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Modern parenting is a joy but a challenge. We're here to help you accept and problem-solve the painful parts of mommying so you can move on to really enjoying life with your kids, spending less time on your to-do list and more time on the things that really matter.

Win at parenting, don't lose yourself.

From the blog:

POST:

Modern Motherhood | How to Actually Enjoy Your Life

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

November 27, 2019

Melissa is a high-powered surgeon in New York City. She handles some of the most complicated cancer cases in the country. She’s up at 5 am most mornings. She performs high-stress procedures day in and day out. Most of the time, things go swimmingly. Every once in a great while, they don’t. Even on the best days, her patients take a lot out of her — they require the kind of fastidious attention and care that only someone with complete dedication can offer.

A Mom and a Professional

Melissa is also a mom to two kids—one she had just before starting medical school 15 years ago and one she had just before starting her three-year gynecology residency training program. For their entire lives, she has been juggling their needs, her career, and attempts at taking good care of herself.

As a newborn, one of her kiddos was colicky, especially at night — a temperament that does not fit well with an already demanding daytime schedule. As a toddler, the other was demanding and picky, throwing tantrums whenever she was home and making weekends miserable. Now that they’re older, there are new issues to battle: first crushes, the drama of tween friendships, the roller coaster of hormone-driven emotions.

Dealing With Stress

This seasoned mama has had a lot of stress throughout her motherhood experience—or at least a lot of opportunities for stress. When you talk to her about it directly, though, that’s not what she’s focused on. She’s focused on making sure she takes care of herself REALLY well no matter what’s happening around her and what obstacles she encounters.

“I don’t care how busy I am or how rough my day is. I find at least twenty minutes per day to just waste time, to do something purposefully unproductive.”

Let me be clear: being a hustler is nothing to be ashamed of. I am a tried and true, work my tail to the bone, stay up all night ’til the book is finished kind of girl. It’s in my blood. That drive and work ethic got me through medical school and led me to triple time it as a small business owner while I raised two small children and worked full-time doctoring. It took steely determination to get all that done and it also took a lot of focused hoursworkingI wouldn’t trade in all that working even if I could because it got me to where I am today. This is not about slacking off, this is about pacing yourself. 

Tactical Solutions

“I choose having lunch with a colleague in the park when the weather is good as opposed to sitting at my desk working on charting patient progress notes,” Melissa says. “I walk to work instead of taking the cab my company pays for—even if it takes more time to get there. I don’t fill my spare moments with errands. Not every part of my life is rosy and happy. I deal with a lot of disappointment and anger at my job. The trick is not to make the bad stuff or the busying stuff go away. The trick is to learn to enjoy life even when the bad stuff and all your to-dos seems to pile up around you.”

She takes it even further: “I’ve found that I just can’t take care of myself or the other people in my life—my kids, my husband, my patients—well if I am running from thing to thing, never enjoying, never seeing life for what it is: fleeting moments that I can never get back. I have to take the time to enjoy life when I can if I want to enjoy life at all.”

Can You Learn to Enjoy?

Maybe you don’t have the type of hectic life Melissa does all the time, but I’m sure you have hectic moments. We all do. Having a baby or a toddler can be one of the most chaotic times of your life, a season where everything feels hard and out of your control.

So, slow it down, mama. Think about enjoying versus multitasking during “free time.”

  • Don’t confuse work with “you time.” Work is work. It can feel like taking extra time away from your family once you’ve finished clocking a full day of hours at the office is frivolous and selfish. It’s not. Make a self-care plan you’ll stick with so you can work in a little time to reconnect to yourself throughout the week.
  • Decide you’re going to let go of the extra things that stress you out (aka making a huge Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner for your family and slaving away in the kitchen so it will be Pinterest-worthy). If it serves you to entertain and to create around the holidays, do it. If it doesn’t, either delegate it or forget about it altogether.

The Honest Truth

Life is meant to be enjoyed and that SHOULD NOT CHANGE JUST BECAUSE YOU BECOME A MOTHER. You deserve and you need moments to yourself and moments for enjoyment. Your kids, your partner, your mental health — they’ll all benefit if you’re intentional about prioritizing slowing down and taking a minute to catch your breath.

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one? Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.

Modern Mommy Tools for moms with newborns and toddlers, parenting tips and tricks, hacks.

