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The Project Management Tool You Can Use to Wrangle Your Family

How can families stay connected and calm in a fast-paced world of school, extracurricular activities, and household chores that beg to be completed? The answer writer Bruce Feiler is offering comes from an unexpected place: the world of project management as it relates to software development.


Agile is a method used in software development that has been gaining followers for years. Small teams work together on tasks to help reach a larger goal. The core elements of this system are dividing tasks into smaller parts and constantly evaluating what is working and what is not.

Feiler gave a TED Talk explaining how this approach works in everyday life with his family and how it helps him create the ultimate family meetings. Everything from crazy family mornings to chores and attitude problems can be addressed by stealing this corporate tool and applying it to the home.

Why do we need Agile?

Feiler cites a study by Ellen Galinsky from the Family and Works Institute to show that we need change in our families. The one thing kids in this study desperately wanted to alter in their parents was their stress levels.

The constant management of our children, homes, and careers leaves us feeling the burnout. I spend many days giving directives more than communicating love, and this happens when I am rushing to finish one task so I can immediately undertake another.

Feiler found that what can lead to less stress is when our kids become active participants in the running of their homes. Our processes are more efficient, our kids are empowered by helping, and communication between family members is stronger.

Combining Agile and family meetings

Feiler’s approach means families set up weekly meetings that last no longer than 20 minutes, ensuring a child of almost any age can stay engaged the entire time. These meetings address issues in the household and give children opportunities to constructively air out grievances. It’s a co-facilitated situation, and everyone has a voice.

If a major concern is that bedtimes are chaos, each person helps come up with possible solutions, breaking down bedtime so that everyone knows their role in helping solve the problem. Visuals are used, such as checklists or large boards, where everyone can see what their responsibilities are.

Agile leader, Martin Lapointe, utilizes a task board where kids can see what they need to do and move their tasks around the board to different columns as they are in progress or completed.

Here’s the important part: At the next meeting, the family discusses what worked, what didn’t, and what they need to deal with during the upcoming week. As opposed to parents making all the decisions, kids are able to offer input, and parents receive a look into their kids’ thought processes, as well as getting a more well-rounded view of how the household is running.

This approach lets kids know they are heard, keeps the family constantly adapting as things change, and teaches kids how to problem solve. It also helps them understand that a plan not working isn’t the end of the world. Maybe the bedtime story system a child presented at the last meeting was too complex and needs to be modified. Children see that recognizing when something fails isn’t the end of the world. They are given opportunities to adapt, a real-life skill that will serve them well.

Becoming a team

Just like businesses, families sometimes fall victim to a top-to-bottom set up. Parents (bosses), say what they want, and children (employees) are supposed to jump to make that happen.

This model often fails in the business world, and it can lead to unnecessary stress in a home. The children feel like they aren’t a part of the family vision, and parents feel like their vision isn’t being realized. The Agile approach offers more balance to the process.

Trusting kids to offer their views and help make positive changes teaches them to be independent and gives them a taste of both success and failure in a safe environment. Agile-loving families have been known to turn vacations and holidays into Agile events, splitting up jobs, making fast, real progress, and checking in to make changes.

Feiler’s daughters now decide on the rewards and punishments they will receive, and they hold each other and themselves accountable. This is what we want: kids who make decisions, adapt accordingly, and learn how to self-regulate.

Feiler, upon hearing about this approach from other parents, doubted it would work for his family. Their problems and stresses seemed too big for a 20-minute weekly meeting and a task board to solve them. He was pleased to find out he was wrong.

Feiler warns parents not to expect perfection from their kids just because they are now in on the process. They will still act up and need guidance, but they will develop skills that, as they are honed, help them attack large issues or assignments as problem solvers and thinkers.

Kids will learn teamwork and how to communicate with others effectively, and parents will have the pleasure of watching their kids cultivate a spirit of independence. Once families go Agile, many don’t go back.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Toddlers can alternatively be the sweetest and most tyrannical people on the planet. Figuring the world out is tough, but it is possible to teach them how to care for and respect others—and the first steps start with you.

Here are five tips from Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of Harmony in Parenting Dr. Azine Graff on teaching empathy through modeling and playtime, with some of our favorite dolls from Manhattan Toy Company.


