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Editor's note: This is the third post in a four-part series about teens, sex, and social media. Read the entire series here.


I made a somewhat shocking discovery in our storage room a few weeks ago.

I was looking through a pile of old photographs when – mixed in among the usual family holidays and memorable birthday parties – I found a set of six shots of me posing seductively in a series of sexy outfits. Me in a bikini. Me in a silky top. Me in a tight black skirt and vest with no bra.

I stared at these images with my jaw dropped, feeling as if I'd stumbled across a collection of photos taken without my knowledge. But no, I remember this… We were in my friend's basement bedroom. Her parents were out. We were 14 years old.

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In every one of the photos, I'm wearing a wooden cross necklace, clearly aware of the irony.

Fortunately for me, the internet wasn't a thing in 1991 and we were taking pictures with a disposable camera, not a smart phone. Maybe I would have sent those photos to a boy I liked. I don't know. But the fact remains that I had the inclination and curiosity to pose for them.

Take a moment, right now if you can, to recall what it was like to be a teenager discovering your own sexuality. Remember the questions you had, and the various methods you and your friends came up with for answering them. Think about how natural it is to wonder what your body looks like to other people. Isn't a photograph the best way to find out?

Discovering these photos changed the way I approached this piece. I was filled with compassion for teen girls, and filled with gratitude for my parents, who somehow guided teenage me to a place of relative confidence and fierceness.

Which reminded me – that's what it's all about. I was getting distracted as I researched the current technological landscape and how it affects the way our kids experience adolescence. There are some unique considerations because of the state of technology, but what's more important than preparing your daughter to be a good digital citizen is preparing your daughter to be a woman in this world.

As I discussed in my post on talking to boys about sex, love, and relationships, having the “one big sex talk" doesn't work. Your daughter won't experience her sexuality in one fell swoop. It's a process that begins way before puberty.

Help your daughter build a strong, confident foundation from which to navigate her budding sexuality by modeling these four behaviors.

1 | Positive body image

Studies have shown (over and over again) that a mother has an incredible amount of influence on her daughter's body image.

One study at the University of Notre Dame found that “direct maternal encouragement of daughters to lose weight is linked to daughters' development of bulimic symptoms." To which you might say, “Obviously." But the study's abstract also states that “daughters whose mothers merely talk about dieting and body dissatisfaction are more likely to be diagnosed with an eating disorder."

I would never presume to tell you that you need to be 100% happy with your body (I mean, that would be ideal, but I understand self-acceptance is an ever-evolving process). The point is, it's on us to deal with our shit in private. Do not talk about calorie counting, dieting, or losing weight in front of, or with, your daughter. Period.

Instead, talk to your daughter about healthy eating choices and introduce her to a range of physical activities that might interest her. If you think that ship has sailed, it's never too late to talk about loving yourself. Teach her what an amazing feat of science and magic her body is – that we are made of the same raw material as the stars.

You may laugh or tell me that I'm barking up the wrong new age tree, but I want to offer this thought anyway: teach your daughter that she is a goddess. Not a queen or a diva, but a beautiful, sensual goddess whose body is to be celebrated. While you're at it, remind yourself that you're a goddess, too.

There is equal onus on fathers to consciously avoid using language that objectifies women in front of your daughters (or how about all the time?), and to maintain a closeness with her, even as her body changes through puberty.

Laura Choate, author of “Swimming Upstream: Parenting Girls for Resilience in a Toxic Culture," says that, “if you have always been affectionate, this is not the time to stop hugging your daughter or to push her off your lap just because she has grown a little (or a lot)." That kind of rejection – no matter how unintentional – can leave a lasting imprint.



2 | Strong, supportive female friendships

I was a mean girl in junior high. Heavily influenced by the movie “Heathers," two friends and I called ourselves the Three Blonde Bitches (3BB for short). We weren't overtly mean, but we certainly thought we were better than other girls and knew how to influence almost any social situation. At the time, it seemed like the best way to be a “strong girl."

Illustration: Katrina Weigand

I wish I had done it all differently. I wish my notion of a strong girl involved lifting other girls up, making friends feel good about themselves, and showing boys that I didn't rely on their feedback to bolster my self-esteem.

