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Sitting around the board room table at work on Friday, somewhere between hearing about the “monthly updates” and eating my 14th Jelly Baby of the morning, I had an epiphany. My manager was talking about the book “How to be Happy at Work” by Annie McKee, and asking us to reflect on whether we were, in fact, happy at work, and how to utilize McKee’s principles in our jobs.


As it turns out, I am happy. I’ve never been happier at work, actually. I’m a psychologist and find it extremely rewarding, challenging, and fulfilling. But my reflection was on my “second job,” aka my life’s work, my main priority: parenting.

Don’t get me wrong, I am happy at home. I love my two-year-old son and my husband to the moon and back. I feel happy much of the time. But this book is about thriving, about long-term, sustainable, fulfillment within your employment. If I’m honest, sometimes this toddler parenting gig feels like a day-by-day type of “March to the finish line” (perhaps the finish of a seemingly unending whiny car ride, or to the blessed relief of bedtime). The principles that McKee refers to in her book are important pillars that she says must be present in our lives to find happiness at work and I guess I started reflecting on whether they were present for me in my most important work. Are they there within our parenting? I think we all need to reflect on that (well, I do, anyway). So what are the pillars?

1 | A sense of purpose

This is us needing to have the chance to contribute to something bigger than ourselves. Yes, arguably, being a parent is doing this in and of itself. But what about those things that we actually used to care about before becoming parents? Are they still a big part of our value system, and if so, are we still fully us if we are neglecting them? Are our kids and families seeing all of who we are and valuing that in us? Think about your passions, causes, the things that gave your life meaning BC (Before Children). The things that you used to happily debate with your loved ones.

Are we keeping up to date with the issues that we care about most? Whether it be the environment, social justice issues, health, hobbies, artistic endeavors, international aid, I bet most of us have something apart from parenting that weighs on our hearts daily. I feel like sometimes when we become parents our worlds suddenly shrink. We become fixed on debates like breast vs formula, co-sleeping or not, and yada yada yada, until we become personally offended if someone makes a different choice to us. We become fixated on all things parenting! We forget that the world is a larger place. That we are larger people.

What is our purpose, and who are we beyond parenting? How can we incorporate these things into our home lives and parenting, in order to be more fully engaged in ourselves, the world, and our families?

2 | Hope

We all need to have a vision that is personal to us. A vision that inspires hope in us. Not just hoping to make it to the next nap, or milestone, or next phase. At work, we often write down our vision statements, our goals, our five year plans. How often do we do that as parents? If every family is like ours (heaven help us all if that’s true) not very often.

Where do you see your family in one month, one year, or five years? What would you most like to accomplish within your home life? What would “success” look like, feel like, smell like even? Would you like to travel, gain a family hobby, support a charity, renovate your backyard as the kids grow, improve your communication? What would that be like? How would it make you feel?

Once you have reflected on this, visualize it – visualization and repetition of it actually work to increase the likelihood of something happening. This is because then our behavior is more likely to align to our vision (think motivation, perseverance, and self-fulfilling prophecies).

3 | Relationships

Resonant, friendly, deep relationships are another key to happiness. Relationships are a crucial component of our parenting journeys. We need friends! Not just people that we can hang out with occasionally and watch our kids play, or people we know because our kids are the same age. (Relationships of convenience, those are called.) We need deep, soul connections to thrive.

I have been guilty of not prioritizing these connections in life. I am an introvert and I have grown up really close to my family. I guess I have subconsciously been of the mindset that I don’t “need” anyone else apart from my husband and family. This mindset followed me when I moved two states away from my family. I have thought I did not need people. But I do. Not all the time … I definitely value my alone time! But I need them in my life. Without them I do feel lonely, separate, different, and lack that sense of belonging in a village that is so necessary. Not only for practical reasons (though they matter) but also for that feeling that is the world not on my shoulders alone.

As well as friends and family, we need positive relationships with our partners (if we have them). It is so, so common for our romantic relationships to be pushed to the sidelines when we have kids. Whether it is feelings of abandonment, neglect, feeling disrespected or put-upon, differing parenting ideals, exhaustion, different priorities, or simple lack of time, our relationships get put under a lot of pressure when we become parents. We need to put some thought into how we can prioritize our relationships, and keep them strong and growing for the sake of everyone’s happiness! It’s so toxic when they are not okay.

