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Teaching kids to share is good for them and good for society

by Kelly Meldrum

On a gorgeous fall day, I drove down the streets of our upper middle class, suburban neighborhood, waving at strangers raking leaves and kids playing in the unseasonably warm weather. As I passed garage after garage, open and neatly organized, I noticed something that disgusted me about the culture in which we live.

I saw the exact same items in nearly every garage: expensive lawn mowers, high-end snow blowers, ladders of every size, hardware of all kinds, and every lawn gadget thing-a-ma-bob imaginable. The two to three vehicles parked in every driveway didn’t escape my attention either.

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The homes in our neighborhood are around 50 feet from one another. In this moment of clarity, it seemed like such a waste that every garage contained multiple, seldom used items hanging literally feet away from the neighbor’s identical items.

I thought about why we live this way. I believe that our need for autonomy, financial or otherwise, is rooted in the fact that, as a society, we’ve lost our sense of community and connection to one another. We don’t have relationships with our neighbors. We don’t share because we’re looking out for ourselves.

My experience cemented my conviction and commitment to sharing the things we own and teaching my children to do the same.

Spend less, give more

My desire for community and connection with others is deeply rooted in my faith as a Christ-follower, but it doesn’t require religious tradition to see the benefits of sharing. My cousin, an atheist, is kind and deeply empathetic to those in need. She sees the value of connection and community through sharing as much as I do. She loves others through her actions more often than many “Christians” I know.

The more we share what we have, the less we spend on ourselves, which allows us to give more to others, including family, friends, charities, and causes that are important to us. We remind our kids of this often, especially, when they both want the exact same thing. We ask them if they can share it, or if they really think they each need one.

We don’t demand sharing of every single thing we own (for instance, each child has their own iPad), but we do highly encourage it and talk through the possible outcomes of sharing or not.

Connection

When we share, we connect with others on a deeper level. There is no way to share without communicating and cooperating with someone else. The act alone is good for children’s social and emotional development. We can cultivate empathy as we talk through how it feels to be without something that we need or want. Likewise, children practice patience as they learn to wait for something that they want, including time or attention.

My children are not saints, and I am an average parent who “loses it” daily, but I believe our focus on sharing from infancy has positively affected our children and resulted in less fighting and sibling rivalry. Our two youngest share as if they are twins (they’re not).

Speaking of twins, they’re an excellent example of children who’ve learned to share from a young age. Twins typically share everything from toys to time to parents and rooms, yet they often have an unbreakable bond, likely hardened by years of taking turns and cooperation.

Community

One only need turn on the news to see the obvious break down of community in our society. In poorer nations all over the world today, life is all about community. People have to share to survive.

It used to be that way in First World nations as well, but time, money, stress, and, distance have separated us from one another literally and figuratively. Our elders cry, “I remember when neighbors really cared about each other,” and we all nod our heads in agreement.

Most of us concur that something is broken in our communities, but no one knows how to fix it. I believe that sharing can bring back some of that unity we’re lacking. We’ve started by letting our family, friends, neighbors, and church know that we have things they can borrow. Not surprisingly, most are taken aback that we would trust them with our possessions.

Regardless of how they feel, those who need something will take us up on the offer. In turn, they offer time to help with a chore or lend out something of theirs that we might need. It’s not tit-for-tat; it’s the beginning of community and real connection between acquaintances.

The Earth

It’s a no-brainer that the less we buy and use, the better it is for the environment. What if only every other house, or every third house on our block had a heavy-duty snow-blower? What if more people car-pooled to work or part-time workers shared a vehicle?

Even smaller gestures could have an impact. We could tell our neighbors that we have a 24-foot ladder they can borrow anytime so they don’t feel the need to buy one when they need to put up and take down Christmas lights once a year.

Boundaries and pitfalls

It probably seems easy for me to say “everybody share” when it’s clear that I am well-off. I wasn’t always. I grew up in a working poor family. We had everything we needed, but debt and living paycheck-to-paycheck was the norm. My parents worked hard, but still had to borrow money for Christmas, medical care, and unforeseen circumstances. I know the other side, and I can’t help but think of how we would have benefited if someone in our lives had said, “Hey, I have a few things you can borrow so you don’t have to buy them.”

My parents were protective of all of their things because they worked so hard for them. But even my parents, who didn’t have a lot, had items they could have shared with the neighbors. My dad worked in construction, so he had dozens of tools not in use. My mom made gorgeous handmade Halloween costumes every year for us (which she did lend out when we were older).

