Parenting is tough work. Parenting in a pandemic? Harder.
Try these proven tactics the next time you’re are about to lose it on your kids.
You are a superhero. I know that, because you are mom. This work is not for the faint of heart, and most of us stepped into it not knowing what the heck we were getting ourselves into. Oh, we thought we knew, didn’t we? We thought about all the ways in which we would show up as a parent. The organic food we would make for our children that they would happily scarf down in gratitude.The parenting techniques we would abide by that would be sooooo effective that our kids would be the most behaved on the block. The sleep training we swore we would do (and the sleeping arrangements we swore we would never do) that left us feeling refreshed every morning.
We didn’t plan for the uneaten food, day after day. The heartbreak of seeing all of our efforts go to waste. The worrying about whether our kids were getting enough nutrients with so many uneaten meals. The dismay when our kids aren’t responding the way the books said they would if we spoke to them a certain way. The utter exhaustion and “bad habits” we are now into from rocking and nursing our kids to sleep, and finally just letting them sleep in our beds because, gosh darnit, we are too tired for anything else.
So here is what happens after a few weeks or months of motherhood: we realize the harsh, inconvenient truth: we have to be superheroes without the benefit of immorality. We are still, unfortunately, human, with all the limitations that a human comes with. Like the need for sleep. And rest. And alone time. And peace and quiet from time to time (is it really too much to ask?).
As human mothers working at superhero levels, we are tired AF (I’m sorry but there is no better term for it). There is only so much patience and poise we possess before we absolutely lose our minds. And when we are operating on little sleep and even littler patience, you know what happens with our littles: power struggles. They can smell our overwhelm from a mile away, and they react not by comforting us, because that’s not their job. They feel unsafe and then they throw tantrums, because they know no other way to operate.
(I’m suddenly reminded of a plaque at my cottage that read: “stress: the desire to kick the s*&t out of somebody who desperately needs it.” Accurate. Though I didn’t ever think I would feel that way about my child.)
So many days of the week – especially parenting in this pandemic, which should be considered an extreme sport, by the way – we get pushed to our absolute limit. Nay, beyond our absolute limit. Way beyond it. So what happens?
We snap. Our senses are overloaded (hear more about moms and sensory overload on this episode with occupational therapist and coach for busy moms, Brooke Weinstein). And when our senses get overloaded – boom – we snap at the closest victim, which is usually our children.
Suddenly you hear this voice coming out of you, one you don’t recognize, one that is angry and yelling and saying things in such a manner that you swore you’d never do or say all those years ago when you were reading those parenting books:
“BRUSH YOUR TEETH!! NOWWWWWWW!!!!!!!”
“PICK OUT A PAIR OF SHOES AND GET OUT THE DOOR RIGHT THIS INSTANT!”
“IF YOU DON’T TURN OFF THE IPAD RIGHT NOW THERE WILL BE NO SCREEN TIME TOMORROW!!!”
The moment you lose your shit, you feel that instant ping of guilt. Shame. Remorse. How could I yell at my sweet innocent little child? What have I become?
You apologize, which is good, because modeling an apology for our children is really important. Not only does it show them how to have healthy relationships, but it also shows them that people make mistakes, and that you can recover from them. It’s actually how life works. It’s how we grow. So yay for that.
But not yay for losing it in the first place. Because you don’t feel good about getting to a place where you felt compelled to snap in the first place. Think of how many times you got to the point of losing your shit before you became a parent. Did it happen every day? Multiple times a day? I’m going to guess that no, it did not.
Before I became a parent, I fancied myself to be one of the most kind, patient and understanding people on the planet. And by all intents and purposes, I was. But I was also rested. My needs were taken care of. Not just once in a while. But every day. I slept well. Ate well. Got time alone to rest and restore. Got vacation time. Reading time. Just…time.
Is it starting to make sense now? Imagine before children if we had a little gremlin running around the house, demanding food, drink, shelter, clothing, toys, pulling and pushing things all over the house, making messes abound, pulling and poking and prodding at you. All. Day. Long. Do you think you’d be calm all the time? OF COURSE NOT!!! (I’m sorry, did I just yell?)
Am I saying our children are gremlins? No. But they are kind of like the a**hole cat videos that are so popular on You Tube, knowing down vases off dressers for no good reason. It’s not cool!
Ok, so now am I saying that children are like asshole cats? Well, sort of! But they are much worse, because cats are quiet in their opinions. Children are very much not.
(I’m only half kidding).
Ok, enough comparing our children to gremlins and animals.
Let’s get to the good news:
If you’re losing your shit with your kids, you’re not alone.
Everyone has a breaking point, and depending on how old your kids are (and how many you have), you probably reached yours…oh about a week after you gave birth, and then again about two weeks into the pandemic when you realized there was no end in sight and you felt like you might suffocate.
What’s even better than the fact that you are not alone is that there are some real scientific tools we as mothers – and parents, really – can use right now to help lessen the occurrences of these often regrettable though completely understandable outburts. I’m here to share 4 of them with you here, right now.
1. Breathe, mama. Breathe.
But do it properly. Allow me to explain.
When you feel your anxiety rising throughout the day, and you are about to flip your lid at your kids, take a pause to breathe. It will reset your nervous system and instantly calm you down (more on the science of breath here).
Everyone responds differently to different breathing techniques and there are many you can do. We are all unique and what works for me might not work for you!
Step 1. Breath in to the count of four : 1…..2….3….4
Step 2. Hold that in breath for the count of four: 1…2…3…4
Step 3. Slowly release that breath for the count of four: 1…2…3…4
Step 4. Hold that there, don’t take a breath, just hold it for the count of four: 1…2…3…4.
Step 5. Now try this again but instead of counting to four, try counting to 5 or 6. Here is a visual for reference:
If you’re looking for a guided meditation course that can teach you how to meditate anywhere, anytime, and without any crazy hand positioning of woo woo chanting, look no further than Ziva Meditation. The founder, Emily Fletcher, is a former Broadway dancer who cured her insomnia in one night after learning how to meditate in India. She has since shared her experience with thousands of busy working professionals, celebrities, moms and even children (they just released ZivaKids – a meditation course for children!) how to harness the power of breathing and meditation in order to make them more productive and less stressed. And she has the science to prove it.
Emily teaches a basic breathing technique inside the course called 2X breathing. Here is how it works.
Step 1: Breathe in for 2 counts.
Step 2: Hold it at the top and then try to sip in a little bit more air.
Step 3. Now breathe out for 4 counts. Try to hold out the air at the bottom for a second or two.
Step 4. Now breathe in normally.
Repeat this a few times, then breath in for 3 counts and out for 6, and then in for 4 counts and out for 8. Do this as many times as you need to in order to feel calmer. Even a minute will make a difference.
Did you try it? How do you feel? Did that make a difference in your mood at all? I hope so!
Okay mamas, let’s move on. And when I say move, I mean MOVE!
2. Move Your Body out of stress
How? By MOVING YOUR BODY.
I had a wonderful interview with occupational therapist and coach for busy moms, Brooke Weinstein, about how important it is to move our bodies, for kids and adults alike. Why? Because in order to move feelings through our bodies, we need to literally move our bodies! We need to move that energy through.
So the next time you want to lose your mind, try some movement first. You don’t have to get your workout gear on or go anywhere special to do it. Just move where you are! Drop down in the kitchen and do some squats. Put on a fun song and dance around the house with the kids. There are so many ways to move! Here are some other suggestions for you:
Do arm circles and ankle rolls
Do hip circles – for more about the beauty and benefits of hip circles check out my interview with Tandy Gutierrez
Stretch – simply reach down and touch your toes, spread your legs and reach to one side, then the other. Let your head hang heavy in the middle. Shake your head yes and no.
Take your dog for a walk (you can also take your iguana or goldfish too – whatever suits you)
Play Tag with your Kids
Do Crab Walk Races
Do Alternating Lunges
Run of jog
Do a sun salutation (or a full yoga class if you can!)
She shared about a book by clinical social worker, Carla Naumburg called How to Stop Losing Your Shit With Your Kids. Melinda tried to summarize one of the strategies Carla discusses in the book about what to do when you’re about to snap at your kids.
She reiterates the importance of first recognizing your triggers: too many noises, too many messes, too many things going on. What triggers you? Basically, what makes it impossible for you to think rationally? Try your best to control those. For example, I get triggered by too many noises. So if the radio is on and the TV is on and everyone is screaming, I’m more likely to lose it. So I’ll turn off the TV and turn down the radio and lessen the amount of noise I can within my control. That’s the first step: figure out what can you do to manipulate your environment to help you calm down.
