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There is no more hopeful person than a mother who has just created a chore chart.

Like, seriously.

Our first chore chart was a BIG deal. About a week before making one we started talking about chores with the kids, "What do you think you would like your chores to be?" "Would you like to track your progress with stickers or stamps?"

The day of the chore chart was exciting for everyone. We went to the craft store and picked out poster board and stamps. I let the children make all the decisions for what the chart should look like in hopes they would be more inspired to complete the tasks.

And then it came time to write the chores down.

These kids, a 5-year-old and a 2.5-year-old, were born on a farm. They have never not known what it's like to live among animals. They learned how to crawl in the kitchen next to an orphan piglet and they cuddle with newborn baby goats in their bed instead of stuffed animals. They've witnessed birth and they've witnessed death; they are equally intrigued by both.

"Feed the baby goats their bottles!" Isadora shouted.

"Drive tractor!" Banzai chimed in.

Farming, for them, wasn't a newfound passion like it was for their dad and me. Farming is their life.

As farmers, and specifically owners of a goat dairy farm that makes artisan cheeses,Matthew and I spend a large portion of our day working, and most of this work (with the exception of what occurs in the cheese making room) happens with our children right alongside us.

At 5 years old Isadora is capable enough to do work that is not only helpful, but also necessary.

She can bottle feed baby goats, corral goats for milking, prep udders for milking, actually milk goats, haul hay to feed her horse and the llama, cart food to the pigs in her little wheelbarrow, muck barns, steer the tractor and clean up our event space.

Her brother, Banzai, is right beside her, learning and growing, every step of the way. He picks up the strings left over from the bales of hay, carries his own Banzai-sized flake of hay for the horses, pushes the wheelbarrow his sister has filled with dirty bedding into the field, preps udders, and pulls weeds (we're still working on identifying what's a weed and what's not).

(Now I know why farmers used to have so many children!)

At one point in their short little lives, Matthew and I took a step back and asked ourselves, "Are we robbing our children of the magic of childhood by asking them to step up and do real work?"

We watched our children closely for a week looking for clues to see if we were slowly killing their beautiful little spirits with the asks involved in manual labor.

On the contrary, we saw two children flourishing under the work of a farm.

This farm is shaping these children into incredibly strong, driven individuals. They care about this farm not because it's where they live, or because it's where their food comes from, but because they see it as their farm.

These tiny humans walk around the farm and see it not only as a playground (don't worry they still play) but as something they are responsible for. They will often come running to us with frantic observations.

"The baby goats are out of the pasture and they're eating the garden!"

"A peacock just had babies!"

"The pigs peed in their water!"

Immediately, they will start offering solutions.

This farm has taught them that their opinion matters, and, on an ever-larger scale, that they matter.

But what happened to the chore chart?

Hilariously enough, it fell behind the refrigerator never to be seen again.

I had put so much energy into inspiring them with a chore chart I lost sight of the fact that the farm, in and of itself, empowered them.

Introducing a formalized system was about trying to nurture children who saw just how important their actions were to the success of their village. It was about them working right alongside their parents, modeling hard work and determination, and in the process, learning the strength of their own bodies and their own mental fortitude.

Turns out they already knew all those things.

Watching these children blossom, from infants being toted around the farm while we do chores, to tiny little humans who can outwork most adults, has been an incredible journey. Everyday chores with children gets a little easier. We repeat ourselves less. We don't have to remind them of the steps to complete a task. They start to learn their roles in a specific job and become experts in it.

In my opinion, chores haven't made their childhood less magical, they've made it more magical. Chores have given these children a purpose and sense of belonging that will root them for years to come.

The other day as we were delivering cheese to one of our customers the vendor asked Isadora, "Are you helping your Mommy deliver her cheese today?"

"No," she replied, "I'm helping my Mommy deliver OUR cheese."

And you know what? She was right.

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As a mid-Spring holiday, we never knew exactly what to expect from the weather on Easter when I was growing up in Michigan: Would we get to wear our new Sunday dresses without coats? Or would we be hunting for eggs while wearing snowsuits?

Although what the temperature had in store was really anyone's guess, there were a few special traditions my sister and I could always depend on—and it won't come as a surprise to anyone who knows me that my favorite memories revolved around food. After all, experts say memories are strongest when they tie senses together, which certainly seems to be true when it comes to holiday meals that involve the sounds of laughter and the taste of amazing food.

Now that I'm a parent, I'm experiencing Easter anew as my children discover the small delights of chocolate, pre-church brunch and a multi-generational dinner. While I still look forward to the treats and feasting, I'm realizing now that the sweetest thing of all is how these traditions bring our family together around one table.

