21 Questions with Boss Mom Michelle Dempsey, (Like the 50 Cent song, Only More Empowering)

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Meet Michelle Dempsey, my new woman and mompreneur crush. She is the founder of Very-Well Written, where she helps businesses with content and brand marketing. You can also find her wisdom all over the Internet at top sites such as Mind Body Green, Elite Daily, Huffpost, Forbes and Scary Mommy. When she’s not hustling at work, she can be found doing mom things with her adorable two-and-a-half year old daughter, coffee in hand. And during those child-free moments, cardio, binge-watching Netflix, and more coffee keep her sane.

We connected over our shared desire to use our big voices to help women find theirs, to empower them to own their struggles and live their passions, our well-developed ability to say no to people and things that don’t serve us, and the mom struggle that is indeed, very real.

1. Describe yourself in five words.

Dynamic, creative, sincere, inspirational, no holds barred

2. The moment that changed my life was

The moment I learned that my intuition was really onto something, and that it was worth trusting. It was one of those moments where everything came into focus, and finally, everything that came before it made perfect sense.

3. I found my voice when

I realized my words had the power to inspire and influence others, and that sharing my truth meant helping others to heal from theirs.

4. I’m empowered because

I’ve learned to say no and mean it. I’ve learned to walk away from what doesn’t serve me without apologizing for it. I’ve learned the power of my intelligence, my kindness, and my womanhood. I’ve learned that you don’t get what you want in life, you get what you are, so if you want great, be better.

5. I empower others because

I am as authentic as I am transparent. I say what everyone else is thinking. I choose risk over comfort. I go after what I want like it’s the last train of the night. I don’t apologize for being who I am yet I always lead with kindness. 

6. Putting yourself first is

Not selfish. At all. Putting yourself first is the single best thing you can learn to do for yourself in this lifetime yet it’s every woman’s biggest challenge. We’re mothers, we’re daughters, we’re friends, we’re wives, hell, some of us are even ex-wives, and the expectation is that we do for everyone else first, right? And then what? We burn out, lose our sense of self and live with regret and resentment. We get divorced, we hate our jobs, we can’t believe we never told that friend how much she hurt us and now can’t stand the sight of her. It took me 30-plus people-pleasing years to learn that there is no shame in advocating for your own needs before anyone else’s. Even as a mom, a really devoted one at that, I know that I can’t pour from an empty cup, and when Mama’s taken care of, everyone else benefits. We’re not taught to put ourselves on a pedestal and I’m not sure why. But what I do know is, once you get to that place where you value, and I mean really and truly value who you are, putting yourself first becomes a ritual as natural, and necessary as breathing. 

7. I take care of myself by

Taking time for myself at some point, even if it’s just a few moments, every single day. Working out helps me focus and regroup, and in the interest of being authentic, it helps me deal with being a semi-anxious workaholic. I sleep when I need to sleep, and when shit hits the fan I shut off my phone and head for a massage. I surround myself only with people who bring happiness and joy to my life, do my best to keep outside drama to a minimum, and breathe deeply through the moments that aren’t so pretty.

8. Best mom win

When my daughter first started school, at a teeny 18-months old, she came home one day with a bite mark on her arm. Her teacher informed me that another little girl in class had bitten her during a typical toddler battle over some toys. When I asked how my daughter retaliated, thinking she likely resorted to hurting this little girl for biting her, I was told that she hugged and kissed her teeny attacker and gave her the toy she wanted to play with. Sounds simple, maybe, but knowing that my daughter reacted with kindness meant more than I could ever put into words. That was the moment I realized I was doing something right.

9. Worst mom fail

Happens every morning when I lose the battle over what’s for breakfast because someone is running late for work and another someone had to be in school five minutes ago.

10. Motherhood is

The single greatest thing that has ever happened to my life. Sound cliché? Then you must not be a mom.

 11. Moms should

Reread question #6. And then stop what they’re doing, look in the mirror, and repeat after me, “Hello, you gorgeous goddess, you’re slaying this whole mom game. I’m so proud of you and damn that ass looks great.” Then try to be easier on yourself. And maybe have a glass of wine.

12. Before I became a mom, I wish someone told me

All of those little things my Mom did that annoyed and drove me crazy would become exactly my way of mothering. And that your child can and will survive even if they drink formula, and that all the things you swore you wouldn’t do as a mom would become exactly the things you do the most as a mom.

13. Women need each other because

No one knows a woman like a woman. Our needs, our struggles, our emotions and feelings. The support of other women, the powerful feeling of knowing that a group of trusted ladies have your back no matter what – that’s a big part of what I live for. As the co-founder of a professional networking group for women, I am always so intent on opening the doors to amazing women who truly understand what it means to help another woman rise. It’s vital. 

14. My last meal would be

At Il Mulino in Miami and would include calamari with extra lemon, spaghetti carbonara, and a Caesar salad. And a gin and tonic, or two. Oh and dessert, but I don’t discriminate. 

15. Three things I can’t live without are

Love, my laptop, and coffee.

 16. My perfect day is

Spent in the company of those I love, with my laptop, and some coffee.

17. The books I swear by are

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown. “Loving ourselves through the process of owning our story is the bravest thing we’ll ever do.” If that doesn’t describe the turn my life has taken, then nothing ever could.

18. When life gives you lemons

Order more calamari.

19. I don’t wait for doors to open, I

Kick them the f*ck down.

20. I want my daughter to know

It is who she is at her core, how she treats others, what her passions are and what drives her, that will truly define her as a woman. Not what she looks like, who she chooses to love, whether or not she’s the most popular girl in her high school class, or if she avoids broccoli in the same way some of us avoid dental visits for the rest of her life.

21. You can find me at

Target, screaming toddler in cart, grande latte in hand, hoping for a BOGO on the Lysol wipes and veggie sticks.

BIO: Michelle Dempsey MS, CPRW is an entrepreneur, internationally published writer and marketing guru, girl gang leader, radio host, and above all things, a mother. Michelle Dempsey turned a passionate hobby into a thriving career. Internationally published and known for her ability to connect with readers on a deeper level, Michelle launched her own business, Michelle Dempsey: Very Well-Written, offering content marketing and consulting services to businesses of all kinds. Michelle partners with all clients in a collaborative process that allows her to write from the point of view of her client, a winning strategy for success. She speaks to female audiences regularly on topics including empowerment, personal development, and business success, and last year, co-founded one of South Florida's fastest growing networking groups for professional women, ProFemmes.

This article originally appeared at Mogul.

Five Ways To Talk To a Mom Friend You Think Has Postpartum Depression

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After battling and surviving postpartum depression, I have received the following question repeatedly: “Jen, I think my friend might be going through something like what you went through. I want to say something to her about it, but I don’t want to upset her. How do I bring up that she isn’t acting like herself lately?” I wish I had a simple answer to this question, but it’s never simple when it comes to postpartum depression, which is not a one size fits all illness. Every mom’s experience with PPD is unique to her. Her risk factors, symptoms, feelings, and length of illness won’t look like that of any other mom suffering. Just like PPD, every mom is different and motherhood is also not one size fits all.

Before you confront a mom and suggest she might be suffering from PPD, here are some factors I think you should consider: How will she react? How receptive would she be to the idea of needing and asking for help? I think you should also ask yourself, “Am I the best person for this conversation or is there someone else that should be having this conversation?”

While you consider all the above, here are my five suggestions for approaching a friend you believe might be showing signs of postpartum depression.

1. Research and prepare a list of local resources.

Before you do anything else, get informed. Educate yourself about everything postpartum depression. Postpartum Support International is a great place to start. If you are going to tell a mom you think she might have PPD, you better go in prepared. Arm yourself with the facts about how common postpartum depression is and how temporary it can be with proper treatment. Make a list of local resources for your friend such as therapists, hospitals, and women’s centers that specialize in postpartum mood disorders so she immediately knows there are places to go to help her figure out what’s going on. Offer to go with her if you think that would help. Make sure she knows she’s not alone.

2. Consider how close you are to this mom.

Are you someone who has had difficult conversations with this mom before? Is your friendship one where you confide in each other about everything? If the answer is yes, you probably already have the comfort level needed to approach mom. Start with a question. “Mom, are you doing okay? You don’t seem like yourself. I know you just had a baby, but it’s more than that. What’s going on with you?”

3. Think about mom’s personality and how she reacts to difficult situations.

It’s important to think about mom’s reaction before you suggest she could be suffering from PPD. Does she like to do everything by herself? Does she struggle admitting when something is hard? Would she rather fake a smile than admit something is wrong? Ask yourself these questions and craft your approach based on how you predict she will respond. Or based on your answers, maybe you know someone better suited to talk to her.

4. Talk to mom’s partner first.

Mom’s partner is a direct link to how she is behaving. Her partner might have noticed some red flags too but has no idea what they mean or what to do about them. First ask yourself the questions above to determine the best way for clueing mom in to the fact that something isn’t right and she might need help. Her partner is a good place to start.

5. There is strength in numbers.

If you don’t think mom will listen to only one person, will she respond to her tribe? Ask your group of mom’s friends and family if they’ve witnessed anything similar. If you’re going to go with the group approach, make sure each person involved is extremely close with mom and not of the judgmental, opinionated kind because you want her to be able to feel like she can talk freely and honestly.

No matter what you decide when it comes to approaching your mom friend, the most important thing to remember is to always come from a place of empathy and acceptance, never one of judgment. Mom is most likely feeling tremendous confusion, guilt, and shame about feeling anything other than connected to her new baby and overwhelmed with the joy of becoming a mother. You want her to feel supported and understood so she feels comfortable and safe admitting to any struggles and symptoms relating to postpartum depression. If she’s not responsive to your conversation, just let her know you’re here to hold space for her. Be patient and check in regularly with mom, her partner, and other members of her tribe.

At some point, all of us will know a new mom suffering from some form of postpartum depression. It’s up to all of us to educate ourselves so no new mom suffers in silence. Click here to receive your free copy of my WTF are Postpartum Depression and Anxiety: The Friends and Family Guide For How to Help, What to Do and What Not to Say.

The Motherhood Edition of The Jewish Holidays

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By Jen Schwartz (The Medicated Mommy) & Rachel Sobel (Whine & Cheez – its)

Early fall is Jewish holiday season. That means going to temple, eating apples and honey in hopes of a sweet year ahead, family dinners filled with equal parts kvelling & kvetching, and a day of starvation fasting that culminates in the annual carb loading frenzy with bagels, lox, noodle kugel, and cookies. Lots of cookies. You know…a “light” meal.

And if your child attends a Jewish preschool/day school, you are basically screwed and they may as well close for the month of October with the amount of days you have off.

That’s right folks, we are currently living in the space between the Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur) where we ask forgiveness for our sins and hope to make it into the Book of Life for another year.

Lucky for us, Jews get to make New Years’ resolutions twice. You know, if for some reason you bailed on the ones you made in January for the non-secular New Year, here’s a second chance in October. I don’t know about you, but we’re still eating cake, ice cream and half-consumed bags of goldfish and desperately trying to fit into our skinny jeans because even though we get dressed in workout clothes every day, we don’t actually go work out every day. It’s kind of like our uniform for school drop off and the couple hours following. That is until we can pee and shower without a child opening the door a trillion times asking us to change the channel when the remote control is actually in their little sticky hands.

