Stay at Home Parents: Nurture Your Adult Relationships – Not Just Your Kids

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Let’s not lie: when you’re stay-at-home-parent, you have to suck it up on lots of things. Our gig can look cushy to outsiders, but the social and psychological sacrifices are great. It’s an intense phase of life, and even though everyone and their great aunt will smugly instruct you to “enjoy this time” because “it goes so fast,” while it’s actually happening it can be really lonely. And tedious. Yeah, it can seriously suck. And that’s not because you have an attitude problem – it’s just the tragicomedy of life.


But there are a few tricks to feel less alienated from your beloved adult relationships. Because you do deserve to have them!

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Skip the status

Rather than post your observations and witty quips on social media, text them to a specific friend or on a select group thread (the GroupMe app is a great choice, especially if you’re into making quicky memes). It may feel good to get 30 likes or a handful of retweets, but this form of social acknowledgment doesn’t actually build relationships.

Addressing someone directly means you’re investing your attention in them, which encourages them in turn to reciprocate theirs more fully. Actual conversations can grow out of a casual exchange if started in a private medium. Then at least if your schedules can’t line up, you’ll know what’s really going on in each other’s lives, not just what you’d like to project – and isn’t that the definition of real friendship?

Become a regular

Novelty can be a SAHP’s savior, but there’s something special about a place where everyone knows your name. Find somewhere convenient to your routine that’s relatively childproofed and chill with a wallet-friendly menu, and get to know the people who work there. No need to force them into idle chitchat, but introduce yourself, learn who’s who, and tip what you can afford. It goes a long way to have a grown-up spot where you don’t feel like a total asshole just taking up tables and plowing through napkins. You may even bond with other regulars enough to have them mind your mini-me while you go take your daily poop-cation. The luxury!

Loop in your mate

As much as you miss your out-of-the-house co-parent, they surely feel they’re missing out, too. Do what you can to include them in daily happenings by making little videos with the kids – goofy choreographed dances, what-we-did-this-week montages, faux commercials, and silly tutorials. It takes as little or as long as you want, and can really perk up the lunch break of a work-bound mom or dad. Be sure to work in some “thank you’s” for all the sacrifices they make. It may be different for them, but this time is trying for everyone.

Activate your inner activist

I know you’ll feel tired just reading this, but the relative flexibility of a SAHP schedule means you have enviable opportunities to hustle for your cause of choice. Activist leaders are increasingly aware of the need to accommodate children at their meetings and in spaces of protest. Reach out ahead of time to inquire about family-friendly accommodations, and be honest about your needs. These are passionate people who share your values and want your participation. Tell them how to help you make your contribution. They need it, and so do you.

Sanctify one meal per day

In my house we have a sacred object (actually a cheap broken bracelet, but it is sparkly) that we lay on the table to signify when capital-d Dinner has begun. No screens, no getting up unexcused, no whining. This is where we gather as a family and sometimes with guests, but adult conversation reigns. Anyone who can’t cooperate is welcome to wait it out in their room – without food.

Yes, you’re allowed to do this. No, it doesn’t have to be dinner. It’s good for kids know that some rituals are sacred, and that adult communication has an important place they should respect, if only for twenty minutes a night. All grown ups need to have dialogue that goes beyond, “How was your day” “Fine, yours?” While it may test the young ones’ patience, they will actually acquire great social skills from proximity to you and your dinnermates’ candor.

Switch to social hobbies

Before having a baby, my main hobbies were knitting, running, and reading, all of which I did alone. Now I go out and do stand-up comedy once a week because open mics are an easy way to mingle with a consistent group of interesting people. Getting involved with church or volunteer work and using sites like MeetUp.com make it easy to find folks who share your interests and the events plan themselves. If the support isn’t there at home, reach out to another parent for a weekly childcare trade off, but somehow, someway, get out of the house and make talky-talky with the other big kids before you lose all your words.

Automate dates

You know how key it is to have a regular date night, and how it helps to have that babysitter booked by default. Save money and deepen bonds by switching off childcare with another couple, taking turns to go out. Also go in together on a sitter for all the kids so you can have a scheduled double date. Don’t forget to pencil yourself a reoccurring anti-date, where you get a routine chunk of that sweet, sweet Alone Time. Or that Hang With Your Childfree Friends And Talk About Their Lives Time. Or, Lie In The Grass And Let Squirrels Wonder If You’re Dead Time. It’s really a human right!