This doesn’t make you immune from losing it, of course, but it helps. The next step is to be able to recognize the moment before you’re about to snap. There are often 2 seconds where you recognize you’re about to snap. You won’t always catch yourself, but with practice, when you’re in those 2 seconds before unleashing the primitive yell, stop and literally do anything else. Run into the closet and close the door. Do a crazy dance. Intentionally place your hands on the counter and take 3 deep breaths (do you see how all these techniques play into themselves?).
4. I’m going to say the M word:
Finding peace and calm inside yourself at the beginning and end of each day can be incredibly helpful. But it can also be a little intimidating. Who has time for a 40 minute meditation? Who even has time for 1 minute of meditation a day? I can barely pee without a child on my lap, much less sit in silence alone for a minute.
If you’ve got 40 minutes to meditate each day, good on you, mama. Do it! But if you’re more like me where finding even 5 minutes is a blessing, use that 5 minutes for all it’s worth. I aim to meditate for 5 minutes in the morning before the kids wake up. And even if they are up, if my partner is around, I’ll boldly request 5 minutes to myself to meditate, or as I like to call it, become an able bodied human, before starting the mayhem of the day (I have 2 young children. It’s mayhem).
And then before I go to bed at night, I take another 5 minutes to myself. I have watched this transform my life and my state of being ever so subtly into a calmer and more centered mother. It’s not foolproof, of course. Nothing really is (except for chocolate). But my gosh, it has been a game changer for me. I honestly don’t lose it as much with my kids, and I can compartmentalize all the moving parts of my busy days at home with the kids (the screaming, the messes, the cooking, the cleaning, the tantrums, the meltdowns, the chasing the kids around the house trying to get clothes and diapers on…you get the picture).
And bonus – meditating before bed has actually improved my quality of sleep, so even though I may not be getting the quantity I once got, at least I’ve been able to improve the quality.
The science is clear on this, mamas. When our mind is clear we are better at making decisions, and you know how many small and large decisions we have to make throughout the day. So if you can give meditation a try then do so for yourself and for your family.
If you’re wondering where to start, try just sitting in silence for 5 minutes. If you’d rather have a guided meditation, there are plenty of free options on You Tube, or you can get an app like Calm or The Tapping Solution. You could also try the meditation course I referenced earlier from Ziva Meditation.
Another option is Meryl Arnett’s 10-15 minute guided meditations found here.
Any option is a good option if it gets you meditating, mama!
We aren’t going to stop losing our shit with our kids. We’re just not. As moms, we are operating on sensory overload most of the day, and there is only so much any human being can handle before they break. So normalize it and stop guilting and shaming yourself about it. But do something about it too. If you do nothing else, remember to breathe. How many times a day do you catch yourself holding your breath? I promise you, it’s adding to the stress. And fun fact: breathing is free and you can do it anywhere. So it’s a pretty effective strategy for managing stress. So is dancing and moving your body! You can do it anywhere! Meditating is a little harder, I’ll give you that, but my gosh is it ever worth its weight in gold (or rather, measured in the moments that I don’t end up losing my shit with my kids).
Thank you for reading this post! It was written among brain fog and sleep deprivation, so please forgive any typos and run on sentences. If you aren’t already listening to our podcast, go ahead and check it out here and subscribe if it resonates!
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I believe so much in what I’m doing here at The Mom Feed Podcast, because if I had had access to this kind of information when I was a new mom, it would have made all the difference. My passion is to be a resource, to serve mamas in their lives as mothers, and I want to spread the word to as many mothers who need this information as possible.
In an effort to do that, I would like your help building our community! You can do that by sharing this podcast with your mom friends, perhaps even sharing a particular episode that really resonated with you.
You can also participate in my holiday contest on Instagram!
Starting this Saturday December 5th, I’m giving away 3 gifts to 3 different mamas as a thank you for helping me build the mom feed community. Here are the rules:
Like the post from December 5th. Tag as many mom and mom-to-be friends as you desire. Each tag gets you an entry. One tag per comment please.
Comment and tell me the gift you want most this year and why.
Email me your holiday wish list of gifts around $50
Sign up for the mom feed newsletter at themomfeed.com if you aren’t already.
I will announce the winner of the contest on Wednesday December 9th in my Instagram stories so be sure to stay tuned! I’ll also message the winner on DM.
I’ll launch a new contest on Saturday December 12th and again on Saturday December 19th so you’ll have 3 chances to win!
Prizes will be $50 per winner. BUT, because I like to give back, I’ll also be giving $50 to the charity of the winner’s choice in addition to their $50 gift. So each prize is a $100 value.
Now, I can’t believe I’m going to say this, but here goes: if by some Christmas Miracle we happen to grow The Mom Feed Podcast Instagram community to 10 000 moms, I will be giving away….drum roll please….$1000 to the mama who tags the most people throughout the course of the three week long contest. That’s $500 to the mom who wins, and $500 to the charity of her choice for a total of $1000. I do believe in miracles, so I do believe it’s possible, and yet sometimes even miracles need a little coaxing. But there you have it. I said it and I meant it. So go ahead and get tagging!
Also don’t forget to check out my holiday gift guide that empowers women owned and environmentally responsible businesses for a little inspiration for your own holiday wish lists. Remember: you vote with your wallet, so buy carefully.
Thanks for your support, mamas! Let’s grow this community!
*NOTE: This contest is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associate with Instagram. Must be 18 or older to play. US and Canadian residents only. This round of the giveaway ends at 11:59pm PST Tuesday December 8th.
Gift giving can be wasteful, especially since we probably already have more than we need (present company included: do I have two stand mixers? I do. Two blenders? Yes. Two food processors? You got me again…).
“I don’t want this beautiful, thoughtful gift you got me!” said no one EVER.
So, we’ve got two things at play here: we don’t really need anything, but we are also suckers for a thoughtful gift that can enhance our lives (and for the record, yes, I do use all of my stand mixers, blenders and food processors).
In this case, what is a woman to do?
Well, in my humble opinion, if you want to get into the joys of giving this season anyway, why not do it with a purpose? What purpose, you ask? Why, whatever you want it to be!
In choosing what to gift your friends and family this year, consider…
Supporting a local business.
Supporting a woman owned business.
Supporting a business that is good for the environment.
Supporting a black owned business.
Supporting a business that supports the people behind the company.
Giving gifts that encourage self care
Giving gifts that encourage using non toxic ingredients
Whatever your values are, insert them into the reason behind why you make a purchase this year. And when you give that gift, be sure to share the story behind the company to the person receiving the gift. It’s important that they know that in receiving your gift, some hard working business owner is literally doing a happy dance because you have made a palpable difference in their life as an entrepreneur. Their vision-come-to life in your hands has paid off, and there is no greater gift than that!
I have spent more than my fair share of time online this year, and I’m happy to say it has paid off! Because I’ve collected a list of my personally favorite gifts that I would feel amazing both receiving and giving. The products are from women owned businesses – in some cases, local – that also support the environment in most cases.
This new t-shirt company is owned by two sisters, Anna and Amanda Kloots. They have already gained quite some traction with celebrities like Selma Blair, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Maria Shriver and Sarah Michelle Gellar sporting their totes and tees. The sisters dreamed up the company together and brought it to life in June of 2020. When you buy from Hooray.For, you aren’t just supporting a woman owned, local business, you are also supporting a cause. 50% of the proceeds from each sale goes toward a charity the founders have chosen that relates specifically to the topic of the tee shirt. And bonus: since both women have a knack for fashion the shirts are soft and supple, and perfect for even the most discerning of fashionistas. You cannot go wrong with this gift! Get one for yourself while you’re at it! They also sell face masks, tshirts for youth, and even onesies and baby pjs for the holidays!
It’s safe to say that face masks are here to stay. Even once we get a handle on Covid-19, I suspect face masks will remain mandatory in many of our day to day activities, like flying, shopping and the like. But just because we have to wear them, doesn’t mean we can’t feel great about wearing them!
I bought these face masks for myself and my daughter earlier this year from The Simple Folk, a mom owned organic clothing company for kids. These masks are so soft and I LOVE the colors! But what I love most of all is supporting a small, women owned company. The Simple Folk was started by two moms, Abi and Jamie, who dreamt of a “minimalist line of nature-inspired, ethical, organic, and high comfort play clothes for their children that are easy to wash and easy on the senses, so they last for years.” These two moms saw their vision come to life while still nursing their little ones, and now I am one of the lucky mamas who get to enjoy the fruits of their labor!