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Thinking about how you want to live in the Jewish New Year is both a blessing and a curse…because as you start to make promises to yourself about the year ahead, you are also going backwards to relive those times this past year you might not be so proud of. And as moms, there are definitely a few that come to mind. So, rather than focus on personal transgressions this year, we are confessing ours sins of motherhood. Let this be our atonement for:

  • Lying to our children (and maybe even setting the clocks forward) to convince them it’s bedtime so you have enough time to shower and settle in before Bachelor in Paradise.
  • Telling them a store is closed (at 3pm on a Thursday) because you just don’t feel like going to buy another pack of shopkins.
  • Having a salad for dinner but then polishing off the abandoned chicken-nuggets your child left on his or her plate.
  • Forgetting to wash a school uniform and digging a dirty one out of the hamper, spraying it with Febreze and sending them on their way.
  • Being so desperate to finish homework that you may have “led the witness” to arrive at the correct answer.
  • Letting your children watch back-to-back (and by back-to-back we mean 10) episodes of their favorite show just so you could put the finishing touches on your contributed article with the looming deadline.
  • Regifting a target gift card for a birthday party because you spaced and forgot to grab a gift.

In light of these confessions, here are our Jewish New Year’s resolutions– what we hope to do better or more of as moms in the coming year. And if we fail or don’t hit them all, January is right around the corner!

  • Telling the truth, as in when we inform our little ones that ice cream is not a dinner food, we also don’t eat ice cream for dinner or in other words, I will fit into those skinny jeans!
  • Not beating ourselves up when we need just one more hour of sleep so, without making any eye contact, we slip the iPad through the cracked door of our kids’ bedrooms.
  • Losing the guilt when our children watch ten episodes of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse in one sitting because binge watching is clearly a skill they will need when they get older.
  • Admitting that our kids are assholes sometimes because when they are lying face down on the floor screaming, kicking their legs, and shouting “NO” on repeat because they’re not ready to go to sleep or do anything you ask them to do, they are being assholes!
  • Not stressing about our kids still sleeping in pullups at night because let’s be real, who wants to start their morning cleaning up shit, changing sheets, and doing even more laundry?
  • Understanding that it’s okay to ask our husbands to do parent things like watch the kids, help with homework, feed them dinner, and handle bath time because they aren’t simply babysitters, they are dads and it’s their job too!
  • Realizing motherhood is effing hard and it’s okay to serve cereal for dinner (hey, it’s good enough for breakfast), put ourselves first, ask for what we want, leave the kids with a babysitter, and drink all the wine…because happy mommy equals happy everyone!

This post originally appeared on Suburban Misfit Mom.

Dating For Mom Friends

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Making new mom friends isn’t always easy. Actually, it’s a lot like dating. You fear rejection. You want to have chemistry with that new mom you meet at mommy and me class. You want her to like you. Will her friends like you? What if she’s not looking for something serious? What if she’s not currently on the market for a new friend?  What if she judges you for feeling bored at mommy and me class?

You might fumble over your words when introducing yourself to a new mom at the at the park for the first time. You hope she looks through Instagram on her iPhone while her kids play, just like you do. You spend hours getting ready for your first playdate. You want everything to be perfect so there will be a second playdate. 

You question and doubt yourself. What will she think of me if the cookies I serve contain gluten? Does she know I sometimes feed my kid too many afternoon snacks when I’m just too exhausted to argue? How soon is too soon to share I had postpartum depression when my son was born? Will she conveniently lose my number if I call my kid an asshole behind his back for not sharing?

You wonder if it will be a match. What if I’m not so crazy about her? What if she’s a card-carrying member of the perfect parents’ parade? Please don’t let her be one of those moms that always smiles. I really can’t handle another afternoon of listening to how magical motherhood is all the time. No more liars. I don’t believe that your child has never bit someone in his three-year existence. Can we please talk about something other than our kids? Can you leave the kids alone so we can talk about adult things that have nothing to do with parenting? They will figure out who gets to play with the firetruck by themselves.    

When dating meeting new moms, I’m not looking for perfect. Perfect is boring. Perfect is exhausting. Perfect doesn’t exist. I don’t care if you have one child or five, how you delivered them, how you chose to feed them, if you work or stay home, or spend hours making Pinterest Valentine’s Day cards for everyone in your child’s class. I just want to meet someone real, who isn’t afraid to be imperfect and admit that being a mom is the hardest job they have ever signed up for—where there are days they feel like mom of the year and others where they think they should be fired. And that while they wouldn’t trade it in for anything, there are days where they have strongly considered it. 

Maybe the best solution would be to walk around with dating profiles stuffed in our diaper bags, attached to our backs, or our kids’ food-stained t-shirts.

Here’s an excerpt from what mine would say:

Perfectly imperfect mom of an adorable, funny, compassionate four-year old boy who thinks he’s the boss of everyone and everything. Postpartum depression survivor, happily medicated, professional TV binge watcher, and definitely not a morning person. While I will never win Pinterest’s mom of the year award, I bake incredible brownies that I sometimes eat for dinner after having told my son, “We don’t eat brownies for dinner.” I believe in self-care, gluten, sugar, drinking responsibly at playdates, hair blow-outs, and hiring babysitters so I can spend time with other adults who don’t want to talk about their children all day long. I can often be found negotiating how many pieces of broccoli my little one has to eat at mealtime or begging him to watch Paw Patrol because I have no more patience to play airport or carwash.

I’m looking for other moms who are also madly in love with their children but aren’t afraid to be real about the rollercoaster of motherhood. If you’re looking for someone who will tell you the truth, make you laugh (and bring the martinis) when you feel like you’re failing or just because you need a martini, always reassure you, you’re not alone, and never judge, I think we could become besties. If you’re a mom-shamer or refuse to admit motherhood is anything but amazing 100 percent of the time, it will never work between us.      

I’m not the only mom who feels the isolation that often accompanies motherhood and the frustration that exists when looking to meet other moms who are your people. Recently, mom and entrepreneur Michelle Kennedy meshed motherhood and dating with the creation of her new app, Peanut, a sort of “Tinder for Moms,” which launched in New York City and is now available nationally. 

Peanut’s mission is one I can easily get behind: We’re on a mission to build a community of women, who happen to be mamas. Because let’s face it, the more women in your life, the better it becomes.

I couldn’t agree more. Women need each other. Moms need other moms. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in doing motherhood by myself. It’s a lot more manageable and fun when you have a tribe of women who have your back and will join you in your closet while you hide from your kids with that martini.

Women need each other. Moms need other moms. I don’t know about you, but I’m not interested in doing motherhood by myself. It’s a lot more manageable and fun when you have a tribe of women who have your back and will join you in your closet while you hide from your kids with that martini.

This post originally appeared on Motherlucker.

Mindfulness is Fucking Awesome - Guest Post by Jennifer Bronsnick

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August 6, 2017 2:47pm EST Florham Park, NJ I am sitting on a reclining chair in my backyard, my black toy poodle Zoe at my feet.  The temperature is a perfect 78 degrees. The sun peaks out from behind the clouds every so often so that I can feel the warmth amidst a light breeze on my skin. Cars drive by with a wooosh and I hear the siren of an ambulance from the next town over. Not too loud that it bothers me, but just loud enough to make me wonder if the person they were headed to is okay. It rained last night and I can smell moist grass mixed with a bit of mildew from the outdoor furniture. I sit and sip my chai tea feeling the warmth from the spices move down my throat creating a nice sensation in my body. Breathing in sync with the swaying trees as the winds moves through the plush green leaves. Feeling grateful for a few more weeks of summer to enjoy.

2:50pm - Enter my 5 year old daughter Savanna wearing a tutu and tap shoes. “Mom! Watch my show!”

Was I annoyed? Maybe I wasn’t thrilled, but I wasn’t angry. I was just moving into a new moment; a moment with my daughter. This happens 1000’s of times each day. We have good moments, bad moments and everything in between. The beauty of mindfulness is that it can give us peace in our minds and hearts because it teaches us not to only strive for good experiences (sipping my tea alone), but to be open to ALL experience (getting interrupted during my quiet time), without labeling them. It’s this labeling that ultimately causes us to suffer. Without the label, an experience just is. It’s an opportunity to know what being alive is all about.

Those THREE minutes of intentional mindfulness were three minutes without thinking and planning.  Without analyzing, judging, striving OR suffering.  Three minutes of being present, noticing, and BEING.  Three minutes that recharged my soul and sparked my creativity.  Those three minutes set the tone for the rest of my day and enabled me to operate from a full cup.

Mindfulness is f*cking awesome. It is also just one piece of our self-care plan.  It only took me 3 minutes to fill my cup because I make self-care and time for myself a priority every day. I get regular pedicures, move my body in a way that brings me joy, connect with friends, have date nights and make time to write, create and binge -watch Netflix.

Mindfulness is accessible to everyone. It is free. It is simple to learn.  It just takes practice and an intention. It’s the best way to put an end to the stress of being a mom and any other challenging situation in your life. Mindfulness lets you off the hook because as long as you are breathing there is another moment for you to apologize, to make it right, or do it over. EVERY activity can be done mindfully.

Mindfulness is not being emotionless and it’s NOT about being peaceful all the time, It’s NOT about escaping your life and it’s NOT a quick fix for your life’s challenges.  Like getting your body in shape, getting your mind in shape takes time and practice.

You might be thinking, “Who has time for this?” Well if you just read the first part of this blog, then YOU do. Just by reading about my mindful experience you were mindful too. You could feel the breeze, the sun, smell the grass and then the interruption. You did it. It wasn’t hard and it didn’t take much time.  It also lowered your cortisol and allowed you to tap into your resourcefulness and healing abilities.

Can you imagine what your life could be like if you made mindful self-care a daily practice?  On World Mindfulness Day, this is my invitation for you. Take 3 minutes every day for the next 2 weeks to be FULLY present in your life.  Tune into each of your senses-Sight, Taste, Touch, Smell and Sound. Notice your breath and bring gratitude for this healing tool that operates without conscious effort. Bring compassion to your experiences and welcome everything that arrives. You can do it.

BIO: Jennifer Bronsnick, MSW, LCSW is passionate about supporting moms to be resilient. As a mother of three daughters under 8 and a survivor of postpartum depression and anxiety Jennifer knows exactly how challenging motherhood can be. She also knows that there is hope for all of us and with accurate information, support and inspiration that mothers and families can thrive. Jennifer’s years of clinical experience as a social worker and her own personal journey gives her the unique ability to guide other moms on their path to health and wellness. You can also learn more about Jennifer, the services she offers and purchase her books on maternal self-care at www.themindfulfamily.com.

You Heard Me: I Said I Was One and Done...

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I was once getting a manicure next to a woman who asked if I had children. At the time, I told her I had a one-year old boy. She then asked my favorite question most people follow that up with. “When are you having your next one?” I told her I wasn’t–that my husband and I decided one was enough and the right decision for our family–we were one and done. I don't even know why I felt like I had to justify my decision to a complete stranger. I guess I didn't want my response to be met with the usual, "You will change your mind." Or "What do your parents think? Don't they want lots of grandchildren?" "It's so much nicer for kids to have a sibling to play with." But she surprised me. She informed me she only had one son and that sometimes when you create a masterpiece, it doesn’t make any sense to paint over it. Thank you manicure lady for immediately accepting my choice and making me feel good about it! It doesn’t always happen like that.

In fact, most people respond with confusion, sometimes horror when they find out you are “one and done.” I love that phrase. It’s short and sweet and very blunt. It leaves no room for interpretation. Those people do not. Sometimes those people are strangers. Other times they are acquaintances and family members. All I can say, is that at the end of the day, you don’t know what it’s like to walk in my shoes–to live my life–to know what I need and what’s best for me. Only I know that, especially when it comes to motherhood. I also want to say that I am in no way promoting ”one and done” as the best or easiest parenthood choice. If you don’t want any kids or want to have two, three, even five kids, I think that’s incredible. Do it! It’s just not the right choice for me. And I have yet to come across any parenthood choice that is easy.

