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




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.

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


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




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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November 27, 2018

Let me guess. Someone, somewhere in the last week or so has talked about how hectic the holiday season is. They talked about how much they had to get done, how many gifts they had to buy, and how much they had to accomplish. The whole, “Oh, the holidays are so stressful” mantra is just as much a part of our winter tradition in the United States as Santa and Frosty the Snowman, especially for moms. 

I thought a lot about our collective holiday mindset a lot this week, as my family and I made a 60-hour, 780-mile trip down to California and back with a two- and a five-year-old in tow.

We were up early on Thanksgiving day to catch a two-hour flight, take a three-and-a-half hour car ride to my in-law’s house and eat a lovely meal. Then, we turned around a day and a half later to do it all again. It’s one of many November or December trips we’ve taken with our young kids in the name of tradition and family. And, while I love, love, love my husband’s family and I want my children to be a part of the holiday hubbub, the trip planning (and the beaucoup bucks it cost to make it happen) made us take a second to look at our choices.

It also made us take a second look at the trade-offs and benefits of taking a whirlwind attitude toward these holiday months. It wasn’t long before we came to the conclusion that planning get-togethers for longer periods of time when we can really sink in and relax into vacations with our extended family, like during the summer months, would be way more feasible in the future. 

Last year, I posted about my plan to divide and conquer during the holidays, putting my husband in charge of most of the gift buying and putting myself in charge of most of the planning for special events. It made a huge difference in our holiday experience, but this revelation about what we do with our time and what control we have over the parts of this season that makes things feel hectic? That type of mind shift is on a whole other level because it applies to everything else we do in our lives, too. 

See, here’s the deal: when we say we’re feeling hectic around the holidays we’re saying that we’ve made the choice to make it that way. We’re deciding that we agree with living our lives that way. 

And here’s the bigger deal: when we’re moms and we say we’re hectic—at the holidays and throughout the rest of the year—we’re saying the same thing. We’re saying we choose a hectic, stress-filled life. Now, of course, some things are stressful just because they are. Sometimes a loved one is hurt or ill, sometimes we come across financial difficulties, or a challenging relationship makes life hard. I’m not talking about that kind of stress. I’m talking about hustle and bustle, too many things on my list, too many commitments and plans in way too short of time stress. Self-induced stress. 

Nah, mamas. I think we’re better than those tired mantras and stories. I think our holidays should be better and our lives should be better.

You with me? If you are, here are some ways to take back control of your life and of the next few months, in particular. 

Say No

Sometimes we have to just flat out say no. When it comes to our kids, our jobs, ourselves, we have to actively set boundaries. Believe me, if you keep on giving, others will keep on receiving. Sheryl Sanders was revolutionary when she talked about leaning in, but if we lean in too far to anything, we’re going to fall in, the victim of our own lack of perspective and mindfulness. That means, at some point, we have to decide what’s most important to us. We have to make decisions based on our priorities, not our obligations, or else other people (often times very unintentionally) are going to determine how our minutes and our days will be filled. 

Spend Your Time Creating Memories With Your Family, Not Spending Money on Them

When my kids look back on their early childhoods, I hope with all my heart they remember the special moments we created decorating gingerbread men on our kitchen table and blaring Michael Bublé’s Christmas album in the car. I know they won’t remember the toys we put under the tree this year. I’m still going to buy them some, I’m just not going to go overboard in the purchasing department. I am going to go overboard in the “spend a bunch of cozy time together” department. 

Delegate to The Other People in Your Village 

You can’t and shouldn’t do this holiday season alone. If you have a partner, no need to make it even stevens, but do divide and conquer your way through. No matter what your status, get other people involved so the responsibility doesn’t lie solely with you. 

Don’t Fain Martyrdom

Sometimes I catch myself telling other people how busy I am this time of year because it seems like a breathless dash to the holiday finish line is the only way to look like I’m doing a good job. It turns out, though, that’s all for show. I really like going to my company party and picking out special ways to commemorate the year for the people I love. I enjoy getting Christmas cards out to friends and family. If you do, too, own it without acting like it’s a pain. 

Pack It In

Instead of spending all week thinking about what you need to get done to make the holidays happen, take a chunk of time to make a plan. A half an hour should work just fine to jot down all the gifts you need to buy, the food you need to prep, and the activities you need to plan. Then, set aside another hour or two to, in one sitting, try to move through as much as possible on your list. (Hint: whenever possible, shop online and think about gifting experiences, like a gift card to a restaurant or toward a spa day, instead of stuff that has to ship). If you’re still not done once the timer goes off, plan another two-hour chunk in a few days. Compartmentalizing our to-dos reduces our mental load, allowing us to get more mindful throughout the day.

Yeah, sure, the holidays are hectic for most people but they do not have to be for you (or for me). Our kids learn the most about peace and joy during this season when we model it ourselves—when they see us complaining less about how the holidays are happening to us and enjoying more what the season has in store for us if we set some limits and choose a celebration mindset. 

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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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.

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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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.

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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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