A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

Our First Father-Daughter Road Trip Was Escaping a Hurricane

You could never say that we didn’t see it coming.


Hurricane Irma churned its way toward Florida with a level of intensity and capacity for destruction that was plain to anyone. Its ferocious potential was evident from Barbuda to Cuba long before it reached the Gulf Coast of Florida. News broadcasts announced its power and path.

As a single dad in Tampa with a five-year-old, I had only one choice. It was time to leave.

Leaving wasn’t as simple as it seemed. Days before landfall, flights were unobtainable. First Tampa, then Orlando, then Jacksonville ran out of departures with seats. I had to settle for Atlanta, which involved an eight-hour drive in the best of conditions to catch an outbound flight to family in New Jersey. Thus was my daughter’s first road trip born.

Packing the suitcase of a five-year-old girl is an interesting experience for a guy.

Certain stuffed animals were considered essential for the journey but were too large to fit in her suitcase together with clothes and other needed items. I explained this. We negotiated. Eventually, we settled upon two smaller stuffed animal alternatives.

Only certain dresses would do. I had to explain that the climate in New Jersey in September was colder than in Tampa, Florida. We negotiated some more. This was all in good cheer, but it ate up time, patience, and energy.

I know an amazing preacher, a former NFL player with the Arizona Cardinals, who talks about his “cup of grace” that starts out full each day but can be emptied over time. He says that when your cup of grace is empty, it’s empty. It will fill back up, but you have to tell your loved ones when the cup is dry. Then they know when to cool it.

Two stuffed animals, three dresses, two beloved bath toys, carefully selected socks, a denied pair of shoes (too large to wear yet without causing blisters), a hairbrush, and an assortment of separately packed snacks later, my cup of grace was as dry as the Sahara. I love my little girl. But she is, as she describes herself, a “specific person” – in every way.

I’m impressed that a five-year-old can come up with the idea of being a “specific person” on her own, so I let that slide. I may even encourage it.

We need specific people. They build our bridges and houses and help run our computer networks. Life wouldn’t work without them. But there’s also no denying that they can be a pain at times. Especially to a creative writer dad.

Adding fuel to the specificity fire is the pronounced femininity of my little minion.

Men love women for what makes them different from us. It’s just naturally that way. If we weren’t different, nothing would work and nothing would be interesting. But no one would say that differences make for an easy time. And there’s nothing like a lengthy road trip under adverse circumstances to bring out the differences, and even magnify them up to the threshold of actual, physical pain.

I’m like most parents, whether single or married. That is to say, I have heard the “Let It Go” song from the Frozen soundtrack so many times that it’s led me to contemplate the violent destruction of audio equipment and question my sanity on multiple occasions. But there is nothing to do when your little one is herself the author of your musical interlude.

It’s excruciating.

You don’t want to stifle her enthusiasm. You want her to express herself. But girly girls sing girly songs, over and over and over. The repetition feels great to them. It must be like eating cherries: “Hey, that one tasted good, let’s have another one!” That’s what I think when I dig into a big bowl of fruit.

My little Katie was evidently feeling the same as we transited from Tampa to Ocala to Gainesville, at times on the highway and other times plying the back roads in an effort to escape the snarl of Floridians hurrying out of the way of Irma’s wrath. Katie never stopped being nice and sweet – but she never stopped singing, either.

My martial arts teacher is a third-degree black belt. He says that he can turn the volume in his household up or down simply by concentrating, that his mind is strong enough to train his focus on as much or as little of his surroundings as he likes. I don’t know if that’s possible for me or not, but I do know one thing: I’m training with that guy until I become a black belt because I’d walk through the gates of hell to possess that kind of ability.

Since I already feel like the gates of hell and I are old friends, my arrival there may be redundant. But at least I’ll feel like I’m right at home.

I have to give Katie her due. In many ways, she made the trip to Atlanta more pleasant than it would have been had I been alone. We talked about her grandmother’s house. We laughed and made jokes, even though her “knock-knock” jokes didn’t make any sense. So what if I had to rhyme words with her for hours and have contests to see which of us could spot more school buses for 300 miles? It was really fun, despite the challenges.

Kids push us to our limits, but they light up our lives. You don’t get one without the other.

Katie’s arrival in New Jersey kicked the whole deal into overdrive. We were safe, that was great. Irma had no chance of harming us. I breathed the sigh of relief that every parent knows and understands. But my peace of mind was short-lived because the child care marathon started roughly at 8:30 a.m. each morning.

