A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Recently a good friend confided in me that she was struggling with being “just a mom.” With four children, one of which has special needs, this stay-at-home mother is anything but “just a mom.”

The conversation provided me with the opportunity to speak into her life. As a stay-at-home mom of four myself, I can relate. I bet you can, too.

I have also struggled with being “just” a mom. Honestly, sometimes I still do. Sure, I have other titles: wife, homeschool teacher, part-time freelance writer. But it’s the “mom” title that always gets to me most.

Perhaps you find yourself struggling to put dinner on the table and get a shower on the same day. Maybe you’re fishing toys out of the toilet or picking peas out of ears. It is on those days that you realize the phrase “well-behaved toddler” is an oxymoron.

Or maybe you’re a little farther along on the parenting spectrum. Pre-teens and teenagers are just as capable of making us want to scream. But we don’t lest the neighbors hear us and call the cops. Or our children have us committed. Whichever comes first.

Doubts and longing

I think we intrinsically know that motherhood is a noble calling, yet we feel so lacking, so incompetent, so unqualified.

Do our children ever hear or take to heart anything we say? So often we feel as though we’re wasting our time, our energy, our sanity.

Break up a sibling squabble. Administer discipline. Discuss proper responses to anger. Repeat as needed—and it will be needed. On and on it goes, day after day, year after year.

We wonder if anything we say matters. (It does.) We worry we’re raising the next “Breaking News” headline. (Maybe, but perhaps it’ll be good breaking news; stranger things have happened). We hope there’s more to life than this. (There is. It’s a matter of perspective.)

You long for a clean house, a clean car, and clean kids—and not necessarily in that order. Clean anything feels like a dream, a distant memory that you just can’t grasp.

You may have laundry scattered in every room of the house, school backpacks threatening to obliterate the kitchen counter, and wads of crumpled up paper strewn about the living room floor (okay, that last one may just be me and my own doing as a writer with blockage).

But you also have some pretty awesome kids. So do I. Let’s be honest: Even on their worst day—and ours—we wouldn’t trade our kids for the world. I would not, however, be opposed to swapping for a day or two. Just saying.

All kidding aside, we know our kids are a gift—sometimes we just lose sight of the fact. They are precious. And, oh, so unique. Why else would I receive a rock for Mother’s Day? (Yes, I actually did. “Mommy, it’s so beautiful. Just like you.”)

Your kids love you. They really do. If you’re anything like me you haven’t been to the restroom by yourself in the last five years, minimum. That’s how much your kids love you.

Mom moments

The fact that my idea of a perfect meal is one that someone else cooked doesn’t make me a bad mom. The fact that you removed your kids’ bedroom doors so they can’t be slammed doesn’t make you a bad mother either. (I’m actually warming up to that one; just not sure how I can effectively preserve my sanity if I can’t banish my kids behind closed doors from time to time.)

As a mom there are moments you may feel invisible. You may even wish you were invisible—this alone would afford some bathroom privacy.

Child No. 1: “Where’s Mom?”

Child No. 2: “I don’t know. Hey! Why’s the toilet seat lumpy?!”

Okay, the whole invisible mom thing is a bad idea.

The problem with labeling ourselves “just a mom” is that a label doesn’t define who we really are. In an age where value is often determined by how many Facebook “friends” we have, being a mom seems so common, so unimportant. But truly, we know better.

You may or may not have a college degree—my friend and I don’t, but we can kiss boo-boos like nobody’s business. No one can kiss your child’s boo-boos like you can Ph.D. or not. Don’t let the world define parenting success for you.

Roll with it

As moms, it’s important that we learn to roll with it. Sometimes life has a different plan for the day than we do. And that’s okay. Really. The fact that you don’t check off every item on your to-do list isn’t going to affect the world’s equilibrium or change your child’s future.

When I look in the mirror, I see a mom who doesn’t have it all together. Maybe you see the same; maybe you think you’re “just” a mom. Let me tell you what I told my friend and what I tell myself during these mirror moments: “You are not ‘just’ a mom. You are so much more.” Receive it. Believe it. Repeat it daily if necessary.

Let me encourage you moms out there: We are not just survivors—we are conquerors. Those other moms out there that seem to have it all together? It’s just an illusion.

People wear masks; they portray what they want you to see, what they want to be in their own minds. What a blessing we could be to one another if we would remove the masks and be real, openly sharing our struggles and encouraging one another.

As a mother, I fall short. Every. Single. Day. I argue with my children, yell at them, and otherwise behave in ways I swore I never would. I compare myself to other mothers and wonder if I’ll ever measure up.

More than enough

We moms certainly have plenty. Plenty to do. Plenty to worry about. Plenty of people wanting our time and attention.

But we are given plenty more. Plenty of grace. Plenty of strength. Plenty of love to cover a multitude of mistakes.

