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It’s the end of the day and I’m sitting in the yard, swishing my wine around in a stemless glass. The mosquitoes have arrived for the summer and they’re relentlessly nipping at my ankles.

We’ve only been home for the evening – from school and my daughter’s ballet class – for a few minutes and she’s somehow managed to become entrenched in a monster of a tantrum. Something about not being able to find a book.

“Come back outside when you’ve calmed down, please.” I tell her, pointing to the door. She trudges inside, red-faced and screaming and slamming her rage-filled fists into everything in her path.

I hear her wailing from inside and out of the corner of my eye, can see her pressing her face up against the screened-in window. I’m pretending not to notice, pretending I’ve gone deaf. I’m checking my phone for the time and hoping my husband will walk in any minute.

The baby stumbles up to me with his arms outstretched and bangs his head on the table. I pull him up into my lap, rubbing his back and wiping the not-so-unusual combination of tears, snot, and dog hair from his upper lip.

I check the time again. Where is the pizza I ordered on the way home? Where is my husband? I’m tired of waiting for everything and everyone today.

Finally, my daughter comes back outside. She’s still whimpering, but lets me hold her hands and look into her eyes. We talk about how hard it is to calm down sometimes, and I believe every word she says. I love how honest she is in these moments – when she tells me about how she can’t stop crying, or how she doesn’t really know what’s wrong – because you don’t often hear people say exactly how they feel. We’re all a little afraid of not making sense.

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“Anger did it again. Sadness did it, too” she tells me. “It’s not my fault, mommy. It’s all their fault!”

I nod. “I know,” I say, and I really do know. “Sometimes anger and sadness get the best of us, but we have to learn to control them. They don’t control us, okay?”

It’s not always true, but she trusts me enough that she sniffles and nods and makes her way into my lap. Now everyone is on me and the dog is trying to get on me, too, and I know it’s going to be one of those nights when that’s where everyone wants to be. There’s no sense in fighting it, or asking for space, or even moving a muscle.

I glance at the time. I glance over my shoulder. I swish my wine.

A few hours later, everyone is sleeping. It’s nearly nine and since it’s still a nice evening, I ask my husband, who has just gotten home, if he wants to sit out on the porch tonight. “Sure,” he says, enthusiastically. Finally! It’s time to relax. It’s my chance for a decent conversation with an adult today. It’s time to catch up. It’s time to enjoy one another. It’s time to just be, without trying so, so hard.

I nestle myself into a rocking chair and look up. But my husband isn’t looking at me, instead he’s tapping on his laptop. He’s working again, so instead of finding the connection I was looking to our marriage for, I practice my patience a little more.

We sit in our rockers that are maybe the only interesting pieces of furniture we own. They were my grandfather’s and they’re made of old, swirling wood. I rock and I rock and I swish my wine.

All day, all afternoon, I’ve been waiting, I realize. Waiting for the kids to tie their shoes or clean up their mess or calm down or eat their dinner. Waiting over an hour for the pizza while everyone melted down and way longer than I thought for my husband to get home from work. And now it’s 9 o’clock and here I am, waiting again and wondering where the day went.

Finally, I’ve grown bored, and vaguely angry. I huff and puff a little, then go inside and flip on the TV. I don’t have the energy to find something decent to watch so I just leave it on a game show I’ve never seen before and didn’t know existed. An hour ago, I was tired, nearly ready for bed. Now I’m irritated and lonely and wide awake, still, swishing my wine.

I’m trying not to be mad because I know there isn’t always time in a day for everything that you need in marriage, or anything that you need, no matter how badly you need it. I’m well-versed in this truth. I’m a product of divorce. I had my first baby before I even got married, so I know the drill.

I know that marriage is not perfect – I never thought that it was. But sometimes I think I’m too hopeful that all the pieces will fall just as they should, and we’ll have time to talk or laugh, that the kids will go to sleep early and easily, that all the work will be done for the day, and that we’ll both be in a good mood at the same time. 

