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POST:

Motherhood Hacks: Reducing Your Mental Load By Sharing It With Your Partner

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

February 14, 2019

My husband is not doing what I need him (want him) to do fast enough, the way I’d do it, or with the same level of intensity I think it requires. He’s putting it off, waiting ’til the last minute, choosing to watch a show on the couch with his feet up and his stinkin’ craft beer in hand instead of jumping into action. We’ve got a lot to get done before tomorrow hits and my mental load is piling up while his seems to be shrinking. 

What’s so pressing? Making a five-year-old’s lunch. Yeah, I’m all worked up over packing turkey and cheese into a hot pink lunchbox for my daughter’s school day. I asked him to do it about an hour ago and there’s still a loaf of cheddar on the counter with no other signs of progress in sight and it is irking me to no end. 

It’s not the first time I’ve gotten all up in arms over something completely insignificant and it’s not the first time we’ve had tension over shared responsibilities and division of labor. A fifteen-year marriage, two kids, two (plus) careers, and a 30-year mortgage puts pressure on even the best-intentioned partners. And, as my husband and I sort out how to balance our own individual needs and desires with the needs of our family, there’s often some dissonance. The more I talk to other moms—especially working moms like me—the more I find a common struggle to be a modern mom in relationships that are still in the process of becoming modern. 

 

Modern Partnership Struggles

Here’s what I mean: my husband and I both work full time. I plan the meals, buy the clothes, do the laundry, sign my kids up for all the activities, make sure the school projects are completed. My husband does A LOT (far more than making simple lunches), but when it comes to our house, our lives, and our kids, I take on the mental load. 

I’m not whining, I’m just stating facts. Women still do more unpaid household tasks in most households, even if they’re primary breadwinners like I am. Turns out gender norms may be changing in the workplace relatively rapidly but, on the homefront, things are often still a little archaic. 

My partner is a caring guy who wants the best for our family and who values equality and teamwork. He’s all both of us pursuing our passions and working together to support our kids, but he and I still somehow struggle, no matter how modern we’ve tried to make our marriage. 

 

Blast From The Past

I mean, just a generation or two ago, our life would have seemed ludicrous to most. Our parents and their parents all divided tasks, generally, along gender lines. That wasn’t always fair, and it definitely left women without opportunities and options but, when it came to relationships, it probably was at least less confusing. You do this (childcare, housework, home life) and I’ll do that (work at an office). 

You still see vestiges of the old mentality  whenever multiple generations gather for holidays or in social settings. Almost every month in my office some sweet grandma will come along to the first newborn check-up, smiling at her son as he changes his baby girl’s diaper with swagger. “He’s such a good father, isn’t he?” she asks me. If by that she means he is able to perform some basic tasks related to keeping a child from getting a urinary tract infection, then YES, for sure. And, when I see the dads beaming from the praise, I just smile back and nod. But, the reality is, helping with a few diaper changes isn’t going to cut it for the “Dad of the Year” award anymore. Most moms I know expect more than that in this day of age.

 

Modern-Day Dads and Mental Load

I’m not bagging on modern-day dads (I’m also not saying all family structures or family struggles are the same—far from it—or that all dads are even the same). In fact, I feel kind of bad for modern dads. I mean, not as bad as I feel for modern-day moms. But I do feel bad. It seems like, when we empowered women to be just as fierce in the workplace as at home, forever changing modern-day motherhood, we forgot about educating men on how to change their perspectives on modern-day fatherhood.

We figured they would just adjust without any effort or preparation, magically skilled and knowledgeable in all things baby or toddler. We wrote them hardly any books and developed hardly any support groups or resources for them on the topic. Add in the Mr. Mom monickers and the media depictions of helpless new dads fumbling through parenting — it’s a not a surprise a lot of dads I see aren’t sure exactly where they fit into the new parenting paradigm. By the way, before you send me a note describing how your partner is the bomb and has it all together and doesn’t NEED books or resources, please realize I meet tons of amazingly-talented fathers every day who are killin’ it in the modern dad department—I know not all dads’ struggles are alike, just like not all moms’ struggles are alike.

