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Before you wander into lifelong parenthoodery, here are some things to consider (that maybe you’ve been told, maybe you haven’t):


There’s no such thing as being “ready”

You can’t be ready for something you can’t know. There is no ready. There is only the decision to have a child or not to have a child. That’s all the preparation you can possibly possess.

Having a pet is as much preparation for a child as watching the moon landing prepares you to be an astronaut

So don’t say it, don’t believe it, and punch anyone that does (I’m kidding, of course, don’t punch anyone, why would you take that seriously?!? We also happen to currently have 3 dogs and 2 cats – not counting the 8 animals that have died during our 20-year marriage; so I do know what it’s like to own pets before and after kids, but again these are just my opinions. You are welcome to disagree and write your own list on why owning a pet is exactly like having a child).

For fathers, the pregnancy phase doesn’t have the same hormonal, physical, or psychological effects

You will see your significant other get larger, frequently sleep, get sick, and eventually become virtually immobile, but it’s mostly just waiting and watching. It’s normal not to feel excited about having a baby. Just don’t say that out loud.

For mothers, tell your significant other what you need them to do – because we have no idea what we’re doing

Foot massages, back massages, an ear to listen, or going on late night errands to get pickles or BBQ ribs – tell us what you need and want. It’s literally the only way we can be of use. You are having a unique experience we can’t understand. We won’t have the same bonding you will have, so make us feel useful by allowing us to help you in any way we can.

You will never be so excited and exhausted in your entire life as the day your child is born

After you meet your baby and everything gets cleaned up, (because Jesus Lord it’s a mess of sights, sounds, and smells you can’t fathom), you will settle into a nonstop barrage of tests, temperature taking, nursing, paperwork, burping, questions, diaper checking, visitors, crying, and awkward moments of adjusting to this new tiny being that is now yours to raise. You won’t sleep for more than two hours during your entire hospital stay.

Newborns are boring

Don’t get me wrong, they’re cute, but boring. I’m afraid you may think I mean that boring is bad. It’s not. Boring is perfect. Newborns just sleep, (sporadically and horribly), cry, and eat when they aren’t sleeping, and poop in between. Imagine if they could walk, talk, and eat cheeseburgers right when they were born? Boring is what you want.

Once your newborn is “sleep trained,” you won’t be

Your newborn will wake up every two hours for six months. Then move on to waking up every 6 hours for the next 6 months. By the time they are sleeping through the night, they’ll have trained you to not be able to sleep for more than four hours at a time.

Parenting doesn’t happen all at once

Luckily for you, newborns have very simple needs. They aren’t born talking, walking, and challenging your very existence at every moment. It’s hard to screw anything up first few months. Other than them almost rolling off the changing table. Not that that’s ever happened to us.

Once they crawl you will wish they would stop

You won’t be able to place them down and know they’ll stay put. And after crawling is walking, followed by running, mixed with lots of falling. So much falling.

You will get poop on you

No matter how careful you are, you will get poop on you. It’s not like the poop of a 63-year-old man. But it’s still poop. In fact, at some point, you will clean poop out of a bathtub. It’s far more difficult than you’d think.

It will take an extra 45 minutes to get out the door, no matter where you’re going or how long you plan to be gone

Diapers, bottles, clothes, blankets, wipes, butt cream, formula, pacifiers, toys, that one special stuffed animal, portable playpens (which are highly overrated), and the thing you always forget and will have to go back to get. If you have more than one child, you will have to get ready 24 hours in advance.

Get comfortable with repetition. Get comfortable with repetition. Get comfortable with repetition.

You will read the same books over and over (and you will memorize them, I still know “Goodnight Moon” by heart, 14 years later), watch the same shows over and over, listen to the same music over and over, play the same games over and over. So choose your books, shows, music, and games carefully.

Finding a babysitter is tantamount to buying a house

You’re competing with hundreds of other parents who are also trying to find that perfect babysitter, and you will have to pay for it. But it’s worth it. It’s your damn child. Don’t be cheap. And if you’re lucky enough to have family watch your child, please understand not all of us are so lucky, so please don’t act so shocked if we can’t go somewhere without at least four weeks notice.

Strangers will give you unsolicited advice

This advice will be completely comprised of horror stories that will scare you into staying indoors forever. It will always be dispensed while you wait in line for something – at the grocery store, DMV, or Chipotle. Yes, I’m well aware of the irony in that statement.

Other parents will make you feel as if you’re doing everything wrong

Other people aren’t you and their kids aren’t your kids. No one gets it all right, and no one gets it all wrong. Parents who share (on Facebook) that their kids are amazing, awesome, perfect, and every moment is a blessing, are lying (by omission) to make themselves feel better. Don’t take it personally.