While it is a children’s clothing company, they make masks for children and adults alike. They are my choice for masks, and I cannot recommend gifting these to the ones in your life as well!
Covid has turned many people into chefs, have you noticed? I have a bachelor friend who never used to cook and basically lived at the Whole Foods and Erewhon food bar who has become a baker extraordinaire! I often get texts from him with questions about ingredients to use in his latest creations. It makes me smile every time!
Whether you know someone like my friend or you just know someone with an appreciation for cooking, consider gifting them one of your favorite cookbooks this year. In doing so, you’re literally supporting the author of that book. And as I cookbook author myself, I can tell you how much time and energy (and tears!) goes into creating recipes.
Some of my personal favorite cookbooks are obviously my own, The Accidental Paleo, as well as Blissful Basil, a fellow mama and food blogger. I also LOVE N’Ice Cream, a vegan ice cream cookbook written by two women, and Oh She Glows creator and mama (and fellow Canadian!), Angela Liddon has two wonderful cookbooks. And I love Kelly LeVeque of Be Well By Kelly’s books and online courses as well. And score – she is another fellow mom boss and business owner, local to LA.
Ceramic goods are always in fashion, and what better gift to give than a locally woman owned ceramics shop here in LA? Gift someone a beautiful vase, a lovely bowl or cup that your friend can look at every day and feel happy about. The founder, Emily Tyra, is a former dancer who has found that in creating ceramics, she is transported back to her years in the ballet studio. She has the most beautiful pieces and I cannot recommend her enough! Shop Rare Bird Goods.
✓ Women co-owned ✓ Family owned (Cassandra and Andrew are a husband and wife duo with two children) ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the planet
If you’re not in LA, you can’t do this gift option BUT you can certainly find an option close to you!
This company, Little West, is owned and operated by my friends Cassandra and Andrew Walker, parents of two little boys, West and Wolf. Cassandra (who you can check out in Episode #4 of The Mom Feed) inspired me to become a chef, and is a genius when it comes to flavor combinations. Her juices are nothing short of wonderful. You can order them directly to your door, and feel good knowing you are supporting a local, small business that works closely with sustainable farmers to help the planet. They also plant a tree for every order placed to offset the carbon emissions created by that order! You cannot lose with this one.
We could all use a little inspiration these days, and I love these affirmation cards to help with that. There are no shortage of cards, but I’m a particular fan of these ones from Love Powered Co and Gabby Bernstein, two women and mama owned companies.
✓ Women co-owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the planet
I’ll admit, I have wanted these bags for a long time and kept not taking the plunge. They are pricey. But as with health care, you invest today so you don’t pay tomorrow. Our planet is in peril, and every choice we make with our actions and our wallets directly impacts the world we are leaving for our children, their children, and so on. I personally want to be a part of the group that stood up and said, “Enough.”
I know how convenient plastic zip bags are. Trust me. I’m a mother. But – the planet. The planet is more important than my convenience. Because without the planet, nothing matters. If you just google plastic bags and pollution, I promise you won’t like what you find. This is a great article that lists ten facts about plastic bags you won’t feel great about.
If you’re a mama, I know what you’re thinking: ziplock bags are life! When kids are young, you need them to store frozen purees, and when they get older, you need them for snacks for school, among other things. Fear not, mama! Because a few years ago, a fellow mama began to observe her use of plastic bags in her home, and she thought: there has to be a better way! After much research and testing, the bags you may have heard of were born: Stasher bags are silicone bags available in a variety of sizes for your convenience. No more plastic zip bags needed! Head over to their website and snag 15% off your first order for first time customers (or at least that is the offer at the time of this article). Stock up and gift these to anyone in your life who cares about the planet.
✓ Women co-owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the planet
If you are still using throw away plastic bottles, please take this with love: PLEASE STOP!!!!!!!! (yes, I’m yelling, but kindly and with all the love in my heart for you and our planet). I’m not saying it to judge, I’m saying it because if you don’t know, now you know, and if you’re reading this, I know you care about the planet. This article will give you a good overview of how bad plastic water bottles are for the planet, so have a read and please please make the switch! For your health, for your family’s health, and for the health of the family!
There are plenty of reusable water bottle options in the world today, but one of my favorites has to be this woman owned company, BKR. The idea for the company was born in 2006 when best girlfriends Tal Winter and Kate Culter dreamed up a company that breaks up with plastic bottles.
The rest is history:
“In 2011, Tal and Kate launched bkr with a focus on one main concept which in their minds was Beauty 101: drinking water is the foundation for soft, dewy, pretty skin–and wtf–hydrating shouldn’t be so hard. The clean, addictive, cult favorite, small-mouth, original glass water bottle was sustainable and eco at its core, but it also made drinking water blissful and easy for a change and people started noticing. A growing obsession with the pretty little bottle resulted in reports that they people were finally truly hydrated and, as a result, they were looking and feeling better. And, as it’s said, the rest is history.”
Their bottles are beautiful, and a perfect gift for any friend who wants to hydrate their way to soft, supple skin any time of year while taking care of our planet too.
Ok, this one is for the planet…again (are you noticing a theme here?). If you’re still using plastic straws, I’m just going to go right ahead and say it: you need to stop (ok, now I’m just being bossy. But sometimes that’s what the situation calls for). Straws pollute the environment and end up in the digestive systems of too many of our land and marine life. Don’t believe me? Check out this article for the details (and a disturbing video of a poor little turtle with a plastic straw stuck in his nostril – it’ll make you never want to use a plastic straw again).
But don’t be sad, because there are so many options to replace straws! I love these gold plated ones from World Market, but just go to your favorite local shop or restaurant and you can find them there.
10. A Year Long Gratitude Calendar
✓ Good for the soul
My husband’s 88 year old cousin, Phil, is a legend. Every year, we go to his and his wife, Pat’s, house to exchange Christmas gifts. Last year, he gifted me this Year of Gratitude calendar and I swear, it’s something I look forward to reading every morning. Much like the affirmation cards I mentioned above, each day there is a quote from various people that helps shift my mood for the better. It’s hard to feel unhappy when you’re feeling grateful. It’s safe to say that 2020 has rocked us to our core, some of us more than others, particularly if we have lost loved ones, jobs, relationships, etc. But as long as we are alive and breathing, there is always something to be grateful for. This calendar is a beautiful reminder of that. I highly recommend gifting it to anyone in your life! I don’t know of any locally owned businesses that sell them, but if you can find one in your area, buy it from them. Otherwise, you can purchase one here.
Want a sneak peek at my message today?
“Learn how to select your thoughts just the same way you select what clothes you’re gonna wear every day. This is a power you can cultivate.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
11. Angel Cards
✓ Good for the soul
I don’t know much about this company, to be honest, but these cards are a staple in my life. I was introduced to them when I worked for lululemon. Before we started each shift, we would gather in a team huddle and once we had finished going over any administrative affairs that needed to be addressed, we would pick a card from the deck. Each card holds a single word – an intention that we are meant to focus on for that day. I pick one every morning and it totally helps to ground my day. I love these cards!
According to the description on Amazon, these are “The Original Angel Cards are one of the most powerful ways to connect with the angels. Angels are inner companions. They help us look at the world in ways that infuse our lives with vitality and assist us to experience the deepest levels of understanding, creativity, and caring. Each Angel card quality evokes your intuitive abilities and renews your spiritual connection. Created by Kathy Tyler and Joy Drake, the Angel Cards are an international best-seller–over 1.3 million sold in 6 languages.”
✓ Women co-owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the planet ✓ Good for the body and soul
Online fitness has become the most popular way of working out in these times, but it’s not new to the party! That said, it can be hard to find your perfect fit. Where I know there are countless amazing platforms, hands down, my two favorites that have actually delivered me results (see these before and after photos to prove it) and from two women who are total #shebosses and #mombosses.
My first favorite is Unicorn Wellness Studio from former Equinox Fitness Pilates Regional Director and dancer, Tandy Gutierrez. This online pilates studio combines the power of reiki, pilates, the lunar cycle and tarot to bring you the most magical workouts in 30 minutes a day! I kid you not, 30 minutes is all it takes to see results, and I have only done them 4 times a week! I lost 6 pounds and an inch from my waist and couldn’t believe it. If you’d like to try it for free, head over to her website for a free 14 day trial.