 

How do successful moms share the responsibilities and pressures of work and home with their partners in a way that approaches equality and true partnership?

 

I sat down and talked with other professional moms about how they successfully handle home and life balance with their significant others. Some work from home, some are high-level execs, but they all used these common tactics to work as a team.

 

They make their partners aware of the tasks they’re carrying and of when they’re feeling overwhelmed. They share their mental load.

One mom, a couples therapist, explained that, instead of telling her husband what to do, she spends a lot of time just sitting down with her spouse listing off what SHE needs to get done (or make decisions about) and then asking her husband to do the same. She comes at it from the perspective that there are a lot of times she knows her husband has no idea about all the things she’s trying to manage and that there must be some things he’s thinking about that she has no idea about, too. She’s giving him the benefit of the doubt. How does she get the conversation started? They plan what she calls family business meetings, put them on the calendar (“I’d love to say every week but, let’s be real, we have two young kids”) and, just like they map out their finances, they talk through their responsibilities.

 

They divide based on strengths and weaknesses—or based on practical time or financial considerations. 

Another mom I talked to explained: “Hey, I’ve got a job where, if I don’t go to work, we potentially lose out on thousands of billable dollars.” 

If that mom doesn’t work for a day, no one brings in money for her small business. Her husband, on the other hand, works for a traditional organization that offers paid sick days and vacation days as part of his compensation package. If he misses a day of work, it’s stressful, but it’s not earth-shattering. While the world may still expect her to drop everything to pick up her child at daycare for an illness, that just doesn’t make sense for them.

“That doesn’t mean that, sometimes, my desire to be with my kids when there’s a problem doesn’t win out over left-brain analytics and money, but nine times out of ten, the choice is a no-brainer.”

 

They use a common language when talking about what needs to get done. 

A part-time mom explained that, since her partner is a businessman, she uses business team lingo when trying to divide and conquer: 

“So, I’m trying to strategize about how we’ll get everything accomplished for Leah’s start to the school year. Let’s talk through the components we need to make this successful. 

Another mom described her approach based on her and her husband’s mutual love of sports:

“Listen, what part of the team can you head up the next few weeks? If we’re going to win with everything going on this month, we’re really going to have to work hard.”

 

They use technology to their advantage. 

        • Shared calendars (I like Google Calendar for visually coordinating schedules and to-dos)

 

        • Communication apps (Marco Polo—a video chat app that lets you communicate like FaceTime but without having to talk in real time)

 

        • Evernote (great for creating and sharing lists, notes, and reminders with your family members)

 

        • Trello (like an electronic corkboard that makes daunting tasks like vacation planning way easier). 

 

Of course, sometimes it’s better just to go low-tech when you really want to accomplish something. I still make lists in a paper notebook and affix magnetic whiteboards and paper meal planners to my fridge. 

In the end, they choose to ignore and realize that, sometimes, “haters gonna hate.” 

They, just like me, totally ignore eye rolls, small huffs, and pained expressions when it comes to handing off a little more of their mental loads to their partners. 

“I feel like I just have to get over it when I perceive that my husband is annoyed when I let him know what he needs to do so we can keep our house and our home running. I get it. No one wants to be told what to do but, in the process of offloading some of my mental load, sometimes that’s just how it has to happen.”

 

They extend grace to themselves and to their partners as we all make this pretty complicated transition.

“Sometimes you don’t get all the recognition you feel like you deserve (when you’re a mom),” one mom told me. “Sometimes I feel like my husband should be on the sidelines with the biggest loudest blow horn, painted sign, pom poms, shirt with my name on it, screaming at the top of his lungs about how amazing I’m doing at life…and when I look over and his eyes are closed on the couch, I first think what the heck? And secondly I think, am I doing that for him? (That’s when I realize) he’s doing “it all” too.”

 

 They take a giant step back.