Cattiness – the cornerstone of any mean girl squad – can be described as an evolutionary byproduct of the competition for sexual partners. In modern day terms, it's just competition. Women and girls are uncomfortable with competition because it's not something that we're encouraged to feel or benefit from the way boys typically are. But we experience it anyway, and don't really know what to do with it. So we snipe. We betray. We lie.

…Until we learn that there is a much better way to deal with our feelings of inadequacy. Once girls and women experience the brilliant force of female support, they will choose it over cattiness every time.

Female friends provide an outlet and a soundboard for those feelings that would otherwise manifest as passive aggression. Even better than that, the support of a close girlfriend has the ability to change the way we see ourselves. Your daughter will see the difference in you – before and after you spend time with your ladies – and understand on a profound level that girls are good for each other.

3 | Respect

How many times have you heard the phrase (dripping with judgment as it is), “No self-respecting girl would ever…"

I loathe the sentiment for all the ways that it's been used to victim-blame and slut-shame. I also believe there's a kernel of truth in there.

Modeling self-respect for your daughter is like teaching her about consent, integrity, and strength all at once. She will learn that she has value, that her words matter. Since the understanding that all people are born with inherent worth is a natural outgrowth of self-respect, your daughter will respect other people, too.

Be respectful of your partner, respectful of your own needs, and for the love of God, be respectful of your daughter. This includes respecting her privacy.

Amy Adele Hasinoff, Assistant Professor in the department of communication at the University of Colorado, Denver and author of “Sexting Panic," explains that digital privacy is also an important consideration.

“Covert monitoring (of your daughter's texts and social media) sets a really bad example that says, 'You have no right to privacy. I don't care about your personal space,'" she says. This is the opposite of respect.

And there's a larger message coming through. Says Hasinoff, “You're sending a very dangerous message that there is no privacy in digital information. I think we want to be modeling to kids that, just because something is digital and Facebook's telling you to share it and Twitter's telling you to share it, doesn't mean you should. There's still an ethical obligation to respect people's privacy."

In any area where your daughter may have a reasonable expectation of privacy – her phone, her email, even her bedroom at times – it's incumbent upon you to provide that privacy.

4 | Advocacy

Advocacy can be an intimidating word. It sounds like something one does for a cause or a struggle; we advocate for things we believe in.

Well, I have no doubt that you believe in your daughter. You believe that she deserves respect just like her male counterparts. She should have the freedom to be herself without ridicule or bullying. She is your cause.

As much as I wish it wasn't so, we still live in a misogynist culture – particularly when it comes to female sexuality. Girls are routinely given the message that they should be chaste and humble, but not too chaste and humble; that they can be one of two things – a prude or a slut.

If your teenage daughter is caught sexting, do not punish her. Have a conversation about it. Ask her why she did it and explain why it's not a good idea. Help her find safe, healthy ways to explore her sexuality. That's advocacy.

If your daughter is being slut-shamed for that sext, or for the way she dresses, something she said, or something that someone else invented about her – MAKE IT STOP! Her school may not intervene, her friends may do nothing, and – saddest of all – your daughter may feel powerless to fight it. It is up to you.

Furthermore, if your daughter is contributing to the slut-shaming of another girl, you need to become an advocate for that girl. There are too many examples (because even one is too many) of girls being relentlessly harassed by other girls – sometimes, tragically, to the point of committing suicide.

Hasinoff says, “It's very easy for parents to think of their teenage girls as potential victims. They feel like their kids are vulnerable… I think the best thing parents could do is think of it as their job to make sure that their kids don't perpetrate these horrible violations – that they don't slut-shame their classmates."

She goes on to say, “That's the moral and ethical training that I think parents should be giving their kids, rather than, 'Don't sext.'… If all you tell them is 'don't sext,' you're setting them up for a lot of problems and you're not solving any of the issues."

There is a lot of messed up shit that happens when it comes to girls and sexuality. Tune your radar into this realm and be prepared to fight when you see the double standard in play. By advocating for your daughter now, you're teaching her how to do it herself for the rest of her life.

You can change the world for your daughter

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a world-renowned OB/GYN and author of “Women's Bodies, Women's Wisdom," has said that, “every daughter contains her mother and all the women who came before her."