These three reasons, McKee concludes, are the keys to thriving and being happy at work. For many of us, parenting is our full-time 24/7 work. It can be incredibly difficult to suddenly be fully emerged in the lives of little humans, 24 hours a day. It can be easy to lose ourselves, our sense of purpose, of hope, of identity, and of our own relationships. For others, me included, parenting is still our 24/7 job – we just may not be physically with our kids for part of the day, while we go to paid work. It is also easy in this case to lose our identity, purpose, and hope, or for it to be directed into our employment rather than into ourselves, our home lives, and our job as parents. Whatever type of parent you are, can I encourage you to think about McKee’s proposed elements for happiness at work?

What is your purpose? What are you here for? What are you passionate about? What contributions do you want you and your family to make to the world? Who are you? What did you do before children that you miss, and want back?

What hope drives you? What is your vision, plan, mission statement for your family?

Who is important in your life? Who is your “person?” Who can you rely on? What do you need from them, and they from you? Have you guys communicated that to each other? What steps can you take to grow these relationships, and help them thrive? What are the barriers to that, and some potential fixes to these?

I think it would help to write these things down, talk about them, and reflect on them sometimes. Visualize yourself living in good relationship with your family and your people, living out your purpose and being hopeful for the future. Think of it often.

Be happy!

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We spend a lot of time prepping for the arrival of a baby. But when it comes to the arrival of our breast milk (and all the massive adjustments that come with it), it's easy to be caught off guard. Stocking up on a few breastfeeding essentials can make the transition to breastfeeding a lot less stressful, which means more time and energy focusing on what's most important: Your recovery and your brand new baby.

Here are the essential breastfeeding tools you'll need, mama:

1. For covering up: A cute nursing cover

First and foremost, please know that all 50 states in the United States have laws that allow women to breastfeed in public. You do not have to cover yourself if you don't want to—and many mamas choose not to—and we are all for it.

That said, if you do anticipate wanting to take a more modest approach to breastfeeding, a nursing cover is a must. You will find an array of styles to choose from, but we love an infinity scarf, like the LK Baby Infinity Nursing Scarf Nursing Cover. You'll be able to wear the nursing cover instead of stuffing it in your already brimming diaper bag—and it's nice to have it right there when the baby is ready to eat.

Also, in the inevitable event that your baby spits-up on you or you leak some milk through your shirt, having a quick and stylish way to cover up is a total #momwin.

2. For getting comfortable: A cozy glider

Having a comfy spot to nurse can make a huge difference. Bonus points if that comfy place totally brings a room together, like the Delta Children Paris Upholstered Glider!

Get your cozy space ready to go, and when your baby is here, you can retreat from the world and just nurse, bond, and love.

3. For unmatched support: A wire-free nursing bra

It may take trying on several brands to find the perfect match, but finding a nursing bra that you love is 100% worth the effort. Your breasts will be changing and working in ways that are hard to imagine. An excellent supportive bra will make this so much more comfortable.

It is crucial to choose a wireless bra for the first weeks of nursing since underwire can increase the risk of clogged ducts (ouch).The Playtex Maternity Shaping Foam Wirefree Nursing Bra is an awesome pick for this reason, and because it is designed to flex and fit your breasts as they go through all those changes.

4. For maximum hydration: A large reusable water bottle

Nothing can prepare you for the intense thirst that hits when breastfeeding. Quench that thirst (and help keep your milk supply up in the process) by always having a water bottle with a straw nearby, like this Exquis Large Outdoor Water Bottle.

5. For feeding convenience: A supportive nursing tank

Experts recommend that during the first weeks of your baby's life, you breastfeed on-demand, meaning that any time your tiny boss demands milk, you feed them. This will help establish your milk supply and get everything off to a good start.

What does this mean for your life? You will be breastfeeding A LOT. Nursing tanks, like the Loving Moments by Leading Lady, make this so much easier. They have built-in support to keep you comfy, and you can totally wear them around the house, or even out and about. When your baby wants to eat, you'll be able to quickly "pop out" a breast and feed them.

6. For pain prevention: A quality nipple ointment

Breastfeeding shouldn't hurt, but the truth is those first days can be uncomfortable. Your nipples will likely feel raw as they adjust to their new job. This will get better! But until it does, nipple ointment is amazing.

My favorite is the Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter. We love that it's organic, and it is oh-so-soothing on your hard-at-work nipples.

Psst: If it actually hurts when your baby latches on, something may be up, so call your provider or a lactation consultant for help.

7. For uncomfortable moments: A dual breast therapy pack

As your breasts adjust to their new role, you may experience a few discomforts—applying warmth or cold can help make them feel so much better. The Lansinoh TheraPearl 3-in-1 Breast Therapy Pack is awesome because you can microwave the pads or put them in the freezer, giving you a lot of options when your breasts need some TLC.