Dancers truly do seem to know where it’s at, and Amanda Kloots of AK Fitness is no different. She has a wonderful subscription series for only $9.99/month! You can try it free for 7 days. I promise you and whoever you’re gifting this to won’t be disappointed!
✓ Woman owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the body and soul (and your inner child!)
If you’re a busy mother like I am, sometimes all you can get is 10 minutes to work out (and let’s be honest, many days I can barely manage that).
I love the idea of jump rope! It’s amazing cardio and even a few minutes can go a long way. I’m talking 2 minutes, ladies. For real.
This jump rope from Amanda Kloots was designed specifically for her signature jump rope classes. It’s a great gift for any busy mama in your life, and you can feel good knowing your supporting a fellow woman and mama in purchasing one for here!
14. An Empowering Book to Help Mamas Find Their Voice or Their Path
✓ Woman owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the soul
There aren’t many great substitutes for a great book, especially one that inspires. Consider gifting the mamas in your life with a woman authored book to inspire them into the new year! I love Untamed by Glennon Doyle, Everything is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo, and Didn’t See That Coming from Rachel Hollis.
I have been listening to these ladies, Krista Williams and Lindsey Simcik on their spirituality podcast, Almost 30, for about 3 years now. I have catered a few of their events (when we used to meet in person) and attended some as well. And recently, I did one of their online courses for podcasters.
These ladies have a knack for curating the most amazing content and bringing together the most wonderful people. In lieu of their usually buzzing live events, they have turned to digital workshops. Each workshop is different, and focuses on a particular topic from one of the many guests they’ve had on their podcast. From human design to managing money to finding your voice, these ladies have got a lot to offer.
Consider gifting yourself or a friend one of their digital workshops, or any digital workshop from someone who you may follow and love. In supporting these or anyone, you are directly supporting a local business. Such a great gift that is good for the body, mind and soul!
The founder of this amazing flower company, Christina, has a wonderful background story I highly recommend checking out here. Aside from disrupting the flower industry with her insanely beautiful and signature bouquets, it’s very important to Christina to source from ethical farms and companies. She also pays above minimum wage, offers full medical benefits and 401Ks, and keeps most things – including customer service – in house.
If you’re thinking of sending someone flowers this season – or any time – look no further than Farmgirl Flowers!
Follow them on Instagram (it is a true feast for your eyes).
17. A beautiful vase (like the ones they have at Farmgirl flowers)
✓ Woman owned ✓ Good for the soul
I don’t need to sing any more praises for Farmgirl Flowers, except to say that their vases are stunning! My husband got me a beautiful bouquet of flowers for my birthday one year, and they came in the most beautiful clear vase with a gold base. It has been my favorite vase ever since! I highly recommend gifting someone a beautiful vase, as it truly is the gift that continues to deliver a smile to someone’s face.
✓ Woman owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the planet ✓ Good for your body
It’s so important to choose non toxic ingredients not just for the health of you and your family, but also for the health of the planet. We have to stop settling for bad ingredients, especially when it comes to what we put in our mouths and on our bodies.
It may take some getting used to, I’ll give you that, but if you haven’t made the switch over to a natural toothpaste just yet, it’s time. I’m a big fan of Wellnesse, a company founded by podcaster Katie Wells of Wellness Mama as well as the toothpaste from Native.
It may seem like a strange gift, but gifting someone some natural toothpaste – along with some other natural products – could be just the thing to help your friends and family hop on the natural train this year!
✓ Woman owned ✓ Mama owned ✓ Good for the planet ✓ Good for your body
I know I sound like a broken record, but it’s so important to use non toxic ingredients on your body, and for mamas especially – anything that goes so close to your boobs must must must be non toxic! There are many great brands out there now, and my personal favorites are from mama founded, Kopari Beauty, and from Native. I have also heard good things about Hume, founded by Kelly LeVeque of Be Well by Kelly, though I have yet to try it.
Consider combining this with the natural toothpaste, a toothbrush, and some other natural products!
Whether you’re a mom or not, it’s safe to say that we could all use a little reminder to practice some self care. Consider gifting the women in your life with a luxurious eye mask like this one from Anthropologie, or else find one in a local shop in your town. Consider combining it with the either the gifts above, or else with the upcoming 3 gifts.
Who doesn’t love pretty things? I have been collecting crystals for a few years now, and every time I get a new one, I put it in the windowsill in my bathroom. Every time I look at my collection, it makes me happy.
Consider picking out some crystals for the close friends in your life. Need some guidance on how to pick them? Start with making a list of things your friend or family member could use some help with. Does she have a lot of stress or worry? Could she use some extra energy? Does she have trouble sleeping? There is a crystal for everything. Use this guide to pick the right crystals, and then seek them out from a local shop like this one on Etsy (another great way to support local!).
22. Epsom Salts and a Bamboo bath tray
✓ Good for your body and soul ✓ Woman owned ✓ Mama owned
While we are on the self care track, I can’t think of anything more beautifully paired with crystals then a warm bath to soak in while enjoying said crystals! And bonus – add epsom salts to help detox the body and replenish magnesium!
Consider buying epsom salts from a local business, like this one from LA local mama, Sophie Jaffe, as well as the bamboo bath tray. But if you need some inspiration, here is a great bamboo bath tray recommended by a wonderful woman I follow named Alison Wuhaus.
Follow Alison on Instagram (she has one of the most beautiful accounts I’ve ever seen).
I’ve been taking epsom salt baths once a week at the advice of my friend from gift #12, Tandy Gutierrez of Unicorn Wellness Studio. It has been amazing to schedule 40 minutes to soak in a hot bath, even though I admittedly am not quite a bath person. But there is something about water that is so healing, and I’m really beginning to enjoy my bath time!
Rather than turn on the bright lights of the bathroom, though, I’ve been using my 3 chunky flameless candles as light instead! The dim lighting really adds to the spa-like feeling of the bath, and since they are flameless, I don’t have to worry about fire! And bonus: since I have curious young children, when I’m using the candles outside of the bathroom, I don’t have to worry about curious little fingers knocking anything over and starting a fire!
You can get these candles in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Here is a good place to start.
24. A Journal and pen
✓ Good for your body and soul
What else goes well with a bath and a bamboo tray for that bath? A journal! Pick a journal – any journal will do! Whatever you can do to encourage your friends to write is a good thing. This particular journal is from Shinola, but go ahead and find a local store in your area – or even on Etsy – and buy one from them! And make it glamorous by adding a gold pen to the mix! There is something that feels so lovely about writing with a beautiful pen, don’t you think?
While you’re at it with the journal, consider gifting someone this time block planner to help them get efficient and intentional in 2021! This particular planner has been featured in the New York Times, The New Yorker, and Entrepreneur Magazine, and is meant to help us get focused in a distracted world. This is probably the only gift in this guide that wasn’t created by a woman, but it doesn’t make it any less amazing! Anything we can do to encourage less distraction is a bonus for anyone, especially for a starved-for-time-and-self-care mama!
✓ Woman owned ✓ Good for the planet ✓ Good for your body and soul
Who couldn’t use an organic cotton white t-shirt? It’s a perfect staple for any wardrobe. I personally probably have about 15 of them, and honestly, if someone gifted me one more, I’d be ecstatic. For me, a white t-shirt is the modern day equivalent of a little black dress.
I personally have a few from Mate the Label, a local LA company that makes clean essentials with non toxic, organic, natural materials. I love the way they fit: not too tight in the belly (where my I-have-had-two-children stomach skin can hide safely behind the fabric) but nicely fitted on the shoulders. I haven’t tried any from WearPact, but I’ve been watching the company for a while now and they are really growing their line. I’m excited to test them out next!
If you’re wondering about your environmental impact when it comes to buying clothes, this sums things up quite nicely as quote from Mate’s website:
“The fashion industry is dirty and we are here to clean it up. Did you know that there are over 8,000 synthetic chemicals used in clothing manufacturing? Many of these chemicals are known to be carcinogenic, endocrine disrupting and hazardous to our health…Organic Cotton uses 87% less water than conventionally grown cotton and emits 45% less greenhouse gases. Conventional cotton is also notorious for using more pesticides than any other crop in the world. The use of these chemicals has led to the hospitalization of up to 1 million farmworkers every year.”
I don’t know about you but I would prefer to put my money on companies that are cleaning up a dirty industry.
