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It’s a shining new year. Another enjoyable holiday season is behind us, adding to our memories. Our timelines are flooded with the exotic locations our friends visited, the funny things their kids said and did, the mishaps we experienced, the resolutions for the year ahead and, of course, the “year-in-review” videos of everybody around us.


We revel in the likes, reactions, and recommendations, but forget that there’s so much more to what we share online than just reactions from friends. Our digital activity is slowly but surely building our digital identities, a very strong social factor in the age of the internet. As a parent in the millennial age, our understanding of our digital identities is crucial.  

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A study conducted by Pew Research Center in 2012 found that parents spend more time online than non-parents. This is especially true for parents of children who are also on social media, and parents get on social media in an attempt to monitor their children’s digital lives. Another possible reason is that parents experience significantly more social isolation than non-parents, and social media provides an opportunity to fill that void.

Children themselves can run into problems from over-identifying with their online personas. Kids today have a constantly experiencing little spikes of dopamine from the reactions of their friends on the internet, and this increases the chance they’ll become addicted to social media. The low minimum age requirement of 13 for setting up a social media profile makes this all the more likely.

Most alcoholics and smokers were introduced to these substances during their teenage years when their brains are much more vulnerable to addition, it’s not unlikely this would also be true for social media addiction. Teenagers project a filtered version of their lives to their friends, while also seeing a filtered version of their friends’ lives, denying them the joy of a real friendship. Even though they indulge in a lot of fun activities with their friends, many of them do not experience the security the comes from the strength of truly deep and meaningful bonds.

In an interview I conducted for our Momspirations series with Cat Coode, a digital identity expert and founder of BinaryTattoo, we spoke about what parents can do to navigate the complex world of digital imprints and identities. The name BinaryTattoo signifies the permanent nature of our digital imprints, and Cat’s mission is to educate people about how the digital world really works.

Cat’s recommendations include:

Remember that profile photos are always public.

No matter how many privacy settings exist, profile photos are always public. This means that people all over the world have access to them. Also, by putting up pictures of children as profile photos, we are allowing public photo crawlers to easily identify your child alongside your name. Coupled with facial recognition technology, which a majority of networks have begun using, it’s doubly easy to identify and track the target.

Children typically have a digital identity by the sixth month of their lives, although some may have one before they’re even born including ultrasound images and other details. By the time they’re old enough to sign up for their own accounts, they typically have about 2000 photos defining them online.

The permanent nature of these photos leave a lasting impact on the lives of these kids, with their potential employers seeking them out, or even leaving them open to heckling by peers at a later stage. Many children are left vulnerable to feelings of embarrassment during the difficult adolescent years and also later in life.

Countries like France are already taking drastic steps to stop this trend of parents putting up pictures of their children, with parents facing prison for sharing their children’s photos indiscriminately.

Create a family digital contract.

We often sign contracts before undertaking major commitments. It’s helpful to treat the child’s digital world with the same level of respect, rigor, and commitment. A digital contract is an agreement between the parent and child around the use of devices and online networks.

The child’s part of the contract could include things like:

  • Agreement on not using the device to abuse, bully or threaten others.
  • Agreement that anything uncomfortable should be immediately brought to the notice of the parents.
  • The number of hours of use, purpose of use, places they can and can’t use the device, etc.
  • The knowledge that everything that goes online will remain there permanently.

The parent’s part of the contact could include:

  • What amount of control the parent will exercise on the child’s online activity
  • Agreement about how they will learn to navigate the digital world together.

Get them to show you how they use the app.

Parents might be under the impression that they’re aware of the uses of a given application. Yet, the way kids use it might be entirely different from the way a parent uses it. As in the case of a recent outrage, a mom discovered her 12-year-old girl using an app in a particularly dangerous manner – live-streaming from her bedroom.

Cat is of the opinion that the relationship between kids and social media/technology can be likened to underage drinking. Every parent can warn their kids about the dangers of underage drinking, yet they’ll try it anyway. The better approach is to equip the kids and yourself with the right information.

