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How My Kids Are Helping Me Conquer Mild OCD – And Why I Have to Let It Happen

My name is Jill and I am a neat freak. A few months ago, I spent an entire morning in my son’s bedroom repairing and repositioning half a dozen Lego creations into a pleasing arrangement on a set of shelves solely dedicated for the purpose. I took it as a sign that I was powerless over my neatness addiction.

I had been doing so well, too. I hadn’t even entered the boys’ play zone for a whole week just to avoid the temptation to hyper-organize. But that day, I relapsed. And it was not pretty. I’m not sure how it happened. The day started out with such resolve…

After making fastidious work of assembling lunches, packing backpacks, hustling my sons into their jackets and hats, and watching them trundle down the front walk to the car with Dad, I stood on the deck in the sharp morning air with the satisfaction of a child-rearing woman who has accomplished astonishing things (shower not included) between the hours of 5:45 and 7:30 a.m., all without once scolding or breaking a sweat.

I took in the oak leaves still clinging assertively to their wind-tossed limbs and envisioned the day before me unfolding the way an Olympic athlete paces out a gold medal-winning 400-meter dash. That day, I decided, would go something like this:

Take 10 deep, bracing breaths. Step back inside. Hydrate with 16 ounces of suitably refrigerated water. Top off coffee mug and add small dollop of honey. Report directly to uncluttered desk, stepping right over mud-and-food-streaked boy garments still moldering where they’d been tossed before last night’s bath. Ignore mountain of unfolded clothes literally casting a shadow in the corner. Pretend rumpled confusion of unmade beds is not in the least distracting.

Sit down. Stay there.

I was hitting every mark in record time. At this rate, I’d be logging hours before the clock struck eight. But at the top of the stairs, things took a turn for the worse.

The light in my eldest son’s room was still on. I reached inside the doorjamb to flick the switch, and that’s when it happened: All the little Lego people started calling to me – their legs back-bent, helmets misaligned, lightsabers, shovels, nunchucks, and daggers unhitched from c-shaped hands…

“Jedi Master of Order Restoration!” shouted “A New Hope” Luke Skywalker from beneath the dresser. “Thank God you’re here. I’m so uncomfortable right now. Could you please do me the courtesy of picking me out of the large child’s dirty underwear and return me to the cockpit of my X-wing Starfighter? But I’ve lost my helmet. And where’s R2? I can’t fly without R2.”

Unable to resist Luke’s plaintive call, I stepped into the room. That’s all it took. Before you can say 12-Step Program, I was swiftly grouping the assembled kits into like themes – Ninjago Morro Dragons with Chima Rumble Bears, second-generation Moon Landing relics with the comparatively glossy 21st-century City sets (police SUV, construction trucks, family camper van). The Star Wars ships, naturally, got a whole shelf to themselves. And every single Minifigure, reunited with his or her corresponding vehicle, lined up from left to right in episodic order.

Two hours later, back aching, hair unkempt, eyes wild, I reemerged. For five full minutes I stood bewildered in the hall contemplating my mental acuity.

“What the hell just happened?” I said out loud. 

At first, it felt good to wrest order from the jumbled multitudes. And then it felt weird, and wasteful, and ultimately futile, because these are toys, woman! Not museum pieces.

In a matter of hours, these very same meticulously constructed wonders of interlocking-brick-system engineering would be pitted against one another in epic intergalactic mega-battles, inevitably dropped on wood floors to scatter in a million sonically unnerving directions, and then rebuilt by little brother into asymmetric bat-lizard-robot-rocket-boats with no means of egress, color consistency, or landing gear to speak of.

I know what you’re thinking. I’m not a crazy Kragle-mom. I have never super-glued any toy whose chief objective is to be deconstructed and reconstructed. I simply like structure. I respect sequences. I appreciate design.

In much the same way I enjoy the secret chemistry of successful recipes, I also enjoy the aesthetics of things built as they were meant to be built. I delight in the purposeful details: the specially crafted levers allowing wings to flap and cockpit hatches to open; the ball-and-sockets for Republic Gunship blaster articulation; the spring-loaded laser shooters that release with a gratifying click.

