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As I watch iridescent orbs float through the sunset sky I think, “Wow.”


In the age of iPads, iPhones, and numerous other electronic devices, something as simple as blowing bubbles can still stir up so much excitement. Although we live in a world of overstimulation, kids really do love the simple things in life and I think deep down, so do adults.

The peace and joy that comes from reconnecting with nature and loved ones; the feeling we get every time we leave our busy lives behind and embark on a new adventure. With travel we aren’t only creating awesome memories – we’re giving the gift of a childhood unplugged.

A mama friend made a comment recently about noticing an improvement in her child’s behavior when given less time on his video games. This made me realize that I’ve observed this change too, including when I reduce my daughter’s time on YouTube due to her high-levels of sass. Then I asked myself, “Why?”

I’ll admit, sometimes gadgets are a total lifesaver. I’m a big fan of iPads during family travel because they hold so much entertainment during plane, train, and road trips. Was it really just the electronics causing attitude issues or something else?

I started thinking about my travels and how I use electronics on the road versus at home, and how the day is spent in between uses. I also started thinking about how my kids seem better- behaved on the road versus at home, which is probably why I like to travel so much. 

Then it hit me: the great outdoors! Numerous studies have shown that there are many benefits to being outside, especially for kids, and when we travel we spend a significant amount of time outside exploring. I began to think that maybe the combination of extra time in nature combined with the lack of electronics was the answer. I did some investigating and what I found is quite interesting.

Benefits to playing outside:

Outdoor play offers not only physical benefits like increased balance, endurance, and hand-eye coordination, but has also shown to improve cognitive and social/emotional development.

1 | Improves mental health.

There’s a lot of research to demonstrate that people who live near green spaces have improved mental health. Taking it a step further, a 2000 study by Nancy Wells in the Journal of Environment and Behavior shows that children’s stress levels reduce within minutes of seeing green spaces. There is a drastic change in children when removed from highly urban areas to more open spaces.

The Episcopal Center for Children explains that outdoor play reduces stress and lowers a child’s risk for anxiety and depression. It can also ease some symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). This is something to think about for parents with children who have special needs. Incorporating time in nature into everyday life, as well as family travel, can have great results. 

Dirt is good too! I don’t know about you, but my kids love to wallow in the dirt and it makes me cringe. Well, I’m going to start embracing my kids need to be dirty, because the mycobacterium vaccae in soil mirrors Prozac’s effect on neurons.

When kids are feeling at ease, they tend to behave much better. With outdoor play children are not only improving their physical skills, but overcoming obstacles and building self-confidence. 

2 | Improves social and motor skills.

So self-confidence builds self-esteem, but the confidence is gained by overcoming challenges. When kids explore outdoors they have to use their imaginations, acquire new skills and learn to problem solve. By playing outside children are also gaining attention and working memory benefits.

Here is where the difference between video games verses outdoor play is best demonstrated. Video games have pre-programmed rules and kids just follow along, never really understanding why the rule exists. According to a report by Rae Pica in Early Childhood News, when children play outside they have to create their own games and rules, creating a deeper level of understanding.

This also plays into improved social skills, because with these invented games comes learning to work together, dealing with conflict and problem-solving. Remember grassy areas reduce stress, so we are all good!

3 | Improves physical health.

Playing outside requires kids to use their bodies. The physicality of outdoor play by nature improves flexibility, muscle strength, and coordination. They become aware of their bodies in space which benefits motor skills and balance. And running around helps kids stay fitter and leaner. 

In addition to physical fitness, nature does wonders for the general health of the body. For instance, being outside is a great immune booster. Yes, kids get sick less the more time they spend outside.

How Family Travel Promotes Outdoor Play

Travel takes us out of our routine and, depending where we travel, we tend to spend more time outdoors than we would normally at home. Sure, the use of iPads comes in handy during long- haul flights, but it is not the day’s main form of entertainment.

When we arrive at our destination the exploration begins. With no one rushing off to work or school, we awake each morning excited for what the day holds, what adventure lies ahead.

Family travel comes in all shapes and sizes. Travels may last a weekend, a week, a month, maybe longer. Whether our travels take us into the wild or the wilds of urban sprawls, there is always opportunity for considerable time outdoors.