I’m hopeful for connection because, in this season of my life, I sorely need it. I so rarely have time to visit with friends without children hanging from my limbs as I try to focus just enough to make conversation. I have hobbies and work that I love, too. But sometimes, like on these dull nights, it’s not enough.

For a half an hour or so, I sit there stewing, having no real reason to feel unsatisfied, but letting it wash over me anyway. Feeling the emptiness of all my efforts and needing something for myself, but not knowing where it is, at least not right now.

It is not in the bottom of this glass, or bottle. It’s not outside on the porch, staring into a screen. It’s too late to pour myself into work. I’m bored by the TV and too irritated to sleep. So I stew and stew some more and think about the day I had, how long it was, and how tomorrow will probably look the same, or close to it.

But my husband doesn’t know anything about my day – that I was a good mom even though it was hard. He doesn’t know about the tantrum, or the 28 times the baby bumped his head. He doesn’t know about the 15 times I opened and closed my computer, failing to work for even a few minutes, or the 20-minute workout I attempted to do in the yard, before the baby smashed a glass on the sidewalk and I had to sprint over and scoop him up before he stepped on the shards.

He doesn’t know that I ate bites of salad and pizza in between getting everyone water, and new water when it spilled, and napkins, and reprimanding the baby for throwing food at the dog. He doesn’t know how hard I had to try to breathe deeply, and not tell my daughter – who’d been talking incessantly for hours – to please, please, stop talking.

He doesn’t know how I helped everyone practice forward rolls. He doesn’t know that I clapped while they danced and dressed in costumes for an hour before bed. He doesn’t know that I sprayed whipped cream in their mouths as a reward. And he doesn’t know that I needed him to need me differently than they did, just for a little while, before the day’s end.

Today, our interactions consisted of: passing each other in the hallway, yelling out instructions to each other as he shoveled a piece of pizza in his mouth and tucked in one of the kids. And it wasn’t horrible – in fact, it was regular.

But these hurried conversations, these days gone by without connection, sometimes make it feel like our marriage has stalled. Like it needs to be nudged, or maybe even slammed into, by one of the front-loaders in my son’s dozens of truck books.

But it’s a marriage, with young children, and it’s mostly fine. So maybe eye contact, a back rub, or someone to watch “Bloodline” with me, all have to wait. And even though I wonder how much waiting is too much, or if we’re doing it wrong, or if it just is what it is, I do know that our babies won’t always need us so much, and that work won’t always be so demanding and that one day – one day, one day – there’ll be time.

I crawl into bed alone and type a text, “are you coming up?” But my phone dies before I hit send. Instead of going back downstairs to argue, or to ask him to come to bed, or tell him how I feel, I turn out the light.

My husband doesn’t come to bed. He sleeps on the couch, but it’s not out of spite. It’s because he knows that sometimes when he wakes me, I don’t fall back to sleep. It’s an act of consideration. And it’s one I appreciate, if not at night, then in the morning when I’ve slept the whole night through until my daughter comes in – wrapping her small, strong arms around me – and the baby cries. And I feel thankful, even if it’s wrong to feel thankful for sleeping alone.

Sometimes, I worry about what this all means – the distance that comes and goes. But I know that we can’t be in sync every day. Marriage is the sum of all the days, and the days are many. Some days, I swish my wine, and I practice my patience, and I remember that it’s okay to feel.

And sometimes, it’s okay to go to bed alone.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Learn + Play

Adele's albums have soothed many hearts through hard times, and now she's going through a big relationship transition of her own.

The singer is separating from her husband Simon Konecki, the father of her 6-year-old son, Angelo James.

"Adele and her partner have separated," Adele's people wrote in a statement to the Associated Press. "They are committed to raising their son together lovingly. As always they ask for privacy. There will be no further comment."

Our hearts go out to Adele. Of course, she doesn't owe anyone any further explanation or discussion of her separation, but by announcing it publicly, she is shining a light on a family dynamic that is so common but not talked about as much as it should be: Co-parenting.

