A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
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A few years ago, my sister-in-law went through a pretty dramatic personal transformation.


She reignited her interest in fitness and athletics and along the way she lost weight and made a lot of new friends. I witnessed the transformation at a distance via Facebook updates and our twice annual family visits, so I didn’t fully understand the driver behind her big changes until she revealed them in a blog post.

After her first baby was born, she acted the way she thought a stay-at-home mom was supposed to act: crafting and making every minute about her kids. She said “yes” to things she thought she was supposed to do and lost herself along the way. In the end, she wasn’t happy, and she spent a long time figuring out how to fit her identity as a mom into the life she wanted to live. After I read her article, my first thought was, She finally found her personal brand.

Personal brand defined

Have you heard this term before? It’s trendy business lingo for what makes you stand out in a crowd. Your personal brand showcases your special talents and is built around who you are, what you do, and what you believe. It’s your unique combination of skills and personal qualities that bring value to what you do, and it’s used to keep you operating in a consistent and focused way to achieve your personal and professional goals.

Entrepreneurs and consultants use this as a way to promote themselves and explain in a shorthand what clients can expect when they partner with them. Job seekers use their personal brands to communicate their unique value to prospective employers. Before I left the corporate world, we were rolling out personal development training to a segment of employees to help them identify their brands as a lens through which they could look at their careers and their approach to solving business problems.

Adding “parent” to our personal brands

Old habits die hard, so even though I’ve been out of Human Resources and home with my kids for a few years, I couldn’t help but connect my sister-in-law’s self-realization with the concept of personal branding. Bringing this idea home into our family lives could be the answer to each of us finding peace with our individual style of parenting.

The good news is that you don’t have to feel completely lost in who you are to benefit from the process I’m about to share. I know this because I’m the exact opposite of my sister-in-law, and I still found value in doing this.

I’m more confident in my role as a mother than any role I’ve ever had. On the spectrum of mom guilt, I suffer from very little, and I don’t second-guess many of my choices as a parent. Of course, I worry about my kids, but I don’t worry whether I’m a good mom.

Still, when I challenged myself to come up with three adjectives to describe myself as a mom, I was stumped. My immediate thoughts went to how I wish I was behaving differently (i.e. magically turn into a morning person, so that I could accomplish household chores and workouts before the children wake up), and this isn’t a productive or, in my case, realistic way to think about parenting.

It’s not productive for a few reasons. First, focusing on our strengths makes us more successful than obsessing over our weaknesses. Second, defining our parenting brand, which is really just succinctly naming our strengths and how to use them to raise our tiny humans, serves as a compass to keep us on a win-win path that’s good for our families and good for ourselves. Naming what we want out of life makes us more likely to achieve it, and setting our own expectations, rather than adhering to what we think other people want, makes us more motivated to keep it up.

It’s for moms and dads

In truth, I first thought of this idea only as it relates to moms because we seem to experience a higher level of internal and external scrutiny for our parenting choices than dads do. Developing our unique mothering identities seemed like the best way to slough off for good the superficial labels we’re assigned. You know the labels I mean: soccer mom, helicopter mom, mean mom, crunchy mom, or hot mom (well, you can keep that last one, if you really want).

The more I thought about this, though, the more I realized it’s a worthy exercise for dads because we all keep a set of standards in our heads to which we measure ourselves. Naming our personal parenting brand gives us a chance to question whether the expectations we’ve defined are realistic and helpful.

If they’re not, it’s an opportunity to recalibrate the parenting bar we’ve set and focus on engaging with our families in a way that feels more authentic. This is what my sister-in-law did. She let go of the feelings of guilt, inadequacy, and fear she had about her role as a mom and embraced the identity that made sense for her — a mom who’d rather coach her kids’ soccer teams than volunteer in their classrooms. 

What’s more, going through this exercise together with our partners is a chance to revisit the expectations we’ve consciously or unconsciously set for one another. This is a chance to rebalance our joint approach to parenting and appreciate how our unique parenting brands compliment one another. And in case you’re getting any bright ideas, defining your brand as “I don’t change diapers” isn’t going to fly.

The four steps

We’ll walk through four steps to help you create your personal parenting brand and to figure out what to do with it once you have it. Take as much time as you need to complete these steps.

1 | Know thyself 

As a party trick, I used to do quick personality assessments on people based on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), and there was never a lack of volunteers. That’s because it’s fun to learn about ourselves, and it’s even better when the observations are insightful and give us pause for thought.

Below are some free online assessment to try. Take as many as you want and, by all means, dig around their websites for more information on each. The research-backed assessments are widely used for team and personal development and each offers a more in-depth analysis for a fee, should you find one particularly useful (I have no financial connection to any of these).