Botanical Gardens and Parks

Traveling to big cities one might question where outdoor play would enter the equation, but cities have many options to spend time in the open-air. The key here is the travel mindset, nothing on the agenda but to explore. Not only is there a lot of time spent walking around the city, but there are usually great city parks to enjoy as well as beautiful botanical gardens.

No matter how amazing the destination, the highlight for my kids is always the playground. We were recently in Glasgow, Scotland and ended up spending a lot of time in the botanical garden. The kids loved running in grass, exploring the paths along the Kelvingrove River and playing on the playground so much that it became a good bargaining chip for good behavior later. If they behaved at the restaurants and tours, they were rewarded with extra play time at the botanical gardens.

The great thing about city parks is that it may require very little travel for many of you. Be a tourist in your hometown and enjoy the nature around the corner. “Make sure your child gets at least 15-30 minutes of outdoor play each day,” says Dodd White, president and CEO of Episcopal Center for Children. “If you live in an apartment building or don’t have a yard, try to get to a neighborhood park a few times a week, and leave your technology at home or turned off.” 

Camping and RVing

It doesn’t get more outdoors than camping. We often take RV trips with the family, and the kids are probably the best-behaved on these trips. When camping there is not a lot on the itinerary that isn’t outdoor related, so the time spent playing outdoors is pretty much endless.

The kids love the RV trips, because they’re relaxing and no one is rushing off somewhere. Camping gives us time to just be. We get to fully enjoy all the elements. Play among the earth, feeling the wind in our hair, roasting marshmallows and telling stories by the camp fire, frolicking in the water.

The slow-paced nature immersion that camping provides is not only fun, but is actually really good for our brains. David Strayer, a cognitive psychologist at the University Utah, discussed the three-day affect in National Geographic. Believe it or not, our brains do become fatigued and three days absorbed in nature acts as a mental cleansing.

Beach Vacations

Beach camping or staying at a fun beach resort provides fun in the sun and is extremely beneficial for physical and mental health. All that running in the sand and splashing in the waves is sure to be a blast and burn up lots of energy, but a study by J. Aaron Hipp in the Journal of Environmental Psychology shows that there are actual health benefits to a trip to the beach, including a shot of vitamin D and increased endorphins.

Salty seas have many benefits as well. The sea contains many minerals like magnesium, potassium, and iodine that help provide a healing effect as well as a detox for the human body. Salmon showed in a 2001 study in Clinical Psychology Review that swimming actually reduces stress and anxiety in addition to the physical health effects of non-impact exercise.

The beach is where our family spends the most time outdoors. Not only do we live near local beaches, but we also do a lot of beach camping and traveling to other prime beach resort destinations. Surprisingly enough, there are usually grassy areas near the beach, which really is the best of both worlds.

The takeaway from all this information is that everyone can benefit from time outdoors among nature. Do you have to travel far to get out of the concrete jungle? No, but our day-to-day lives are very busy and we usually don’t make time for decompressing outside.

When we travel we’re in a different mindset, a semi-relaxed state already. We aren’t rushing to work, getting kids to school, finishing homework, and making dinner. Routine, routine, routine; it’s driving us crazy and our kids are growing up too fast. Travel provides us the opportunity and time to reconnect with our family and nature, leaving you and your kids feeling refreshed. A childhood unplugged is often a happy one.   

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If there's anything better than dressing your kids up in adorable holiday outfits, it's gotta be matching them.

We rounded up seven of our favorite looks for this season. 🎁

1. Classic Christmas for kids

Go crisp, clean, classic and Christmassy with a Short Sleeve Smocked Holiday Dress from Feltman Brothers.

Short Sleeve Smocked Holiday Dress, Feltman Brothers, $67.95

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Classic Christmas made modern for mama

Match your cotton cutie in a crisp and modern shirtdress that can last you far beyond Christmas.

Kowtow Monologue Shirt Dress, Garmentory, $93.00

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2. Nordic-themed sweater set

Get cozy + complimentary with black and red family sweaters that you can wear all winter long.