I just love this powerful visual of my daughter embodying the grit, humor, sadness, and fear of every woman. To think that we have it all somewhere inside our cells and can access whatever emotion or experience we need to inform our reaction to any situation we find ourselves in – it feels good to me.

It's also daunting as hell, isn't it? Speaking as a mother who tends to get caught up in the details (Shit – did I remember to put her tap shoes in her backpack? What will we do if we don't have her tap shoes? I'm the worst!), thinking about writing this piece has caused me to take several giant steps back and consider the whole picture.

When I judge myself, I judge my daughter. When I look at my belly, no longer the defined mid-section of a 25-year-old yoga instructor, and think, “Gross," I lay that feeling at my daughter's feet. When my sweet, wonderful mother calls herself stupid for forgetting to pack her toothbrush, my daughter feels the weight of those words.

It's not fair. She didn't do anything wrong. But you see, neither did I. All of this judgment and criticism is learned behavior. When I was a kid going to Catholic mass, I would keep my lips closed during the part of the service when the congregation speaks the phrase, “Lord, I am not worthy to receive you, but only say the word and I shall be healed."

But WHY am I not worthy?, seven-year-old me thought. What did I do wrong?

Nothing, sweetheart. You've done nothing wrong. It's just a phrase from a book written by men who were trying to control a whole lot of people. People are easier to control when you convince them that they lack worth.

And that's what our culture has done to generations of women. The words change slightly, we gain a little ground now and then, but the underlying (heteronormative) belief that women exist primarily to be tools for male sexual pleasure, and to reproduce and care for their offspring, persists.

But you can make a promise right now that it ends with you.

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It's that time of year again—and, no, we don't mean back to school. If you're in the market for any baby products, mama, it turns out that September is the time to pick them up, as it's Best of Baby Month at Walmart.com. If you're just hearing about what this is now, don't worry, you've got plenty of time to get in on the savings. It's essentially just like a month-long Black Friday for baby essentials (read: massive savings on baby items happening online now through September 30th.) Yes, we know, we think that it's amazing, too.

Even better, when it comes to high chairs, baby monitors, strollers, and nursery necessities, Walmart.com has your budget in mind, and your baby's safety at heart. Whether you're rounding out your registry or updating your gear to prepare for a new sibling, here's how to save big on a few of our personal favorites online.

Evenflo ExerSaucer Bounce and Learn

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With toys they can touch, see and hear, your little one will stay busy—and safe!—in this adorable tea party-themed activity center. Baby can rock, spin, and bounce, which strengthens their muscles, and you can easily remove and machine wash the padded seat cover when it's time for a cleaning.

Price: $44 (regularly $59)

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Tommee Tippee Pump + Go Complete Breast Milk Set

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Mamas who pump know that they don't call breast milk liquid gold for nothing; it's devastating to lose even a single drop. This innovative set includes an adapter that fits most pumps and breast milk pouches that can be filled, stored, warmed, and placed in bottles for feeding. There's even a storage case to keep your fridge or freezer from overflowing with filled pouches.

Price: $48.99 (regularly $99.99)

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MobiCam HDX Smart HD WiFi Baby Monitoring Camera

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Whether you're just downstairs in the living room or living it up on a much-needed date night, you can keep an eye on baby from the convenience of your phone. The high-definition camera, which pans and tilts to let you see every corner of the room, offers exceptional night vision as well as two-way audio so you can listen and respond. Motion alerts and notifications mean you won't miss a thing, even when you're not glued to your phone.

Price: $43.99 (regularly $59.99)

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Safe Dream Wearable Blanket

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Babies spend a lot of time sleeping, which means you'll want to stock up so there's always a wearable blanket at the ready. The safe alternative to loose blankets, this HALO design helps baby warm and cozy to help him sleep soundly through the night… and much of the day, too!

Price: $11.99 (regularly $15.99)

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Evenflo Pivot Xpand Modular Travel System

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There's so much to love about this car seat and stroller travel system, from its self-standing fold to its oversized storage basket to its flip-flop friendly brake. The modular design can accommodate one or two seats in up to 22 different configurations, so you can push baby and big brother or sister in one stroller, and its lightweight frame is easy to transport (because, we get it, you have your hands full).