And yes, I’m highly distractible. I have a thing about crumbs. And hygiene routines. And pididdles (touch ceiling before the other car passes, touch seat if they’ve already passed). I try to say “Rabbit, Rabbit” before anything else on the first of each month. I brush my teeth excessively, in the same pattern every time. I bite my nails so I can file them smooth again.

I eat Ritz crackers down to perfect crescent moons, nibble by miniscule nibble. I count the steps of the stairwells I frequent and associate the number with that place. Whenever I do jumping jacks, I count out 100 then add one for each family member to send good health their way.

Unfortunately though, these habits don’t really jibe with being a parent. Consider the spit-ups, the diaper blowouts, the fistfuls of peas and cottage cheese flung madly about the kitchen. The sticky fingers and snot-slicked faces, the yogurt bubbles and juice dribbles, the blueberry barf. The excess toys spilling over the edge of milk crates and bins even though you made a pact with your husband while pregnant never to let any “cheap plastic crap” across the threshold.

Basically, as a parent, you have to let go of organization as you knew it. It’s all an illusion anyway. Kiss your aesthetically calming décor good-bye and welcome a couch you don’t mind disinfecting every few months. When you find Mr. Potato Head teeth and ears in the Magna-Tiles box, let them lie. When a Popsicle stick gets lodged in the slot-car track, trust that your child will dislodge it somehow. You’ve got to roll with the chaos for the sake of your sanity, your children’s sanity, and your partner’s, as well.

Here’s why. My sense of orderliness has nothing to do with my children’s healthy development. What’s more, I think it actually inhibits my ability to enjoy being with them when they’re having the time of their lives shoving child-safe finger paint up each other’s noses. And that shit is funny, believe me.

My OCD also got in the way of the boys taking responsibility for their own stuff. They would ask me where they left Kit Fisko, Boba Fett, or “Anakin’s Dark Side head” and I would actually know. The precise location. It became clear in about year five of motherhood this was a losing proposition if I ever expected not to feel like a servant waiting on two tiny unrelenting masters.

I’ve improved immensely. These days, I don’t maniacally clean up after them. Not as often, anyway. They know to bus their own dishes to the kitchen and put their dirty clothes in the dark and light hampers. They flush the toilet after number two and switch off lights when leaving a room. When they ask what happened to Sensei Wu’s paddy hat, I do my best to reply, “Probably where you left it.”

Four out of five days of the week, the kids actually remember their backpacks. The fifth day we gawk at each other in the drop-off line and say oh well. “Try to remember tomorrow.” And they do. Sometimes. 

That said, I’ve left my mark – or my genes anyway. As anyone who’s been a child or parent knows, those marks are indelible. Last night, my youngest woke up calling for me. When I went in to check on him, he said with a trace of panic, “My aminals are not where they’re zupposed to be.”

And because the tree stays rooted by the apple, I helped him rearrange them – Lion on the far side as protection from any monsters approaching through the window, Elephanté next to offer backup. On the door side, Bunny Sniff-Sniff, Owlie, and Niño resting where he always does in the palm of my son’s hand.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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They say there's no use in crying over it, but for pumping mamas, spilled milk is a major upset.

When you're working so hard to make sure your baby has breast milk, you don't want to lose a drop, and Chrissy Teigen knows this all too well.

The mom of two posted a video to social media Wednesday showing her efforts to rescue breastmilk from a tabletop. She used various utensils and a syringe to try to get the milk back in the bottle.

"I spilled my breastmilk and this is how important it is in this house," she says while suctioning up milk with what appears to be a baster.

In a follow-up video Teigen continues to try to rescue the spilled milk.

"We're trying," she says as she suctions up a drop or two. "I got some."

Teigen is currently breastfeeding baby Miles, her son with husband John Legend, and has been very public about the fact that she pumps a lot as a working mom.

She's also been open about the fact that milk supply has always been an issue for her, not just with Miles but with Luna, too.

"I actually loved [pumping] because I'm a collector of things, and so when I found out I could pump I [did it] so much because I knew the more you pumped, the more milk you'd make," she told POPSUGAR back in March. "So I loved collecting my breast milk and seeing how much I could get, even if it was very, very little."

Like a lot of moms, Teigen did struggle emotionally when a pump session wouldn't get her the ounces she wanted.

"I wasn't producing a lot of milk, and it was frustrating. When you're frustrated, [it can also make you] not produce that much."

