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3 Strategies for Being Genuinely Present with Your Family Even on the Busiest Days

I am going to make a wild leap and guess that any parent reading a parenting magazine has probably gone to bed at least one night and thought, with an exasperated sigh, “I barely saw my kids today” or “Why did I yell at her?”


I know that feeling. You’re exhausted after a long day and your child, equally exhausted from school or daycare, pitches a fit while you’re trying to make dinner.

Then you struggle to get your child to even eat that dinner, and have to work even harder to get pajamas on and wrestle them into bed. All the while you’re distracted by something stressful that happened at work or by how tired you are from taking care of the kids all day; or you’re mentally planning the things you need to get done after bedtime (do the laundry, pack the lunches, build that bookcase, fix the broken light).

On these nights, a little birdie on my shoulder pops up when I’m trying to get to sleep and asks “did you learn nothing in that mindfulness class?”

For me, it’s not enough for someone to tell me I should stop and smell the flowers; that my kids will be grown before I know it and I should remember to pay attention to them now.

For me, it’s not enough for someone to tell me I should stop and smell the flowers; that my kids will be grown before I know it and I should remember to pay attention to them now.

Maybe I’m wound a little too tight to know intrinsically how to do that. I find some solace in knowing that even the best yogis have taken years of classes to learn how to find that place where the brain can actually feel at peace.

So rather than relying on my inner zen to remind me to slow down, I rely on a few strategies that seem to always work for us.

And when I remember to do these things, and do them well, I can fall asleep a bit more easily.

Commit to a family ritual

We’ve all read the parenting magazines that tell us how kids thrive on routine, especially in the morning or at bed time when we need them to accomplish certain tasks. I believe it’s the same for parents.

We get better at slowing down and being present with our kids if we make a routine, or ritual, out of it. For us, this takes the shape of a dinnertime “share.”

Every night, after our meals are served (and yes, this relies on actually eating dinner together) our son pauses from eating and asks “So Daddy, what was it?” After a little bit of joking or absentmindedness (“What was what?”) we get down to business. My son is asking each of us to share the best part of our day. For a whole five minutes we stop telling the kids to take another bite and we listen to each other talk about the moments of our day when we were happiest.

This all started when I read one of those great articles about how useless it is to ask “how was your day” and tested out a more specific question. For over a year, this evening ritual has stuck. My son even asks it when we are visiting relatives or eating dinner with friends.

Rituals can be as small as this nightly conversation topic or as big as full family dinner preparation on Sundays, but the important thing is to hold the ritual sacred against almost every distraction that life throws you.

Drop everything (even for just 10 minutes).

 

When my son comes home after a long day at school and aftercare I have a bad habit of telling him he needs to entertain himself (and worse, his sister too) while I make dinner. Are you kidding?

This is the first he’s seen of me and I now I’m telling him I’m still not available? It sounds ridiculous to admit that I try this on a regular basis; how many experts do I need to tell me that the poor behavior that follows is simply him expressing his desire to spend time with me? On my good days, I use a different strategy.

I put down my bags and say “OK, bud, I’m all yours for the next 15 minutes before I have to start making dinner, so what should we do together with this time?”

We might sit down and color together, taking turns filling in a joint page on a coloring book, or deciding together what picture we want to draw and consulting on color choices and who will draw which part as we go.

And during this time I don’t check my e-mail (I just left work, for goodness sake, why do I feel the need to check in again?) and I don’t try to multitask by getting ingredients out for dinner.

For those 10-15 minutes, I am all his. Eight times out of ten (nobody’s perfect), when I do have to make dinner he’s a little more relaxed and able to entertain himself or talk to me while I work.

Move together.

 

Let’s face it: getting exercise just isn’t the same after you have kids. Forgive me if you’ve already discovered this strategy and you’re one of those awesome families that is always hiking and skiing together; I envy you. I’m taking baby steps.

My recent wins include: getting up 10 minutes earlier so that the trip to the bus stop (we have a long drive) can be a family affair; realizing that the 20 minute fitness video that my son loves doing on gonoodle.com would actually be good for me to do with him; and signing up for a toddler yoga class with my daughter.

Sure, this isn’t the same as going for a half-hour run (I never did that) or taking an hour-long pilates class downtown (I used to do that), but it gets us moving and it also gets us spending dedicated time together. As an added bonus, it’s harder to be distracted or to multitask when you are doing something physical with your child. That’s a win-win in my book.

