A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

I’m about to delve into a touchy subject for many parents of school-aged children, so I’m going to preface this by waving a white flag. First and foremost, I am a mom to three kids in school. One of them has special needs and has had an IEP in place since he was three years old. In other words, I understand why many parents feel compelled to micromanage what is happening in their child’s classroom.


I know all too well the anxiety a lot of parents feel as the new school year approaches. They are hungry to know everything and anything about their child’s teacher. What is their age? How long they have taught? How strict or lenient are they? Do they have children of their own? What do they look like? And so on.

This is an assumption, but I have a feeling it will resonate with many parents: You want to like your child’s teacher. Probably more importantly, you want that teacher to like your child. Basically, you want them to make all the same decisions that you would, because you know your child best, and you know what’s best for them.

When your child is with you, everything remains under your control. You are captain of the ship. But once your baby is on the bus, you relinquish all the decision-making that affects your child while they are spending their day inside those brick walls. It’s unnerving.

Things will go wrong. Your child will be teased. Sometimes, they will be bored or frustrated. They will, from time to time, get embarrassed. Or be hungry before lunchtime. Or trip and fall. Or be rejected by their peers. Or feel the sting of not being the best at a particular task.

You will not be there to work damage control. It will be up to…your child’s teacher. The worst part of all is that you won’t be there to witness it and make sure it is up to par with your expectations.

When your child comes home with a pout on his or her face, you will do a little digging for facts. Who is at fault for your child’s unhappiness? Why wasn’t the problem dealt with properly so that all is well in the world in your child’s eyes?

I’m going to cut to the chase right here. It doesn’t matter what happened. It’s the teacher’s fault. Here’s why I can make that statement with utter conviction (and you may have already guessed this by now): I was an elementary school teacher for eight years.

Somehow, along the way, our general culture has shifted from an accepted truth that teacher knows best to the opposite end of the spectrum, which means every move a teacher makes is under intense scrutiny from all directions. This has some benefits, as teachers should be held to high standards for the sake of the children they teach. But in many cases, this mindset can veer off onto a slippery slope where the only human being in the classroom held accountable for anyone’s actions is the teacher.

This might seem like an overreaching argument, but let me back that up with a few examples of everyday correspondence modern-day teachers receive from parents:

My child is annoyed with the student who sits next to her in class. Please change the seating arrangement in your classroom.

My child is discouraged because he has not been recognized as student of the week (or whatever positive behavior system that school has in place). When will it be his turn?

My child came home hungry from school today because she did not eat the sack lunch I packed for her. Can she be allowed extra time to eat?

My child is not being properly challenged by the amount of homework given. Can you provide additional homework for my gifted child?

In response to a negative behavior notice sent home: My child only behaved this way because so-and-so in class did this or that. She was only reacting and is not in any way responsible and therefore does not deserve any kind of consequence whatsoever.

This is just a sample of the ways (and there are many more) that parents do a disservice to everyone involved by stepping on the teacher’s toes. Of course, circumstances will arise that warrant parent intervention, such as bullying, abuse, etc. But overwhelmingly, these common interjections only accomplish one thing:

They teach your child that if they complain to mom or dad, the mess will be cleaned up. That certainly may be a temporary relief, but there is an inherent problem with that sequence of events. Your child has not learned any life lessons he or she will need to be successful down the road. We have essentially removed any natural consequences for mistakes that, as unpleasant as they may feel at the time, leave a lasting impression that actually changes behavior for the better.

To illustrate the point, try and recall a humiliation or let down from your youth. Maybe it wasn’t making the soccer team. Or somebody made fun of you because you forgot to wear deodorant and you smelled bad. Maybe you didn’t bother to study and bombed the test.

Those memories make us wince. We hated going through that. But guess what? We probably decided to do something differently because of it, if not just to avoid the experience in the future.

What if mom or dad had called the school and made everything a-okay without you having to change a thing? Where’s the motivation to push yourself if someone else is going to take care of it for you?

