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You’ll Never Find the Right Time to Follow Your Dreams, So Don’t Bother Waiting

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Everything feels worse at 3am, doesn’t it? 3am is always the time your brain will not turn off and anxiety sets in. It feels like something is nibbling on my brain in these small hours. Over the years I have zoomorphized those weird little nibbly critters into “Madness Hamsters.”


In the autumn of 2014, thanks in part to the Madness Hamsters, I realized I was never going to get anywhere at the insurance company where I worked. I had an administrative job and it was boring me to tears. After eighteen months there, the Hamsters were out in full force. They whispered things like, “You’re not a corporate person” or “What’s the point in having a salary if you have no time to enjoy it?” Or “The more bored you get, the more we will steal your brain” and so on. They are very annoying. I also tend to think they are right with irritating frequency.

I didn’t want the Hamsters to steal my brain, but I was resigned to what I thought was the sensible option – working the secure, decently-paid, and non-stressful job for a number of years in order to save up enough money to start a coffee shop. The coffee shop was and always had been my dream, but there were other factors to contend with too: as a new immigrant, I had to sort out my permanent residency status in Canada, build up a good credit rating, and not rush headlong into enormous financial risk, ill-prepared. I had only emigrated from the UK with my small family two years previously.

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However, a lot of things happened extremely quickly. It was not always a deliberate effort, but I have often found that as soon as I make a conscious decision to do something, things start falling into the place to make it happen. In this instance, I met a very smart, ambitious guy at our office party. Matt was new to the company, and my first impressions were that he was conservative, straight-laced, and a model corporate employee – and thus someone I would have little in common with. Fortunately, our boss engineered the introductions despite my reluctance. Matt is a graduate of the University of Regina business school and had a very keen interest in entrepreneurship, but hadn’t yet had the opportunity to actually start a business of his own. We suddenly had a lot to talk about.

Over the next three months, we emailed each other back and forth between the insurance company departments, met on our lunch breaks to walk around town looking for venue inspiration, and drank a lot of coffee. Something about him coming to work on Halloween dressed as a six-foot hotdog set me at ease. By the fall, we had formulated a plan to do something together.

My newcomer status in Canada and my total lack of capital meant I had no way of funding a new start-up, especially one on this scale. Matt did not have these problems: he is young, local, and solvent, and he did not have huge bills like painful townhouse rent or childcare to contend with, as I did. Spurred on by this, he summoned the confidence and applied for a very large loan.

We then scouted for a building, and after a lot of disappointments and frustration, I found a near-perfect one. We negotiated the lease with the landlord (who I just happened to have made coffee for a few years ago at another job). A lot of phoning around got us a general contractor company to turn the huge empty building into a pleasant social space with two bathrooms and a coffee bar. Thanks to some luck, some bravado, and a great deal of chatting up random people in our different social circles, it finally all came together.

Then a huge spanner hit the works just two weeks after we had signed the lease. The Madness Hamsters were finding new and ingenious ways of keeping me up all night, and I had a sneaking suspicion that something major was coming my way. I was right: I was pregnant!

This wasn’t entirely unplanned. In fact, my husband Carl and I had been trying for a while, long before I’d even met Matt or got serious about a new business. We’d had problems, though, including an utterly miserable experience over the summer when I miscarried at thirteen weeks. With the advantage of hindsight, I can see that I was deliberately throwing myself into complicated projects like the café as a way of avoiding dealing with that grief and frustration. Possibly not the best basis for starting a new business. As is often the case, though, the simple act of not thinking about pregnancy resulted in pregnancy.

Carl and I kept it to ourselves for as long as we could manage, not wanting to in any way jinx it. I told Matt, though, and tried to reassure him that I was still completely committed to the cafe. In some respects, going solo at this point worked to my advantage. Setting my own hours and my own schedule gave me the freedom to handle pregnancy on my own terms. Additionally I thought that I’d also be able to take the baby to work with me and not worry about childcare. By the new year of 2015, I was blissfully happy with the world, extremely excited about everything to come, and throwing up every day.

Soon enough, the time came and I gleefully quit the day job. This was a momentous occasion. Leaving at this point (on Friday 13th, no less) was either very brave or very stupid. Had I stayed, I would have gotten the generous Canadian one year paid maternity leave, and a job to go back to afterwards. Now, of course, I would get diddly-squat except the state Employment Insurance benefits. Was paid maternity leave worth hanging around being bored for another few months and passing up the opportunity to open the cafe? I’d like to think not.

