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Recently, a major parenting website published three articles I’d written about motherhood. I was thrilled but also a little nervous about the responses I might receive on two of them. The third article didn’t concern me because it was a silly little piece about the few things in my life that haven’t changed since becoming a mom, like the fact that I still shower every day.

Little did I know that it would be the shower that ignited a maelstrom of mommy ire.

My intention was to offer a feel-good, “light at the end of the tunnel” perspective for new or expectant moms. I expected that other moms – women in the same drool- and coffee-soaked trenches that I’m in – would also appreciate a positive perspective on motherhood. I did not anticipate that so many women would lash out with disbelief and resentment.

I’ll be honest, the comments stung. I was angry. I spent the evening ruminating and plotting my replies, wanting to inflict damage and shame in return. Eventually I came to my senses and realized that I needed to find a way to empathize with these mothers and understand why they felt the way they did.

Luckily, my experience working as a mental health counselor has trained me well for this challenge. I put on my therapist hat and got to thinking: what would I say to a client who was on either side of this issue?

After several days of reflection, I realized the comments fell into roughly three categories. Here’s what I think is going on behind each type:

1 | “You just got lucky. You obviously have an easy baby.”

This is hallmark language of an external locus of control. External versus internal locus of control describes the way that we interpret events in our lives. With an external locus of control, a person perceives that her life is largely controlled by outside forces (particularly when negative things happen). If something goes wrong at work, it’s because she was discriminated against or her boss is unfair. If someone else gets a promotion, it’s because that person was “lucky,” not because he or she was more qualified or better at the job. In contrast, with an internal locus of control, a person believes that she is able to control what happens (to some degree) by her own effort or ability.

It’s much easier to minimize someone else’s success by attributing it to luck rather than saying, “What is she doing differently? What can I learn from her in order to achieve the same outcomes in my life?”

When I started having sleep issues with my baby, for example, several of my friends had children who were sleeping through the night. I could have dismissed their hard-won efforts by saying, “Oh they just got lucky” (i.e. good external circumstances). Instead, I said, “I want my baby to sleep through the night too. Tell me how you managed to do that.”

It’s hard to admit that someone might simply have a better approach than we do or that we might have room to improve, but it’s an awesome way to connect and learn from each other.

2 | “This isn’t realistic. She’s not telling the truth. She must have a live-in nanny.”

Why was it so hard to believe that I, a stay-at-home mom with one child, could manage to take a shower every day without full-time help?

Stay-at-home moms often feel unappreciated and undervalued for their work, and this creates a tendency to focus more on the difficult and exhausting aspects of our lives. We lack the status of a traditionally paid job, so we have to prove our worth through our suffering.

“You went to work from nine to five and sat at a desk and you think you’re tired? Just listen to my day!”

By writing an article that talked about being (relatively) productive and well-rested, I was betraying the party line. Moms had to rush in to assure everyone that my experience was not the norm.

Even amongst mothers, we compete with each other. Suffering is a badge of honor. How many hours you labored, whether you had an epidural, how long you breastfed, how little you sleep, how much you suffered: this is how your status as a mother is measured, especially in the early days. If you’re lucky enough to have one baby who doesn’t have colic and sleeps four hours a night by a few months old, then you haven’t really earned the right to talk about the challenges of motherhood.

Here’s the thing though: it shouldn’t be a competition at all. Raising a baby – any baby – is damn hard work. All of our experiences are valid, and wasting valuable energy one-upping each other doesn’t do us any good.

3 | “This made me feel like a failure.”

Oh man. These comments tore at my heart. I wanted my words to be an encouragement, to offer hope and assurance that, although it’s exhausting, emotional, and possibly the hardest challenge you’ve ever faced, it does get better. I hated that these mothers felt shamed and inadequate instead.

Brene Brown, a leading shame researcher, talks about how shame prevents us from connecting with each other. When we feel shame (often disguised as failure, inadequacy, or not-enoughness), we feel small and alone. We feel that everyone else is doing fine, and I’m the only one who can’t handle this, who can’t figure this out, who sucks at everything.

I am so sorry if my words had this effect on other moms.

You are not alone. You are not the only one who is struggling. We have all been there, in one way or another. My struggle may not be the same as yours, but I promise you, I know how you feel.

For me, the biggest challenge I’ve faced since becoming a mother was breastfeeding. I transitioned to exclusive pumping after eight agonizing weeks of nursing, and eventually switched to formula. Most days, I’m at peace with this decision, but I still occasionally feel flashes of anger when I hear of other women’s breastfeeding success. In the face of their accomplishment, I feel like a failure. My shame pulls me away and makes me small and resentful, unable to celebrate with them or appreciate their hard work. Believe me, I understand.

I saw this reaction in many of the comments on my post. It didn’t matter what I actually wrote; once the shame response is triggered, it’s incredibly hard to process information objectively. We’re wounded, and we want to cause pain in return. This was my own initial feeling when I read those comments. They made me feel inadequate and lacking as a mother, so I wanted to strike back and shame them in return. However, no one benefits from this cycle.

If I’ve learned anything in my work as a counselor, it’s that self-compassion is the best antidote to shame. If I can extend kindness to myself, I can break the stranglehold of inadequacy and not-enoughness. Once I’m out of its grasp, I’m able to empathize and understand the other person’s feelings. In this case, I reached out and connected with several commenters, and they actually responded positively in return.

Let’s stop shaming and competing with each other. If a mother proclaims a small victory (like putting on real pants or getting her baby to nap longer than 20 minutes), let’s celebrate with her. Her accomplishments and struggles don’t diminish yours; there’s enough compassion for all of us.