Herein lies the problem that so many kids struggle with. They don’t know how to come up with their own solutions because they haven’t been forced to yet. A certain gumption and mental fortitude is disturbingly lacking in so many upcoming students. Of course, I am generalizing here, but it is a problem for too many that will reap unwanted consequences for the future.

Let’s revisit our parental request examples from above and imagine that the teacher complied:

The child who had her seat changed because her neighbor was annoying? Now she doesn’t know how to manage being around irritating people. (If you’ve ever worked a job a day in your life, you realize this is a necessary evil.)

The student who earned a reward just because he thought he deserved it and is tired of waiting for recognition? Where is the push to keep going when he will have to keep working hard before a goal is in sight?

The child who now has extra time to eat lunch because she was too busy jibber-jabbering with friends to focus on what they were there to do in the cafeteria? She has missed out on learning how to prioritize her time when there’s a schedule to keep.

Extra homework because your gifted child was too smart for what had been assigned? If he really wants to be challenged, he needs to learn to motivate himself to explore ways in his free time to extend his knowledge and imagination.

And lastly, the child who only misbehaved because someone else did. How will she come to know that she cannot control the actions of others and instead take charge of her own attitude and behavior?

I make these cases in point to paint a picture of what starts to happen when we succumb to the urge as parents to swoop in and remove any painful experiences from the lives of our children. Sure, the tears subside for the moment. But what happens when they grow older? Isn’t our purpose as parents to guide them to self-sufficiency?

Maybe it’s a clearer perspective from the teacher’s point of view. As parents, we tend to mix our emotions with our child’s daily reality. But I’m willing to bet that if your child’s teacher has his or her best interests at heart (and most anyone who enters into a career in education does), that teacher is not only concerned with preparing your child academically. We also want to prepare them for life.

That’s what you want, too, isn’t it? We are all on the same team here, folks. Next time you feel inclined to save the day with a suggested alternative to a teacher’s method, ask yourself if perhaps the best course of action is to let your child learn the darn lesson.

Your kids may not thank you today. But you will thank yourself when they are older.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baking Christmas cookies together is a family tradition for many, but the Centers for Disease Control is warning parents that if your recipe contains raw flour or raw eggs, you really shouldn't sneak a bite before it is cooked, and neither should your kids.

The CDC is warning people not to eat raw cookie dough, cake mix or bread as we head into prime baking season.

The agency acknowledges the appeal of a spoonful of chocolate chip goodness but asks that we "steer clear of this temptation—eating or tasting unbaked products that are intended to be cooked, such as dough or batter, can make you sick."

Salmonella from raw eggs is, of course, a concern, and so is the raw flour. According to the CDC, flour needs to be cooked in order to kill germs like E.Coli. That's why the CDC is asking parents to "say no to raw dough," not just for eating but even for playing with.

"Children can get sick from handling or eating raw dough used for crafts or play clay, too," the CDC posted on its website.

On the Food and Drug Administration's website, that agency advises that "even though there are websites devoted to 'flour crafts,' don't give your kids raw dough or baking mixes that contain flour to play with." Health Canada also states that raw flour should not be used in children's play-dough.

The warnings follow a 2016 E.coli outbreak linked to contaminated raw flour. Dozens of people got sick that year, and a post-outbreak report notes that "state investigators identified three ill children who had been exposed to raw flour at restaurants in Maryland, Virginia, and Texas. Restaurant staff had given them raw dough to play with while they waited for their food to be served."

The CDC worries that with flour's long shelf life, products recalled during the 2016 outbreak may still be in people's pantries (although the CDC notes that any raw flour—recalled or otherwise—should not be consumed).

If your kids do have flour-based play dough, don't worry.

Some parents are still choosing to use flour-based craft dough to make Christmas ornaments or other crafts this holiday season and are reducing the risks by A) making sure the kids aren't eating their art, and B) thoroughly washing little hands, work surfaces, and utensils when the dough play is over.