Not having the office job meant plenty of time (ahem) to work on “Dr. Coffee’s Cafe.” Even then it definitely was not easy, and many unanticipated events meant we didn’t manage to open exactly when we’d hoped. I was exhausted, but otherwise, the New-Human Growing process was going fairly well. As we neared opening day, I was feeling slightly less sick and disgusting now that I was over halfway through the pregnancy. We may not have opened quite to schedule, but even Wonder Woman needs a nap sometimes, I’m sure.

We finally got Dr. Coffee’s Cafe open on 13th April, 2015, when I was 26 weeks pregnant and two months to the day since I’d left the office job. The initial response to the place was so positive that I was convinced I must be on the right track finally. That went for everything else in my life as well. I had my cafe business, and my wonderful husband and brilliant beastling daughter to share it all with. There was another tiny daughter kicking me from inside my belly, my fantastic friends were all rooting for me from both sides of the Atlantic, the sun was shining after the long Saskatchewan winter, and all felt right with the world. For these moments, I felt very, very lucky.

However, I was getting larger and larger by the day, and more and more exhausted with pregnancy. I honestly do not know what possessed me to carry on as I did. I was still pulling sixty hour weeks right up until three weeks before my daughter was born. I can see now that that there was no need for me to actually be there myself as we had hired excellent staff, but I couldn’t accept that at the time. It’s only when I stopped and detached a little that I could see clearer.

Eventually, I gave in and took my maternity leave. Matt took over the general worrying and the shopping, and our baristas handled the summer amazingly well on their own. Why oh why did I not just let them get on with it prior to that? Put it down to stubborn arrogance. On some level, I wanted to feel indispensable. As wonderful as the staff were, my own ego wouldn’t let me trust them enough for me to let go of my business-baby, even while I was incubating my real baby.

I also felt like I had something to prove, to myself, but also to a lesser extent to Matt, who had seemed panicked when I told him I was pregnant so soon after signing the lease. Of course, growing a tiny human can’t slow me down! I can do everything! I can have it all!

Nope. That isn’t empowering. That was just stupidity. And it took me a full year to realize it.

I somehow expected my maternity leave to be a peaceful, idyllic, and “instagrammable” period. I could picture it, spending all day in pajamas, sipping my coffee with an adorable chubby baby sleeping angelically on my lap. Maybe I’d catch up on all those books I’d been wanting to read for so long.

This naive fantasy was very far removed from the reality.

Baby Theia exploded into the world within two days of her due date, and even as I was heading into hospital I was still getting text messages from the cafe asking where the hazelnut syrup was, and whether ‘BabyCoffee’ had arrived yet or not! It took 28 agonizing hours of labour, but arrive she did at over nine pounds, which rendered me out of action for the best part of the next month. My midwife released me from the hospital but forbade me from leaving my bed for a week, as I had lost a dangerous amount of blood. I was supposed to be taking it easy, and she didn’t advise walking too far for as long as possible. Needless to say, I got very bored very quickly: I wanted to go and show off my beautiful new baby!

And then there were the joys of entrepreneurship. Even if I was not actually pulling espresso shots, there were always at least a dozen emails waiting for me, or the website needed updating, or Facebook needed to take its daily slice of my soul, or it was time for payroll. At least while I was bed-bound, I could work from my laptop, I reasoned.

I’m not complaining; I honestly wouldn’t have had it any other way. Being self-employed and having the freedom to take my children to work with me allows me all sorts of benefits which few parents with conventional jobs can afford. Whereas I could have done with making far more money than I was at the time, I never had to sit in an office away from my kids, and never had to try and pump breastmilk while hiding in a stationary cupboard (as a friend once described having to do when she went back to work). Better still, I had caffeine on tap to cope with Theia’s 4am feeds and newborn sleeplessness, and most importantly I could run my own business and take care of my wonderful girls at the same time. That summer, I really did have it all, and it was well worth the sleep deprivation.

Sometimes it’s worth listening to the Madness Hamsters.

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No kid is born a picky eater, but there are plenty who will give you a run for your money come mealtime. Whether it's a selective eating phase or simply a natural resistance to trying something new, getting your little one to try just.one.bite can be easier said than done.