I understand the inherent desire to protect things that are special, so we do allow our kids a few special items that they don’t have to share. When sharing anything, it’s important to talk about what will happen or who is responsible for the item if does break. Will the owner pay for it if the borrower didn’t use it out of turn? Will they split the expense? It’s a good conversation to have upfront, and it fosters that connection we all need.

Modeling behavior

In our home, we model the behavior we want to see in our children. We give out our garage code to friends and family if they want to stop by to use the bathroom or get something to eat when we aren’t home.

When guests come over, we make it clear they’re welcome to anything in the common areas, from food and drinks to toys, movies, books, and magazines. We lend out our folding tables, hardware, carpet cleaner, leaf blower, ladders, chairs, lawn games, and virtually anything that we don’t often use that can be easily transported.

Our kids get one day with their new toys. Yep, just one day that they don’t have to share, and then it becomes family property and anyone can play with it.

I know that it’s not for everyone, but sharing is a way of life for us. Surprisingly, it works. And it’s made us a more joyful, more giving, and more loving family.

I didn’t make my kids share and they became generous people

by Kimberly Yavorski

Parents have become too involved in their kids’ decisions. As a society, we seem to have bought into the idea that we’re judged on the actions of our children and, as a result, impose demands of perfection on them. We try to force them to behave in ways that are unnatural and, despite claiming to hate the idea, expect them to “Do as I say, not as I do.” Sharing is just one example.

While I certainly think there’s value in sharing, I don’t believe that kids should be taught to share everything. After all, as adults, we get to choose which things we share and which we keep to ourselves. It seems hypocritical to me to insist that a child share everything, then have a “look but not touch” attitude about certain items (i.e. keep all the salted caramel ice cream to myself).  Instead, I think we should start teaching them to decide if and when to share their things from a young age.

I believe in natural consequences. There should be a logical cause and effect. I think this is how people learn best. (I have to confess that I may have, on occasion, manipulated circumstances to make a point.) There’s inherent value in sharing; being selfish and greedy is unlikely to improve relationships with others and can be very isolating.

But I think this is a lesson best learned by experience, not by being forced. I gave my children the option to share, or not. If that resulted in siblings or friends choosing to reflect their selfish ways, I then pointed out that everyone can choose whether to share or not, and that maybe sharing with others would make them more likely to share with you.

When my daughter was small, like many others, she had a special stuffed toy that was extremely important to her and went everywhere with us. On one occasion, when we had another child visiting, he wanted to play with this toy. My daughter refused, and as the situation escalated, his mother admonished my daughter, telling her to share.

I quickly stepped in, saying no, she didn’t have to share that toy as it was very special to her. I told my daughter that since she didn’t want to share this toy, I would put it someplace safe for her and followed through. The other mom was surprised at my reaction, but it was my house, my rules, and she accepted my solution to the issue.

I kept to this philosophy as my children grew. With four kids in the house, there were many times one child wanted a toy that another had. We discussed sharing, and I pointed out how some toys are much more fun to play with when shared. Sometimes sharing and working together on something like a jigsaw puzzle made the process go faster as well.

I insisted on manners and taught the older kids to use a “bait and switch” technique when their baby or toddler siblings had an item they didn’t want to share. I explained that it was not acceptable to grab toys away, but that they should find another toy with equal or greater appeal and trade. Anything they were unwilling to share was to be put away before friends came over to play.

I believe that not forcing my kids to share has enabled them to be more assertive. They have the confidence to say no and to stand up to being treated unfairly (and also defend others who are less able to do so than themselves). They also accept no as an answer. They understand that sometimes a “no” is “not now,” and other times it is firm and final. That being said, they’re all generous individuals who frequently do share – on their own terms.

I question what we’re teaching the child who wants an item by forcing another to share. Does this somehow enable them and teach them that they can have whatever they want simply by demanding it, that it is their right to have everything shared with them?

Allowing kids to sometimes not share teaches the one suffering the rejection that they will not always get what they want, that wanting a thing does not necessarily mean you get it. Asking to play with a toy is a request. If the other child is forced to give it up, it becomes akin to a demand. Forcing kids to share can also cause resentment. If they’re going to share, I want my children to share willingly.

Some parents enforce sharing rules by insisting that children take turns (even when it is not their child or even their child’s toy). Assuming that such sharing equates to fairness, and that for some reason we should falsely imply that life is fair, is this really the message conveyed? If you have something and are not done using (or playing with) it, and are forced to give it to someone, how is that okay?