Other parents are choosing other types of craft clay over flour-based dough.


During the 2016 outbreak, the FDA called for Americans to abstain from raw cookie dough, an approach Slate called "unrealistic and alarmist," noting that "the vast, vast majority of people who consume or touch uncooked flour do not contract E. coli or any other infection."

Two years ago, 63 Americans were made sick by E. coli infections linked to raw flour, according to the CDC. We don't know exactly how many Americans ate a spoonful of cookie dough or played with homemade play dough that year, but we do know that more than 319 million Americans did not get sick because of raw flour.

Are there risks associated with handling and consuming raw flour? Yes, absolutely, but it's not something to panic over.

Bottom line: Don't let your kids eat raw dough when they're helping you bake cookies for Santa, and be mindful of raw flour when choosing crafts for kids.

(And if you have just got to get your raw cookie dough fix, the CDC notes that cookie dough flavored ice cream is totally safe as it "contains dough that has been treated to kill harmful bacteria." Sounds like mama's getting Ben & Jerry's tonight.)

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Twinkling lights are everywhere I look, and the magic of the holiday season is filling our house. The kids are growing more excited each day anticipating Santa's arrival and gifts are accumulating, ready to be wrapped in beautiful paper and bows.

Elf and The Grinch have been playing on repeat and the nativity scene has found a safe spot among our decorations. It's one of the busiest times of the year and it can be hard to catch your breath in the hustle and bustle of it all.

But then something stops you.

Maybe it's a pang in your heart or a memory of someone dearly missed. Maybe it's a familiar feeling of emptiness—of wanting this person to be a part of this magical, joy-filled time of year.

It's so easy to forget that many people are struck with sadness around the holidays and are longing for someone who's missing from their lives. We give and give to our families and friends and communities this time of year—food for dinners, and toys for less-fortunate children—but people don't always realize that another type of giving is needed.

The gift of comfort.

Because someone who is missing their mother, father, brother, sister, child, friend or spouse needs your connection and warmth. They need a reminder of their loved one is not forgotten, and maybe above all—just needs a hug.

Family traditions are wonderful and cherished, but they can also feel incomplete when someone is missing.

For me, I love the holidays, and watching my kids experience all the joys this season has to offer truly fills my heart. Yet, not a Christmas goes by that I don't think about what Kendrick (my first child lost at 2 months old) would have thought of this time of year.

Would he have loved hot cocoa like his sister and brothers? Would he have gotten into all the ornaments on the tree as a toddler? What toys would he have asked Santa for? What Christmas wishes would he have made for others?

I am left to wonder these things without answer. And even though I fully embrace this time of year and relish the holidays, I can't help but miss him.

I wanted to share my story as a reminder that even though your holiday cup may be filled with joy, someone you know may be wrestling with sadness. With all the merry and bright and cups of cheer, it's important to be mindful of this and to treat people with extra care. Reach out to someone you know who has lost someone, and let them know you're thinking of them. It won't go unnoticed.

Many of us have dealt with loss at some point in our lives, and we've learned to carry these special people in our hearts so that they are always with us. But missing someone never goes away. There are so many experiences in our lives we wish we could just snap our fingers and have them right by our sides—the holidays being one of those.

So as you check off your shopping lists, make your donations, trim your tree, or light your menorah—please don't forget to show care to those who may be hurting a little this holiday season.


They're certainly in a position where they could buy every item on their kids' Christmas lists, but Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher aren't planning on piling up the presents under the Christmas tree this year.

"So far, our tradition is no presents for the kids," Kunis said in an interview with Entertainment Tonight. Mom to 4-year-old daughter, Wyatt, and 2-year-old son Dmitri, Kunis says she and Kutcher are determined to not raise entitled kids—and are learning from the mistakes of Christmases past.