Price: $322.22 (regularly $352.22)

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South Shore Angel 4 Drawer Chest

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Round drawer pulls and a curvy bottom edge lend chic French country style to this simple chest of drawers. Made from eco-friendly materials, it's easy to assemble and the perfect size for a nursery (and then a big kid's room!). To complement a room of any color scheme, the small dresser is also available in chocolate brown, cherry wood and gray.

Price: $119 (regularly $149)

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

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The internet moves so fast it can seem like you're missing out on all the good news and only seeing the bad, but here at Motherly we know that there is so much good in the world and even on the internet.

In an age when outrage and anger dominate online spaces, we fill this space with uplifting news each week. We recognize that life is hard right now. Mamas have a lot to worry about. This week's viral headlines included the fact that giving birth costs a ton (which of course isn't news to anyone who has given birth recently) and a pregnant star's boyfriend publicly taking a stand against epidurals (good thing he's not the one giving birth). Stories like those are important but can be, frankly, exhausting.

So here are the stories that made us smile this week to perk you up, mama:

This viral video of toddler besties hugging will melt your heart

Social media users are going crazy over this adorable video of two toddler boys hugging in the street...and we can't say we blame them. As parents, we're constantly trying to capture the cutest moments from our kids' day-to-day lives—and one New York dad recently struck gold when he managed to snag a video of his son and his "bestie" running into each other's arms.

The dad, Michael Cisneros, took a video of his son, Maxwell, spotting his best friend on a New York street. The scene is absolutely precious: Maxwell and his friend, Finnegan, are so obviously overjoyed to see one another. They run straight towards each other and hug, and our hearts completely melt every single time we watch it unfold.

We aren't the only ones who can't get enough of this adorable video—Cisneros posted the clip on his Facebook and it is (unsurprisingly) going viral.

"This is just so beautiful. Finnegan + Maxwell= BESTIES!!! If we could all be like this," Cisneros writes alongside the photo.

According to Cisneros, the boys have been friends for about a year. "When they are away from each other, they are always asking about one another," he tells ABC News. "They go to music class together...and they love to dance—both are excellent dancers."

Social media users can't get enough of these sweet toddlers and their friendship. "This just made my year," one social media user comments. "Bless your beautiful little guy and his equally beautifully bestie! I watched this several times in a row. Thanks for sharing all that joy! ❤️" another adds.

We couldn't love this more! In addition to just being really, really cute, this clip teaches us how important these special friendships are, and how you're never too young to make these bonds. Kudos to this dad for recognizing these special moments, and props to these sweet toddlers for spreading so much love.

Viral birth story: This teacher gave birth at school + her colleagues helped 

Mom and teacher Lindsay Agbalokwu was due to give birth to her second child on September 17, so when she walked into work weeks before that date she thought it would be like any other day. She could not have imagined she would end up giving birth on school grounds, with her colleagues (including one of her close friends) by her side.

But early in the morning, she found herself in pain and the school's vice principal went to enlist her friend and fellow teacher, Marissa Kast, to come and help her. When Kast found her friend, she knew it was clear things were progressing. She didn't yet know that her friend's baby would be born very shortly, on school grounds.

"I told our vice principal 'I'm taking her to the hospital'...So I got my car, I had to pull it around to the other side of the building where Lindsay was," Kast tells Motherly.

By the time Kast moved her car she could see the school's principal, Natalie Lewis, and dean of students, Chris Earls were helping Agbalokwu out of the school. The pregnant teacher "was barely standing on her own and then she was in labor," Kast explains. As the principal dialed 911, Agbalokwu's water broke.

Kast happened to have a sleeping bag in her car, so she placed it on the sidewalk and had the expectant mother lay down while an emergency dispatcher gave the educators instructions to assist with the delivery.

"[I thought] please let them get here in time. Like, I do not want to deliver a baby," Kast says. "This was not on my agenda for today. And so we lay her down, we kind of got her settled and then I heard sirens and I was like, 'I hear sirens, just hold on like you can do this'...She had Chris on one side, Natalie on the other and she clutching their hands, pretty much breaking them."

Soon a fire truck was there and firefighters were delivering little baby Zara into the world. Kast says she's forever grateful to those firefighters who showed up and helped her friend in the nick of time.

"We got her ready, we were there helping her, like coaching her, but they are the two that delivered this baby," she says.