Instead, if we ask a child to wait until the other is done with the item, we teach patience and waiting (a skill that will be used throughout life). If we choose to say no altogether, it may seem harsh, but is more a life lesson than dictated sharing.

I have another, more practical reason not to insist on sharing. Not everyone places the same value on things. There are items that are important to me that others consider insignificant. In addition, not everyone is taught to respect the property of others. While I’m careful to take great care with things that do not belong to me (and have taught my children to do the same), others have not always reciprocated. Sometimes sharing results in the item in question being damaged, lost, or even destroyed.

I’ve had the opportunity to observe many children, of varying ages and abilities, engage in play. Some of these cherish playthings and treat them lovingly. Others seem to have a crush-and-destroy attitude towards everything in their path. Sharing involves an implied trust and sometimes that trust needs to be earned. Though some people are quick to offer a replacement, others simply move on to another toy. And in some cases, the item can’t be replaced.

Many people I know share freely, without giving it a second thought. They’re quick to loan any item, without caution or condition. Some may see my perspective as selfish or consider it a character flaw, but I’m more discerning in what I share and with whom. Prized possessions deserve careful treatment and don’t have to be shared.

When my kids ask to borrow things and I hesitate, they’re quick to tell me it’s okay if I don’t want to share, that they understand. They can say no to my requests as well; they know I will offer them the same consideration.

It’s okay to have some things for yourself. As adults, we respect personal ownership. We don’t walk into someone’s house and use anything we see that we like. In fact, we usually even ask permission to use a bathroom (as if that would be denied). Why should our kids be taught that their possessions are less important than ours?

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

Our Partners

The holidays are almost here. The next months will be filled with twinkling lights, delicious food and the gathering of friends and family. This is a joyous time, but it can be a stressful one, too. If someone in your life has recently become a parent, they likely have a few extra concerns on their minds. From keeping the baby healthy to figure out their new normal, they have a lot going on.

I know you love them and want the absolute best for them and the baby. It's just that sometimes when there's a new baby, it's hard to remember what we should or shouldn't do; because #allthesnuggles.

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Don't worry, we've got you.

Here are 10 rules to remember when spending time with newborns for the holidays:

1. Wash your hands

The holidays are smack in the middle of the cold and flu season. And new babies are particularly susceptible to illnesses—they likely haven't had vaccines yet, and their tiny immune systems are just firing up.

Combine both of these factors, and you get parents who are anxious about germs.

Reduce their stress level by washing your hands (without them having to ask). A simple, "let me just wash my hands before I pick up the baby" will show them that you are aware of the concern and doing your part—and that means they'll be more willing to give you plenty of baby-snuggle time.

And now to be the real Scrooge: if you're sick, please stay home. Passing an infection to an adult is one thing, but it can genuinely be life-threatening to a newborn.

2. Don't kiss the baby

Pediatricians tell new parents not to let other people kiss their newborns. Kissing is one of the easiest ways to pass an illness on to a baby (even when you don't have any symptoms yet). The parents are likely feeling awkward about this—they do not want to ask you not to kiss the baby. So, do them a favor and say, "I won't kiss them, I promise." If they do ask or need to remind you (we get it, the baby is SO kissable!), please try not to be offended. It's not you at all.

3. Respect the sleep schedule—yes, it really is that important

It can be tempting to want to throw schedules and routines to the wind during the holidays. But for parents of new babies, it may not be a possibility. These new parents know all too well that skipping that nap and delaying bedtime (by even 20 minutes) can wreak total havoc on their baby's sleep and the parents' well-being.

Support new parents as they hold firm to their routine. Don't ask them to "relax" or "break the rules just this once." Instead, offer to help them in their routine! Maybe you can assist with the baby's bath, or even take a middle of the night feeding. Instant family hero.

4. Don't comment on how she feeds her baby

The way a mama chooses to feed her baby is a personal, often very involved decision. Trust that she has made the best decision for her baby, herself and her family, and avoid commenting. If she brings it up, by all means, engage—please just do so without criticizing.

Here are a few comments to avoid:

  • "Why aren't you breastfeeding?"
  • "You're not going to breastfeed until they're a toddler, are you?"
  • "Are you sure you're making enough milk? The baby looks small."

Here are a few great comments (if she brings it up first):

  • "Oh, my baby had colic too! We loved this brand of bottles for that."
  • "Where would you feel most comfortable feeding the baby? There's a comfy chair right here, or you can use my bedroom upstairs."

