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It was nearly 9 p.m. when I got a text from my son who had decided, last minute, to come home from college for the weekend with his friend. A polar vertex had descended on the whole northeast and I was already headed up to bed. I stared at the text with a mixed set of emotions. Sure, it would be nice to see him. But leaving so late at night? That never seemed like a good idea.


At 9:45 p.m. I heard the chime of another text. Their car had broken down in Baltimore. They were in the midst of solving the problem and had pulled off to a side road to call a tow truck. But, in the meantime, he wanted me to know that he was not coming home now. And that it was cold in the car.

“Are you wearing a coat?” I asked.

He was not. I thought back to all those mornings that I sent him to school without nagging him to eat breakfast, wear a jacket, or remember his homework. I believed in letting kids learn through natural consequences. I believed that actually experiencing a little hunger or cold would be a better motivator than any nagging on my end, that my kids had to learn certain lessons themselves so that they would be memorable. I wanted them to learn to depend on themselves.

On some accounts, it failed to take hold. When they were little, some of the consequences were barely noticed. Recess at school was only 20 minutes and often, on frigid days, they didn’t go out at all. If they missed breakfast at home, lunch was at 11 a.m. If they forgot their homework the penalties were minor. Maybe it meant they would get a slightly lower grade or stay in for recess. They could survive without a coat, breakfast or homework.

By 11 p.m. the tow truck had still not come. They were still cold. He admitted to me, on the phone, that he never took it seriously when his grandfather scolded him about his lack of jacket-wearing in winter and asked, “what happens if the car breaks down?”

I sighed on the phone, relieved they were not on the highway when the natural consequences of poor choices finally kicked in. There are some things that are hard to teach as a parent, especially when the goal is to protect. I had never provided the experience of being stranded in a broken-down car, nor did I ever want to.

I faced the dilemma head-on this past spring when we got his brother honeybees for his birthday. He was turning 17 and appreciated things with purpose. However, he also suffered from pollen allergies and sneezed through the entirety of every single spring. For eight weeks each year, he was barely recognizable.

When a bravado appeared in him during a particularly allergic early April, I started to get worried about our decision to get him bees.

“I am going to walk into that hive and just smear myself with the honey when I get those bees,” he said between sneezes. He had long-known about the research that eating local honey can reduce allergies. It appeared that he was planning to take things one step further. I imagined him covered in bees, overcome with multiple stings.

When the day came to pick up the bees and transfer them to the waiting hives, I was apprehensive. The bee suit was still in the packaging and my son was still telling me about how relatively tame these bees were and how he wouldn’t be needing any protection. Where he saw non-threatening bees, I saw a still-developing teenage brain.

He mixed up the sugar water as I chopped potatoes for dinner. I thought about how, in one more year, he would be going to college and facing other decisions and risks. In one short year, I would not be able to intercede.

As he headed out to the wooden hive in the back I decided to follow from a distance and watch him spray them with the sugar water.

“It calms them down,” he said.

I looked a little closer and they were still actively trying to escape. Not a calm bee in sight. He sprayed them some more and tapped the container against the ground.

“They will fall to the bottom,” he said as he inspected closer.

I looked as well. Not too many bees on the bottom.

He followed the protocol one more time. I could tell that he was getting ready to take off the lid and dump them in the hive. I thought longingly of the bee suit in the garage. I struggled to not interfere. I struggled with my own belief in natural consequences and where to draw the line. He knew the risks. He had done the research. But still I was uncomfortable.

My eyes were intently focused on his hand as tried to pull off the lid, my heart pounding as buzzing grew louder. The bees knew something was up. Once the top was off, there would be no turning back. The bees would be everywhere. I spotted a split-second hesitation in his fingers as I held my breath, my own heart pounding. My mother’s instinct took hold more powerfully than I could control. I yelled to him something about the woman who sold the bees: “She said they swarm after trips in the car.” I was lying out of my own desperation to protect.

He stood up. Our primal instincts clashed – my need to parent and his need to be unafraid, to grow up. He let out a sigh, the sigh I knew meant he was about to take pity on my worry.

“Go get the bee suit,” he said with resignation to his younger brother.

His brother and I zipped him in as he muttered about my annoying interference. But, for that moment, I didn’t care. He headed back to the bees and fully released them. I watched as the bees, now freed, covered the white of his suit, swarming around him. I thought of his bare arms and legs under the white cloth. I wondered what would have happened had I not intervened.

Back in the house I resumed making dinner. A few minutes later he came in. A bee had stung him on his eyelid when he took off the bee helmet.

“It doesn’t hurt,” he said.

“Get some ice from the freezer,” I replied, grateful for the honeybee that stung him, the one that proved me right.

A month later I would again be grateful; this time for a set of railroad tracks that knocked off a muffler on my oldest son’s car. He would learn how to secure it with a coat hanger at midnight. My words, “please don’t drive so late at night” would suddenly carry more weight. And I would be reminded again that sometimes life is a more effective teacher than a parent. Even when it is hard to watch.

Even when it stings.

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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

Luckily, finding a system to help you plan out your days can help reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life—which we are all for.

Here are eight planners we love that'll quickly take you from "What is happening?!" to "Look what I did!"

1. Day Designer

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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