Research backs her up. Stress has been linked to lower milk production. Because of that, she's trying to stay positive this time around, but captioned her video post "EVERY DROP COUNTS IN THIS HOUSE" because, well, they do.

So many mothers can relate. Have you ever tried to save your breastmilk?

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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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What is it about networking that's just kind of...awful? Typically inconvenient and often awkward, formal networking events rarely yield the results most women (and especially mamas) are looking for.

Whether you're reentering the workforce post-baby leave or simply looking to make a complicated career switch as a busy mom (or just struggling to juggle play dates and professional meetings), making the right connections is often a hurdle that's difficult to surmount. And more and more often, networking comes up short in providing what moms really need.

When time is truly at a premium—a session swapping business cards can be hard to prioritize. Shapr wants to change all that.

Designed with busy people in mind, Shapr is an app with an algorithm that uses tagged interests, location, and professional experience to match you with 10-15 inspiring professional connections a day. You swipe to indicate interest in networking with any of them, and if the interest is mutual, you're connected. (But don't worry, that's where the similarities to that dating app end.)

It makes it easier to connect with the right people.

From there, you can chat, video conference, and even meet in person with potential mentors, partners, and investors while growing your real-life network. No more wasting hours trying to pick someone's brain only to discover they don't have the right experience you need. And no more awkward, stilted small talk—even suggests a few preset icebreakers to help get the conversation rolling more quickly.

The best part? You could do virtually all your connecting from your couch post-bedtime.

It simplifies switching careers or industries.

Sysamone Phaphone is a real mom who was fed up with traditional networking options. When she quit her full-time job in healthcare to pursue founding a startup, she quickly realized that in-person networking events weren't only failing to connect her to the right people, they were also difficult for a single mom of two to even attend. "I was complaining to a friend that I was so tired and didn't know how I was going to keep doing it this way when she recommended the Shapr app," Phaphone says. "I tried it right there at dinner and started swiping. [Later], in my pajamas, I got my first connection."

From there, Phaphone was hooked. Her network suddenly exploded with developers, potential partners she could work with, and even people to hire for the roles she needed. She was also able to connect with and empower other women in tech. Now, checking in with Shapr connections is just part of her routine. "I look for connections after drop-off at school and on my commute into the city," she says. "Then after bedtime is done, I go on to check if there is anyone I've connected with."

It helps you find a mentor—no matter where they live.

Another common roadblock Shapr removes? Location. While you probably wouldn't fly to LA from New York for a networking event, the Shapr app lets you connect and chat with the person who best meets your needs—regardless of where they're based. Even better for parents, the "mom penalty" many women contend with when trying to get back into the workforce doesn't exist on Shapr—if you have the right experience, the connections will still come.

To connect, simply create your account, enter up to ten hashtags you want to follow (either industry related like #film or #tech or by person you're seeking, such as #developer or #uxui), preset what you're looking for (investors, collaborators, etc.), and indicate how you prefer to meet. To connect with more people at once, Shapr also has community groups within the app around interest topics that you can join. And even though the connection begins in the digital space, it often results in the in-person experiences mamas crave.

"I wish I could encourage more moms and dads to use it because it has been a lifesaver for me," Phaphone says. "It empowered my career and career choices, and it provides so much convenience. I can put my kids to bed and not go to an event, but still meet 20 people in a night."

For women looking to grow their business, position, or simply achieve a little self-growth, Shapr is changing the way we connect. This powerful new app could change everything, mama. Download it today to get started.

While we can't possibly protect our children from all of the hardships and challenges life brings, we can help them cope with these difficulties. We can help build their resilience starting at a very young age.

In its simplest form, resilience is the ability to bounce back. It is something we hope and strive to instill in our children—but at the same time, it can seem like an elusive and vague term.

According to educational research, resilience impacts social skills, a child's desire to try academically, autonomy, problem-solving skills, awareness of and reactions to injustice, and a person's sense of purpose. That's a pretty big impact.

The same research found that resilience is fostered by loving relationships, high expectations, and the chance to participate and contribute in a meaningful way. The good news is that these are all things you can work on at home—but how exactly?

Here are nine phrases Montessori teachers frequently use to help children develop this valuable quality.

1. “That was hard, but you did it!”

Directly acknowledging a child's efforts helps bring their awareness to the fact that they can do things, even when they're hard.