Oh Sno Happy Christmas Collection, Hanna Andersson, $68 - $92

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3. Matchy matchy mommy

A super-affordable option for the matchy matchy mama.

Emmababy Mommy and Me Matching Plaid Long Sleeve Shirt Dress + Princess Tulle Tutu Dress, $14.99

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4. Mommy + me tutus

Tutus make everything, including the holidays, a bit more magical. Grab a matching set to enjoy a twirl with your girl.

Mommy and Me Tulle Tutus, Etsy, $110.00

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5. The perfect plaid dress

Quick! This one is perfect, grab it fast.

Ruffle Trim Babydoll Dress for Toddler Girls, Old Navy, $20.00

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Mama's plaid

Mama deserves ruffles and plaid, too.

Relaxed Plaid Twill Classic Shirt, $24.00, Old Navy

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6. Best sweater set yet

Moms and sons can play match-up, too. Grab a sweater set you can return to the entire season.

Festivewear Sweater Sets, Boden, $55.00-$130.00

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7. Big blue

Light up the night with Santa's sleigh and a sleek little number for mama.

Festive Big Applique Dress, Boden, $48.00

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Blue for you, too

The perfect LBD (little blue dress).

Flippy Pencil Dress, Boden, $170.00

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Ask a group of 10 mamas to define or describe mom guilt and you will likely get 10 different responses. We all associate feelings of guilt with different parenting situations that are as unique as we are. It ranges from feeling guilty about snapping at your children when you're run down, feeding them sugary snacks or leaving for an overnight work trip.

We feel guilt for big and small things, for things we did and didn't do and everything in between.

As a coach helping new moms adjust to motherhood, it's a big topic and one that repeatedly comes up. While it's not always labeled as mom guilt, those feelings of overwhelm, balancing what we're focusing our time on, or feeling bad that we haven't had a date night or a girls' night out in months, it usually circles back to guilt.

Guilt, when not addressed, can be quite a consuming feeling. It can become a bad habit, one that grows over time until soon you second-guess everything that you do for fear of feeling guilty afterward.

While I could certainly share my own experiences with guilt, I know they may not encompass the wide spectrum of mom guilt. So I asked some of my friends, colleagues and fellow moms to help me share stories of mom guilt, and I was surprised at some of the answers.

Here's what they had to say:

When do you experience mom guilt?

1. When I'm trying to blend work and life

"I have a job that has a lot of flexibility so I am around a lot more than other full-time jobs but a lot of the time I never feel like I am fully present. I am always taking phone calls and worrying about clients. It's hard to push that out of mind and focus fully on the kids."

2. When I lose my temper

"I lose my temper with my daughter all the time, and it's usually because I'm tired. When I don't parent with grace and instead react out of anger or frustration, I feel terrible, especially because it probably could have been prevented if I had gone to bed earlier the night before."

3. When I have to travel for work

"Two weeks ago I was out of town for a work conference and found out our 1-year-old had fallen down the stairs the night before and was taken to the hospital via ambulance. He was completely fine (just had an ear infection), but I felt guilty that I wasn't there.

"I kept thinking if I had been there I would have been an extra pair of hands and my husband wouldn't have been so stressed trying to get everyone ready for bed. I felt guilty that my husband had to go through that terrifying experience alone. I felt guilty that I couldn't be there for several more days to hold my baby and have physical proof he was okay."

4. When I had a hard time with breastfeeding

"I was unable to exclusively breastfeed my babies past four months. My milk supply couldn't keep up, and truthfully, I wasn't willing to be attached to my pump and eat all kinds of supplements to try to increase my milk. So we just started using formula. With my first born, I cried over this many times. I was disappointed and felt guilty that I wasn't giving her breast milk. But eventually I came to appreciate the conveniences of formula, and my guilt subsided.

"I was surprised when my son was born and we made the switch to formula again that [the guilt] crept back up. I remember bottle-feeding my newborn and feeling like I had to tell everyone in the room that the bottle was breast milk. Why is that?! Why do we need to slip it into the conversation that we're giving our kid breast milk or justify why we're not? When I stopped producing enough, that was disappointing but to be honest, I didn't love breastfeeding and felt a little relieved that it was over, and that made me feel guilty too. Why didn't I love something I was literally designed to do? Did I give up too easily? And would I have loved it if I had had a normal supply? I wrestled with these questions a lot."