Toot some horns

You need recognition. Every day you do a dozen things that will get undone a dozen times before the mail comes. Without some validation, you might start to feel like a ghost, so don’t be bashful about demanding it. In our family debriefings, we designate some time to toot each other’s horns (i.e., give a grateful shout-out), but the holiest of toots is the self-toot. Toot your own horn to your partner or friends! Announce something you did (or attempted) that you’re proud of, which would otherwise get overlooked. It feels silly at first (this verbiage doesn’t help), but soon it will become second nature. You’ll see your own value, get the thanks you deserve, and fend off any latent resentment that may otherwise curdle into passive-aggression. Stay-at-home-parents live on food, water, hugs, and praise. Don’t deny yourself the essentials.

Party on

Despite their four children and religious abstinence from alcohol, my parents always hosted New Year’s Eve parties when I was growing up. Did it make for a rough morning the next day? Probably. Did it ever flush a whole week of routine down the toilet? I don’t remember, but it’s possible. What I do remember is how proud I felt to see my charming stay-at-home mother all glammed up and laughing with her friends. I remember the thrill of refilling our guests’ cups with ice cubes on demand. For me it was a magical chance to spy from behind the couch, and for them it was likely a welcome relief to pretend they didn’t see.

I’m sure there were nights my parents sat us all in front of the basement TV while they entertained. Guess what? We were fine. It was more important that they have a cheerful and fulfilling life than to keep daily screen time to 90 minutes or less without fail. Kids need their parents to have fun, and sometimes you have to bring the fun to you. Don’t lament the loss of the village – be its chief, be a host, make your neighbors welcome. You won’t look back and remember the bedtime protests or the stained tablecloths. If you do, they’ll probably just blend in with a haze of happy nostalgia.

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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$79.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

This article was sponsored by GAP. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and Mamas.

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There's a lot of discussion about the importance of early education—but what about soft skills like respect and kindness? How can mamas teach children important values like cooperation, gratitude, empathy or politeness?

These values are basic, foundational beliefs that help us know right from wrong, that give balance and meaning to life and that enable us to form community bonds with one another. These soft skills are crucial for kids to learn at any age, and it's important for them to be reinforced, both in the classroom and at home, throughout their childhood.

Here are fundamental ways to build character in your young children:

Kindness

Performing random acts of kindness can have a positive influence on both the individual showing and receiving the kindness. As a family, think of ways that each one of you can show kindness to others. Some ideas may include baking cookies for the mail carrier, donating an unopened toy to a local charity, purchasing canned goods for a homeless shelter or leaving notes and drawings for the neighbors. Include your child in the process so they can see firsthand the joy that kindness can bring to others.

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Responsibility

Children have a strong desire to mimic adult family members. Encourage your child to help complete simple chores in and around the house. Children feel a great sense of accomplishment when they can do their share and feel that sense of responsibility. Two-year-olds will enjoy folding towels, putting books away, putting paper in the recycling box and tending to the garden. Older children may enjoy helping out in the kitchen or with yard work.

Patience

Patience is the ability to demonstrate self-control while waiting for an event to occur. It also refers to the ability to remain calm in the face of frustration. This is a skill which develops in children as they mature. While it is important to practice patience, adults should also be realistic in their expectations, evaluate daily routines and eliminate long periods of wait time from the schedule.

Politeness

Schedule a time when the whole family can sit down together for dinner. Model good manners and encourage older siblings and other members of the family to do the same. Use phrases such as, "Can you please pass the potatoes?" or "Thank you." Be sure to provide your child with guidance, by explaining what to do as opposed to what not to do.

Flexibility

Change your routines at home to encourage children to be flexible in their thinking and to try new things. Try being flexible in the small things: enjoy breakfast for dinner, eat ice cream with a fork, have your child read a bedtime story to you or have a picnic in the living room. Let your child know it is okay to do things in a different way.