Katie would wake up hungry. (That’s to be expected.) Then she’d want to play with the dogs, including a huge, three-month-old puppy weighing 35 pounds, who appears to be a mix of Labrador and Newfoundland. I christened the puppy Jackson, since he didn’t have a name yet. If you think Jackson’s energy was more than equal to my daughter’s, you’d be right. Sometimes you score points just when all the furniture in the house remains intact.

After some time with Jackson and my mom’s resident cocker spaniel, Katie would ask, “What’s the plan?” She likes to have an itinerary. At the age of five.

Our plans were always intense and scheduled. We went to Space Farms, a northwest New Jersey institution so long established that I went there as a kid 40 years ago. We saw and fed every animal known to man. We snacked. We picked apples. We went to the beach playground at the lake. We made sand castles. We swam even though it was September.

Back at home, we played Chinese checkers and Monopoly (Katie monopolized us thoroughly). Then we did puzzles on the floor. We drew and painted and colored. We played with the dogs some more. We decorated a pumpkin for Halloween. At last, we fell asleep watching PJ Masks.

That was Day One.

Each day was a delightful, brutal sensory onslaught from dawn to dusk. It’s what you get into being a parent. Nobody tells you that ahead of time. If they did, no one would have kids and the world would depopulate.

Candor requires me to affirm that, if it weren’t for Katie’s school to take up some of the strain, I would have been ready for the jacket with the funny sleeves a long time ago. Saying so, by the way, isn’t inconsistent with the deepest, most adoring love. It just is what it is. And it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. Hands down.

I didn’t fare too well in the father department. He was out of the picture early, as some dads are, and when he was dragged back in later, he left a trail of hurt and destruction in his wake. Some people don’t know how to do anything else.

In my darkest moments, when I’m overtired beyond anything that’s normal just trying to be a good dad, I occasionally have a moment of weakness and lament my fate. I wonder why I am called upon to be a great dad when I didn’t get even a good one. You can be used to life’s unfairness and still think that.

When I feel that injustice rise inside me and indulge for a moment in self-pity – which is exactly what it is – I look at my little girl. She smiles. It does me in. There’s no cost, there’s no past, and there’s no pain or loss. There’s only her love.

Divorce is a hurricane. Katie’s energy is another kind of hurricane. We have to stand up to these things in life. I don’t know whether everything that doesn’t kill us will make us stronger. Personally, I have my doubts about that. But I do know that raising a beautiful child ennobles us. It gives us purpose, and it gives us hope.

Hurricanes don’t last forever. And when they pass, in their wake, they always leave the most pristine, clear sky without a cloud, beckoning us to an extraordinary tomorrow.

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.

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.

Three was not enough for Kim Kardashian and Kanye West. Mom and dad to North, Saint and Chicago are expecting again.

The story broke earlier this month, but this week Kim appeared on "Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen" and confirmed everything People and E! have been attributing to inside Kardashian sources.

Host Andy Cohen, a father-to-be himself, asked Kim to confirm if the leaked sex of the baby was also accurate.

    "It's a boy," Kim told him, revealing that she's the accidental source of the leak. "It's out there. I got drunk at our Christmas Eve party, and I told some people, but I can't remember who I told."

    Like Chicago, this baby will be born via surrogate, and Kim says he's due quite soon.

    Kim has previously talked about how the decision to grow her family through gestational surrogacy was a hard one, but the only one that made sense for her after two difficult pregnancies.

    "Anyone that says or thinks it is just the easy way out is just completely wrong. I think it is so much harder to go through it this way, because you are not really in control," she told Entertainment Tonight when expecting Chicago.

    "Obviously you pick someone that you completely trust and that you have a good bond and relationship with, but it is still … knowing that I was able to carry my first two babies and not my baby now, it's hard for me," she explained at the time.

    One of six kids herself, it's not surprising that Kim wants a large family (considering how close she is with her siblings) and, according to Kim, Kanye's been campaigning for more children for a while.

    "Kanye wants to have more, though. He's been harassing me," Kardashian said on a 2018 episode of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. "He wants like seven. He's like stuck on seven."

    Four is still pretty far from seven, but maybe Kanye and Kim will compromise a bit on family size. Kim has previously said four children would be her limit.

    [Update: This post was originally published on January 2, 2019. It was updated when Kardashian confirmed the news.]

    You might also like:

    Toxic masculinity is having a cultural moment. Or rather, the idea that masculinity doesn't have to be toxic is having one.

