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POST:

Self-Care For Moms | Taking Care of Yourself Means Taking Care of Your Conscience

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

November 7, 2018

I volunteered in my daughter’s kindergarten classroom last week. I sat squeezed onto one of those little teeny chairs for an hour and a half, cutting out paper strips in orange and yellow for the fall classroom paper chain garlands, feeling less like I was doing a great deed for my daughter (or the children of humanity) and more like a factory worker without a bathroom break (for more on taking a break if you’re a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, click here for our free guide). My daughter, however, remembers it differently, and shared boastfully with her sister around the dinner table that “Mommy spent special time with me today,” even adding, “It was the best.” 

To be honest, I signed up because I felt like I should. The temptation to give into mommy guilt has been stronger than ever since my eldest started elementary school this August. I’m not really sure how that’s possible. Heading back to work after maternity leave was a trial, missing out on zoo dates and library times in the preschool years sometimes got me teary, but elementary school? Things should be easier, it seemed to me as I mentally prepared for the year. 

Nope. I was wrong. Now, with the schedule and structure of school life, things seemed somehow more complicated, with way more opportunities to miss something important or to just feel like I was missing out. At first I thought it was the constant influx of papers to sign or the fundraising kick-offs that made it so overwhelming, but then this happened: A little, innocent message popped onto my mobile screen at 9 o’clock on a Wednesday from the app my kid’s kindergarten teacher uses to communicate with all the class parents. 

“We are going on a farm field trip to pick a pumpkin and have a picnic in the hayloft! This is a special time for you and your kindergartner so please, please try your very best to be there.” 

My heart sank. The event, the message said, was a week away. There was absolutely no way I could make it. I had a full panel of patients already lined up and a staff of people depending on me to show up in my office. I imagined my daughter sitting alone, crying, eating her boring lunch on some scratchy hay bale. 

Yep, that message made me think pretty hard about just how good a mom I am and what it actually means to be a good mom. It got in my head, making me question, even though I’ve been on the “it takes a village to raise a child and I’m not the only person in that village” train for as long as I can remember, if I was messing up my kids by not being available to them 24-7.

Here’s what I realized after soul-searching for a day and a half (listen carefully because this might change your whole worldview like it did for me): 

I’m the best mom for my kids not in spite of the fact that I work and have ambitious dreams but because I do. 

My kids are watching me all the time. They see me hustling hard to reach my goals, and being 100 percent committed to my vision for myself and for them. No, I’m never going to crochet them intricate Halloween costumes or greet them with homemade cookies in the afternoon, but I am going to give them a shining example of how to contribute to their communities and how to make a difference in other peoples’ lives. I’m going to show them that the best version of any girl, or of any mom, or of any person, for that matter, is the version that is unapologetically true to herself. Above, all, I’m going to be completely invested in my children in the ways that really matter, giving them support, attention, and love. 

Now, before you write me an email, this is not a battle cry for working women. 

Maybe you love being a stay-at-home-mom, or you work part-time. That’s great! Own it. Mommy guilt doesn’t start and stop with work choices—we all know that. We all have to resist comparing ourselves to other moms or trying to be something that we’re not, no matter how we spend our days. Just like we have to prioritize our priorities when it comes to self-care, we also have to prioritize where and how we spend our time when it comes to mothering. 

It doesn’t matter that Julie’s mommy packs only organic, handmade zucchini muffins each day (that I’m sure she spends all day preparing) in her kids’ lunches or that Jake’s mother volunteers twice a week in the classroom but you don’t. Maybe your contribution to your kids’ lives looks different. You might be a music lover who can teach your kids to embrace life by throwing impromptu dance parties on a Tuesday night. You might be an expert business exec, who can teach her kids how to negotiate well for themselves, avoiding risky behaviors based on peer pressure down the line. We’re all wired differently and that’s okay.

Now, are there moms (working and non-working, by the way) who truly damage their kids by over-prioritizing themselves and by neglecting their children’s emotional needs? Yes, of course. I’m not giving a green light here on complete DIY mothering without guidance and accountability. I bet, though, that’s not you. The vast majority of mothers I meet are on the other end of the spectrum—they’re trying so hard to not let their kids or some imaginary vision of perfect motherhood down that they miss out on actually enjoying mom life. 

