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I have always enjoyed productivity strategies. I eat up advice around how to best manage my time, tricks for getting more done, and how to set myself up to reach my goals.

But after I had my kids, when I was trying to raise two toddlers and be not just coherent but valuable as a leader at a fast-growing startup, I suddenly saw productivity advice in a totally new light.

Every time I read something about how you should get up at 5am to get an extra hour in or read a book a week to add to your skill set, I didn't feel inspired.

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I felt rage.

I suddenly realized the entire business world was built for someone who was NOT a parent. Almost all of those productivity hacks—with a few exceptions, like advice from Laura Vanderkam and the Lazy Genius—are offered by people who are not the default parent at home.

None of them share this fact. But you can tell by the way most of this advice is dished out that none of the people giving it have actually tried to apply it after not sleeping all night or dealing with an all-morning tantrum or losing half a workday to a sick kid.

Like, what would they do if their kid threw up all over the car on their way to work… two days in a row?

How would they get out of bed at 5am to practice gratitude if they hadn't actually gone back to bed after a 1am wake-up?

What if they had to dedicate 45 minutes three times a day at the office to pumping milk?

It's time to reframe business advice so it's not just for men without kids.

The truth is, many of the strategies the Internet suggests simply aren't possible while working and parenting young kids.

And yet here's a shocker: many parents are ambitious, just like we were before having kids! We love spending time with our families, but we also have dreams for growing meaningful careers, building companies and writing books that bring value to the world. Parents of young children want to be productive, too.

But the business and working world's mainstream advice simply doesn't fit. Which is crazy, because working parents aren't exactly a rare breed. Just like the traditional way of working is set up for employees who are childless or supported by someone who's the default parent, most productivity advice assumes you have full control over your own schedule. Ha.

So here's my productivity advice for ambitious, career-loving parents of young children.

And let's be real: this is just as much a pep talk for myself as it is for you. I struggle with these things every day. But now that I'm beyond the worst of the sleep deprivation (my kids are ages 2.5 and 4.5), I can at least think clear enough to remind myself of these things on hard days.

1. Ignore mainstream advice

It's not written for us. Instead of being helpful, it might make you feel worse about how much you're able to achieve.

You, my friend, actually do way more than the person who wrote that book, because you're taking care of human beings AND inching forward on your projects (even an inch counts). Which brings me to…

2. Count managing your household as an achievement

I am the worst at this. When I take stock of what I've achieved at the end of each day, I often only look at my "paid" work or work that will eventually bring revenue to our family.

I gloss over all the things I did that kept our family running: got the kids fed and out the door to pre-school, cleaned out the bathtub because our toddler pooped in it (my husband actually did this the morning I wrote this), ran a load of laundry because our other child's night diaper leaked, figured out what we're eating for dinner and what the kids are eating and whether we have all the ingredients we need to make those things, discussed medical codes with a health insurance rep for 47 precious minutes to sort out an unexpected bill… the list goes on and on.

When I list out these things, they are tremendous! I achieved a ridiculous amount! And yet somehow when I look at what I've done for the day, I treat these items like they don't count. Why? Perhaps because society tells me every day that unpaid work isn't valuable. So even when I remind myself that's not true, I can't get myself to believe it.

Let's work on this together, friends.

3. Prioritize sleep

When mainstream productivity advice tells you to get enough sleep, they make the assumption that doing so is as simple as deciding to go to bed earlier rather than staying up late playing on social media.

But what if getting even six hours of sleep requires climbing into bed 10 hours before you have to get up? What if getting enough sleep means literally not doing all the other things that get-more-sleep strategy was supposed to help you achieve? What if you have to choose between sleep and a shower?

I'm not making this stuff up; these are the realities for parents of young children. Being up half the night and then having to function the next day is hard. Really hard. And then many of us add a full-time job on top of it. If you haven't experienced this yourself, it might sound like I'm exaggerating, but this is exactly what it's like going back to work with a three-month-old baby (which is considered normal in America).