But sometimes your attitude about eating can make the most impact. A 2017 study found a direct correlation between "mealtime emotional climate" (AKA, how positive meals are for parents and children) and a child's consumption of healthy food―meaning the difference between your child trying their green beans or not could depend on how positive you make the experience.

Not sure where to start?

Here are 10 positive parenting techniques that can help overcome picky eating and lead to more peaceful mealtimes for all.

1. Make them feel special.

Sometimes just knowing you have a special place at the table can help kids eat better. Create a special place setting with dishes just for them.

Try this: We love OXO's Stick & Stay plates and bowls for creating less mess at mealtime. Not only will the kids love the fun colors and designs, but the plates also come with a suction cup base that prevents little hands from knocking plates to the floor (or in your lap). Trust us—we've tried it.

2. Take off the pressure.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Plate

Think about it: If someone kept telling you to take one more bite during lunch, how likely would you be to go along without bristling?

Try this: Instead, use the Satter Division of Responsibility of feeding, which lets parents be responsible for what, when, and where feeding happens, while the child is left responsible of how much and whether. Besides promoting a more positive environment at mealtime, this method also boosts your child's confidence and helps encourage better self-regulation of food as they get older.

3. Serve a variety.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Divided Plate

It could be that your child is bored with the usual rotation. Keep things interesting by regularly introducing new ingredients, or reworking a familiar ingredient in a new way. The familiar setting might make your child more likely to take a bite without a struggle.

Try this: Sub in spaghetti squash with their favorite pasta sauce, or add in a new veggie to a beloved stir-fry. We love OXO's Stick & Stay Divided Plate for creating a "tasting menu" of new flavors for little ones to pick and choose or using the center spot for an appetizing dip.

4. Don't bargain or negotiate.

Many kids resist trying new foods or eating at all because it gives them a sense of control over their lives. By resisting an ingredient―even one they have tried and liked in the past―they are essentially saying, "You're not the boss of me."

Try this: Instead of resorting to bargaining tactics like, "Just take one bite!" or "You can have dessert if you try it!" lower the pressure with a neutral statement like, "This is what we're having for dinner tonight." There's no argument, so you avoid tripping their "Don't tell me what to do!" sensor.

5. Serve meals in courses.

Even adults are more likely to eat something when they're really hungry. When their tummies are rumbling, kids will usually put up less of a fight even when they're uncertain about a new ingredient.

Try this: Serve up vegetables or other new foods as an "appetizer" course. That way, you won't have to stress if they don't fill up because you can follow up with food you know they'll eat.

6. Make it a game.

The fastest way to get a toddler on board with a new idea is to make it more fun. Turn your kitchen into an episode of Top Chef and let your little one play judge.

Try this: Use each compartment of the Stick & Stay Divided Plate for a new ingredient. With each item, ask your child to tell you how the food tastes, smells, and feels, ranking each bite in order of preference. Over time, you just might be surprised to see veggies climb the leaderboard!

7. Get them involved in cooking.

You've probably noticed that toddlers love anything that is theirs―having them help with preparing their own meals gives them a sense of ownership and makes them more likely to try new ingredients.

Try this: Look for ways to get those little hands involved in the kitchen, even if it means meal prep takes a bit longer or gets a bit messier. (We also love letting them help set the table―and OXO's unbreakable plates are a great place to start!) You could even let your toddler pick the veggie course for the meal. And if your child asks to taste a raw fruit or vegetable you planned to cook, go with it! Every bite counts as training that will ultimately broaden their palate.

8. Cut out unstructured snacking.

Not surprisingly, a hungry kid is more likely to try new foods. But if your toddler had a banana and a glass of milk (or a granola bar, or a handful of popcorn, or a glass of juice) an hour before dinner, odds are they aren't feeling truly hungry and will be more likely to resist what you serve at mealtime.

Try this: Stick to a consistent eating schedule. If your child leaves the table without eating as much as you think they should, remind them once that they won't be able to eat again until X time―and make good on that promise even if they start begging for a snack before the scheduled meal.

9. Model good eating habits.

Kids may not always do what you say, but they are much more likely to follow a good example. So if you want a child who eats vegetables regularly, you should do your best to fill your own plate with produce.

Try this: Pick a new food the whole family will try in multiple ways each week. For example, if you're introducing butternut squash, serve it roasted, blended in soup, cut up in pasta, as a mash, etc.―and be sure a healthy serving ends up on your plate too.