Great moms don’t try to be someone else, they try to be themselves. They:

Provide Consistency

Tons of families come to my clinic asking about family dinners. They’ve heard a lot about their importance on social media and in books they’ve read. The truth is, family dinners are just one example of providing times throughout the day and week that our kids can count on. Kids thrive on routine. There are always times we have to make adjustments, but if you build in planned times to connect that your kids can count on, that is more important than you being physically present with your children 24 hours a day.

Stay Focused When They’re With Their Kids

It’s so much worse to spend all day on your smartphone while your child tries to get your attention than to take care of what you need to do in a chunk of concentrated time and then give our kids the undivided attention they deserve. Make the time you spend with your children purposeful instead of distracted and you’ll enjoy it more and not wish you were somewhere else the whole time. If you’ve taken your own time to take care of yourself, this won’t be such a challenge.

Allow Other Caretakers to Take an Equal Share in Caring For Their Kids

Allow other caretakers to be team members who provide the same level of consistency you do to your children (if you caught our blog last week, we talked all about this). Nine out of ten weekends in our house, my husband makes waffles and takes the kids to the park while I do something solo. The next morning we switch and I do something special with them. Both of us get our time to re-boot and we’re less resentful of each other’s free time. Plus we get some individual moments with our kids to make memories.

Make Sure They’re Taking Just As Good a Care of Themselves As The Rest Of Their  Obligations. 

Pro Tip: You’ll do a better job avoiding the mommy guilt, actually taking care of your kids well, and not getting bogged down in have-tos and need-tos if you figure out what YOU really need first. That takes a lot of filtering, I know (read here about how to do more of that). It takes a lot of seemingly selfish moves to get to where you need to be. It takes forging a new path for modern moms, one based less on a “do it all” and “be it all” mentality and much more on an “I have time for my top priorities” kind of life. 

Taking Care of Your Conscience

My daughter attended the pumpkin patch field trip without a parent. My mom went in my place. Guess what? It wasn’t some huge catastrophe. She didn’t cry, she wasn’t sad. She had a great time and told all her friends, “My mommy couldn’t come because she’s making sure people don’t get Polio today (since I’m a pediatrician)” and “My daddy couldn’t come because he’s helping people walk today (since he’s a physical therapist).” When I got home from work, we got out our pumpkin carving kit, listened to Hamilton on repeat, and talked about how she planned to be an artist-mathematician-coffee shop owner who sells my book with each latte. We’ll see how it all plays out but I couldn’t be prouder of her or of us—unapologetically content with our dreams and our household.

Most of the time, we’ve got to listen to our conscience—it keeps us out of trouble and rights us when we veer off track. But sometimes, our conscience is just a front for guilt, for expectations, for things that don’t serve us or our kids. The bad news? Those things aren’t going away any time soon—paradigms change slowly. The good news? Your kids don’t need you to be perfect and polished, conformed to someone else’s expectations. They need you to be confident just being you…and that, mama, you can do right away.

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POST:

Self-Care For Moms | How to Make Your Parenting More Balanced and Less Frustrating

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 29, 2018

My youngest daughter is mad and she’s not going to take it anymore. She knows she’s in hand-me-down clothes, she can tell that her sister’s school day takes priority over any type of schedule she may have. She has been dragged around in way too many cars on way too many errands for way too long. She’s starting to question our parenting.

Enter a major temptation: Even-Steven Parenting—an attempt to be, not just more fair, but exactly fair. You know the concept: let’s make everything exactly the same for everyone. It’s a way for moms and dads to level the playing field for all of their kids. I heard my daughters start to use it last week whenever they felt jealous or frustrated. It became code for “Things are not exactly equal and that is not okay with me.”

Even-Steven Parenting and Our Kids

I’m not sure where my kids learned about even-steven fairness. Maybe my nanny (she’s amazing BTW- check out my guide for finding an awesome caretaker here)? Maybe a grandparent? 

Before I could say, “antiquated parenting!” the girls were throwing the even-steven term in my face on the regular. One had a toy? The other needed the same one. One got to go paint pottery? The other needed an art playdate as well. One sat on my lap at dinner? The other stomped over and shouted “EVEN-STEVEN!!!!” at the top of her lungs.