My closest friends know all the reasons why I’m not having any more children. It comes up in our conversations all the time. They never make me feel guilty. They never judge. They never try to convince me to change my mind. Sometimes, the remind me that one child suits me. Thank you all for that.

So now, three years after meeting the manicure lady,  I’m just going to put it all out there–because I think it’s so important for moms to feel empowered and confident in making the choices that are best for them–regardless of what others think and say–regardless of who the people are that are doing the thinking and saying.

I need more. This might be a controversial statement, but being a mom and a wife aren’t enough for me. I need more–something that is just mine, which I have found through writing and speaking about my experiences. My writing is my currency. It’s part of my identity outside of being a mom and wife. It has transformed me–makes me feel happier–connects me with amazing women and feeds my mind and spirit. Writing has become my second baby. I want to nurture that and give it the time it requires while enjoying, raising and being present for my first baby too.

Happy mom, happy baby. If mommy isn’t happy, there is no way baby is going to be happy. This is the reason I stopped breastfeeding on day 5. It’s the reason I went on and continue to take antidepressants. It’s why I have a part-time nanny, hire babysitters for date nights and girls’ nights and take solo trips occasionally. And it’s most definitely the biggest reason why I’m not having another child. I want to be the best mommy I can be to my son and part of that means taking care of my well-being. Therefore, I choose to give him a happy, healthy mommy rather than a sibling.

I want my marriage to last. I love my son to the moon and back, but he is not the sun in our marriage. My relationship with my husband comes first. We made a pact to live this way before we had Mason. Marriage is hard work and the work grows exponentially when you add kids to the mix. We have weekly date nights and take child-free vacations. I’m not going lie, child care is easier when there is only one tiny human to chase after. For us, we balance parenting and marriage by deciding to be a team of three. It’s just the dynamic that works for us.

I need consistent me time. I take mom breaks and I do so without guilt. I need to for my own sanity and survival. Every now and then I go away. Sometimes it’s for the night, other times for a long weekend. I usually go to New York City where I get to see my best friends, sisters, shop at my favorite stores, eat at my favorite restaurants, and take too many Soul Cycle classes. When I leave, my husband spends quality time with our son, is able to balance work and dad life, and I come back feeling renewed, recharged, and ready to be mommy again.

Airplanes fit us perfectly. Superficial I know, but an airplane row fits three people. In my world, that is mommy, daddy, and son. Mason goes in the middle with mommy and daddy on either side of him. iPads out, headphones on, and we are good to go.

I can’t start over again. When Mason turned one and I finally felt confident and happy as his mommy, I felt like I had come so far. I went through so much in that first year and I just knew I couldn’t go backwards. For me that meant no more pregnancies, no more infant stage, no more sleep training or bottles of formula. I just wanted to keep going forward, growing as Mason’s mommy as he continues to grow into a little person. I love to see and love on my mom friends’ new babies, but after about 30 minutes I’m over it and handing them back. I don’t have that feeling of “my uterus hurts” for more babies. My family feels complete.I still get anxiety when I find myself back at the maternity floor of the hospital visiting a friend who just gave birth. If that’s not a telling sign, I don’t know what is!

I battled postpartum depression. I’m putting this reason last on purpose. Many people assume this to be the number one reason why I choose not to have more children. While yes, I’m at a higher risk for having it again in future pregnancies, it’s a very small part of my decision. I am grateful for my PPD journey and who I am today because of it, but it is not something I want to experience again. It is not something I want to put my husband through again or my son especially now that he would be old enough to understand it more. I already missed so much of the first year of his life. I refuse to miss any more.

I’m sorry to everyone who might disagree with me here, doesn’t approve of my choices, or thinks I’m saying too much on the subject. Actually, thats a lie. It’s more like sorry, I’m not sorry. I can’t please everyone, just the most important one. Me! I’m just being real…and honest…and hoping it gives other moms the courage to do the same…no matter what choices they are making or struggling with.  And my baby who isn’t such a baby anymore isn’t going to just be fine. He’s developed into and independent, brave, strong, compassionate, opinionated, brilliant, and amazing little four-year old. Well duh! Of course he is–because I made him–and he is a masterpiece–and I’m his mommy!

Why Breast Isn't Always Best

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Today wraps up National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. I hope your social media feeds weren't over-flooded with articles and photos about the joy and benefits of breastfeeding. Lactivists telling you why breastmilk is the only way to ensure a healthy, happy baby. Studies claiming that breastmilk will make your baby more intelligent and have less ear infections and allergies. Then there’s my all-time favorite claim: Breastfeeding can reduce a mom’s stress level and risk for postpartum depression. Um, yeah, not so much…have they met me? And let us not forget about the infamous mom-shamers criticizing anyone who chooses the alternative or not to breastfeed for as long as they have ruled acceptable. I mean, can’t we all just get along. I’m here to tell you, breast is not always best. Also, formula is not always best. You know what’s best? What works for you, makes you happy and keeps your baby’s belly full. Moms have all different reasons for how they choose to feed their babies and they are none of your business.

When I had my son, I thought I would be a breastfeeding master. He would latch easily and we would be unbreakably bonded. I would breastfeed at least until the baby weight melted off. (Why shouldn’t I reap the benefits too?) Full disclosure, I had always planned to supplement with formula because I wanted to be able to sleep and let my husband help with feedings, but I never thought I would suck at breastfeeding. And It never occurred to me that I might hate it too.

My son latched like a champ and ate for 45 minutes right after I delivered him. After that, he just couldn’t find the nipple. And when he did, he couldn’t hold on. Latching was just not his thing. Breastfeeding stressed me out very quickly and I didn’t feel anything resembling a bond to this tiny little boy who constantly screamed because he was starving and couldn’t properly get on my boob. I tried to pump, but that just stressed me out even more and it hurt and I was exhausted after an almost 24 hour labor followed by C-section.

I left the hospital determined to win at breastfeeding. What did it say about me as a mother if I couldn’t? Instead, I became a breastfeeding quitter. I only lasted five days. Breastfeeding didn’t reduce this mom’s risk for postpartum depression, which began to make its presence known somewhere in those five days as I lost my sanity and needed someone else to be able to feed my son because I decided I would never be leaving my bed for the rest of my life. I could barely keep my shit together let alone follow a strict pumping and feeding schedule. And in the midst of feeling all those horrible feelings, I still didn’t want to let go of my breastfeeding dream. To this day, I don’t even know why it was so important for me to be a breastfeeding champion.

What became more important than how I fed my son was figuring out how to get healthy and happy for my son. I needed medicine more than he needed breastmilk. I needed sleep. I needed weekly therapy appointments. I needed a village to help take care of my son. I needed to not have to stop every three hours and hook myself up to a milking machine. Spoiler Alert: In my son's four years of life, he knows all his letters, colors, numbers, shapes, Shabbat prayers, has had no allergies and only one ear infection.

Using the phrase “breast is best” robs moms of choice. Moms should be allowed to choose how they feed their little ones without feeling any sort of stigma or judgment when they don’t exclusively breastfeed. They should be able to receive the support they need whether they choose formula or breastmilk. I can’t tell you how many moms I know who were made to feel as if they had to breastfeed by lactation consultants and nurses at the hospitals where they delivered. Professionals who rolled their eyes or dragged their feet when a mom asked for formula. That’s just wrong, insensitive, and does nothing to give a new mom confidence.

Motherhood is not one size fits all. Whoever came up with “breast is best” doesn’t know what’s best for every single mom. Only you know what's best for you. Some moms don’t have the option of breastfeeding. How do you think those moms feel when they hear, “breast is best” and it’s not something they are capable of doing? They are immediately set up to feel guilty from the beginning. And what about the moms who feel the overwhelming pressure of “breast is best” and make themselves crazy trying to breastfeed, only to discover they aren’t producing enough and by then, it’s too late. Yes, these are extreme cases, but even one case is too many, especially when it could have been prevented with some formula.

Breastfeeding is hard. It doesn’t come naturally for all moms. Not all babies latch easily. Nipples get sore and cracked, sometimes even infected. Milk leaks through that new blouse you’re wearing on date night. Date night ends with pumping in the bathroom. Your designer bag has been replaced with a large black canvas one carrying your breast pump, milk bags, and ice packs. A mom who wants to stick with it needs support and to know that it’s normal to struggle. They don’t need your “breast is best” judgments if they decide to stop or supplement.

Social media hasn’t done new moms any favors when it comes to breastfeeding. The reality of breastfeeding is not Gisele holding her naked baby on her boob with one hand while she adorns a white robe, gets her hair blown out, make up done, and free hand manicured. At least Olivia Wilde let us know her baby peed all over her gorgeous sequin gown while staging her breastfeeding photo and Yael Braun keeps it real by showing us her breast pump that accompanies her to The Grammys.

At least Olivia Wilde let us know her baby peed all over her gorgeous sequin gown while staging her breastfeeding photo.

And Yael Braun keeps it real by showing us her breast pump that accompanies her to The Grammys.

 

When a mom sees those Gisele-like images and that’s not her reality, she might wonder, “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t I breastfeed like that? Why don't I have that look of bliss on my face? Why isn’t this easier for me?” The breast is best culture accompanied with these photos contributes to the idea of the perfect mother. And when a mom fails to reach this level of perfect, which doesn’t exist, she will ultimately feel like a failure. 

To all the new moms out there: Do what’s best for you. If you love breastfeeding, more power to you. If you prefer formula, that’s awesome too. Every mom is different and that should be cause for celebration, not shame. Most days it’s about survival, sanity, and sleep (if you’re one of the lucky ones). There is no wrong way to feed your baby. Fed is best. Choice is best. What works for you is best.

And the next time you are about to criticize a mom’s decision, remember what your own mom taught you when you were young. “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Or tell her she’s doing an incredible job and let her know you’re there for her if she needs help. Now repeat after me just so I know you got it: “Fed is best.”

My Second Favorite F-Word

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I don’t know about you, but I’m a big fan of the F-word. It’s extremely versatile and can be used in so many different situations. As a writer, I love that it can be a noun, verb, adjective, and more. As a mom, it comes in very handy when I’m frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed or I feel the need to be dramatic about all the above. You step on a Lego and scream, “FUCK!” Your kid wakes up four times in the middle of the night and you quietly pray each time, “Stay the fuck asleep.” You get projectile vomited on and blurt out, “Fuck me!” And when you can’t take it anymore you dramatically declare that if anyone needs you, you can be found hiding in your closet with that pint of Haagen Dazs chocolate-chocolate-chip ice cream because you are frustrated, tired, and overwhelmed “As Fuck” (AF). I’ve even recently heard it used to describe the phase my son just entered: “The Fucking Fours.”

When I gave birth to my son almost four years ago (before I made regular use of the F-word in everyday motherhood), I discovered my second favorite F word. Formula. Yes, you heard me correctly. Formula. Let me say now that this is not an anti-breastfeeding, pro-formula-feeding post, nor am I exclusively in support of one food source over the other. I am exclusively for feeding your baby, however that works best for you. Now back to our regularly scheduled program…

During my pregnancy, I had always believed I would breastfeed my son and supplement with formula if necessary. But really, I would just breastfeed him and be a breastfeeding superstar— because breastfeeding would simply be that easy for me… like it was for all the moms I knew (they must have forgot to mention the struggles they experienced while going on about how much they loved it). And it was easy that first time my son latched right after being evicted from my stomach. Then it wasn’t.

After that first feeding, he repeatedly struggled to latch and would cry out in frustration. I just wanted to give him a bottle because I was exhausted. My mind and body shattered from 24 hours of labor, pushing for two of them, and having a C-section after all that. I wanted him to be fed and I wanted to be sleeping. Also at that time, the beginnings of postpartum depression were beginning to slowly creep into my brain. I just didn’t know it yet.