We don’t need gifts on Mother’s Day—unless of course you really do want to start a rock collection. Perhaps all we really need is a fresh perspective on the gifts that we’ve already been given.

Motherhood is nothing short of an adventure. Too often though, we see it as a mind-numbing, thankless job where the proverbial empty nest gets better looking every day. But it really is okay to take five minutes to sit in your car with your iPod plugged in and sing at the top of your lungs. In fact, I recommend it.

Every day will not be Disneyland. There will be trials, even pain. But these are the moments in which we grow the most.


We’ve all heard the advice, “Enjoy your children. They grow up so fast.” And just as we’re thinking, “Not fast enough,” they really do grow up right before our eyes. One day they’re cruising the backyard in a battery-operated Jeep and the next day they’re lapping the block in a real Mustang; or if they’re like my daughter, a cheap Cavalier. So the advice stands. Enjoy them.


Delight in the beautiful gifts you have been given. Rejoice in their uniqueness. Embrace them while you can.

Looking back over the last nineteen years since my first daughter was born and then three more following her, I shudder to think what my life would have been without them. I just cannot imagine a life where they do not exist.

Motherhood isn’t about status or labels. It isn’t about raising angelic Einsteins. It’s about the love of family and being the mom you were created to be. “Just” a mom? I don’t think so.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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[Editor's note: This story is a letter from a woman to her husband. While this is one example of one type of relationship, we understand, appreciate and celebrate that relationships come in all forms and configurations.]

To my husband,

We met when I was 22. We started building a life together. We became each other's best friend, cheerleader, guidance counselor, and shelter from the storm. We laughed together, cried together, and stood up in front of all the people who matter to us and vowed to stay together until one of us dies.

We said the words without irony or hesitation, knowing that while we weren't perfect, the problems we could face in life would never be enough to break us.

And babe, I had no clue what our future held. But I knew I wanted to experience it only with you.

Then we got pregnant! And when our son was born, I marveled at the fact that we made a person. You and me. It honestly still blows my mind even five years later.

I'd heard women say things like, I fell in love with my husband all over again once I saw him as a daddy. I love watching you be a daddy, too—but just like becoming a mother has been transformative for me, becoming a father has been transformative for you, too. And it has taken us some time to get to know the new versions of ourselves.

We worked together—mostly on the same team—and have shared so many beautiful lessons and experiences together. Everything is new when you're a first-time parent! And this new dynamic of three definitely threw us for a loop—I wasn't used to sharing your attention with someone else, and I wasn't used to sharing my attention with someone other than you.

It took a few years to hit our stride. I think maybe we never had big things to disagree on before we became parents. It threw me off to be anything but harmonious with you. But just like we said we would on that gorgeous September wedding day, we found our way back. We stayed on each other's team.

And then I got pregnant again.

We were planning a huge life change already— moving across the country to start anew, restart your business and make a new future. I didn't have an easy pregnancy this time. And generally, for many reasons, life seemed harder than ever.

Our daughter was born and it didn't take long for postpartum depression to steal me away, for far longer than I should have allowed it to. I was scared to get the help I needed and I let it get the best of me. I'm truly sorry for that. I'm mostly sorry that I sometimes let it get the best of us.

It's easy to love a partner when it's just the two of you. Our priorities were never tested then—you were at the top of my to-do list, and I was at the top of yours. But—funny thing—this whole parenting thing seemed to make life a little more complex. And when your kids are little, and completely dependent upon you, there are many days when there just isn't much left over for anything or anyone else.

Babe, we're in it right now. Really in it. These are the parenting trenches. The baby years. These years can make or break us. And can I be so bold as to say: I think they're making us.

They're making us learn how to communicate better. How to find common ground when we disagree about real stuff, like the ways we want to raise our children. We're invested in not only the outcome but the short term effect. We're a team.

They're making us think about the future. Not just the fun stuff, but the difficult stuff like estate planning, life insurance, and college funds for the kids. They're making us challenge ourselves to provide our children with comfort and opportunities. We've always worked hard but the stakes have never been this high.

You know I'm the optimist, the dreamer, while you consider yourself the realist—but I think we can agree on this: going through some of the tough stuff with you by my side has shown me that we are stronger than the tough stuff. We can get through it. We can get through anything. As long as we hold on to each other.

Motherhood transformed me. Fatherhood transformed you. And having kids completely transformed our marriage. We'll never be who we were on our wedding day again.

Time marches forward—only forward. I miss the carefree version of "us", but I love this version even more. Because we know what we're made of now, and in so many ways we didn't before.

I'm sure that in our lifetime, many more obstacles will arise that will transform our marriage. But I've never been more confident that whatever may be, we'll find a way through it—together.

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.

During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.

They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

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