10. Don't worry about "fixing" picky eating.

OXO Tot's Stick & Stay Suction Bowl

In most cases, children go through relatively consistent eating phases. At age two (when parents tend to notice selectiveness ramping up), growth rates have slowed and most children don't need as much food as parents might think.

Try this: Focus on keeping mealtime positive by providing children with a variety of foods in a no-pressure environment. And remember: This too shall pass. The less stress you put on eating now, the more likely they are to naturally broaden their palates as they get older.


This article was sponsored by OXO Tot. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

Learn + Play

We grew up together, were in each other's weddings, and dreamed about the day we would raise our children in unison. Then, BOOM. Kids arrive, and it doesn't take long to realize that, whoa, my best friend and I have very different approaches to this parenting gig.

The odds of her letting her babies “cry it out" are about as high as me co-sleeping with mine, and by that I mean not a chance. That's not the only thing that makes us very different in terms of parenting.

I enforce strict bedtimes, while her kids are catching a 7 p.m. movie at the theater. My little ones eat most meals from a box or the freezer, and hers have palates more developed than most adults.

We're both teachers. She cries when August rolls around at the thought of leaving her kids to go back to work. Me? I'm itching for “me time" and aching for conversation with someone above the age of five.

Sure, we're both trying our best to raise happy, respectful, and kind children, but when I'm faced with a grumpy 4-year-old whose mood rivals a teenager, I choose to send her to her room for quiet time. My best friend tickles the grouchies away.

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She has endless patience while I'm nearing the end of my fraying rope by noon.

I'll never forget one day when my daughter was having an epic tantrum, and I said to my friend, exasperated, “Ugh, sometimes I just want to scream 'Shut up!'"

Her response was one of shock, her eyes wide with horror. “Jennifer!" she said, appalled.

“Of course I would never actually say that," I quickly clarified. “But c'mon, you mean to tell me you've never thought that before?"

“Never!" she replied.

Then we chuckled about how different our mindsets are.

That's the thing – it's not a secret that we're raising our kids using opposing methodologies. We know that about each other and we respect that about each other. Here's the key: there's no judging.

My friend's children are being raised with religion in the household—praying at meals and before bed, talking about God, and falling on faith to help explain many of the mysteries of the human experience. My husband and I rest pretty low on the spirituality ladder and while we have no problem explaining religious beliefs to our kids, we have no plan to incorporate religion into our family.

“Johnny included you in his bedtime prayer last night," she recently told me.

“Aww, tell him thanks," I said, “and I love him."

We don't hide things from each other or pretend to be similar in ways that we're clearly not. With such different approaches to most aspects of parenting, you'd think that it would be difficult to be friends, but the opposite is true. Honesty, empathy, and support go far in maintaining a lasting friendship.

In a culture that likes to pit moms against each other simply because of differing choices, our story proves that it doesn't have to be that way.

Many of our conversations start with: “I know you think I'm crazy, but…" Sometimes when one of us (usually me) needs to vent about an issue with our child, the other one just listens and does her best to offer advice even if it's not something that we would do personally.

In the end, it comes down to this: There's no right way to be a mom. No one hands out gold star stickers to the moms who are doing things “this" way, rather than “that" way.

So, is it possible to be best friends with a mom who has polar opposite parenting styles as me? The answer is yes. She may be the June Cleaver to my Rosanne Barr, but what can I say? It just works.

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Love + Village

Sure being a mom of three totally rocks, but it comes with its fair share of demands, too. Singer-turned-lifestyle-entrepreneur, Jessica Simpson is learning this first hand, as she recently admitted to People that mothering three children can be difficult.

"Three is challenging," says Simpson. "We are trying to get into the groove and make sure all three kids are getting equal attention … it's more than a full-time job right now."

Simpson is a mom to daughter 6-year-old Maxwell Drew, 5-year-old son Ace Knut and little Birdie Mae who is just 5 weeks old. Birdie was born via C-section on March 19, and Simpson admitted on Instagram that "recovering from a C-section is no joke!"

While in the recovery period, the new mom of three is determined to live in the moment and enjoy hugging her new baby. "We are trying our best to be as present as possible and enjoy every part of having a newborn," she says. "We know how fast the time goes and how precious it is."

But being a mom to multiples can often be overwhelming. A recent survey found that motherhood isn't just equivalent to a full-time job, but actually equivalent to working 2.5 jobs. And we know three kids is one of the hardest ratios for moms: A survey found moms of four or more are less stressed than moms with fewer kids, but moms of three are way more stressed than moms of two.

