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I’m Not the Mom Who Makes Halloween Costumes: A Story of Self-Acceptance

In preparation for Halloween, I didn’t wonder if this would be the year I finally learn how to use a sewing machine. I didn’t visit the craft store, hoping to be hit with creative inspiration as I stood in the aisles staring at rows of feathers and beads, felt and pipe cleaners. When I asked my kids what they wanted to be for Halloween, I had no secret agenda for them to pick something that seemed easy to throw together from brilliantly repurposed items.

Instead, giddy with freedom and happiness, I put the kids in the car and we headed straight for the second-hand shop to buy costumes.

Store-bought costumes are the eventual outcome in my house every year. So what made this year different? These days, I no longer harbor a shred of illusion about magically becoming the kind of mom who makes creative homemade Halloween costumes happen. That mom lives and thrives in other women, but not in me. She’s not in there waiting to blossom. And that’s okay.

There’s plenty we can all agree we should do for our kids, like feed them, show them love and affection, read to them, and teach them to do the right thing in various situations. What about the other, nonessential things we pressure ourselves to do and be for our kids? Not the stuff we’re already good at or genuinely want to learn, but the things we’ve assumed or convinced ourselves we should be doing. What if we could let those things go and simply be who we are as people within the context of parenting? How much happier would the whole family be?

You know the mom I was sure I could morph into with a little time and effort. She’s the one who spends joyful afternoons with her kids, creating dolls made of acorns and birch bark and wool felt. The one who thrives on the challenge of taking her kids’ Halloween ideas and whipping them into works of fabulous costume art – all while involving the children in the most nurturing and enriching ways. If not the one on the cover of books filled with fun and “simple” family crafting projects, at least the one who actually uses said books instead of just buying them.

Gradually, I figured out I can stand in awe and admiration of these moms without wishing to be them. And I’m a lot happier for it.  

My kids are better off as well. I doubt they’ve suffered any major psychological scars from my past yearnings for joyful craftiness. But my attitude may have put a bit of a damper on their second favorite holiday.

Because of my nagging feeling that there was something I should be doing, but in all likelihood was about to fall short of (again), I approached Halloween with an air of uptight crankiness and dissatisfaction. Having dropped this baggage, I can approach it with excitement and focus on having fun with my kids. And they’re as thrilled as they’ve always been with their store-bought costumes.

In discussing this with friends, it turns out I wasn’t the only one putting this kind of pressure on myself. My friend Jody said, “I have yet to fully allow myself to accept not being that mom. Every year I vow to make a homemade costume – and end up getting something at the mall. Thanks for telling me it’s okay.” 

Bernadette, who is an artist but chooses to spend her time and energy on other projects, said, “I can’t tell you the relief I feel when we buy the costume.” (And on the flip side, I got an offer of services from a joyfully crafty mama friend, should I ever want to commission fabulous homemade costumes.)

Of course, sometimes a desire to learn a new skill or “try on” a new way of being is genuine. Stretching our comfort zones may not always be a comfortable process, but can be worthwhile for the parent and good modeling for the child. We grew a vegetable garden for the first time last summer, and while the learning curve was a little steep at times, it was something I truly wanted to do with my family. Here at the end of our second season, it’s becoming a tradition we love.

The trick is distinguishing between those things that call to us from within, and those that originate from an external ideal we’ve adopted without questioning whether it fits us.

I wanted some input from a parenting expert, so I consulted Dr. Shefali Tsabary, psychologist and New York Times bestselling author of “The Conscious Parent and “The Awakened Family.” I asked her what effects she’s observed when parents try to live up to certain ideals or typologies that don’t match up to who they are as people. Here’s what she had to say over email:  

“When we try to live up to an unrealistic fantasy of who we ‘should’ be versus who we actually are, we live in an inauthentic manner which creates a conflict within our inner psyche. As we are ‘pretending’ to be someone we are not truly, simply to gain the approval and adoration of those around us, we strive for something that is highly dependent on external sources. When these sources fail to provide us with the approval that we are so desperately seeking, we inevitably feel cheated on some level, and even betrayed. It is only when we shift to realize that our source of worth can only come from a source deep within us that we will be able to live a life of fulfillment and true purpose.”

And what about the effects on our kids?

“We impose these unrealistic expectations and fantasies on our children and burden them with the pressure to fulfill them. When they don’t live up to our fantasies of them, we make them feel as if they have disappointed and failed us.”

No doubt there will be other parenting challenges to which this wisdom applies. Come to think of it, this applies to plenty of other situations outside of parenting. How many ways do people, and perhaps women especially, waste our energy and dampen our spirits by struggling to fit ideals that have little to do with our true selves?

Now, when I encourage my kids to “be yourself,” I have a little more authoritative experience behind that advice. What a relief to know that simply being who we are is not only better for us as human beings, but better for our kids as well.

As for that lovely book of “simple” crafting projects with the beautifully crafty family on the cover?  I put it in the library donation box. Here’s to hoping the mom who finds it actually wants to use it.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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