If you find yourself in this position, prioritize sleep above all else. Don't feel guilty about it for even a second. When you're exhausted, it's hard to make smart decisions. You're helping yourself out by sleeping first, even if that means accomplishing nothing else.

I had to give myself this pep talk for the first 18 months of my second baby's life. I was working full time in an office with a team that looked to me for guidance, and my kid was getting up a few times every night. Every weekend, when my husband or I put our two kids down for a nap at 1pm, I collapsed into bed. I slept through every Saturday and Sunday afternoon.

I always wanted to use that time for something "productive," since both kids were sleeping. But the truth was, I was tired, and my body knew sleep had to come before everything else.

If you are at this stage, consider this your permission to sleep every second you can. You need it, and that's okay.

4. Remember this is temporary

That not-enough-sleep phase? It's temporary. I mean, it could be years-long temporary and feel like it lasts forever, but eventually it will get better.

I went through a period where I was busy at work and exhausted at home, and I literally wondered if I had lost my capacity to come up with good ideas. It sounds ridiculous now, but I actually thought it might be possible that I would never again feel like my brain was brimming with good ideas like before kids.

I remember the moment this fog began to lift and I thought, omg! It's still there! I can still think! I was so relieved. I just needed space in my brain and sleep in my tank.

5. Consider interruptions to be constant, not deviations

While most life phases are temporary, here's what's not: you will never again work without interruptions. Once you have children, things will almost never go as you planned, for better or for worse.

Once you start seeing that as the norm rather than a deviation, you will feel far less frustrated. If you expect something unexpected to pop up during your day that needs your attention for a few hours, you leave bandwidth in your brain for that unknown thing and better adjust when it comes along.

I'm telling you this because I believe it to be true, but I haven't mastered it myself. This is a hard one for Type-A parents.

6. Find your people

Talk to other parents about how they manage the juggle. Some of the best strategies tend to be invisible because we're not always comfortable talking about them (hiring help is a great example). But once you establish relationships with other ambitious parents, some of those walls will come down.

While in-person groups are great if you can find them, I've had more luck with online communities, like Facebook groups and podcasts, even a master class for entrepreneurial moms. Here are some of my favorite online resources that provide support.

We are here! You're not alone! But sometimes it can feel like that when everyone's tweeting about how they ran a half-marathon last weekend. You and I know the real hero is the woman who's running in the park alongside her dog while pushing a double stroller.

7. Communicate

This is one of the hardest things to do when you're sleep deprived and stressed. Especially when it requires saying things delicately in a way that will maintain relationships that are important to you.

But forcing yourself to do this is a productivity hack in itself, because it will make your life easier. Household management is the No. 1 stressor for my husband and me, and so far we've only found two solutions that work: 1) hiring someone else to do some of the work and 2) checking in regularly about what needs doing, who's doing it, and how we both feel about who's doing what.

This is best done during a regularly scheduled meeting with your spouse, and yes, put it on your calendar, just like you would a work meeting. These topics aren't easy to talk about, and we found if we don't have a pre-arranged time to discuss them, we simply don't do it.

Of course, not everyone has a spouse, and some people find themselves in the position of having to do everything as a single parent rather than having to negotiate who does what. Single parents, you amaze me.

8. Look at what you've built

No, I don't mean your most recent work project. I mean that little person you brought into the world and are now turning into someone who will contribute to society in a meaningful way, long after you're gone.

It feels good to build a company or a career, but it feels way more amazing to build a human.

This should be obvious, but for those of us who enjoy our work, it's not always so. I'm listening to Clayton Christensen's book, How Will You Measure Your Life? (audiobooks = parent productivity hack) and he talks about how high achievers tend to make the mistake of focusing too much on their work rather than family. We do this in part because it provides immediate returns, whereas the hard work of raising good children can take longer to yield positive results.

I feel kind of guilty admitting this resonates with me, but it does. While I love hanging out with my kids, our everyday two-steps-forward, one-steps-back dance is often at odds with my high-achiever mindset.

