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Spending four days visiting my father-in-law at his assisted living residence in D.C. was not exactly the Spring Break I had envisioned.


Fidgeting on the plane ride next to my even-more-antsy children, I figured the “Break” part of the trip would surely be missing from the things we’re all generally trying to escape: stress, fatigue, sadness, guilt.

Turns out the “Spring” part would be missing as well, since 30-degree weather with rain and snow was the gloomy forecast for the week. Instead of parked with a fruity drink on a beach somewhere, I’d be taking shelter from the cold, sharpening my listening and empathy skills for a man in need of a little warmth, too.

Several years ago, my father-in-law fell and broke his hip, and at just 75 years old, could no longer care for his basic living needs on his own. He now lives in a two-room unit of a lovely, albeit “depressing” and “lonely,” high-rise with 100+ other seniors, most of whom are far worse off than he. While his long-term memory seems to be intact, his short-term memory, along with some nutrition and mobility issues, prove to be a challenge. There are times he can’t recall a doctor’s visit from just a couple of days before.

My kids have been to his residence enough to know the drill by now. And though they are temporarily distracted by puppies and cookies in the lobby, the sights and smells of old age are hard to ignore. Residents gaze out with a faraway look from oversized armchairs, or sleep hunched over in wheelchairs parked in the café. Those who are alert stare down my youngsters with wide eyes and even wider grins, overjoyed to see the beauty and promise of youth in their midst.

A yearly visit to this place, I realize, is the least I can do. I’m one step removed from the decision-making and caretaking that my husband and in-laws are doing their best to manage. I see how they, like so many other families, often give more than they sometimes have to ensure his continual care and comfort. And I know I couldn’t do a better job.

But I found on this trip that one small thing I can do is take the time to listen. To sit in presence with a man who is sometimes depressed, often lonely, and always eager to talk — and listen with an open heart.

Listen to the tales of his youth that he loves to tell, and re-tell, as if they happened just yesterday. Especially the one about the beloved summer camp he attended with a fine group of young boys from all over the world, each hand-selected to live with and learn from one another, and from their native cultures.

Or give an understanding nod about the latest drama in the building. Like his run-in with the lady down the hall when he went on his daily walk to reach out to someone new and encourage others to do the same. “Who cares about anyone else?!” she snapped at him.

Or just to sit and hold his hand when he tells us that he’s lonely.

I think sometimes we have a tendency, consciously or not, to dismiss the worn-out tales, these weary revelations of heartbreak and burden, as a part of growing old. We exchange knowing glances as we listen to our elders rattle off the same stories over and over. We snicker at their silly expressions, and roll our eyes at the neverending complaints. Oh geez, here Grandma goes again. Someone get her a scotch (or take it away). Things that really, for all of us, at one time or another, are just a part of living.

But the thing about our Dad and Granddad is that he’s just not that easy to dismiss. Thankfully, this loving, witty, and unconditional parent has not entered a clinical state of dementia, but pivots back and forth between crystal clarity and general fogginess.

I’ll tell him about a story I’m writing, and he’ll fire back a dead-on insight that blows me away, followed by a sweet sentiment about having me for a daughter and gratitude for all the blessings we share. You are as much a part of me as anyone here, he tells me.

And in the next breath, he’s back to how they took away his blanket, and he had to hunt it down from the laundry room on his own because no one in the place really gives a damn. But I keep listening.

He wants to talk about his work as a philosophy professor and author. He proudly recounts a piece of his writing and tells us, “That’s not me who did that, or wrote that. That’s my grandfather. And his father before him. I feel like the luckiest man in the world. I really do.”

He apologizes for his “craziness” as he collects old photographs from his room, many of which we’ve seen before. He wants to show us our heritage, and tell us more stories. It’s important, he says, that we know where we come from.


A nurse arrives to dispense his daily medication. He introduces us, then asks her to give the kids a fist bump. She throws her head back, letting out a deep chuckle as if she’s used to these sorts of silly requests from him, and kindly extends her fist. The mood in the room is lighter as we watch her gently place the many pills, one-by-one, on his tongue. In between, he feels compelled to give us bits of nurse trivia – her beautiful name, where she’s from, and some of the little jokes between them. We laugh, and take notice.

One day we go to visit and find he’s not in his room. “He’s making the rounds,” an employee tells us with a smile. Suddenly he appears at the door with a neighbor woman from one floor down. (He reveals to us later that she’s 99, though by her mobility and spunky personality, she appears a good 20 years younger.) He asks his grandkids to give her a hug. My seven-year-old willingly obliges, while my 10-year-old politely declines with a nervous look my way.

I give her an understanding wink, knowing that it’s just her Granddad’s way of connecting. He’s showing empathy for an elderly neighbor who has no family of her own, other than a nephew who lives 90 miles away, by offering to share his grandchild’s sweet embrace. Like a band-aid for the loneliness he feels so acutely on his own skin. Ever the giver in the midst of his own suffering.

So I sit back, and settle in to listen some more.

And somewhere between feeling sorry for myself that I’m not basking in the sun somewhere, and feeling adored by this gentle, generous man who has adopted me as his own, I see that our aging parents are not just a part of life that we are required to bear and usher through as best we can.

They are the reflection of an older version of ourselves – parents, people, who just want to know that their life has meant something. That there’s still time to share what they’ve discovered, and to leave something behind. And to know that we ducklings have been paying attention, and have learned a thing or two.

And though it’s not always easy, and sometimes painful, something as simple as a bent ear can provide a different kind of break — one we both really needed.

As we leave to make our way to the airport, my father-in-law says to his granddaughter, “You know we are connected, the two of us. I am you, and you are me.”

And then another fist bump.

Sometimes I think when we exchange those little glances and giggles about our dear old loved ones — even when they show us glimpses of brilliance — that the joke is really on us. Maybe when we reach the age of “old,” in between the crazy babbling and the far-off stares, we know exactly what we’re doing, and what we’re teaching. And one day, we know, our kids and grandkids will figure it out, too.


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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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