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5 ways mothers are transforming the world—from inside their homes

Tara Teng, former Miss World Canada, is a force of nature.


Since winning Miss World Canada in 2012, Tara has been fighting gender-based violence and human trafficking. And not just fighting, but actually creating real waves of change.

Tara has been directly involved in getting new laws passed in Canada that help to protect those affected by human trafficking, and has established Canada’s first Municipal Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking.

She was named Canada’s “Woman of the Year” in 2011, named one of the Globe and Mail’s “Top 25 Most Transformational Canadians,” and has received the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee medal as recognition for her work to end the sexual slavery.

Tara herself seems unstoppable. But changing the world; it seems like such a massive thing. So immense and vague. Where do you even begin? Tara believes it can happen inside the four walls of your home.

A mother of one, with one on the way, Tara shares with Motherly the 5 ways she believes mothers are changing the world, right from our own living rooms—

1. Teaching compassion beyond our own life

Raising children today means raising global citizens for tomorrow. With that huge responsibility comes huge opportunity, and the ability to shape the future.

We can teach our children compassion by helping them to realize that although it may seem that some issues do not effect us directly, we are actually all connected in some way or another.

The food we eat, items we buy, things we participate in, and friends that we have, come from all over the world now. That makes our choices all the more important. In my experience, children are incredibly attuned to justice concepts of fairness and equality, understanding compassion sometimes more easily than we do. We help our son to think and act beyond himself by teaching him the importance of choices; good choices have good rewards for yourself or others while bad choices have bad consequences for yourself or others.

2. Instilling confidence

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges of motherhood is raising confident children in a cutthroat world. We must teach our children to be both strong and compassionate, to speak the truth with grace and to stick up for what is right, even when it is hard. Sometimes we do this by allowing our children the freedom to fall, take risks and when necessary, handle rejection with grace. Life will not always be kind to them, but they must learn to be kind to others in all situations. Giving our children challenges to overcome helps them to build confidence in their abilities and the experience to know what to do when they encounter difficult situations.

3. Using the lessons we have learned as mothers to better the world

Parenting is one of those life experiences that teach you a lot about yourself and your world. For me, raising my son is a daily exercise in patience, compassion and my own emotional intelligence. Learning how to communicate these things effectively to my boy or walk him through the process of calming himself down in an emotional situation, will ultimately lead him to becoming a better human being and on the flip side, is giving me greater perspective to understand where others may be coming from, in the board room, at the grocery store and at home. After all, we all benefit from a little extra patience and understanding, right?

4. Embracing diversity

This generation is more connected than ever before and traditional walls that once divided us (i.e. race, gender, spirituality) are no longer holding us back in they way they did before. Raising our children to be rainbow children, with friends that represent all backgrounds in life, is a very powerful way to help our children embrace diversity and learn from one another.

5. Modeling how to practically apply personal values

As mothers, we are one of our child’s most influential role models due to our close proximity in their lives. They watch what we say and do all day long. We teach our children how to practically apply the values we instill within them by living them out in daily situations. For example, we can teach our children to be active participants in their local communities by finding ways to involve them. Shopping local, supporting family-run businesses and donating time or efforts to local charities are all great ways to get our little people involved in the community. Over time and through intentional conversation, your kids will learn how to invest in their community and practically live out important values.

More Motherly wisdom from Tara—

When did you start your involvement with the fight against human trafficking?

Tara Teng: When I was sixteen we moved to a new community in the suburbs of Vancouver. As I got to know my neighbors, I learned that one of them had lost a daughter to human trafficking. At 14-years-old she had been lured into prostitution by a trafficker who pretended to be her boyfriend.

I had known about human trafficking before, but I always thought it happened in other places of the world, I didn’t realize that it was rampant even in North America, happening on my very street.

To have something so devastating hit so close to home made it impossible for me to ignore the reality. Throughout my high school years I began studying everything I could on human trafficking, both within Canada and abroad. I went on to become very active in social justice clubs throughout university.

Now, I’ve been working for ten years to combat human trafficking and I serve as the BC Director of the Joy Smith Foundation, focused on prevention programs and the rehabilitation of human trafficking survivors in Canada.


What has been accomplished, and what are you working on now?

Tara Teng: I worked in Canadian Parliament for a time as part of the team lead by MP Joy Smith that successfully passed two private member’s bills that established mandatory minimum sentencing for persons caught trafficking a minor, and that extended Canada’s extra-territorial jurisdiction to hold Canadian citizens or permanent residents of Canada accountable for trafficking minors outside of Canadian borders. We were also involved in the National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, as initially proposed by MP Joy Smith. And alongside the Langley Human Trafficking Task Force, I co-wrote the country’s first municipal action plan to combat human trafficking.