Parenting with an ex is a reality for so many mothers. According to the Pew Research Center, "the likelihood of a child – even one born to two married parents – spending part of their childhood in an unmarried parent household is on the rise."

Angelo James' experience will be similar to many of his peers.

"Increases in divorce mean that more than one-in-five children born within a marriage will experience a parental breakup by age 9, as will more than half of children born within a cohabiting union," Pew notes.

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Adele and Konecki already know a thing or two about how co-parenting works, as Konecki has an older child from a previous relationship.

They can make this work because so many parents are making this work. The reality is, two parents can still be a family, and be a team for their child without being romantic partners.

Decades ago, co-parenting after a divorce wasn't the norm, and a body of research (and the experience of a generation of kids) has changed the way parents do things today. Today, divorce isn't about the end of a family. It's about the evolution of one.

Research suggests joint physical custody is linked to better outcomes for kids than divorce arrangements that don't support shared parenting and that divorced couples who have "ongoing personal and emotional involvement with their former spouse"(so, are friends, basically) are more likely to rate their co-parenting relationship positively.

Co-parenting is good for kids, and clearly, Adele and Konecki are committed to being a team for Angelo James.

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News

If you've had a baby in a hospital you know that those first few nights can be really hard. There are so many benefits for babies sharing rooms with their mamas (as opposed to being shipped off to those old-school, glassed-in nurseries) but tired mamas have a lot of conflicting messages coming at them.

You're told to bond with your baby, but not to fall asleep with them in the bed, and to let them rest in their bassinet. But when you're recovering from something that is (at best) the most physically demanding thing a person can do or (at worst) major surgery, moving your baby back and forth from bed to bassinette all night long sure doesn't sound like fun.

That's why this photo of a co-sleeping hospital bed is going viral again, four years after it was first posted by Australian parenting site Belly Belly. The photo continues to attract attention because the bed design is enviable, but is it real? And if so, why aren't more hospitals using it?

The bed is real, and it's Dutch. The photo originated from Gelderse Vallei hospital. As GoodHouskeeping reported back in 2015, the clip-on co-sleepers were introduced as a way to help mom and baby pairs who needed extended hospital stays—anything beyond one night in the maternity ward.

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Plenty of moms stateside wish we had such beds in our maternity wards, but as but Dr. Iffath Hoskins, an OB-GYN, told Yahoo Parenting in 2015, the concept wouldn't be in line with American hospitals' safe sleeping policies.

"If the mother rolls over from exhaustion, there would be the risk of smothering the baby," she told Yahoo. "The mother's arm could go into that space in her sleep and cover the baby, or she could knock a pillow to the side and it's on the baby."

Hoskins also believes that having to get in and out of bed to get to your baby in the night is good for moms who might be otherwise reluctant to move while recovering from C-sections. If you don't move, the risk of blood clots in the legs increases. "An advantage of being forced to get up for the baby is that it forces the mother to move her legs — it's a big plus. However painful it can be, it's important for new moms to move rather than remaining in their hospital beds."

So there you have it. The viral photo is real, but don't expect those beds to show up in American maternity wards any time soon.

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News

A new study has some people thinking twice about kissing their bearded partners, or maybe even letting those with beards kiss the baby—but there's a lot to unpack here.

According to Swiss researchers, bearded men are carrying around more bacteria than dogs do. A lot more. But read on before you send dad off to the bathroom with a razor and ask him to pull a Jason Momoa (yes, he's recently clean-shaven. RIP Aquaman's beard).

As the BBC reports, scientists swabbed the beards of 18 men and the necks of 30 dogs. When they compared the samples, they learned beards have a higher bacterial load than dog fur.

Dudes who love their beards are already clapping back against the way the science was reported in the media though, noting that the sample size in this study was super small and, importantly, that the scientists didn't swab any beardless men.