5. Anticipate last-minute changes

Babies and unpredictability go hand-in-hand. Feeds, diaper blow-outs, fussiness and the inevitable "wait, I thought you packed the diaper bag" moments are bound to happen.

Keep in mind that there's a good chance that new parents will be late, or have to leave early; or both. They may also need to escape for bits of time throughout the event. Remember that this is stressful for a new parent, so do your best to respond with understanding and grace. They will appreciate your compassion.

6. Consider your gifts

I know, I KNOW! There is nothing more fun than shopping for a new baby. By all means, go for it, with a few considerations.

  1. Check her registry. If the baby was born recently, there's a good chance there are still unpurchased items on the registry. Check there first so you can be sure to get a gift that they really need.
  2. Size-up. You are not the only person who has been excited to shop for this new baby! She may have drawers full of clothing with the tags still on them. If you want to buy sweet baby clothes, buy a few sizes too big so that the baby can grow into them.
  3. Ask. Surprises are such fun, but new parents are often pretty strapped for cash—there may be something they really need but can't afford. So instead of going for that totally-adorable-but-not-super-necessary blanket (they already have five of them, by the way), call the new parents up and ask what they might need.
  4. Consider the parents. Let's be honest, the baby has no idea when you've given them a gift. Do you know who does? The parents. Instead of buying the baby something, what about getting the parents something that they may not treat themselves to? Let them know you're thinking about them too, and that they are still important (albeit not as cute as the baby).

7. Avoid commenting on what she's eating

If mama is breastfeeding, you might find that you are inadvertently paying more attention to what she is eating. It's because you love her and the baby, I get it! But, do your best not to comment.

There's actually very little scientific evidence that says women need to restrict their diet in any way while breastfeeding. If there is a severe allergy or issue, she might need to, but she'll be well-aware of what she needs to change. This goes for alcohol consumption, too. Let her enjoy her meal—and then bring her seconds. Favorite relative status granted.

8. Share the baby

Are you tempted to retreat into the corner with the baby all night long? We hear you! But, remember that everyone there wants to love on the baby, too, so make sure you're giving everyone their turn.

Psst: And then tell her that you want to babysit soon. She gets an evening out, and you get an evening of uninterrupted solo time with the baby.

9. Give the new baby + new mama some space

Some new mamas may want to be in a constant cocoon of love and support. Others may feel a bit overstimulated and crave some downtime. If you notice that the new mom and her baby have separated from the group, you can definitely check on them (in fact, it would be a nice gesture to do so). But then, give them some space.

The new mom may need a few moments of quiet, or she may be trying to give her baby a break from the noise and stimulation. They'll come back to join you soon, and be recharged and ready for more attention.

10. Remember her

A good friend spent her first Christmas as a mama at her in-laws. She had a great time, but she went upstairs to nurse the baby, and when she came back down, she found that they had opened almost all of the presents without her.

No one wants to eat cold food and delaying present opening can be tough. But remember that new moms often feel invisible, so do what you can to make sure the new mom feels included. Wait a few extra minutes so that she can be involved with as much of the festivity as possible. Ask her questions about her, not just the baby.

Let her know that she's still important, as a person, not just the baby's mom.

Learn + Play

Most of the time, being inclusive isn't that hard. Actually, it's so easy, even 4-year-olds can grasp it. That's the message body acceptance activist and Instagram user Milly Smith wanted to share when she posted a photo of her son, Eli, explaining a very simple thing: "Some men have periods too. If I can get it, so can you."

Theoretically, it is easy to get the fact that non-binary people and some trans men menstruate. Usually, body-affirming hormone treatments stop them from menstruating, but that's not always the case. Sometimes their period will stop for years but make a surprise return for a variety of reasons, such as a medication change. Bodies like to keep us guessing like that.

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And yet, many of us, particularly cisgender people, fall back on our habitual ways of speaking about periods without even thinking about it. We have a hard enough time discussing menses as it is, so this may be one of the last vestiges of non-inclusive talk. When a young kid asks why mama is bleeding, the knee-jerk reaction could be to say, "It's just something that women do," hoping not to have to explain the finer points of sex and reproduction for a few more years.

But Smith is here to remind us not to do the knee-jerk thing.

"Eli has been told about periods since he saw blood on my pants a couple of years ago," Smith wrote on Instagram. "I didn't use the language of women have periods because it's not entirely inclusive. I told him that SOME women, SOME non binary people and SOME men have periods. It was easy for him to accept as he hadn't had to unlearn the engrained [sic] societal norm but if a 4-year-old can grasp it I'm sure most of us can have a crack at unlearning transphobic/misinformed norms and open our minds... ya think?"