For us, the build-up to Easter eats is an extended event. Last year's prep work began weeks in advance when my 3-year-old and I sat down to plan the brunch menu, which involved the interesting suggestion of "green eggs and ham." When the big morning rolled around, his eyes grew to the size of Easter eggs out of pure joy when the dish was placed on the table.

This year, rather than letting the day come and go in a flash, we are creating traditions that span weeks and allow even the littlest members of the family to feel involved.

Still, as much as I love enlisting my children's help, I also relish the opportunity to create some magic of my own with their Easter baskets—even if the Easter Bunny gets the credit. This year, I'm excited to really personalize the baskets by getting an "adoptable" plush unicorn for my daughter and the Kinder Chocolate Mini Eggs that my son hasn't stopped talking about since seeing at the store. (You can bet this mama is stocking up on some for herself, too.)

At the same time, Easter as a parent has opened my eyes to how much effort can be required...

There is the selection of the right Easter outfits for picture-perfect moments.

There is the styling of custom Easter baskets.

There is the filling of plastic eggs and strategic placement of them throughout the yard.

But when the cameras are put away and we all join together around the table for the family dinner at the end of the day, I can finally take a deep breath and really enjoy—especially with the knowledge that doing the dishes is my husband's job.

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


Our Partners

Chances are, social distancing boredom is starting to set in. You've cleaned your home, watched your favorite Netflix movies (several times), cooked several meals from your stockpile and you've managed to do this all while homeschooling your little one. Good job, mama!

While we can manage our own boredom, trying to keep our kids entertained has been a real challenge. These days our saving grace has been a host of indoor activities, and now, neighborhoods are creating "bear hunts" to help kids minimize boredom even more.

The idea was inspired by the children's book We're Going on a Bear Hunt by Michael Rosen and Helen Oxenbury and is exactly how it sounds. You walk around your neighborhood in search of stuffed bears in windows. Put simply, it's the perfect way to get fresh air while practicing social distancing. Even more, it's the perfect distraction that unites neighborhoods and families.

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To get in on the action, visit the "Going on a Bear Hunt" website to find out where the bears are near you or how to start the hunt in your town. Once you've decided your path, sing "We're Going on a Bear Hunt" song to add some fun to your experience.

Shanna Bonner Groom, who spearheaded the recent bear hunting initiative in the Stewart Springs neighborhood of Murfreesboro, Tennessee told TIME that she got the word out by posting the idea in her neighborhood's private Facebook group after seeing it floating around on social media.

"Within hours, everybody was responding and wanting to join in," she said. "Everybody's trying to enjoy this time at home with each other but do social distancing at the same time. So we're trying to come up with some fun activities."

The bear hunt isn't stopping in the United States, in fact many have spotted bears in cities as far as London and New Zealand.

"To the parent (it's gotta be a parent) who came up with this idea, THANK YOU. Explaining to a 4-yr-old why playdates aren't allowed anymore is heartbreaking, so "Going on a Bear Hunt" during our walks is the distraction we needed," says London-based mama, Daniele Hamamdjian.

Indeed, the world needs as many furry friends as possible right now.

News

Breastfeeding can be incredibly challenging in and of itself. Learning how to get the baby to latch properly. Figuring out any lip or tongue tie issues. Wondering if they are actually eating anything and gaining enough weight. Questioning how you'll ever leave the house. If you will ever be brave enough to figure out breastfeeding in public when they demand milk. Constantly wondering about your milk supplydo I have enough? Not enough? Should I pump too? The questions can take up a lot of mental space.

Not to mention the physical aspect of it all. Slumped over on the couch for hours during and in between feeds. Craning your neck in strange positions to try to read or watch something while you nurse them. Tweaking something in your back to reach for something while they're attached to you.

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And breastfeeding while sick, as I've found out, is a whole other level of physical exertion.

It's a hidden reserve of energy you didn't know you had until you need it.

It's having to rest your body after your child's needs are met.

It's realizing you're totally drained, but it doesn't matter—there's a tiny beautiful person counting on you for nourishment.

It's feeding through a fever, worrying your milk isn't going to let down. Having to utilize deep breathing exercises in order to trick your mind into relaxation mode hoping it'll help.

It's considering pumping between feeds just to maintain your supply that you're so scared will diminish as your body fights off infection.

It's watching your milk quickly disappear for a few days during mastitis then magically and miraculously return again.

It's sitting awake for hours at night even though you should be sleeping because your little one wants to cluster feed.

It's trying to rest during the day as much as you can because you're physically exhausted and mentally drained.

It's having to know you can't offer help to all your family members who need it and rely on it because you have to get better—and you have to be available to keep feeding your baby.

It's not wanting to leave the house in case you catch something else—because you can't be sick for much longer.

It's having to go to the doctor so they can listen to your chest, X-ray you and medicate you.

It's realizing the medication you are taking to get better is now upsetting your baby's tummy with gas and changes to their bowel movements.