His point is that all that time and energy we put into children — it matters. It might limit our capacity for paid work, and it might mean we can't get up at 5am to meditate or read 52 books in a year. It might mean we're exhausted and just getting through each day, rather than "maximizing our potential." It might mean we want to punch the well-meaning childless coworker who suggests we "take care of ourselves first."

But raising kids is important work, enriching work. So, too, is filling our own cup by growing a rewarding business or career.

If doing just those two things is taking everything you've got, I'm with you.

This post was first published on AlexisGrant.com

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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.


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Last month Katy Perry and Orlando Bloom announced some big news: The engaged pair are expecting a baby!

Perry announced her pregnancy when the music video for her single, "Never Worn White" showed her rocking a bump and this weekend she announced she's expecting a girl...by posting a photo of Bloom's face covered in pink frosting.

She geotagged the photo "Girls Run the World" and captioned it "💕 It's a girl 💕."

Clearly, this man is thrilled about becoming a #girldad.

Perry is due in the summer, as she previously noted on Instagram.

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"Let's just say it's gonna be a jam packed summer..." she captioned her original pregnancy announcement.

"OMG, so glad I don't have to suck it in anymore," Perry tweeted after the big news went public.

"I am excited. We're excited and happy and it's probably the longest secret I've ever had to keep," Perry explained in a live stream with fans.

Of course not long after Perry announced her pregnancy the world changed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Because of the pandemic, Perry and Bloom have postponed their wedding, according to People and are pretty much just laying low at home trying to enjoy Perry's pregnancy as much as possible during this difficult time.

Perry recently told Stellar Magazine that the wedding is about more than throwing a big bash, so while it would be totally normal to be disappointed by having to postpone it, the mom-to-be seems to be in a good place regarding her nuptials.

She told Stellar: "It's not about the party. It's about the coming together of people who will hold us accountable when things get really hard. Those are just the facts when you're with someone who challenges you to be your best self."

The little girl Bloom and Perry are expecting will have a lot of people to love on her. While this is the first child for Perry, Bloom is already a dad to a 9-year-old boy who will soon be a big brother.

Congratulations to Perry + Bloom!

News

On Friday President Trump announced that the Centers for Disease Control is now advising people to wear a cloth mask if they need to go out in public. It's not a rule, he says, but a recommendation.

"It's really going to be a voluntary thing," President Trump told reporters. "I'm not choosing to do it."

First Lady Melania Trump is urging others to do it, tweeting, "As the weekend approaches I ask that everyone take social distancing & wearing a mask/face covering seriously. #COVID19 is a virus that can spread to anyone—we can stop this together."

What the CDC says about cloth face masks:

The CDC says it's recommending cloth face masks because recent studies show that people can have COVID-19 while asymptomatic, meaning they feel fine and because they don't know they are sick they might still be going about their daily routine in their community.

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Basically, masks don't protect the wearer as much as they protect people from the wearer (who might not know they are sick) by blocking respiratory droplets

"So it's not going to protect you, but it is going to protect your neighbor," Dr. Daniel Griffin at Columbia University, an expert on infectious diseases, tells NPR.

CDC experts are "advising the use of simple cloth face coverings to slow the spread of the virus and help people who may have the virus and do not know it from transmitting it to others. Cloth face coverings fashioned from household items or made at home from common materials at low cost can be used as an additional, voluntary public health measure."

They say if you're going somewhere where it's hard to maintain the proper social distance of six feet, like a grocery store or a pharmacy, then it's a good idea to wear a simple cloth mask.

"The cloth face coverings recommended are not surgical masks or N-95 respirators. Those are critical supplies that must continue to be reserved for healthcare workers and other medical first responders, as recommended by current CDC guidance," the CDC states.

"You may need to improvise a cloth face covering using a scarf or bandana," the agency notes on its website.

A DIY cloth mask is an extra layer of protection:

The CDC still says that staying home and practicing good hand hygiene is the best protection against COVID-19, but a cloth mask would be an extra layer of protection if you must go out to get food or unavoidable medical care.

According to Dr. Scott Segal, chair of anesthesiology at Wake Forest Baptist Health in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, certain types of fabric are better than others when it comes to making a mask. While he CDC says improvised bandanas or scarfs are better than nothing, Segal says DIY mask makers should aim a little higher for the masks to be effective.