The best game you can ever play is “Sleeping Giant”

Let me explain. When your child is young you will do lots of playing that involves dolls, dressing up, and pretending. You will eventually get very tired of it. So I suggest you play what I call “Sleeping Giant”, where you lie down, pretend to sleep, and your child will attempt to sneak up on you without you waking up. All you have to do it snore, pretend to wake up, lunge forward to grab them (wherein they scream and run away), and go back to sleeping. You’re welcome.

Every six months your child will switch from easy, fun, and awesome to a complete asshole

This cycle continues for years and years and years. At present my oldest child is 16, and it’s still true.

Your child will hate you

It’s fine. They will curse you under their breath. They will call you names. They will wish you were dead. You’ll be tempted to take it personally. Don’t. If they hate you, you’re doing something right. Your goal isn’t to do things so your child likes you. Your goal should be to create a person who has the ability to make wise decisions, the confidence to stand for their convictions, and the humility to admit their mistakes (and many other things, but I’m not writing a book here).

If you thought you were done with school, think again

You will have to help your child with homework and you will have forgotten everything you ever learned. Also, you will be tempted to “help” your kids with their projects – and by “help” I mean “do” – please don’t, despite the fact that most parents do and lie about it. (You’ll see a perfectly constructed solar system that you’re supposed to believe was done by a kindergartener. The parent won’t shut up about how amazed they are at their kid’s talent: “No I didn’t help him, he’s just so gifted.” But you’ll know, especially because that same kid just ate a booger).

Don’t succumb to the pressure of extra-curricular activities

As your child gets older, the world of after school activities will overcome your life. While it’s important to have your child do and learn things outside of school, don’t become so obsessed with having them participate in these that you’re forcing them into a world of responsibilities. They’re a child. Think of all the things you have to do as an adult, why does a child have to the same pressures and stresses as you? Let them be a kid.

Your kids will push you to the limit of your self-control and patience

Often you will fail, and you will feel like the worst human being alive. It happens to all of us throughout our kids’ lives, from two to 18 years old. Be quick to apologize (not just to your child, but yourself as well).

Discipline isn’t as scary as it sounds

Let’s be clear: my wife and I are not experts on disciplining our children, but I think we’ve learned a few things. Be consistent, follow through, say “no” (and mean it), be an adult (don’t let your emotions guide your actions), let the punishment fit the crime, offer occasional mercy, say you’re sorry (because you will fail at all the above).

There will be a last time you pick your child up

I heard this said once, and it affected me powerfully. Don’t merely be present with your kids, don’t just “cherish” it (whatever that really means), actively observe and participate because at some point it’ll be the last time they crawl, the last time you give them a bath, the last time they hold your hand.

There is no salary, no promotions, no vacation days, no evaluations. Being a parent is not about you at all

If you have the slightest hesitation about the long sacrifice that is parenthood, please don’t have a child. Having a child is not a requirement. It might seem like there isn’t anything positive about parenthood, but that’s because you need to adjust your expectations about parenthood.

If you want to feel good about yourself, volunteer your time helping others. Parenthood isn’t about making yourself feel good. Parenthood is not about your child becoming your identity. Parenthood is about creating a nurturing environment for your child so that they will transform into a functional adult who, (you hope) will make the world a better place. If you do this, there will come a day when your child becomes your friend.

This piece was originally published on Medium.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Orange Is the New Black star Danielle Brooks is pregnant and frustrated. The actress took to Instagram this week to lament the lack of plus-sized options for pregnant people.

"It's so hard to find some clothes to wear today....Although I get to pregnant I still can't find no clothes. It's so hard to find some clothes when you're pregnant," she sings in a lighthearted yet serious video.

"It's so hard to find cute plus size maternity fashion while pregnant, but ima push through," she captioned the clip.

Brooks has been talking a lot this week about the issues people who wear plus size clothing face not just when trying to find clothes but in simply moving through a world that does not support them.

"I feel like the world has built these invisible bullets to bully us in telling us who we're supposed to be and what we're supposed to look like. And I've always had this desire to prove people wrong—to say that this body that I'm in is enough," she told SHAPE (she's on the new cover).

"Now that I'm about to be a mother, it means even more—to make sure that this human being I'm going to bring into the world knows that they are enough," she said.

Danielle Brooks is the body-positive hero we need right now. Now can someone make her some cute maternity clothes, please?