Again, if you have any concerns about something being wrong (pain, a bump that may be red or hot, fever, or anything else), call a professional right away.

8. For inevitable leaks: An absorbing breast pad

In today's episode of, "Oh come on, really?" you are going to leak breastmilk. Now, this is entirely natural and you are certainly not required to do anything about this. Still, many moms choose to wear breast pads in their bras to avoid leaking through to their shirts.

You can go the convenient and disposable route with Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads, or for a more environmentally friendly option, you can choose washable pads, like these Organic Bamboo Nursing Breast Pads.

9. For flexibility: A breast pump

Many women find that a breast pump becomes one of their most essential mom-tools. The ability to provide breast milk when you are away from your baby (and relieve uncomfortable engorged breasts) will add so much flexibility into your new-mom life.

For quick trips out and super-easy in-your-bag transport, opt for a manual pump like the Lansinoh Manual Breast Pump .

If you will be away from your baby for longer periods of time (traveling or working outside the home, for example) an electric pump is your most efficient bet. The Medela Pump In Style Advanced Double Electric Breast Pump is a classic go-to that will absolutely get the job done, and then some.

10. For quality storage: Breast milk bags

Once you pump your liquid gold, aka breast milk, you'll need a place to store it. The Kiinde Twist Pouches allow you to pump directly into the bags which means one less step (and way less to clean).

11. For keeping cool: A freezer bag

Transport your pumped milk back home to your baby safely in a cooler like the Mommy Knows Best Breast Milk Baby Bottle Cooler Bag. Remember to put the milk in a fridge or freezer as soon as you can to optimize how long it stays usable for.

12. For continued nourishment: Bottles

Nothing beats the peace of mind you get when you know that your baby is being well-taken of care—and well fed—until you can be together again. The Philips Avent Natural Baby Bottle Newborn Starter Gift Set is a fan favorite (mama and baby fans alike).

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

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[Editor's Note: Welcome to It's Science, a Motherly column focusing on evidence-based explanations for the important moments, milestones, and phenomena of motherhood. Because it's not just you—#itsscience.]

If you breastfeed, you know just how magical (and trying) it is, but it has numerous benefits for mama and baby. It is known to reduce the likelihood of developing cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis, and cuts the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by half.

If this wasn't powerful enough, scientists have discovered that babies who are fed breast milk have a stomach pH that promotes the formation of HAMLET (Human Alpha-lactalbumin Made Lethal to Tumor cells). HAMLET was discovered by chance when researchers were studying the antibacterial properties of breast milk. This is a combination of proteins and lipids found in breast milk that can work together to kill cancer cells, causing them to pull away from healthy cells, shrink and die, leaving the healthy cells unaffected.

According to researchers at Lund University in Sweden, this mechanism may contribute to the protective effect breast milk has against pediatric tumors and leukemia, which accounts for about 30% of all childhood cancer. Other researchers analyzed 18 different studies, finding that "14% to 19% of all childhood leukemia cases may be prevented by breastfeeding for six months or more."

And recently, doctors in Sweden collaborated with scientists in Prague to find yet another amazing benefit to breast milk. Their research demonstrated that a certain milk sugar called Alpha1H, found only in breast milk, helps in the production of lactose and can transform into a different form that helps break up tumors into microscopic fragments in the body.

Patients who were given a drug based on this milk sugar, rather than a placebo, passed whole tumor fragments in their urine. And there is more laboratory evidence to support that the drug can kill more than 40 different types of cancer cells in animal trials, including brain tumors and colon cancer. These results are inspiring scientists to continue to explore HAMLET as a novel approach to tumor therapy and make Alpha1H available to cancer patients.

Bottom line: If you choose to breastfeed, the breast milk your baby gets from your hard work can be worth every drop of effort.

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Life

Dear friend,

I sat across from you today. You are struggling, you are tired.

As I looked into your eyes I recognized the exhaustion and the fear. I recognized the question, the one that asks, "Am I going to be okay?" I remembered a dark season in my life. I remembered when I was so undone with anxiety that I couldn't take the kids to the beach or even make it out of the house.

I remembered when I had no hope.

I remembered a friend who showed up every single day on my doorstep.

She'd ask,What are you afraid of today?" I'd tell her and she'd listen. She'd really listen…that was the gift. When I'd run all out of words I would sit shaking on my porch trying to feel the sun that beat down all around me but never touched my skin.

Then she would say, You are okay, your kids are okay. This is just fear and anxiety." And I would cry until all the tears were gone.