Kast knew Agbalokwu's husband would be sad to have missed the birth of the couple's second child, so she channeled her inner birth photographer and snapped a couple of photos of mama and baby before calling Agbalokwu's husband and instructing him to meet them at the hospital.

Once her friend was safely at the hospital, Kast returned to the school to teach seventh grade before heading back to the hospital in the evening to have pizza with Zara's parents.

We imagine Agbalokwu never expected for her school's fellow teacher, principal and dean to step in and help her while she was in labor, but hey—they did what needed to be done. And we couldn't be more impressed by how it all unfolded.

The Agbalokwus are now resting up at home with Zara's big brother Zeke, and Kast still cannot believe that her friend had a baby so quickly, at school, on the sleeping bag she just happened to have in her car.

This father's advice to partners of breastfeeding mamas is #dadgoals

Muhammed Nitoto is the dad behind the popular Instagram account @ChroniclesofDaddy and this week he is going viral for the sweetest list of ways partners can help breastfeeding moms.

Nitoto wanted to "drop some knowledge on his fellow dads and soon-to-be dads" so he made a list of what fathers should be aware of when it comes to breastfeeding and he agreed to let Motherly share his list .

Here are his top 5 tips for new dads:

"1. For night feedings. When mom wakes up in the middle of the night. You get up and ask if she needs any help or water. The truth is most of the time she will say no but just the fact that you offered will go far.

"2. Ask mom if she can pump and then pick 1 feeding that you will always do. Mom will take on almost everything and will burn herself out if you let her. At times you may have to force her to rest without worrying about the baby. This is an easy way to do that without a fight.

"3. Don't put a time limit on how long mom breastfeed the baby. It's not just about feeding your child it's about them bonding as well. I know everyone has a diffrent length of time they will breastfeed and as a Dad it's hard to fully understand. Do not I repeat DO NOT try and rush this process it's not our place and it's not safe. You will open yourself up to a fight you can't win.

"4. Be patient. I know as a Dad the first few weeks we are equally excited and yet not as important yet. Your time will come faster than you know. Babies grow fast and the stronger bigger they get the more Daddy Time will be coming your way.

"5. Paternity leave! If you have it TAKE IT. The early stages of a childs life are not just for moms to enjoy. I know as men making the money especially after having a baby but trust me. You can always make money but there are no instant replays in life. It doesn't make you more of a man to not take the leave. It's equally as important that you as a Dad get to be a part of the early development of your child. "

Thanks for the advice, Nitoto! Share this with a dad who you know wants to help!

This mom's viral tweet proves why working #momguilt is so unnecessary

Now she's a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist who teaches journalism at Kent State University, but back in 1989, Connie Schultz was a working mom who, like many of us, was wracked with mom guilt.

That year, Schultz snapped a photo of her toddler daughter, Cait, imitating her while she was on the phone doing an interview. This week, she tweeted that photo alongside another, more recent picture of Cait, taken in 2016 as testified before a state committee about the need for paid parental leave while wearing her own baby.

"In '89, I'm doing phone interview & see toddler Cait imitating me. 1st thought: Oh, no. 2nd thought: Oh, wow. In '16, Cait wears 3-mo-old Milo as she testifies before RI leg committee on need for paid sick leave for all families. My working-mom guilt was a such a waste of time," Schultz captioned the two side-by-side images.

It's true. Schultz should not feel guilty, and neither should any working mother.

Research shows us that daughters of working mothers earn 23% more than daughters of mothers who never worked for pay outside the home and that sons of working mothers grow up to do twice as much unpaid work around the house.

Of course, not all moms want to work, and it is absolutely possible to have awesome outcomes like these even if you don't, but a lot of moms do want to do paid work. Motherly's second annual State of Motherhood survey found a "desire to participate in work outside the household" is a common feeling for millennial moms.

When our kids pretend to send emails or take work calls we should not be wracked with guilt, we should be filled with pride because they are watching be the people we want to be and know that they can do it too.

[A version of this post was published September 10, 2019. It has been updated.]

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News

Neil Patrick Harris is an excellent communicator. He's an amazing actor and just released his third young adult novel, The Magic Misfits: The Minor Third. But now that Neil's twins, 8-year-olds Harper and Gideon, are in third grade Neil and his husband, chef David Burtka, are having to get more intentional about the way they communicate with their kids.