"You have to use relatively high-quality cloth," Dr.Segal, who is researching this topic, tells NBC News.

According to Segal you don't want to use a knit fabric (like an old T-shirt) but rather a woven fabric. He suggests a double layer of heavyweight cotton with a thread count of at least 180 (like quilters cotton). If you don't have a cotton with that high of a thread count, line it with flannel.

For more tips on how to sew a fabric face mask, check out these instructions from Kaiser Permanente.

No-sew methods:

If you're not a sewer you can still fashion a mask, and there are plenty of no-sew tutorials online showing you how. Use heavyweight woven fabric like Segal suggests and make one of these without a sewing machine.

How To Make a Pleated Face Mask // Washable, Reusable, No-Sewing Required youtu.be

Should kids wear masks? Talk to your doctor.

The CDC is not recommending masks if you're just going for a walk around the block or playing in the backyard (which is the extent of most kids' outings these days). The masks are more for grocery runs, which many parents are opting to do alone these days.

But solo parents and those with partners who are in the military know that leaving the kids behind isn't always an option if you're the only adult in the home. If that's your circumstance, choose delivery options when possible to avoid taking your children to public places like grocery stores and pharmacies (the kinds of places the CDC recommends masks for).

If you are concerned that you may need to take your child somewhere where a mask would be required, call your pediatrician for advice on whether a mask is appropriate for your child's age and circumstances. Babies' faces should not be covered.

If you have no one to watch your children while you get groceries and cannot get them delivered try contacting your local government, community groups and churches for leads on grocery delivery help. They may be able to put you in touch with someone who can fetch groceries for you so that you don't have to take your children to the store with you.

News

Lizzie climbed up the playground stairs on all fours, walked across the small suspension bridge and slid down the big red slide at our neighborhood park. I followed just inches behind my 4-year-old daughter ready to catch her.

I had become her shadow by necessity. Her actions were often unpredictable and sometimes dangerous so my arms became her safety net. Her big brown eyes and unruly curly brown hair encapsulated her carefree spirit, and I adored her with a love I never thought myself capable of.

She walked over to the swings and stood there, stiff, her eyes glazed over. She didn't look to me for help. She didn't point, raise her arms up or ask me to place her in the swing. But I knew what she wanted—I sensed it.

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"Do you want to swing, Lizzie?" I asked in a gentle voice. She remained silent.

I didn't expect an answer, but I always asked in hopes today was the day she would choose to use her voice to form a word for the sake of communicating with me. I placed her in the swing anyway and pushed her to the exact height I knew she preferred.

A look of contentment came across her face and a giant smile curled her lips. She was in her happy place. This place was a place I wasn't allowed in—not yet anyway. She lived in an alternative universe inside her head, and after the park, we would spend the rest of the day inside using therapy techniques to pull her from this place into the real world. I missed my daughter and the connection we once had.

There were so many quirks I thought were hers alone, when in fact they were symptoms of autism spectrum disorder.

Here are five possible signs of autism parents should know about. If you notice something that concerns you, please reach out to your pediatrician.

1. Change in language

As a baby, Lizzie's language gradually changed from babbling to gibberish. "With typically developing language skills, infants will babble often as early as two to three months indicating first instances of intentional and social communication," says licensed clinical speech language pathologist Julie Liberman. "An early sign of autism may be seen in infants creating nonsense syllables without added social-communicative behaviors."

Lizzie lost her social-communicative sounds and began to mimic noises from her environment such as screeching sounds or sirens. She also developed a few sounds such as "diddle diddle" that she would repeat all day long. The transition was subtle and slow—enough that at first I didn't recognize that it was happening. .

2. Sensory processing issues

"Sensory processing is how our brain and body organize and respond to sensory information. Issues develop when we are over or under-responsive to sensory information which impacts the body's ability to organize it, or modulate it and so responses range outside of typical parameters and dysregulation is observed," writes licensed occupational therapist Rachel Wolverton.

