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My parents welcomed me into the world when they were both 24 years old, nowhere near what we consider the midlife crisis age. There are definite challenges with having kids so young, but in the 70s, they were not in the minority. Today, more couples are putting off having kids until their 30s and 40s, and researchers have scrambled to figure out the effects of the delay.


The advantages of waiting have been well-documented, but as I talk to many of the people around me, the downside is also real. Men and women report feeling like something existential is starting to go on in their 30s and throughout their 40s, and there are young children underfoot while mom and dad try to work out these feelings.

The midlife crisis we think of where marriages implode, fast cars are driven, and chaos ensues definitely exist, but what is less talked about is the more toned down but no less difficult version. As Mandy Harvey sums it up pretty well in her song, “Try”: “I don’t feel the way I used to, the sky is grey much more than it is blue.”

This grey doesn’t mean constant unhappiness, but it is a detour from the feelings of easy happiness that dominated our early decades. Researchers say now that older parents aren’t crazy for feeling this. It’s the beginning of the U-curve.

What is the U-curve?

When researchers studied happiness, they found a distinct U-curve, a line that starts high, falls, and then climbs. In early life, people report high levels of happiness, but towards the middle of our 30s and throughout our 40s, they report decreasing happiness until they bottom out in their 50s. This is in line with what we consider the years for a midlife crisis to take place.

However, the saying that’s it’s all downhill isn’t exactly right when talking about aging and happiness. After the early 50s, people report growing steadily happier until they are back to the happiness levels of their early decades, even though they are now staring down their mortality in their 60s and 70s.

Imagine a smile. That’s how they U-curve appears, and those of us nearing the bottom of the curve are concerned.

It’s terrifying to be at the low end, especially because it’s a new feeling and we can’t exactly put our fingers on what is causing it. As author Ada Calhoun points out, there are plenty of reasons for people to be stressed in the middle stage of life, especially now.

Money is a consideration in a way it’s never been before, with college, housing, and other expenses increasing while pay can’t keep up. In the U.S., we have less support when it comes to maternity leave, paternity leave, and childcare. There’s also the phenomenon that Eli J. Finkel explored in his book, “The All-or-Nothing Marriage,” that shows we expect more of our marriages now than any generation before.

No wonder Calhoun worries that this generation will “just have a diagonal line pointed straight to the lower right-hand corner” when it’s all said and done.

However, there’s reason for hope. The U-curve has been found in studies of primates, a remarkable fact that implies this might not be all about our circumstances. Chimpanzees and orangutans who were studied were found to be the unhappiest in the 40s and 50s, showing a pattern of the U-curve similar to humans.

Stressful circumstances don’t help, but there’s hope that we will pull out of the low point since this is not a problem only seen in humans.

Parenting on the way down

The U-curve has the potential to affect everything in our lives, especially our parenting. Even if affairs don’t occur and careers aren’t abandoned, both genders show external manifestations of the stress and identity struggle of this time.

The outward manifestations can be good and bad. A friend of mine says there are definite advantages to her more laid back attitude as a 40-something mom. However, parenting in her 40s means feeling tired pretty much all of the time, and she says she knows her young daughters are aware that she sees parenting as work. It’s hard for her to get the time she needs for herself as a mother, and that makes meditating on identity and fulfillment difficult.

There’s also the fact that midlife causes us to reflect on our options and progress, or lack thereof. In an attempt to offer her kids a happy, stable home, one friend says she feels she might have lost her authenticity because of how limited her choices now are. Her new understanding that she is in the middle of life and time is limited makes that realization hard to cope with, but it’s hard to make changes when young kids will be affected. It can leave parents with a perpetual sensation of being unfulfilled.

As for my kids, having a mom who is descending into the U-curve means they have someone who is capable of a much deeper array of emotions. I’m more comfortable sitting with sadness, frustration, or those just having a blue day because I often deal with those feelings myself.

Unfortunately, they don’t have the mom who is a carefree kind of happy, the kind I was years ago, the kind I imagined being with my kids. Happiness during this time of life can mean hard, intentional work on an ongoing basis, which feels wrong because I can’t pinpoint reasons not to be content.