One thing they teach you in mindfulness classes is that being mindful doesn’t mean you have to meditate for two hours every day.

Even a 5 minute breathing exercise at your desk can reap rewards. Likewise, even 10 minutes of dedicated time one-on-one with a child can help to rejuvenate us both. Sometimes you just need a little reminder.

Every family has a style, and your strategy for finding moments to connect likely reflects that style, but there is also no shame in borrowing strategies from others. What works for you?

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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With two babies in tow, getting out the door often becomes doubly challenging. From the extra things to carry to the extra space needed in your backseat, it can be easy to feel daunted at the prospect of a day out. But before you resign yourself to life indoors, try incorporating these five genius products from Nuna to get you and the littles out the door. (Because Vitamin D is important, mama!)

1. A brilliant double stroller

You've got more to carry—and this stroller gets it. The DEMI™ grow stroller from Nuna easily converts from a single ride to a double stroller thanks to a few easy-to-install accessories. And with 23 potential configurations, you're ready to hit the road no matter what life throws at you.

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2. A light car seat

Lugging a heavy car seat is the last thing a mama of two needs to have on her hands. Instead, pick up the PIPA™ lite, a safe, svelte design that weighs in at just 5.3 pounds (not counting the canopy or insert)—that's less than the average newborn! When you need to transition from car to stroller, this little beauty works seamlessly with Nuna's DEMI™ grow.

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3. A super safe car seat base

The thing new moms of multiples really need to get out the door? A little peace of mind. The PIPA™ base features a steel stability leg for maximum security that helps to minimize forward rotation during impact by up to 90% (compared to non-stability leg systems) and 5-second installation for busy mamas.

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4. A diaper bag you want to carry

It's hard to find an accessory that's as stylish as it is functional. But the Nuna diaper bag pulls out all the stops with a sleek design that perfectly conceals a deceptively roomy interior (that safely stores everything from extra diapers to your laptop!). And with three ways to wear it, even Dad will want to take this one to the park.

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5. A crib that travels

Getting a new baby on a nap schedule—while still getting out of the house—is hard. But with the SENA™ aire mini, you can have a crib ready no matter where your day takes you. It folds down and pops up easily for sleepovers at grandma's or unexpected naps at your friend's house, and the 360-degree ventilation ensures a comfortable sleep.

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With 5 essentials that are as flexible as you need to be, the only thing we're left asking is, where are you going to go, mama?

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


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Parents in New Jersey will soon get more money and more time for parental leave after welcoming a baby.

This week New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy signed off on legislation that extends New Jersey's paid family leave from six weeks to 12.

It also increases the benefit cap from 53% of the average weekly wage to 70%, meaning the maximum benefit for a parent on family leave will be $860 a week, up from $650.

It might not seem like a huge difference, but by raising the benefit from two-thirds of a parent's pay to 85%, lawmakers in New Jersey are hoping to encourage more parents to actually take leave, which is good for the parents, their baby and their family. "Especially for that new mom and dad, we know that more time spent bonding with a child can lead to a better long-term outcome for that child," Murphy said at a press conference this week.

The law will also make it easier for people to take time off when a family member is sick.

Because NJ's paid leave is funded through payroll deductions, workers could see an increase in those deductions, but Murphy is betting that workers and businesses will see the benefits in increasing paid leave benefits. "Morale goes up, productivity goes up, and more money goes into the system," Murphy said. "And increasingly, companies big and small realize that a happy workforce and a secure workforce is a key ingredient to their success."

The new benefits will go into effect in July 2020 (making next Halloween a good time to get pregnant in the Garden State).

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Whether you just need to stock up on diapers or you've had your eye on a specific piece of baby gear, you might want to swing by your local Walmart this Saturday, February 23rd.

Walmart's big "Baby Savings Day" is happening from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. at participating Walmarts (but more deals can be found online at Walmart.com already and the website deals are happening for the rest of the month).

About 3,000 of the 3,570 Supercenter locations are participating in the sale (check here to see if your local Walmart is).

The deals vary, but in general you can expect up to 30% off on items like cribs, strollers, car seats, wipes, diapers and formula.

Some items, like this Graco Modes 3 Lite Travel System have been marked down by more than $100. Other hot items include this Lille Baby Complete Carrier (It's usually $119, going for $99 during the sale) and the Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat (for as low as $199).

So if you're in need of baby gear, you should check out this sale. Travel gear isn't the only category that's been marked down, there are some steep discounts on breast pumps, too.