The study wasn't even about beards, really. The point of the study, which was published in July 2018 in the journal European Radiology, was to determine if veterinarians could borrow human MRI machines to scan dogs without posing a risk to human patients.

"Our study shows that bearded men harbour significantly higher burden of microbes and more human-pathogenic strains than dogs," the authors wrote, noting that when MRI scanners are used for both dogs and humans, they're cleaned very well after veterinary use, and actually have a "lower bacterial load compared with scanners used exclusively for humans."

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Another important point to note is that most bacteria aren't actually dangerous to humans, and some can be really good for us (that's why some scientists want us to let our kids get dirty).

This little study wasn't supposed to set off a beard panic, it was just supposed to prove that dogs and people can safely share an MRI machine. There is previous research on beards and bacteria though, that suggests they're not all bad.

Another study done in 2014 and published in the Journal of Hospital Infection looked at a much larger sample of human faces (men who work in healthcare), both bearded and clean shaven, and actually found that people who shaved their faces were carrying around more Staph bacteria than those with facial hair.

"Overall, colonization is similar in male healthcare workers with and without facial hair; however, certain bacterial species were more prevalent in workers without facial hair," the researchers wrote.

A year after that, a local news station in New Mexico did its own "study" on beards, one that wasn't super scientific but did go viral and prompted a flurry of headlines insisting beards are as dirty as toilets. That claim has been debunked.

So, before you ban bearded people from kissing the baby (or yourself) consider that we all have some bacteria on our faces. Dads should certainly wash their beards well, but they're not as dirty as a toilet.

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News

New York's Governor Andrew Cuomo is on a mission to level the playing field for young women and provide them with the tools for success. In 2017, he implemented free two- and four-year public colleges for New Yorkers, and now Cuomo is adding a budget proposal that would provide on-site childcare at community colleges.

Under the proposal, single parents participating in the program would also have access to tutoring and help when applying to four-year schools. It's the kind of idea that could be a game changer for parents in New York state.

Currently, childcare centers are subsidized for student-parents but can still cost parents $50-$60 a week; under Cuomo's budget proposal, childcare would be free. Students who are already enrolled in similar programs acknowledge that the benefits are enormous.

"As a single parent of two children going to school full time, I wouldn't be able to come to school and afford for childcare," says Michelle Trinidad, a student at Borough of Manhattan Community College (BMCC) and parent to a 4 and 5-year-old. "Thank goodness for BMCC Early Childhood Center that is very much affordable. It gives me the opportunity to advance my career and be confident that my son is in good hands. School is hard enough on its own, having reliable child care means a lot to me and my children."

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The plan is a part of Cuomo's 2019 women's justice agenda, legislation that addresses the gender wage gap, as well as economic and social justice for all New York women. According to a 2017 report from the Institute for Women's Policy Research, 11% of undergraduates, or 2.1 million students, were single mothers as of 2012, which has doubled since 2000. Additionally, that same study found that 4 in 10 women at two-year colleges say that they are likely or very likely to drop out of school due to their dependent care obligations.

"This is an exciting initiative for New York that addresses a critical need, and if implemented, will have a far-reaching impact on various aspects of society, especially for the next generation," says Ryan Lee-James, PhD an Assistant Professor at Adelphi University. "I view this initiative as both a direct and indirect pathway to address the well-documented achievement gap between children reared in poverty and those growing up with higher income families, as it provides moms, who otherwise may not have had the opportunity, to further their education and thus, afford their children more opportunities."

Additionally, many view campus childcare as a safe haven for college students. "During my 18 years working in campus childcare, I have witnessed how the student-parents can complete their courses and stay focused by having childcare on campus," says Sori Palacio, a Head Teacher at BMCC Early Childhood Center. "Parents usually express how thankful they are for having their children traveling with them to school as well as having their children nearby while they complete their degree. They concentrate in academic work without worrying about their child's wellbeing. This service helps the entire public by preparing more people to serve the community."

Parents have so many barriers when it comes to accessing higher education, but free childcare could be a game changer that benefits multiple generations.

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