It’s annoying to have someone looking over your shoulder, micromanaging your every move. If you’ve ever had a super-controlling boss or even a nitpicky parent, you know the feeling. When someone doesn’t trust us or tries to manage us, it makes us feel resentful and irritated. We sometimes even lose our organic interest in the topic and stop putting our best effort into it.

That’s what happens when we don’t allow our partners to play an equal role in taking care of our children. We kind of sabotage our hope of true co-parenting. Instead, be conscious about how to empower your other half to be the parenting boss more often. That might mean actually leaving the house so he has the space to parent without your eagle eyes. It definitely will mean holding your tongue (or your own sighs or eye rolls or judgment) if he’s not doing things exactly how you would do it.

 

Guess what?

My child had food to eat for school today.

My husband eventually packed my daughter’s lunch (at 5 o’clock in the morning when he woke up and wandered into the kitchen to make it). All that irritation and impatience were in vain. My husband, it turns out, is perfectly capable of being a parent if I let him be one—even if it’s not the high-strung one I am sometimes. 

Sometimes the simplest squabbles help us re-evaluate the most complex relationships we have. In my life, as a working mom trying to make things work, my parenting relationship with my husband is often one of those, especially when it comes to balancing our mental load. The more I give into the fact that we modern families are all in transition, in flux, in “figure it out mode”, the less it all seems like one giant struggle and the more it seems like an opportunity for teamwork and for growth.

 

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

new mom advice, top tips for new moms, breastfeeding advice, baby gear, baby gift, baby registry

 

 

Motherhood Tips For Busy Moms To Reduce Mental Load and Improve Parenting Partnerships

POST:

Our Newest Collab: Modern Mommy Doc + Goumi Kids

CATEGORY:

Babies

Date:

February 4, 2019

We’re thrilled to be partnering with GoumiKids, one of our favorite, mama-founded companies, specializing in organic babywear for preemies to 18-month-olds!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their Diamond Dots Jamms are our newest addition to our newborn gift boxes. You can add them to any pre-filled box or design your own box from scratch!

 

Even more cool, we’ll also be partnering with them this year to provide more information and resources to moms and moms-to-be in the GoumiKids and Modern Mommy Doc community.

Look out for an exciting new launch from GoumiKids and for a coordinated Instagram Live Events on six pillars of new mommyhood:

Sleep

Nutrition

Safety

Development

Bonding + Connecting

and, probably most important: Grace.

Join us for our first joint Instagram Live Session

Thursday, Feb 14th at 10:30 a.m. PST.

We’ll be dishing on our own new motherhood experiences and inviting moms and moms-to-be to share their stories and ask questions about these important topics.

You can visit our shop to check out our newborn gift boxes and to learn about our programs for moms and moms-to-be.

POST:

Motherhood Lessons From Netflix: How To Get Your House More Organized and Your Life Less Complicated

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

January 15, 2019

I’ve been watching a lot of Netflix lately. Scratch that. I’m kind of always watching Netflix. This month, though, is January—a time for New Year’s resolutions and mommyhood goals. So, as I sat watching my nightly dose of Netflix last week, I came across a new series: Tidying Up. If you haven’t heard about it yet, you probably will soon. The main star, Marie Kondo, is like the guru of keeping all things organized.

I started watching the show because, well, hey, I could use some tidying tips just like all the other moms I know. It definitely delivered. I learned a whole new way of folding (basically fold all your clothes into little rectangles, organize vertically when possible, and put like shapes or sizes together), but by episode 8, the key to Marie Kondo’s success with struggling families was clear: you need less stuff than you think you do and you’ll be able to enjoy your life more if you only have to take care of the things you really cherish.

Marie’s secret to success, which she says so often you start to get a little nauseated after you hear it enough, is to choose items in your life that “spark joy.”  

Like I said, it’s a little cheesy, or at least it seems that way on the surface. Somehow though, as you watch these families part ways with their unnecessary clutter and start to truly enjoy their belongings and their spaces it’s almost, dare I say, tear-jerking. Episode after episode (don’t hate on me—I didn’t have work the next day when I started watching and I love a good TV binge session from time to time), you watch people get back to what they intended for their families, for their homes, for their lives. It gets real deep real fast, people. 