Specifically, they're going beyond asking, "How was your day?" because Neil (like many parents) knows that asking the question this way typically leads to one-word answers.

"It takes a minute to remember that yes or no questions, at least to 8 and 9-year-olds, doesn't really encourage them to embellish very much," Neil told Motherly while promoting his partnership with Quaker Chewy to help drive donations to Adopt a Classroom, a non-profit that helps get school supplies into classrooms.

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Harris is passionate about getting teachers and kids the school supplies they need, and he's also passionate about finding out what his kids get up to in their classrooms. According to Harris, the key to getting kids to open up is taking this question further and giving kids a direction to take the conversation in.

"I try to ask them questions as if it is some kind of game. 'Tell me three things that happened today at school—one that was funny, one that was exciting and one that was a little bit scary,'" he explains.

The father of two says this helps the kids take on the challenge of opening up and having a conversation, rather than just serving up rote replies. That's why Harris tries not to ask things like, "What did you learn today?" or, "How was school?" (but like all of us, he sometimes slips up).

"Because unless they really want to share a specific thing, there's so many options on how to answer those kinds of questions. I ask them myself, but I catch myself. You're gonna have to be a little more bespoke in your questioning to get the answers you want."

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I was once asked what I wished I'd known before having children. “I wish I knew they would be on me for two years," I replied.

I love my children, but there were afternoons when my husband would be outside playing with our offspring; I'd hear them laughing through the window and he'd call out, “Honey, come play with us!" and instead of leaping out to join in the mutual adoration I'd just think, No, thank you.

This is an unpopular position for a loving mother to find herself in. Nonetheless, for some of us there are reasons why it's a challenging experience to have a small person attached to you semi-permanently. I knew I was an introvert, but I didn't know how much it would impact my parenting.

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What does it mean to be introverted?

Scientists are discovering that introverts take in more information from their surroundings and require solitude to process it. If introverts can't get peace and quiet to digest the influx of information, they risk feeling overwhelmed—which can be hard.

Introvert's brains also have a higher level of activity than others, they run “hotter." This means that introverts tend to limit input from their environment; they may seek to avoid crowds or high-adrenaline situations as their brains are already pretty well activated. So when you add an excitable child to a brain that requires solitude, it can be frustrating.

What an introverted mama looks like

The dichotomy that I found myself in, as an introvert with a baby, was that you were meant to achieve “baby bliss." The socially acceptable way to behave when you have a child is to spend lots of time with them, to play with them (and enjoy it), to have a messy, noisy house, and to miss your children terribly when they're away.

Introverts can struggle with the expectations of parenthood when they seem to go against their own basic needs as a person. However, these issues, as difficult as they may be, often aren't the most pressing for an introvert. Instead, guilt may be the biggest struggle. The way an introvert's brain works best goes directly against “good" parenting and culture. Introvert parents may question their relevance and worth as a parent, and are at heightened risk of anxiety and depression.

Being an introvert is a good thing

Since introverts absorb more information than extroverts, they may notice things that others miss. This can be incredibly valuable in raising children. Introverts may sense children's triggers, the tiny signals that indicate a switch in mood or an impeding meltdown. They may pay more attention to the minutia of kid's lives, those simple things that mean the most. These things make for high quality parenting, which is just as important as the quantity of time you spend with your child.

Introverts are aware of their own shortcomings—they are more critical of themselves than extraverts, and focus more on mistake than triumphs. When extraverts are shaking off a bad day and planning on making the next one extra good, introverts are flagellating themselves and hoping child services don't show up.

It's not all gloom though. Once they move on from the flagellation, introverts actually have a really good grasp on what's going on, even when it's not exactly great.

How you can be an awesome mama if you're an introvert:

1. Find some structure.

Even if you never follow it, having a structure in mind when you start the day can be less overwhelming than trying to figure out what to do when small people are running around the house yelling and naked.

2. Use headphones.

Put your children in the stroller/carrier and go for a walk with headphones in. Even getting 20 minutes to yourself makes a difference, and pointing out the occasional butterfly on a walk makes small people happy, too.

