A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

“Mikala will be so jealous,” my daughter Maya says as she Snapchats a photo to her friend.


We’re on our fifth day visiting New York City. By the enthusiasm exhibited by my 15-year-old, you’d think we’re in front of a famous site – the Statue of Liberty, perhaps, or the Empire State Building. Or that she just snagged a photo with a celebrity and that’s why her friends back in British Columbia, Canada, will bubble with envy.

But no, the photo isn’t of her and a superstar – at least not flesh and blood. And while we are in a world-recognized locale, that’s not the focus. My daughter and I are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and Maya has just sent off a photo of herself, beaming with excitement, beside a self-portrait of Vincent van Gogh.

While I’m delighted for her and proud of her cultural eagerness, I’m also intrigued. Why would a teen and her friends care about century-old art?

Classroom concepts come to life

When I think teen, I think smartphones and YouTube. I rarely think of oil paintings in gilt frames – apart from school field trips or the occasional family outing. But when I ask my daughter why she loves Van Gogh in particular, all I get is a shrug and an unwillingness to analyze her motives: “It will feel too much like schoolwork.”

Yet that link to school may actually be one of the reasons. Darcy-Tell Morales is the associate educator of teen programs at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, commonly known as the Met. She says, “I’ve personally heard teens say things like, ‘Wow! It’s so cool to see something in person that I learned about in art history!’” Seeing the art face to face, “provides context in a way that seeing a picture of it in a book or online does not.”

After all, kids in our society often grow up with these works. In elementary school, they may recreate Claude Monet’s water lilies in tissue paper or reproduce Van Gogh’s “The Starry Night” in plasticine. The importance of this art is embedded in them, so it’s no wonder an up-close encounter will produce a sense of awe.

An encounter with fame

Even if a teen doesn’t have a tissue-paper history with an influential work of art, he or she is mostly likely familiar with it anyways. Once upon a time, one would have to visit a museum or be invited to a private collection to see paintings like these. Now they’re readily available online.

The more we see something, the more we like it, at least according to a 60s study. (And the more we like it, the more we see it.) Take Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, which didn’t become famous until it was stolen in 1911 and the story of its theft was disseminated around the world. Or Van Gogh, who was just starting to gain recognition when he died – and then shot up in popularity when his sister-in-law published the letters he wrote to his brother, which illuminated his difficult life. According to the website of the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, “Van Gogh’s fascinating life story is one of the reasons why his work gradually took the whole world by storm.”

The art, of course, has to be of a certain quality for its popularity to endure, according to a 2013 study. But assuming it hits an acceptable degree of craftsmanship, a Van Gogh painting of sunflowers or a coy Mona Lisa will remain famous – and fame is always thrilling to be around.

Learning from the best

But why do we care about fame? It comes down to how we learn. As a social species, we traditionally learn from others. This means we’ve evolved to pay attention to those who have made noticeable achievements. While these days celebrities’ claims to fame may be fleeting and superficial, artistic masters have skills we want to emulate.

For teens with a keen interest in art, being able to see what they can’t see in a photograph – actual size, true color, individual brushstrokes, a lumpy texture – is a reason to get excited. It’s also a reason behind the demand for art museums’ teen-focused programs.

“We are happy to welcome a lot of teens in our museum,” says Sarah Broekhoven, education curator at the Van Gogh Museum. “Most of them come in school groups or with their families.” Like many museums, this one offers guided tours and special activities for school groups. Others go even further: the Met, for example, offers Teens Take the Met! nights, a blog with teen-written posts, a teen internship program, teen-only workshops, and more.

A rebel with a brush

Teens also connect with the rebellious stories behind these works and their artists. While it seems strange to consider these now-iconic paintings as radical, they often were.

At Canada’s Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, Patricia Boyer is the educational programs officer for schools and families, and helps host tens of thousands of high school students each year. “Teens often find the art pretty intense,” she says. “We will talk about the courage that these artists had, how they were kind of rebels in a way, in their society – even Monet, whose paintings seem very pretty and easy to like.”

What was radical about Monet and his cohorts? First their style, which was loose and quick compared to the hyper-realist artists who were the rage at the time. Also their content, which shifted from stiff indoor portraitures and still lives to outdoor impressions of everyday people and places. Even the size of their paintings changed – instead of being huge works fit for castles and churches, they were often made smaller to fit in normal homes. These weren’t paintings for the rich. They were paintings for the average person.

“This was shocking at the time,” Boyer says. Teens identify with this urge to push against the norm. “They understand that sometimes we have to stick to our ideals, even if it’s not the easy way to go. And they can relate to this idea.”

Selfie-worthy

The list of reasons to love masterpieces goes on: teens can learn about history, link what happened in the past to current events, ponder what life’s about, be inspired to apply creative ideas to their own lives.

It’s no surprise, then, that my daughter Maya clicked selfies before the Met’s various Van Goghs. (“Eighteen!” she counted.) That on this one international vacation, we visited the Met, New York’s Museum of Modern Art and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, where we wandered an exhibition on the colourful, music-infused art of Marc Chagall. That in past trips, we’ve targeted Paris’s Louvre and Centre Pompidou museums. That her next top vacation wish is to go to Amsterdam, specifically to visit the Van Gogh Museum.

And who am I to wonder why this art excites? For when Maya was done with the Van Goghs, I had her snap my photo beside my own favourite piece: the sweet bronze statue of Edgar Degas’ 14-year-old dancer. It was, I admit, a thrill.

Comments20x20 ExportCreated with Sketch.
Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

You might also like:

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.

You might also like:

For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

You might also like:

There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.