On the surface, Even-Steven Parenting seemed like an easy fix to a lot of squabbles and, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for having equity within my house. It doesn’t make sense to make one child feel like they’re getting the short end of the stick all the time. We definitely don’t want kids overcompensating by acting out, breaking down or withdrawing because they feel like they don’t have the love and support of the people who are supposed to care about them most. 

There’s a problem with an even-steven approach, though. It, inevitably, leads to a ton of scorekeeping. It insinuates that things should and can always be fair. The problem? We all know that life is not fair. Sometimes we don’t all get a trophy just for showing up (or at least we shouldn’t). 

Even-Steven Parenting and Our Partners

For all you mamas with a co-parent, the same goes for our parenting partner relationships. If I asked you to keep a tally of who does more —you or your partner —to make your family run, I know you would be like PLEASE BRING IT ON. I’M GOING TO WIN EVERY TIME. I mean, that’s incredibly true in my own home—one where my husband and I both work full-time, where I’m the breadwinner, where I consider myself a very liberated, modern mom. I realize there are all types of family structures and I know some advanced, enlightened families where this is not the case but, for 99.999999% of women out there, this is the reality. Think about the laundry detergent ordering, the sleep training, the lunch making, the playdate arranging that you do. If you kept score, it would be a total shutout.

But here’s the nasty secret we all forget sometimes. The scorekeeping doesn’t help us, it hurts us because scorekeeping doesn’t change the score, it just adds another task to our long lists of to-dos and builds heaps and heaps of resentment along the way. 

Another Approach

Instead of keeping score, what if we set up expectations along strength lines for division of labor with our partners? What if we decided on the tasks we would each be responsible for and then we each just let go of the things that weren’t on our individual to-do lists? How about if, when one person got overwhelmed, we stepped in like any teammate on any team would do?

Here’s where I wanted to shine it on when I wrote this blog—to act like I do this perfectly in my own home all the time. But, as I sat there writing and re-writing some fake version of how I have it all figured out and you should, too, I finally just erased my whole first draft. I’m assuming you came here for some honesty, so that’s what I’m going to give you:

My partner and I, we’re a work in progress in this area. Sometimes I feel like my husband thinks he’s “babysitting” or “helping me out,” instead of co-parenting. Sometimes he says he feels like I can’t let go of being the family boss. If he had more freedom and less criticism when it came to his parenting decisions, he would feel more ownership and would be more motivated to step up in his co-team leader role.

Despite centruries—no milleniums—of societal norms, we continue to strive toward the idea that gender should make no difference when it comes to caring for our kids (kinda like how it didn’t make a difference when I promoted him to soother-in-chief during the newborn period).

The Principles We (Try Our Best to) Parent By:

  • Letting each other parent as much as possible without co-parent oversight (as long as the other person is not doing something obviously detrimental or potentially abusive — there is a time and a place for stepping in),
  • Setting expectations that we’ll each get some time to ourselves throughout the week while the other person takes on a caretaker-in-chief role,
  • Paying attention to how we’re both doing in terms of rest and stress, and
  • Stepping in when we can tell the other person is overwhelmed or overworked.

An Even-Steven Approach to Self-Care

So much of successful parenting (and especially successful mothering) is about filtering out all the junk the world tells us we need to accomplish in the course of a day, a week, a year. If you caught our blog last week, we talked all about how to filter). Even when it comes to self-care, sometimes we self-sabotage by thinking we need to be balanced in every area of our life at all times. Instead, consider doing less but being more—with our kids and with ourselves. Consider only focusing on a few top priorities when it comes to self-care (I let exercise, my passion projects, and travel top my list, while a perfectly-kept home, a hopping social calendar, and a completely perfect appearance aren’t always on my mind). 

Reality Check:

We are the first generation of moms who are trying to and are expected to “do it all.” We’re forging a new path as we parent and as we partner. It’s a path where gender roles don’t necessarily define tasks and responsibilities, STRENGTHS do—one where things aren’t always even or completely balanced—for our kids or for ourselves. Are you playing even-steven games all stinkin’ day long as you work alongside your partner to take care of your kids and your life? Maybe “Tag You’re It” or “Let’s Sit Down and Talk About Ways We Can Run a House Together Since We’re Both Modern Parents” would work better in the long term. Those games sure sound like more fun to me.

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!).