POST:

Working Mom Tools | How to Find an Amazing Child Care Provider

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents

Date:

November 11, 2019

You’ve made a work-through-your-emotions-when-you-go-back-to-work plan, you’ve thought about how you’re going to feed your baby when you’re back on the job. Now, who’s going to watch your little one? What about child care?

If you’re like most modern moms out there, the thought of leaving your baby in the arms of someone else, anyone else is pretty daunting. The good news? It doesn’t have to be.

I had the world’s best nanny for my kids for my first five years of parenthood. She was an amazing childcare provider. I didn’t find her by luck, though (okay, there was probably a little luck). I found her by design. And, whatever childcare situation you’re looking for — in-home one-on-one care, a child care center, care from a family member — you can do the same.

As a private practice pediatrician, new and expecting parents ask me often about what type of setting is best for children—child care, family care, or in-home nanny care. My answer is never black-and-white because, like almost all things in life, it depends.

I care most about quality, and in my book, quality child care provides a safe space where kids can build deep, one-on-one connections with their caregivers and peers and is a place where kids do not get sick all day, every day (very important for all working parents).

The program or person also needs to provide the level of flexibility you need. Finally, you want the adults caring for your child to have the same parenting goals and values you do, backed by a working knowledge of the core principles of successful caregiving.

You don’t want them to try too hard to focus on a set “curriculum” for your children. Instead, you want them to provide opportunities for exposure to lots of books, music, one-on-one communication, and exploration. This could be in the care of a child care center, an in-home child care setting, a nanny, a nanny share, a friend, or a relative.

My top picks are nannies, family members, and in-home child care settings for young kids. Once kids reach preschool age, the need for structure and social skill development outweighs the home care aspect. At that point, a mix of preschool and sitter/nanny is my top choice. Of course, budget often comes into play, and traditional child care settings with quality, reliable caregivers are a great option too.

Child Care Centers

When you set out to find a child care center, start by talking with other parents in your area. Chances are seasoned parents will start recommending child care centers once their own kids are ready to start the next level of school in the fall. Depending on your location, you may need to get onto waiting lists early (eg, as soon as you’re pregnant; I know, we live in a competitive world). It’s never too soon to start researching.

Look for child care centers that share these goals for your kids, giving care in a way that helps kids.

• Contribute to society.

• Find contentment in their work and play.

• Form healthy relationships.

• Build resilience.

Consider the possibility of increased risk of illness. A child in child care will be exposed to more germs daily than a child in a one-on-one or nanny share setting just because of the sheer number of other children she’s around. Yes, over time that can contribute to a stronger immune system, but, for some families, it can mean a world of hurt every winter. Every child is different—some kids seem to skate by without a cold or rash—but it is a recurring theme.

Even though a nanny or smaller in-home setting can seem more expensive on the surface, your cost-benefit child care analysis should also account for potential days of work missed caused by your child’s illnesses if he’ll be in a group care setting. In my profession, it’s not impossible to take a day off, but it is a huge inconvenience to my patients and to my business partners. So that I can avoid missed workdays, I look for ways to avoid my kids catching major illnesses in the first place.

Nanny Care

Likely because I’ve had such a good child care experience personally, friends and patients ask me consistently where to find a good nanny.

The answer: there are a ton of places to look for quality caregiver suggestions—online caregiver search sites, friends, family, coworkers, social media groups, and even professional nanny companies. On the websites specifically designed for finding care, they’ll make it easy for you to go through all the steps—they’ll allow you to create a profile and a job posting where you then filter through applicants and set up in-person interviews. 

From there, you can sign up for a paid trial during which the caregiver cares for your child for just an hour or so while you’re still in the house so that you can make sure you feel comfortable.

Here’s the secret, though: it’s not about where; it’s about how. It doesn’t matter what site you use or what friend makes an initial suggestion. It matters what process you go through to attract, evaluate

Click here for my best strategies for finding an amazing nanny.

Family and Friends

Friends and family can also be amazing pinch-hit caregivers or caregivers for extended trips. If you have an open, honest relationship with a family member you trust, that person can also work well as a full-time nanny. The obvious bonus? Free care (or at least significantly reduced cost). The downside? For many parents, establishing long-term care with a family member can be more complicated than a traditional child care arrangement because there is no formal employer-employee relationship. The best way to address this is to set up expectations for what your needs are and your kids’ needs are and to let the chips fall where they may (as long as there are no major safety violations) if things aren’t to your exact specifications.