Motherhood is hard work, whether you’re on your first or fifth child. Let’s not make it harder than it already is.

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When you become a parent for the first time, there is an undeniably steep learning curve. Add to that the struggle of sorting through fact and fiction when it comes to advice and—whew—it's enough to make you more tired than you already are with that newborn in the house.

Just like those childhood games of telephone when one statement would get twisted by the time it was told a dozen times, there are many parenting misconceptions that still tend to get traction. This is especially true with myths about bottle-feeding—something that the majority of parents will do during their baby's infancy, either exclusively or occasionally.

Here's what you really need to know about bottle-feeding facts versus fiction.

1. Myth: Babies are fine taking any bottle

Not all bottles are created equally. Many parents experience anxiety when it seems their infant rejects all bottles, which is especially nerve wracking if a breastfeeding mom is preparing to return to work. However, it's often a matter of giving the baby some time to warm up to the new feeding method, says Katie Ferraro, a registered dietician, infant feeding specialist and associate professor of nutrition at the University of California San Francisco graduate School of Nursing.

"For mothers returning to work, if you're breastfeeding but trying to transition to bottle[s], try to give yourself a two- to four-week trial window to experiment with bottle feeding," says Ferraro.

2. Myth: You either use breast milk or formula

So often, the question of whether a parent is using formula or breastfeeding is presented exclusively as one or the other. In reality, many babies are combo-fed—meaning they have formula sometimes, breast milk other times.

The advantage with mixed feeding is the babies still get the benefits of breast milk while parents can ensure the overall nutritional and caloric needs are met through formula, says Ferraro.

3. Myth: Cleaning bottles is a lot of work

For parents looking for simplification in their lives (meaning, all of us), cleaning bottles day after day can sound daunting. But, really, it doesn't require much more effort than you are already used to doing with the dishes each night: With bottles that are safe for the top rack of the dishwasher, cleaning them is as easy as letting the machine work for you.

For added confidence in the sanitization, Dr. Brown's offers an incredibly helpful microwavable steam sterilizer that effectively kills all household bacteria on up to four bottles at a time. (Not to mention it can also be used on pacifiers, sippy cups and more.)

4. Myth: Bottle-feeding causes colic

One of the leading theories on what causes colic is indigestion, which can be caused by baby getting air bubbles while bottle feeding. However, Dr. Brown's bottles are the only bottles in the market that are actually clinically proven to reduce colic thanks to an ingenious internal vent system that eliminates negative pressure and air bubbles.

5. Myth: Bottles are all you can use for the first year

By the time your baby is six months old (way to go!), they may be ready to begin using a sippy cup. Explains Ferraro, "Even though they don't need water or additional liquids at this point, it is a feeding milestone that helps promote independent eating and even speech development."

With a complete line of products to see you from newborn feeding to solo sippy cups, Dr. Brown's does its part to make these new transitions less daunting. And, for new parents, that truly is priceless.

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

Jessica Simpson celebrated her baby shower this weekend (after getting a cupping treatment for her very swollen pregnancy feet) and her theme and IG captions have fans thinking this was not just a shower, but a baby name announcement as well.

Simpson (who is expecting her third child with former NFL player Eric Johnson) captioned two photos of her shower as "💚 Birdie's Nest 💚". The photographs show Simpson and her family standing under a neon sign spelling out the same thing.

While Simpson didn't explicitly state that she was naming her child Birdie, the numerous references to the name in her shower photos and IG stories have the internet convinced that she's picking the same name Busy Philips chose for her now 10-year-old daughter.

The name Birdie isn't in the top 1000 baby names according to the Social Security Administration, but It has been seeing a resurgence in recent years, according to name nerds and trend watchers.

"Birdie feels like a sassy but sweet, down-to-earth yet unusual name," Pamela Redmond Satran of Nameberry told Town and Country back in 2017. "It's also just old enough to be right on time."

Simpson's older kids are called Maxwell and Ace, which both have a vintage feel, so if Birdie really is her choice, the three old-school names make a nice sibling set.

Whether Birdie is the official name or just a cute nickname Simpson is playing around with, we get the appeal and bet she can't wait for her little one to arrive (and her feet to go back to normal!)

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Mamas, if you hire a cleaning service to tackle the toddler fingerprints on your windows, or shop at the neighborhood grocery store even when the deals are better across town, don't feel guilty. A new study by the University of British Columbia and Harvard Business School shows money buys happiness if it's used to give you more time. And that, in turn could be better for the whole family.

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As if we needed another reason to shop at Target, our favorite store is offering some great deals for mamas who need products for baby. Mom life can be expensive and we love any chance at saving a few bucks. If you need to stock up on baby care items, like diapers and wipes, now is the time.

Right now, if you spend $100 on select diapers, wipes, formula, you'll get a $20 gift card with pickup or Target Restock. Other purchases will get you $5 gift cards during this promotion:

  • $20 gift card when you spend $100 or more on select diapers, wipes, formula, and food items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select beauty care items
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select household essentials items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock
  • $5 gift card when you buy 2 select Iams, Pedigree, Crave & Nutro dog and cat food or Fresh Step cat litter items using in store Order Pickup
  • $5 gift card when you buy 3 select feminine care items using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock

All of these promotions will only run through 11:59 pm PT on Saturday, January 19, 2019 so make sure to stock up before they're gone!

Because the deals only apply to select products and certain colors, just be sure to read the fine print before checking out.

Target's website notes the "offer is valid using in store Order Pickup, Drive Up or Target Restock when available".

The gift cards will be delivered after you have picked up your order or your Target Restock order has shipped.

We won't tell anyone if you use those gift cards exclusively for yourself. 😉 So, get to shopping, mama!

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