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    • Is it possible to take time for yourself and be a good parent? Of course! Self-care is key to avoiding parental burnout. Here are 5 tips to beat burnout before it happens.
      If I possessed one superpower, I would disregard flying, teleporting or telekinesis. I would simply want to stretch our 24-hour days to have more time. That was one of the most surprising transitions for me as a new parent: clocks no longer mattered because you can’t finish all the things that are on your list — and there’s even less time to unwind.
      But I’m a firm believer that we were each a person before we were a parent, and maintaining some semblance of your interests is core to avoiding burnout. Remembering the activities that gave you energy before you had kids is an important first step. The harder next step is carving out time to do those activities. But I think both things are possible: making time for yourself and being a good parent.
      [Related: Working mom hacks: Tips and tricks to make your life better]
      How can we be a light to others if we’re burned out? From one parent to another, here are my five tips* to beat off burnout before it happens:
      Be honest with yourself. Do you feel on the brink of flipping out about something tiny? Not being your best self with your kids? This is typically a good sign that you need a break. Even a short one can make a difference. Parenting can feel as if you’re on a hamster wheel. Stop running. Understand that self-care isn't selfish. Caring for yourself is necessary, not indulgent. Reading for 15 minutes in bed or enjoying a cup of coffee you didn’t have to re-warm 9 times can be self-care. While a trip to the spa is wonderful, self-care doesn’t have to be luxurious, expensive, or time-consuming. It just has to be for you. Take the pressure off of social media. When you see on Instagram that another mom baked homemade cookies or DIYed all their kid’s birthday decorations, remind yourself they may enjoy baking or crafting. Or they may hate it and are just doing it for likes. In either case, don’t compare yourself. [Related: To the moms running on fumes, here's how to refill the tank]
      Don’t commit to things you don’t care about. You have the right to say no to activities you don’t want to do, and I encourage you to try it. If you dread that party you said you’d go to, kindly bow out. Be honest with others. The most rewarding conversations I’ve had with friends and family are the real ones. The ones where you talk openly about your lives and are vulnerable. It takes a village to raise a child, and it takes a village to support a parent. Be that village for others and you’ll find the favor is returned. Hats off to the moms and dads who magically make it happen every day — minus sleep and superpowers to pull it off.
      *I am an amateur parent, and only marginally and intermittently qualified to offer advice.

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    • Become a safe space for your child by bringing awareness to the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty that we are all experiencing during the Covid pandemic.
      As the new school year approaches amid the Covid pandemic, we all find ourselves approaching it with a heightened sense of apprehension with a new normal of social interaction. The previous school year concluded with distance learning and parents temporarily thrust into educator roles and many are anxiously wondering what will happen this fall. It’s impossible to know what the future holds, and with no clear roadmap, parents who have been managing anxiety are now struggling.
      The coronavirus has caused significant disruptions to everyone’s daily life, and children are particularly feeling all of these changes as the new “normal” continues to shift. These changes come with a mix of new emotions as the new school year quickly approaches. Some may be hopeful with the excitement of in-person while others may be fearful of returning to the social stressors. Regardless, it is our job as caregivers to support our children in exploring their many feelings while providing a sense of calm to ease anxiety. But how can we do that in a time like this?
      [Related: 4 tips for managing your kids' coronavirus anxiety]
      We often try to soothe our children’s anxieties by having “all” the answers, and you may feel exhausted by trying to force things to be certain. In this situation, it is important to let go of control as nobody is sure of what the future of school looks like. Become a safe space for your child by bringing awareness to the uncomfortable feeling of uncertainty that we are all experiencing. This will be tough but worth it, as figuring out how to manage anxiety and tolerate the uneasy feeling are essential skills for everyone these days.
      Here are some tips on how to navigate conversations about the upcoming school year with your child.
      Empathize and validate. Encourage your child to express any fear or anxiety while letting them know that what they are feeling is normal.
      Use curiosity. Children may have fears revolving around bullying, e-learning, conflicts with friends, or being separated from you. Ask open questions and actively listen while talking through strategies to help your child improve problem-solving skills and feel empowered.
      Emphasize what is predictable. With the uncertainties of the method of schooling these days, focus on what a child can expect—learning new things, interacting with a teacher, etc.