Paid caregivers will also vary in their willingness or ability to meet your expectations, but it’s a little easier when dealing with an employee because you are paying employees. If it doesn’t work out, you can usually end or alter your relationship with significantly less dramatic fallout. If the caregiving prowess or style doesn’t quite measure up, you can choose to find someone new without the emotional considerations that come with personal relationship negotiations.

On the flip side, it can be difficult for friends and family to understand or respect your boundaries or your parenting style. Sometimes you have to make a hard decision—is it worth it financially to muddy the friend and family waters and if it is, will you be able to let go of the smaller things that irk you?

The Most Important Caregiver Consideration

Feeling stressed as you tackle this topic? Don’t be! Focus on finding experienced, quality providers. Like most things in life, what really matters when it comes to child care is that you feel comfortable and confident with your choice. The exact location or setup—child care, nanny care, or family care—matters less. Child care centers and nannies can be great options, but just make sure you find quality caregivers who share your goals and values—that is most important. Finding a nanny or caregiver can be stressful, but it’s also very exciting. You’re building your village; you’re hiring the person who will be there for your kids alongside you, nurturing, guiding, and caring for the person or people you love best. You’ll find amazing people waiting in the wings to work with you.

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one? Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.

Tips for new parents with first baby finding child care providers and resources

POST:

Working Mom Tools | How to Make the Most of Your Breast Pumping Efforts

CATEGORY:

Babies, Parents

Date:

November 4, 2019

Last week, we talked about heading back to work after your maternity leave, including the emotional ups and downs that come with that monumental transition. This week is focused exclusively on lactating moms who want to maximize their ability to pump while at work. It’s time to talk about breast pumping.

For those moms who are breastfeeding at home during maternity leave, the transition to breast pumping can be daunting.

Here are my best tips for making breast pumping successful:

1. Go Back to Lactation

Even if you feel like you have the “breastfeeding from your breast” thing down, breast pumping successfully is a whole other ball of wax. When you’re home all day with your baby during maternity leave, your milk supply is often at its best. Once you go to work, and are pumping consistently, that decreased stimulation to your nipples can sometimes affect your milk production. Meeting with a certified lactation specialist can help guide you as you make the transition to more pumping throughout the day. 

Yes, social media groups can seem helpful when you start breast pumping, giving you tips and tricks and support that don’t come in the pump manual but remember that the members’ advice is usually based only on their personal experiences. Instead, think about returning to a certified lactation specialist to guide you on this next part of your breastfeeding journey. Probably most importantly, the lactation specialist can measure you for the correct phalange size if you haven’t done this already—a critical step for making sure you don’t injure your breasts or nipples in the pumping process and that your pumping sessions are efficient. Set your appointment up for about one month before you go back to your job, if possible.

2. Get a Good Pump 

If you’re planning on breast pumping a lot, you’re going to want to invest in good equipment. It is important for the breast pump to be a “double-electric” pump, which means you can pump both breasts at the same time, and it has an electric motor, preferably with an adjustment for different suction levels.

It also needs to work with a breast pump system, which means it’s compatible with bottles for feeding, bottles for storing milk, cleaning supplies, cooler bags, freezer bags, and so on. You want all of this to work seamlessly together so you don’t waste your priceless time jerry rigging a ton of junk together.

One hidden consideration? Your pump needs to have easy-to-find replacement parts. Most of the major brands out there should qualify. If your pump parts are not online or readily accessible at the store, you’ll be frantic when you really need a pump accessory and you can’t find one.

Most importantly—and this is not emphasized enough—you need something that is going to be portable.

When I had my first daughter, I had this huge pump that needed to be plugged into a wall at all times in order to work. I quickly switched over to one that had extreme portability. (Note: for some moms with production issues, the pump efficiency is the most important factor, making other considerations seem frivolous. Follow your pediatrician’s and lactation specialist’s advice.) Whichever setup you choose, most important is that you set it up and have it all sterilized before you have your baby. This is an awesome task to assign to a partner, but you’ll be using it, so make sure you have a working knowledge of the pump yourself.