I refused to admit defeat. I did everything you are supposed to do. I saw lactation consultants in the hospital. They tried to fix our latching issues and helped me pump. I made an appointment to see the one at his pediatrician the week after we got home from the hospital. My son continued to struggle with latching so I continued pumping. I started to hate pumping because it took too much effort and I just wanted to go to sleep and never get out of bed. That was the postpartum depression making its entrance.

Even as the postpartum depression symptoms made themselves more visible in those first few days home from the hospital, I still thought I had to breastfeed. Even when I didn’t want to. I remained determined to be that breastfeeding superstar. Yes, I had been supplementing with formula, but what would it say about me as a mother if I couldn’t make breastfeeding in any capacity work? I was already failing at wanting to be a mom and feeling close to my son. At least I could succeed at feeding him the way I believed he needed to be fed.

A few days later at my son’s bris, a group of New York Jewish Grandmothers (mostly friends of my mother-in-law) saw the despair in my eyes when I asked them how their kids chose to feed their babies. And just like Jewish Grandmothers do, they told ordered me to “F**k breastfeeding!” Their kids were formula-fed, and now, most of their grandchildren were too. I needed to do what was best for me and that would be the best way to take care of my new baby. It was then I discovered my second favorite F-word, which also sounded pretty awesome used in conjunction with my other favorite F-word.

The next morning at my appointment with the lactation consultant, I immediately informed her, “I’m not doing this anymore. Tell me how to make the milk go away.” And so, after a week of being a mom, I quit breastfeeding and began exclusively formula feeding my son. My son and I were not destined to share the experience of breastfeeding together and I came to accept that. Today if you ask me if I breastfed my son when he was a baby, I would tell you without any guilt, “I sucked at breastfeeding. I quit after a week.” The reality is I had to take care of my health so I could get to a place where I could love and take care of my baby. My second favorite F-word, formula, allowed me to do that.

Would I have stuck with breastfeeding if I hadn’t been hit with severe postpartum depression one week into motherhood? I don’t know. What I do know is that choosing formula was the best decision for me and allowed me to hold on to some peace of mind while the rest of it surrendered to what would be a year-long battle with postpartum depression.

My new favorite F-word provided me with a way to feed my son so I could take care of myself. Formula also allowed others to feed my son while I focused on my health and fought my illness until I won. Some might call that selfish, but I would argue that a happy, healthy mommy is the best gift we can give to our babies. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in the F-club like me or you rock the breastfeeding thing like I could never do. Some moms don’t ever get the luxury of choosing.

Whatever the reason is behind a mom’s decision for how she feeds her baby, we need to remember, fed is fed and we are all on this rollercoaster ride together. And if someone ever tries to shame you for choosing formula, I give you permission to use my other favorite F-word for some extra emphasis when you tell them you don’t remember asking for- nor do you give a f**k about- their opinion.

This post originally appeared at Motherlucker.

Q&A with Suzanne Barston, The Fearless Formula Feeder (Part Two)

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Welcome back to my Q&A with Suzanne Barston, The Fearless Formula Feeder. Let’s dive right in because she has some very wise words to share about how moms choose to feed their babies.    The Pressure to Breastfeed Because they are told that it's the most important thing they can do for their babies; that it's the healthy thing; the RIGHT thing. They see celebrities and role models and their peers celebrating their breastfeeding success, which they have every right to be doing - but we hear more about breastfeeding than any other aspect of new motherhood, so it becomes this measuring stick, this way to compare yourself to others and gauge how you're doing at this scary new job. Plus, there are some overzealous physicians and lactation professionals out there who really do make it seem like life or death.

The Problem with “Breast is Best” It's problematic, because it's NOT. Breast is the biological way to feed a baby. It is normal, and healthy, and every woman's right. And yes, breastmilk is a biologically phenomenal substance. But that does not make it best - it makes it great. Best is a subjective term - because what does that even mean? Best nutritionally? Sure, unless your baby is reacting to something in your milk, or you don't have enough to feed him. Best emotionally? No, not unless it's what makes you happy and helps you bond, because for some women, the opposite is true.

What About “Fed is Best?” I know the term "fed is best" is popular now, and I think I used this myself many years back, but I'm not sure using that phrase helps, either. The point is, we shouldn't be using absolutes or superlatives to describe the very basic act of feeding a baby. Breastfeeding is not a super power. Formula feeding isn't either. We all need to feed our babies - can't we just shut up about what is best and focus on the important work of making sure every baby - and every mother - has the nutrition, love, and resources she needs?

Changing the Conversation We can start by ending the fear tactics. Your baby is not going to be stupid, sick or obese if you formula feed. Likewise, your baby is not going to be brain damaged or starving if you breastfeed. There are always going to be horror stories, and downsides to every feeding method. Babies die while nursing. Babies die from contaminated formula. Those are freak incidents, not the norm.

Let’s Start Over I think we need to start from the beginning. Give parents neutral information from a neutral source - not breastfeeding advocates, and not formula companies - long before the emotional landmine of the delivery room. Let them know they will be supported and given evidence-based information for any safe feeding method. Stop making it all or nothing, so that moms can combo feed if they want and not feel like they are torn between two dueling sides. Let parents change their minds, and adapt, and not feel as if the way they feed has anything to do with how they will love and nurture this child.

What I Wish Someone Had Told Me That the first few years are hard because of how YOU are growing up, and the rest is hard because of how THEY are growing up. What I mean is that while I find parenting harder the older my kids get, the roughest part for me was transitioning from "me" to "mother". That identity shift can be so hard- and since babies don't do much except eat, sleep, and poop, it's easy to fixate on these things as the litmus test of your ability to parent. I promise you, it isn't.

The Future of The Fearless Formula Feeder That's a tough question for me because in many ways, I've been slowly weaning (ha) myself from this world. I still feel a responsibility to be on the periphery of the conversation, because I have the advantage of a long-term perspective that most of the people arguing about these issues don't have. On the other hand, I don't have the energy or passion for the cause that I used to, because my kids are older, and I've moved on to another stage in life and in my career. But I'd like to think I'll always be here as a resource for new champions of choice - there are great groups like Fed is Best and the I Support You Movement (which I started with Kim Simon five years ago, and has been resurrected by an incredible group of women in the UK), that are doing stellar work in this area. I will always be there to support them as needed. And who knows - maybe I'll write a sequel to Bottled Up. It can be called Bottled Down: Why the Way We Feed Babies Means Nothing Once They are Ornery Teenagers. Or something like that. :)

More From The Fearless Formula Feeder My book, Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn't (University of California Press, 2012) is available on Amazon. You can also visit the archived website, which has a ton of resources for formula feeding and stories from fellow FFFs at FearlessFormulaFeeder.com, or follow me at Facebook.com/TheFearlessFormulaFeeder.

 In case you missed it, you can find Part One here.

 

BIO: Suzanne Barston is the author of Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t and the creator of the “Fearless Formula Feeder” website and community. Barston was raised just outside of Boston and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University. A former freelance writer, she now lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with her husband and children, and works as a corporate content producer. Her writing and work with FFF has been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, SheKnows, Babble, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Parenting, Babytalk, OhBaby!, Fit Pregnancy, The Observer, Yahoo Shine!, Australia’s Good Weekend magazine, and on a variety of radio programs including KPCC’s “Take Two”, numerous NPR affiliates, “Parenting Unplugged”, “Positive Parenting”, “Mom Enough”, “For Crying Out Loud”, “Voice of Russia”, and more.

Q&A with Suzanne Barston, The Fearless Formula Feeder (Part One)

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August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month, which means our social media feeds will likely be filled with articles and photos about the joys and benefits of breastfeeding. So, I wanted to talk to someone who could share more about the joys and benefits of simply feeding your baby, because there are alternatives and breastfeeding isn’t for everyone. And shouldn’t that be okay? Meet Suzanne Barston, also known as The Fearless Formula Feeder and author of the book, Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn't. After experiencing many breastfeeding complications with her son, having postpartum depression and switching to formula (the best decision for her family) only to realize that there was a severe lack of information and way too much judgment when it came to formula feeding, she decided to create a support network for moms who also went the formula route.

Suzanne’s judgement-free advice and determination to change the conversation about how moms choose to feed their babies and the support they should receive are a breath of fresh air. Her work is a testament to the fact that whether a mom chooses breastmilk, formula, or both has everything to do with the right choice for her and nothing to do with how much she loves her baby.

Becoming The Fearless Formula Feeder When I had my first child, I was fully expecting to breastfeed - although truth be told, I had a very romantic notion of what that meant, and what motherhood meant in the first place. We had a slew of problems right off the bat - he couldn't latch, I had nerve damage in one breast that made nursing excruciatingly painful, he had a milk allergy, etc., etc. I pumped for a while, but was suffering from postpartum depression and all the drama with feeding exacerbated it. So, I switched to formula, and while I knew it was the best thing for my family, I still felt the judgment from doctors, friends, fellow moms, and society. Worst of all, whenever I searched for information on formula or bottle feeding, the only things that popped up were admonishments - warnings about the dangers of not breastfeeding instead of practical information on safe formula feeding. I wanted to change that, and to provide a resource for parents like me who wanted support and evidence-based information on infant feeding. I also wanted to explain the reality of news headlines about research - I knew how to read and interpret scientific studies, so I felt like I could help mitigate some of the fear-mongering.

Reception of The Fearless Formula Feeder It was surprisingly positive at first. I got a lot of traffic right away, which just made me sad - because I was some random, new blogger on the internet and all these women were writing to me in desperate need of support and advice. I didn't really feel equipped to give it, so I made it my goal to become worthy of that responsibility. I decided to write a book that would examine both the sociological and scientific implications of the breast vs. bottle debate, and I basically read everything I could on lactation and the science behind infant formula development. I realized that there weren't really any formula experts out there, so I thought, “I better become one quickly - because there were a lot of parents needing solid, non-judgmental info.”  

The Haters Of course, as soon as people started becoming aware of my blog, the name Fearless Formula Feeder drew a lot of critical eyes. People were NOT happy that someone was encouraging people to be fearless about formula, especially when they were trying to scare moms out of even the smallest amount of supplementation. Reading hate mail became a daily event - but for every angry, mean email came five more from parents needing support, so I just focused on those instead.

Why So Much Controversy You know, I used to think I knew the answer. Heck, I wrote a whole book about it. But as I've been doing this for 8 years now, I've seen the controversy ebb and flow - and I'm not sure things are as simple as I once believed them to be. I do think it mostly comes down to history - formula companies made some terrible errors in the past, and continue to do some pretty tone-deaf things in resource-poor countries - and deep-rooted ideas about motherhood. I also think the rise of the natural parenting movement has made food a moral issue for some groups, something that starts with breastmilk and continues into later childhood with orthorexia behaviors. But in the end, I think it comes down to this erroneous belief that there can only be one "right" way to feed a baby. There are so many things that factor into what makes a choice "right".

The Importance of Choice Choice is imperative, because every family has its own specific needs. We can't take what happens in a tribal society and impose it on a mother living in suburban Illinois, and vice versa. Heck, we can't take what happens to the mom in one room of a hospital and impose that on the mom in the next room over. There has NEVER been a time in history when every baby was fed solely on breastmilk for 6 months. There have always been mothers with issues breastfeeding and babies who were too weak to suck. There have always been pre-lacteal feeds and supplementary foods used prior to this magical, made-up 6-month mark.

When You Take Choice Away When you take away choice, you force a woman into using her body in a way that may not feel right to her. You force a baby into eating in a way that could hurt her chances of thriving. You create a perfect storm for postpartum depression and a prison sentence for moms who don't respond to a pump, but need to work to feed the rest of their families. Choice is something we are lucky to have - the fact that babies can be fed and healthy no matter what the lactation status is of the primary caregiver is something we should celebrate, not restrict.