Of course, that next weekend, I started doing a modified version of the KonMari cleaning method. I went through my house category by category, parting with the excess, neatly folding and arranging. Marie actually recommends that you thank each item—I tried my best, but failed after a few hours. My house WAS definitely cleaner and calmer. It wasn’t perfect—with two kids under the age of six trailing behind me pulling freshly-sorted crayons and toys onto the carpet behind me, it’s never going to be—but it was better. 

Probably more important than that, though, was the mental process I went through.  I learned so much by analyzing, piece by piece, item by item, what I really needed and what was weighing me down—what things I didn’t even really care about but just kept picking up and putting back on a shelf over and over again out of routine.

Marie was right. The more I practiced some mindfulness about what sparked joy for me, the more easily I was able to make really good decisions about what I actually wanted my home to be like and to look like (ie. very decluttered). 

Plus, (you knew I was going to go here so let’s just go for it) the more I looked at my house that way, the more I started to look at my life that way. The more I pondered, the more I started to think about what I go around doing week after week, day after day, that I feel like I have to do—either to keep up with the Joneses or to keep myself overly busy because that’s just what “we moms” do or JUST BECAUSE I’VE NEVER TAKEN THE TIME TO THINK ABOUT IT. I started thinking about how sparking joy is usually pretty far down on my priority list (It’s high on my list for my kids, but it’s relatively low on my list for myself). I started realizing that, not only was it time to clean things out and get more joy in my house, it was also time to declutter my schedule and get more joy in my HOME and with my FAMILY. 

One of the psychologists in my pediatrics clinic taught me a powerful trick to that end because organizing your life according to joy levels is a lot more complicated than donating a five-year-old shirt you’re done wearing to Goodwill. She asks families she sees in our office to get a monthly calendar and write down all of their obligations—meetings, appointments, big school projects, after-school or weekend activities. Unless it’s something they really look forward to all week long, she has them write it all down in red. Then she has them take a blue pen and write down all the activities they do that are for relaxation, for recreation or for fun. 

The results are often shocking to patients as they realize just how much time they spend throughout the week spinning plates.

It turns out, the more plates you have to spin, the more work it takes to just keep them all in motion. It’s one thing to get my two daughters to dance class or to music lessons. It’s quite another thing to set three alarms a few months ahead so I don’t miss the opportunity to sign them up in the first place. No wonder I’m (we’re) all stressed to the max. In some ways, we’re choosing to be. 

I’m probably never going to perfectly declutter my home while my kids are young. The constant influx of artwork, clothing, and toys almost guarantees that. I can though, along with all the other families I meet, work on a less is more mentality. When our physical spaces, our schedules, and our minds are simpler, they allow us to focus more on what really matters, instead of focusing on trying to maintain a bunch of junk. 

This month, here’s what I’m working on in the declutter department:

1. I’m following a kind of modified KonMari organizing method:

I’m going through clothes, toys, books, kitchenware, bathroom, and sentimental items one at a time. I’m choosing which items I want to keep based on what brings me joy (minus kitchen utensils and toothbrushes). So far, I’ve done clothes and toys. I probably got rid of 30% of the items I had in each category—many of which I was just holding onto for the sake of nostalgia or guilt. In the beginning, I did try to thank each discarded item like Marie suggests. Still, I’m going to be totally honest: at some point, I stopped feeling so guilty as I started seeing empty shelf space and I felt free to just keep on trekking with some pretty split-second decisions that required hardly any pondering. 

2. I’m looking at my own calendar. I’m rying to decide what takes up the most of my time outside of work and where I can cut back or streamline.

I canceled my daughter’s dance class across town because I found a, maybe less than perfect but still totally great, option that required less time on the road. I’m figuring out ways to run at lunch a few days a week when possible. It allows me to clear up my evening time to be with my kids. 