5. When I feel like I'm working too much

"Luckily, I do not have to do morning drop off (that's my husband's realm). Avoiding the daycare drop off has been huge in terms of avoiding mom guilt on a regular basis. I typically do not feel guilty while I'm at work because I get a fair amount of fulfillment from my work, which I think makes me a better mom at the end of the day.

"However, I feel very guilty when my work bleeds into what should be time with my family (evenings and weekends). This happened a lot last school year (new school districts and new preps = 55-60 hour work weeks). I felt very guilty having to tell my son I couldn't play or couldn't go to the zoo with him and his dad on a Sunday because I had to work."

How do you move past the guilt?

It happens to the best of us, and it happens pretty frequently. Feeling guilty over certain circumstances, behavior and decisions is a part of parenting. So how do you move past those feelings of mom guilt? What can you think or do instead?

These were some of my favorite tips:

1. Be grateful

"Instead of feeling bad about yourself for something you can't control, try to be grateful. For example, write out gratitude l that you can afford formula and that formula even exists."

2. Talk about it, normalize it

"Talk about your experience when it comes up in conversation to normalize it—for yourself and for any other moms who might be listening. If someone says something offensive or insensitive, give them the benefit of the doubt."

3. Keep busy

"Keeping busy at work or during work travel is the best way to distract yourself and keep your mind off of feeling guilty."

4. Forgive yourself

"Accidents will happen whether you are there all the time or not, no matter how careful you are. The same thing could have happened even if you hadn't been away and both parents had been looking out for the kids' safety. It's okay to let yourself off the hook.

"If you lose your patience with your little one and resort to harsh words or actions, make a point to apologize and ask for forgiveness as soon as possible. Talk about why you both got upset, and after you hug it out, your guilt will probably have melted away."

5. Set boundaries

"Try setting stronger work boundaries so you can be more present at home. Especially if you don't work a traditional 9-5 job, that flexibility can lead to never being fully present. Find the boundaries that work for you so you can focus on family or work and not both all of the time."

6. Ask yourself some questions

If you feel overcome with mom guilt, try asking yourself:

  • Is your child thriving and happy? (yes)
  • Do theyknow they have a mom who loves them? (yes)
  • Are they learning new lessons/skills at daycare that you maybe wouldn't have even thought to teach them? (yes)

Then, what a lucky kid!

Remember you are not alone

If I can teach you one thing about guilt, it's that whether you feel guilty or not, is completely up to you. You may say, "she made me feel so guilty when she said…" or "hearing her talk about the privilege she has in staying home with her kids made me feel so guilty."

But it's not true. She didn't make you feel guilty. You thought that what she does or how she mothers was better, and that thought created the guilty feeling. Or you felt like you are doing a disservice to your family.

Knowing that, being aware of that, is so powerful.

I hope that by reading these honest stories from other moms who are doing the best that they can, you realize that we all feel it. We all experience mom guilt.

Share your stories, talk about it, normalize it, or challenge yourself with some of those amazing questions about whether your kid is happy, healthy and knows he is loved.

I bet you can talk yourself down off that ledge or pick yourself up out of those feelings of guilt. We all get through them and we get better and stronger every time that we do. Don't avoid the situations that "make you feel guilty". Walk head-on into them knowing you're not alone and knowing you have the tools to get past it.

Many thanks to these amazing women who were willing to share their stories:

  • Brooke Lehenbauer - Stay-at-home mom & part-time family photographer, Mom to a girl and a boy (3 yo and 7 months)
  • Jackie - Sales/Account Management, Mom to 3 kiddos (5, 3 and 1)
  • Lauren Karas - High school teacher, Mom to 3 yo boy and one on the way!
  • MC - Realtor, Mom to 2 boys (4 1/2 and 2 yo)

Originally posted on The Mother Nurture.

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As parents we do the best we can to keep our kids safe while also letting them experience the world, and sometimes this involves assessing risks and deciding what is appropriate for our individual families.