1. "I wonder if she's sad." 

Think about it: The first step to understanding the emotions of others is being able to recognize them in yourself. Graff recommends looking for opportunities to label emotions throughout the day by helping your child identify sadness, anger, happiness, and fear.

You can do this by pointing to someone smiling in a book or noticing a baby crying in the grocery store. Try saying, "The baby is crying. I wonder if she is sad." Over time, your little one will learn to label emotions on their own.

2. "How can we take care of her?" 

Dramatic play can be a great time to model care and compassion for others. That's one reason why baby dolls make such great toys for toddlers—not only are they great for open-ended play, they also provide the opportunity to teach caretaking.

For example, you can ask your child, "The baby is yawning and seems very tired. How can we take care of her?" We love the award-winning Wee Baby Stella doll from Manhattan Toy Company to turn playtime into a time for empathy teaching.

3. "It is really hard when all the blocks fall and you're trying to build a tower."

You can set the best example of empathy by taking time to notice and validate your child's feelings. Instead of trying to immediately shush crying, react from a place of compassion.

For example, if your child throws a tantrum over a fallen block tower, try saying, "It is really hard when all the blocks fall and you're trying to build a tower." This demonstrates the importance of understanding feelings, even if they are not our own.

4. "Do you want to try with me?"

Once your child is better able to identify their emotions, they're in a better place to find solutions with your help. "When we can help our children through challenging feelings, especially when they are struggling, we are modeling care for others," Graff says.

The next time your child gets upset, you can say, "It is frustrating when something falls apart. It helps me to take a deep breath when I'm frustrated. Do you want to try with me?"

5. Express your own feelings

It can be tempting to hide your feelings from your child, but when modeled appropriately, it can teach them that feelings are a normal part of life. Over time, you will see them use the same strategies of empathy on you, like kissing your "boo-boos" or suggesting you take a deep breath when you're upset.


This article is sponsored by Manhattan Toy Company. Thank you for supporting that brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Dr. Azine Graff is a Clinical Psychologist and Co-Founder of Harmony in Parenting, which is based in Los Angeles and offers groups, classes, therapy and consultation services informed by the latest research on child development.

With the big news now out of the way, pregnant Meghan Markle and her husband Prince Harry have begun a massive tour of Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific. Over the next two weeks the couple is set to make 76 engagements. (We're tired just thinking about it.)

With a schedule like that it seems like Meghan is probably feeling as good as a pregnant person can, and reports suggest she's had a 12-week ultrasound, which means she's just rolling into her second trimester—a time many mamas look back on as their "easiest" part of pregnancy.

The tour schedule is a daunting one, but of course many women travel and work during their pregnancies, and Meghan has never been one to sit still long. Basically, there's no reason an uncomplicated pregnancy would warrant a big change in her plans.

Here's what we know about Meghan's pregnancy so far:

She's well aware of the Zika situation

Entertainment Tonight reports the Duchess will not be accompanying her husband to engagements at the Fiji War Memorial or the Colo-i-Suva forest (she'll be doing morning tea at the British High Commissioner's residence and meeting women vendors at a local market instead, Hello reports), and this schedule tweak is possibly pregnancy-related.

The World Health Organization advises against travel to by pregnant people to Fiji (and Tonga, another island on the Duke and Duchess' itinerary) due to the risk of Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitoes.

The Duchess has likely discussed Zika risks extensively with her medical team, and if they've given her the green light, no one should hassle her about this. It's her choice, and in both Tonga and Fiji, the risk of Zika infection is now a lot lower than it was in 2016, CNN reports.

We can expect to see lots of long-sleeved outfits on that part of the tour.

While she's technically experiencing a "geriatric pregnancy," that term is outdated 

"Geriatric" is absolutely the last word we would ever associate with the youthful beauty that is Meghan Markle, but at 37, she's technically in the zone that some doctors (still) refer to as a "geriatric pregnancy."

The unfortunate (and downright rude) term has been replaced in the vocabulary of many medical providers by "advanced maternal age" (which is slightly less rude), but is still being used by many members of the press covering Markle's pregnancy announcement.