On The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative There are many good aspects of BFHI, but I have trouble with positioning a breastfeeding initiative as "baby friendly", First of all, it should be "family friendly" - babies thrive with happy, functional caregivers. Also, it is not friendly to starve a baby, and making a mother jump through hoops in order to give formula isn't helping to get that baby fed. If we could take the part of BFHI that ensures formula isn't forced on moms, and that they are given good lactation support, but do away with the rest of it, I think it could be something really fantastic. But as it stands, the program is judged on the number of babies who leave exclusively breastfeeding - and that should not be the goal, in my opinion. The goal should be parents and babies leaving the hospital with the resources they need to safely feed their babies, and mothers leaving with support in place for all the challenges of new motherhood and the postpartum period.

Amen to that! Come back tomorrow for part two of my Q&A with the amazing Fearless Formula Feeder. Suzanne will be talking about the pressures new moms feel when it comes to breastfeeding, the problems with the catchphrase “Breast is best” and more.

BIO: Suzanne Barston is the author of Bottled Up: How the Way We Feed Babies Has Come to Define Motherhood, and Why It Shouldn’t and the creator of the “Fearless Formula Feeder” website and community. Barston was raised just outside of Boston and earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Northwestern University. A former freelance writer, she now lives in the northwest suburbs of Chicago with her husband and children, and works as a corporate content producer. Her writing and work with FFF has been featured in the New York Times, the Huffington Post, SheKnows, Babble, Pregnancy & Newborn Magazine, Parenting, Babytalk, OhBaby!, Fit Pregnancy, The Observer, Yahoo Shine!, Australia’s Good Weekend magazine, and on a variety of radio programs including KPCC’s “Take Two”, numerous NPR affiliates, “Parenting Unplugged”, “Positive Parenting”, “Mom Enough”, “For Crying Out Loud”, “Voice of Russia”, and more.

How Mommy-Friendly Is The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative?

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A mom delivers her second child at a local hospital and decides to try formula after her baby girl struggles to latch. She informs the lactation consultant about her decision to feed her baby half a bottle of formula and asks for a remedy for her sore nipples. When the lactation consultant suggests coconut oil, the mom expresses concern over her baby ingesting it while she breastfeeds. The lactation consultants responds, “You already destroyed her gut by feeding her formula. What’s it matter if she has some coconut oil?” The same mom, who has now been up for over 24 hours, later begs the nurses to take her newborn to the nursery so she can get a few hours of rest. They tell her no, hardly check in on her, and as a result, she falls asleep while breastfeeding her baby. Thankfully, no harm comes to the child. I’m not saying the two are linked, but this mom is diagnosed with postpartum depression shortly after going home from the hospital.

Another mom delivers her first son at the same hospital. During her pregnancy, she makes the decision to both pump and formula feed because she will return to work (her own business) soon after delivery. While getting ready to feed her new baby, the nurse drops off a breast pump and tells her she probably won’t be successful with it, gives her a log and some diapers, and tells her to write down when she changes and feeds him. The mom repeatedly asks for formula and is met with an eye roll from the nurse who tells her she will bring it when she can get to it.

Mom is in tears when her sister arrives at the hospital two hours later. She is so overwhelmed from the lack of care and the harsh treatment she experiences after requesting formula that she requests early release because she would rather fend for herself at home than stay at the hospital any longer. She tells me: “As soon as I told them I wasn’t breastfeeding they pretty much wrote me off. The nurse told me that since I was supplementing, I should feed him every 4-5 hours. The first night home, he screamed the entire night because he was starving. When our baby nurse came, she told me he was supposed to eat every 2-3 hours. I felt like I was set up to fail before I even left the hospital.”

Not all nurses at this hospital greet their patients with eye rolls and judgement. Another mom delivers her third son at this same hospital via C-section. After delivery, her baby refuses to latch so mom, with the help of her nurse, decides to pump and supplement with formula. Her nurse is compassionate, supportive, and helps the baby latch better than anyone else. She tries to be helpful and find what works for this mom of three no matter what method of feeding that might be. At night, mom asks the nurse to take her son to the nursery so she can rest, the nurse agrees and even feeds him some formula.

But the following morning, after a shift change, a new nurse comes in looking annoyed to see mom pumping. The nurse tells her that no lactation consultant would have suggested giving as much formula as she did because it would make the baby extremely fussy. Mom speaks up and tells the nurse her son is the happiest he’s been since his arrival because he isn’t starving anymore. That she is doing what she needs to do because she has no interest in fighting with a screaming baby to latch when she has two other boys at home to take care of as well. The same nurse proceeds to take away his pacifier because if the baby wants to suck on something, it should be on mom’s breast. Mom assertively asks the nurse to leave.

What do these three moms all have in common? They delivered their most recent children at a hospital that has adopted the Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative. The Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative (BFHI) was launched by UNICEF and the World Health Organization in 1991 to promote breastfeeding as the normal way for infants to be nourished and encourage mother-baby bonding. While the initiative has been around for almost 20 years, it has gained momentum in the last several years with more hospitals adopting its 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding that include: on demand breastfeeding, no pacifiers or artificial nipples, and rooming in where mothers are no longer allowed to send their newborns to the nursery so they can get some much needed rest and recovery.

I delivered my son at this same hospital almost four years ago, before they fully adopted the initiative. I breastfed my son right after he was born following an extremely long labor that ultimately resulted in a C-section. He latched so easily and ate for almost 45 minutes. I thought in that moment, “Wow, this breastfeeding thing is going to be so easy.” It wasn’t. I tried pumping in the hospital but supplemented with formula often. I used a pacifier when he got fussy. I sent my baby to the nursery for a few hours during each day and every night where the nurses fed him formula so I could sleep. They did so willingly, without judgment and checked in on me often.

Clearly, I do not fit the “Baby-Friendly” criteria, so does this make me and all moms who choose to formula feed, use pacifiers, and send their babies to the nursery horrible mothers? Does this mean we are not “Baby-Friendly” mommies? 403 hospitals across the United States might argue yes. I also quit breastfeeding and went the exclusively formula route after five days when I was hit with a severe case of postpartum depression. What would the lactation consultants say about that? I chose to take care of my health as the best way to take care of my baby. And he never starved.

Why are we judging and shaming moms before they even step foot outside the hospital? Shouldn’t the care and support of the mother, her health, and that of her baby combined be the first priority rather than the immediate and obsessive promotion of breastfeeding? The best way to take care of a new baby is to take care of his or her mother too. It seems that the more “Baby-Friendly” hospitals become, the less “Mommy-Friendly” they tend to be.

The mom above who fell asleep while breastfeeding her infant daughter could have rolled over and suffocated her. The baby could have fallen out of the bed. This new mom was beyond exhausted and the simple solution of taking the baby to the nursery for a few hours could have prevented an almost-tragedy and the guilt she suffered from ever occurring. How many other moms have experienced the same or even fell while holding their babies because they were given no opportunity to rest and recover after the depleting, mind and body-shattering experience of labor?

New moms are tired, have been awake for hours upon hours, are taking strong pain medication, and many have undergone major surgery. Then they’re, “Hey, I hope you’re ready to stay up even longer because your baby will be in this room with you 24-7 and if you’re not kept awake from the crying, you will be from obsessing over every noise, breath, and movement your new little one makes.”

While you do all this, try to ignore the excruciating pain you might be feeling from those stitches holding your stomach together. And by the way, we are doing this so you have the best possible chance to bond with, breastfeed and learn the cues of your new little one because that is what our hospital believes makes you a good mother. Good mothers would never send their babies to the nursery. If you send them to the nursery, you will have trouble bonding. You won’t pick up on their cues that let you know when they’re hungry.

Say goodbye to your confidence if you can’t seem to make this work and hello to the guilt you will now feel from believing you are a shitty mother, a view that you will probably follow you home from the hospital and shape your early experiences as a mother.

The mom who asked for her third son to go to the nursery overnight and talked back to the nurse who judged her for pumping and pacifier use knew how to advocate for herself. This was her third go around. What about first time moms who don’t and take what they are told by their nurses and lactations consultants to be the right and only acceptable way to feed and care for their babies? Hospitals and their staff should be cultivating an environment of support and choice, rather than one that makes women feel ashamed or like failures when they struggle to meet the unfair expectation that “good mothers are the ones who exclusively breastfeed and want their babies by their sides at all times.” They need to empower new moms to make their health and recovery a priority.

Having a little bit of rest and knowing your baby is safe and well-cared for in the nursery can make a world of difference for a new mom. Moms who feel well-rested and cared for have more energy to make the effort to breastfeed even when it’s a struggle. They are more awake and alert and can fully engage in bonding with their babies when they aren’t fighting off the overwhelming exhaustion from not being able to recover after giving birth.

Is the “Baby-Friendly Initiative” successful in its endeavor to increase the number of moms who wish to exclusively breastfeed or is it only acting to increase the pressure on the ones who can’t or don’t want to? Why are lactation consultants and nurses, who should be there to educate and help new moms in a loving, supportive manor judging and shaming them instead? Do pacifiers actually get in the way of successful breastfeeding? Does rooming in really increase the likelihood of new moms to exclusively breastfeed? Or does the initiative simply shame moms for choosing alternative methods of feeding as well as decrease the level of safe care for infants by not having a nursery to send them to?

What is the opposite of baby-friendly? Does using the term “Baby-Friendly” imply that any mother who doesn’t follow the initiative’s guidelines is not? How do we think that will make a new mom feel? No mom deserves to be accused of not being “baby-friendly” because of how she chooses to feed and bond with her new baby.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to motherhood. I wasn’t breastfed. My husband wasn’t breastfed. Together we made a pretty incredible baby boy, who was breastfed for only five days before he lived exclusively on formula. Did I mention how intelligent, funny, and compassionate he is? He also has no food allergies, doesn’t get sick very often, and has had one ear infection in his four-year life.

My good friend, Jennifer Bronsnick, a social worker on a mission to redefine what it means to be a “good mom” by inspiring mothers to make make mindful living, self-care and pleasure a daily habit, sums it up perfectly. “The purpose of Baby-Friendly Hospitals is to encourage bonding and breastfeeding, which as long as it allows mothers to rest before going home is a fantastic thing. However, breastfeeding can be wonderful OR it can be torture and lead to moms feeling inadequate and exhausted. As a mom of three and a licensed professional, I can say with certainty that it should be the mother’s choice whether she wants to breastfeed, bottle feed, co-sleep, send the baby to the nursery, have visitors, use a swaddle, use a pacifier and any other non-medical decision regarding infant care. In the hospital, mothers need to be empowered with accurate information about postpartum mood and anxiety, the benefits of breastfeeding and given adequate support so she has all she needs to heal her mind, body, and spirit after giving birth. All you have to do to be a ‘good mom’ is to feed your baby.”

My First Video Interview: Does Balance Really Exist?

Hey mommas! I'm so honored to share my first video interview with you. Please ignore the messy hair and lack of makeup, but I didn't have much time to get ready. Four-year olds don't give a shit about their mom's appointments and mine decided to move at a sloth-like pace that morning before school. At least I was able to shower so that was a win! I think the lesson the here is that it's better to show up as you are and accept yourself as you are. Plus, pretending to always be so put together is just way too much effort. And I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted enough as it is. I just don't have the energy for that. Anyway, on to the interview. I had the honor of talking to mompreneur Bree Whitlock, founder of The Easy Breezy Way, about achieving balance as a mom and entrepreneur.

I'm not sure balance even exists. Are you? How do you achieve balance as a mom? Let me know in the comments!

