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After college, I moved across the country to pursue an entirely different career than my English teaching mother, but my childhood best friend, Laura, moved ten minutes away from her and taught English in the same school. To top if off, she ended up having twins, just like my mom. I teased my mom that Laura was the daughter she wished she had, but, truthfully, I was comfortable with them having a relationship that didn’t revolve around me – until they went to see a Broadway show together with their co-worker, my aunt, and a good family friend.


I allowed a pang of jealously to creep in for a moment as I sat across the country imagining the most important women in my life forging inside jokes without me. That feeling subsided quickly, though. These ladies had become part of an important advisory committee to my best friend, and I wanted that for her.

It might be trendy for women to talk about their “mom tribes” and “girl squads” – our closest group of friends who “get” what we’re going through and with whom we share the raw stories of our lives – but we should give more respect to the advisory committees that surround us, too. They fill a different, but no less important, niche in our lives.

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You might already have a group of advisers like this in your life, and if you do, this article should serve as a good reminder of how valuable they are. If you don’t, read on for tips to build one for yourself and for your kids.

Advisory Committee Defined

Advisory committees are made up of people who may not always fit the definition of a friend, but who we turn to for advice, guidance and support. They often form and disband over specific issues and benefit from diverse experiences, perspectives, and ages. It’s just a fancy name for a natural concept – a network of people you trust and would ask for help. These are members of your “village,” your Rolodex of subject-specific mentors.

My best friend’s relationship with my mom is a good example of this. Their work relationship and my mom’s historic role to her as a mother figure meant that Laura felt comfortable sharing certain types of things with my mom. She asked for advice about teaching. She shared stories about her family, and she looked for guidance as a new mom.

However, the detail she disclosed and the way she talked about all of this was different than if she and I were curled up on her couch, sipping wine. It’s these boundaries of intimacy for advisory councils that make them the perfect compliment to one’s closest group of friends.

Benefits of an Advisory Committee

They make us happier

Harvard’s 75-year study on happiness found that having good relationships and a strong sense of community is one of the strongest predictors of happiness. We shouldn’t underestimate our personal advisory committees’ contribution to this finding. They help us feel like we belong, contribute to our identity, and make us feel supported.

They can be one-sided

Friendships make us feel supported, too, of course, but they’re two-way relationships, where advisory committees don’t have to be. The implied one-sided dynamic of advisory committees allows conversations to center around a single person with a focused purpose to help them work through a particular dilemma. I’m sure my mom shared stories and examples with Laura, but she did so to illustrate her point, not to solicit advice of her own. She willingly and happily let Laura take the floor, which let Laura confide in her without an obligation to reciprocate an equal level of time and support.

They offer objective advice

Advisory committees also have the benefit of greater objectivity. Make no doubt, the Harvard study tells us that good friendships are crucial to our overall well being, but a friend’s duty to support us sometimes clouds their ability to tell us what we really need to hear. They might be too close to the situation themselves, or they’re hesitant to tell us what they really think. Even our most honest of friends occasionally bite their tongues to let us freely vent about what’s bothering us.

Other times, our friends don’t have the expertise to counsel us through a particular rough spot, like an issue at work, a medical diagnosis or a death in the family. When we call on members of our advisory committees, though, their purpose is clear. Listen to us. Guide us. Tell us the truth, even if it’s not what we want to hear. Intentionally or not, we typically reach out to these mentors only when we’re ready to hear what they have to say.

Discover and Foster Your Advisory Committees  

As social media and virtual work groups replace face-to-face interactions, our in-person networks are shrinking, but that doesn’t mean our access to personal advisory committees has to suffer. It just means that we need to make a greater effort to forge personal connections in an era where it’s easier to pretend to be engrossed in our Facebook newsfeed than to make small talk with the person next to us.

Think about all the connections you still have: work colleagues, members of your religious organization, family members, parents of your kids’ friends, people who share your hobbies, local business owners who you interact with frequently, neighbors, or acquaintances with whom you do charity work.