And the next day she'd be back because I'd already forgotten the truth.

Sometimes we need truth holders in our lives because our grip is not strong enough.

Sometimes we need to stand with each other until the sun comes up.

Right now, you are low. Right now you feel like a fragmented version of yourself. It's okay to fall apart. When you are low, others are high. When you are broken, others are okay.

We have all been undone. We have all been undone and then we get put back together piece by piece, and when we find someone else who is suffering we understand deeper and wider. We can hold space for them because we get it.

So, friend, I take your hand, like she took mine because we will walk through this together.

There have been so many times in the past I've watched friends suffer from a distance because I wasn't sure what to say and I was afraid of making it worse. I made their pain about me, and I still cringe when I think about it. I wish that I'd showed up. I wish I'd been brave.

I'm done letting my fear keep me from staying close.

I will not do it perfectly—in fact, sometimes I might do it awkwardly and terribly. I will probably say the wrong thing. I will probably make you mad.

I'm okay with that now.

I will listen to you until you're all out of words. I will listen, and I will listen and then I will take your hand because you are not alone.

I will take your hand because you are going to be okay.

Whatever you do, do not forget that there are songs still left to sing. There are joyful moments coming around the corner that will take your breath away. This, my friend, feels like everything. It feels all consuming and that hope won't ever come, but it's not true…

The sun will come up.

You will laugh again. You will laugh so hard that your stomach aches and tears spill out. I promise. Things will be funny again.

You will have moments again when you hold your kids and your heart breaks into a million pieces because your love is fuller and more overwhelming than you ever knew it could be.

Those are the moments that it is worth hanging on for. They are the moments that are worth more than a thousand years of everything.

Someday, you will be past this and you will look back and thank God that you're on this side of the storm, and then you will thank yourself because it turns out you are stronger than you knew.

Joy is coming.

It can't resist you. You can't resist it. Even when everything is so dark and dingy and hopeless, hang on, because it will come.

For now, when you can't hope, I will hope for you.

When you can't see, I will see for you.

And one day soon you will feel the sun again on your own.

Love,

Your friend

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Love + Village

Dear second child,
I blinked, and three weeks have passed since I brought you into our world.

As the second-born, you get the privilege of not being the "guinea pig." The mistakes I made at the beginning of my journey into life with a newborn I (probably) won't make with you (though new "mom of two" mistakes will inevitably be made along the way).

This time around, I know that if you have the hiccups 10 times a day, I don't have to call the doctor to ask if you'll be okay.

If you spit up a little after every meal, I don't have to worry that you're not eating enough.

If you've never slept longer than a two-hour stretch in your short little life – and if you're still not sleeping through the night at one year old – that there's nothing wrong with you, and that this too shall pass.

But, also as the second babe to join our family, I quickly realized that my attention has been divided from the moment I knew I was pregnant, and even more so the moment you were born.

This time around, I can't hold you like I did your older brother—as often as I want or whenever I want. I put you down when you're crying or unsettled more times in a day than I'd like to because your older brother spilled his breakfast all over his clothes and needs help getting changed.

Your nursing sessions are often interrupted because there was a loud crash in the other room and your brother? Well, he was far too quiet for far too long.

You get passed around from person to person, not because I don't want to be the one who gets to hold you and comfort you, but because this transition has been hard on your older brother and he needs his mama, too.

Before you were born, I wondered how it would be possible to love two little humans as much as I already loved your brother. But, the moment you were born, my heart doubled in size just for you.

So my sweet second-born, despite the fact that you'll probably always have to fight a little harder to get my attention and be a little louder in order to be heard, I want you to know that I love you, too.

I love your newborn smell and the way you calm down the instant you're in my arms.

I love the way your arms always seem to find a way to free yourself of a swaddle, and the way the single dimple on your right cheek appears along with a little smile when you're dozing off to sleep.

I love the way a bath always calms you down and I even love waking up with you all hours of the night because, this time, these are some of the precious only moments we get to spend uninterrupted—just you and me.

In this ever-evolving journey of motherhood, I've quickly learned to savor all of the moments - the good and the bad. I look at your brother, a walking, talking, beautifully chaotic mess of a toddler, and wonder how two years passed by so quickly. I look at him and realize that every moment—especially the 3 a.m. feed and fussing that follows—is one to be cherished because it simply won't last.

So thank you, my sweet second-born, for this new perspective on motherhood. We've only just met you, but you fill our home and our hearts in ways that only you can. You add more joy and meaning to our days, and you've brought more love into our family in ways that only you, as our second-born, can.