Why As a Mom, I Don’t Believe In Living a Child-Centric Life

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“The greatest tragedy of the family is the unlived lives of the parents.” –C.G. Jung

I'm putting a different spin on this year's Mother's Day themed post. For Mother's day, I'm discussing what I will NOT be doing for my child, what's NOT my job, and why.

I know many of you are gasping just from reading the title of this article, but if you would put the pitchforks down for just a minute, I can explain.

I love my child. I love him so much it can be overwhelming, even scary at times. So much it keeps me up at night as my mind races with all the “what ifs,” hopes for his happiness, and prayers I’m not screwing him up. So much that I want him to always be successful and have whatever he needs and wants.

But as I reflect on my son turning 4 this past month, I’ve realized he can’t just have everything handed to him, and certainly not by me. That’s not my job as his mother. My job as his mom is to love him unconditionally, make sure he feels safe, that he belongs, and provide him with the coaching and tools he needs to learn to advocate for himself and what he needs so he can create his own path to happiness and success.

I can’t and won’t make my child the center of my world and wrap my entire identity around his accomplishments. Placing the entire responsibility of his happiness and success on my shoulders is an enormous burden for one woman to carry.

It’s not always easy, especially because I more than like to be in control, but there are so many reasons for why I am choosing to live this way.

First, when I give everything I have to my child, over-involve myself in his academics and activities, and obsess about his achievements, I have nothing left for myself or my husband. How can I give my son a happy family where he feels safe and secure when my marriage is hanging by a thread resulting from the stress of over-parenting?

Having two tired, overwhelmed, disconnected parents who fight and are starved for affection benefits nobody and our child will suffer for it. I would rather model what a healthy, balanced, fulfilling relationship looks like. That includes regular date nights and taking trips whether they be romantic getaways with my husband or girls’ weekends while he stays home with a with a family member or babysitter.

I have also learned that I can’t do motherhood by myself. And honestly, I don’t want to. When I struggle with something, I speak up. If I don’t know the answer to something, I ask. If I need help, I admit it.

I want my son to see there is no weakness in asking for help. That advocating for yourself and asking for what you need makes you strong.

One day when my son is older, I will tell him about how I battled postpartum depression during the first year of his life and needed help to take care of him. I will share with him how I fought my way to get better and came out stronger, braver, and happier on the other side. And most importantly, how I learned to ask for what I need, accept my imperfections, share my struggle with others, and not feel ashamed about any of it.

I want to be the adult I’m teaching my son to be. A strong, independent, compassionate, hard-worker who lives life with passion and purpose. An individual who isn’t afraid to be vulnerable, struggle, and fail. He needs to see his parent fail and rise up again so he understands that failures are unavoidable and necessary parts of life that can be overcome with a positive attitude and resilience.

These parts of life where we fall down or suffer tragedy are where we grow and learn. I won’t protect him from everything because I know that I can’t. Doing so would cause him a great disservice because he would miss out on the growing and learning. He needs to know that he will fail and make mistakes and that’s okay because he is human. The accepting of his failures, taking ownership of his mistakes, and finding the lessons in each is where integrity and character are built.

One day my son will be an adult and leave the house to travel down his own path. What will I be left with if my whole identity has been the acting supervisor of every single aspect of his life? How would I hold a conversation with my husband if all we have talked about for the past several years is our son? How would we remain connected when we put our marriage on the back burner to do his homework, write essays for college applications, and obsessively focus on the schools he needed to go to, sports he needed to play, clubs he needed to not only join, but lead and create? And all in preparation for the top tier college we decided he would attend (while forgetting to even ask him is that’s what he wanted in the first place).

On that day, I know I will cry all the tears I have, but I will also feel proud from knowing I raised my son to be a man who can depend on himself. Because when he comes home with a bad grade on a test, we will talk about why that happened, if he feels he deserved that grade, and what he could do differently the next time. I won’t blame the teacher.

If he feels the grade was given unfairly, I will coach him to have his own conversation with the teacher. When he decides he needs to drop a class, I will listen to his reasons and let him make his own decision, even if it’s hard to let go of what I believe is best for him. I will let him make that choice. When he leaves his term paper until the night before, I will bring him a snack while he stays awake to finish it, but I won’t write it for him while he goes to bed. When he forgets his science notebook with his homework in it at home, he will have to take the incomplete. I will not immediately stop what I’m doing to bring it to him.

When he gets benched during a sports game and doesn’t know why, we will practice what he will say to his coach to find out why. I will not show up to the field screaming in the coach’s face that my kid doesn’t deserve such treatment. When he has a disagreement with a friend, we will also practice what he can say to resolve it. I won’t call the friend’s parent and fix it for him.

When he decides he wants to quit a sport to make more time for a club, I won’t push my agenda on him. I will listen to him and let him have the final say in what he wants to do. When he decides to study abroad in a foreign country, he will get all the information he needs, fill out all the applications and forms himself and ask me for what he needs. I won’t call and ask about parent orientation because obviously there is no parent orientation.

If I’ve done my job as his mom, he will always know he can tell me anything and ask for my help and support. When he faces any obstacle that might present itself as he gets older, he will have learned the tools to face and overcome them. When he makes the mistakes that he will definitely make as he ages, he will understand that we are not our mistakes, but we learn from them and move on.

Also, I refuse to be that mom who accompanies my son to job interviews, negotiates his first contract, calls his boss to request his cubicle be moved away from the co-worker he doesn’t get along with, and ask if he can take more vacation time because he seems stressed and overworked. I won’t have to. He will be able to do all of that for himself!

This post originally appeared on Huffington Post.

Stigma Sucks!

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Stigma sucks. Stigma is the reason so many moms don’t talk about postpartum depression. The reason they struggle in silence. The reason they don’t ask for help and get the treatment they need to get better. The reason they would rather pretend life is perfect. The reason they take their own lives. Did you know that of the hundreds of thousands of women who suffer from a postpartum mood disorder, only 15 percent of them get treated? How heartbreaking and outrageous is that? 1 in 7 women who give birth each year experience symptoms resulting from a postpartum mood disorder. That’s close to 1 million women annually having some form of mental illness after the birth of their babies and close to 850,000 women not receiving the help they need to get better. That’s way TOO MANY women. Postpartum Progresss, Inc. reports that more women will suffer from postpartum depression and related illnesses in a year than the combined number of new cases for men and women of tuberculosis, leukemia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimers disease, lupus, and epilepsy. I bet people with these illnesses usually admit they are sick and seek professional care.

Yet, women with postpartum depression, a real and treatable illness, deny themselves the support they need. Whether or not they realize their illness is temporary and gets better with treatment, they don’t want anyone to know how they are feeling. Why does this happen? The answer is: stigma. Why don’t all moms understand they have a common illness that so many other moms get too? Stigma. Why don’t they talk about their experiences after they do get better? Stigma. Why aren’t women educated about postpartum depression and its risk factors during pregnancy? Stigma.

When I got pregnant, I knew exactly the type of mother I would be. Unfortunately my vision of motherhood was based on the “Pinterest Mom.” Facebook and Instagram pictures of moms always smiling with and gushing over their children made me think that every mom experienced feelings of euphoria and an intense, all-consuming love when their babies were born. Even moms I knew would talk about the arrival of their baby and becoming a mother as the most amazing, magical moment of their lives.

I had no clue I might feel overwhelmed, exhausted, sad, anxious, and indifferent to my newborn because no one told me those feelings often come with new motherhood too. I couldn’t understand why I didn’t feel the magic when my son was born. Or why I thought I had made a terrible mistake becoming a mom. Or why I wanted to stay in bed for the rest of my life and had no interest in bonding with that adorable little boy in the next room. Why was everybody winning at motherhood while I miserably failed? What was wrong with me? And what would everyone else think about me when they learned about my feelings?

These negative beliefs are why so many women with postpartum depression keep it to themselves. Because of these fairy tale stories of motherhood they assume to be true, they think there is something wrong with them when their version doesn’t fit. They don’t want anyone to know they don’t feel flooded with joy about the arrival of their babies. They don’t want to admit they don’t immediately feel connected to their babies. They feel ashamed and don’t want to be judged, so they choose to suffer in silence and fake a smile instead.

What if we could change this? What if we started talking about postpartum depression more? What if we actively spread awareness about just how common maternal mental illness is and the treatment options that are available? What if we stopped pretending? What if we shared with each other the difficult, messy parts of motherhood and honestly acknowledged our struggles? What if we stopped believing moms are supposed to be perfect and capable of doing everything by themselves? What if we started promoting the idea that it’s okay to ask for help because raising a child actually does take a village and we all need to find ours?

We could bring awareness to the experience of having postpartum depression. We could lessen the stigma and eventually cause it to disappear. Moms wouldn’t have to be afraid of being judged for having a postpartum mood disorder. They wouldn’t feel ashamed. They wouldn’t feel alone. They would feel comfortable asking for help and accepting treatment. They would recognize their symptoms, understand the cause of their feelings, and know what to do about them. They would get better and want to share their experiences to help and educate others. Lives would be saved.

Various dictionaries define stigma as “a mark” of some sort. A mark of shame. A mark of discredit. A mark of disgrace. Let’s change the definition. Let’s be the definers because why should anyone else standing on the outside of our story—our struggle—our pain get even the slightest say in the meaning of what we are going through.

When almost one million moms experience some form of postpartum depression each year, it shows we are not alone. We are in amazing company. We are in it together. We can be brave together and strong for each other. We can swap out the mark of shame for the mark of a warrior mom. The mark of a woman who asks for help when she needs it, fights to get better, and courageously tells her story to normalize the struggle for those that come after her.

When It Comes To Playing Parenthood As A Team Sport, Why Do Dads Do It Better?

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I’m probably going to get some slack for writing this article, but I want to discuss a parenting phenomenon I’ve observed too often lately. Why is it so much easier for dads to hire help and make their lives easier when watching their children? Why don’t they appear to feel guilty about this? And why do we, as moms judge and criticize them for it? I know lots of moms, that when they make plans with friends for an afternoon or evening, their husbands often call a nanny, babysitter, or family member to come over and help with the kids. And when mom hears this, she responds with anger and frustration, complaining that she doesn’t understand why her husband can’t handle taking care of all the children alone, something she does every single day of the week.

I want to first differentiate between the men who are literally never alone with their children and refuse to be, forcing their wives to never be able to take a trip, attend a special event, or a night off with the girls unless they arrange for their own child care. I’m not talking about these men. That topic deserves its own post. I’m referring to the average hands-on, involved dad who likes an extra set of hand with his kids when mom isn’t home. Why shouldn’t these dads ask for help if they believe it will make their afternoon or evening easier?

Why don’t we ask for help more often (if we can afford it) to make our mornings, afternoons or evenings easier? And when we do, why are we always explaining it to everyone else? We spend so much time justifying our need to have a part-time nanny or ask the babysitter to work extra hours when our partners travel or work long hours rather than just accepting that we don’t need to do everything by ourselves and it’s perfectly okay to have a team to help make the experience of parenting solo less exhausting and overwhelming.

Some moms might want their husbands to experience exactly what they go through every day with their children—the feedings, the diaper-changing, the wiping, the cleaning up of snot and spit up, the neediness, the nagging, the questions, the laundry, the cleaning, the negotiating, the constant entertaining, the nap refusals, the cooking, the being a tiny human’s “snack bitch.” They want them to feel what it’s like to sometimes want to lock yourself in a closet and pretend you can’t hear anyone calling out for you. I get it. There are many times when my husband returns from a business trip and I want him to know about and greatly appreciate everything I have done for and with his child while he was away, but is it right that I want him to feel the miserable parts in addition to the good ones?