      Continue practicing. Have the family wear a face mask at home in a variety of situations. This can be playing a board game, coloring, or watching a family movie. Doing this will help with not only the potential to return to classrooms but going to places like the grocery store.
      Shift back into a routine. Routines promote feelings of safety and can give a child a sense of control. Create an expected school routine by following bedtimes, getting ready in the morning, etc.
      [Related: Will my relationship survive this virus?]
      Provide reassurance. Revisit the safety measures in place to help keep children and teachers safe. This can ease anxiety about their safety in public spaces.
      Be honest. It’s okay not to have all the answers! We cannot solve all of our children’s problems, but sometimes they don’t need solutions—just to feel understood and supported. Admit that you wish you knew what the future of school looked like, but the reality is that you don’t. You are unable to make all the decisions now, but you will when you have the information you need. With honesty, you are sure not to make promises you can’t keep.
      Acknowledge the uneasiness. It is difficult to sit in the uncomfortable feeling of anxiety as we tend to avoid or resist it. Begin to notice and gently observe what is happening in your body to increase your ability to handle it. By doing this with your children, it will model that it is okay to feel this way—even grownups do!
      Focus on what you can control. It’s easy to get caught up in the unknown and “what ifs?” Notice when this is happening and gently shift to focusing on what is within your control to stay in the present moment.
      Be kind to yourself. Being a parent in the best of times is already the hardest job in the world. It is impossible to avoid anxiety right now but doing the best you can is all you can do!.

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    • Discover restaurants, salons, boutiques, bakeries, gyms and more Black-owned businesses in Chicago.
      Looking for a special gift or just a treat for yourself? Check out this list of Black-owned businesses in the city (many of which offer delivery or curbside pickup), where you can get everything from cocktail-themed artisan soaps to kids' toys. 
      Food & Drink
      Batter & Berries: Breakfast/brunch/lunch spot in Lincoln Park
      Berry Berry Sweets: Cakes, cupcakes and cake pop caterer
      Bettie Lou’s: American cuisine in Andersonville
      Brown Sugar Bakery: Cakes and cupcakes in Chatham
      Chicago French Press: Coffee roaster that offers bean subscriptions and beans by the pound
      The Common Cup: Coffee shop in Rogers Park
      Demera: Ethiopian cuisine in Uptown
      Dream Chef: Restaurant, catering, meal delivery in Tri-Taylor
      Eleven | Eleven: American cuisine and to-go cocktails in West Loop
      Ethiopian Diamond: Ethiopian cuisine in Edgewater
      Friistyle: Belgian frites in Bronzeville
      Frontier: Meat-focused restaurant in Bucktown
      Fruve Express Juicery: Cold-pressed juice in Loop and South Loop
      Gimme Some Sugah: Pies, cakes, cookies and more in South Shore
      Good to Go Jamaican: Jamaican cuisine on Rogers Park/Evanston border
      The Grail Cafe: Breakfast and lunch in South Loop
      Ida’s Sweet Tooth: Cupcakes and sweets caterer
      Ina Mae’s Tavern: New Orleans cuisine in Wicker Park
      Justice of the Pies: Pies available in markets and some restaurants
      Kilwin’s: Ice cream and sweets in Hyde Park
      Kyoto Black: Coffee shop in Edgewater currently offering coffee bean delivery
      Lem’s Bar-B-Q: Barbecue spot in Chatham
      Life’s Sweet: Cafe in Rogers Park
      Lizzy J: Catering, cafe and housemade iced tea in Ravenswood 
      The Long Room: Bar/restaurant in Ravenswood currently offering to-go cocktails, beer and wine
      Love Corkscrew: Wine delivery; also available in various retail locations
      Luella’s Southern Kitchen: Soul food in Lincoln Square
      Mr. Brown’s Lounge: Jamaican cuisine in West Town
      Ms. T’s Southern Fried Chicken: Fried chicken and fish in Wrigleyville 
      Pearl’s Place: Southern cuisine in Bronzeville
      Rooh Chicago: Indian cuisine in West Loop
      Shawn Michelle's: Ice cream shop in Bronzeville
      Sip & Savor: Coffee shop in Bronzeville
      Soule: Southern cuisine in West Town
      Surf’s Up Avondale: Seafood and Southern food in Avondale
      Sweet Maple Cafe: Breakfast/brunch in Little Italy/UIC