3. I’m doing more weekend meal planning and grocery shopping.

For a long time, I subscribed to meal kit programs like Sun Basket and Hello Fresh. They were especially useful to me when my youngest daughter was just a baby and I had no brain space left to even think about creating wholesome meals for my family. Now, though, my oldest has become quite the kitchen helper. These days, we look through cookbooks or think up meals together on Sundays, take a jog up to the grocery store, and then Uber home with everything we need for the week. I have a meal planner outline from Rifle Paper Company attached to my fridge with a detachable shopping list I use to keep us on track. 

4. We bought two mini whiteboards —one for parents and one for kids—that we keep visible by our family calendar in the kitchen.

Each whiteboard has room to note upcoming special events, lessons, meetings, and trips we have planned for the coming week. Some weeks I look at the whiteboards and they look crazy with activities. That’s okay. If they are, it’s a visual reminder that we need to scale back the next week.

Tidy House = Happy Home

I’m probably never going to be the most organized mom out there. Since perfection is overrated, though, I’m not too worried about getting a Housekeeper of the Year Award. To me, getting decluttered isn’t just about cleaning up my house (though that is an amazing byproduct). The way I declutter or organize might very well change next month—or the next time I watch a Netflix series—anyway. It’s about figuring out what’s really important, what really brings joy—in our homes, our schedules, in our lives. And, well, who doesn’t want a little more of that?

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

new mom advice, top tips for new moms, breastfeeding advice, baby gear, baby gift, baby registry

Motherhood Lessons From Netflix: How to Get Your House More Organized and Your Life Less Complicated

POST:

Motherhood Doesn’t Have To Be Perfect To Be Great (and Neither Does Self-Care)

CATEGORY:

Uncategorized

Date:

December 31, 2018

So, apparently, Christmas was a bust this year, at least according to my five-year-old daughter. 

“Mom, I think I don’t really want to celebrate again” she told me yesterday. Her little body let out a heavy sigh and her long lashes turned down to the floor. 

“Why’s that, sweetie?”

“Well, it wasn’t snowing so we didn’t have a White Christmas and some of my gifts weren’t what I told Santa that I wanted. So, we might as well not celebrate the holiday next year.”

Now it was my turn to breathe a big sigh. I know you know exactly why. I spent weeks making a list and checking it twice (no three times) to make sure everyone was fully accounted for in the Santa department and, knowing my oldest is especially sensitive, I made sure to go over her part of the list a few times just to ward off disappointment. This is not the first time I’ve heard about a birthday or even a school day being less than ideal.

Despite my best efforts though (and things way out of my control like the weather, for instance), I guess Christmas didn’t meet the mark in her book.

“Darling,” I told her, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit. Santa and mommy can’t read your mind but we love you very much and wanted Christmas to be special. I bet you loved the chocolate cake you got at dinner and the sparkly chandelier you got for your room (yes, you heard that right. I bought my kid a crystal (plastic), fancy (Target clearance special) light fixture as a present. The moment she opened the package, her eyes lit up like she’d just won the stinkin’ lottery).” Her eyes sparkled again at the memory and she reluctantly acquiesced to the idea that we would not be doing a second-chance holiday extravaganza to make up for any failures in the first round. 

It’s pretty easy for me to let my kid’s disappointment go when it’s unreasonable—to brush it off as immaturity. It’s harder, though, when it comes to my own expectations and threshold for disappointment—not so much at the holidays, but for my life as a whole.

I realized as I watched my daughter sulking that I have a way of sulking a lot, too—of really needing certain aspects of my world to be just the way I want them to be…or I consider them not good at all. 

That’s true for so many other moms I meet, too.

When it comes to their performances as mothers, when it comes to their children’s health or when it comes to their own health: in order for things to be good enough, they have to be perfectly perfect. 

The most obvious area where my plans for perfection get thwarted? Exercise. 

I’m never going to be a fashion model and I’m not trying to get to a size two, but I think it’s safe to say I’m obsessed with exercising. I don’t mean I have an eating disorder—that I’m obsessed with my appearance or with reaching top physical fitness. I mean that, when I’m exercising consistently, I eat better, sleep better, feel better, act better—I am literally a better person. And when I’m not, I’m a pretty miserable, anxious, sluggish individual. 