Some corporations have begun to do their part to unlearn those gender stereotypes. According to PopSugar, Always announced in October that it was removing the Venus "female" symbol from its packaging. While the website for Thinx period underwear is still Shethinx.com, it has attempted to appeal to trans and nonbinary customers as well, referring to "people with periods." Last year, British period subscription service Pink Parcel launched a campaign that included trans man Kenny Jones as one of its spokespeople.

Sadly, a couple of ads and an Instagram featuring a cute kid have not quite solved the problem of transphobia in this world. Smith has turned off the comments on her post, probably because of negative backlash from the shining citizens of the internet. That's an upsetting reminder of how far we have to go.

But at least we can still enjoy Smith's concluding words, "It's not insulting to women, it's not discrediting women," she said of this change of wording. "It's opening up the community to make it a safe space for those who don't identify as women but still have periods."

The world isn't always black and white and it's time we start recognizing the beauty in accepting the grey areas.

News

Throughout my life, I have set really high standards for myself. I've always expected the absolute best. Inevitably, I set myself up for failure. Once I'd reached a goal, there was always a higher one to attain. I rarely stopped to enjoy and celebrate my successes. They always felt somehow anticlimactic. Instead, I wondered what I needed to set my sights on next.

I never stopped to wonder what I was trying to prove. And to whom.

It was only when I became a mom that I realized my pursuit of perfectionism couldn't continue.

Ironically, striving to be the perfect mom made me a worse mom.

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I couldn't achieve all the targets I set myself; I couldn't maintain the standards I had previously strived to meet. I couldn't work until I dropped.

Why?

Because my little one needed me.

My failed attempts at trying to complete household chores with a toddler in the room entailed that I had no choice but to let go of perfect. I didn't have control over things anymore: No matter how many parenting books I read, there was no manual for the unpredictable little creature who had abruptly transformed my life.

Striving to look like a supermodel wasn't even a remote possibility anymore (like it ever was?!), and I had to redefine what attaining a healthy body meant – losing pounds suddenly wasn't the most important thing anymore.

Suddenly, I needed to do things that I had previously perceived to represent procrastination and had, therefore, forbidden myself from doing… like taking care of myself. Relaxing. Napping.

I realized that if I continued trying to chase "perfect," I'd drive myself crazy. I'd drain myself. I'd break down. I'd scream and cry more often. I'd be the opposite of the role model I wanted to be for my daughter. I'd be the opposite of the calm, strong parent she needed. I'd be showing her that I couldn't make myself happy and that I would never be enough.

What's more, I wouldn't enjoy being a mom.

Our babies change so quickly. If we continually chase our shoulds, we kind of miss the fleeting moments of our babies' childhoods, the moments in which we make a connection with them.

That was exactly what I had been doing.

I recently made a list of all my shoulds, and the results scared me a little.

  • I should work more to achieve my business goals – I am constantly behind, especially compared to others.
  • I should write more – it is my passion, and my work and should be a priority after all.
  • I should be more active in social media
  • I should be a better steward of our finances and spend less money.
  • I should connect more with friends.
  • I should network more.
  • I should exercise more and be slimmer.
  • I should spend more time with my daughter.
  • I should spend more quality time with my husband.
  • I should be a more productive and efficient homemaker (an endless list of cleaning shoulds to feel guilty about).
  • I should educate myself more and learn to be a better parent.
  • I should be a better, more patient mom.

Yep… The list goes on.

However, one thing was particularly scary about my list of shoulds: I had to confront myself with the fact that I couldn't let myself be happy, couldn't let myself feel enough, couldn't let myself stop and enjoy life RIGHT NOW.

I was postponing my happiness, my life, my connection with my daughter.

I lived in the "if I do this, then ..." mode. If I am a better homemaker, a better parent, slimmer, had a more successful business…then. Then I can stop and relax. Then my life can start properly. Then I can be ... what? The perfect version of myself that would be allowed to be happy and be present? If I could just get all that work out of the way, I would have earned the trappings of perfectionism.

The problem is that there is always more work. There is always more to do. There is always someone else to compare me to. There is always the next thing I need to attain. There is always a new, better version of myself I'd need to become. Because nobody would say to me: "It's okay, it's enough. You've done it." I would have to be able to say that to myself. I would have to feel it.

In the meantime, my daughter would be missing the "mom right now." That was the only mom she needed. Me, because I was her mom, by design, however imperfect or unsuited for the job I felt.

Me, there, present.