      Taste 2 Go: American cuisine in West Loop
      Taylor’s Tacos: Tacos for catering or pickup (Tuesdays only) in East Garfield Park
      Teapot Brew Bakery: Tea and treats in Near South Side
      Uncooked: Vegan restaurant in West Loop
      Urban Grill: Burgers and sandwiches in Uptown
      Virtue: Southern cuisine in Hyde Park
      Clothes & Accessories
      The Advocates: Online-only social activist T-shirts
      A’nies Accents: Boutique in South Loop
      Buttonsbyferrai: Etsy shop featuring custom and social activist buttons
      Kido: Kids' toys and clothes in South Loop; online ordering available
      Kiwi’s Boutique: Boutique in Tri-Taylor; online ordering available
      Mimi’s Tot Closet: Shop for girls’ clothes in Auburn-Gresham; online ordering available
      Love Peridot: Accessories shop in South Loop; online ordering available
      Recycled Modern: Vintage, upcycled and handcrafted furniture and home decor shop in Lakeview
      Reformed School: Etsy shop featuring humorous and social activism T-shirts and accessories
      The Silver Room: Jewelry, accessories, clothes, gifts and more in Hyde Park; online ordering available
      Sir & Madame: Fashion brand with a store in Hyde Park
      Standout Style Boutique: Online-only clothes and accessories 
      Beauty/Personal Care/Health
      80th and May: Online-only shop featuring artisan soaps and bath salts
      Blade and Bloom: Etsy shop featuring skin-care products
      Bodi Shak: Group fitness gym in Uptown
      Chatto: Natural hair- and skin-care products in West Loop; online ordering available
      Depart with Art: Online-only shop featuring organic body products
      Eb & Flow: Yoga studio in Bucktown; currently offering live online classes
      Goldkissed Essentials: Online-only shop featuring handmade soaps
      Karyn’s: Vegan restaurant, spa and health products; online ordering available
      Mad Moisture Beauty: Online-only skincare products
      Mango Moi: Online-only mango butter skin and hair products
      Mind Body Defense: Kickboxing gym with private classes in Uptown
      Pear Nova: Online-only vegan nail polish
      Soap Distillery: Cocktail-inspired artisan soaps
      Sweet Beginnings: Beekeeping social enterprise featuring honey and honey-based body care products; online ordering available
      Black Owned Market: Online-only bath and body products
      Urbane Blades: Men’s barbershop in Near North Side
      Wholistic Skincare: Skincare salon in Clybourn Corridor; online ordering available
      Books, Gifts & More
      Helendora Samuels Picture Framing: Custom frame shop in Wicker Park
      Rose Blossom Chicago: Online-only florist
      Semicolon Chi: The only Black woman–owned bookstore in Chicago. Store in River West; online ordering available.
      Thepairabirds: Etsy shop featuring illustrated artwork
      Third Coast Comics: Comic and graphic novel shop in Rogers Park
      This is not an exhaustive list, so we'd love to get your recommendations for awesome Black-owned businesses in Chicago. Tell us at laura@npnparents.org.

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    • Anti-racist resources to guide you in your work to dismantle anti-Blackness for your children, and everyone's children.
      Since the pandemic began, it has been hard to deny that racism continues to hinder people of color’s well being. Asian Americans have faced harassment and even violence with the tacit approval of the president, since he referred to COVID-19 as the “Chinese virus” and later the “Kung Flu.” Additionally, we’ve seen the harmful consequences of our modern lifestyle of convenience on communities of color. People of Latinx and African descent are disproportionately the drivers delivering our meals, stocking our food in the grocery stores, and boxing our online orders. For the first time in my generation, many of us are seeing how our luxury requires that these essential workers risk their health. Coronavirus cases for Black and Latinx essential workers are the highest in the nation compared to whites. 
      [Related: Show some love to these Chicago Black-owned businesses]
      Like most Americans, I have seen and heard of countless incidents of police reacting to Black lives as if they are villains from a Marvel film. Let’s be honest, long before the pandemic, it has become something most Americans have glanced at, chose to be ambivalent about and have found ways to justify the excessive use of force.