    For parents who are trying to raise kind boys who will grow into compassionate men, the American Psychological Association's recent assertion that "traditional masculinity ideology" is bad for boys' well-being is concerning because our kids are exposed to that ideology every day when they walk out of then house or turn on the TV or the iPad.

    That's why a new viral ad campaign from Gillette is so inspiring—it proves society already recognizes the problems the APA pointed out, and change is possible.

    We Believe: The Best Men Can Be | Gillette (Short Film) youtu.be

    Gillette's new ad campaign references the "Me Too" movement as a narrator explains that "something finally changed, and there will be no going back."

    If may seem like something as commercial as a marketing campaign for toiletries can't make a difference in changing the way society pressures influence kids, but it's been more than a decade since Dove first launched its Campaign for Real Beauty, and while the campaign isn't without criticism, it was successful in elevating some of the body-image pressure on girls but ushering in an era of body-positive, inclusive marketing.

    Dove's campaign captured a mainstream audience at a time when the APA's "Guidelines for Psychological Practice with Girls and Women" were warning psychologists about how "unrealistic media images of girls and women" were negatively impacting the self-esteem of the next generation.

    Similarly, the Gillette campaign addresses some of the issues the APA raises in its newly released "Guidelines for the Psychological Practice with Boys and Men."

    According to the APA, "Traditional masculinity ideology has been shown to limit males' psychological development, constrain their behavior, result in gender role strain and gender role conflict and negatively influence mental health and physical health."

    The report's authors define that ideology as "a particular constellation of standards that have held sway over large segments of the population, including: anti-femininity, achievement, eschewal of the appearance of weakness, and adventure, risk, and violence."

    The APA worries that society is rewarding men who adhere to "sexist ideologies designed to maintain male power that also restrict men's ability to function adaptively."

    That basically sounds like the recipe for Me Too, which is of course its own cultural movement.

    Savvy marketers at Gillette may be trying to harness the power of that movement, but that's not entirely a bad thing. On its website, Gillette states that it created the campaign (called "The Best a Man Can Be," a play on the old Gillette tagline "The Best a Man Can Get") because it "acknowledge that brands, like ours, play a role in influencing culture."

    Gillette's not wrong. We know that advertising has a huge impact on our kids. The average kid in America sees anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 commercials on TV each year, according to the American Academy of Paediatrics, and that's not even counting YouTube ads, the posters at the bus stop and everything else.

    That's why Gillette's take makes sense from a marketing perspective and a social one. "As a company that encourages men to be their best, we have a responsibility to make sure we are promoting positive, attainable, inclusive and healthy versions of what it means to be a man," the company states.

    What does that mean?

    It means taking a stance against homophobia, bullying and sexual harassment and that harmful, catch-all-phrase that gives too many young men a pass to engage in behavior that hurts others and themselves: "Boys will be boys."

    Gillette states that "by holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behavior, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come."

    Of course, it's not enough for razor marketers to do this. Boys need support from parents, teachers, coaches and peers to be resilient to the pressures of toxic masculinity.

    When this happens, when boys are taught that strength doesn't mean overpowering others and that they can be successful while still being compassionate, the APA says we will "reduce the high rates of problems boys and men face and act out in their lives such as aggression, violence, substance abuse, and suicide."

    This is a conversation worth having and 2019 is the year to do it.

    You might also like:

    Teaching a young child good behavior seems like it should be easy and intuitive when, in reality, it can be a major challenge. When put to the test, it's not as easy as you might think to dole out effective discipline, especially if you have a strong-willed child.

    As young children develop independence and learn more about themselves in relation to others and their environment, they can easily grow frustrated when they don't always know how to communicate their feelings or how to think and act rationally.

    It's crucial that parents recognize these limitations and also set up rules to protect your child and those they encounter. These rules, including a parent's or caregiver's follow-up actions, allow your child to learn and develop a better understanding of what is (and what is not) appropriate behavior.

    Here are a few key ways to correct negative behavior in an efficient way:

    1. Use positive reinforcement.

    Whenever possible, look to deliver specific and positive praise when a child engages in good behavior or if you catch them in an act of kindness. Always focus on the positive things they are doing so that they are more apt to recreate those behaviors. This will help them start to learn the difference between good and poor behavior.

    2. Be simple and direct.

    Though this seems like a no-brainer, focus your child using constructive feedback versus what not to do or where they went wrong. Give reasons and explanations for rules, as best as you can for their age group.

    For example, if you're teaching them to be gentle with your pet, demonstrate the correct motions and tell your child, "We're gentle when we pet the cat like this so that we don't hurt them," versus, "Don't pull on her tail!"