3. Buy Extra Parts

Have a spare set of pump parts at work, a set in your pump bag, and a set at home. You will forget something important one day and be so happy for the spare. In the same vein, carry a manual pump to use in a pinch. Even more critical, if you have a pump that has to be plugged in, buy a compatible, rechargeable battery pack. Believe me, in the case of a power outage or a lack of power outlets, you will be happy you followed my advice. On the other hand, if you plan at all on traveling with your pump to conferences or for a getaway weekend, it pays to invest in a portable pump that doesn’t require plugging in at all.

4. Do a Trial Run

Before you ever go back to work, consider a half-day breast pumping trial. Have a childcare provider (or a family member) stay with your baby for half the day while you learn how to pump and store your milk. Whatever your set up will be at the office, try to mimic the environment as much as possible. If you’ve arranged for a gradual return to work, this is an ideal way to get your feet wet as you start out. If you’re starting at full speed it’s even more important to try out your pumping gear ahead of time.

5. Start Early Enough to Avoid Bottle Refusal 

Slow flow, fast flow, vented, preemie—the possibilities seemed endless on the baby store shelves when moms-to-be are pregnant, trying to pick out bottles, already planning for their return to work postpartum. There’s a lot of information out there on bottle feeding. Unfortunately, though, there are hardly any forewarnings about how to help babies take a bottle once they’re already established exclusive breastfeeders. The lactation specialists I work with frequently see moms heading back to work who never bottle fed at all during maternity leave, or who tried it a few times early on, called it good, but then struggled once they started back on the job. 

To reduce the chance of bottle refusal, try bottle feeding early and often, as soon as your baby isone month old (once latch and feeding patterns are well-established).

Not only does it help baby get used to drinking apart from you, it also gives you the opportunity to get small tastes of freedom early on in the “dog days” of infancy when separating yourself from your infant feels magical. 

When you do use the bottle, try one of two ways.

First, try mimicking breastfeeding, holding your baby cradled in your arms like she’s nursing—maybe even starting with the breast in her mouth then swiftly swapping your nipple out for a bottle (hopefully) before she notices. If your baby is on to you, looking up with a quizzical look and spitting out the silicone nipple, try for the opposite: hold her facing outward, maybe looking up at a fan or outside at the birds in the sky, and sneak the bottle to her lips while she’s distracted. In this approach, you’re trying to make bottle feeding completely different from breastfeeding. 

Don’t be thrown off by a little resistance.

Being at the breast is different from being at the bottle. The rhythmic letdown is different, the feel in the mouth is different. Some babies just will not do it at first. If your child fights the bottle, take a second to breathe before becoming flustered. Most babies who refuse the bottle in the first few days after mom goes back to work get the hang of it relatively quickly (even if it feels like forever to their mothers). 

Working and Pumping

Yes, breast pumping while you work is, for most moms who breastfeed, a task that’s just no fun but you can make the most of your time with your pump by getting help, getting effective gear, and planning ahead.

Look for our Working Mom Tools blog next week on choosing a childcare option that works for you and your baby!

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one? Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.

Breast pumping tips for working moms with newborns, new babies who are breastfeeding

POST:

Working Mom Tools | How to Go Back to Work After Maternity Leave

CATEGORY:

Babies

Date:

October 25, 2019

For the next month, we’ll be focused on helping new moms who are headed back to the office make a smooth transition that leaves them feeling grounded and calm instead of harried and unsettled. This week, we’ll talk about the emotional transition that comes with this big step and how to deal with all the changes you’re bound to face.

Ok, Mama, here’s the deal:

Having a baby is a major life event for every new mom. If you’re feeling super nervous (or even just having mixed feelings) about maternity leave ending, you are not alone. When you spend all day in postpartum zone, going back to work can feel monumental. After all, for the past weeks to months, you’ve been immersed in baby world—its own unique and grueling transition—and now it’s time to jolt yourself back to “real life.” The only problem is, the world you left before you had a baby is different now that you’re a mom—not worse or better, just different—with its own set of challenges and, at times, very emotional changes. 

What I’m going to tell you next may surprise you.

I didn’t cry at all the day I went back to work after I had my first baby. I thought I would. I was fully prepared to sit under my desk with a box of tissues for the first few hours back in the office but the feeling I had that first day was not one of sadness, it was one of pure relief. Though my colicky baby had turned a corner and I was finally getting more sleep, it was still hard to be at home. Being at home meant dirty clothes, endless attempts at soothing, and a little more boredom than I was used to in my pre-baby life. All that required lots of intentional work to stay mentally and physically healthy.