      If you have a social media account, you know that the frequency of police brutality is shocking. Every day, residents are documenting footage that has changed the perspectives of millions of people who have never seen (innocent or accused) people treated this way. You, or someone you know, may have tried to find justifications for the brutality aimed at unarmed people of color: their flawed track record (George Floyd); they didn’t follow the police’s commands (Philando Castille); he went through an abandoned building (Ahmaud Arbury). But what can you say about Breonna Taylor who was sleeping in her home with her partner when she was shot by police? What have you told your children about all of the racial trauma and injustice happening to people of color in America? Do you explain to them that the root of racial injustice is white privilege?
      The Rodney King verdict showed me as a child that my skin was not valued in this country as much as white skin. Today, my brown skin children are learning the same harsh truth. Despite the progress of the Civil Rights movement of my mother’s generation to the “post-racial” Obama era of mine, the structures that hold white supremacy in place are as strong as ever. Despite the great efforts I make as a parent to position my child to obtain the American dream, they are still subjected to racial trauma simply because of their skin color. 
      In order to eradicate this 401-year-old virus, we have to acknowledge that anti-Blackness in all of its forms--institutional, interpersonal, covert and overt--is the culprit. White Americans have to step up to take this undeserving burden off the backs of Black people. Non-Black parents of color must also do the work so they don’t become accomplices to anti-Blackness. 
      So, where should you start? Below, you will find some remarkable resources to guide you in your work to dismantle anti-Blackness, for my children and for yours.
      Resources to build your antiracist practice
      For parents of all hues:
      Black Lives Matter
      Antiracism Project
      10 Words and Phrases You Might Not Know Are Racist (Red Tricycle)
      Raising White Kids: Bringing Up Children in a Racially Unjust America
      Recommended Resources for Supporting the Black Lives Matter Movement (Lecture in Progress)
      For Latinx families:
      Why Every Latino Has a Responsibility to the Black Lives Matter Movement (Repeating Islands blog)
      For Asian & South Asian families:
      Anti-Racism Resources (Asian Women for Health)
      VIDEO: We Cannot Stay Silent About George Floyd (Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj)
      For babies (it's never too early to build their antiracist vocabulary!):
      A Is for Activist board book

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    • Parents of gifted children encounter unique challenges when it comes to keeping their gifted children engaged.
      Parenting during Covid-19 is a new experience for everyone, but what if you’re the parent of a gifted child? There’s often a misconception that teaching gifted kids is easier, but this isn’t necessarily true. 
      When my own gifted children were young, I was faced with the constant misconception that, because they were gifted, they didn’t need extra support. That couldn’t be further from the truth! Gifted children require just as much time, energy, and understanding as anyone--only in their own, unique way.
      What makes gifted children different?
      Gifted children, like any children, are complex. The National Association for Gifted Children lists the following as common characteristics of gifted children: 
      Insatiable curiosity with constant questioning Advanced levels of moral judgment and a strong sense of justice Independence in academic work High energy, spontaneity, and enthusiasm Passion about topics and perseverance in learning about those topics High standards for oneself and high levels of frustration when those standards aren’t met Emotional sensitivity, empathy, and awareness of being different  How can I support my gifted child during Covid-19?
      Parents of gifted children encounter unique challenges when it comes to keeping their gifted children engaged, active and curious--challenges amplified by Covid-19. Here are a few ways you can support your gifted child during the pandemic:
      Provide space for creative projects. Because gifted children are so passionate, they will likely have strong interests. Find time each day, or at least each week, for them to pursue interests outside of the regular school curriculum. This can be as simple as setting aside 30 minutes for your child to practice guitar, build a model of the solar system, or create an at-home museum. Allow your child to choose the topic and don’t get too involved beyond offering support. 
      Take a step back academically (when appropriate). It may seem counterintuitive, especially if your child is academically focused, but resist the urge to hover. Since many gifted children are independent learners, they likely have school work under control. You may need to occasionally assist with work habits, technology and organization, but hold off on asking teachers for extra assignments or quizzing your child after dinner each night. Allow the extra time in your child’s schedule to be used for creative pursuits that excite them. 