“When parents have access to children’s passwords, the child will go ahead and create additional secret accounts that their parents have no clue about.”

Steer clear of providing false information.

Children know a great deal about technology. Toddlers are given phones to keep them engaged, and the consequence is that children are far more savvy with technology than adults. When my daughter has a science project coming up, I see messages flying on Whatsapp groups (still on my phone, thankfully). Kids can’t wait to get on apps that help them connect, but they might require their own email.

When your kid is not yet 13, and you’re considering opening an email account for them, one of the easiest options is to lie about their age.

It might seem innocuous enough, but  parents should be aware that most programs will fire a switch when the child is officially eighteen. At that time, the child will be exposed to direct targeting, advertising, and features meant for adults – even though your child is not actually the right age.

Cat explains, “If any trouble were to arise from the interactions from this additional content, it could get blamed on the parent since they legally agreed on their child’s age.”

Equip yourself to deal with cyberbullying

Cyberbullying has emerged as a top parenting concern, even displacing teenage pregnancies and substance abuse.

Cyberbullying can include repeated targeted messaging to a select person in the group, stealing passwords, misusing information, disseminating false information, spreading inappropriately morphed images, direct threats, etc.

Reports suggest that most children don’t report issues with bullying to their parents, the primary fear being that they’ll be banned from using the network. This might be most instinctive and easiest thing to do when parents find out about cyberbullying, yet experts warn against this approach. The threat of being pulled away from the network will increase the peer pressure. Instead, it helps to calmly assess the extent of the bullying. 

It’s important to equip ourselves with knowledge on how to report abuse on the internet. Social media networks support ways to reach out and report offensive comments and content. (Here is a comprehensive list on how to report internet trolls and cyberbullies.)

“Always take screenshots of the offensive posts before you disconnect from the user in case you need evidence of the trolling or bullying,” advises Cat.

Create a positive image.

Help your child to maintain a positive image online. Practice the pause before sharing anything online and guide them to do the same. Social media platforms are designed to make it easy to share thoughts instantly, but it’s helpful to remember that what you put out there is permanent and will serve as a reflection of who you are.

Maintain positive, respectful, unambiguous language while sharing your thoughts online. Refrain from making derogatory comments about someone’s appearance, religion, ethnicity, etc.

Cat also suggests working to maintain neutral language. For example, the comment, “Did you see Cat’s shirt?” could be interpreted as either positive (complimentary) or negative (mocking). Better to put, “I liked Cat’s shirt” or, “Did you see Cat’s shirt? I like it.”

The expression “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” is very appropriate for social media.

Even in cases where we might think that the message is meant only for a certain recipient (as in private chat apps), it’s important to follow this rule. The app’s servers store these messages and the receiver also could store it through a screenshot.

Cat also recommends creating and maintaining a LinkedIn account for anyone over the age of 16. The professional nature of the network does not require any personal information and allows you to have a positive digital identity.

Raising the current generation is very different from the way we were raised. Our kids are infinitely smarter and savvier, but also lonelier. Their concept of fun is different, as is their understanding of friends. All adolescents go through the phase of identity crisis, but the pressure of looking good in front of peers all the time can have a lasting impact, and even lead to dire consequences.

As parents, it’s time we stepped up and took the time to understand the digital phenomenon in a deep, engaged, and responsible manner. After all, the internet is what we make it. 

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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Can you believe it's already time to start decorating for the holidays? And this year, Target is making it easier than ever to create inviting holiday spaces that are still neat, organized and clutter-free. Whether your style is whimsical, traditional or rustic, there are plenty of neutral creams, frosty whites and touches of evergreen that will take you through the holidays and well into the new year with style.

This holiday also marks the 3-year anniversary of the launch of Joanna Gaines' Hearth & Hand with Magnolia line. The collection features nearly 300 new pieces from gifting and décor to entertaining. Oh, and this season they have faux Christmas trees!