Shouldn’t we want our spouse’s lives to be easier if it’s possible? Aren’t we entitled to make our own lives easier if possible? I have a feeling our spouses want to make our lives easier when they can. And don’t we often benefit when they call for help? I bet there is a better chance all that laundry is getting done, folded and put away if the nanny comes over. Perhaps when you get home your children’s lunches will be made for school the next day because the babysitter did it. The house might look a little cleaner and a bit more organized because your mother-in-law was there while you were out. Is any of that really so bad? Does it really deserve that eye-roll you gave when you left?

Moms, are you telling me honestly, that if offered and it can be afforded from time to time, that you wouldn’t say yes to an extra hand to help with the kids in favor of just doing it all by yourself? I know you can do it by yourself. You’re a woman and a mom. You’re amazing. Of course you can, but why should you have to? What do you think you have to prove? Does it bring you joy? Or would you rather be able to achieve a balance on some days that allows you to take care of your own needs, which might include letting someone else tend to the kids and household chores for once.

It really does take a village. Having someone come over to help us and give us a break doesn’t make us terrible mothers or mean we don’t love and want to spend time with our children. It just means that we are tired and are taking some well-deserved time-off, even if it’s only for a few hours. We have nothing to feel guilty about. I can almost guarantee that your partner is not rolling his eyes or complaining to his friends about this.

So why do we, as women struggle so much with this? Why do we think we have to do it all and without any assistance? Why do we care what others think about the team we employ to help us take care of our children? A good friend of mine who works as an executive and life coach once told me that she believes the main thing holding women back in business is permission. It’s almost as if they are waiting for someone else to give them permission to do something. Men don’t generally have that issue. They just go out make it happen, ask for what they need and keep moving forward without too much concern. If they bump into a roadblock, they figure out how to get around whatever has gotten in their way.

The same could possibly be applied to motherhood in many ways, especially with this concept of having a team of some sort that makes our lives just a little more manageable. It’s as if we need permission to have heIp. We need someone else to tell us it’s okay before we ask. And when we get overwhelmed and need it, we would rather do everything by ourselves than figure out how to navigate around our roadblocks like these men in business do, often the same men we are married to who don’t hesitate when making that call to the sitter.

I am a stay at home mom who is fortunate enough and beyond grateful to have a part-time nanny. My husband travels a lot for business and neither of our mothers live close by (I’m still justifying the fact that I have help even as I write this article). When my son was younger and my husband was away for days at a time, I would often ask our nanny to stay later to help me with the bath and bedtime routine. I still ask her to stay later sometimes when he travels for more than a few days at a time, especially when it’s over a weekend.

While I still sometimes find myself explaining and justifying to other people why I have part-time help when I don’t work, I stopped feeling guilty about my choices a long time ago. I don’t need to ask permission. I’m comfortable admitting that parenting is hard and I don’t always want to do it by myself. It doesn’t make me a less capable mother because I hire help or a horrible one because I want to make my life easier. I don’t resent my husband when he wants make his life easier as well. And we both want to make the other’s life easier when possible.

Moms, let’s stop criticizing our husbands for asking for what they want and start imitating their behavior. Let’s put an end to measuring our worth as mothers by how much we do and giving into the belief that we have to do it all by ourselves. If anyone deserves to have the nanny or babysitter come over for a few hours when you’re home alone with all the kids, have endless piles of laundry to sort through, lunches to be made, and dinners to be prepared, it’s you. You absolutely don’t need it, but you have my permission to call and ask for help!

6 Reasons Why I Think My Kid’s Birthday Is My Birthday Too

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My son turned four this past weekend. For his first birthday, I went big. As a mom who sucks at crafting, I found my inspiration on Pinterest and paid people on Etsy to execute my vision of Mason’s little man birthday bash complete with bowties, mustaches, musical entertainment, photo booth, and of course, signature cocktails served in mason jars. Everyone knows a child’s first birthday party is actually for the parents to celebrate surviving the first year of parenthood, where they have successfully kept the tiny human they are now responsible for alive. They have figured out how to fit showers into their daily routines, become accustomed to regularly getting spit up on, peed on, shit on, caught throw up with their bare hands, and if they’re lucky, the accomplished the amazing and life-changing task of getting their child to sleep through the night.

I didn’t stop celebrating myself after Mason’s first birthday. Why should I? I never take any attention away from him. I don’t get presents. It’s his birthday. His party. But there are little things I do each year for me too, because his parties always serve as a reminder of the first one, where I can remember stopping to think that “Wow. I’m a mom--Mason’s mom, and I got this whole motherhood thing.”

Here are five reasons why I think my son’s birthday is my birthday too.

  1. The day my son was born was also the day I became a mother. It’s my birth day into the world of motherhood.
  1. I always choose that day as one to break with whatever diet I happen to be on at that time to binge on cake—lots of cake.
  1. It might be the day of his birth, but it’s also the day I labored with him for 24 hours, tried to push him out of my vagina for two of them, and ultimately had my stomach sliced open so he could come into the world. That deserves at least a very large piece of cake.
  1. What I wear is almost just as important as what he wears. Each year I buy myself a brand new outfit, something fabulous that matches the theme of his party if there is one. Thorough research is done and approval is sought from best mom friends who do the same. Last year’s purchase? A Marcus Lupfer sequined Mickey Mouse sweater (on sale thank god) for his Mickey Mouse Clubhouse bash and a tutu.
  1. I serve alcohol at his birthday parties. I sip on a cocktail or wine while his friends and he sip on their organic juice boxes. Parents, you’re welcome for this.
  1. I take a moment to pause, look around at my son with all of our family and friends, and feel grateful for him and that I get to be his mother. That it’s been another year since I got healthy. Another year since I fought to overcome the postpartum depression that convinced me I didn’t even want to be a mother.

Stop Feeling Guilty About Girls' Weekends. You NEED Them!

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Every year, my college best friends and I get together for a girls' weekend. We kiss our kids and husbands goodbye, some of us leave written schedules and directions, and spend at least one night together away in a hotel, usually in New York City. New York City is the most convenient location for the four of us moms who all have young kids and are spread out among the East Coast. One night is usually more realistic for all parties involved because you know--husbands--motherhood--kids--life. I look forward to this weekend every year. As it approaches, I start counting the minutes. The excitement builds. The number of group texts increases. What are we wearing? How many Soul Cycle classes are we taking? Who is booking the spa treatments? Where are we going for dinner? Definitely somewhere we can dress up in the clothes we own but never have any place to wear them to.

I can't wait for the reminiscing, the laughter, the catching up, the deep conversations, the getting ready all together in the same room like it was during college, and the staying up late and sleeping in (if you count 8:30 am as sleeping in). While we're on the subject of sleeping, I can't wait to not have to wake up to anyone asking me for anything. To not have to fight with anyone about what's for lunch. To not have to enter into any negotiations or diffuse any meltdowns. To not have to share my ice cream! And to enjoy a glass of wine without interruption! Go to the bathroom alone! And most importantly, to not feel guilty about any of it!

This year the four of us somehow managed to pull off a full weekend in Boston, the city where we all met back in 1999! We coordinated schedules with our husbands', prayed none of our kids got sick, travelled from three different cities, and got ourselves there in time for the 7pm showing of Fifty Shades Darker to kick off the weekend...because who else would you want to watch a soft-core porn love story with? We crowded into our hotel room with two beds and two cots and ordered too much room service. We sweat it out at Soul Cycle, visited Tufts University and the sorority house that brought us all together. We hired a glam squad to do our hair and makeup before Saturday night dinner, dressed up for dinner in the stuff moms never get to wear, and had grand visions of drinking too much and staying out too late before brunching and saying our goodbyes on Sunday morning.

And then what really happened is this: while drinking our two drinks each at dinner, we realized we spent more time getting ready for dinner than we actually spent at dinner, which culminated in us heading back to our hotel, changing into pajamas, and having ice cream delivered so we could eat it in bed, and keep laughing and telling the stories we could remember from "the good old days." Of course it was magical!

There are a few reasons why I think we were finally able to pull off a true weekend away together. Our kids are getting older and therefore, easier. Our husbands are all hands on and wonderful, but that probably makes them more willing and excited about 48 hours alone with the kids. The kids don't need as much. They are more self-sufficient. They have activities, birthday parties, and weekend schedules that keep them busy and tire them out for bedtime. Also, perhaps each of us feel less guilty leaving our babies for a longer period of time because they aren't really babies anymore. Finally, we are all exhausted, need a break, and crave some care-free girl time that lasts longer than a few hours and reminds us of who are in addition to "being mommy."

I stopped feeling guilty about leaving my husband and son for a weekend away a long time ago. Maybe it was going through postpartum depression, but I learned the importance of self-care and taking time for myself very early on. For me, taking time away with the girls and without guilt, like I did this past weekend allows me to recharge and just be me. I'm not responsible for anything or anyone except my own relaxation. Maybe some parents would label this behavior as selfish, but I would argue the opposite.

Every mom needs to get away once in a while with their girlfriends. Time to relax. Time to catch up on sleep. Time to pee alone. Time to play. Time to laugh. Time to dress up and go out to a meal where you can actually eat your food. Time to commiserate about the stresses of motherhood. Time to forget about the stresses of motherhood. There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking this time for yourself. You need it. You should never have to apologize for it. It's important for your kids to see you caring for yourself and making your happiness and sanity a priority. Wanting to escape for a little while doesn't make you a bad mom.

I can't even begin to describe how this past weekend made me feel. It wasn't guilt about leaving my family. It was happiness and gratitude to be able to spend time with some of the people who know me best. They knew I was going to do something before I did it. They joked about the "not-so fitted" clothing I always pack. They made fun of the things I still do that I did almost twenty years ago when we went to school together. They reminded me that while some things change, some things never do and there is something so comforting about that. That when being a mom, wife, sister, daughter, and all the other roles I'm responsible for feel like too much, I'm still also that girl from years ago who just likes to have dance parties and drink wine with her girlfriends, tell stories, be silly, and laugh.

I've had these friends for almost twenty years. We lived together. We've been with each other through some tough shit. We knew each other before motherhood. They stuck with me through postpartum depression. They know my insides and love me anyway. They are never afraid to tell me the truth. They are strong women and amazing mothers and my best friends. And we need our best friends. They are our lifelines in a different way than our partners, which is why sometimes we need a friendly reminder that it's more than okay to tell them they will be in charge of the kids for a few days while you go recharge and have fun with the girls.

Written For Suburban Misfit Mom: A Letter to My Pregnant Self

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Dear Pregnant Jen, There is so much I wish I could tell you before you go into labor on that first night of Passover, March 25, 2016. Yes, you will go into labor during the first night of Seder while sitting at a table with 30 of your closest Jewish family members. Papa will be asking, “Why is this night different from all other nights,” and it most definitely is as you simultaneously death grip squeeze your sister’s hand under the table, time your contractions on your iPhone, text a close mom friend who informs you to “call the fucking doctor,” and realize that not only do your contractions not conform to the 5 minutes apart pattern you learned about in birth class, but nothing about labor and delivery is anything like you’ve seen on television or in the movies.

I regret to inform you that you won’t sneeze and gracefully pop a tiny human out of your vagina like Brooklyn Decker in What to Expect When You’re Expecting. You also won’t look pretty, perfect, and polished like Brooklyn Decker during and after the delivery of your baby. Swollen, stoned, and sleep-deprived is more like it.

Let’s start there. Labor is unpredictable and doesn’t always go according to plan. In fact, the word plan really has no business being in the same sentence as the words birth and baby. Your baby is going to do what he wants. He gives zero fucks about your plans, not while he is in your belly and not when he comes out. He doesn’t care that you want his bris to be after Passover so guests can enjoy their lox and cream cheese on bagels rather than matzo. It won’t matter to him that the best mohel in town might be on vacation (although he should because…it’s his penis getting snipped). And he really doesn’t give a shit that you want to do everything in your power to avoid a C-section and have him the old-fashioned way.