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Guide to co-parenting toddlers and babies for new moms with top tips for self-care, co-parenting

POST:

Introducing Our New Partnership: Bump Club and Beyond VIP (+ New Customizable Boxes)

CATEGORY:

Babies

Date:

October 25, 2018

We’re Excited to Partner With Bump Club and Beyond

When modern moms and moms-to-be sign up for their VIP program, they get access to exclusive deals on our gift boxes! Click below to learn more.

 

 

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Add your favorite items to your cart. Once you reach $50, we’ll package it all up in our pretty box and send it on its way. The perfect gift for your any new mom and her baby.

Our build-a-box option lets you decide which of our favorite, lovingly-chosen products you want to give (or receive). Bring Modern Mommy Doc’s style right to your doorstep. We pick only the sweetest treasures for the sweetest little babes. Pamper yourself or your favorite mom-to-be. Or, skip the box and order items individually.

Visit our shop to check it out.

POST:

Self-Care for Moms | Figuring Out Self-Care is About Learning How to Filter

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 19, 2018

I’m sitting on my mat, eyes closed, trying to breathe. The lights are dim, the music is just right, the instructor’s voice is calm and melodic as she guides the class in getting centered and getting comfortable, but I just can’t seem to focus. It’s a shame, really, given that I’ve spent all week arranging for this one hour of “self-indulgence”—paying extra for my sitter to stay with my youngest at home, timing a business meeting to start directly after I’m done, even putting off more “important” errands like the grocery store and a Target run in the name of self-care.

Yet, somehow, my mind keeps flitting in and out of focus despite multiple attempts to bring myself back to the present moment. I’m already onto the rest of the day in my head, and somehow also back to yesterday, where I’m analyzing an in-office interaction and questioning my clinical decision-making process on a patient’s particularly tough condition. Yep, my filter system is broken today. 

So, this morning’s exercise session was a loss. So what? As I walked to my car after the class and out to the rest of my life, I thought about the bigger picture—about what the class represented, about how many of my self-care attempts are affected by my ability to properly filter. I thought about how much time we all waste, especially as mothers, unable to get past the noise, the false messages, and the endless, meaningless to-dos that face us every day. About how, if self-care really is about trying to achieve some type of balance, it’s our filter system that—nine times out of ten—keeps us from actually getting anywhere with our attempts. 

Filtering Out the Noise

How much time do you spend on your phone? I’m not judging, I’m just asking, because I often have to spend A LOT of time on my phone (mostly due to the nature of running a blog and a business and promoting both on social media) and I notice that, when I’m on it without a specific task in mind (just to surf) and without a plan to GET OFF OF IT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE, my whole life ends up filled with noise.

I follow a link to a story and it leads me to some other worthless distraction, scroll through Facebook and I get sucked into watching some viral video, hang out on Pinterest and I get bogged down in pictures of professionally-decorated homes that I can’t afford. It’s all noise, and it eats away at the precious moments I do have to actually do what feeds me, what restores me, and what builds me up. 

So, what can we do to get rid of some of the static that clogs our thinking and takes all our time away? I’m guessing you’re probably not all going to throw your phones into a pool anytime soon, but how about this? What if you worked on consciously setting aside times throughout the week without any devices, even if it’s 20 minutes at a time. Especially when my kids are around, I’m just turning my phone completely off, leaving it, allowing myself to see it as a tool I can use when I need it versus a letting it kind of use me.

Filtering Out the False Messages as We Work on Self-Care

Why is it so hard for us to take good care of ourselves when we become moms? In part, because it feels selfish and indulgent. Because it feels like there are a million other things that we could be doing with our time that would be more productive or would be more helpful for our families. Because, when we become mothers, we are seen primarily as caretakers and secondarily as human beings with basic needs. Or, maybe, because we try to do it all and be it all and soon realize IT NEVER WORKS so we just give up (and end up resentful) or we keep running ourselves into the ground (and end up exhausted and unhappy).

There are a million lies that float into our heads day after day, that make us confused about what’s important, that—okay, this is going to sound extreme but I’m going to go here anyway—suck the joy out of everything. 

Each time we have a choice to take care of ourselves we also have an opportunity to choose what messages we’ll believe about ourselves and about our place in this world. We have a chance to choose what defines us. We get to take responsibility for how we live our lives. 

