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Around my third or fourth week back at work after maternity leave, I picked up the phone and called a friend who was a veteran working mom. I asked her this question after a particularly emotional day missing my baby:


“Is it always going to feel this way?”

I called her because I knew she would give it to me straight but also reassure me that everything is going to be ok. I figured she had been through this and she was ok, so I’ll just listen to her and then I’ll be ok. She said, “Girl, it’s always going to feel like this, you just grow into ways of dealing with it and being ok with it.”

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At first hearing that felt as harsh as the Brillo pad needed to clean dried baby food out of a high chair. But as I let it sink in, I realized what she was really saying was that IT’S OK to feel guilty, sad, or any emotion when you are a working mom. Those emotions mean you are a caring mom. If you didn’t feel them, something would be off.

It’s more about HOW you deal with the emotions. Are you going get down every time the emotions come up? Are you going to beat yourself up for working?

One of the best ways help work through the emotions is to assemble what I call your “Thrive Tribe.” You can call or connect with this support network of women when you are moving through your emotions, need advice or just need to bond.

Here is how I recommend putting your own Thrive Tribe together — seek out the following women:

Experienced mom friend (not family).

The reason I say not a family member is often our moms or sisters are so close that they feel free to say whatever THEY think is right for YOU. When what you need is an objective point of view.

A mom at your work.

A video posted by Heather Tam (@heathertam88) on

This mom knows the ins and outs of where to pump and how bosses deal with flexible schedules, pump room locations, how to talk to HR, etc.

A family member or friend who is a mom.

A photo posted by Alice Neo (@aliceneoky) on

This is the woman you will turn to when you need a good listen or a good cry.

Facebook private/secret groups.

Find a private group of local moms who you can ask baby questions. Make sure it’s not visible to the public. You don’t want everyone to see you posting picture of your baby’s funky diaper rash.

Women in your community like your church, child care or friends.

A photo posted by Kristy (@kristycantwell) on

These women will help you stay connected to a supportive network, feel spiritually fulfilled, and simply share much needed parenting tips.

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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

The world feels so heavy right now.

Moments throughout the day I feel like there's an elephant sitting on my chest. Pushing down, into my heart, breaking it piece by piece.

Like there's a water fountain behind my eyes. Forcing water out of my face in the form of tears rolling down my cheeks.

Like there's a ticker in my mind wondering when the next freak out will come. Counting down the seconds to panic...

What will be next?

This weekend, I was scrolling through social media when I saw my sister tagged me in a Tiger King meme that made me laugh so hard I nearly peed myself.

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And then I laughed some more. Thinking of how ridiculous that show is and how ridiculous life feels right now. Like how my 2-year-old keeps running around without her diaper on and how Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and Airheads have basically become a food group for me at this point.

Because there are no rules anymore. There's very little structure. Routine? Yeahhh, that's pretty much gone, too.

And I need to laugh about that.

Because if I don't laugh, I might break.

And I can't break.

So I'm laughing. (Right now, anyway.)

This time of the coronavirus will remind me of a lot of sadness—sadness I don't even want to get into right now. But it will also remind me of happy things and silly things. Ridiculous things and outrageous things.

Like, it will remind me not only of Tiger King and eating more candy than I did that really successful Halloween in sixth grade, but also of making homemade pasta together as a family while my husband and I snuck pieces of the dough and our children got themselves covered in so much flour they looked like the guy from the movie Powder.

It'll remind me of TikTok and learning the "I'm a Savage" dance in the bathroom at 2 am because I couldn't sleep (true story, because… well, I am in fact a savage).

It'll remind me of diving so hardcore into the Upper East Side world of Gossip Girl because after finishing Tiger King, I needed to be transported to another world that is not the strange new one I am currently living in 24/7.

It'll remind me of, quite possibly my most outrageous online shopping purchase to date—an inflatable hot tub. (Here's to $100—and free shipping!—attempting to buy me a sliver of happiness.)

It'll remind me of rolling my eyes at my husband while I listen to my kindergartener tell her teacher and classmates how she's been "playing with makeup and sleeping a lot" during her Zoom call.