The fluffy ones are just for fun. Pay attention to patterns in your results, even in the non-scientific ones. For example, loyalty and helpfulness show up for me in some fashion regardless of the specific test I take.

Do a gut check while reading the description of your results. Take note of where you find yourself nodding your head, thinking, How do they know me so well?

VIA Survey on Character Strengths: A 15-minute assessment ranking the strength of 24 character traits that we all possess to some degree, just in our own unique combination. (They also offer a youth survey for children ages 10-17.)

Connecting with Colors: A five-minute assessment assigning you a color that represents your dominant personality traits and communication style. (They also offer an assessment for teens and tweens.)

DISC Personality Testing: A 10-minute assessment which places your preferences for connecting, communicating, and interacting with other people into four quadrants.

What Kind of Parent Are You?: A 10-question quiz, just for fun by Quizony.

Which Iconic Sitcom Dad Are You?: An eight-question quiz, just for fun by BuzzFeed.

Which TV Mom Are You?: An 11-question quiz, just for fun by Zimbio.

2 | Do some “me-search”

I had a psychology professor in grad school who used to say that “research is me-search,” meaning people choose to study topics with which they have a personal connection. In our case, we are doing me-search in the truest sense of the made-up word.

We’ve got to investigate how other people perceive us. It’ll either reinforce our view of ourselves and get us closer to locking down our brand, or it’ll highlight a disconnect between how we think we’re behaving and the vibe we’re actually putting out there.

Ask your partner, close friends, and family the following questions. Don’t forget to ask your children, if they’re old enough (and willing to play along). This doesn’t have to feel like a serious endeavor. Everybody loves me-search, so make it a round table and take turns answering the questions for each other. Chat over a glass of wine (or two) with the adults. Talk at dinner with the kids, and younger kids can draw pictures. You can share the results from your self- assessments, too, to gauge their reactions and get the conversation started.

There are no wrong answers and the fact that you’re taking the time to figure out your personal parenting brand proves you’re already a good one, so listen with an open mind to what those closest to you have to say. Try these questions:

  • If you could use one word to describe me, what would it be?
  • When do I seem happiest as a parent?
  • What do I complain about the most when it comes to being a parent?
  • What’s the most fun thing we’ve done together as a family recently? What made it so fun?
  • What do you think I’m really good at?

3 | Name that brand

Now it’s time to make sense of all this information. Keep the feedback you heard from family and friends and your own self-assessment results in mind as you think about the following questions and create your personal parenting brand statement. While the feedback you received from others is important, the answers to these next questions are yours and yours alone, so be honest in your responses, even if it differs from what your partner or children said.

  • What’s important to me as an individual and a parent?
  • What am I good at?
  • What do I want for my child(ren) in their lives and what qualities do I have to help them achieve this?
  • What’s my favorite way to spend time with my child(ren)?
  • What’s an example of a time I’ve felt successful as a parent?
  • When do I feel most drained by my kid(s)?
  • What qualities do other people admire in me? What am I known for? 

Now, it’s time to put this all together into a few sentences that represent your personal way of being a parent. Pulling from the answers you’ve given above, describe yourself with two or three adjectives (I am…). Then, state your goal for how you want to raise your kids (I will…) and call out something you won’t do because it doesn’t align with how you parent (I don’t…). Here are a couple examples:

I am practical and nurturing with a twist of intrigue. I will help my kids become well-adjusted and independent adults by being honest and fair with them. I don’t sweat the small stuff. 

I am fun, hard working, and thoughtful. I will lead by example to show my kids that life is too short not to take chances. I don’t take life for granted.

4 | Getting and staying on brand

Congratulations! We’ve made it to the final step. It’s not easy distilling the complex realities of parenting into a few sentences. Well done. Now it’s time to think about what you’re currently doing with and for your kids and compare it to your brand statement.

  • What do I need to start doing to get on brand?
  • What do I need to stop doing?
  • What do I need to continue doing?

Your answers to the above questions will determine your next steps. If the bulk of your responses fell under the “continue” category, then you’re right on track and should share your brand statement with your family and close friends. They’ll most likely nod their heads and say, “Yep.” 

If your answers indicate that you have a gap between the way you’re parenting and the way you want to parent, then think about this:

What help do I need to make these changes? From whom?

It’s important to say here that therapists and life coaches are helpful resources in making any kind of personal change, but if you’re ready to tackle this yourself, then here are some considerations:

Bring your family along for the ride. Without their support and agreement, this can’t work. Really, it can’t, not for the whole family, and it’s critical that we remember any individual changes we make impact our families. Talk through what needs to be different and how you see it happening. The bigger the changes, the more time everyone will need to adjust to it, and you will have to be open to compromise.