“We've told our parents, 'We're begging you: If you have to give her something, pick one gift,'" Kunis said. “'Otherwise, we'd like to take a charitable donation, to the Children's Hospital or a pet... Whatever you want.' That's our new tradition."

The minimalist Christmas that Kunis and Kutcher embrace makes sense on a lot of levels: It teaches kids how to be more mindful consumers, removes the emphasis on material goods... And saves you from those chaotic trips to the mall.

Going without presents doesn't mean going without

Putting a halt on presents these upcoming holidays is one way to reinforce what the season is really about: Spending quality time together as families and cherishing what we already have. But "no presents" doesn't mean "no fun," either.

Some of our favorite non-material gift suggestions include:

  • Experiences
  • Lessons
  • College contributions
  • Coupon booklets
  • Piggy bank donations
  • Gifts for others

Or you could take a cue from Kunis and Kutcher without going all the way: Maybe you only focus on one or two quality gifts. Or pass on anything that will likely get discarded to the bottom of the toy box before next year's holidays.

Think of Christmas gifts for kids kind of like eggnog: A little goes a long way.

[Originally published October 11, 2017]

After feeling alone and suffering silently for years, Gabrielle Union has been very open about her struggle with infertility since her memoir, We're Going to Need More Wine, came out last year. She surprised many by writing about how she'd suffered "8 or 9 miscarriages" while trying to conceive with husband Dwyane Wade, and just over a year later the couple surprised the world again by announcing they'd just welcomed a baby girl via surrogate.

Union's story is incredible, and one so many women needed to hear, and that's why Oprah's OWN network just aired a sit-down interview special with Union and Wade: Oprah at Home with Gabrielle Union, Dwyane Wade & Their New Baby.

(The audio version of the interview drops in two parts on 'Oprah's SuperSoul Conversations' podcast on Monday, December 10, and Wednesday, December 12.)

The interview, which first aired over the weekend, saw Union open up about how the years of IVF treatments and disappointment left her questioning everything she knew. "I've just always been of the mindset — because this is what people tell you: 'You work hard, you do the right things, you're a good person, it will happen for you,' eventually," Union, 46, told Oprah.

"I could not let go of this idea of creating this life within me," Union explains, adding that she felt the "need to be pregnant for everybody, including myself."

As the medical interventions escalated, Wade became worried. "I'm watching her do things to her body and to herself that it's getting to the point where it's not healthy," he told Oprah, adding that he always told Union that he wanted a baby as much as she did, but that he married her and that she was the most important thing to him.

"So it came to a point where, you know, I started to feel a certain way about that because I didn't want something to happen to her," Wade told Oprah.

So when the couple decided to explore surrogacy, Wade was pleased to see the medical part of his wife's journey come to an end.

When the couple surprised the world by announcing the birth of their daughter, Kaavia James, Union was puzzled by comments that insinuated the skin-to-skin photo she used in the birth announcement was an attempt to "act like" she'd been pregnant herself, or that she really had been pregnant herself.

She notes she never tried to make it seem like she'd been pregnant, as she explained her daughter was born via surrogate in the caption for that photo, which was taken after the surrogate had a C-section.

"Our surrogate went into recovery, and we were able to go immediately into another hospital room," Union told Oprah. "I had one of my New York & Company sweaters on, but skin-to-skin was kind of hard. And because the doctors kept coming in…it was easier to have skin to skin in a hospital gown."

Wade said he found the comments painful. "I think for me the most hurtful thing was once we had the baby, and everyone started talking about why is she in the bed holding the baby, why does she have a gown on, why is she acting that she just had a baby," Wade said.

Union and Wade say they hope talking about their story will help others tell theirs, and know that they are not alone. "So many people are suffering in silence and every time, when we're candid and transparent about our journeys, no matter what those journeys are, you are allowing people to be seen and heard and empowered in ways that they've never been," Union told Oprah.

She may have felt alone during her journey to motherhood, but by telling her story, Union is making sure other mamas don't.

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