Ok, this one is a splurge, but trust me, as a chef who has spent too much money to count on fancy pans, cookware and utensils, I can tell you, this pan is worth its weight in gold. Founded by Shiza Shahid along with her two other partners, Our Place is a company that focuses on minimalist but practical functionality in the kitchen. The Always Pan is a cult favorite, and though it is admittedly a little bit small, I can honestly tell you that I use it at least twice a day. Aside from the company being female led and founded, I’m also a fan because of the non toxic non stick coating, which feels like a unicorn in the world of cooking! So, if you want to splurge, you cannot go wrong with The Always Pan!
There isn’t anything quite like a beautiful dress to bring out the strong feminine within us all. But who says you have to be going to a fancy party to wear one? Why can’t you wear one on any given day?
I recently learned about this mama, Zoey Tzfanya, who started a clothing company called Spring Time in Brooklyn just 7 weeks before her husband – and father of their 2 young children – passed away suddenly. After taking some time away, Zoey has relaunched her company and her beauty and strength inside and out is reflected in her beautiful line of clothing.
I’ll be the first to admit that I’d take a pair of sweatpants and a white t-shirt over a dress any day, but in a recent Instagram post, Zoey did a video about the importance of getting dressed, particularly when you are grieving. I personally haven’t experienced the kind of loss that this incredible mama has, but her post resonated with me. Because a lot of my days as a mom right now feel hard, and a lot of the time, I don’t do anything to symbolically show up. I just roll out of bed and into the day without doing anything to draw a line in the sand as if to say, “Ok, mom life. I’ve got this. I’m here. Let’s do this!”
I remember once Elizabeth Gilbert gave the advice to do the same thing: whenever she was having writer’s block, she would get dressed – in nice clothes – even if she was only moving from her bedroom to her home office. There is something about getting dressed and showing up that sends a message both to the universe and to yourself that hey, I’m here for it.
SO – if you want to spoil yourself or a special friend in your life while also supporting a newly widowed mama of two young children, consider a dress from Spring Time In Brooklyn.
I have become incredibly picky about the products I use not just to clean my body, but also, to clean the things inside my home! My kids are constantly rolling around and eating things off the floor (just me?), so it’s important to me that we use non toxic cleaners throughout the house.
I was introduced to Branch Basics when I heard the founders on the Almost 30 podcast (are you noticing a theme here?) a few years ago. The company was founded by three women when, after being told she wouldn’t have children due to her PCOS, one of the founders decided to clear out all of the toxins in her home. That included everything from toxic nail polish and removers to dish soap, laundry detergent and every day household cleaners. After doing this clean sweep, her PCOS eventually went away, and she went onto have two children without intervention.
I’ve been using these products for a few years now and I LOVE them. Why not gift someone in your life the gift of non toxic cleaning products? Maybe it’s weird, but maybe it’s not. In giving this non toxic gift, you are potentially handing someone the keys to better health. That’s a gift you can’t put a price on!
30. A gift from any of these and ANY Black Owned Businesses
The Black Lives Matter movement exposed a lot of blind spots in me that I didn’t necessarily want to see. I have a lot of work to do to unpack my systemic racism, and I’ll continue to do the work, as uncomfortable as it feels. But nothing worth it ever really feels comfortable, so I’m here for it.
In buying for friends and family this holiday season, please be sure to support not just women owned, local businesses, and businesses that are good for the environment, but also consider buying from women of color owned businesses as well. Take the time to be thoughtful and to do your research.
The hosts of The Almost 30 Podcast game me this list of black women owned brands to support in 2020. Take a look and consider buying from any of these incredible women.
Body Complete RX – a plant based supplements company for health and beauty started by mama, Samia Gore.
Millana Snow – a trusted voice in the wellness industry, Millana is a reiki healer, entrepreneur, and the founder of Wellness Official, a “home to practitioners from all over the world with healing content, services, and resources that represent, empower and embrace diversity and the lineages wellness practices came from.” Check out her episode on the Almost 30 Podcast to learn more.
Jas the Moon Mother – Jas offers private coaching as well as corporate wellness in human design. She works with clients to help them awaken their soul’s authentic blue print. Check out her episode with Krista and Lindsey on Almost 30 to learn more and be prepared to fall in love!
If you have any other businesses to add to this list, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will add it!
That’s all she wrote for now, mamas.
Remember: you vote with your wallet. You use your voice with your wallet. Choose wisely. Choose to empower. Choose to be supportive. Choose to be apart of the change you want to see in the world, not just for you, but for those who will come after you.
Happy holidays to you and yours!
With much love and appreciation for you,
Some of you fabulous women emailed me and wanted me to include your business in this guide. You asked, I listened.
Here you go, everyone, more women owned businesses you can support!
Who doesn’t love a home cooked meal? Support this Malibu local mama by grabbing some yummy food from her or hiring her to cook privately for you! A mom of 3, Monica is hard working and a master in the kitchen. Check her out!
Who doesn’t love a good homemade cookie or granola? Amy’s baked goods from Amy’s Bake Shop are nothing short of amazing. This twin mama has got skills in the kitchen. Consider getting something homemade for your friends and family (and keep some for yourself too) this holiday season.
My name is Lauren. I am a mother, writer, chef, cookbook author, IIN certified health coach, and most recently, a podcaster! There were many iterations of me before my life changed on February 19, 2016, when my daughter, Madison Grace, graced (see what I did there?) us with her presence after 4 days (yes, 4) of labor. It was 10:39pm on a Friday, and my life was never the same. Life as a mother has asked me to dig deeper into the depths of my soul than any other experience has ever asked of me. It has forced me to come face to face with traumas I had in my closet, and my gosh, it has brought me to my knees. It has also brought me some of the greatest joy of my life, deeper than I’ve ever experienced. Baby giggles? Come on. Watching a child learn something new? THE BEST.
That said, navigating life as a mother has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. I’m two kids in (my son, Liam Edward, was born on August 23rd, 2019), and I’m still finding my footing. I imagine I will be doing this sort of dance for the rest of my life in my role as “mom.”
If you’re a mom reading this, then you can probably relate. My unique experience brought me up close and personal with an identity crisis (err…if I’m mom now, what happens to all the things I was before this?), hormonal imbalances that had me sweating through my sheets for a year and a half every night (sorry to be so blunt), an undiagnosed case of postpartum anxiety with my first, and a reckoning the likes I had never dealt with before in accepting my postpartum body, including a case of diastasis recti that went undiagnosed for almost a year, and most recently, loose stomach skin that hangs over my jeans whenever I decide to squeeze myself into them (which isn’t often, because, well, it’s just not comfortable).
Which brings me to the “why” behind The Mom Feed Podcast. I felt like there was a piece of the conversation missing. I didn’t see myself in a lot of my social feeds. I saw women who had it all together. And every time I looked at them, I felt even worse about myself. Was I the only one feeling so rocked about my transition into motherhood? And – gasp – did that make me a bad mom? The short answer is NO! And when I read about the term Matrescence while reading a book called In the Flo by Alisa Vitti, I finally understood it. I felt seen, heard and understood, and I wanted to create something to help other moms to feel that way too.
The Mom Feed is a podcast about the transition into motherhood. Each week, I feature guests who are experts in their fields, and amplify their voices to help give support to mamas who need it most. My goal is to empower mamas with information and resources that will help make their lives easier, and that will effectively serve as the tribe they need to stay afloat in this fabulous but equally challenging life as “mom.”
Thank you for being here. I see you. I hear you. I am you. And I’ve got you.
I had a giant sized poster of Keanu Reeves on my wall when I was younger (it was after I saw the movie Speed: I wanted Keanu to be my boyfriend, and I wanted to actually be Sandra Bullock). Before Keanu, it was Jonathan Taylor Thomas. And before him (and likely during that time too – I was a two timer), it was Daniel di Tomasso (my high school Italian Stallion “boyfriend” (we held hands) whom I adored. Fun fact: he and actress, Jessica Pare were in a theatre production of Robin Hood when Daniel and I were “dating” in high school). Before Daniel, it was Tom Roberts, the cute South African boy who lived across the street. I drew a picture of us in my diary at our wedding, kissing, and vowing to live happily ever after. I was 6 years old at the time.
With the exception of Daniel, none of those stud muffins ever became my boyfriend. And I’m sure glad they didn’t, because if they had, I wouldn’t have found Ted, and I wouldn’t have had Madison.
Why oh why does any of this matter?