We still have opportunities to make more personal connections in our lives, if we’re willing to make the effort. This is not to say we’re obligated to befriend everyone we meet or that we even have to like every person, but if we come across someone whose company we enjoy, who we admire or would like to know more about, we’ve got to get comfortable making the first move. Just ask them a question on the subject you’re interested in discussing. “When your children were my kids’ ages how many hours of homework did they have each night?” It gets easier with practice, and it’s worth the effort.

Be willing to share

For a lot of us, this is also hard to do. We either don’t want to feel vulnerable by asking someone for advice, or we don’t want to impose by asking for a favor. We have to stop thinking this way. We’re developing relationships to enrich our village, which the Harvard study confirmed has positive effects on our well being. When we reach out to people, we’re saying that we respect them, we appreciate their expertise, and we value their opinion. They’ll take your request of their time as a compliment.

Pay it forward

I talked about advisory committee relationships being one-sided, but that doesn’t mean we’ll never be in a position to help someone else. Good old fashioned manners still apply. We should express appreciation, offer assistance of our own, and make an effort to keep in touch. We may not invite all of the people on our advisory committees to our next birthday party, but they probably should be on our holiday card list.

Helping Your Kids Identify Their Advisory Committees

Walk the walk

We model behavior for our kids all the time, so it stands to reason that they pick up on our networking skills, too. They see how we make small talk with strangers. They listen to our stories at dinner about who we spoke to that day, and they sense what type of village we have around us.

Encourage awareness of their connections

As kids bring up problems, pose questions back to them that get them thinking about the people in their lives who can help.  “Hmm, I wonder if your coach would know something about that.”

Make it okay to seek out advice from others

Of course we want to know everything that’s happening in our kids’ lives, but sometimes we’re not the best person to help. Just as our own friends are invaluable, but not necessarily objective or knowledgable in every situation, we have to admit that we may not have the expertise our kids need for a particular problem.

I’m reminded of advice I saw in an article that suggested parents leave the coaching to the coaches. We don’t need to have all of the answers for our kids, so if we support them in surrounding themselves with people they can trust, we can take a step back and let them find their way.

The Value of Social Media

There’s no denying the importance of face-to-face interaction. Numerous studies have concluded that virtual connections can’t replicate the benefits of face-to-face relationships, but that doesn’t mean social media has no place in our advisory committees. Sites that connect us to people we may know are a helpful starting point to fostering relationships.

While a lot of the research on Facebook usage has focused on the negative psychological effects people experience by using the site, it’s not representative of how all of us interact with it. Those studies found that people felt worse about themselves and lonelier when they spent time on Facebook comparing their lives to the carefully curated photos and status updates of their friends and engaging in superficial communication.

However, many people have found their virtual villages within private Facebook groups, where they ask questions, share frustrations, make recommendations and get useful information from people with similar interests. Mom groups on Facebook are notorious for being judge-y and unhelpful, but plenty of other women will tell you that groups like this have been invaluable to feeling less alone, more supported, and more informed. Just like in real life, being selective in online forums about who you associate with is the difference between cultivating a strong support network or not.

Conclusion

The concept of advisory committees isn’t new, but in our increasingly digital age, it’s worth it to remind ourselves of their value. When we reach out to acquaintances outside of our closest circle of friends, we benefit from hearing new perspectives and making stronger personal connections. People like to be helpful, so let them help you.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

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

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[Editor's Note: We support parents in making the best infant feeding choices for their family, whether that be formula feeding, breastfeeding, pumping, donor milk or any combination of feeding methods.]

Feeding babies takes a lot of effort, no matter what a baby is eating. Parents need support whether their baby is drinking breastmilk, formula or both, but we know mothers often don't feel supported in either choice. Mothers who choose or have to use formula often feel stigmatized, while mothers who breastfeed often get shunned for public breastfeeding or find themselves needing to pump in a workplace that offers no lactation room.

Individual mothers pay when society doesn't support parents in breastfeeding their babies. Formula can be expensive, but when workplaces discriminate against nursing moms, it's an expense some women have no choice but to take on. But that's not the cost we're discussing here.