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In prior decades, body image issues usually didn't hit the scene until kids reached adolescence. But thanks to social media, and our culture's relentless pursuit of thinness, we now have to find creative ways to teach young children how to develop healthy body images.

Before I dive into some practical tips to help kids improve body image, I want to first diminish any shame that you might be feeling if you have body issues of your own. It's so important to remember that you downloaded every internal message from somewhere else. Of course, it's critical to work on your own issues, but it's also important to know it is not your fault that you developed them in the first place!

So, whether you are struggling with your own body image, or you love your body, here are some tools to help your child feel better about the precious body he or she lives in:

1. Break the spell

How do you know if your child has a bad body image? Perhaps they've begun making negative comments about their size or shape. Maybe they are comparing their body to others. Maybe they are avoiding foods or activities they once enjoyed because they feel uncomfortable about their body.

Often the most common response a parent has is to reassure their child that they are “fine," or “beautiful" or “perfect." And while there is certainly nothing wrong with some reassurance, it simply may not be enough to overpower the cultural messages kids are surrounded by. Reassure them that they are perfect just the way they are.

2. Unkind mind, kind mind and quiet mind

This little menu of options encourages kids to identify and differentiate between three different thinking states within themselves. I refer to them as “mind moods." Try teaching your child about these three states of mind and brainstorming examples of each. For example, unkind mind = “I hate my thighs." Kind mind = “I love singing." Quiet mind = Peacefully resting or playing.

This will raise their awareness of their thoughts and help them to choose their mind moods more consciously. As they learn to turn up the volume of their kind minds and spend more time in their quiet minds, they begin to feel more present and peaceful.

Once you have helped your child identify their unkind mind as a distinct voice, they can then try on some different responses and see which ones help bring them some relief. Try asking them to write or say all the messages their unkind mind is saying and practicing using strong, soft, silly or silent responses. Kids can learn that their unkind mind is not all of who they are, and that it doesn't have to run the show.

3. Get to the root

This concept helps kids discover what triggers their body dissatisfaction. You can help your child by asking questions or taking guesses about what might have started their bad body image. For example, I helped one 7-year old get to the root of her body obsession by noticing it started when there was a death in her family. Right around that time, her best friend started talking about dieting, so she latched onto food obsession as a distracting coping tool.

Once we uncovered this, she was able to learn about healthy grieving and truly healthy eating (as opposed to what the diet culture deems as healthy—which can actually be unhealthy).

4. Mind movies vs. really real

Try asking your child to show you some things around them that are real (i.e. things they can see, touch or hear). Then ask them if they can show you one single thought in their minds. You can playfully challenge them to take a thought out of their head and show it to you or fold it up and put it in their pocket. This tool teaches kids how to be more present.

Of course, they might use their imagination to do this, but with some finesse, you can teach your child to distinguish between the mind movies that cause them stress and the really real things around them. This is an immensely helpful tool that will not only help them with body image (since body image is one long mind movie) but will also improve the quality of their lives in general.

5. Dog talk and cat chat

Many kids cannot relate to the concept of being kind to themselves but ask a child how they feel about their favorite pet, and a doorway to their compassion, kindness and unconditional acceptance opens. For non-pet lovers, you can ask your child to imagine how they would speak to a baby or their best friend.

Dog talk and cat chat can help teach youngsters how to take the loving words and tones they use toward a beloved pet, and direct these sentiments toward themselves and their bodies.

6. Do an internal upgrade

In addition to helping your child combat the messages they receive out in the world, you can also work on the messages they get in your home. Again, if you struggle with body image, it is not your fault, but you can work on healing—and not only will you feel more peace, but your child will benefit as well.

To the best of your ability, refrain from talking about foods as “good" or “bad." Refrain from making negative comments about your (or anyone else's) weight or looks. Refrain from praising someone (or yourself) for weight loss.

Practice welcoming your child's tears and anger without trying to change their feelings before they are ready. Practice eating all food groups in moderation. Foster a positive, grateful attitude about your body.

May you and your child feel comfortable in your bodies, eat all foods in moderation, move and rest in ways that feel good, and find abundant sweetness and fulfillment in life.

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Learn + Play

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

Here are 21 questions to dig deeper into your marriage after a long day—see where they take you!