Many of the Walmart locations will also be offering samples and expert demos of certain products on Saturday so it's worth checking out!

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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Any Schumer has not had an easy pregnancy. She intended to keep working, but if you follow her on social media you know she's been very sick through each trimester.

And now in her final trimester she's had to cancel her tour due to hyperemesis gravidarum, also known as HG. It's a rare but very serious form of extreme morning sickness, and on Friday evening Schumer announced she is canceling the rest of her tour because of it.

“I vomit every time [I] ride in a car even for 5 minutes," Schumer explained in an Instagram post.

Due to the constant vomiting she's not cleared to fly and just can't continue to the tour.

This is not the first time Schumer has had to make an announcement about HG. Back in November, just weeks after announcing her pregnancy, she had to cancel shows and again broke the news via Instagram.

She posted a photo of herself in a hospital bed with her little dog Tati, and spelled out the details of her health issues in the caption. "I have hyperemesis and it blows," Schumer wrote.

Poor Amy. Hyperemesis gravidarum is really tough.

Kate Middleton, Ayesha Curry and Motherly co-founder Elizabeth Tenety are among those who, like Schumer, have suffered from this form of severe morning sickness that can be totally debilitating.

As she previously wrote for Motherly, Tenety remembers becoming desperately ill, being confined to her apartment (mostly her bed) and never being far from a trash can, "I lost 10% of my body weight. I became severely dehydrated. I couldn't work. I couldn't even get out of bed. I could barely talk on the phone to tell my doctor how sick I was—begging them to please give me something, anything—to help."

Thankfully, she found relief through a prescription for Zofran, an anti-nausea drug.


Schumer probably knows all about that drug. It looks she is getting the medical help she obviously needs, and she was totally right to cancel the tour in order to stay as healthy as possible.

We're glad to see Schumer is getting help, and totally understand why she would have to cancel her shows. Any mama who has been through HG will tell you, that wouldn't be a show you'd want front row seats for anyway.

Get well soon, Amy!

[A version of this post was published November 15, 2018. It has been updated.]

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As a military spouse, Cydney Cooper is used to doing things alone. But when she delivered her twin daughters early after complications due to Influenza A, she was missing her husband Skylar more than ever.

Recovering from the flu and an emergency C-section, and trying to parent the couple's two older boys and be with her new infant daughters in the NICU, Cydney was exhausted and scared and just wanted her husband who was deployed in Kuwait with the Army and wasn't expected home for weeks.

Alone in the NICU 12 days after giving birth, Cydney was texting an update on the twins to her husband when he walked through the door to shoulder some of the massive burden this mama was carrying.

"I was typing up their summary as best I could and trying to remember every detail to tell him when I looked up and saw him standing there. Shock, relief, and the feeling that everything was just alright hit me at once. I just finally let go," she explains in a statement to Motherly.

The moment was captured on video thanks to a family member who was in on Skylar's surprise and the reunion has now gone viral, having been viewed millions of times. It's an incredible moment for the couple who hadn't seen each other since Skylar had a three-day pass in seven months earlier.

Cydney had been caring for the couple's two boys and progressing in her pregnancy when, just over a week before the viral video was taken, she tested positive for Influenza A and went into preterm labor. "My husband was gone, my babies were early, I had the flu, and I was terrified," she tells Motherly.

"Over the next 48 hours they were able to stop my labor and I was discharged from the hospital. It only lasted two days and I went right back up and was in full on labor that was too far to stop."

Cydney needed an emergency C-section due to the babies' positioning, and her medical team could not allow anyone who had previously been around her into the operating room because anyone close to Cydney had been exposed to the flu.

"So I went in alone. The nurses and doctors were wonderful and held my hand through the entire thing but at the same time, I felt very very alone and scared. [Skylar] had been present for our first two and he was my rock and I didn't have him when I wanted him the most. But I did it! He was messaging me the second they wheeled me to recovery. Little did I know he was already working on being on his way."

When he found out his baby girls were coming early Skylar did everything he could to get home, and seeing him walk into the NICU is a moment Cydney will hold in her heart and her memory forever. "I had been having to hop back and forth from our sons to our daughters and felt guilty constantly because I couldn't be with all of them especially with their dad gone. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life and I won't be forgetting it."

It's so hard for a military spouse to do everything alone after a baby comes, and the military does recognize this. Just last month the Army doubled the amount of leave qualifying secondary caregivers (most often dads) can take after a birth or adoption, from 10 days to 21 so that moms like Cydney don't have to do it all alone.

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