Labeling the Duchess' pregnancy as geriatric may be technically correct as she's over 35 but it's hardly necessary when there are much kinder ways to phrase it. And while many royal watchers are pointing out that Meghan's advanced maternal age puts her at higher risk for some pregnancy complications, plenty of healthy 37-year-old women have babies every day.

Now is actually a great time for her to travel 

While a lot of airlines don't recommend or even allow traveling (especially a long international flight) late in pregnancy (we're talking like 38 weeks) Meghan is still far from that stage.

The UK's National Health Service advices British moms-to-be that late pregnancy and early pregnancy are the trickiest when it comes to travel, noting the airline rules and that: "Some women try to avoid travelling in the first 12-15 weeks of pregnancy because exhaustion and nausea tend to be worse at this early stage."

It sounds like Meghan is just beyond that uncomfortable bit and into the fun part of pregnancy. We can't wait to see some royal bump pics.

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Mamas rarely get to treat themselves to a new wardrobe when they're focused on everyone else's needs. However, a new season is the ultimate opportunity to add a few new staples to your closet.

With temperatures dropping, you might be tempted to wear leggings and large sweaters daily (okay, that's not going to change) but these pieces will easily update your go-to fall wardrobe. Add a great pair of shoes, or swap in a new accessory and you'll be ready to take on this new season.

Here are some of our favorite items we keep reaching for day after day.


1. Functional dress

Since the weather isn't cold enough just yet, transition pieces are essential for your wardrobe. This dress is cozy and can be dressed up with heeled boots or dressed down with sneakers. Add tights and a scarf when the temperature drops.

Mock-Neck Shift Dress, Old Navy, $34.99

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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What would an extra $1,000 per month mean to you? Would it mean an early retirement? More Travel? The ability to save for a house or pay for your kids' college expenses? No matter what your lifestyle goals are, earning extra money is a great way to reach them, but earning extra money can be a daunting task.

However, if you're willing to put in a little extra work or find that you have extra time in the evenings, you can earn an extra $1,000 per month. These are some money making strategies to consider.

1. Negotiate a raise

If you're a valued employee at your company, the best way to make an extra money each month is to negotiate a raise. To do this, write down your accomplishments and research salary data on Glassdoor.com. Then schedule time with your manager to discuss a raise.

Your manager may make it seem like it's not possible to get a raise outside of the annual schedule, but that is not always true. Great companies want to retain their best employees, and if you've proven yourself, leverage your value to earn more money.

Most people avoid asking for a raise because they do not like confrontation, but a few minutes of discomfort can yield a substantial income boost. If you utilize data and tact to request a raise, most companies will offer a raise if they're able.

2. Change companies

If you're an excellent employee, but you can't negotiate a raise, consider searching for new jobs if possible. The easiest time to earn extra money is when you switch companies as you have more leverage because you know that the potential employer wants you on board.

In general, when you switch companies, you can expect a 10-20% raise in base salary whereas annual raises tend to be around 2-5%. Job searching might stress you out, but a few weeks of effort can allow you to earn an extra $1,000 per month.

3. Take on a weekend job

If you've maxed out your earnings in your day job, consider taking on a weekend job if your schedule allows it. Because you're trading time off for money, you want to be sure that the job is worth it, so target jobs that will allow you to earn $25 per hour.

You may be surprised how many weekend jobs yield that type of pay. For example, some car dealerships hire weekend employees to be salespeople or your favorite store could look for some extra hands. Taking a job like childcare isn't a bad idea either, especially if you're already taking care of your little and they could benefit from having others around. Although those jobs won't necessarily equate to an extra $1,000 per month (unless you work a ton), they may lead to other opportunities.

4. Start a side business

If you want to earn an extra $1,000 per month, but you want to do it on your own terms, consider starting a side business. If you've got house repair skills, you can start a handyman business; if you're an accountant, you can take on some bookkeeping clients on the side.

Consider starting a service for a passion of yours, like teaching music or tennis lessons. If you're price conscious, you can find items to flip on eBay, or you can start a business selling products via Fulfilled By Amazon.

If you've got a business idea, bring it to life on the nights and weekends. Although starting a business tends to be a slow path to extra income, the upside potential is tremendous. In time, a successful side business can allow you to earn well in excess of $1,000 per month.