  1. Did you listen to anything interesting today?
  2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?
  3. How much coffee did you drink today?
  4. Will you remember any specific part of today a year from now? Five years?
  5. Did you take any photos today? What did you photograph?
  6. What app did you open most today?
  7. How can I make your day easier in five minutes?
  8. If we were leaving for vacation tonight, where do you wish we would be heading?
  9. If you won $500 and had to spend it on yourself today, what would you buy?
  10. If your day was turned into a movie, who would you cast?
  11. What did you say today that you could have never expected to come out of your mouth?
  12. What did you do to take care of yourself today?
  13. When did you feel appreciated today?
  14. If you could guarantee one thing for tomorrow what would it be?
  15. If we traded places tomorrow what advice would you give me for the day?
  16. What made you laugh today?
  17. Imagine committing the next year to learning one thing in your spare time. What would it be?
  18. Did you give anyone side-eye today? Why?
  19. What do you wish you did more of today?
  20. What do you wish you did less of today?
  21. Are you even listening to me right now?

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Love + Village

Alexis Ohanian has made a lot of important decisions in his life. The decision to co-found Reddit is a pretty big one. So was marrying Serena Williams. But right up there with changing internet culture and making a commitment to his partner, the venture capitalist lists taking time off after his daughter's birth as a significant, life-changing choice.

"Before Olympia was born, I had never thought much about paternity leave and, to be honest, Reddit's company policy was not my idea. Our vice president of people and culture, Katelin Holloway, brought it up to me in a meeting and it sounded O.K., so why not?" Ohanian writes in an op-ed for New York Times Parenting.

He continues: "Then came Olympia, after near-fatal complications forced my wife, Serena, to undergo an emergency C-section. Serena spent days in recovery fighting for her life against pulmonary embolisms. When we came home with our baby girl, Serena had a hole in her abdomen that needed bandage changes daily. She was on medication. She couldn't walk."

The experience changed the way Ohanian viewed paternity leave. It was no longer something that just sounded like a good thing, it was a necessary thing for his family. It was crucial that he take it and now he is advocating for more fathers to be able to. In his piece for the NYT Ohanian points out something that Motherly has previously reported on: It is hard for fathers to take paternity leave even when their government or employer offers it.

A report from Dove Men+Care and Promundo (a global organization dedicated to gender equality) found 85% of dads surveyed in the United States, the UK, Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Japan and the Netherlands would do anything to be very involved in the early weeks and months after their child's birth or adoption, but less than 50% of fathers take as much time as they are entitled to.

Dads need paid leave, but even when they have it social pressures and unrealistic cultural expectations keep them from taking it and they choose not to take all the time they can. Ohanian wants lawmakers and business leaders to make sure that dads can take leave and he wants to help fathers choose to actually take it.

"I was able to take 16 weeks of paid leave from Reddit, and it was one of the most important decisions I've made," Ohanian previously wrote in an essay for Glamour.

Ohanian recognizes that he is privileged in a way most parents aren't.

"It helped that I was a founder and didn't have to worry about what people might say about my 'commitment' to the company, but it was incredible to be able to spend quality time with Olympia. And it was perhaps even more meaningful to be there for my wife and to adjust to this new life we created together—especially after all the complications she had during and after the birth," he wrote for Glamour.

In his NYT piece, Ohanian goes further: "I get that not every father has the flexibility to take leave without the fear that doing so could negatively impact his career. But my message to these guys is simple: Taking leave pays off, and it's continued to pay dividends for me two years later. It should be no surprise that I also encourage all of our employees to take their full leave at Initialized Capital, where I am managing partner; we recently had three dads on paid paternity leave at the same time."

The GOAT's husband is making the same points that we at Motherly make all the time. Research supports paid leave for all parents. It benefits the baby and the parents and that benefits society.

By first taking his leave and then speaking out about the ways in which it benefited his family, Ohanian is using his privileged position to de-stigmatize fathers taking leave, and advocate for more robust parental leave policies for all parents, and his influence doesn't end there. He's trying to show the world that parents shouldn't have to cut off the parent part of themselves in order to be successful in their careers.

He says that when his parental leave finished he transitioned from being a full-time dad to a "business dad."

"I'm fortunate to be my own boss, which comes with the freedoms of doing things like bringing my daughter into the office, or working remotely from virtually anywhere Serena competes. My partners at Initialized are used to seeing Olympia jump on camera—along with her doll Qai Qai—or hearing her babbling on a call. I tell them with pride, 'Olympia's at work today!' And I'll post some photos on Instagram or Twitter so my followers can see it too," Ohanian explains.

"The more we normalize this, on social media and in real life, the better, because I know this kind of dynamic makes a lot of men uncomfortable (and selfishly I want Olympia to hear me talking about start-ups!)," he says.

This is the future of family-friendly work culture. Take it from a guy who created an entire internet culture.

[A version of this post was originally published February 19, 2019. It has been updated.]

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