Apart from it being super fun to make fun of me and my love interests from my younger and more vulnerable years, this really and truly matters most because for every one of those boys I liked, and for all the boys who came after them who actually became my boyfriends, I did a heck of a lot of trying to be and look a certain way in order to get them to like me. Whether it was a trim body, or a sexy new pair of peace sign earrings, an oversized Club Monaco sweatshirt and stirrup pants (so sexy) with a choker (a necklace that goes around your neck) to entice them, my perfect image was – in my opinion – the only way I would ever get their attention (never mind the fact that I was sweet and kind and a straight A student).
So with almost a lifetime’s worth of fashion magazines in my subconscious, who can blame a girl for being sensitive about her body at any stage of her life, and especially after she’s given birth? Things change, and according to my early teen magazines and the fashion magazines that followed, these changes are not part of the approved sexy lady curriculum.
And yet something is shifting in me these days. I’m maturing in a way that I never have before (and this is big, considering I came out of the womb trying to be an adult). As I was taking my morning walk with the babe yesterday, I had a sudden surge of self-love. Like, serious body love.
Madison in arms, I trudged along down the street, and I couldn’t help but to puff my chest out and feel like a warrior. A goddess. A strong ass woman who really and truly can do anything I put my mind to. With every stride, I felt the power flowing through me.
Nothing has really changed. I’m still heavier than I want to be. I still have a bigger-than-I’m-used-to belly. And there are some things that shall not be named that aren’t quite what they used to be. But rather than look down at my body and feel disgust, instead, I felt its power. And gosh darn it, I felt proud. Proud of my body, yes. But also, proud to be me.
Do you think I’m being full of myself? Well, I am! Why shouldn’t I be? And to loosely quote Marianne Williamson, who am I not to? I’m owning my awesomeness today, people! And frankly, you should be owning yours too! Not at the expense of anyone else, of course! But rather to the advantage of yourself and your self esteem (and funnily enough, by owning your own greatness, you’re a more delightful, productive and happy person, which makes you lovely to be around. So really, everybody wins).
I’ve spent enough time shaming and hating on my body since I gave birth (and – let’s be honest – ever since I saw my first teen magazine and realized I “should” look a certain way and should eat this and not that to stay trim. That way, maybe Jonathan Taylor Thomas would magically show up in my life and marry me and we’d live happily ever after. The end.).
I’ll be honest, I’m probably not going to love my body all of the time over night, but at least I’m going to be more aware of how I’m talking to my body, and what I’m teaching my daughter every time I look in the mirror, every time I smile at or make a look of disgust at myself, and of course – every time I verbally reference my body in anything other than a loving you’re-a-badass-mama-jama way.
So ladies and gents, mothers and fathers, friends and loved ones, this is why I love my postpartum, perfect-in-all-of-its-imperfections body:
1. IT REMINDS ME THAT I’M STRONG.
Every stretch mark, every extra pound, all the new curves, the fullness of my belly – all of it serves to remind me that not long ago, I carried a life inside me. That’s a kind of strength I never knew I was capable of, and it is the kind of strength that only a woman (those of us who are lucky enough to bare children) can ever truly know.
2. IT REMINDS ME THAT I’M POWERFUL.
To feel a life growing inside you is to feel the true force of nature. We are not in charge. Nature is. If you’ve ever been in the ocean, you have felt this same truth as the waves washed over your body and you tried to either resist or to go with the flow of the current. Just like the ocean, to carry life and to give birth to it is incredibly powerful. Not just metaphorically, but also physically: to experience the forceful power of the contractions that inevitably open your body up and push the baby out of your body, well, that is true power.
3. IT REMINDS ME THAT TRUE BEAUTY LIES WITHIN.
Though my tummy and body don’t look the same, my heart is still the same. And it’s really pretty! Besides, nobody greets you and measures your stomach or asks you to weigh in (unless you’re at weight watchers, in which case, that’s kind of par for the course). They measure the content of your character. Their soul scans yours and decides if you are good or not, and my soul has surely gotten brighter…and gooder too.
4. IT REMINDS ME THAT I CREATED A LIFE.
There isn’t a single day that passes where I don’t look at Madison (my daughter) and marvel at the fact that she grew from and came out of my body. It’s just…wow.
5. IT REMINDS ME TO BE GRATEFUL.
Grateful because half of the human race doesn’t get to experience this (men), and further still, not all women get to experience it for a variety of reasons. And further to that, some that do don’t survive the labor process. Childbirth is incredibly humbling and dangerous (every rose has a thorn, right?), and for every woman who gets to experience both it and the joys of being a mother that follow, well, it is truly an honor, one that I will be grateful for as long as I live and breathe.
6. IT REMINDS ME THAT NOTHING IS PERMANENT.
Life is an ebb and flow. Just like Madison was never meant to stay inside me, and my body changed as she grew, this postpartum piece is just another phase that my body is going through. There are more to come, and thanks to this experience, I feel prepared to meet and greet them with a healthy attitude (of gratitude).
7. IT REMINDS ME TO BE FLEXIBLE.
If nothing is permanent, then it wouldn’t serve me to try to hold onto anything. Perhaps the greatest gift of being human is our ability to adapt, to be flexible. Childbirth and the postpartum recovery have helped me to see this even more clearly.
8. IT REMINDS ME THAT EVERYTHING AND ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE.
So let me get this straight. You’re telling me that a head measuring 12-15 inches in circumference is going to come out of a hole measuring a half an inch in circumference, or (in other cases) that said being will be cut out of the abdomen, and both parties will survive to tell the tale? Apparently, yes. Indeed, it’s the only way any of us are sitting here today. If that doesn’t defy the laws of what’s possible, I don’t know what does.
So whether you’re a mom or you’re going through menopause or you’ve ever read a magazine that made you feel like you had to be something other than you are in order to love and be loved, this is for you. Let every mark on your body be a reminder that you have had the privilege of living a full life. And let that feeling of a life fully lived be your new sexy.
Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.
With love, and a little help from my friend, Dr Seuss,
February 19th, I celebrated a very important birthday.
No, it’s not the day I was born (that was June 5th about a million years ago, so mark your calendars. I like peonies. And pretty things.). It’s not the day I gave up chocolate (ha, ya right, like that would ever happen!). It’s not the day I became an American citizen either.
February 19th was the day my daughter, Madison, turned one, marking 365 days of life on the outside of my belly. The day came with a yearly tally of well over 300 sleepless nights, 3000+ diapers changes, 5000+ moments of I-don’t-know-what-the-hell-I’m-doing and am-I-really-cut-out-for-this? Countless short naps I wished had lasted longer, not as many long naps that had me wondering if she was still breathing, and a year filled with firsts I never thought I’d ever care about (first smiles, first giggles, first kisses, first crawls, first everything’s).
And though technically, yes, February 19th was Madison’s first birthday, it was also a birthday for me, for it marked the day that a new mother was born.
In a sense, on that day a year and 3 days ago, Madison and I were both wet behind the ears. I had birthed her into the world, and she had birthed me into a new role. I was struck by a lot of things as a new mother. Everything changed in an instant: my body, my marriage, my social life, my relationship with myself.
But what struck me most was how much my life would change on a micro level. I was used to being able to do what I wanted when I wanted to do it. Not things like go to the movies or meet friends for dinner (which I kind of expected would change), but simpler things like going to the bathroom when I needed to, making myself food when I was hungry, and even something as simple as showering. I didn’t know how this new little being “worked,” so if I had managed to get her to fall asleep while draped across my lap and I had to pee, well, my bladder would suffer. Because I wasn’t about to risk going to the bathroom, waking this little nugget up, and suffering through the screams that would inevitably follow.
Everyone told me it would get easier. I wanted to believe them. But in the beginning, in those first few days, weeks and I dare say even months, I didn’t believe them.
This was hard. Much harder than I had ever imagined. There were too many moments to count when I thought there was no way I was cut out for this. I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t meant to be a mother. Usually those moments were either at 3am after the third or fourth wake up of the night, or else during another screaming fest when I couldn’t figure out why Madison was crying despite having tried everything I could think of to soothe her.
But everyone was right. Somewhere along the way (around four months in), it did start to get easier. My heart softened – not to Madison (it was already softened to her), but to myself. My insecurities about my parenting skills began to fade into the background, and the knowing mother in me began to break through to the foreground. Soon, Madison and I found a rhythm, and the clouds parted.
And now here we are, a year in. And every day, my cup runneth over. My heart bursts with love for this little being whose curiosity and energy feeds me, whose smile makes up for my exhaustion, whose fingers wrapped around mine always seem to right everything in the world.