When I re-entered the workplace, I found I was, in some ways, back to me. I could eat lunch with both hands. I had adult conversations all day. I peed without holding another human being in my arms (come on, we’ve all been there). Then, I went back home at the end of the day to the child who I loved the most, more than anything else in the whole world. It was, by all measures in my book, totally ideal. If that’s you, too, you’re in good company. 

If that’s not you—if you return to work and are a heavy mix of tears and regret—take heart. You’re also in good company. My return-to-work depression days hit after I had my second daughter and realized my last maternity leave with my last baby ever had come to an end. Her infancy was gentler and I had a better support system during my maternity leave experience with her. If this is you, please believe me: it does get better. Remember, on the day you leave your son or daughter in the arms of someone else for the workplace: you are NOT abandoning your baby, you and your baby will be okay. Most importantly, you can never be replaced. You will always be mom. 

Whatever your return to work mindset, consider these ways to make the transition easier:

Work on a Childcare Plan Early When Possible

Parents ask me often about what type of setting is best for children—child care, family care, or in-home nanny care. My answer is never black-and-white because, like almost all things in life, it depends. I care most about quality, and in my book, quality child care provides a safe space where kids can build deep, one-on-one connections with their caregivers and peers and is a place where kids do not get sick all day, every day (very important for all working parents). The program or person also needs to provide the level of flexibility you need. Finally, you want the adults caring for your child to have the same parenting goals and values you do, backed by a working knowledge of the core principles of successful caregiving.

You don’t want them to try too hard to focus on a set “curriculum” for your children. Instead, you want them to provide opportunities for exposure to lots of books, music, one-on-one communication, and exploration. This could be in the care of a child care center, an in-home child care setting, a nanny, a nanny share, a friend, or a relative.

My top picks are nannies, family members, and in-home child care settings for young kids. Once kids reach preschool age, the need for structure and social skill development outweighs the home care aspect. At that point, a mix of preschool and sitter/nanny is my top choice. Of course, budget often comes into play, and traditional child care settings with quality, reliable caregivers are a great option too.

Like all great things in life that are in limited supply, the best child care settings and nannies tend to book up quickly. It’s never to early to start researching your local options and even reaching out to potential providers. You can find more information about finding an amazing nanny here.

Consider Easing Back into Work 

Strongly consider requesting an ease-in schedule as you start working again. Working several hours at a time or even half days can make the childcare transition go more smoothly and can help you get over the stark contrast between staying home in baby land versus spending time at the office.

If you don’t work independently, stay in touch with your manager throughout your maternity leave so you can have conversations as it gets closer. Think about what would work best for you and ask for it. You’ll never get what you don’t ask for and the worst your employee can say is no. Consider asking for a reduced schedule for the first month back (easing up to full time, for example by working a few days per week at first) or, at minimum, start on a Thursday so the first week is short. Several top tech companies actually structure the first month back as two days, three days, four days, and then finally a full week back automatically. If your employer accommodates telecommuting options or other alternative ways to clock hours for a few weeks, consider giving yourself and your postpartum state some grace by taking advantage of that flexibility. 

If possible, go back at 80 percent time for the first month or two. If you have Paid Time Off (PTO) saved up, schedule a day or two off in the first month just to have a time on the calendar to catch up. If you don’t have PTO to use for the ease-in schedule, you could also ask to use some of your leave time intermittently to create an ease-in plan.

Plan Ahead For Feeding Your Baby

As a pediatrician, I’m a huge proponent of breastfeeding but I also know breastfeeding doesn’t always work out or isn’t always feasible. A woman’s decision or ability to breastfeed does not define her as a mom. There are about a billion other things that matter more and we do a disservice to mothers when we place unnecessary pressure, guilt, or shame on them about this one component of a baby’s early life.

For those who are breastfeeding at home during maternity leave, the transition to pumping can be daunting. Here are my best tips for making it successful:

Know Your Rights

It wasn’t that long ago that women had virtually no breastfeeding rights in the workplace and, believe me, I’ve heard some horror stories about women cramped into tiny bathrooms while pumping even recently. The law, though, is on our side when it comes to pumping and work. Lactating employees are required by federal law to have a private place to express milk throughout the day.[ The law states the amount of time should be “reasonable.” Every lactating mom is different but, remember, you’ll want to factor in enough time during each session to set up your pumping gear, pump, and then clean everything back up again. 