Filtering Out the To-Dos

I’m used to angst over decisions I make in my pediatrics clinic (in fact, I think it’s part of what keeps me honest and thinking as I doctor), but those to-dos that keep piling up in my head? Yeah, I could do without those. Moms who focus solely on getting things done miss out on LIFE, plain and simple. Instead, think about how to lessen your load. If you have a partner, figure out a plan for dividing responsibilities along strength lines. No matter what your family construct, stop doing everything for everyone else. Get other people on your team. Let go of the tasks that don’t matter and give away the tasks that drag you down. You only have the time and the bandwidth to do so much—use the time you do have to narrow in on your priorities.

If the whole point of focusing on self-care is to figure out some way to a more balanced life and family, then we’re all going to have to hone our filtering skills to get to our end-goals. Of course, we’ll inevitably have our off days no matter how hard we try. Don’t beat yourself up when that happens. I mean, my yoga mat mishaps, although annoying, weren’t catastrophic, they simply were a reminder. The more mindful we are of the distractions and the storylines that keep us from taking care of ourselves—as moms and just as members of the human race—the more we’ll be able to find the balance we all want…and need.

Wanting 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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Top tips for moms on how to filter so they can practice self-care and find balance

POST:

Self-Care For Moms | Do You Need a Mommyhood Vacation?

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 9, 2018

This summer, I took a mommyhood vacation. Well, actually, I worked all week while my kids and husband went on vacation. Even so, without two littles on my heels and in my arms for five days, it felt like a holiday getaway. 

I’d taken way too much time off earlier in the year, leaving me short on summer vacay opportunities, so we decided to divide and conquer this time around. While my husband played on the beach with his side of the family and our children, I stayed behind and kept my job. 

Of course I knew I would miss my girls the second they boarded the airplane but I also knew I had a rare opportunity to do a lot of the things I never do, things that never happen because it’s hard to coordinate everyone’s needs on a weekly basis and because, when my kids are around, I really like to hang out with them (if you want more help with wrangling young kids, click here for our free guide).

My Mommyhood Vacay

I went to a movie (it had been three years since my last in-theater experience), I met my girlfriends for drinks on Saturday night, I planned a fancy brunch on Sunday morning. The mid-morning yoga class I loved pre-babies was finally an option. No one called and asked when I would be home. I WAS FREE. 

You’re probably going to guess my next line, right? 

“And then you realized you didn’t really want to be free.”

INCORRECT. I loved it. The guilt was gone. My time was mine. I could choose. 

My revelation on my mommyhood vacation was more nuanced than that. Here’s what I realized:

It would not be that hard to replicate any of this in my normal life. Shocker: my life pre-kids was not THAT interesting. I like to romanticize it in my mind. I like to pine away for it but I don’t really have to because none of the things I wanted to do without the pull of responsibility were that extravagant. No, I can’t do them all in a 48-hour continuous stretch every weekend, but I CAN sprinkle them into a weekly and monthly routine, achieving that same college-era “I just finished finals for the summer and I am free as a bird” feeling— that feeling of no pressure, no obligation, no me-shaped hole in my heart.

It’s not that I don’t already make self-care a priority.

Those who know me know I’m constantly preaching that moms can’t take good care of their littles until they start taking good care of themselves. It’s that my attitude, while I’m taking care of myself, is often with a sense that I’m on borrowed time or that my kids are wistfully wishing for me each time I go away for short periods of time. What if I could shift that? Is it possible be mindful about my parenting responses, about my perspective on the stage of motherhood I’m in, but also about my self-care moments? What if I could truly enjoy my opportunities for enjoyment, sans mom guilt and martyrdom?

I realized I don’t have to torture myself. I can just enjoy. 

In my pediatrics office, the moms I see who learn that mindset trick are happier and better-adjusted to their new mommy role. They care deeply about their children but they know that having healthy priorities means not always putting their kids first—sometimes it means consciously, mindfully, putting themselves first for discrete periods of time. On the other hand, the moms I see who never acknowledge their own needs or who live in a “less than” mentality, struggle more than they need to. Those moms never get to fully enjoy motherhood OR their own personhood. 

When I reunited with my babies at the end of our journeys, I felt complete again —back with the people I loved the most. But, I didn’t regret the decision we made to let me have some moments by myself. My mommyhood vacation taught me a lot —mostly about how I didn’t need more TIME to get all the self-care I think I need, I just need more perspective. 

Wanting 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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