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How Helping to Raise My Younger Brother Prepared Me to Be a Mom

I was 14 years old when my little brother was born. I was super excited from the beginning and we instantly had a special connection – especially in the first years when I was quite invested in his caregiving, as my father and his wife both worked. They also felt like it was time for me to take some responsibility in the family. So at least once a week I picked him up from kindergarten and spent the entire afternoon with him, not to talk of the countless evenings and weekends I babysat him.


Although I loved him very much, it was sometimes hard. There were afternoons where I wished for nothing more than to be able to hang out with my friends after school and not have to rush across town to pick him up on time. There were days when I really had to force myself to mash up his bananas (his favorite dish while I hate no food more than bananas) or change his diaper when I much rather would have read a book or watched TV.

But now that I’m a mother I’m actually very thankful for all the childcare experience I gained. And quite frankly, my daughter should thank him forever, because having cared for him made me a much more confident parent and saved her a lot of trouble.

For many first time parents having a child can be quite a shock. It’s not as easy and rosy as it’s often described. Suddenly the house looks like a dump, you can’t remember when you last showered, and eight-hour sleep is a mere dream.

And then there’s more. Mommy shaming, dealing with other parents, insecurities, fears – many parents feel they were not really prepared for all this.

There were still lots of surprises for me as a parent, but at least I felt like I kind of knew what was coming my way.

As for mommy shaming and getting judged by strangers, I was shocked by how many times people assumed I was my younger brother’s mother. Try being 16 and boarding a bus with a screaming and kicking toddler in the one arm, pulling a heavy stroller loaded with groceries in the other. I got everything from strange looks to people actually telling me that I brought this on myself for becoming a mother at such a young age.

In the first instances this happened I was shocked, but quickly I started seeing the comical side of it. Also, it didn’t hurt me so much because I felt like I actually had the right to be overstrained every once in a while. Thanks to this, when I became a mother, I was able to tell the couple who told me I was suffocating my daughter in her wraparound baby carrier to mind their own business. I felt empowered to put her into daycare at the age of one without listening to the people who told me this was irresponsible. I had a thicker skin to thanks to my experiences toting my brother around all those years ago.

My brother also taught me to trust a child. He was a wild one, always moving and exploring. Of course I told him to be careful many times and made sure nothing happened to him, but I was a teen myself and didn’t care if he got dirty (it wasn’t me who had to do his laundry after all) or got a little bruise.

I spent a lot of time with him in a gymnastics class for toddlers. It was mainly just a gym with some stations to climb and play with around 20 toddlers and their parents. There I saw for the first time the results of fearful parenting. There were so many parents who did not leave their children alone even for a second, though this was a safe environment and there was an instructor present. Those were the ones who failed to climb the smallest obstacle by themselves, were scared of everything and cried for five minutes when they only stumbled. I think most of the other parents thought I was careless, but I let my brother run free. He was always the first one to climb the highest cabinets, never complained, and had the most fun.

Now I can relate a bit better to the parents who seemed crazy careful to me at the age of 16. When my daughter climbs a tree or jumps down from high stones, I am scared. I am afraid she’ll get hurt or something might happen to her. But I saw firsthand with my brother and his friends where fearful parenting can end up, and what trusting parenting results in. So I try to hold back my, “be careful” and let her decide for herself what she wants to try. Normally she’s right on with her evaluations – because she knows herself very well – and that is how her confidence grows.

I also learned that I don’t always have to be perfect; that I can make mistakes in my caregiving but things will still be okay. I made mistakes and messed up several times, many of those stories still being told and retold at family gatherings. There was the time when I almost broke his toe because I put his shoe on incorrectly. I put a diaper on him wrong-sided, forgot to close the curtains when he slept so that he woke up at 4:30 with the sunrise, and carried him in ways that made his mother cringe sometimes. But he was fine anyway.

So when I had my own daughter, I knew I would not be the perfect mum, because there is no such thing as a perfect human being. I knew I would make mistakes; some funny, some grave, and some even harmful, but that it would still be okay.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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