Much of my work now is focused on helping the average person find their place in the freedom story.

It doesn’t matter who we are or what background we come from, we all have influence to make the world a better place.

I help people to understand their gifts and abilities so that they can use them with purpose.

My greatest encouragement is working with young people, and the mothers of young people. There is just something about a child that deeply understands fairness, equality and the importance of standing up for what is right; or teenagers who are compelled into action when they hear that the target age for recruitment into human trafficking in the same age as their peers.

These young people are world changers; and as their parents it is our job to model a socially conscious lifestyle to our children while also showing them an unwillingness to back down from what we know is right.


The key to making sure my mornings run smoothly is. . .

Tara Teng: The key to making my mornings run smoothly is time management…and a sweet cup of tea! But in all seriousness, I am always running late and mornings are the worst because no one in my family is a morning person. I’ve found it to be incredibly helpful if I can prep breakfast and wash my hair the night before. Overnight oats with chia pudding and wild rice is a family favourite.


The lifehack or tip that has changed my life:

Tara Teng: The lifehack or tip that has changed my life is learning to when to say “no” to things that are draining so that I can save my “yes” for the things that really matter.

As mothers and modern women we all wear a lot of hats. For me, being a person of diverse interests and deep passion means that I have had to learn how to find balance in my life by focusing my efforts strategically and purposefully while also protecting the importance of family time and self-care. If I’m not intentional with my time and with my “yes” then I quickly tend to find myself spread too thin.

And when all else fails, we pack up the jeep and head to the mountains for a little family escape!

Choosing to only invest myself into things that bring purpose to my goals or things that bring joy to my heart has been a great way to avoid burnout.

The superpower I discovered as a mom:

Tara Teng: The superpower that I discovered as a mom was endurance. While in labor, we all reach a point where we must push ourselves to keep going, beyond what we originally thought was possible. We discover how strong we truly are and that endurance, the ability to push through the hardest times, brings us to the ultimate goal of holding our children in our arms.

For me, the strength and endurance I acquired giving birth has carried through with me today. When things get hard, I have to “woman up” and be the adult, because my littles need me to be strong for them.


The quote that inspires me on the hard days is. . .

Tara Teng: In my line of work, I come across a lot of nay-sayers, people who don’t believe that positive change can come to major world issues of injustice. Yet though I’ve seen some of the most horrific things humans can do to one another, I also get to witness incredible victory. The bottom line is that nothing is ever impossible and great power can come from a dedicated community that is faithful and strategic to their cause.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.”
Margaret Mead

Right now, with the current world affairs, I’m hearing a lot of people question if one vote counts or if it’s even possible to bring change to a culture based on systemic racial discrimination and sexual violence; my answer will always be yes. It may not happen right away but we must never give up on fighting for what is right.

To me, being "Motherly" means. . .

Tara Teng: Being both strong and nurturing. Mothers are badass warriors, who fight for our children and to make the world a better place for the generations yet to come.

Haley Campbell is the founder of Beluga Baby and creator of the ultimate bamboo baby carrier. She is a regular contributor to Motherly and is an avid advocate for entrepreneurs, and for the new generation of mothers making the world their own.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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

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If you've got hamburger in your freezer you might want to check it before making dinner.

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, Cargill Meat Solutions is recalling approximately 132,606 pounds of ground beef products for possible Escherichia coli O26 (aka E.coli).

The beef was sold at various retailers, including Target, Meijer, Safeway and Sam's Club, as well as Save Mart in California. This comes after a previous recall involving ground beef sold at Publix.

The USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service notes the recalls are the result of an investigation into 17 illnesses and one death in recent months, and that children under 5, older adults and people with weakened immune systems are the most at risk for a type of kidney failure common in people with E.coli infections.

"It is marked by easy bruising, pallor and decreased urine output. Persons who experience these symptoms should seek emergency medical care immediately," the agency notes.


Cargill has issued a statement on its website that reads, in part: "We were distressed to learn a fatality may be related to an E.coli contamination of one of our products. Our hearts go out to the families and individuals affected by this issue."

The recalled beef products were produced and packaged on June 21, 2018. They have a use or freeze by date of July 11.


