-induced anxiety. In fact, lots of first-time parents worry about all kinds of weird things, like these:

Actually having the baby.

If you really think about expelling a fully-grown baby from your body, you’ll probably panic.

Megan, 31, told me, “About six months into my pregnancy I realized I would have to get him out. I had no clue how it would work, and I was terrified.”

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Once it happened she was shocked to just leave the hospital. She thought, “Wait, don’t you want to give us a class first? How am I supposed to know what to do?”

The baby’s looks and personality.

When I first had my son we lived in the Caribbean. We’d go on daily walks, and the security guards we passed always talked to the baby. My three-month-old would never even crack a smile.

The guards didn’t hide their surprise, they’d laugh and say, “That baby not friendly. He serious.” I’d smile and walk away, but secretly worry he was going to grow up to be cold and anti-social. Maybe he’d never have friends and be terribly boring.

I didn’t only worry about his personality, I also worried his looks.

In fact, the first thing I said after giving birth was, “Is he cute?” I know it’s lame and shallow, but it was a legitimate concern. Even though he was adorable, I asked Google if his eye lashes would continue to grow, and wondered if he was going to have an underbite.

And I’m not the only one who had these concerns. Laura, 30, said, “I worried she would have an outtie belly button and now at 6 years old, she does! I also thought the baby acne and cradle cap were signs she would have terrible acne as a teenager.”

Harming or losing the baby.

When our baby was five-months-old, we went to Costa Rica. Many of the roads were unpaved and bumpy, and I worried he’d get shaken baby syndrome. I took him from his seat to cradle him, but still looked up the signs and symptoms.

Many moms fear accidentally harming their little ones. I have a friend who thought she might break the baby’s arm when dressing her, and another who would lie awake wondering if she put enough Vaseline on her son’s circumcision and if she placed the gauze perfectly. One friend reported being scared of using her cell phone while nursing because of radiation exposure, another feared a bird would swoop her daughter up from the park and carry her off.

Lyssa, 34, said, “I worried someone was going to come in the night and steal my baby. Once I grabbed a survival knife out of the closet, hid it against my headboard, and planned how I would defend my child.”

Sleeping.

I remember whining to my mom during those early days of parenthood, “He’s sleeping so much. Do you think he’s okay? Is something wrong with him?” She assured me that’s what babies do and to enjoy it while it lasts. (If only I’d known that bed time battles lurked just around the corner.)

A friend of mine shared her concern that if she didn’t sleep-train immediately, or stick to a strict regimen, her child would never rest properly through the night. Jackie, 33, laughs that she used to make everyone whisper and tiptoe when the baby was asleep. She just had her third and says, “Now we have dance parties through her naps.”

Everything’s toxic! 

I didn’t trust anything. Nipple cream, butt paste, pacifiers. I was suspicious of it all.

When my son started to enjoy chewing on empty water bottles, I was certain he’d be poisoned by BPA. Rita, 30, shares similar sentiments, “I worried all the time about chemicals touching the baby. I wouldn’t let my dad hold him if he was wearing cologne. I also made my own baby wipes for the first six months because I was convinced Huggies were the devil.”

Normal development.

On play dates, I’d see the baby gear other people had and wonder if I also needed it? Would his intellect develop without Baby Einstein toys? Would he ever learn to sit without a Bumbo? I was worried bouncers would affect the development of his legs, but also worried he’d miss out on something without one.

Lori, 29, jokes, “I worry that the kid of the annoying wife in our group is going to do things earlier than my kid, and I’m going to hate her even more!”

Singing.

Early in the baby days, I realized I didn’t know enough songs or their lyrics. I sat down at the computer and looked up the words to “Old MacDonald” and “Hush Little Baby.” I worried if I didn’t sing and recite enough, his language acquisition would be delayed. I sang to him constantly, mostly out of obligation.

A friend of mine told me she worried if she sang to her son he would become tone-deaf like her and miss his chance to go on the “Voice.” Julie, 31, said, “I was afraid my baby would hate my singing voice, because it really is awful.”

Judgement.