5. Freelance

If you work in an in-demand field, you can earn extra funds by freelancing. Becoming a freelance consultant will allow you to charge a premium rate for your services while you take on just one or two extra projects a month. Small businesses who don't need full-time services may pay two or three times your typical rate if you produce results for them.

Switching from a traditional employment situation to freelancing may also yield a big income boost, but before you make the jump be sure your extra income isn't eaten up by paying for your own benefits, such as taxes or startup fees.

Originally posted on Financial Gym.

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[Trigger warning: This essay describes a woman's experience with anxiety.]

Dear anxiety,
We've been together for as long as I can remember. You've always been there, especially during those nights when I couldn't fall asleep—my mind hot with worry, ruminating over the day's events, making mental to-do lists that went on forever (and ever… and ever…).

You were there the time my husband arranged to meet a seller from a virtual yard sale site in a store parking lot to pick up a pair of kid scooters. He had our two young children in the car, which already had me on edge. Perfect for you, I was an easy target that day.

I knew their meeting time and I figured it should take less than five minutes for him to hand the man cash and put the scooters in the trunk. Five minutes turned into ten. Ten turned into fifteen.

You were there when I left multiple messages on my husband's phone. You watched as I found the seller's page on Facebook, scrutinizing his family photos and quickly realizing that most of the pictures were blurry and you could only see his kids' backs in all of them—never their faces.

In that moment, I was convinced the seller had attacked my husband and drove away with our kids in the car. You watched as I took slow, deliberate breaths and went outside for some air. You watched as I answered my cell—my husband finally calling back to explain they'd stopped at Home Depot where there was bad cell reception.

You'd gotten the best of me again, stealing time I should have spent doing anything other than obsessing over the multitude of awful things that could have (but didn't!) happen to my family.

Ugh. Anxiety.

You're on the playground as I follow my children who are running after older kids with toy guns. I watch as they climb boulders, fly off swings in mid-air, and get too close to strangers who could, I don't know, snatch them up in a blink of an eye?

You're with me in every parking lot in the state of New Jersey where strangers stare or park dark vans next to my SUV. You follow us into stores as my son darts down another aisle, losing sight of him for a millisecond—that millisecond that makes my heart stop.

You love farms where my kids stick tiny hands through wire fences as a cow's large tongue licks grains off their palms and a donkey's teeth get dangerously close to their fingers. And there's that wandering peacock who looks at us with wild eyes.

You're at the pool where my son is going off the diving board backward and my daughter is staying under for way longer than her lungs can handle and I feel like every child is about to drown.

You're there when the library books are overdue and the cheerleading uniform isn't washed and the shoes are all over the floor and there's that strange spot on the back of my throat and what looks like black mold on the patio cushions.

I've tried to get rid of you—truly I have. But anti-anxiety medication, yoga, and mindfulness classes were all lukewarm attempts to band-aid the agony you can cause.

Unlucky for you, I've discovered your kryptonite: gratitude.

It's the acknowledgment of what has gone right that anchors me and pushes you into dark corners. There's power in an underlying thankfulness that washes out worry and overpowers the never-ending string of "what-ifs."

Gratitude comes in the form of a time when my husband likes his job again and we have extra money for new garage doors and guest room furniture.

It's living in a house that's much larger than the two-bedroom apartment I grew up in but our 7-year-old still describes as warm and cozy.

It's the start of the school year when the kids are happy with their teachers and have kind friends and birthday invitations in the mailbox. It's a winter free of strep throat or illness.

It's having a capable, confident husband who can fix anything. It's being able to work from home doing a job I love so I can still be there for after-school snacks, library volunteer shifts, and class trips.

When we focus on the minutiae of our days, we see they're jam-packed with countless joys that far outweigh the bad. But if disaster does strike—whether it's a death or job loss or unexpected tragedy—that's when community and faith step in, taking the place of anxious thoughts or worry.

Because you see, anxiety is anticipation—not reality—that feeds off the future like a leech and is rendered powerless in the present.

Here's where our relationship ends, my old friend. You've manipulated me for too long—tricking me into thinking all those misguided internet searches and late-night texts over something small was worthwhile—and we're done.

Love,

A very grateful mama

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