It'll remind me of the stress I felt, then giggled at while scheduling more virtual meetings and appointments for my 4-year-old than I ever have as a work-from-home mom. "Sorry, they can't take your FaceTime at 11 am because of her livestream zoo visit. How's noon for you?"

It'll remind me of commiserating with my cousin all the way in Ireland—about all of the same things because we're basically in the same exact situation as each other no matter the time or professional or lifestyle differences.

It'll remind me of chatting with one of my siblings in the Houseparty app then all of our other siblings descending into the call one by one to just shoot the breeze for the five hundredth time in one day. To talk about nothing, and do nothing—together.

It'll remind me of trying to watch Palm Sunday mass online with our kids while the picture is sideways on the TV because we can't get the iPhone mirroring app to work correctly, two children are half-naked, one child is loudly chomping on Pirates Booty and I'm sipping coffee on the couch in my pajamas.

It'll remind me of my husband's panicked face when my 2-year-old bursts into our "office" (bedroom) chanting "Frozen 2! Frozen 2!" during a team call that he was not muted on.

It'll remind me of tagging each other in and out of our work days like a blurry relay race, shuffling laptops and keyboards every which way, inside and outside, in this room then that room, saying, "You good?" before we make coffee to chug and take our turn to get quiet, child-free work done.

It'll remind me of our kindergartener losing her second tooth and rummaging through the house for cash—because we never have any on hand—and celebrating when we finally found a dollar to leave(!), which we then forgot to leave(!), and ultimately had to do some backtracking and CIA level recon to salvage the situation.

It'll remind me of tortilla chips and queso being considered an acceptable lunch for myself. Of my new hobby that is baking bread and then eating the whole loaf. Of friends driving by with signs, saying hi from the road. Of YouTube art videos for kids being considered "art class." Of the constant wonder how we can still be generating laundry when we all seem to be wearing the same exact clothes every day like we're Doug Funny.

Of weirdness. Of sadness. Of togetherness. Of happiness. Of wild worry and love and insanity, all rolled into one.

Of a strange time in history that we'll tell our grandchildren about.

The tough time in our lives where—a convict who really loved tigers, a boatload of candy (and, okay, other groceries, too) delivered by the great and essential postal and delivery workers, choreographed dance videos on an app called TikTok, funny memes of the cluster that is working from home/caring for children/homeschooling/cooking/cleaning, and healthcare worker superheroes—got us through.

Because we will get through this. And a little laughter will help. 💓

Life

A few short weeks ago, I started singing "You Are My Sunshine" to my baby each night before bed. I want my baby to recognize my voice when they arrive in June.

A few short weeks ago, my biggest concerns were around finding and researching the "perfect" baby products, making it to a prenatal yoga class and lathering on belly butter to prevent stretch marks.

A few short weeks ago, I was lucky to be surrounded by my family members eagerly telling them to place their hands on my belly so they could feel the baby move. I wanted to share my joy with them, the first grandchild on either side of our family, and I worried not everyone would get a chance to feel the baby's movements.

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Today, I am worried—like most mothers—about how we will get groceries safely next week without being exposed to COVID-19. I have never felt fearful of physically being in our local grocery stores, until now, and it feels strange. The dramatic changes brought on because of the pandemic have left me feeling like the world is spinning.

Suddenly everything I was looking forward to has been stripped away—canceled birth classes, hospital tours, baby showers, maternity photos, haircuts (okay, I know this isn't that important but I desperately wanted to get a haircut before my baby comes!) and a gift card for a prenatal massage that will sadly go unused.

I can't even easily purchase diapers or wipes for my baby—something that I assumed would always be accessible. I feel unprepared.

And I've been having a repetitive nightmare of being separated from my baby after giving birth because I have contracted COVID-19. Even worse—I fear the hospital will be so full there is no room for me and my baby in case we need medical intervention.

Yes, I know this may not actually happen, but as a first-time mom paired with the uncertainty of the world right now, I am feeling frightened. I'm searching for a sense of normalcy wherever I can find it. Today I was Googling "absolute necessities for a newborn" to see if there was anything I could purchase to simply make me feel better.