Appearing ungrateful is a real fear for those of us living in the U-curve. Our first-world problems pale in comparison to most people’s realities, and yet I sometimes plan glow stick dance parties in the living room with my kids just to keep myself from feeling like a cloud is hanging over my head.

When joy is a job

Knowing about the U-curve can help us let go of the shame and guilt we have for experiencing this dive in contentedness. Speaking of his own midlife transition, writer Jonathan Rauch wishes he would have had someone to tell him that what he was going through was normal. He was worried that he might just be a whiner, and he would have been relieved to know that he wasn’t alone in his feelings of discontent. In over 79 countries, evidence of a U-curve during midlife has been found, so no one is going through this in a bubble.

Despite not feeling an intense, easy joy that we can share easily with others, it’s still possible to be good parents. It’s not easy to focus so much on others when we feel like we are living in internal chaos, but it’s doable, and our kids may learn valuable lessons from us during this time.

We can start trying what is apparently working for the older generation: accepting our circumstances as much as possible. Many hypothesize that by our 60s, we are resigned, or we’ve simply learned what’s important and let the rest go. This may be the key to newfound happiness.

This doesn’t mean we don’t strive for what we desire during midlife. It’s just important to try to think of our future selves and what they will value. That may put life into perspective now and help us weather the stormier days.

There’s also making joy intentional. Writer Shauna Niequist says, “Sometimes joy is easy … and sometimes you have to work for it.” Kids can watch us do the work of self-care, meditation, and identity exploration. It’s not awful for them to see us work for what we want, especially if it’s happiness. They learn early that there are seasons of life we have to slog through, but that doesn’t mean giving up.

Taking another page from what Finkel learned researching marriage, we don’t always stay in things because we’re happy. His research found that many people feel their marriages have meaning, so they weather the difficult periods where contentment is less instead of walking away. The same is true of life and pushing through the daily tasks. We trudge through the hard times because our lives have meaning, every day.

Knowing that we’re not alone allows us to fully experience our midlife crisis, or transition, without feeling that there’s no explanation for it. Though we may not know the exact reason these decades seem more difficult than most, we have the U-curve research to show that there’s definitely something going on, and we can embrace that without having parenting guilt over it.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Anyone who has had a baby with colic knows: It's not easy. But despite how common colic is, the causes have stumped researchers (and parents) for generations. Yet, the fact remains that some 5 to 19% of newborns suffer from colic, or excessive but largely inexplicable crying spurts.

Parents of colicky newborns are often eager for something, anything, that will give their baby comfort. The good news is that while we don't have complete confirmation on what causes colic, we do have generations worth of evidence on how to best manage and treat colic.

1. Use bottles with an anti-colic internal vent system that creates a natural flow

One of the most commonly cited culprits in causing colic is tummy discomfort from air bubbles taken in while bottle-feeding—which is proof that not all bottles are created equally. Designed with an anti-colic internal vent system that keeps air away from baby's milk during feeding, Dr. Brown's® bottles are clinically proven to reduce colic and are the #1 pediatrician recommended baby bottle in the US

Distractions and a supine position while feeding can cause your baby to take in additional air, leading to those bubbles that can bother their tummies. If you notice an uptick in crying after feeding, experiment with giving your baby milk in a more upright position and then keeping them upright for a while afterwards for burping and digestion.

2. Offer a pacifier

If your baby is calm while eating, it may be that they are actually calmed by the ability to suck on something—a common instinct among newborns. Offering a pacifier not only can help soothe colicky babies, but is also proven to reduce the rate of SIDS in newborns, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Some babies have strong opinions about their pacifiers, which is why staying with the Dr. Brown's brand can help you avoid the guessing game: Designed to mimic the shape of the bottle nipples, Dr. Brown's HappyPaci pacifier makes for easy (read: calming) transitions from bottle to pacifier.