Ready to create your own modern winter wonderland at home? Grab our favorite minimalist piece:

Joy wire Christmas wreath

Joy wire Christmas wreath

The word "Joy" isn't a holiday classic for nothing—it's sure to bring lots of smiles and laughs to any home. And when it's atop the garland in this festive wreath, it's an instant pick-me-up. Plus, for an extra twist: This comes pre-strung with white LED bulbs for a little light to brighten dark spaces.

$45

Mini cable-knit stocking

Mini cable-knit stocking

This stocking brings simplistic holiday cheer to just about any living space. This mini size is perfect for little ones or if you just want stockings that don't take up too much space.

$4

Faux white pine garland

Faux white pine garland

Bring the outdoors indoors with a garland that can be framed around your door. Or add holiday spirit to your table runner with a garland centerpiece. We love how realistic this one looks for such an affordable price.

$24.99

Whitewash advent calendar

Whitewash advent calendar

Let's be honest, advent calendars are nice, but some have gone a bit overboard in how complicated they are. But not this one. The cutout shape of a tree features rows of numbers, while a roaming wreath moves the countdown along. Simple, yet chic.

$20

Round tree skirt

Round tree skirt

No tree is complete without a beautiful tree skirt. This striped one is a must-have for a farmhouse-inspired atmosphere. Even better if you want a splash of rustic charm that matches your other holiday décor.

$39.99

Mini marquee star wall sign

Mini marquee star wall sign

Brighten up your living room with this attention-grabbing statement piece. Hang the star sign on your entryway wall to help welcome guests, or place it on your mantel, shelf or end table alongside other accents to add touches of holiday cheer in a minimalist way.

$8

Ceramic house decorative figurine

Ceramic house decorative figurine

This tiny house with windows, door and a chimney lends realistic, whimsical appeal, but the solid ceramic design allows it to be used from season to season. Place a small light inside to light up your mantle when standard candles won't suffice.

$8

Wood garland

Wood garland

Sometimes less is more! Upgrade your staircase or tree with this simplistic wooded garland. Pair with fresh cedar and grapevine twigs to create a striking focal point on your home.

$12.99

Joy wall decor

Joy wall decor

Create holiday cheer in a small way by adding holiday wall art that sparks a bit of joy.

For a refined look, the decor offers a hardwood frame and the sawtooth back allows for easy display on tiny spaces that need a touch of holiday spirit.

$9.99

Stocking holder

Stocking holder

Minimalists will rejoice for this multi-tasking stocking holder—acting as both festive signage and a holder for multiple stockings. It's simple, charming and will look great on your mantle for years to come.

$29.99
Holiday Shopping Guides

Madison Vining, mama of six, recently posted an honest message that went viral on Instagram. In it she described how we can't really have the full picture of someone's life just by what they post on social media. It's little fragments of their life, which probably leave out the really good moments when people decide to put the phone down to be present, and also the really bad moments they don't want documented.

The post, which has almost 12,000 likes and hundreds of comments, received a lot of praise from other parents thanking her for hitting the nail on the head.

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The post reads:

"Instagram stories. Let's talk.

If someone uses the maximum amount of stories allowed in a day (all the teeny tiny dots) guess what? All together, it totals less than an hour of their 24-hour day. Does that surprise you? It's true. It's a peek of 1/24th of their day. Furthermore, it's probably the calmest parts. After all, when was the last time you got into a fight with your husband and thought "Hang on, let me insta-story this!" or had your hands full of screaming babies and thought "Hang on... let me try and hold a phone, too!"

I really want to challenge you.

Before you look at her life and become jealous: you likely did not see her raise her voice as she struggled through schoolwork with her kids, or her picking up trash after the dog ripped it up and dragged it all over the driveway, or her doctor give her a terrifying diagnosis, or her son's preschool teacher call and say he's been a problem... Again. Or her crying because she hates her body and hasn't felt like herself in so long. Or her going to bed each day feeling guilty and like she didn't do enough for everyone. Or her husband being out of work. Or her dad who walked out on her as a kid and it still hurts. Or her burning dinner and yelling a swear word in front of her kids.