All of the prenatal podcasts I've listened to and pregnancy books I've read have one piece of advice in common—find community and support. The message is clear and repetitive: "Connect with other mamas in your birth class", "Ask for help", "Make a chore list for people to help when they come to visit", "Find support", "Remember, you are not alone!"

But now, I, like many other pregnant-during-a-global-pandemic mothers, am feeling alone.

Who knows when it will be safe for my family to see me again? I may not be pregnant anymore, and they may not meet their grandchild until they are a few months old.

I know that our situation could be much, much worse. I often feel angry at myself for even grieving the pregnancy I've dreamed of and lost when others are suffering so deeply. I am acutely aware of the pain happening in the world and feel it to the deepest core of my being. As an empath, the emotions of others affect me tremendously. So much so in fact that at my last prenatal visit my blood pressure was the highest it has ever been.

It's exceedingly difficult to feel excited about the new life I'm bringing into the world when the world currently seems so turbulent and full of pain.

But when it comes down to it, no matter what else is going on, I can't deny that I'm sad. I am so, so sad. Sad for all of the first-time moms whose realities have changed similarly to mine. Sad for the partners who cannot be at their prenatal visits or births. Sad for the healthcare workers and nurses working the front lines. Sad for everyone experiencing loss.

I've even found myself thinking Did we choose the wrong time to have this baby? Why is this happening now?

But what I've come to realize is that actually, now is a perfect time. This baby is teaching me every day to grow stronger than I ever knew was possible. They're teaching me to sit in stillness. To sit with my feelings—no matter how big or small, how heavy or complicated. To slow down and breathe. To never take these special moments for granted.

I still sing "You Are My Sunshine" each night, but with greater emotion and purpose than I've ever felt before. This baby has become my literal beacon of light. My sunshine on these cloudy days.

And even though everything has changed, I have faith that the sun will come out... eventually.

Life

If you feel cash-strapped right now, you're not alone. Many of us are under financial stress due to the COVID-19 pandemic—but there are several things you can do to maintain your cash flow.

Here's how you can access expanded financial resources and practice tried-and-true budgeting methods to help you and your family weather the storm.

1. Review your budget + cut what you don't need.

With the stress of a global pandemic and social distancing—not to mention the financial worries that come with both—budgeting can feel overwhelming. But making a plan now can actually help you feel a sense of control. This crisis will not last forever, but the money choices you make now may have a long-term impact on your financial health.

Start by determining the minimum monthly amount you need to cover your bills and lifestyle spending during the next few months. Make a list of every monthly expense you pay, including fixed bills like your rent and phone bill, and variable expenses like groceries and household items.

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Cut or pause payments on any non-essentials—for example, many gyms are offering the option to pause memberships, since social distancing practices prevent people from going. Other service providers like your cell phone company, credit card company, car insurance agent and internet provider may have options that will reduce your bills, or smaller packages that match your needs at a lower cost.

2. Make a plan.

Once you know your minimum monthly spend, you can make a plan. Compare what you need against any regular monthly income, as well as other income you can receive from things like unemployment, the stimulus credit, and your 2019 tax refund. If you haven't yet, file your taxes early so that you'll get your refund quicker.

If you have an emergency fund, now may be the time you dip into it if you need. Be mindful about how much you take out of this fund and start by taking as little from your emergency fund as possible. This amount will vary person to person, and family to family, but the idea is to allow yourself to use the cash to help cover immediate costs and alleviate stress and anxiety about paying your bills.

3. Access expanded government programs designed to help meet basic needs.

Government measures have been put in place to help families struggling to make important monthly payments. For example, The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development recently enacted a 60-day foreclosure and eviction moratorium for single-family homeowners with FHA-insured mortgages. If this moratorium doesn't apply to you, or if you're a renter, try contacting your mortgage lender or landlord (in writing) to let them know you're going to have trouble paying. You may be able to work out an arrangement directly with them.