As badly as I needed to know I was a great mother, I needed others to think so too. If my child was barefoot and someone suggested socks, I pretty much heard them say I was a terrible parent. One mom-friend said she feared that if her baby got sick people would think it was because she wasn’t attentive enough. Another friend didn’t want the world of social media to think she was a slacker because she didn’t dress her daughter in festive outfits on holidays.

Lisa, 29, admitted, “Sometimes when I leave my house and it’s such a mess I’m scared I’m going to die in a car accident and someone’s going to see how messy my home was. Then it occurs to me how ridiculous that is because I should be more concerned with dying.”

Getting it together.

Oh, the days of sitting on the couch with a baby attached and a mountain of dishes in the sink. I remember not thinking I’d ever shower or eat in peace again. One friend told me she worried she’d never be on time anywhere again. Another said she worried she wouldn’t get out of the house again for the rest of her life.

Chandra, 34, says, “It seemed like every time we were almost ready to go he’d spit up on me, himself, or both of us. By the time I changed him again he’d be asleep and I wouldn’t want to pick him up to put him in the car seat.”

Sex.

When we became a family of three, we had a one bedroom apartment, and the baby slept in a pack-and-play beside our bed. The first time we had postpartum sex my husband said, with concern, “Shhhhh, don’t let the baby hear.” (Never mind that he was asleep and only a few weeks old.)

I also worried that my lady parts would never be the same and my husband would secretly be disappointed. Other women report being afraid their libido would never return. Angela, 32, of Orlando, FL says, “Postpartum sex was the worst! I thought I would never feel the same. I loved being intimate with my husband, but after having a baby I thought, ‘You touch me, and your life is at risk!'”

When I went to my first prenatal appointment I told my doctor I was experiencing shortness of breath and excessive worry. As a father of four kids himself, he smiled knowingly and said, “Welcome to parenthood.”

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Sometimes it can feel like toys are a mama's frenemy. While we love the idea of entertaining our children and want to give them items that make them happy, toys can end up taking the joy out of our own motherhood experience. For every child begging for another plastic figurine, there's a mama who spends her post-bedtime hours digging toys out from under the couch, dining room table and probably her own bed.

Like so many other moms, I've often found myself between this rock and hard place in parenting. I want to encourage toys that help with developmental milestones, but struggle to control the mess. Is there a middle ground between clutter and creative play?

Enter: Lovevery.

lovevery toys

Lovevery Play Kits are like the care packages you wish your child's grandparent would send every month. Expertly curated by child development specialists, each kit is crafted to encourage your child's current developmental milestones with beautiful toys and insightful activity ideas for parents. A flip book of how-tos and recommendations accompanies each box, giving parents not only tips for making the most of each developmental stage, but also explaining how the games and activities benefit those growing brains.

Even better, the toys are legitimately beautiful. Made from eco-friendly, sustainable materials materials and artfully designed, I even find myself less bothered when my toddler leaves hers strewn across the living room floor.

What I really love, though, is that the kits are about so much more than toys. Each box is like a springboard of imaginative, open-ended play that starts with the included playthings and expands into daily activities we can do during breakfast or while driving to and from lessons. For the first time, I feel like a company isn't just trying to sell me more toys―they're providing expert guidance on how to engage in educational play with my child. And with baby kits that range from age 0 to 12 months and toddler kits for ages 13 to 24 months, the kits are there for me during every major step of development I'll encounter as a new mama.

So maybe I'll never love toys―but I will always love spending time with my children. And with Lovevery's unique products, mixing those worlds has become child's play.


This article was sponsored by Lovevery. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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It's important that kids have both male and female role models to help dispel harmful stereotypes and reinforce their understanding of the fundamental uniqueness and equality of each person. At the heart of this is personalism and it encourages kids to emulate what's best in people who come from a wide range of backgrounds with different personalities and physical attributes.

For a long time, female representation in television and movies lagged far behind male representation, making it harder to find suitable role models that are worthy of admiration. Thankfully, there are now a growing number of great female role models on television and in movies that all kids can admire and emulate.

Of course, what constitutes a role model is subjective. As parents, my wife and I look for role models that reinforce the lessons that we teach our kids and display behavior that corresponds with an approach to life that aligns with our understanding of morality, human flourishing and a life of joy.