A new website created by breastfeeding researchers Phan Hong Linh, Roger Mathisen and Dylan Walters suggests that, on a global scale, failing to support breastfeeding is costing an estimated $341 billion a year.

The Cost of Not Breastfeeding tool was developed by Alive & Thrive, an initiative to save lives and prevent illness worldwide through "through optimal maternal nutrition, breastfeeding, and complementary feeding practices." To be clear, the site isn't targeted at individual parents who are unable or choose not to breastfeed their babies. Rather, it's a tool that illustrates the global economic losses that might be attributed to the low percentage of breastfed babies.

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The researchers behind the tool hope policymakers will look at it and decide to commit more resources to support parents.

Using the tool, you can use a dropdown menu to see how these costs break down for 34 different countries. In the U.S., where only 24% of children are exclusively breastfed, the tool estimates that it costs more than $28,000,000 in healthcare just to treat diarrhea and respiratory infections in children that could be prevented if more mothers were supported in breastfeeding.

Though many of the developing countries in the tool have higher percentages of breastfeeding than the United States, the costs of not breastfeeding the remaining children are higher. This is presumably because the risk of the associated diseases is already higher in those countries (due to factors like poverty, water quality, etc.).

Alive & Thrive gathered data on mortality (of children and mothers); cases of diarrhea, pneumonia, and obesity in children that could be attributed to not breastfeeding; cases of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, and type II diabetes in mothers; the cost of medical care for those conditions; the cost of formula; and then the future cost to the economy of the loss of children's lives and having unhealthy children and mothers.

Many of these numbers are estimates based on estimates, but it's hard to argue against the bigger-picture argument of the tool's developer, health economist Dylan Walters.

"We need to be sensitive to the constraints and hardships faced by mothers and families in a world that lacks basic support systems for their physical, psycho-social, and economic well-being," Walters said in a post on Alive & Thrive's website. "Even more, mothers and families are up against a constant barrage of corporate marketing of alternatives and misinformation spread that undermines what should be boringly second nature and not stigmatized by society."

The organization recommends a minimum of 18 weeks of paid family leave and more support of nursing mothers on work sites. It also states that governments should enforce laws limiting the advertisement of infant formula.

Such laws may make sense in countries where access to clean water makes formula feeding difficult, but in wealthy nations like the United States, where formula feeding is a safe and legitimate choice, some worry limiting information about formula stigmatizes and patronizes mothers who are capable of choosing what is best for their babies.

The World Health Organization recommends that babies exclusively breastfeed for their first six months, and then receive a combination of breast milk and other nutrition until they are 2 years old. UNICEF estimates that globally as of 2016, 43% of children are exclusively breastfed during the first 6 months of life, and 46% continue until age 2. A recent survey found 1 in 4 Americans do not believe moms should be allowed to breastfeed or pump in the clear view of the public, and while 90% of Americans say they believe women should be allowed to pump at work, about 1 in 3 do not believe employers should be required to provide a lactation room.

The discrepancy here between what is recommended and what is actually supported is shocking. Mothers are being told to breastfeed, but then are also being told to cover up, or that they can't pump at work. When there are so many obstacles to breastfeeding it shouldn't be shocking that breastfeeding rates in America are lower than the WHO would like.

This lack of support and mixed messages are making the work of motherhood—something that is already deeply emotionally and mentally draining—even harder. The conversation about infant feeding should not be about supporting one type of infant feeding over another, it needs to be about supporting women in motherhood and in their choices. The cost of not doing so is staggering.

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"This time I'm really prepared," I think to myself as I board yet another plane with my now very active and mobile toddler. By the number of things I'm carrying you'd think I'm moving across the country, but actually, we are only going away for a few days. I have snacks, favorite toys, the lovey, books he likes us to read on repeat.

I will not have a screaming child on this flight. I. Will. Not.