Dealing with an unresponsive or difficult landlord? Many states and cities have temporarily stopped evictions—check online to see if your state or city has, and make sure your landlord is aware of these laws. This can give you some additional breathing room on your rent payment.

ChildCare.gov is a great resource for families who are struggling during this time. The website has information on how to access helpful programs, like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program to help families with their energy bills, WIC and SNAP which provide food assistance, and child nutrition programs, including any local schools that are providing lunches despite school closures.

For parents who need help with buying basic supplies, such as diapers, the National Diaper Bank Network can help you access free diapers via a local diaper bank.

4. Talk to credit card companies and other lenders to help you create a plan for your debt.

The FDIC is encouraging banks and lenders to work with any customers impacted by the pandemic. Visit the American Bank Association's website for an online list of banks that are helping those in need with mortgage loans, car loans, credit card payments.

If you're worried about paying your federal student loans, you can now pause payments for up to six months—the federal government has also temporarily paused interest charges. But make sure you don't just stop paying. Set your future self up for success and contact your lender to request an administrative forbearance.

Making a proactive call to your lender is also a good practice for any other loans or credit card accounts—don't just ignore the situation and let an account go into default. Many credit card companies are offering to waive late payment fees or increase credit limits for those in need, but make sure to confirm with your bank or creditor before missing a payment or going over your limit.

This crisis is forcing many of us to make difficult choices and deal with new financial and personal challenges—remember you're not in this alone, and there are many resources available to help you.

Work + Money

There is a blog post going viral from author Jaime Ragsdale's blog, Altogether Mostly, that's reframing our perspectives on how our children are learning right now, at home, with us. With some states already making the call of closing schools for the year, and many parents in other states mentally preparing for that same call—we're all left wondering, How are we going to make sure they're getting what they need? How are we going to make sure they're prepared for next year?

We're questioning whether we're doing enough or not, we're wracking our brains trying to figure out how to incorporate lessons into our day while the kids run around and we run behind on our workload. We're staying up at night worrying if all of this means that our children are going to fall behind—with friends, with school, with life.

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But then I read these words, and it felt like a breath of fresh air.

Because it asks us to pause in the madness and think about things differently for a minute.

It says:

"What if instead of 'behind' this group of kids is advanced because of this? Let's talk about helping our kids during social distancing.

"Hear me out.

"What if they have more empathy, they enjoy family connection, they can be more creative and entertain themselves, they love to read, they love to express themselves in writing.

"What if they enjoy the simple things, like their own backyard and sitting near a window in the quiet.

"What if they notice the birds and the dates the different flowers emerge, and the calming renewal of a gentle rain shower?

"What if this generation is the ones to learn to cook, organize their space, do their laundry, and keep a well-run home?

"What if they learn to stretch a dollar and to live with less? What if they learn to plan shopping trips and meals at home.

"What if they learn the value of eating together as a family and finding the good to share in the small delights of the everyday?

"What if they are the ones to place great value on our teachers and educational professionals, librarians, public servants and the previously invisible essential support workers like truck drivers, grocers, cashiers, custodians, logistics, and health care workers and their supporting staff, just to name a few of the millions taking care of us right now while we are sheltered in place?

"What if among these children, a great leader emerges who had the benefit of a slower pace and a simpler life. What is he or she truly learn what really matters in this life?

"What if they are ahead?"

—Jaime Ragsdale

This post, written so beautifully from the heart, asks us to reconsider life at home right now. To push through the fog and get to the clear skies in order to see—our kids are doing okay. And they're going to be okay. In fact, they're going to be great.

Because if you look past the worksheets that you can't seem to get your kiddo to finish and the billions of (wonderful but also a little overwhelming) teaching resources available to us due to COVID-19 school closures, the simple lessons being learned at home right now might just be the most important ones, too.

This generation of children we're raising is doubling down on empathy, family bonding time, resourcefulness and resilience whether they can see and understand that or not. And those are the big things—the things we probably needed to double down on anyway.

Thanks to this post, and our mindset shift, we can see and understand that now ourselves—even if our kids can't quite yet. We know they one day will.

Life
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