Learn to Pump on The Go

I’ve pumped just about everywhere you can imagine: in the bathroom stall at a Giant’s game, at my desk, in the car…everywherebecause, when I first started breastfeeding, I decided that I would not be deterred by technical difficulties or by a lack of convenience. I wanted to be able to pump on trips, at the airport, at hotels and I did. There are a lot of things I look back on in my first year of parenting that I could have done differently or wished I’d known more about but, this? This one I knocked out of the park, if I do say so myself. Not because I’m so amazing but because I was intentional about it.

Maximize Your Pumping Efforts When You’re In The Office

If you’re going to spend hours of your life over the next year with two suction cups attached to your breasts, you might as well make those hours as effective as humanly possible. Next week, we’ll dive into what you need to know to get the most (literally) out of your efforts.

Take Care of Yourself and Take It Easy

Experienced mamas know taking care of yourself matters just as much as taking care of your little one. That means concentrating on sleep for you and your baby, focusing on your emotional health and wellness, and moving your body. It also means taking it easy when you’re just getting going with this new home-work balancing act. It can be tempting to over plan your weekends when you head back to the office because you miss your family time (or your alone time) so much. For your sanity, though, think about doing the opposite for the first few months. Don’t pack your first few weekends full of outings and activities. Instead plan to nap and adjust to a new level of complication and fatigue (which gets better, by the way). 

The Night Before You Go Back to Work

The night before you go back to work for the first time, get organized. Make bottles for daycare, make your lunch, lay your clothes out—whatever you need to make the morning as smooth as possible. If you don’t quite fit into all your old work clothes yet, try a clothing rental company to tide you over while you’re still in a transitional body. These things take time, my friend. Dedicate a little time that evening to reviewing your week with your partner and thinking about any special logistics you have to manage. Being a working parent is 150% about logistics, so the more you have those worked out from the get-go, the more you can concentrate on your emotional transition to this next stage of life. 

Remembering What’s Real

Returning to the workplace brings up so many emotions and complicated decisions but you can make the transition easier with an intentional plan that sets you and your baby up calm and contentment. Remember, above all, our kids do not need us to be in their presence all day and all night. When they see their moms thriving and content in our own lives, when we can offer them the best parts of ourselves when we’re with them because we’ve already filled our own deepest needs—either professionally or personally—they thrive as well.

Want more help winning at parenting without losing yourself?

Check out our self-care and newborn care courses.

Know a mom-to-be who could use some help caring for herself and her little one?

Grab the book! Out March 17, 2020.

Hacks for new moms going back to work after newborn, pumping, breastfeeding, newborn care

 

POST:

Modern Mommy Hacks | How to Make a Self-Care Plan You’ll Actually Stick With

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

October 11, 2019

Earlier this week, I had a hard day in my pediatric office.  I was on my game, trying my best, providing the best care possible. It didn’t matter. When you’re a pediatrician you deal with sick kids and their understandably anxious parents day in and day out, making a few hard ones here and there inevitable. My medical assistant and I hustled as we tried to make sure everyone was taken care of.

We spent all day seeing well and unwell kids, making phone calls to specialists, and rearranging schedules when patients came late, needed more time, or had extra questions. Despite our best efforts and our commitment to top-notch customer service, stressors and time constraints meant we couldn’t please everyone perfectly. I kept up my determination to stay present and mindful, though, looking for opportunities to make connections, set realistic expectations, and think ahead about potential dissatisfiers. My assistant and I weren’t perfect but we were proud of ourselves as we ended the day. 

By the time 6 p.m. rolled around and I shut down my computer, I was exhausted.

I headed home, letting my early 2000s throwback playlist melt away the day. It was time to get myself out of work mode and back into family mode because, even though the day had been hard, my kids didn’t know that…and they wouldn’t fully understand it if I showed up irritated and weary when I walked through the door. I mean, they would have said they were sorry for me if I had laid out the whole day’s events for them, but they have their own needs at the end of the day—a need to connect with the working parents they’ve been separated from for the last 9 hours. It’s not up to them to take up less space in my life when work threatens to take up way too much.

I let Justin Timberlake ease the day’s pains as I cruised down the freeway. 