My work life plus my home life, unfortunately, make it incredibly difficult to make working out even three times a week a reality. My oldest daughter often wakes up early in the morning and snuggles in bed with me before I leave for work, waking the instant I rouse myself to do an early morning video. My patients’ appointments often edge past closing time at the office, making it impossible to arrive in time for an after work studio session. Even on my late-start work days, my nanny doesn’t arrive until 7:00 a.m., making it usually impossible to get out of the house in time to make it to any type of organized studio-type event with enough time to also get to the office.

Enter me, crying on the couch a few weeks ago about how I never actually get to get to a spin class, or a yoga class or a ____ (fill in the black with some other yuppy, group-based exercise experience). There I was, complaining to my husband about how I can never fit a workout in, about how I feel some days like physical fitness is a totally wasted goal now that my post-two baby, late 30s bod takes about 150% more effort to maintain, much less improve.

Extrapolating past fitness to the bigger picture—to the picture almost every mom I know paints sometimes about wanting just a few moments of freedom to reconnect to her pre-mom self. 

And enter my husband, sitting next to me on the couch—who hates analyzing for the sake of analysis but who also has a way of speaking streamlined wisdom in the moments that really count. After offering up alternatives to my preconceived self-care plans (take a run when you get home with one of the kids, get a pass to the tiny gym on the first floor of your building and jump on the elliptical for 15 minutes at lunch, squeeze in 10 minutes on an exercise video), to which I all turned down, he said this:

“You know, it doesn’t have to be perfect to be great.”

He was so right. Just like I try to teach my own kids to be flexible problem-solvers, I have to work on the same thing for myself. I also have to accept that, for my current stage of mommyhood, things need to be a little less fancy and a little more abbreviated when it comes to physical self-care. Whereas taking a full hour at a time by myself was really critical to my mental health in my babies’ newborn days, I have more bandwidth now to think a bit outside the box.

I started running again, something I’ve enjoyed since junior high school but have done way less of in the last five years. It’s like I’m saying “hi” to an old friend. I still make it to classes on the weekends when I can but the pressure is off to make it all work in quite the same way. The added benefit? I’ve started taking my kids with me—my oldest riding right alongside me or my youngest riding in the stroller—and it’s giving us even more quality time together. 

Sometimes we make things—even good things that are meant to be relaxing and rejuvenating—so much more complicated than they need to be.

It turns out my daughter and I both have something to learn about not getting upset when things don’t go exactly our way (me, especially). My New Year’s Resolution? To approach my motherhood experience—with all the ups and downs and unexpecteds that come with it—with the perspective that perfect would be nice, but that less than perfect can be pretty amazing, too.

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

new mom, breastfeeding, parenting hacks, new mom hacks

Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

new mom advice, top tips for new moms, breastfeeding advice, baby gear, baby gift, baby registry

motherhood advice, parenting hacks for toddlers, parenting advice, new mom advice

POST:

Parenting Lessons From the Tooth Fairy: Leaning Into The Joy of Our Kids’ Milestones

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

December 13, 2018

This week the Tooth Fairy made her first appearance in my home…and it was glorious. My daughter can tell you exactly how she looks: blonde, curly hair, a sparkly wand…and a Moana dress. She can also tell you how she sounds; apparently. When she dropped the cash under my five-year-old’s pillow, I’m told she whispered in a tinkly, bell-like voice, “Congratulations.”

“Mom, I saw her and she was SOOOO nice,” I heard all through breakfast the next morning.

Now, I have nothing against pink and sparkles, but I try my hardest to not get too caught up in making every single celebration or life event for my kids a Pinterest-worthy moment. My daughter’s last full-blown birthday party two years ago took so much planning and was such a disaster, we skipped the cake and candles all together this time around (just imagine a very precocious preschooler sobbing, “Why’d you invite all these people?” after she worked for a month painstakingly decorating each handwritten party announcement in glitter paint).