3. Prioritize alone time.

If you get a babysitter, or regular childcare, make sure you either drop off your kid or that the babysitter takes them out. Time alone to potter around an empty house and hear yourself think is vital. It's okay to not want to be around other people, and it's perfectly fine to limit social engagements or avoid crowded, busy environments. It's not selfish, it's self-care.

4. Discover quiet activities that work for your family.

They exist! Reading books together can be replenishing, as well as some craft activities. Find the things that work for you and your children and invest time in those activities every day.

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Learn + Play

There are a lot of preconceived notions about what a family "should" look like, but according to the Pew research center, it is no longer the norm for a baby to be born to and raised solely by parents who are married to each other. "There is no longer one dominant family form in the U.S. Parents today are raising their children against a backdrop of increasingly diverse and, for many, constantly evolving family forms," Pew noted in its report, Parenting in America.

That's why we love to see celebrities celebrating the diverse forms their families take. Children today need to see that blended families are every bit as awesome (and normal) as a families where mom and dad are married.

Here are some of our favorite famous blended families:

Jennifer Lopez + Alex Rodriguez

Jennifer Lopez is a woman of many, many talents: She can act, sing, dance, design...and, if a recent Instagram post from fiancé Alex Rodriguez is any indication, she can co-parent with the best of them as well.

In an interview on the TODAY show, JLo told Hoda Kotb a story that brings tears to our eyes.

"I got the most beautiful card from Alex's daughter, Tashi [that's Natasha, age 14]. And she told me it's an honor to be your stepdaughter. Again, I start crying," Lopez, 50, said. "I just feel so blessed to have all of the dynamics that are going on in my life right now. You know, and first starting with, you know, creating a family that I've always wanted."

This is just the latest in a series of stories that prove J Lo, A Rod and J Lo's ex, Marc Anthony are total co-parenting goals.

A few months ago the trio made us smile when they shared a moment from J Lo and Marc's son Max's music recital. The three adults sat together in the audience, and Alex shared the sweetest video clip from the event. The video shows A Rod sitting between the exes: Both Jennifer and Marc playfully lip-sync the words to "I Will Always Love You" as their son and his group perform the classic.

Alex sits in between them laughing—because, by his own admission, he can't quite keep up with the former couple on a musical level. "Those who can, do," Alex writes alongside the video. "Those who can't, sit between two people that can and stay quiet! #imnotasinger."

But J Lo and Marc's musical chops are definitely not the only impressive thing we're seeing here. Co-parenting is nothing new, and this is certainly not the first set of celebrity parents to keep working together as parents even after a breakup. Still, this display is both heart-warming and seriously commendable. Marc's willingness to welcome his ex-wife's future husband into the fold, Jennifer's ability to balance her co-parenting relationship along with her romantic relationship, Alex's comfort level with his bride-to-be's family—it's all really wonderful to witness.

Soon after, Jennifer returned the favor by joining her future husband's family to celebrate his daughter's middle school graduation. Her kids were on hand as well to pose for a family photo.

And recently, when A Rod's eldest daughter made the move up to high school, the whole family, including A Rod's ex-wife (Natasha's mom) Cynthia Scurtis and her new partner, Angel Nicolas posed for one happy group photo.

Coming together for their children's events is nothing new for this family. A year ago, Alex shared another Instagram shot of group watching his daughters, Natasha and Ella, and Jennifer and Marc's daughter, Emme, perform at a dance recital. He added the hashtag "#familia" to the photo. We've said it once and we'll say it again: Their ability to function so well as a blended family is incredible...and very healthy for all involved parties.

We're loving this glimpse into this modern family's ability to work their situation with so much grace and maturity!

Kourtney Kardashian + Scott Disick

The eldest Kardashian sister and her ex, Scott Disick, make headlines time and time again for their close post-breakup relationship. Despite the fact that they've severed romantic ties (and that Scott is seriously dating Sophia Richie), Kourtney and Scott have remained important parts of each others' lives. And why shouldn't they? They may not be a couple anymore, but they are family.

As co-parents to Mason, Penelope and Reign, Kourtney and Scott even vacation together (who could forget that much-discussed Bali trip?). And while everything the Kardashians do seems to make its way into the public eye, Kourtney's decision to co-parent in plain sight is a conscious one. "I feel like I can show a message, too, of like parents [who] can get along and work together and travel together," Kourtney once told TODAY. "And I think it's a good message to show other people."