Lizzie walked on her tiptoes, flapped her arms when she was excited and ran full speed into the couch cushions over and over again. Many toddlers do similar behaviors, and we thought she was just being quirky and adorable. As part of her diagnosis, though, we came to understand that these repeated behaviors were signals that her processing was under-stimulated. She needed these movements to help her body and brain function. This also works the opposite way, too. Many kids are over-sensitive to lights, sounds and/or touch, so they become easily overstimulated. They might cover their ears, melt down when clothes are put on their bodies or withdraw from crowds.

3. Lack of response to name

Lizzie displayed what I call "selective hearing." I would stand in front of her, saying her name with a raised voice and she wouldn't respond or look up. She appeared to be deaf, but as soon as the theme song from her favorite Dora the Explorer TV show came on, she would run from the other room to watch.

As autistic teen advocate Matteo Musso explains, "Because we hear your voice so much, we don't usually respond to our name. It's that you say our name the same way all the time. A TV is more auditorily complex. One-word, same voice, can get lost in our thoughts and in our brain."

4. Repetitive behavior

My daughter began lining up her toys by color and her green peas at the dinner table. We thought she was brilliant! She is brilliant, but as it turns out, not because of her repetitive behavior.

While many children love repetition—as any parent who's got their child's favorite bedtime story memorized knows—what I learned is that the kind of repetitive behavior we saw in Lizzie is one of the core symptoms of autism.

"Individuals with autism typically find much comfort in repetitive behaviors, giving them a sense of control over their environment in a quite unruly world," says Dr. Caroline W. Ford, clinical psychologist and director of the Fairhill School and Diagnostic Assessment Center in Dallas. As she explains, autistic children experience real difficulty when their repetitive behaviors are interrupted: "When asked to change or alter the repetitive behavior, many autistic children become overly anxious."

5. Loss of connection

One of the most beautiful moments between mother and child is the first time her baby looks into her mom's eyes. It was in that moment with Lizzie, the connection formed was so strong I knew I would be willing to do anything for her.

Slowly over the course of months, she became more and more distant. She wandered around the house aimlessly and didn't seem to need me at all. As long as there was food and drink available, she was content to be all alone. It was hard to measure because it was a feeling, a distancing, a loss of connection. I second-guessed my feelings regularly. Mothers have a built-in intuition with their children, which should never be underestimated.

After my daughter's diagnosis with autism at the age of two, we researched and implemented a 30-hours-a-week home therapy program (although it's important to know that early intervention supports can also be found through community organizations and school systems—you don't have to do this alone). Now, I'm happy to say, Lizzie has made good progress, and I've found (and offered) support in the generous community of parents of autistic children like mine. I even started a non-profit, United in Autism, which partners with local charities to bring community-building, emotional-support events to special needs moms all over the country.

My daughter continues to be a source of joy and amazement. Most importantly, I know now that my daughter and I are not alone—and we never were.

Learn + Play

Starting this weekend Target and Walmart will be limiting the number of people allowed in its stores to give shoppers and staff more space to spread out and adhere to social distancing recommendations during the coronavirus pandemic.

"Beginning April 4, Target will actively monitor and, when needed, limit the total number of people inside based on the store's specific square footage," Target notes in a news release.

Walmart's corporate message is similar: "Starting Saturday, we will limit the number of customers who can be in a store at once. Stores will now allow no more than five customers for each 1,000 square feet at a given time, roughly 20 percent of a store's capacity."

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At Target you will also notice staff wearing gloves and masks over the next two weeks as the company steps up its coronavirus protection measures.

Many people are choosing to stay home and order groceries online, but that's not an option for everyone as long lines at some Target's prove.

"We're incredibly proud of the commitment our more than 350,000 frontline team members have demonstrated to ensure millions of guests can count on Target, and we'll continue to focus our efforts on supporting them," says Target's Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, John Mulligan.

Target is open this weekend but—along with Costco, Aldi, Publix and Trader Joe's—Target stores will be closed on Easter Sunday to give the essential employees in these stores a much-deserved break.

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