3. Practice babywearing

Beyond tummy troubles, another leading theory is that colic is the result of newborns' immature nervous systems and the overstimulation of life outside the womb. By keeping them close to you through babywearing, you are helping ease their transition to the outside world as they come to terms with their new environment.

During pregnancy, they were also used to lots of motion throughout the day. By walking (even around the house) while babywearing, you can help give them that familiar movement they may crave.

4. Get some fresh air

Along with the motion from walking around, studies show that colicky babies may benefit simply from being outside. This is one thing for parents of spring and summer newborns. But for those who are battling colic during cold, dark months, it can help to take your stroller into the mall for some laps.

5. Swaddle to calm their nervous system

Unlike the warm, cozy confinement of the womb, the outside world babies are contending with during the fourth trimester can be overwhelming—especially after a full day of sensory stimulation. As a result, many parents report their baby's colic is worse at night, which is why a tight, comforting swaddle can help soothe them to sleep.

For many parents coping with a colicky baby, it's simply a process of experimenting about what can best provide relief. Thankfully, it doesn't have to be as much of a guessing game now, due to products like those in the Dr. Brown's line that are specifically tailored to helping babies with colic.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Breakfast is often said to be the most important meal of the day, but in many households, it's also the most hectic. Many parents rely on pre-prepared items to cut down on breakfast prep time, and if Jimmy Dean Heat 'n Serve Original Sausage Links are a breakfast hack in your home, you should check your bag.

More than 14 tons of the frozen sausage links are being recalled after consumers found bits of metal in their meat.

The United States Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced the recall of 23.4-oz. pouches of Jimmy Dean HEAT 'n SERVE Original SAUSAGE LINKS Made with Pork & Turkey with a 'Use By' date of January 31, 2019.

"The product bears case code A6382168, with a time stamp range of 11:58 through 01:49," the FSIS notes.

In a statement posted on its website, Jimmy Dean says "a few consumers contacted the company to say they had found small, string-like fragments of metal in the product. Though the fragments have been found in a very limited number of packages, out of an abundance of caution, CTI is recalling 29,028 pounds of product. Jimmy Dean is closely monitoring this recall and working with CTI to assure proper coordination with the USDA. No injuries have been reported with this recall."

Consumers should check their packages for "the establishment code M19085 or P19085, a 'use by' date of January 31, 2019 and a UPC number of '0-77900-36519-5'," the company says.

According to the FSIS, there have been five consumer complaints of metal pieces in the sausage links, and recalled packages should be thrown away.

If you purchased the recalled sausages and have questions you can call the Jimmy Dean customer service line at (855) 382-3101.

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Flying with a 2-year-old and a 5-year-old isn't easy under optimal conditions, and when the kids are tired and cranky, things become even harder.

Many parents are anxious when flying with kids for exactly this reason: If the kids get upset, we worry our fellow passengers will become upset with us, but mom of two Becca Kinsey has a story that proves there are more compassionate people out there than we might think.

In a Facebook post that has now gone viral, Kinsey explains how she was waiting for her flight back from Disney World with her two boys, Wyatt, 2, and James, 5, when things started to go wrong, and the first of three kind women committed an act of kindness that meant so much.

After having to run all over the airport because she'd lost her ID, Kinsey and her boys were in line for security and she was "on the verge of tears because Wyatt was screaming and James was exhausted. Out of the blue, one mom stops the line for security and says 'here, jump in front of me! I know how it is!'" Kinsey wrote in her Facebook post.

Within minutes, 2-year-old Wyatt was asleep on the airport floor. Kinsey was wondering how she would carry him and all the carry-ons when "another mom jumps out of her place in line and says 'hand me everything, I've got it.'"

When Kinsey thanked the second woman and the first who had given up her place in line they told her not to worry, that they were going to make sure she got on her flight.

"The second woman takes evvvverything and helps me get it through security and, on top of all that, she grabs all of it and walks us to the gate to make sure we get on the flight," Kinsey wrote.

Kinsey and her boys boarded, but the journey was hardly over. Wyatt wolk up and started "to scream" at take off, before finally falling back asleep. Kinsey was stressed out and needed a moment to breathe, but she couldn't put Wyatt down.