The door opened as I turned the handle and two excited voices shouted, “Mom’s home!” As my eldest read to me proudly from her chapter book and showed me her “Life Cycle of a Mealworm” art project (oh, how I miss first grade) and my youngest climbed into my lap, I felt my body sinking into my chair—no longer from fatigue but rather from relief. I was back to my happy place. Work can be my happy place, too, but on that day, Home won hands down.

Why didn’t I feel even more tired as two more souls started scrambling for my attention and begging for my focus? Why did that energize and calm me, all at the same time? Because, my friend, knowing that chaos is inevitable in my work life and in my home life, I planned ahead. I took the time I needed that morning before the day got going to take care of myself. I prioritized self-care preemptively because I knew that I would be taking care of everyone else later on. 

A Self-Care Schedule You’ll Stick With

I follow a set self-care schedule. It’s even on my calendar. I attend my self-care appointments just like I would any other appointment. 

That’s why, at 6 am that morning, I was at the gym, riding on a stationary bike to Lizzo, the lights turned down low, the music turned up loud, my heart beating strong in my chest, covered in sweat, feeling alive.

This is not about self-indulgence— taking care of ourselves is not just talking about massages and pedicures (or even lively exercise classes), though those are really amazing when they happen. This is also not about putting another thing on our to-do lists, something to check off or add to our mental overload. This is about getting intentional around taking dedicated time to stop, regroup, and refocus before moving on to yet another obligation or commitment that is about everything and everyone else in your life but you

What is something you can do about every other day, almost every single week to take care of yourself? Of course, there are weeks you may do absolutely nothing for yourself, but if you can commit to three times a week most weeks, it will be often enough that you stick with it and it will become a routine. If you can get to your activity more often, awesome, but three times a week is a great start.

I schedule my self-care this way:

  • One weekend morning
  • One weekday evening or weekday morning when my husband is with our kids
  • One weekday evening or weekday morning when a caretaker is with our kids

I’ll be honest. I have weeks where none of these three days happen. There are days I have to squeeze time in for myself at the very end of the day. Still, I come back to this schedule time and time again. Remember, this is not about checking off boxes. This is about thinking about how much time you’re willing to give yourself and what you would do with that time if you had it.

Exercise is the activity I choose most often for my “self-care appointments.”

Physical fitness can give you the chance to deepen your social connections, be mindful, and set goals for yourself. Meditation also checks many of those same boxes but there is something valuable in moving our bodies as a way to clear the mental and physical cobwebs away.

Maybe exercise is not your thing. My husband prefers setting aside time to go to football games with his buddies or heading out to a restaurant with close friends. Your version of self-care could be sitting quietly looking out at a view or at a coffee shop reading a magazine. Choose a routine that works for you, not that fits other’s expectations or sounds good to everyone else. This is not about them, it’s one hundred and eighty percent about you.

My self-care schedule takes six hours a week, sometimes less, but it makes all the difference in the world. And, I find the more I commit to spending a few regular, dedicated hours on myself throughout the week, the easier it is to find other opportunities, even small moments, to slow down and focus in so I can continue to keep pace with my life (for more on how to simplify things so the pace of your life isn’t so fast, click here). 

Is Self-Care Selfish?

You may be thinking (or have been taught by someone else) that taking care of yourself, especially as you mother, is selfish or frivolous, but we all know that’s just not true. Self-care is about survival. I know I get antsy, anxious, and downright ornery when I don’t have enough breaks. As moms, we’re overwhelmed and overburdened when we minimize our need to reset.

This is why I choose not to live a frantic, harried martyr’d kind of life whenever possible. Some of our stresses as moms, particularly working moms like me, are inevitable because society is still stuck in antiquated policies and paradigms. Some of our stresses won’t change because our kids are at a particularly difficult age or are struggling with something that just takes time to work through. Some are wholly dependent on our finances or a lack of support from those around us, even (more than occasionally) those who co-parent with us. So many of our stressors, though, can be mitigated by prioritizing well and by taking control of the way we use our time and resources

The Best Moments Deserve Our Best Focus

I don’t want the best moments of my life, the ones I’ll remember forever, to be lost to glazed eyes and exhaustion. I don’t want to give myself or my kids my leftovers, the dregs of my day, the crumbs that are left after I take care of everything else.  Let’s be intentional enough with our time so we don’t miss out on the moments that matter. 

advice for moms of toddlers and infants for exercise and self-care



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