Role models show that strength and compassion are not opposites. They prove that women can pursue and achieve excellence, while still valuing relationships and other people. They teach kids that real courage is not bravado or a lust for recklessness, but perseverance and determination in the face of serious obstacles to achieving what is right and just.

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Here are seven fictional role models that can inspire kids of all ages.

1. Wonder Woman

In the DC universe's most acclaimed film, Wonder Woman declares, "I'm willing to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves." Upon fully realizing the implications of free will and the human capacity for both goodness and evil, she concludes that "only love can truly save the world."

In response, she says, "So I stay, I fight, and I give, for the world I know can be." When she realizes the brokenness of the world and human person, she responds not with cynicism (as so many do), but with a renewed commitment to love and building a better world.

Wonder Woman is recommended for kids age 7+ and has a PG-13 rating.

2. Moana

Moana breaks the "curse of the good girl" by breaking from conventions out of love for her people. She loves and respects her parents, but her sense of mission or call leads her to heroically undertake an adventure to save the world. She has a strong sense of identity, which is linked to who she is unique as a person and her duties. She is wholly comfortable in her own skin, indifferent to the superficial. She displays courage and compassion and refuses to turn back in the face of difficulties, even when Maui wants to give up. And it is her empathy and compassion that ultimately brings out the best in Maui and saves the world.

Moana is recommended for kids ages 4+ and has a PG rating.

3. Katniss Everdeen

In the Hunger Games series, Katniss Everdeen is willing to risk her own life to save her sister in a selfless act of love. Throughout the films, she refuses to surrender her integrity and ultimately has the wisdom and will to do what is necessary so that the revolution will succeed and serve all.

The Hunger Games is recommended for kids age 12+ and has a PG-13 rating.

4. Mulan

The Disney character Mulan is a great role model because she does what is right and courageous, despite serious social pressures and strictures. Her sense of morality extends beyond legalism and conformity. She also has a real sense of authenticity.

She knows that being herself would break her family's heart—she's sensitive to that, but ultimately willing to put the good of her family above their immediate desires. While there is pressure to focus on her physical appearance and manners to win a husband, she thinks that men should be more interested in having a girl with a brain who speaks her mind. And it is her courage and her wits that ultimately save the day.

Mulan is recommended for kids ages 5+ and has a G rating.

5. Hermione

In the Harry Potter series, Hermione is daring and courageous, brilliant and hardworking, compassionate and caring. In our society, many with innate intelligence (or those with affluent backgrounds who imagine they are inherently intellectually superior) take pride in their intelligence and treat it as though it is an accomplishment they have earned. This can lead to hubris and a lax work ethic.

Hermione is naturally gifted and it takes her some time to be confident without looking down on others who are less intellectually gifted or engaged. But she is always hard-working; she utilizes her intellectual gifts to reach her potential. And she uses these gifts to serve others.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone is recommended for kids age 7+ and has a PG rating.

6. Rey

Star Wars has a number of strong female characters with many admirable traits, including Leia Organa and Jyn Erso. In the latest trilogy, we are introduced to Rey. Rey is fierce and fearless. She is her own knight in shining armor. She refuses to selfishly sell BB-8. She resists the temptation of the amoral pursuit of power. Instead, she holds fast to her sense of what is right and never surrenders her integrity.

Star Wars: The Force Awakens is recommended for kids age 10+, and has a PG-13 rating.

7. Doc McStuffins

The Disney Junior character Doc McStuffins is smart, considerate, and caring. She communicates her feelings and encourages others to do so, as well. She also has fun and can be silly. In our culture, there is too often a failure to treat kids in a way that is appropriate for their age and stage of development.

On the one hand, adults too often strip kids of their joy, energy, and silly fun, trying to turn them into boring, bourgeois adults. On the other hand, they infantilize kids, failing to give them space to try new things, make mistakes, assume responsibilities, and achieve accomplishments that they are fully capable of making. Doc shows that kids can be really serious and responsible when curing toys or helping others, while still having fun and being a kid.

Doc McStuffins is recommended for kids ages 2-7.