Every parent makes different choices based on their family's values and needs, and there's no reason for mom shaming—or in this case dad shaming—as Pink recently reminded the world via Instagram.

Pink's defense began when her husband, motocross pro Carey Hart, posted a pic of himself on a motorbike with son Jameson, who is nearly two. Internet commenters criticized Hart's decision and his parenting, suggesting that he was putting Jameson in danger by having him on the bike.

In the photo, Hart and Jameson are sitting on the bike while it is still, but some Instagram users were still very critical of Hart's decision to have Jameson up on the bike with him. Some suggested he was endangering his son, and others stated he was wearing the wrong kind of helmet.

After the controversy, Pink posted a photo of Jameson eating chocolate on her own Instagram, joking, "Chocolate is good for babies, right? Help me Instagram, we can't possibly parent without you."

The joke set some commenters off, reigniting the online debate about Hart's parenting skills. "With your husband being in the spotlight so often with his complete lack of regard for proper care or concern at times with your kids, this comment isn't funny, albeit Jameson is adorable, one Instagram user wrote. "Your husband, I'm sorry, lacks the responsibility your kids need in his care."

Pink replied to the commenter, asking (fairly) how this person could feel like they could judge Hart as a father when they'd only seen him parenting through social media posts. "How often have you spent time with my husband?" Pink asked the commenter. "How often have you watched him parent?"

Through that comment, Pink reminded the world that what we see on social media is just one slice of our very complex and busy lives. It's impossible to really know the thought and care each individual puts into the choices they make for their children.

We make choices for our kids every day and they're going to be different from the choices of the parent next door or the next person in our Instagram feed. Our parenting choices are informed by our individual experiences, our beliefs, and everything else that makes us ourselves, everything that makes us unique.

No parent is perfect, but as parents we are perfectly positioned to choose what is appropriate for our individual children.

And we can also make the choice to respect those who parent differently than we do. No shaming necessary.

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The color experts at Pantone recently named the pinky-orange hue Living Coral as the color of the year for 2019, but the Editors of Nameberry have some other shades in mind for 2019. Like Pantone, though, they're predicting nature-inspired colors won't just be big at the paint store, but at the playground as well.

Yes, natural colors and jewels-inspired hues (along with animal names) are predicted to be big trends for baby names in the coming year.

Nameberry's editors have been tracking the 2018 trends to predict which names parents will be picking in 2019, and the palette is more muted than Pantone's for sure. According to Nameberry's editors, parents are shifting away from the intense hues (like Scarlett, Ruby and Poppy) toward more chill tones.

These are Nameberry's picks for color-inspired names for 2019:

  1. Ash
  2. Fawn
  3. Grey/Gray
  4. Ivory
  5. Lavender
  6. Lilac
  7. Mauve
  8. Moss
  9. Olive
  10. Sage

You don't have to look to the crayon box for baby name inspo to be on trend for next year—you could also look in your jewelry box. According to Nameberry, jewel and gem-inspired names are surging for both boys and girls and some can even be gender neutral.

Namberry is betting some precious babies will be getting these precious names next year:

  1. Amethyst
  2. Emerald
  3. Garnet
  4. Jasper
  5. Jet
  6. Onyx
  7. Opal
  8. Peridot
  9. Sapphire
  10. Topaz

It's not just colors and gems from nature that are trending, but animal-inspired names, too. On-trend parents might look to the forest for more name inspiration in 2019.

According to Nameberry, these animal-based names are set to trend in 2019:

  1. Bear
  2. Falcon
  3. Fox
  4. Hawk
  5. Koala
  6. Lion
  7. Lynx
  8. Otter
  9. Tiger
  10. Wolf

Some of the names Nameberry has predicted here (like Jasper, which was within the official top 200 baby names of 2017, according to the Social Security Administration,) are already fairly popular, while others (like Koala and Bear) are so statistically unpopular right now they aren't even charting on the SSA's baby name list.

Time will tell which of these nature-inspired names can take on Liam and Emma in the near future and whether Coral can go from being Pantone's 2019 pick to parents' pick in 2020.

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