And though my once flat stomach is still soft, I didn’t recover the way and as fast as I thought I would, and I didn’t take to being a mother as naturally and as quickly as I expected I should, I wouldn’t trade this life or this role in for anything.
Madison has been my greatest teacher, and for that, I will be forever grateful.
Among the many lessons she has bestowed upon me, what I have learned overall is this:
Raising a child is a lot like life. It’s not always sunny skies. And sometimes they are downright angry with torrential downpours, deafening thunder, and flashes of lightning that make your heart skip a beat. But the clouds always part, and whether sunny or grey, the beauty is always there. Life is always a gift. It’s just not always smiling.
As I was reflected upon the last year of my life, I found my journals from the first few months after Madison was born. As a writer, I remember one of the hardest things about my new life as a mother was not being able to write when the mood struck (and if you’re a writer, than you understand that when you have a thought, you must must get it down on paper before it falls out of your head forever).
I ended up keeping a pen and paper close by me no matter where I was, and even in the pitch black with baby sleeping soundly on my chest, if a thought struck, I would write it down blindly, hoping that what I had written would be legible – at least to me – in the morning.
What I compiled over those first three or four months was a list of all the ways parenting was a lot like life.
I forgot about the scribbles of notes that were scattered around the house in different journals, papers and notepads, and I may have even misplaced some of them (actually, I almost certainly did), but I found most of them.
And on this day, three days after Madison’s first birthday, I figured it would be the perfect time to share them with you. You don’t have to be a parent to appreciate them, so kick back, relax, and enjoy the read.
LESSON #1: YOU’RE NOT IN CONTROL.
Just kidding (though not really).
Control is an illusion. At no time has that been more clear to me than when I’ve followed all of the “rules” in some parenting book and still didn’t get the results I was looking for. The only thing you can ever control is your reactions to what life puts in front of you. That’s it. Babies put that rule front and center (it’s like that line in Eat Pray Love – having a baby is like having a tattoo on your face. You’d better know it’s what you want before you get it. So. True.)
LESSON #75: YOU WON’T ALWAYS GET IT RIGHT THE FIRST TIME.
You may not even get it right the second, third, and fourth time. It doesn’t mean you’re useless. It doesn’t make you stupid. It doesn’t make you a bad person. Keep at it, because somewhere along the way, everything will fall into place.
LESSON #3: TRUST THE PROCESS.
Just when I thought Madison would never ever take to a nap schedule or adjust to sleeping at night, she would miraculously do it. There is a process at play, one that you’re not always privy to. Trust that, and then leave the rest to God/Life.
LESSON #47: BE PRESENT.
Infants demand your attention. Your full attention. They don’t care if you have to work, respond to a text, or watch your favorite show. The beauty in that is that you get to enjoy every fiber of every moment. And it’s quite an amazing experience. We only get these moments once. I’m so grateful that Madison has taught me to slow down and appreciate them fully.
LESSON #101: TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF.
If you don’t take care of yourself, everything falls apart. That’s why they tell you to put your own oxygen mask on before helping another on an airplane. With babies in particular, they feel everything you feel. So if you’re stressed, they’re stressed. The same is true with life. Ever notice how when you’re in a bad mood, the universe rises to meet you, and everything seems to fall apart? The same holds true for when you’re in a good mood. So take care of yourself lest you and the world around you falls apart!
LESSON #302: YOU WILL GET SHAT AND SPAT UP ON (AKA GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE).
Babies do that. Life does that too. Best you can do is clean up the mess, change your clothes, and go on about your business.
LESSON #17: TRUST YOURSELF.
You’re a lot smarter than you think you are. If you have an instinct that tells you to act a certain way, don’t question it. Just do it. You’re probably right.
LESSON #22: DON’T RUSH.
It’s a fruitless exercise, and it’s not fun for anyone. And in particular with babies, they can’t rush. They live in the moment, and they take the time they need to do what they do (eat, sleep, poop, cry, etc.). Try to rush them and they will crush you, just like life.
LESSON #45: BE PATIENT WITH YOURSELF.
Motherhood – and life – is tough enough as it is. If you lose patience with yourself, it just makes everything harder. So don’t do that. Be kind. There is a kindness deficit in the world. Do your part: be kind to yourself. To thine own self be true.
LESSON #1A: JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE GOT IT ALL FIGURED OUT, EVERYTHING CHANGES.
This is the rule of thumb with babies. Just when you’ve got a nap routine and nighttime sleep schedule in place, they have a growth spurt and everything you worked so hard to do is thrown out the window. You feel like you’re back to square one. But you aren’t. Like life, it’s just a setback. All is not lost forever. It’s only lost for the duration of that growth spurt! Haha.
LESSON #44: CRY.
Sometimes you’re going to cry right alongside your screaming baby (or life). That’s cool. In fact, that’s great. Because apparently, when you cry, you release stress hormones in your tears, which ultimately makes you feel better. So go ahead. Cry your eyes out. It’s your life and you can cry if you want to.
LESSON #78: IT’S OK TO BE ANNOYED, ANGRY, FEARFUL, INSERT-EMOTION-HERE.
I don’t know about you, but a lot of the time I feel like I have to appear to and actually have it all together. Being a new mom, everyone asks if you are madly in love, etc. Well, the truth is, yes, I’m in love. I would do anything for Madison. But I also get annoyed with her when she won’t sleep when I want her to, when she fusses and I have no idea why, and even when she’s just being her and I just wish I could have some uninterrupted period of time, determined by me, not her. Most days I have no clue what I’m doing and I’m scared. Then I think, wow, this is forever. My life as I knew it will never be the same again. Mostly, this terrifies me. And it makes me feel selfish or like a terrible person for even thinking it. I wanted this, didn’t I? And I got what I wanted. A beautiful, healthy child. But with my hormones all over the place, sleep deprivation, trying to heal from the labor, and all the while trying to play my new role as a mom, well, I suppose it’s natural to feel overwhelmed, annoyed, scared, emotional and all sorts of other feels. And it’s ok. It’s life. This is a passing phase. Just like we will never ever get today back. Ever. It’s now 30 seconds closer to over than it was 30 seconds ago. This period of Madison’s life (aka getting to know each other, sleepless nights, etc) will one day – soon – be over. And I may long for these days (especially when she starts crawling, walking, talking, driving and dating, and oh ya, talking back to me.). But in the meantime, I shouldn’t deny my feelings. I can still love her and be annoyed.
And such is life. Sometimes it will just be downright challenging. And it’s perfectly fine to feel annoyed, angry and scared. Give yourself a break, and always remember that no phase – good, bad or otherwise – lasts. This too shall pass. Allow yourself to feel, try to find some silver in the lining, and all will be well sooner or later.
LESSON #17: BE ADAPTABLE.
LESSON #202: BE GRATEFUL FOR THE SMALL VICTORIES.
Because it’s the little things, after all!
LESSON #55: YOU HAVE TO MAKE TIME FOR YOURSELF EVEN WHEN IT FEELS LIKE EVERYTHING’S FALLING APART.
I know I kind of said this already, but it begs repeating. Life is sometimes going to throw you some curve balls that can feel like the equivalent of a baby crying at full force with no indication of why or when it will stop. You have to rise above the heart wrenching cries, remind yourself that this will pass, and make sure to carve out time for yourself in the midst of the chaos. It’s always going to be chaotic, so there is no time like the present to take a break from the noise and do something that lights you up. This energizes you to be able to handle the chaos once you go back to it.
LESSON #2000: STAY THE COURSE.
I spent four months trying to get Madison on a nap and bedtime schedule. Half the time I swore it wasn’t working. But at four months, she started sleeping through the night. And she’s been doing it ever since. So stay the course. It may not seem to be working, but one day, your hard work will pay off.
LESSON #2000A: BE CONSISTENT.
To stay the course, you must be consistent. I put Madison to bed at the same time every day until she caught on. Life is the same. Whether you’re training for a marathon or learning a new skill, it takes consistency and dedication, but soon you begin to see the results you set out to accomplish.
LESSON #104: LISTEN TO YOUR INTUITION. IT’S SMARTER THAN YOUR THINKING BRAIN.
LESSON #108: BE EFFICIENT WITH YOUR TIME (AKA NO MORE DILLY DALLYING).
Having a baby – a newborn specifically – means that now you all of a sudden can only get things done in short bursts of time. And you never know how long that time might be. What will you choose to do if you only have 30 minutes? Having an infant helps bring your priorities into the foreground. But really and truly, I should have been prioritizing my time like this a long time ago. I’m amazed by what I can do in 10 minutes now!