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Life

It's no secret that mamas don't get enough sleep. Between waking up to feed the baby every three hours, staying up way past our bedtime to finally have some alone time, or going over our never-ending to-do list in our head before bed, mamas are tired.

While a great set of sheets won't magically fix the relentless exhaustion, we promise they'll make those few hours in bed that much better. And a couple of our favorite ones are on mega-sale right now. 🙌

Shop our favorites below:

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Celebrating their fourth birthday (so this only happens once a year!), enjoy 15% off orders of $250+.

Our recommendation: The percale sheet set. Made of Egyptian cotton, incredibly smooth, and 500 thread count. We also love the linen set. Toss in a duvet cover or feather pillow to make the minimum spend.

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Score 10% off and a free bottle of Laundress Detergent on orders $100+.

Our recommendation: The luxe sateen sheet set. It's a best seller for a reason—buttery-smooth cotton in 15+ colors.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Who would have thought Target could get any better? Apparently the folks in charge of store design and policy. While moms in America continue to face pushback for simply breastfeeding their babies in public, Target has taken an amazing stance on the issue.

Through its policies and remodel plans that include dedicated nursing rooms, Target is sending an important message to mamas: Whether you want to nurse in full view of everyone in housewares or prefer to feed your baby in a private spot, Target's got your back.

"At Target, you are free to nurse wherever and whenever you like..." 

We love Target's nursing policy, which straight up states that moms rock (we do) and mamas can feed wherever they need to in the store.

"At Target, you are free to nurse wherever and whenever you like while you shop because we think #momsrock. But, if you would like a comfy (or more private) spot to nurse or change a diaper, please ask our Fitting Room Attendant about our Nursing Room!" reads the sign, which was posted in Target stores and shared online by a happy shopper.

Moms in the comments section of the Breastfeeding Mama Talk Facebook page are attesting to how Target lives into this policy, swapping stories about how supportive team members in red polos have been about infant feeding.

"I nursed in the outdoor furniture section, and had a couple staff members make sure I was comfortable," one mama wrote.

Making mamas a space, too. 

Target is obviously super supportive of moms nursing wherever they need to in the store, but not every mom is comfortable nursing in the outdoor furniture section or the food court. That's why Target included nursing rooms in store remodel plans. Comfy chairs and locking doors are exactly what mama needs sometimes.

The nursing rooms were originally added to about 40 remodeled stores, but moms loved them so much that Target decided to include that in every store remodeling plan.

Basically, no matter what kind of Target run you're doing—a mad dash to the Drive Up service, means you won't have to get out of your car (or unbuckle your sleeping baby) to pick up your online order, a hands-free walk-and-nurse with a baby in a wrap and a frap in your hand, or even one that includes a private nursing session, moms and babies are welcome at Target.

We love it and hope other businesses are taking notes!

[A version of this post was originally published November 16, 2017. It has been updated.]

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I distinctly remember being pregnant with my first daughter and commuting two hours a day as a consultant in Washington, D.C. It was hard on my growing body, leading me to seek chiropractic care, and toward the end of my pregnancy, made me nervous to be so far from home and the hospital—but, that's the reality for many mamas.

This experience was central to our decision at Motherly to have a fully remote workforce as a way to support families and working parents. We also took lessons from my days as a consultant helping organizations increase agility and spent time talking to other office-free founders before taking the leap.

The bottom line? Inflexibility and commuting take up precious hours of a working mom's day.

Today, remote collaboration is easier than ever with video conferencing technologies and synchronous communication tools becoming ubiquitous, prompting a growing number of companies to opt for no office at all. It helps the bottom line for businesses in terms of savings on office space and improves employee retention and satisfaction.

And in today's dual-income families, the flexibility provided can be a key ingredient in helping families thrive. In the four years since launching Motherly my co-founder, Liz Tenety, and I have only been co-located for a total of four months. In fact, we didn't see each other at all the entire second year of Motherly—and we've still thrived.

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With a growing team of more than 30, we've found that we are on the cutting edge of an important trend for workplaces. Research shows that companies with a substantial remote workforce have a higher percentage of women in leadership roles, which amounts to roughly four times as many women in CEO/founding roles than S&P 500 office-based companies.