Having realized all this, do I still read tons of parenting books and worry about what I should be doing? Sure.

Do I still have professional, personal, and even motherhood goals? Yes, most definitely.

I want to live my dreams and having goals is part of achieving this. However, I have contemplated to what end I want to reach those goals. I have defined what is important to me and what success actually looks like for me. And being present with my family and making a connection with my daughter is right at the top of that list. Breaking the habit of perfectionism is hard. So I make a habit of reminding myself every day: In motherhood, you need to find a balance between doing your best and giving yourself grace. You need to find joy in the imperfect now instead of waiting for the perfect "if I have achieved this, then" future.

You need to surrender.

Life

Is anyone else absolutely freezing right now? Seriously, this cold is the REAL DEAL. In addition to facing unbearable temperatures, parents have the extra challenge of entertaining their kids—and themselves—during the long and dark months of winter.

Heading outside is such an awesome activity for newborns through adults—but what happens when it is absolutely freezing? Can you still take your sweet little bundle outside?

The answer is: maybe.

Children, especially babies, are more sensitive to temperature changes than adults. “Because they are less able to regulate their body temperature than adults, children can quickly develop a dangerously low body temperature (ie, become hypothermic). Newborn infants are prone to hypothermia because of their large body surface area, small amount of subcutaneous fat, and decreased ability to shiver," says The American Academy of Pediatrics.

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So, you are not overreacting by being nervous about taking them outside! The good news is there are ways to do it safely.

How to dress your baby for the cold weather

To keep warm, layers are the key (for adults and babies). But, it's very important not to overheat your baby by putting on too many layers—since overheating is dangerous for babies, too.

The general rule of thumb is that your baby should be dressed in one more layer than you feel comfortable in. If you are good with one long sleeve shirt, your baby should probably have a long sleeve onesie, plus another shirt on top of it.

If you're going for a stroller walk, dress baby warmly, then add a blanket or footmuff to keep them all snuggled up.

When playing outside, in addition to a winter coat and warm pants or snow pants, don't forget a hat and mittens. The most vulnerable parts of a little body are their chin, nose, ears, fingers and toes.

Remember, babies should not wear a winter coat, very thick clothing or blankets under the straps of their carseats—the straps will not cinch tightly enough around the baby if they do, which is unsafe in a crash.

Temperature guide for babies in the winter

Extreme cold starts to become a factor when the temperature drops below freezing (32 degrees Fahrenheit). You can still go outside, but it should not be for very long.

Once temperatures start to drop below 20 degrees Fahrenheit, it's best to stay inside if you can. Be sure to factor in wind chill when you're checking the weather—the wind can feel much, much colder, especially on sensitive baby skin.

When you're inside, the ideal temperature for your thermostat to be set at is 68-72 degrees. Remember that babies cannot have blankets (or anything) in the crib with them as it poses a risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you're concerned about baby being cold at night, we recommend sleep sacks!

What to watch out for

Keep a close eye on your baby (we know you always do) when you're playing outside. If you see any of these symptoms (from the Mayo Clinic) develop, give your pediatrician a call right away (or just call 911):

Hypothermia:

  • Shivering (note, babies don't shiver!)
  • Slurred speech
  • Slow, shallow breathing
  • Weak pulse
  • Clumsiness
  • Sleepy or very low energy
  • Confusion or memory loss
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Bright red, cold skin (in babies)

Frostbite:

  • Cold skin
  • Prickly, pins-and-needle feeling
  • Numbness
  • Red, white, bluish-white or grayish-yellow skin
  • Hard or waxy skin
  • Clumsiness and stiffness
  • Blistering

A few other tips

  • Have an emergency kit in your car in case you break down. Edmunds has a great emergency kit list of things like blankets, flashlights, granola bars and bottled water. You'll also want to make sure your gas tank is near full and the car's maintenance is up to date to avoid issues.
  • Consider pre-warming your car, but NEVER in a garage—even an open one.
  • Protect everyone's skin with baby-safe lotion or balms
  • Consider using a cool-mist humidifier to keep baby's air moist

The bottom line

You can still go outside, you just have to be aware. Dress babies in layers, follow safe carseat guidelines, and watch closely for any signs that baby is too cold. Don't stay out for too long, and if it's less than 20 degrees out, avoid going outside at all (a quick walk to a preheated car is okay).

Hang in there, mama. This season can be hard. Go into hibernation mode, focus on some real self-care and snuggles, and before you know it, the flowers will be in bloom and you'll be spending every waking second outside.

Learn + Play
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