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I anxiously awaited the premier of the movie “Bad Moms” all summer long. I heard fellow moms talking about it for months, rallying packs of moms to see it together, and I was excited to find out why this movie was resonating with so many women in a way that no movie had done in years.


When I finally got to see it, the film really hit home for me, as a therapist who has helped thousands of moms struggle with feelings of guilt and inadequacy, and as a mom of three kids. It also hits home with millions of moms out there who struggle with the feeling that they have no idea what they’re doing, and that they’re not doing a good enough job.

Motherhood has become an all encompassing identity. Moms feel that it’s their fundamental role in life to be the “ideal mom”: To do it all, know it all, BE it all, and make sure your kids turn out the way you want them to. This pressure has only been exacerbated by social media, which leads moms to feel even more inadequate about the mother they are, as it certainly appears that all of their friends have the “perfect” family on Facebook.

It’s no wonder that today’s moms feel overstressed and overworked, and trapped in a culture of motherhood in which no matter what they’re doing as moms, they’re not measuring up. All of this is enough to make moms feel like they’re going crazy, and then they beat themselves up for feeling crazy, which makes them feel even crazier!

So, why are we all so friggin’ crazy? Why is it that we can all relate to Kristin Bell’s character, Kiki, who fantasizes about being in a car accident that’s just bad enough to put her in the hospital so she can sleep and binge watch TV? It’s because we are ALL overly identified with the voice of our inner critic – the voice in our mind who is constantly evaluating, judging, comparing, and telling us where we don’t measure up, what we have to fix, change, or perfect, and how we could do things better. The more we listen to her, the crazier we feel.

Our inner critic has us convinced that no matter what we’ve achieved as mothers, no matter how much we’ve done for our kids, we are still not good enough. As Kiki says in the movie, “In today’s day and age, it’s impossible to be a good mom!” REALLY??!!

The PTA president, Gwendolyn, is the personification of our Inner Critic. Her character represents everything that we think we should be. She’s doing it “right.” She is the ideal woman. The epitome of perfection. And, if we keep listening to her, our inner critic’s advice about how we need to change, fix, or perfect ourselves, we can finally get to the point where we feel like we’re doing it right.

Except, no matter what we do and how hard we try as moms, we never, ever reach that arrival point. It’s like we’re all hamsters on the hamster wheel. Running and running and running, and still, we feel the same.

It’s time to STOP THE INSANITY! Does that mean you just let everything go, drink yourself into oblivion, slack off, and throw wild PTA parties like the “Bad Moms” did? NO! It’s about recognizing that you are listening to a crazy person in your mind, thinking that it’s YOU. It’s about learning the difference between YOU and your crazy, delusional, perfectionistic, inner critic. She’s the one who’s responsible for so much of the suffering in your life, especially when it comes to motherhood.

The truth is that the feelings of inner peace, joy, and contentment that all moms crave come from learning how to separate yourself from your inner critic. It’s about acquiring the tools to stop giving energy and attention to her attempts to improve, perfect, fix, or change either you or your children.

Here are 5 tools to separate you from your “Bad Mom” inner critic:

What is the story your inner critic has been telling you about the mom that you are?

Pay attention to the areas where you’re struggling or suffering the most in being a mom. What are the beliefs that your inner critic is convincing you are “Truths?” Even though this may feel like the truth, you’re identifying with the expectations of your inner critic, who expects you and your life to fit a perfectionistic picture. When life doesn’t fit this picture (which is often the case), your inner critic will convince you that there’s something wrong, and it is up to you to make it right.

Try catching your inner critic in the act of hustling you into believing her story. See her story as just that: A STORY! You’ll know when she’s trying to hustle you by watching your suffering, and all the feelings that come along with it.

See your inner critic’s story as repetitive mind chatter.

For example, if you are angry about forgetting about a birthday party your child was invited to, how is your inner critic making you feel about yourself? Can you identify this feeling at different times throughout your life, even before you became a mother?

The story of the inner critic is repetitive and unchanging. The inner critic will just keep looking for more evidence to support the story. That is how a simple mistake (that most parents make) can make you feel like the worst mother in the world. The feelings your inner critic creates today are the same feelings she created when you were eight, 17, and 30!

How is your inner critic trying to control your children?

Your inner critic needs your children to fit her perfectionistic idea of who they should be. If they fall short of her expectations, she will convince you it’s YOUR fault. She will make you feel small, inadequate, and incompetent. To make sure that you don’t feel that emotional pain, she will try to control and fix your kids.

When your inner critic tries to fix and control your kids, that control and criticism often causes your kids to behave in ways that are the polar opposite of her expectations. When you can get your inner critic out of your parenting, and let your kids be themselves, they end up being more of the kids that you desire them to be in the first place: loving, connected, happy kids.

Give your inner critic a name that fits her personality.

(Gwendolyn, perhaps?!) Notice how and when she speaks to you. Notice the body sensations she evokes in you (shoulders tense, knots in your stomach). Notice what mood she puts you in. Notice if you want to eat when you’re not hungry, sleep when you’re not tired, binge watch TV, or worse. Is she in the driver’s seat of your life again? Get her out! Stop giving her the power to tell you where you’re not enough or how you should live your life!

What unrealistic expectations do you need to let go of in order to take your power back from your inner critic?

When my 15-year-old son leaves a trail of dirty laundry and wet towels from the bathroom to his room yet again, my inner critic will chime in that he is being lazy, selfish, and disrespectful. If I listened to her, I would blast my son from here to the moon with criticism and anger. If I can let go of my inner critic, I can remember that my son is acting like a typical teenage boy.

Of course, I will make him accountable for cleaning up his mess. But instead of asking him through my inner critic’s criticism and anger, I can ask him from my calm and centered self. And I assure you, when I am parenting him instead of my inner critic, my son is a completely different human being.

The bottom line is this: The only thing that makes you feel like a bad mom, and then try to do more and be more to feel like a good mom, is your automatic habit of listening to your inner critic and thinking that it’s YOU. The more you practice separating yourself from the grip of your inner critic, the less crazy you will feel, and maybe you can recognize the mother that you REALLY are .

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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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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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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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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