This isn’t an excuse to stay in your comfort zone. Use your brand wisely to say no to things you can’t do and say yes to the things you could be doing instead. Don’t use it to avoid testing your limits or trying new things. It’s not a justification to underestimate yourself, so keep a growth mindset — the idea that everyone has a basic set of talents and aptitudes that can change and grow over time through practice and experience.

Your brand should be consistent in public and private. If it’s not, if you’re still acting differently at home and in public, then you’re still figuring out who you are and how to be honest with yourself and others about this. Stick with it. It’s worth it!

Last, but not least

Life is unpredictable and there will be moments when you need to adapt. Your personal parenting brand is your compass for how to live your life and raise your kids, but every once in a while you’ll take a detour for the good of the family, for some unavoidable reason or just because sometimes we have to do things in life that we don’t want to do. This doesn’t mean you’ve failed, and it doesn’t mean you can’t get back on track. It means you’re human, and life’s not perfect. Just remember that defining your personal parenting brand is your way of saying, this is who I am, this is how I parent, and I don’t have to apologize for it.

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.

Coverage:

A viral video about car seat safety has parents everywhere cracking up and humming Sir-Mix-A-Lot.

"I like safe kids and I cannot lie," raps Norman Regional Health System pediatric hospitalist Dr. Kate Cook (after prefacing her music video with an apology to her children."I'm a doctor tryin' warn you that recs have changed," she continues.

Dr. Cook's rap video is all about the importance of keeping babies facing backward. It's aptly called "Babies Face Back," and uses humor and parody to drive home car seat recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

"Switching from rear-facing to forward-facing is a milestone many parents can't wait to reach," Dr. Cook said in a news release about her hilarious video. "But this is one area where you want to delay the transition as long as possible because each one actually reduces the protection to the child."

Last summer the AAP updated its official stance on car seat safety to be more in line with what so many parents were already doing and recommended that kids stay rear-facing for as long as possible. But with so many things to keep track of in life, it is understandable that some parents still don't know about the change. Dr. Cook wants to change that with some cringe-worthy rapping.

The AAP recommends:

  • Babies and toddlers should ride in a rear-facing car safety seat as long as possible, until they reach the highest weight or height allowed by their seat.
  • Once they are facing forward, children should use a forward-facing car safety seat with a harness for as long as possible. Many seats are good up to 65 pounds.
  • When children outgrow their car seat they should use a belt-positioning booster seat until the vehicle's lap and shoulder seat belt fits properly, between 8 and 12 years old.

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[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Suicide rates for girls and women in the United States have increased 50% since 2000, according to the CDC and new research indicates a growing number of pregnant and postpartum women are dying by suicide and overdose. Suicide rates for boys and men are up, too.

It's clear there is a mental health crisis in America and it is robbing children of their mothers and mothers of their children.

Medical professionals urge people to get help early, but sometimes getting help is not so simple. For many Americans, the life preserver that is mental health care is out of reach when they are drowning.

Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg just released a plan he hopes could change that and says the neglect of mental health in the United States must end. "Our plan breaks down the barriers around mental health and builds up a sense of belonging that will help millions of suffering Americans heal," says Buttigieg.

He thinks he can "prevent 1 million deaths of despair by 2028" by giving Americans more access to mental health and addictions services.

In a country where giving birth can put a mother in debt, it's not surprising that while as many as 1 in 5 new moms suffers from perinatal mood and anxiety disorders, more than half of new moms who need mental health treatment don't get it. Stigma, childcare and of course costs are factors in why women aren't seeking help when they are struggling.

Buttigieg's plan is interesting because it could remove some of these barriers. He wants to make mental health care more affordable by ensuring everyone has comprehensive coverage for mental health care and by ensuring that everyone can access a free yearly mental health check-up.

That could make getting help more affordable for some moms, and by increasing reimbursement rates for mental health care delivered through telehealth, this plan could help moms get face time with a medical professional without having to deal with finding childcare first.

Estimates from new research suggest that in some parts of America as many as 14% or 30% of maternal deaths are caused by addiction or suicide. Buttigieg's plan aims to reduce those estimates by fighting the addiction and opioid crisis and increasing access to mental health services in underserved communities and for people of color. He also wants to reduce the stigma and increase support for the next generation by requiring "every school across the country to teach Mental Health First Aid courses."

These are lofty goals with a lofty price tag. It would cost about $300 billion to do what Buttigieg sets out in his plan and the specifics of how the plan would be funded aren't yet known. Neither is how voters will react to this 18-page plan and whether it will help Buttigieg stand out in a crowded field of Democratic candidates.

What we do know is that right now, America is talking about mental health and whether or not that benefits Buttigieg's campaign it will certainly benefit America.

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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