    3. Re-think the "time out."

    Many classrooms are starting to have cozy nooks where children are encouraged to have alone time when they may feel out of control. In lieu of punishment, sending a child to a "feel-good" area removes them from a situation that's causing distress. This provides much-needed comfort and allows for the problem-solving process to start on its own.

    4. Use 'no' sparingly.

    When a word is repeated over and over, it begins to lose meaning. There are better ways to discipline your child than saying "no." Think about replaying the message in a different way to increase the chances of your child taking note. Rather than shouting, "No, stop that!" when your toddler is flinging food at dinnertime, it's more productive to use encouraging words that prompt better behavior, such as, "Food is for eating, what are we supposed to do when we're sitting at the dinner table?" This encourages them to consider their behavior.

    The above methods help create teachable moments by providing opportunities for development while making sure the child feels safe and cared for. It is important to mirror these discipline techniques at home and communicate often with your child care providers so that you're always on the same page.

    You might also like:

    To the mamas awake in the middle of the night,

    If you are one of the many moms with a little darling who doesn't sleep through the night, I feel your pain. I really do.

    Having been blessed with two wonderful sleepers (aka my first and second babies), my third baby has been a shock to my system. He hasn't slept through the night since he was born and he's now 16 months. I do everything "right." I put him down sleepy but awake so he can settle himself to sleep. I keep the room dark and quiet.

    But one simple fact remains: When my son wakes up in the night, he wants me. And he'll scream the house down if he doesn't get me.

    Last night my 1-year-old woke at 3:30 am. He was stirring a bit at first, then started to really let it rip, so I got him up out of his crib and brought him into bed with me. We cuddled for a while. Then suddenly, he wanted to get off the bed and I said no. Then he started to scream and throw himself around on the bed before eventually being sick everywhere.

    It was now 4:30 am. I dutifully changed the sheets, changed my son, changed myself, and then we climbed back into bed, the smell of vomit still lingering.

    I tried to put him back in his crib around 5 am but he woke right up. I brought him back into bed with me, but quickly realized this wasn't what he wanted either. He was thrashing around again, trying to figure out a way off of the bed.

    Finally, close to 6 am he decided he wanted to go to sleep. After about 10 minutes of watching him sleep, I felt brave enough to try to put him back in his room. I gently lifted him up, placed him in his crib and quietly crept back into my bed.

    This left me with just enough time to fall back into a deep sleep, which meant I felt exhausted when my alarm went off just after 7 am.

    Sadly, last night wasn't a one-off. This is a fairly frequent occurrence for me (although dealing with vomit is luckily quite rare!). Which means that when I say I understand what it's like to have a baby who doesn't sleep, I really mean it.

    So here's what I want you to know, mama.

    If you are awake in the night because your baby needs you then you are not alone. Despite what you might read, it's common for babies to wake up through the night. So if you're sitting in bed feeling like you're the only mother in the world awake, trust me, you're far from it.

    There are mamas like us all over the world. Sitting there in the dark. Cuddling babies or soothing them to sleep again. Some, like me, might be changing sheets or abandoning any hope of getting sleep that night at all. Others might be up and down like a yo-yo every few hours. The rest might just be up once and then will be able to go back to sleep.

    There will, however, also be mamas who are sound asleep. Mamas who have older children who no longer wake in the night. And they would want you to know that it will be okay. It won't be forever. One day, you'll realize that your baby no longer needs or wants you in the night.

    And while you'll be so glad for your sleep you'll probably also be a little sad that there are no more night time cuddles.

    It's hard to cope with a baby who doesn't sleep well at night. Really hard sometimes. You may feel like you can't deal with it anymore or you may be wishing that this phase would just stop already so you can get some rest.

    Exhaustion often means that you struggle to get through the day. It can mean that you find it hard to drag yourself out of bed. Or if you're anything like me, you might be irritable and snap at the people you love. Or maybe it means relying on caffeine, sugar and Netflix to get you and your kiddos through the day.

    But here's the amazing thing about mothers—no matter what has gone down during the night, we get up as usual. We go about our day just like everyone else. We care for and love our children, without giving them a hard time for disrupting our sleep. We don't moan, we don't complain. We just get on with it.

    And when night comes, we go to bed knowing that there's every chance we'll be awake in the middle of the night again...

    We get up without fail when our babies need us and we do what we need to do for them. Because we are the nighttime warriors. We are mamas.

    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.