It's being in pain and wishing your baby could understand that knowing full well they have no idea that anything is bothering you. Knowing you will soldier on.

It's being told constantly "You need to rest," "You need to focus on you," "You need to get better," but mentally not being anywhere near able to do that.

Breastfeeding while sick seems impossible.

But yet—doesn't loads of aspects of motherhood seem impossible at times? Being super pregnant seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Birth seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Figuring out a newborn baby's cries seemed impossible to me once—but I did it. Transforming into a mother seemed impossible to me once—but I did it.

When I am breastfeeding my 7-month-old, feeding her sometimes three or four times in one night, constantly feeding her on demand throughout the day—even while sick—sometimes seems impossible at that moment. The moment I'm in it. Because, honestly, the mentality it takes to drag myself out of bed when my head is swimming and it feels hard to breathe is intense.

Because it's hard. It's really hard.

But just like every other aspect of impossible motherhood, we rise up to the challenge. We figure it out. We have the confidence to know what to do, what's best for us and our baby, underneath any insecurity or fear.

Because we are strong. We are resilient. We are mothers.

Life

Connection to a parent is as vital to your child as food and water. When children feel disconnected from their parents, their behavior goes off-track, resulting in challenges such as whining or aggression.

Ironically, right now our ability to connect with our children is being challenged like never before. With schools and workplaces closed and families living their entire lives at home, parents are juggling a lot right now—just as our children's need for connection is more acute than ever. It's no coincidence that your toddler insists on a snuggle or a game just as you need to hop on a video call for work. Or that your child resists homeschooling activities without constant input and "help" from you. Or that bedtime suddenly takes ages when all you want to do is collapse on the couch and decompress.

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It can feel hard to nourish our children with all the connection time they need, especially in stressful times. Children need long stretches of quality time with us, but on some days it's inevitable that things get hectic, and it's all about juggling priorities.

Here 8 bite-size ways to give our children the deep sense of connection they need to thrive.

1. Set a timer for "Special Time"

Set a timer for 10 minutes. Tell your child it's 'special time' and they can do exactly what they want with you. if you can squeeze a short special time into a busy morning, you'll be amazed how much happier it makes everyone, and how much children are more willing to cooperate when they feel connected to you.

2. Try "Giggle Parenting"

When you need your child to get dressed or brush their teeth it can be easy to drop into serious parenting mode, lecturing, complaining and getting stressed.

Giggle Parenting is a simple solution. Whenever you need to get your child to do something, make your approach extra playful. For example, use a puppet or stuffed toy to make the request in a silly voice. Or ask your child to get dressed and pretend to 'accidentally' put the clothes on your own body instead. Giggle Parenting gives children the connection they need to cooperate, and helps make daily tasks fun.

3. Provide full attention moments

If there's a moment when your child is asking you something while you are cooking dinner, or talking about their day while you are trying to finish something for work, just stop for a short moment. Sit down on a chair and make eye contact. Give your child your full attention. It can be easy to get caught up in multitasking and carrying on a conversation while doing other things, but from time to time remember to stop when your child is talking to you and simply listen. Even if it's just a few moments here and there, it can make a difference.

4. Exchange whines for snuggles

When your child is whining, being irritable or showing signs of upset feelings, it can be easy to soak up their energy and feel a little irritable too. Shift the mood by adding in some connection so you both feel better.

Perhaps your child whines because you've set a limit about screen time or eating chocolate. Instead of becoming more serious in tone about the limit setting, turn it into a chance to connect.

Move in close and set the limit gently. Perhaps you say playfully, while making eye contact, "No, no, no I can't let you have any more chocolate.'' Or you playfully snuggle a child who's been annoying their sibling and say, "I can't let you do that, I'm going to shower you with 100 kisses!''

These little moments of connection go a bit deeper than the surface desire for screen time and chocolate and give your child what they really need—you.

5. Make a mistake

Comedian Victor Borge once said that "laughter is the shortest distance between two people." One thing children always find hilarious is when we adults make mistakes. It's the perfect way to release tension about times when they have felt small and powerless.

So perhaps you get something out of the cupboard and 'accidentally' drop it on the floor and exclaim out loud about your mistake, or you spell a word wrong while writing a text message, and say in a bumbling incompetent way, "Hm, I don't seem to know how to spell 'there.'" (Or some other word that you know your child knows how to spell.)

This can turn busy tasks into a chance for tiny moments of laughter, eye contact and fun.

6. Read together

Reading a short book or chapter can be a nice way to reconnect and relax as a substitute for screen time. Reading is my go to for those moments when I'm too exhausted to play, but want to spend time with my daughter.