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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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To my firstborn baby,
We were overjoyed when we found out we were pregnant with your brother. We were so excited to give you a sibling to play with; someone to love and grow up with. Someone who will be your buddy for life.

But our excitement quickly turned to worry as we thought about how this would affect you. You were the only grandchild, on both sides. The only nephew, on both sides. Basically, the king of the castle. And you relished in that title.

We took special care to wait as long as possible to tell you. We waited until 20 weeks when we knew you were going to be getting a brother. We felt it would be easier for you to wrap your head around and also shorter for you to wait for his arrival.

I still watch the video of you cutting into the gender reveal cake. You were SO excited to see blue—because that meant you were getting a brother. You were overjoyed with telling everyone the news because you were the first to know.

From there your love for him grew every day. YOU too had a baby in your belly. I was carrying YOUR baby. You told everyone who would listen that you were going to be a big brother. We wondered if your love for him would quickly fade when he was actually here. When you realized that you would have to share time and attention...

But we were wrong. Your heart grew a million times bigger the day your brother arrived.

You came to visit me in the hospital wearing your doctor uniform, to check on both of us. You made friends with the nurses. You wanted to make sure I was okay. You wanted to take care of me and were so proud to wear your "Big Brother" shirt your aunt made you.

You were such a trooper during his two-week stay in the NICU. You were too young to go in to visit him. So, for you, it meant you had this mysterious brother you could only see in pictures and videos.

You drew him cards and colored pictures for his isolette (which you so playfully called his aquarium). You told everyone at school you had a new brother and that he would be home soon—even though you didn't know when exactly. Your heart ached as much as ours did. You wanted him home as much, if not more, than we did. You wanted your new family of four.

Sometimes I feel like you are wise beyond your years. A little old man trapped in a pint-sized body.

You were the best helper for Mom and Dad in those first days and months of welcoming your baby brother into our family. You would tell everyone to use hand sanitizer, and check to see if anyone was sick before they walked through the door to our house.

You would tell everyone how to hold your baby. And then them the proper way. You would tell everyone to line up their shoes at the door. You just wanted to keep your brother healthy and safe, ever the protector.

I worried the honeymoon period would wear off, that you would wonder how long he was staying here.

But, I was wrong. It's almost a year later and you are still so in love with your brother. Truly in love. On your obligatory "first day of school sign" you listed your favorite things as: Star Wars, basketball and my brother.

You tell everyone that you love him more than anyone. The way you both laugh hysterically together during peek-a-boo in the back seat of the car literally makes my heart explode into a million pieces, in the best way possible. It is a joy and an admiration I never knew possible as I watch my two precious boys interact and love each other.

My wish is that you will always be best friends. That you always look out for each other. Continue to be each other's biggest fans. Root each other on, even when it's hard, or you don't want to. Because, my sweet, sweet boy, I want you to remember—your brother looks up to you. You are his role model for life. And I thank you for taking that role so seriously.

Love,
Your Mommy

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If there's anyone who needs a nice spa day, it's parents. But booking a day at the spa isn't so easy when you also have to find and pay a babysitter.

A business owner in Los Angeles came up with a solution: Trina Renea, the founder of Spa Lé La, added free childcare (by a CPR-certified nanny) to her spa's menu, offering the service to any parent who needs a massage or a facial, or any of the spa's other stress-busting services.

If you've got more than one child at home, the first child is free, and each one after is just $6 for the whole duration of mom or dad's spa visit, HuffPo reports.

Renea recognized that for a lot of parents, a quick 15 or 30 minute appointment for a wax or a manicure just wouldn't be worth all the effort it would take to get the kids ready and then into and out of the car, so she added 30 minutes of "lounge time" that parents can take before or after their appointment, so mama can just chill for a bit.

If lounge time isn't relaxing enough for you, you can also spend an extra $40 for another 25 minutes in a totally comfortable nap room.

This kind of parent paradise could only have been thought up by a fellow parent. Renea is a mother herself, and she understands that a lot of parents feel guilty about prioritizing their own self-care. That's why she added cool classes to the childcare component: Kids can participate in art, music or yoga sessions while mom or dad is away. There's nothing to feel guilty about at all. "If they feel like their child is getting a class, then it makes them feel more comfortable," she told HuffPo.

The spa also offers services for expecting parents, like prenatal massage, belly facials, and even labor stimulating massage for those 40-week mamas-to-be who are understandably over being pregnant and just want to meet their little one.

Whether you have a child on the way or a couple of them keeping you up at night, this spa's menu sounds like the perfect way for mama to enjoy some me time.

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