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Simspon is totally feeling this.

She tells People: "The other night, all three kids were crying at the same time, so I just joined in!" She's joking about it, but feelings of sadness after a new baby are not a laughing matter. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), postpartum depression impacts 15 to 20% of pregnant and postpartum mothers. (If you're feeling overwhelmed, seek help, mama)

No matter how many kids you have, the fact is that statistically, parents are more stressed than people who don't have kids. It makes sense. We have less free time and more responsibilities, but it is so worth it. And it won't feel like a full-time job forever.

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News

I've always felt a weird kinship with Prince Harry. We are two different races (he's white, and I'm an African American), so we're definitely not related, and technically, I've never met him, but because my mother was pregnant with me at the same time Princess Diana was pregnant with him, I feel strangely connected to Harry.

It's almost like we're distant cousins in some bizarre way. So, imagine my delight when I discovered he was dating, and later married, an American actress of African-American heritage?

"Finally, there's some color in the royal family!" I texted to a few close friends on Prince Harry's wedding day, who later joined in my delight with smiling emojis. She's a beautiful 37-year-old American divorcee with a relaxed California girl sense of style. Naturally, I want her to win.

But as much as I'm team Meghan Markel and pro black women in general, I understand that having a black woman in the monarchy doesn't change much. Let's reflect back for a moment: Shortly after the world learned Meghan was dating Prince Harry, the tabloids were loaded with racist comments. "Duchess Difficult" is a mainstay in the news that particularly stands out to me. "Oh, great another black woman deemed aggressive, ill-tempered and hostile," I remember mumbling to myself.

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The trope of the "angry black woman" has once again re-emerged and Meghan, the Duchess of Sussex, isn't excluded from it. According to NBC News, some British journalists say Meghan has been treated differently from other members of the House of Windsor, citing a difference in attitude towards Kate, the wife of Harry's elder brother Prince William.

Realizing this reminded me how former First Lady Michelle Obama was treated shortly after taking on the title. Michelle has spoken about the racism she faced as the first lady, noting that when a West Virginia county employee called her an "ape in heels" it cut deep.

And speaking of cutting deep, it pains me when society labels Meghan as "our black hero" because it's damaging to other black women who don't have straight, long hair, light skin, and a narrow nose. Does this mean that if you don't look like Meghan, an "acceptable" version of a black woman, then you don't quite matter? Is her version of black the only type that counts?

But even with the racism and wanted (or unwanted) labels surrounding Meghan being in the royal family, I'm thrilled to learn that her baby (whether a boy or girl) will be seventh-in-line to the throne and the first baby of African ancestry to have such a title in the history of British royalty.

I love birthing stories, and this one is extra special. This, to me, is more magical than Meghan being in the office because it means a new breed of royalty is here. It's a symbol of change, new beginnings and it disrupts white British bloodlines. I couldn't be more excited.

If I'm being honest with myself, I know the baby won't be excluded from racist remarks, but their mere presence will acknowledge that mixed families are breaking age-old boundaries of white people dominating the royal family, and creates new histories. And, that gives me a beacon of hope for not only the Brits but Americans, too.

Just like Meghan, I too am expecting a child any day. Just like Meghan, this baby won't be granted the title of Princess (unless it's a girl, who by default will be seen as such through her daddy's eyes). And, just like Meghan, I'm hopeful yet unsure of the world my little one will live in. But, I'm positive they will break their own boundaries while standing on the shoulders of black women who have come before them.

And that, strangely enough, makes me feel even more connected to the Harry and the rest of the British Royal Family.

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News

We think about them all the time as new moms, but what our milk ducts actually look like is a bit of a mystery. That's why a tweet showing the female muscle system is going viral.

Almost 50,000 people are talking about this image which shows milk ducts in their unskinned form. The clusters of milk ducts look like flowers, and Twitter is freaking out.

"At first I thought someone put flowers over boobs because art. Now, it looks like a weird alien creature lives inside my body and I'm terrified," wrote one woman whose tweet has been liked more than 23,000 times.

Here's the thing though, this isn't terrifying. It's beautiful.

Those petal-like structures aren't actually the ducts, those are lobes, which contain the alveoli. That's where the body makes the milk, which then travels down those little tubes (those are the ducts) to the nipple.

There's nothing scary about it, in fact, it's kind of magical. The female body really is a work of art.

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News
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