One of the coolest things about this former couples' co-parenting relationship? The way they welcome Scott's current partner, Sophia, into the fold. Reports indicate that she and Kourtney get along well, and that Sophia has a great relationship with Scott and Kourtney's children.

Gabrielle Union + Dwayne Wade

Gabrielle Union recently became a mama after a long battle with infertility and pregnancy loss—but she's been a stepmom for years, and she's embraced that role in a really beautiful way.

"Being a stepparent is incredibly difficult. You never quite know your space. No one ever thanks the stepmom! No matter what you do, no one ever is like, 'And I just want to say a shoutout to—' [or] 'And I'm gonna buy my stepmama a mansion when I make it big," Gabrielle told Rachel Ray during an appearance on her talk show. "[But] it's also awesome knowing that—even without any outside validation—that you're a consistent, compassionate, loving adult who puts the kids' joy and their peace of mind and their innocence first."

Difficult as it may be, Gabrielle and Dwayne have managed to make blending their family look totally seamless. They're routinely spotted with Dwayne's sons, Zaire, Zion and Xavier — and now that they've added their daughter, Kaavia, to the family, the brood has seemingly become ever more close-knit.

Kelly Clarkson + Brandon Blackstock

When Kelly Clarkson married Brandon Blackstock, she didn't just gain a husband—she also became a stepmother to his children, Savannah and Seth. "We all live together and everything. It's so different, but it's perfect. They're awesome, and I actually really dig the mom thing," Kelly said of her role as a stepmom during an appearance on On Air With Ryan Seacrest.

Since then, Kelly and Brandon have welcomed two more children, River and Remington, into their modern family. Through it all, Kelly has celebrated the amazing father her husband is. Need proof? Just listen to her hit song, "Piece by Piece" and try not to cry.

Adele + Simon Konecki

When Adele split with her longtime partner, Simon Konecki, the world waited expectantly for more details (and, of course, some divorce-fueled ballads from the songstress). While Adele has remained rather tight-lipped about the details of their split (which, to be clear, is totally her prerogative!), we do know one thing: The former couple has mastered the art of co-parenting.

Here's what we know, according to a statement from Adele's team: "Adele and her partner have separated. They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Simon has a child from a previous relationship, so we imagine working with a nontraditional family dynamic is nothing new to this couple.

Gwyneth Paltrow + Chris Martin

Leave it to the woman who invented a term for amicable breakups (conscious uncoupling, anyone?) to reinvent the rules for balancing a blended family.

Gwyneth and her ex-husband, Chris Martin, have nailed the art of staying close after a split, which is both impressive and super healthy for their children, Apple and Moses. Their setup works for this famous blended family. And Gwyneth's message for those who don't get it? "I don't care about the haters. Haters are irrelevant to me," she told The Sunday Times.

Martin and Paltrow are still very much a parenting team even though Paltrow has remarried. And she's doing that differently, too.

Gwyneth's secret to a successful marriage? Seperate homes. She famously admitted that she and husband, Brad Falchuk, don't live together full-time. And you know what? More power to them.

Drew Barrymore + Will Kopelman

As far as we're concerned, this viral photo of Drew Barrymore and her ex, Will Kopelman, defines "cute co-parenting moments." The exes came together to celebrate their daughter's graduation ceremony — it's certainly not the first sweet display of co-parenting skills from this duo, but it's easily one of our favorites.

"It's interesting, I saw this article the other day written about me—and I never see articles written about me—and it was like, 'My Modern Family.' And I was like, 'I like that; that has a nice ring to it," Drew said of their setup during an appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. "I so wanted to raise kids in this ultra-traditional way and do everything so the polar opposite of my experience."

Jennifer Garner + Ben Affleck 

Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck split up years ago, but they will always be family because they share three kids, 13-year-old Violet, 10-year-old Seraphina and 8-year-old Samuel.

In the years since their divorce Garner, Affleck and their kids have been spotted doing tons of regular stuff as a family, like going to church or spending special occasions together.

In a recent interview with Today, Affleck credited his ex with facilitating an awesome coparenting relationship, even when times were tough.

"I hope I'm a pretty good dad. I certainly try very hard. I'm lucky they got a great mom and she helps out a great deal with making sure we coparent in as good a way as possible," he said.

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