Yeah, you don't see all the bad.

But you know what? Before you look at her life and become critical, know that you didn't see her singing worship music and taking extra time as she changed her baby's diaper. You didn't see her driving all the way to recycle center when the trash would have been easier. You didn't see her close her laptop, close her eyes, and stop to pray for someone she doesn't know. You didn't see her tell her daughter, "Just keep killing them with kindness, baby" as she sobbed in her arms about a bully. You didn't see her give up "me time" to prioritize date night with her husband. You didn't see her take her oldest to lunch. You didn't see her anonymous donation.

You don't see a lot of the beautiful things that happen in her life and in her heart, because they're sacred and the first thought that pops into her mind isn't, "I should grab my phone right now."

You don't see it all. Be kind to one another."

Thank you for saying what many think, mama.

Life

Do you feel it?

That little spark ✨ in the air that only comes around this time of year is starting to buzz and pop around us. There's nothing quite like the joy and excitement that comes with counting down to the holidays—especially with your kids who think last Christmas was forever ago.

And what better way to count down to Christmas than with an Advent calendar? We've rounded up our favorites that you can use year after year, mama.

House advent calendar

It's perfectly neutral to go with any type of holiday decor, but is made to bring a spark of magic and fun as your kids rush each morning to find out what's inside the tiny drawers.

$55.30

Advent calendar wreath

This has to be the most unique advent calendar we've ever seen. We love everything about it: The simple metal hoop, the greenery and the 24 kraft boxes that can be filled with goodies for both adults and kids. It's so pretty, we might even leave it up past Christmas!

$35

Countdown to Christmas advent calendar

We love that you can fill this one with your own treats that can change as your kids grow. And it doesn't have to be sweets. It can be filled with stickers, little toys, handmade goodies and more.

$38

Modern farmhouse Christmas countdown

No treats required for this simple, beautiful sign.

$34.95

Metal advent calendar

This sleek metal sign comes with 25 small muslin bags and 30 cards you can tuck into each one. The cards have an activity or kind gesture you and your kids can do to celebrate the season.

$40

Ernie and Irene llama advent calendar

Add a touch of whimsy and coziness with this sweet calendar featuring a knit llama.

$128

DIY advent calendar kit

For the crafty mamas in the group, this sweet kit has everything you and your family need to create your advent calendar together. Once you've assembled all the houses, you can fill it with whatever treats your family will love.

$36

Customizable advent calendar

This sweet and modern fabric calendar can be customized with your family name or cherished holiday phrase. It also comes with a set of 24 activity cards you can pop into each pocket.

$107

Clever Creations traditional wooden Christmas advent calendar

Clever Creations Traditional Wooden Christmas Advent Calendar

This beautiful calendar is a showpiece. It lights up to create a cozy and festive scene.

$43

Light-up stacking house glitter advent calendar

Enjoy a tower of pre-lit cottages that will light up your home each day leading up to Christmas.

$149

My Kindness advent calendar

My Kindness Advent Calendar

The holidays are all about giving—and that doesn't stop with just material items. We can give in the form of kindness every single day, and this calendar helps us do just that.

$75

Blue and gray Christmas socks advent calendar garland

We love the twist on a traditional calendar with this sweet garland of 24 stockings.

$29.69

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Even though I'm almost halfway through my pregnancy, I still don't trust that I'm pregnant. Some people might feel this way in the beginning of theirs (at least for a little while); shocked into disbelief that some very specific cells in our bodies can become babies. But I have a hard time believing because of my bump. Or rather, because I don't appear to have one at all.

I thought the bump would be a big part of my pregnancy and I'm bummed it's not. I assumed it would knight me into the world of impending motherhood, where you hold a funeral for all the clothes you will never fit into again; where the other people in your yoga class think you're being lazy but they don't realize you have to modify the poses so you don't squish the baby; and where you believe (unreasonably) that your dog will calm down on walks because he senses you're suddenly much more afraid of falling.