Empathy

Children are beginning to understand different emotions and that others have feelings. Throughout their childhood, talk about their feelings and share one's own feeling with them as well. By taking the time to listen to how children are feeling, you will demonstrate to them that you care and reinforce with them that you fully understand how they are feeling.

Cooperation

Coordinate playdates or take your children to events where they can practice introducing themselves to other children, and potentially with adults. Find games and other activities that require turn-taking and sharing.

Gratitude

Encourage your child to spend five minutes every day listing the things they are grateful for. This could be done together just before bedtime or after dinner.

Respect

As parents, our goal is to teach children to recognize that even though people have different likes and dislikes or beliefs and ideas, they must treat each other with manners and positivity. Respect should be shown when sharing, cleaning up, and listening to others. Always teach and model the Golden Rule: treat others the way you would like to be treated. Also remind children that respect can be shown towards things in the classroom. Treating materials and toys correctly shows appreciation for the things we have.
Learn + Play

Medical researchers and providers consider a woman's postpartum period to be up to 12 months after the delivery of baby, but too often, health insurance doesn't see it the same way. Nearly half of the births in the United States are covered by Medicaid or the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and while the babies who are born during these births are eligible for Medicaid or CHIP for a year, their mothers often lose their coverage 60 days after delivering their child. There is clear data showing 70% of new moms will have at least one health complication within a year of giving birth.

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This week, members of Congress' Subcommittee on Health met to mark up H.R. 4996, the "Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services (MOMS) Act of 2019, and it was favorably forwarded to the full Committee.

What does this mean? It means that while this bill still has a ways to go before it potentially becomes law, its success would see states get the option to provide 12 months of continuous coverage postpartum coverage to mothers on Medicaid. This would save lives.

As we at Motherly have said many times, it takes a considerable amount of time and energy to heal from birth. A mother may not be healed 60 days out from delivering. She may still require medical care for perinatal mood disorders, breast issues like thrush and mastitis, diabetes, and the consequences of traumatic births, like severe vaginal tearing.

Cutting off Medicaid when her baby is only 2 months old makes mom and baby vulnerable, and the Helping Moms Act could protect families from dire consequences.

The United States has the highest rate of maternal deaths in the developed world, and according to the CDC, "about 700 women die each year in the United States as a result of pregnancy or delivery complications." This is not okay, and while H.R. 4996 is not yet signed into law this bill could help change this. It could help address the racial disparities that see so many Black mothers and Native American mothers dying from preventable causes in the first year of motherhood.

A report from nine American maternal mortality review committees found that there were three leading causes of death that occurred between 43 days and one year postpartum: cardiomyopathy (32.4%), mental health conditions (16.2%), and embolism (10.8%) and multiple state maternal mortality review committees have recommended extending Medicaid coverage to one year postpartum in order to prevent these deaths.

Basically, making sure that moms have have continuous access to health care the year after a birth means doctors can spot issues with things like depression, heart disease and high blood pressure at regular check-ups and treat these conditions before they become fatal.

The Helping Moms Act is a step forward in the fight for maternal health and it proves that maternal health is truly a bipartisan issue. Republicans and Democrats alike recognize the value in providing support for mothers during the postpartum period.

The Helping MOMS Act was was introduced by Democratic Congresswoman Robin Kelly of Illinois, chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust. It was co-lead by Texas Republican Michael Burgess (who is also a medical doctor), as well as Georgia Republican Buddy Carter, Washington Republicans Jaime Herrera Beutler and Cathy McMorris Rodgers and Ayanna Pressley from Massachusettes and Lauren Underwood of Illinois (both Democrats).

"Incentivizing postpartum Medicaid expansion is a critical first step in preventing maternal deaths by ensuring new moms can see their doctor. I'm proud that my colleagues, on both sides of the aisle, came together to put an end to the sad reality of American moms dying while growing their families," said Kelly. "We can't allow the perfect to be the enemy of the good. This is a good, bipartisan first step, but it must be the first of many."

It doesn't matter what your political stripes, reducing America's maternal mortality stats should be a priority.

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Whether you're having a low-key Friendsgiving with your closest friends or prepping to host your first big Thanksgiving dinner with both families, figuring out all of the menu details can be the most overwhelming step. How much should I cook? What ingredients do I need? How does one actually cook a turkey this big?