Along the way, we've learned a lot of lessons on how to establish and maintain a cohesive remote team—here are the top 10.

1. Go all in.

Fully remote teams function more effectively than a hybrid where some work remote and some co-located. In my experience, having a co-founding and/or leadership team co-located when the rest of the team is remote can make it hard to set reasonable expectations and can result in an us versus them mentality. Leading a remote team requires working remotely so that the challenges the workforce feels can be genuinely understood and appreciated.

2. Nurture an empowered culture where everyone feels comfortable speaking up and across functions.

Proximity breeds comfort and without it, people tend to stay polite and surface-level longer. Stressing the importance of being empowered and speaking truth to power is critical to encouraging a team to share constructive criticism versus platitudes.

3. Establish shared core work hours to ensure synchronous communication can occur across time zones reducing bottlenecks.

Remote work has been proven to increase team efficiency but time zones can kill gains if not addressed head-on. Businesses can benefit from around the world coverage and support but collaboration can be hard if teammates can't connect realtime. Core co-working hours are a simple but effective fix.

4. Utilize video conferencing to support human connections.

In today's digital world most everyone is comfortable interacting online but the nuances of human interaction are easier to decipher face-to-face and help form bonds that are critical to overcoming the eventual miscommunication that will occasionally occur between teammates. Make a point of holding video calls whenever possible—screen-sharing via video can also help with collaboration and problem solving.

5. Leverage tools (like Slack) with small talk channels to serve as a virtual #watercooler.

Slack is a lifesaver for a remote team providing synchronous communication with organization and notification features to make it manageable, limiting information overload. And don't just think about it as a business communication tool but also a team building tool. Plugins exist to facilitate virtual coffee meetups between colleagues and a general #watercooler channel can also become a hub for non-work discussions that serve as a way for remote teammates to get to know each other at a personal level.

6. Schedule weekly "flare" sessions for free brainstorming to keep creativity flowing.

Ad hoc group problem solving can be limited for remote teams so creating the structure to mitigate lost opportunities can be helpful to keep creativity flowing. A weekly team or company wide "flare" or brainstorming session that teams or individuals can claim and lead can provide an opportunity to solve problems together and build camaraderie across teams and functions.

7. Host annual (or more!) IRL retreats to build team intimacy and bonds through shared experiences.

Notice the word retreat, not conference or all-hands—while it's important to have time to communicate company strategy and important initiatives, for remote teams the in-person time must prioritize team building through shared experiences. Casual meals, volunteer projects, a cheesy city tour, bowling outing, or museum visit can become company lore and tradition that over time become part of the foundation of a company's culture.

8. Hold virtual holiday parties + celebrations.

Get creative! Set up virtual secret Santa or cookie exchange, order lunch in for everyone remotely, leverage Amazon to synchronize deliveries for a baby shower and get everyone on video conference for a festive good time. Another one to try—cancel meetings on a Friday afternoon and send everyone on a spa treatment at their local spa!

9. Organize cross-functional "Think Tank Projects" to integrate teams and benefit from cognitive diversity in problem solving.

Cross functional team integration is as important, if not more important, for remote teams. Identify a company-wide initiative and assign it based on skill set and individual superpowers versus functional teams, creating an opportunity for inter-team collaboration.

10. Set aside time to review and address hardships as a remote team.

Being purposeful about removing obstacles and modifying structures, processes, and tools as teams evolve. Creating a culture of honesty means acknowledging challenges and facing them head-on. Encourage teams to share obstacles and hardships and take the time to appreciate them rather than jumping into problem-solving mode from the start. Everyone needs an occasional venting session and you'll find that through the discussion, the team will find its way to solutions and a recognition that the tradeoffs are totally worth it. It's so much more authentic if they draw that conclusion themselves vs leadership cheerleading the benefits of remote work.

A strong, cohesive team culture is possible for remote teams and like all relationships it takes time and continuous work. In the end, teamwork makes the remote dream work creating tangible and intangible benefits for the business and employees, as well as their families. Put in the time in to establish the structure, behavior and processes and you'll be rewarded with a committed, loyal, and united team. More than that, you'll have thriving mamas and families.

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