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We both considered the white button-down shirt as I held it up for inspection. It (like almost everything else in the trendy clothing store) was made out of an inexpensive grade of cotton, required daily ironing, and would undoubtedly shrink the first time it we washed it. All this for only $29.99.

“I know it’s kind of expensive, but can we get it Mom?” my sweet 17-year-old daughter pleaded.

We raised our now bilingual daughter abroad, which helped her land a great job at a nearby hospital. This was the type of shirt she needed for her position, so even though she and I usually hunt for bargains, I bought the shirt.

Our children spent their formative years in Costa Rica and have both grown into thrifty, empathetic, confident, and bilingual teenagers. They’re TCKs!

TCK: Third Culture or Trans-Cultural Kids

According to the website, TCK World:

“A TCK is an individual who, having spent a significant part of the developmental years in a culture other than that of their parents, develops a sense of relationship to both. These children…who live abroad, become ‘culture-blended’ persons who often contribute in unique and creative ways to society as a whole… A TCK can never change back into a monocultural person. Parents of TCKs can return ‘home’ to their country of origin, but the children, enriched by having shared life in their formative years with another people, will find characteristics of both cultures in their very being. Acceptance of this fact frees TCKs to be uniquely themselves. In fact, TCKs have tools to be the cultural brokers of the future.”




Our children were five and seven when we moved to Costa Rica, and we’ve found this glowing description of TCKs to be spot on.

Let me share a little of what it was like raising our children abroad:


During our first couple of months in Costa Rica, we helped our kids make the transition into the schools (where the majority of courses were taught in Spanish) by providing some language tutoring. This tutoring, combined with the daily immersion at school, helped our kids quickly become fluent in the language and flourish in their studies.


All of the schools our children attended (both private and public) did not have air conditioning – just ceiling fans in various states of disrepair. Fortunately, our kids had no memory of air-conditioned modern classrooms in the US, so they contentedly considered each day’s weather conditions (even in the jungle) as just what to expect that time of year.


Most people in Costa Rica are rarely in a hurry, so our children became incredibly patient. Like the Ticos (the preferred term for Costa Ricans), they would wait without complaint in the inescapable hour-long lines at banks, government offices, or utility companies. This was even more remarkable because cell phone use is not allowed inside of banks, even to play a game.

Instant gratification is unheard of in Costa Rica, and Ticos understand that life is rich and should be savored. It took a while for us to learn how to slow down and “smell the roses,” but our children were oblivious to the stateside stress that still occasionally impacted us, and happily embraced each day as it came.

Days unfolded slowly in Costa Rica. My friends and I visited in rocking chairs while our children played for hours in the yard. Like most kids today they enjoyed some electronic gaming, but our children were equally happy outside exploring and playing active games with their friends. The lack of malls and theaters nearby prompted imaginative play and a willingness to help in the garden and kitchen. Going to see a movie in a theater was a special treat saved for our infrequent trips to a bigger city.


Trendy clothing and gear was simply not available where we lived in Costa Rica, so our kids weren’t aware of current fads or “must-have” items like their counterparts back home. Because electronics were prohibitively expensive, we never had the latest technological gadgets, but our kids never felt deprived. They simply did not know anyone who had or used the most recent technology. What they were lucky enough to own was perfectly adequate.


Our children ate locally grown organic fruits and vegetables harvested from our garden, or readily available in town. They helped collect eggs from the neighbor’s chickens and drank fresh milk delivered by the local dairy farmer in his little pickup filled with metal milk cans. Having access to such an array of delicious fruits and veggies, our kids learned to make great food choices, often choosing a sweet and juicy mango over a candy.


Our kids shared a room in our 400-square-foot, simply furnished,  two bedroom home. They spent time with friends who lived very different lifestyles. Some of their friends lived with multiple extended family members in very modest, open air, 300-square-foot homes, while others lived in spacious, air-conditioned mansions, overlooking the ocean. Regardless of where they found themselves, our kids were always comfortable and content in any environment.


During our seven years in Costa Rica, we lived in four different small towns where everyone seemed to know each other (or were often related). Ticos treat every child as their own, so we were blessed with a “village” of kind, loving, supportive “family members” who also kept an eye our children.

Once our kids got a little older, it was wonderful being able to confidently let them hop on the local bus with their friends and go down to the beach. Violent crime was practically non-existent in the communities where we lived, and news (gossip) traveled fast in our “village.” Whenever our kids were out of sight, someone would invariably be “watching“ them and later mention they’d seen them with their friends enjoying an ice cream, or walking along the beach.

Returning to the USA

We decided to move back to the US three years ago, so our kids could attend high school and college here and experience their home culture for a while. We’re confident the time spent both here and abroad will inform their decisions and give them significant advantages in the future.

Here are just a few of the benefits our children enjoy as a result of living abroad (in no particular order):

1 | Our children have befriended many kids in the large public schools they attend in the US. I believe their ability to make friends and enjoy friendships with kids in different social circles, is a direct result of growing up in Costa Rica. As bilingual TCKs, they’ve become better listeners, are more empathetic, and communicate much more confidently than many of their peers.

2 | Studies have shown that being bilingual keeps you alert and improves your listening skills. You follow social cues more closely, which helps you figure out which language to use, with which person and in what setting. By the way, it is also said to improve memory, help you multitask, solve puzzles, make decisions, and stay focused.

3 | Now that both of our TCKs have entered the workforce, their ability to speak two languages and their broad cultural exposure has given them access to more – and better – employment opportunities.

4 | Our kids now recognize, and are often turned off by, the materialistic world they now inhabit and I’m proud to report that they often search out bargains without my prompting!

5 | They are incredibly patient, and seldom flustered or fearful.

We – like thousands of other expats with well-balanced, confident, kind, bilingual, and fairly fearless children – believe the advantages of raising a TCK almost certainly outweigh the disadvantages.

My husband and I are incredibly grateful we had the opportunity to raise our children abroad. We all learned numerous impactful life-lessons while living in Costa Rica, lessons that will serve my children today and in all the days to come.


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.


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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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.


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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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."


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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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."


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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