But, don't worry, mama—HelloFresh is lending a helping hand this year with their Thanksgiving box in collaboration with Jessica Alba. Because you already have enough on your plate (and we're not talking stuffing).


Here are the details. You can choose from two Thanksgiving boxes: Turkey ($152) or beef tenderloin ($132). The turkey box serves 8-10 people while the beef one will serve 4-6 and both are $6.99 to ship. We got to try both and they're equally delicious so you can't go wrong with either one, but the turkey does require a 4-day thaw period so keep that in mind. And if you're wondering what the sides are, here's a sneak peek:

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  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Green bean casserole with crispy onions
  • Ciabatta stuffing with chick sausage and cranberries
  • Cranberry sauce with orange, ginger and cinnamon
  • Apple ginger crisp with cinnamon pecan crumble

While someone still has to do the actual cooking, it's designed to take the stress out of Thanksgiving dinner so you can focus on spending time with your loved ones (or watching Hallmark Christmas movies). You don't have to worry about grocery shopping, portion sizes, recipe curation or forgetting that essential thing you needed to make the meal perfect. Everything is super simple to make from start to finish—it even comes with a cooking timeline.

Orders are open through November 21 and can be delivered anytime through November 24. Even better? You don't need a subscription to order.


ORDER A BOX

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My mother's death propelled me to start the process of becoming a parent as a 43-year-old single woman. As my connection to her remained strong in spirit after her death, I was ready to experience the same bond with my own child. I began the journey with Intra Uterine Insemination (IUI), and after three failed attempts at getting pregnant, I decided to adopt.

The adoption process is a lengthy and humbling one—one that includes fingerprints, background checks, references, classes, doing a profile of yourself and your life that birth parents eventually use to choose adoptive families.

After my application was approved, a young couple chose me just a month later. I couldn't believe my fortune. But I had to get to work and prepare the house for my baby's arrival. I bought the best of everything—bassinets, clothes, diapers, car seats… the list goes on. I told close friends and family that it was finally happening.

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But all of this was in vain. The day I was supposed to pick my daughter up, I learned that the birth parents had changed their minds. They no longer wanted to give their daughter up for adoption. As time passed, it was difficult to endure no interest from potential parents but the faith in believing what is meant to be continued. To increase my potential, I enrolled with a second adoption agency.

A few months later, as I was getting ready to try IVF for the first time, I received a phone call to let me know that a woman had selected me to adopt her child. So I opted out of IVF and found myself in a hospital delivery room with the birth mother, assisting her in the delivery of MY child. It was a boy! I was so thrilled, and he was just adorable.

After six years of losses and disappointments, I was able to bring him home and awaited the final word that the mother and father have given the needed consent. I was getting ready to watch the Super Bowl with him dressed in football gear, I got a phone call.

Once again, the adoption agency informed me that the birth mother had changed her mind. That evening, I had to return the baby to his birth mom. I was heartbroken, and my hopes were shattered.

What now? Going back to IVF meant starting from scratch, and that would take a minimum of six months before being able to really start getting pregnant. I was 49 years old, and the clock was ticking. I really wanted to be a mom by the age of 50.

I was in Chicago, recovering from a collapsed lung, when I received yet another phone call from the adoption agency. An expecting mom had chosen me and had already signed over all of her rights. This little girl was mine. For real, this time. But I had to get to Southern New Jersey by Thursday to pick her up from the hospital.

After negotiating with my doctor to give me the green light to leave while recovering from my condition, I hopped on a train, and 22 hours later, I arrived to New York City in a massive snow storm. I took longer than expected to get to her, but after navigating the icy roads of New Jersey, I met my daughter!

She is now 2 years old, and she has changed my life in ways that just can't be fully described. What I can say is that I now understand my mother's love even more and her devotion to me and my siblings, and as I am sharing the same with my daughter, my bond to my mother keeps on growing.

Becoming a mom at 49 was never what I had envisioned. But whether you are trying to conceive or have decided to adopt a child, the road to becoming a parent is rarely easy. I know that inner strength and believing in what was meant to be kept me moving forward.

Life
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