Before I was a parent, I was one of those annoying passengers who would huff and puff when a baby started crying on a plane. I say this with full guilt because I cannot believe I was so mean. In my (tiny) defense, I used to travel A LOT for work and my time on the plane was either to catch up on sleep or decompress so the last thing I wanted to have was a screaming baby next to me.

But I am that mom now. And I wish I could go back in time and apologize to all those parents I gave nasty looks to in an attempt to make them feel bad. Because now I know, oh… I know.

Travel is annoying for everyone. Think about it: the waiting around the airport, the rushed boarding, everyone being grumpy as they try to fit their carry-ons in the overhead compartment, the tiny seats.

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Now, look at it from the perspective of a child. It's a new place, you can't really go anywhere, there are weird noises and smells and you are confined to a tiny tiny place you can't really explore. Plus, you have a bunch of strangers looking at you. And the pressure in their ears. It must be really confusing when you don't know what is happening.

Recently a mom in one of my Facebook groups asked if she should bring little candy bags with a note apologizing for her baby's cries to distribute to her seatmates on a plane. The answers were all the same: Don't. Because this is the thing, we can't go around life apologizing for our kids being kids and for us being the best parents we can be.

What I do distribute when I fly with my son is smiles. He starts screaming because I don't let him play with the tray table and someone gives me a look? I smile at them.

He gets cranky because he's trying to get comfortable to take that nap he wasn't able to because of a change in schedule? Yup, I smile.

I don't apologize, I try to not get frustrated. I just let everyone else know with my smile that "I know, toddlers are a handful huh?"

Most of the time it works, and if it doesn't, too bad for them.

What we need more of, though, is people helping out parents in stressful situations (like air travel, or any travel to be honest). I will never forget the flight attendant who gave me extra packs of cookies after seeing how into them my son was. Or the person who asked people to wait for the bathroom so I could cut the line and change him out of his blowout diaper.

I will be forever grateful to everyone that cooed and smiled and said hello to my son from the gate to baggage claim. I wish I could go back and thank the woman who held my son after she saw me fumble with all the bags and the stroller so I could get everything ready without him running away from me. This is what we need more of.

We parents already deal with tons of stress on a daily basis—are they eating enough, did they have enough playtime, are they having too much screen time, am I keeping them active enough?—that we don't need the judgment of passengers when we choose to (literally) embark on an adventure with our kids to show them the world.

So next time I travel without my son, I will be that helping hand for any parent I see. And mama, if your baby is crying, screaming and kicking on what seems like a never-ending flight, take a deep breath and smile at everyone around you, you will be landing soon.

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Life

Before my son was born, I had no idea how good my sleep life was. On the weekends especially, it wasn't unusual for me to sleep in until noon. Sometimes 1 pm if it was a really late night. (Anyone else ever finds themselves kind of hating envying their pre-mom selves? No? Just me? 🤷🏽♀️)

I remember being pregnant and everyone saying, "Get as much sleep as you can now." I knew that having a newborn meant sleep deprivation, but I felt like everyone was being so extreme in their advice to me. Yeah, you don't sleep, but they start sleeping through the night eventually right? Like at 2 months old, right?

(Oh, pre-mom me. You naive, sweet soul.)

Let's say those first two weeks home were truly eye-opening. Actually, literally eye-opening. Because it was a rare moment when I could actually close my eyes. The first night home was especially brutal.

I had not slept well in the hospital—not being able to get used to the low buzz of the hospital sounds, having random nurses or doctors come in and out of my room, and oh yeah, staring at this squishy little newborn alien that was now mine to take care of and be completely responsible for. (That thought alone is enough to keep any woman lying awake when she should be sleeping, regardless of her child's age.)

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So that first night home, I craved sleep. All my tired mind and sore body begged for was rest. In my own bed. For at least 12-14 hours straight. I went to bed earlier than I ever had before. The baby was sleeping soundly in his bassinet next to me and I thought it was my chance to catch up on what I was owed.

One hour later, the little one was crying and hungry. I popped out of bed to feed him. He settled down, I changed his diaper and got him back to sleep. Back to his bassinet. Back to my bed.