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Even without it, I do get a lot of reminders that I'm pregnant: My nipples itch constantly. I need to use the bathroom every 30 minutes (sometimes 20!). I just started getting heartburn, which I've never had before. My hobbies are picking fights with my husband, going to sleep at 8pm and not knowing what to eat for lunch because nothing is appetizing. Today I did, however, put salt on a half sour pickle.

But I'm still skeptical because my body hasn't changed. If you saw me on the street today, you would not be able to tell I'm expecting a boy in April.

I've coveted the baby bump ever since I experienced a miscarriage earlier this year. With that pregnancy, I had no symptoms at all (no nausea, no stomach twinges, no breast pain, no nothing), which I thought was a little weird, but I assumed everything would be fine. Then after the doctor confirmed I miscarried at six weeks, it made sense why I didn't feel anything.

When I found out I was pregnant this time, I was obsessed with what and how I felt and I interpreted every tiny disruption from the norm as an assurance the baby was still in there and okay. This helped ease my anxiety for a while.

A second failed pregnancy felt imminent when friends and acquaintances began remarking that I was "not showing" or "hardly showing." It seemed that while I had accumulated many pieces of pregnancy that I didn't have before, I was still missing the most universally accepted indicator I was doing a good job supporting the growth of a healthy baby: The bump.

But since I don't have it, it feels like I'm already a bad mother. It feels like my body is gaslighting me. Am I even really pregnant if there's no bump to indicate I am? It's easy to explain the symptoms away without one, as if they are caused by other factors like the weather or doing too much physical activity or just being in my 30s. It's feels like my body is betraying me. After all I've been through, my body can't (or won't) do the biggest thing that would reassure me this pregnancy is going to work out? What other mischief is it capable of?

The longed baby bump arrives at different times during pregnancy for different people and I know there are no benefits to comparing my pregnancy to anyone else's. The best thing for my health (and therefore the health of the baby) is to try and remain as calm as possible. There's no evidence to suggest anything's wrong with the baby. All my blood tests come back normal, as do all the routine screens for things like spina bifida and trisomies.

But once you doubt your body for the first time, it's very easy to do it again. From there, it's not long until you're doubting each individual piece of yourself. In addition to struggling with the fact that I don't have a bump, I also worry about my motherly intuition—that special sauce that will get me through the toughest parts of having a newborn. It would be nice if I could simply acquire it before the birth, like the baby bottles or the baby bathtub or any of the other numerous items on our baby shower registry.

Friends and family say it doesn't happen that way—it shows up after birth. This doesn't seem right! It feels like I need to have these instincts before the baby arrives. They all say, "It's hard to believe, but you'll be fine. Once the baby is here, that's when your instincts kick in. It's almost like you wake up one morning and you know enough to get through the coming days." This may be acceptable to other people, but I find it hard to believe because I have only ever been uncomfortable around infants.

I don't want my child to doubt himself the way I doubt myself. I would like him to be confident in his skills, his knowledge, in who he is as a person. I also know that in order for him to be this way, I have to show him how.

So for the next five months, I'm going to practice trusting myself. I'm going to trust my body -- that it will do what I expect it to do, which is help my baby develop and grow until he can be born. Even if it doesn't look like the bodies of any other pregnant people I see, I will believe it is working in my favor. Even if it is not as obvious that I am pregnant as I think it should be.

I'm also not going to worry I don't know enough to have a baby. I'm sure someone will say to me soon, no one knows enough to have a baby before they have a baby. Until they say it, I'm going to say it to myself. I will say it to myself when I am in the shower and when I am loading the dishwasher and when I am looking for something to watch on Netflix and when I am reading a book that I am not sure if I'm enjoying. And I will say it to pregnant women when they see I have a baby and ask for advice.

I will trust that I am going to be a good mother, for him.

Life
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