7. Do household tasks together

When you are tired and stressed at the end of the day, the temptation can be to flip the TV on while you prepare dinner or get on with other household tasks. However, getting the kids involved in the evening routine can be a way to reconnect. Even the youngest ones can help with setting the table or putting plates in the dishwasher. If children complain, set a playful limit. For example, "If you don't help me, I will chase you around the house.'' This can lead to a lot of giggles and, in the end, they are more than likely to want to help and be with you.

8. Release tension through physical play

Especially at the end of the day, children love to release excess stress and tension through laughter and physical play. Set a timer for 10 minutes for some gentle roughhousing. Grab a pillow and have a pillow fight. Put up some resistance but let your child knock you over. This reverse power play helps your child to grow in confidence, let off steam, and is the perfect antidote to all those busy moments in the day when you've been telling them what to do.

Learn + Play

I've worked from home for the last seven years. My children's dad has worked from home since last year. And now having all five of our children home full-time due to school closures has been both unexpected and chaotic. It's been a bumpy few weeks transitioning from spring break to not returning to school for the rest of this year.

I want to assure you (and myself)—we will be alright. Take a breath.

Mama, you're human, too.

Honestly, one moment I feel incredibly blessed we're all together, and the next I'm raising my voice to remind someone something I already said nine times just within the last hour. Most days I feel I handled my classroom of 28 fifth graders (in my previous career teaching) better than my own household. Most hours I'm just winging it.

FEATURED VIDEO

Mama, this, too, shall pass.

I have a 10-month-old teething baby who also has yet another ear infection right now. We decided not to take him into the doctor or an urgent care facility for fear of what else he could contract and our pediatrician isn't comfortable calling him in another prescription despite this being his fourth or fifth infection (I've lost count). But despite him showing every symptom of an ear infection, as a family we don't feel comfortable running the risk of taking his weak immune system out because of the coronavirus.

Mama, it's okay to hold our breath and simply pray.

Our oldest daughter has gotten the flu each year for the last three years in a row, despite having the flu shot. She was in the hospital two out of those three years, and she also has a weakened immune system. We didn't do the flu shot this year and each week she stays healthy, we breathe a small sigh of relief.

Mama, it's okay that they're trying to figure out their new normal.

Our older four kids are close in age and that brings with it a list of pros and cons. It seems their moods vary by the hour (as do ours, the adults), and despite our pleas of, "Why can't you just get along and play nicely with one another," we forget that they, too, are trying to acclimate to this gigantic shift in their worlds.

Mama, we are all struggling right there with you.

I haven't slept in the last five months due to my sweet teething baby boy. I am often left feeling irritable or finding myself snapping back at one of my kids for something that doesn't warrant my short temper.

All this stress and uncertainty left me feeling weary. Moms do hard things all the time, but this hand we've been dealt has been feeling harder and harder.

But then I saw it. I saw what I convinced myself I wouldn't see.

I saw a 12-year-old girl in the intensive care unit (ICU) fighting for her life in the state next to me. An hour later, I saw a 7-month-old baby hospitalized in the state beneath me. And then as if the universe were trying to be even crueler, I saw a video of a mother also in the ICU who was gasping to speak, begging others to take this time of quarantining more seriously.

I went to the bathroom and just stood there over my sink, unable to move. I silently prayed. I recalled some not so fond moments of myself over the last couple weeks. I made promises to myself in terms of how I was going to behave when I walked out of the bathroom into what seemed like a zoo for the better part of the day.

I hit my breaking point.

Maybe it was too close to home with the same ages of the mother and daughter and baby back-to-back this morning.

Maybe it was simply the sheer horror of hearing that woman try to breathe in what very well could have been her last breaths.

Maybe it was the shared heartbreak, from one mother to another, at the thought of her potentially never getting to wrap her arms around her loved ones again.

Mama, it's okay to simply not be okay every hour of each day right now.

I realized it's okay to be scared right now. It's okay to be stressed and exhausted all the while feeling abundantly blessed, and the next hour feeling irrational again. This is an unprecedented time that we're all working through and we're simply doing the best we can.

As much as I'm encouraging walks, riding bikes, shooting hoops and playing soccer and baseball in the backyard, I'm likewise allowing Netflix binges and TikTok dances. Yes, each child is getting more than their "normal" screen time. We're probably eating more snacks than we need to be. And we've all been so off the typical sleep schedules and are staying up late or sleeping in far past normal school start times.

And guess what?

It's okay.

I'm taking comfort in the extra morning snuggles of not rushing anywhere.

I'm not missing the madness of dashing in and out the door for practices and games.

While attempting to adapt through this major adjustment, I've found solace in slowing down with my family. In between these new stressors, some of which we've never faced before, take a deep breath and know that this, too, will be okay.

We just need to allow ourselves some time to figure it out.

Some patience to get used to things.

And lots of grace throughout.

Life
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