Thirty minutes later, it happened again. How can he possibly be hungry again? I thought. I stared at my husband and that's when we both realized we had a long night ahead of us.

The next morning (or really, what felt like the continuation of one very long day), I got up and wondered how I was going to do this. I hadn't slept. I felt like a shadow and my mind was as foggy as ever. I was walking around in what felt like a completely foreign postpartum body, and now my sleep-addled brain was going, too.

How do people 'mom' like this? I thought.

They just do, I would later realize.

Moms who are sleep-deprived just get through the day and do what they need to to keep their family's world—and their own—spinning on its axis.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms get up and make breakfast. They get their kids dressed for school, buckle them into their car seats and make it to pre-school dropoff on time.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms remember to bring their pump to work. They get dressed for the big meeting, pat each hair perfectly into place and walk into the building looking and acting like the boss they are.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms serve up the no-foam, double-shot mocha latte with Stevia instead of sugar the customer orders. They remember to hold the bread, serve the ranch on the side, and ask the cook if there are any peanuts in the recipe.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas tame the tantrums. They soothe their 2-year-old in the middle of the aisle in Target during an epic meltdown and they still don't forget to grab the milk they went shopping for in the first place.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas sing funny songs to make the baby laugh. They tickle chubby baby bellies, they rock their precious one to sleep for as long as it takes to see those soft baby eyelids flutter closed and content.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas get themselves ready for that first day back at work from maternity leave. They sit at their computer facing a blank screen and know that they can do this today, even though they miss their baby desperately. Because they are ridiculously good at their job.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms change that 6th diaper of the day. They wipe up the 50th time the baby spits up. They put away the same toy for the 8th time that day.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, moms ask their friends or partner how their day was. They listen intently to the problem or great thing that happened and commiserate or celebrate accordingly.

Even though they're sleep deprived, moms rally to go out for girl's night. They answer the distraught message their best friend sent them—even if it is a day (or three) later. They cook up an extra meal for the neighbor who just had a baby.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas check their babies' temperatures. They wait for fevers to break. They call the doctor in the middle of the night. They lay beside their children on tiny twin mattresses, offering comfort for stuffy noses and worn-out little bodies.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas want to feel like themselves. So they stay up late. To get a little bit of me time and binge-watch Younger or The Bachelor or finish reading that novel or listen to that podcast that she'd heard such great things about.

Even though they're sleep-deprived, mamas push to check off everything on their to-do list. They squeeze in one more load of laundry or finish cleaning that last pile of dishes so it won't be waiting tomorrow. They go around the house checking windows and doors to make sure everyone is safe. They stay up worrying even though they desperately need to sleep.


As my newborn grew into the toddler he is now, I learned more and more what I could accomplish on two, three, four, hours of sleep. I became amazed—and still am—by what I see my fellow mamas and myself achieve.

Just imagine how much more we could get done on a full night's sleep.

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Maisonette is a go-to destination for high-quality baby and children's fashion and products, and they just launched their very own baby registry to make preparing for your new bundle of joy that much simpler. 🙌

When growing a family, functionality is just as important as style, but that doesn't mean you have to skimp on having a nursery that is beautiful, mama. The Maisonette Baby Registry offers endless registry essentials and exclusive products from layette bundles and teething sets to Moses baskets and knit clothing. Plus, they're featuring plenty of top-rated gear to cover you from newborn stages and beyond.

"With the introduction of the Maisonette Baby Registry, we wanted to create a one-stop destination for first time parents and parents expecting their second or third child—not just for what you need, but for the extra-special items that parents actually want," sais Sylvana Ward Durrett, co-founder and CEO of Maisonette

If you're a fan of the Maisonette aesthetic, you can now create a registry (or shop for another mama!) right on their website. Even better? They're collaborated with several influential mamas, like Daphne Oz, Diane Kruger, and Lily Aldridge so you can check out their very own registries for a little inspiration.

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We can't wait to look through the curated registry picks. 🎉

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