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Among my favorite moments as a parent is when I see my children become completely absorbed in activities they love. I often notice my 15-year-old daughter engrossed in writing. At times, I can stand in her doorway for several minutes watching as she is caught up in the flow of her thoughts, entirely unaware of my presence. 


Recently, as she selected her classes for the following school year, I suggested that she enroll in an English course with an emphasis on writing, naively assuming that her interests carry over to school. 

“Ugh…” she groaned. “I HATE writing, and I’m terrible at it!”

“What are you talking about?” I probed. “I see you writing in your notebook all the time. And what about the songs you write, sing, and record?”

“That’s not writing,” she retorted. “No one sees or grades that, so it doesn’t count. And it’s not like I’m writing stories or essays. I’m just writing down what I’m thinking…”

According to my daughter, writing in school feels as though someone is requiring her to open up her mind and lay her thoughts and feelings out for the teacher to critique. Academic writing feels dry and devoid of purpose, or as she would say, “BORING.”

The ability to write well is an important life skill that most people use throughout their careers, whether they become authors or accountants. Writing is a critical tool for communication, processing emotions, and exchanging ideas. At times, writing is highly personal: a process by which we think and analyze in an attempt to sort out jumbled and complicated thoughts. Writing can take an enormous amount of effort and practice in order to convey intended meaning in a concise manner.

How can we encourage children to write, and is it possible to make writing spontaneous and fun? Fortunately, there are several ways to achieve this goal. Parents can play a central role in helping their children enjoy writing, while encouraging them to write more without adding pressure and stress to their overcrowded schedules.

Be an avid reader

Parents can talk to children about authors and their craft when reading books aloud. They may discuss what the author might have been thinking or what messages the author is trying to convey. They can intentionally notice and call attention to interesting language and may wonder out loud why an author used a particular word or phrase to describe a character or event.

The more exposure children have to well written material containing diverse vocabulary, complex sentence structures, and interesting subject matter, the more inclined they will be to eventually incorporate similar language and structure into their own writing.  

Let children see writing in action

The very best way to spur children on to particular behaviors is to model that desired behavior. When children see adults writing, they recognize it as a regular part of people’s days, and they’ll begin to incorporate it into their play in a natural way. As they grow older, children tend to continue the habits they see demonstrated on a regular basis.  

Make different writing utensils readily available

Writing is more likely to occur when children have something to write on and write with. Notepads, pens, pencils, and crayons immediately come to mind, but other forms of writing may provide additional amusement.

A chalkboard or dry-erase easel can be a fun way to leave messages between siblings. Children may add colorful artwork to give it the look of a coffee shop display board. Pens of different colors and textures and paper of various sizes and colors add to the fun. Magnetic letters and words might elicit interaction, incorporating creativity and humor in common areas. 

Act as a scribe for young children

Children love to see their words in print and derive much pleasure from hearing their own words read back to them. When your children tell stories, whether retelling a memory or making something up, try writing down what they say word for word.

When their words are typed and printed out, children feel especially empowered. They can add illustrations to enhance their stories and create their own books to be read over and over again. Children can also dictate catchy captions when parents post photos on social media for friends and family to see.

Communicate through writing within the family

Keep a running grocery list on the fridge, with the expectation that all family members will add items to the list. Place notes in lunches and leave messages in unexpected places with helpful reminders or simply a funny joke, riddle, or rhyme. Write letters to each other or to friends and family far away.

Whatever the case may be, use writing as a daily form of interaction between people who care for each other and wish to communicate.

Provide journals, time to write in them, and respect for privacy

Children need time alone to be able to think and process, with the option to write if they choose to. When children’s privacy is respected within appropriate boundaries, they learn that they have ownership of their thoughts and emotions processed through writing. They also learn that writing does not have to be evaluated to be meaningful. One of the primary benefits of writing lies in the process itself. 

When we make writing an integral part of children’s lives at home as well as at school, we help them develop competence and confidence in their writing ability. As we intentionally incorporate writing into daily family routines, we give our kids the opportunity to play with the medium, thus increasing the potential for developing passion for the art of writing.

As for my daughter, I’m confident that as she matures, she will eventually combine the love for writing she develops at home with the skills she learns at school to successfully incorporate writing into her daily life and chosen career. 

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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

Luckily, finding a system to help you plan out your days can help reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life—which we are all for.

Here are eight planners we love that'll quickly take you from "What is happening?!" to "Look what I did!"

1. Day Designer

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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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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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