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In my work as a third grade teacher, I’m out on the school playground a lot. With an entire grade level usually outside at one time, in my school (as in most) there’s a certain controlled chaos. Balls fly boldly through the air, this way and that. There are frequent lengthy, high-pitched yelps resembling animal screeches. Children run in small groups, crashing into each other and into stationary objects. Recess is a busy, noisy, chaotic time, and it can be an introvert child’s worst nightmare.


I’m not an introvert, but recess isn’t my favorite time of the day either. It’s a little manic  – over 100 children dashing wildly around in different directions. It’s the opposite of calm. Yet recess takes place before school, in the mid-morning and again right after lunch – times of day when some of us could really do with a little bit of quiet.

Introverts in my class often ask me if they can stay in for recess. They ask to read in the library, draw, play Legos or board games, or to help clean up or organize a section of the classroom. I used to believe that playground recess was the only kind of “real” recess and that it was a non-negotiable, fixed entity. I would tell an introvert child who asked to stay in that the answer was “no” and remind him/her that recess is an important time for socializing, play, and exercise. That was before I read the book “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking”, by Susan Cain.

Cain defines introverts: “Those who prefer quieter, more minimally stimulating environments. The key is about stimulation: extroverts feel at their best and crave a high degree of stimulation. For introverts, the optimal zone is much lower.” Her book helped me empathize with what my introvert students might be feeling when recess time came around – something the extrovert in me had never imagined before. My students hadn’t articulated their feelings to me or challenged my preconceived ideas. They’d always taken my firm, “You can’t stay in at recess” as a given and headed woefully outdoors.

Start a dialogue about introverts and recess

I soon began to wonder if I was supporting introvert students at recess as best as I could. Children need daily opportunities to develop their social and emotional lives and to learn the skills of socialization and emotional regulation. As long as kids have a daily opportunity for unstructured social time where they can choose which activity they’d like to do with their friends, I see that they are, in actuality, having a recess. Many teachers at my school already give their students exactly that: “Choice Time,” or “Free Time,” within which kids get to choose what they do with their time and with whom. But it’s usually on a Friday afternoon, or at the end of the day. What if this choice time was part of recess, and happened more often? Once I started talking about the different ways that recess could look, things began to shift.

I know how critical physical movement and fresh is for children and so I regularly have my students run around or stretch during transitions between one lesson and another. Sometimes we do specific exercises that are part of a program for schools called “Brain Gym.” I call these short periods of time where we move around “Brain Breaks.” Essentially, as long as students do have the chance to run around, stretch, and get outside regularly, then recess can, I think, be boundless in its possibilities and manifestations and not simply an outlet for physical activity or a designated socialization time. Recess can be just as Dictionary.com defines it: “Temporary withdrawal or cessation from the usual work.”

Of course, fresh air and exercise is essential for invigorating and reviving us (introverts and extroverts alike) and I certainly wouldn’t advocate that children stay inside during every recess. But I really do wonder, are we doing our best for introverts at recess? What if one classroom per grade level was designated a quiet zone for just one recess a day? What if we allowed children to spend one recess a day in the school library? What if we said yes when an introvert asked to stay in for recess? Your child’s teacher is a great person with whom to start the dialogue about your little introvert.

Introverts prefer quieter spaces with less stimuli

Think about how your child choose to spend his/her “at play” time when at home on a play date or with siblings. Do they make a den to retreat into together or alone? Do they choose to sit in a quiet room? In this vein, redesigning the physical space of playgrounds can have a wide-reaching impact. What if the playground wasn’t all concrete? What if there was a cabana, marquee, or tent just for children who wanted to sit in a more peaceful place? Or, what if playgrounds had grassy areas where children could sit somewhere where the ground was soft beneath them and just talk, play, or do a quiet activity such as reading or drawing – a place to just be, without fear of being hit by a football just as they’ve settled into their latest chapter book? What if every playground had a designated “No ball area” or “No running” area?

At my school we recently solicited children’s thoughts on an ideal playground and we now have a grassy area (we’re an urban school, so the grass is fake, but grass nonetheless) where balls aren’t allowed. We have an area that is fenced off from the main playground, where small groups of children gather to chat, sit, and be peaceful. They don’t have to worry about getting hit by a ball while they relax together. It’s made a world of difference. We have a bench now, too – because sometimes children want a comfortable place to sit down at recess. And some teachers are allowing children to stay in at recess sometimes – including me. Not every day, but sometimes.

Introverts are risk takers too – they just do it differently

School is, in many ways, an optimal environment for extroverts – the playground especially so. Cain talks about how extroverts generally get more excited than introverts and this is related to risk-taking. Extroverts rule the playground with their shrieking, loud games, ball games, and risk-taking endeavors. The introvert child recharges her batteries not necessarily by being outside, but often by being quiet for a while, sometimes by looking inward, having quiet time – by having a break from an otherwise busy day jammed full of stimulation.

Susan Cain notes that some of the world’s riskiest professions (traders, police offers, etc.) are done by introverts. It’s not that they don’t take risks – it’s just that they’re more considered and thoughtful about the risks they take. They’re less impulsive. To be this way, they need down time – alone or just with one or two friends to think, consider, or reflect. In the same way that you allow the time and space for your child to have the down time they need at home, encourage him/her to seek out and speak up for this time and space at school if they need/want it.

Ideally, our schools and our playgrounds should allow for introverts to retreat from the world for a little while. It doesn’t always have to be you starting the dialogue with your child’s teacher or principal – you can encourage your child to ask for what he/she needs at school, too.

Introverts aren’t anti-social – they’re socially different

There are a few children in my class who spend most recesses together, sitting in a quieter part of the playground, reading their books together. They always read the same book, sharing a copy or reading identical copies, and they discuss it together as they read. Sometimes they play a talking game together such as, “I’m going on a picnic” or take a slow walk around the playground looking for interesting things in nature. A nature walk, if you will. Or they’ll get some chalk and play a quiet game of hopscotch. They want to be together, not alone, but being introverts they rejuvenate by being together doing something calming or enjoyable for them – something which isn’t always a physical activity.

Being “at play” is different for every child and I know to honor the introverts at recess as diligently as I honor the extroverts.

Questions to ask your child’s principal about recess

  • Is there a designated no ball “Quiet Zone” on the playground where children can choose to read or talk or play together quietly?
  • Can my child bring a book, notepad or sketchbook out to the playground?
  • Can playground chalk, jump ropes, and hula-hoops be provided? These can be great tools for solo, partner play, or small friend group play.
  • Is indoor recreation time in a quiet room ever an option for recess?
  • Are there places to sit down on the playground – benches, stools, or chairs?
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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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