So, my precious second-born: you may not know it yet and it may not always feel like it, but I want you to know that I see you, I hear you, and I love you, too.

Love,
Mama

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Life

We are almost into Pumpkin Spice season—this summer, this month and this week have flown by! But don't worry, we've been taking note of the good news stories you need to read when you have a moment to slow down.

Grab a coffee and get comfortable, mama, because these are the headlines that made us smile this week:

This kindergarten father is total #dadgoals

As Today reports, dad Jamie DeSpain is going viral for making his kindergarten daughter's day by taking her stuffed cat, Sophia, to work with him and putting her to work.

DeSpain's oldest daughter, Hadley, had been taking Sophia the cat with her to school as she made the big leap into kindergarten this month, but last week her dad realized she'd forgotten Sophia in the van when he'd dropped her off at school. DeSpain didn't want to cause an interruption at school, so he just brought Sophia into work with him and began texting his wife, Erica, photos of Sophia doing work around the office.

"I kind of have a goofy streak and Hadley really appreciates goofiness," Jamie DeSpain, who lives in Madison, Alabama, told Today Parents. "Combine that with her love for stuffed animals...[it] made for the perfect dad setup."

He took pics of Sophia taking phone calls, doing emails, having coffee and even having a pensive look out the window, which DeSpain captioned: "wondering what Hadley is doing."

When dad got home, his daughter was thrilled with her stuffed animal's big day out and was happy to be reunited with both her father and Sophia. Hadley was so thrilled with the experience that she asked her dad to repeat the mission the next day with her stuffed dog, Mocha. The cotton-filled canine was spotted doing various office tasks and, of course, drinking some coffee. 😂

Hadley's mama says her husband's antics were a welcome bit of fun and helped the family remember that while kindergarten is a big step, Hadley's still a little kid (and it seems her dad is too, at least at heart).

"Sending Hadley off to kindergarten has been a big transition for us as a family, but this activity reminded us that she's still little," Erica DeSpain said."We want to soak up that childlike wonder as much as we can, and this activity was a great way to do just that."

We think office buildings are about to see an infestation of stuffed animals!

This father's viral Instagram video is total #dadgoals

Father Jimmy Howell has gone viral for giving his 9-month-old daughter Kensley an adorable pedicure.

"She got a little crazy with me today due to the fact that I was filing her nails a little too rough, y'all see why I can't do anything for free, I'm charging her next week, just watch," he captioned the video he posted to Instagram.

"Kensey, this is free," He jokes in the video after Kensley seems to protest the spa service for moment. 😂

With the power of dad humor, Howell not only got the baby's toes clipped (which is hard to do!) but got her laughing, too. He says he has weekly "spa talks" with his daughter, so it's no wonder his baby nail skills are so on point.

Viral kindness: "Please ask me if I have sunscreen" 

We have all been there—sometimes you're the one who needs an extra diaper and sometimes you're the one who has one to give. The point is, every parent needs help sometimes and most are happy to pay it forward when it is their turn to give a diaper to a stranger in need.

Wisconsin mom Shelby Beck captured this perfectly in a Facebook post this week after she went to the park with her daughter and a fellow mama had to ask her for a favor.

When the stranger approached Beck, she could tell she was uncomfortable. "She shrugged her shoulders and quietly said 'I'm embarrassed to even ask, but do you happen to have sunscreen we can use?' As if she was somehow ashamed that she forgot to pack sunscreen today." Beck wrote.

She continued her Facebook post with an open letter to parents who find themselves in the same situation as the sheepish stranger.

"Dear fellow mamas,

Please ask me if I have sunscreen. Ask if I have baby wipes, diapers or even extra snacks.

Ask me if your toddler can sit down and play with us while you find a shady bench to nurse your newborn.

Hand me your phone and ask me to take a picture of you with your sweet babies - we all know mamas aren't in enough photos.

Ask for help. Ask for love. Ask for anything.

Even though we are strangers, please ask me.

It's not easy being responsible for little humans but it's easier if we help each other out.
We're all in this together.❤️"

We could not agree with Shelby more. Mamas helping mamas is a beautiful thing (and asking for sunscreen could even lead to making a mom friend!).

Oh, and one last thing...

Oh, and if you need a good cry this weekend, check out this viral Michael Bublé video that has parents everywhere crying about our kids growing up. Team Motherly could not get through it without sobbing! Just like summer, their childhoods will be over before we know it so take some time to connect with your babies this weekend. They're off to kindergarten today—off to college tomorrow! 😭


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News
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