"After about 45 min, this angel comes to the back and says 'you look like you need a break' and holds Wyatt for the rest of the flight AND walks him all the way to baggage claim, hands him to [Kinsey's husband], hugs me and says "Merry Christmas!!" Kinsey wrote.

👏👏👏

It's a beautiful story about women helping women, and it gets even better because when Kinsey's Facebook post started to go viral she updated it in the hopes of helping other parents take their kids to Disney and experience another form of stress-relief.

"What if everyone that shared the story went to Kidd's Kids and made a $5 donation?! Kidd's Kids take children with life-threatening and life-altering conditions on a 5 day trip to Disney World so they can have a chance to forget at least some of the day to day stressors and get to experience a little magic!!"

As of this writing, Kinsey has raised more than $2,000 for Kidd's Kids and has probably inspired a few people to be kind the next time they see a parent struggling in public.

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Ah, the holidays—full of festive cheer, parties, mistletoe... and complete and utter confusion about how much to tip whom.

Remember: Tipping and giving gifts to the people that help you throughout the year is a great way to show your appreciation, but it's never required. Ultimately, listen to your heart (and your budget) and decide what's right for your family.

Here is our etiquette guide to tipping and gifting everyone on your list.

Teachers

You can decide if you'd like to do a class gift.

  • Ask people to contribute what they can, if they'd like to
  • Sign the gift from the entire class—don't single out the people that weren't able to contribute
  • Idea: a small gift and then a gift card bought with the rest of the money, and a card signed by all the children

...or a personal gift.

  • Amount/value is very up to you—you may factor in how many days/week your child is in school and how much you pay for tuition.
  • Anywhere from $5-$150 has been done.
  • Idea: a personalized tote bag and gift card, with a picture drawn by your child

Babysitters, nannies + au pairs

  • Up to one night's pay for a babysitter
  • Up to one week's pay for a nanny or au pair.
  • Homemade gift from the child

Daycare teachers

  • $25-70/teacher and a card from your child

School bus driver

  • A non-monetary gift of $10-$20 (i.e. a gift card)

Ballet teacher/soccer coach

  • Consider a group gift or personal gift (see teacher gift above)
  • Up to $20 value if doing a personal gift

Mail carrier

  • A gift up to a $20 value, but they are not allowed to receive cash or a gift card that can be exchanged for cash.

UPS/Fed Ex

  • A gift up to a $20 value, depending on the number of packages you get. Avoid cash if possible.

Sanitation workers

  • $10-30 each
  • Make sure you find out if the same people pick up the recycling and the trash—there may be two different teams to think about.

Cleaning person

  • Up to one week's pay

Hair stylist

  • Up to the cost of one haircut/style

Dog walker

  • Up to one week's pay

Doorman

  • $15-80 each depending on number of doormen

Boss/Co-workers

  • You are not required to give your boss a gift. In some instances, it may be inappropriate to do so—so you'll have to think about what seems right for you
  • Never give cash
  • Consider giving an office gift—bring coffee or donuts to the office for everyone, buy an assortment of teas for the staff lounge, replace the microwave that everyone hates, etc
  • Organize an office Secret Santa—it's a great way to boost morale and have fun, without needing to decide who to buy for. (Hint: We love Elftser for easy Secret Santa organizing!)

Neighbors

Hey mama,

It's the time of year again.

You know what I'm talking about. From Halloween to New Years Eve, where all the sweets and treats come out in full force, and it seems like the universe is plotting to take you down.

You may feel overwhelmed by the weight of it all. After all, history has taught you that you can't make it through the holiday season successfully.

Maybe you can't get by without eating all the holiday treats and feeling like a failure. Maybe you end the holidays vowing to be a better person and start the New Year on the latest detox diet. You are all too familiar with the guilt and shame that comes with holiday eating cycle and how this robs you of joy of the season.

You may have managed to contain some element of self-control over the year. Maybe you carefully avoid those treats that you know you can't simply eat one of, or maybe you've skipped dessert and stayed clear from all the sweets. Maybe you've felt like you're doing well on your latest diet and are worried about how this incoming holiday treat wave will sabotage your success.