LESSON #3000: TAKE THREE DEEP BREATHS BEFORE APPROACHING ANY SITUATION.
I read this piece of advice in one of my baby books. As a mother herself, the author identifies with exhausted, sleep deprived mamas. She urges moms that when baby is crying, if you’re feeling angry, sad or frustrated, before going to the baby, take three deep breaths. This calms down your nervous system on a cellular level. The baby can feel everything you’re feeling, so the calmer you are, not only the less likely you are to get frustrated with your baby, but also the more likely you are to calm baby down. Babies feel everything you feel. So a calm mama almost always equals a calm baby.
I’ve applied this principle to any challenging situations in life, and it has made such a difference. Never again will I underestimate the power of breath.
LESSON #500: DON’T OVERREACT (OR REACT) TO EVERY SINGLE LITTLE CRY/BUMP IN THE ROAD.
Babies cry. It’s what they do. It’s their only means of communication next to body language. So if you react immediately to every whimper, noise or cry, you may end up missing cues, perhaps thinking she needs to be picked up when really she was just letting out some gas and was content to continue sleeping after she got it out (which now she can’t do because you went and woke her up). You may shove a boob in her mouth when really she was just overtired and needed help going to sleep.
Life is like that. Sometimes it whimpers, grunts or cries, and if we react too quickly without first collecting the right information, we create problems that didn’t exist.
LESSON #79: BE PREPARED TO STAND YOUR GROUND AND STAY CONFIDENT IN THE FACE OF ALL THE ADVICE COMING AT YOU.
This book says co sleep. This one says no way. This book says you can sleep train a baby as soon as they come home from the hospital. This one says you can’t do anything until 8 weeks. If you don’t choose a method and go forward with it, and instead stay confused, you pass that confusion onto your baby.
Same with life. Don’t send mixed messages. Pick a method/philosophy and stay true to it. Sure, be flexible and adjust wherever and whenever necessary (babies with different temperaments don’t all respond to things the same way), but know what your main method is and be consistent and confident in your choice.
LESSON #62: BELIEVE IN THE IMPOSSIBLE.
The fact that we create humans and give birth to them out of our, well, you know….is absolutely miraculous. Then the fact that we can feed them with milk we make from our own bodies blows my mind. Having a baby forces you to believe in the impossible. Life is full of impossibilities that become reality. Never lose faith. Miracles are around us every day.
LESSON #18: YOU’RE NOT ALWAYS GOING TO GET YOUR WAY.
Like to sleep? Be prepared. When you become a parent, at least for the first two to six months, your little nugget decides when you sleep – and when you don’t. And those sixteen hours that most newborns sleep in a day? They certainly don’t happen straight through the night. Same goes for eating and drinking, going to the bathroom, etc. It’s just not going to happen whenever you feel like it.
All of this is only temporary, of course, but it’s a good lesson in surrender and checking your ego at the door. Life isn’t always going to be convenient. You may lose your job unexpectedly after just having put a down payment on a house. You may get broken up with when you thought things were going great. Whatever the case, it’s important to surrender, breathe and readjust. Don’t fight a battle you won’t win. Use your energy instead to accept, course correct, and make a new plan (or not).
LESSON #23: BE DELIBERATE WITH YOUR TIME.
I sort of said this already, but it begs repeating.
LESSON #27: YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE TO DO THINGS YOU’D RATHER NOT DO (AND AT THE MOST INCONVENIENT TIMES).
Diaper changes at 2am. Feeding on sore nipples for two to three hours straight from midnight to 3am. Missed appointments on account of a screaming baby you have to pull over three times to feed and soothe, etc. Staying home when you’ve been invited out to a fancy dinner. It comes with the territory on this quest to raise a healthy human. It’s just like life. Sometimes you have to do things you’d rather not do in the quest to fulfill a goal. It’s part of the game.
LESSON #29: WHAT YOU RESIST, PERSISTS.
LESSON #37: SOMETIMES IT NOT GOING TO BE ALL ABOUT YOU.
You have to learn how to take care of your own needs while simultaneously putting someone else’s needs first. That happens in life too. Sometimes, you need to put aside your own feelings and desires in order to be a good friend, a good daughter/son, or a good employee. Sometimes.
LESSON #49: IF AT FIRST YOU DON’T SUCCEED, TRY, TRY AGAIN.
And again. And again…
LESSON #52: THERE IS ALWAYS A SILVER LINING/TENDER MOMENT TO BE FOUND IN THE FOG.
Like Madison’s cute little feet while she’s feeding, her soft head, her cute little facial expressions, the way her body crumbles and her mouth falls open when she falls asleep on me. The next time you find yourself frustrated, open your eyes, look around, and find the sparkle in the dust. I promise you, it’s there.
LESSON #99: THE GREATEST TEACHERS SOMETIMES COME IN THE MOST UNEXPECTED (AND IN THIS CASE, SMALLEST) PACKAGES.
Madison is here to teach me. I am her first student, and I am mostly a willing participant (except when it’s 4:30am and I haven’t slept since 12:30am and at that, I only slept 1 hour before that). Look at your life to see where your teachers are/have been. In a stranger who may have been mean/nice to you? An old relationship? A family member? A random trip to the grocery store?
LESSON #117: TRY NOT TO GET STUCK IN A MOMENT YOU CAN’T GET OUT OF.
(Like at 4am when the crying won’t stop and you want to pass out and you love your child but you are really, really frustrated).
LESSON #121: SOMETIMES THERE WILL BE ITCHES YOU JUST CAN’T SCRATCH.
Like going to the bathroom, or literally itching your forehead but you can’t because your child has your hands pinned down. These moments teach you about delayed gratification in the most raw form. Thanks, daughter. Thanks.
LESSON #56: DON’T FORGET TO SAY THANK YOU (EVEN IF YOU’RE IN A BAD MOOD).
Or really, really tired.
LESSON #78: SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO WALK AWAY.
Like when I’ve tried to put Madison down for an entire hour but she wouldn’t stop screaming. I ended up having to tap Ted. I handed her to him, went into the bathroom, cried for fifteen minutes, and felt much, much better when I came back!
LESSON #69: YOU WON’T ALWAYS (AND IN FACT WILL RARELY) KNOW WHAT TO DO. IT’S ALL TRIAL AND ERROR.
Babies – like life – don’t come with an instruction manual. Get used to it, and blaze your own trail. Indeed, it’s the only way we’ve done it since the dawn of time. So I’m thinking we’ll be alright.
LESSON #80: NEVER UNDERESTIMATE THE POWER OF A GOOD NIGHT’S SLEEP.
Seriously. I’ve had like…two of them in the last year, and they were glorious!
LESSON #83: REMEMBER THAT EVERYTHING IS TEMPORARY.
Nothing in this life – good or bad – ever stays the same. As Ben Harper says, time takes our tomorrows and turns them into yesterdays (and I would add faster than you can imagine). Of course, we often don’t apply that insight to good times too, but the same rule holds true. It’s just that it feels like time slows down for the “bad” times and speeds up for the “good” ones. But the next time you find yourself in a situation that has you down in the dumps, know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this too shall pass.
LESSON #199: ASK FOR HELP.
This has two parts. First, when people offer to help you, let them. And second, even when people don’t, ask your tribe for their help. I know you will find that they will be willing – and even honored – to do so.
No person is an island. You can’t do it all yourself. Well, you can, but it won’t be fun, and there is no prize at the end for doing it (except for grey hairs, a frayed temper, and some extra wrinkles)! When Madison was just over a month old, Ted went away for two days. I was alone for basically 10 hours (which was terrifying). I asked my sweet friend, Diana, to come over and stay the night (on the couch, I might add) so that I didn’t have to be alone. I needed the moral support. Sure, I could have done it alone. But it felt so much better having her here. Just knowing she was downstairs made all the difference in the world.
LESSON #28: JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU’VE REACHED YOUR BREAKING POINT AND YOU DON’T THINK YOU CAN TAKE ANYMORE, THINGS GET WORSE AND YOU HAVE TO DIG DEEPER. AND YOU DO.
So you realize you can. You can handle a lot more than you think you can. That’s pretty awesome.
LESSON #237: SOMETIMES YOU JUST NEED A HUG.
There are many lessons to come, I know. As Madison gets more and more mobile, vocal and demanding, I know my patience and life skills will be put to the test. But she has given me the confidence in my abilities over the course of this first year of her life, and for that, I will never be able to thank her enough.