Whether it's swimming across the whole swimming pool, reading a book for the first time, or putting their shirt on all by themself, help your child pause and reflect on how they overcame the struggle and accomplished the goal, even if it wasn't easy.

Each time you do this, it solidifies their view as someone who can overcome obstacles and do hard things.

2. “I want you to try, but I’m right here if you get stuck.”

Your reaction to your child's struggles helps establish their identity and the way they see themselves. If you rush in too quickly to rescue them, it sends the message that you think they're not capable.

On the flip side, if they become too overwhelmed by a challenge and feel alone in the struggle, they may not want to try again in the future.

Make it clear that you expect them to try, and you think they can do it, but that if they're really stuck, you're right there to help. With this reassurance, they will be more able to focus on the task at hand and do their best work. If your little does wind up needing help, offer the least assistance possible to help them be successful.

For example, if they're trying to write their name and getting upset because it's too hard, help them remember which letter comes next instead of taking over and writing it for them.

3. “Who could you ask for help?”

Ask open-ended questions to help your child develop problem-solving skills. Each time they find a solution to a seemingly insurmountable problem on their own, they will gain greater confidence in their ability to overcome challenges.

If your child loses their teddy bear, ask where they could look before you find it for them. If their pencil breaks, ask what they could do to solve the problem instead of handing over a new one right away.

The more confidence they have in their own ability to solve problems, the more likely they are to keep their cool and recover quickly when something distressing happens.

4. “Do you remember when tying your shoes was so hard?”

Children learn new skills literally every day, but it's so easy for them to forget how far they've come. Help your child feel a sense of mastery by reminding them of all of the skills they have already figured out.

For instance, if you see them swinging happily on the swing set, remind them that just last year they were so frustrated because they didn't know how to pump their legs by themselves. Bringing attention to the progress your child has made emphasizes that their own efforts play a huge role in overcoming obstacles.

5. “I need your help.”

No matter how young your little is, find ways for them to help you, to contribute in a meaningful way. Whether it's folding laundry, cooking dinner, or putting together a new bookshelf, telling your child that you need their help sends the message that they are a valuable, capable member of the family.

This type of view of one's self goes a long way when real challenges emerge.

Showing your child that you have confidence in their ability to contribute builds confidence. Telling them you need their help is also an excellent way to model that it's okay to ask for help when you need it.

6. “Which part can I help with?”

If you see your child really struggling, ask how you can help. This gives the child such a different feeling than when an adult rushes in and rescues them, solving the problem for them.

Offering to help, and specifically letting the child decide how you can help, is a collaborative process. It lets them know that they are not in it alone, that it's okay to need help, and that even really big problems have solutions.

Showing your child that help is available when they need it will help them not freak out when problems arise.

7. “You look really upset, would you like help talking to your friend?”

Social situations offer many opportunities to practice resilience. Whether their best friend said something mean or they feel left out of a game, you can help your child process their feelings and see that there are options other than wallowing in sadness.

You don't need to solve the question of "who had it first," or elicit any apologies, just help your child tell their friend how they feel. Help to ask for what they need, whether it's a hug, a chance to play together later, or simply to express their emotions.

This type of help gives your child the tools they need to face and recover from tough social situations.

8. “That was hard for me, but I did it. I feel proud of myself.”

To children, it can seem like everything is so easy for us since so many of our struggles are silent, or happen when our children are sleeping or at school.

Try to share some of the (non-scary) challenges you face with your child and let them know what you did to adapt to the tough situation or cope with disappointment.

Try something like, "My friend had to cancel lunch today and I was so disappointed. It made me kind of sad but I'm going to see if she can have dinner with us instead."

Show that everyone, even mom and dad, faces setbacks and that there are things you can do about it to make the situation better.

9. “Do you need to take a break?”

If you watch your child carefully, you can often see when they're about to pass the limit of what they can handle. Step in and ask if they need a break.

Help fill their toolbox with things they can do when they feel overwhelmed. You might ask if they would like a drink of water, suggest they do 10 jumping jacks with you, take five deep breaths, or even go for a short walk outside.

Show your child that there are tools they can use to reset, apart from giving up or having a complete meltdown.

Resilience takes time, and so much patience, to build, but it is a quality that will serve your child well for their entire life.

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