Whatever you're worried about, the fear is real and paralyzing, taking up that precious mental space as your thoughts are consumed about food and your body.

It may be hard to think about anything else when you mind is controlled by the rules that dictate what you should and shouldn't be eating. Maybe seeing your spouse or kids eat those holiday treats creates more anxiety for you and sends you on the brink of losing your mind as these food issues become all consuming.

But have you ever stopped to ask yourself, where is this fear coming from and why is it controlling your life?

Do you ever feel like a failure at eating because you inhaled that bag of fun-sized candy bars or scarfed through a dessert faster than anyone could say, "Trick or Treat?"

Are you embarrassed that something as normal as food feels like such a struggle?

Does overeating or an emotional eating episode send you on a downward tailspin in self-loathing?

How many times have you stepped on the scale, only to feel miserable about yourself for the rest of the day?

I want to let you in on a secret.

You are not failing, mama.

That desire to eat all the holiday foods or binge on sweets doesn't mean that you've screwed up or that you have no self-control.

You're not a failure for wanting to eat all the things you don't normally let yourself eat or for breaking all the food rules you've set in place to give you more "control."

You don't need more willpower, another diet or more ways to become disciplined.

What you need, sweet mama, is permission.

Permission to eat those foods that you crave every year, like a slice of your Grandmother's special holiday dish or the piece of pumpkin cheesecake everyone's eating at your office party.

Permission to decorate holiday cookies with your kids and actually enjoy eating one too, not pretend like you don't want one, only to eat a plateful once they've gone to bed.

Permission to actually keep food in its proper place, so it's not stealing your joy, energy and mental space.

And you know what?

When you've given yourself permission to eat, including all those sweets and treats that are normally off-limits, they suddenly lose their power over you. And when food doesn't have power over you, you will have freedom to live a life that isn't bound by what you can and cannot eat.

Let me tell you something else: feeling like a failure around food is NOT your fault. It doesn't mean you don't have enough self-control or will power. There is nothing wrong with you.

What's to blame are the abundance of food rules: unrealistic food rules that make you feel unnecessarily guilty for eating or shameful in your body. (i.e: "Don't eat sugar", "Don't eat carbohydrates", "That's not allowed on the diet", "Don't eat anything too high in fat", "Don't eat after 6pm", "Don't eat all day if you're having a big meal at night").

You are not the problem.

Food rules, diets, etc. THAT is what is wrong.

You weren't made to live or thrive under a list of rules of what you should or shouldn't eat. It's not an issue of self-control.

The truth is that trying to follow a diet or a rigid set of food rules is like trying to negotiate with your toddler—you just can't win. And it's not for lack of trying, it's that the rules of the game are created for you to fail. So why try to play a game where the odds are against you?

You can opt-out of diet culture NOW to enjoy a truly peaceful holiday season that doesn't end with self-loathing or a New Year's resolution to diet and start the cycle all over again. Because the truth is, there are no good and bad foods or rules you are have to follow. When you can let go of all those judgments and emotional hang-ups that you've attached to eating, you learn to trust yourself to make your own choices and view food for what is really is - just food.

So choose being present over being perfect with the way you eat (because no such thing exists anyway). Calm the food chaos by giving yourself permission to eat, taste, and celebrate.

Enjoy the treats, if that is what your body is craving. Take back for yourself what all the obscure food rules and dieting have taken away from you all these years. Take in the memories, the flavors of the season - because you deserve it.

This holiday season, commit to putting yourself on a new path, one that doesn't end in self-destruction.

Give yourself permission, not only to eat, but to embrace a new way of living that isn't defined by your body size or what you can or cannot eat.

You can choose food freedom over food rules, and by doing so, you are choosing to live. You are choosing to be present for your children and experience the moments and memories that might otherwise be missed when your mind is imprisoned by food rules.

It's never too late, mama. The time to start is now.

Remember—you are not failing. Start by giving yourself permission today.

Originally posted on Crystal Karges.

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