You think you will need to do whatever you can during labor to avoid a C-section. This won’t be a concern beforehand because your baby will never be breeched. You make this decision based on advice and information from a close mom friend. Don’t listen. You will labor for 24 hours, push for two of them, and end up in the operating room where your baby will be evicted from your belly anyway.

The next morning, when another slightly older and wiser mom friend comes to visit you and baby, she will inform you. “I knew you were having a C-section two hours in. Look on the bright side–all your lady parts are still intact–nothing wrong with a C-section.” She is right and you will come to love your C-section. It will never make you any less of a mother.

Your future therapist will tell you that a long, difficult labor is a risk factor for postpartum depression. Remember early on in your pregnancy, when one of your best friends asked if you worried about any “postpartum depression stuff” and you replied without hesitation, “Of course not. That would never happen to me. I’m so excited to have this baby.” Well it does happen to you, almost the minute you get home from the hospital, and you are anything but excited about having a baby.

You will spend the first 6 months of your baby’s life fighting what seems like an insurmountable battle. You will think you made a terrible mistake becoming a mother, experience paralyzing anxiety, attend weekly therapy appointments, take anti-depressants, cry, and sleep…a lot. But you will also find a strength in yourself that you didn’t know existed. You will fight and at 6 months, the Jen everyone knows and loves will start to return. By a year, you will love your son and have kicked postpartum depression’s ass. You will continue to go to therapy and take medicine, but that’s okay because both make you a better mom. You feel no shame about this. You learn to accept yourself as the mom you are, not the one you thought you would be.

You will spend pregnancy envisioning this mom that you think you will be–a fairy tale where you transform into a supermom, domestic goddess, breastfeeding champion, professional baby food maker, and lover of all Pinterest projects. I wish you I could tell you that your fairy tale comes true. It doesn’t.

All throughout your pregnancy, you tell people you are going to try breastfeeding your son. You will pretend to have no expectations, but really you picture yourself becoming a breastfeeding master—one of those moms who loves the bonding time feedings bring, whose baby latches with ease, and whose weight melts off because, well, “I’m breastfeeding.” What you don’t know is that these moms are basically mythical creatures. Just because you know one or two moms like this out of millions, doesn’t mean that those moms don’t have their own struggles too.

Initially you think you will be one of these unicorn moms because your baby latches and eats like a pro right after delivery. That’s the only time he does. He will struggle to latch and when he does he won’t stay that way, resulting in cries and screams of frustration from both of you. Your naked boobs won’t be off limits to anyone—lactations consultants and family members included.

You will stop breastfeeding after five days of motherhood as a result of the intervention of your own mom, mother-in-law, and a coalition of their Northern mom friends who bluntly tell you to, “Fuck breastfeeding. None of us breastfed our babies and they were all healthy children and are now thriving adults who also decided not to breastfeed their babies. You need to take care of yourself to be able to take care of your baby.” For a few days you will feel like you failed at something that was supposed to come so naturally to a woman, but eventually you will realize these moms are right. And you will come to understand and preach that there is no point in a mom making herself miserable to do something that makes her feel miserable. Formula is more than acceptable. Your son will still be intelligent, have no allergies, and less than one ear infection by the time he is three.

Nothing about breastfeeding and certainly nothing about motherhood comes easy to anyone. Listen to your mom when she tells you that those that say otherwise are “full of shit.” As you learned above, postpartum depression will lead you to realize that motherhood nothing like what you thought it would be.

As I finish up this letter, I’m wondering if I really do want you to know these things after all. Because not knowing them has made you who you are today—the authentic, courageous, strong, independent, warrior mom of the most incredible almost four-year old boy who you love more than you thought you could ever love anything in this world.

You don’t get your fairy tale of motherhood, but what you become is so much better. You are a fierce, confident, loving, compassionate mom. A fighter. A woman who feels empowered, knows who she is, discovers her voice and uses it to help others. Someone who isn’t ashamed of her mental health. Someone who doesn’t make apologies for the choices that are right for her. And an advocate for other moms to be the same. I don’t think I would have it any other way.

With authenticity, gratitude, and love,

Jen (almost four years later)

This post originally appeared at Suburban Misfit Mom.

P.S. Want to share this? I'd be honored! Copy and paste this link: https://wp.me/p7MrIL-qN and thank you! Sharing my work is the nicest compliment you could possibly give me. ~xo, Jen

A Weekend with Handel Group Or How I Realized I Wasn’t As Bad-Ass As I Thought, But I Can Be…

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I recently attended a Design Your Life (DYL) Weekend with Handel Group in New York City. I went in thinking how easy it would be for me, that I would rock it, make it my bitch, if you will. I mean, I’m pretty evolved, aren’t I? I’ve battled and overcome a year of postpartum depression. As a result, I’ve found my identity, purpose, and a level of authenticity many people lack. I decided I was going to become a writer so I did-- and in under a year I have started a blog, grown a fairly decent-sized Facebook Community, been published on over ten online publications, and did a guest spot on my first radio show. I make time for self-care, self-growth, and I read tons of self-help books. According to Jen Sincero, I’m a bad-ass bitch! And on that first day, I still felt pretty bad-ass. I was already familiar with some of Handel Group’s method from attending Campowerment retreats where one of the experts is a Handel coach. I knew about the three voices in my head that prevent me from designing the life I dream of. The weather report that tells me I can’t lose the weight because it’s just too hard to do around the holidays because you know, latkes and donuts. The brat who convinces me I would rather go back to sleep after I drop my son off at preschool over going to a coffee shop to get my daily writing finished. And the chicken who is just too scared to want to do anything at all because what if the end result is failure or rejection?

And then day two happened and yeah, not so bad-ass anymore. I showed up still feeling pretty confident and in just under an hour’s time, I was knocked off my self-imposed pedestal. Did you know that each and every one of your personality traits comes from one of your parents? Even if you think there is no possible way a particular trait was inherited from your mom or dad, in some way or another, it was. I always believed that I was nothing like my parents, especially after how they conducted themselves during their long, dragged out, nasty divorce. That my own marriage has everything to do with my parents since I most likely chose my husband because he provides everything I never got from their relationship. That I couldn’t possibly be like my “avoid anything emotional and hard” father and my “it couldn’t possibly be me” mother. They say we all turn into our mothers eventually. I found that out when my cmy coach suggested I was playing the “innocent victim” card.

To say I was surprised by the coaches’ assessment of me would be an understatement. How could I possibly be an innocent victim with everything I had transformed into and everything I had accomplished in the past year? And then I thought more about everything I had been doing, or not doing in this case. I focus on certain areas of my life because I don’t want to deal with the ones that really need the work. Hello chicken because I’m obviously afraid of what the outcome of diving into those areas would mean.

Everything in my life that couldn’t possibly be my fault is actually on me. I’ve gained so much weight. Maybe I have a thyroid problem or insulin resistance. And who do you think told me to call the doctor about it? My mother of course. It couldn’t possibly be because I just need to put the fork down, could it? I don’t love the city I live in because it’s boring, but have I really tried to experience all it could offer? Not really. I could be having more sex, but do I ever initiate? Not so much. I want to be a best-selling author, but am I writing every day? I think you know the answer.

This might seem like very bad news, but it’s actually good news--because I have 100% control over all of it. Yes, I’m my story, my traits, the bullshit that my parents put me through, and the voices in the head that get in the way of the life I truly want, but it’s MY story and MY life. I can evolve my behaviors and choose the ending. I don’t have to live that story because I’m the author and I get to rewrite it.  I hold the solutions to every one of the problems I want to fix in my life. And how empowering is that? To know that with the right tools, you can design everything--your relationship, career, body, and more. That was the most powerful take away from this weekend. That while I clearly have been playing the part of the innocent victim, I can make a choice to switch my role and become the “connected crusader” (my new nickname for myself that I received in the class) in every area of my life.

So what’s next? Hiring a coach and doing the work to become the woman I thought I already was when I first walked into the room on day one of the Design Your Life Weekend. Because it’s not that I’m not as bad-ass as I thought I was. It’s just that I’m just not as bad-ass as I thought I was, YET.

For more information, schedule a 30 Min Consultation to learn how Handel Group’s coaching programs and services could benefit you. And check out HG's new book, Maybe It’s You for a roadmap on how to cut the crap and design the life of your dreams. Pre-order TODAY.

TGIFM – Thank God It’s Fucking Monday

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Friend: "Jen, TGIM." Me: "TGIM?"

Friend: "Thank God It's Monday!"

Me: "Omg that is how I literally feel all weekend, every weekend. Well most weekends..."

Friend: "So then it's more like TGIFM!"

Me: "Yes! Thank God Its Fucking Monday! I'm definitely going to blog about this."

Before kids, Friday couldn't come soon enough. Do you remember when you thought Friday was right around the corner and then realized, "Fuck, it's only Tuesday!" The worst. I sometimes get envious when I see childless friends post funny TGIF memes on their Instagram and Facebook feeds. Because as a stay at home mom, Friday just means it's one day closer to two whole days of my little one being home all day long and I have to make an effort to keep him busy all day long. And you all know the formula--the longer the child is home equals the more meltdowns to be had.

My husband probably still looks forward to Friday because he gets to be home for two days without the responsibilities and hassles of work, but ugh now I have to keep him busy too! And if we don't have activities (which let's be honest, if I don't schedule them, there will be no activities), then we all feel bored and get on each other's nerves and the weekend goes by even slower.

For me, Mondays are the new Fridays. Before kids, when I was a working woman (I am in no way implying here that being a mom is not a full-time job), I used to loathe Sundays. Just knowing that the weekend was almost over prevented me from truly enjoying that last day of freedom. I usually spent the day doing all the things I put off doing all weekend--laundry, food shopping, making my bed. At some point on Sunday I would also have to make lunch for the next day, again reminding me of the impending doom that was Monday at work. Now on Sundays, the laundry is already done, food shopping is one of our planned activities, and making lunch means my child is off to school the following day! Halle-FREAKING-lujah!

The anxiety of having to show up at work for another five days usually set in every Sunday around 6 pm. Now on Sundays at 6 pm, I'm cheering in my head, "90 minutes until bed time! When he wakes up it will be Monday again!"

Mondays mean routine. And if you know me, you know I love being in my routine. It means my son gets dropped off at preschool for the day and I have all day to myself--I get to do whatever I want--just like it used to be before kids when I woke up on Saturday morning. I can go to yoga. I can go back to sleep. I can write. I can meet a friend for lunch. I can take care of any outstanding errands. I don't have to nag my husband for sitting on the couch when stuff clearly needs to be done around the house. I don't have to worry about other people's schedules and needs for a whole five hours! I can prep dinner. Just kidding! We all know I don't prep dinner.

Do you all feel like this too? I know it can't just be me. I've seen the memes such as the one above of parents jumping for joy when their kids go back to school after summer and holiday breaks, which are most likely on Mondays.

And on this particular Monday, I want to scream, "Fuck yeah!" because winter break is over and my son is back at school! The first day or two of my son being home with me was cute. We did a few crafts. We went to the car wash (which he loves), the JCC, and had a Paw Patrol marathon. I loved seeing his excitement about lighting the candles for Hanukkah. It's okay buddy, I know your real excitement came from opening a new toy each night. And then that familiar feeling (the one that used to come every Sunday before the work week) started to set in when I realized there were six more days of this and cute would no longer be the word I use to describe winter break.

So as this blog posts and I am on my way to drop my son off at preschool, I shout, "THANK GOD IT'S FUCKING MONDAY!" And thank you to my fabulous camp friend for giving this feeling a proper title. And also to all the parents on their way to school drop off today who are shouting with me!