Nope, these days I keep it simple when it comes to holidays, birthdays, and the like. I’ve been working especially hard this season on not getting too caught up in commercialism traps, instead focusing on family time and family experiences. Sometimes, though, I forget in the process just how cool it can be for young kids, newly aware, to think about the Easter Bunny or Santa paying them a special visit. This Tooth Fairy thing reminded me. Yes, ma’am, that ethereal, incisor-snatching night owl got to me.

I found myself suddenly caught up in the specific milestone of losing a first tooth. I think it’s because my daughter was so excited about this transition in her body—unafraid, proud, joyful—that her excitement rubbed off on me, too. For weeks, she went around wiggling her tooth and asking everyone else in the family to do the same. She told her grandparents she planned on snapping a picture of the Tooth Fairy when she entered her bedroom (or trapping her in a box so she could get a really good look. I told her that sounded a little aggressive and maybe we could stick with a sneaky photo op). 

That joy, it was infectious, and it reminded me of three things: 

1. As a parent, it’s not my job to bring my child joy, but, when I can, we both win.

We can’t and we shouldn’t endeavor to make our kids happy all the time.  Happiness is fleeting and conditional. We can, though, look for opportunities to be fully present with our kids, not just with our physical presence or our attention, but also with our emotional presence. Think about the best moments you’ve had with your kids, about the moments that you go back to in your mind when you’re having a hard day or feeling discouraged. For me, those moments always have pure joy as a major element (and usually music, too): singing at the top of our lungs to the entire album of The Greatest Showman on a road trip, snuggling up in our bed on a Saturday morning, racing through the park playing tag with breathless energy. Sometimes our kids need us to be just as invested in their excitement and their enthusiasm as they are. 

2. You have to find joy yourself to give it to your kids.

It’s hard to pull a fast one on our children. They can tell when we pretty much hate our lives and they can see right through it when we try to fake contentment. Instead, focus on taking care of yourself, embracing your own life choices (especially when it comes to work), and getting mindful so you can turn right back around and infuse joy into your kids’ lives. Is any mom out there in the whole world who’s going to do that perfectly all the time? No, but it’s worth it to move in that direction. 

3. Milestones really do matter.

Losing your first tooth is a major milestone. So is taking your first step, scoring your first soccer goal, and getting your driver’s license. Our kids don’t need us to be all rah-rah about every single little thing they do (telling our kids “good job” and “you’re so smart” over and over is detrimental). Instead, we should be encouraging our children to have a growth mindset by telling them how proud we are of their efforts and celebrating when they reach their hard-earned goals. In the end, milestones (and holidays and celebrations) all provide an opportunity to build family traditions and to make memories with our kids. As we recognize the effort or bravery it takes our kids to move through a specific stage, we ultimately instill confidence and encourage resilience. 

I don’t know about you but, sometimes, I forget just how totally RAD the little stepping stones of childhood can be for our kids as they experience them.

Especially this season, I’m working on embracing the make-believe and the magical with my little ones. Setting out cookies for Santa, finding a note and a dollar from the Tooth Fairy, wishing on a star—these aren’t only the magical moments of childhood, they’re also an invitation to love the things our kids love, to be 100 percent “in it” for the moments that really matter, to be a little more childlike ourselves as we approach our parenting. There is absolutely nothing like watching your toothless five-year-old grin from ear to ear for the first time, just like there’s nothing like seeing your baby smile or hearing her say her first word. Yep, this first tooth moment is going in the baby book—not because it’s momentous to the rest of the world, but because it’s momentous to my daughter and to me—a place we both found a second of pure joy. Thank you, Tooth Fairy. 

Want More Parenting Help?

Want more information about how to parent and cope when you’re a new mom? Check out our book, The Newborn Baby Blueprint: Preparing to Care For Your Infant and Yourself.

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Looking for baby registry or baby shower gifts? You’ll love our Newborn Gift Boxes (in Baby Boy, Baby Girl, and Gender Neutral). They’re full of information, inspiration, and a little love for all the mamas and mamas-to-be in your life (including you!).

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Parenting Hacks For Moms of Toddlers and Babies For Celebrating Milestones, Birthdays, Special Occasions

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