      Also, avoid falling for the misconception that, once a child is labeled as gifted, they’ll never struggle or fail. It’s important to note that “giftedness” isn’t universal. For example, your child could be gifted in math, but struggle with reading comprehension.
      [Related: Easing your child's anxiety about the upcoming school year]
      Focus on effort and growth, rather than success and failure. One major roadblock for gifted kids is that they might give up easily. Since some academic concepts come naturally, they may hit a roadblock when faced with learning a difficult skill. Gifted children often don’t do well with failure!
      Researcher Carol Dweck found that most people either have a fixed mindset or a growth mindset. People with fixed mindsets think their intelligence is set, whereas those with a growth mindset believe that they can improve with practice and effort (even if they’ve failed in the past!). They have the perseverance to overcome struggles and look at mistakes as learning opportunities. 
      Take some time to discuss failure with your child, and even cheer them on when their efforts don’t produce the “right” result. Help them reframe success around the effort they put into a task, rather than whether they arrive at the correct answer.
      Intentionally address social and emotional needs. All children are struggling with some level of social isolation and anxiety during the pandemic, but this can be exacerbated for gifted students who often have a natural awareness of other people’s emotions. 
      During this time, it’s important to address these issues head-on. To combat social isolation, try to set up social activities for your child, whether it’s a Zoom session with grandparents or an interactive computer game. 
      For gifted children who experience increased anxiety due to Covid-19, be sure to validate their fears and feelings rather than telling them everything will be okay. You might say, for example, “It’s normal to be scared. I’m scared, too.” 
      Take care of yourself, too. Try to keep your own feelings in check through exercise, mindfulness and plenty of sleep. The more even-keeled you are, the more your child will pick up on it. 
      These are uncertain times, but understanding your gifted child and working to support them at home goes a long way. We’re all in this together!

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    • Getting creative with some basic items will encourage hours of play and create lasting memories.
      When Chicago's stay-at-home order began, like many parents I wondered how we would fill so much time at home with my 22-month-old. Even as a stay-at-home mom, this was a daunting task! I decided to get busy using my elementary-education teaching background to create basic plans for exploration and make the most of our time together. As we draw near the fall and probably another step toward increased distancing, I hope to empower parents with ideas for simple play at home. Creating memories at home together is the first step in your child’s education, and can be done with minimal materials.
      I believe in learning through play, exploring child-led curiosities and interests, and exposure to as much language and color as possible! Through the eyes of a child, everything within your home is a learning tool! Getting creative with some basic items will encourage hours of play and create lasting memories. Below are some of my favorite materials for our projects, arts and crafts, all of which are pictured and detailed on the Instagram account, @raisingminimoss.
      [Related: How to keep your kids active inside]
      Pom poms: These fuzzy balls are so visually exciting! Use these for color sorts, toss and catch, or spooning into muffin tins. Tape paper towel rolls to the wall and create a pom pom drop! Squish some into a kitchen whisk and have your little one use their pincer fingers to get them out. 
      Contact paper: This one-sided sticky paper has filled hours of fun and crafting with my 22-month-old! Stick cotton balls to it and make a sheep or bunny. Use tissue paper scraps to make a suncatcher. Feathers can turn the contact paper into a beautiful bird! My little one loves going on a nature hunt and displaying her found leaves, sticks, and flowers on the paper.
      Dot stickers: These are the basic ones you can find at the office section of your favorite store, and they can be used in so many different ways! Fine motor skills are practiced when removing the stickers from their paper, hand-eye coordination is practiced when sticking them on a line. They can be great for color sorts and matching activities by putting uppercase/lowercase letters or numbers on them.
      Bubble wrap: Write letters or numbers on the big bubbles and have your child pop it as you call them out. Wrap a rolling pin with it and roll it through paint—the print is amazing! Paint it and use it as a stamp to make prints of honeycombs or sheep’s wool. My little one’s favorite is to simply put it on the ground and jump. Talk about gross motor skills!
      [Related: How to celebrate kids' birthdays while social distancing]
      Paint: My favorite is Crayola Washable Paint. I love it because it washes out of everything, but I still keep baby wipes on hand for quick messes. We love “random object stamping”: pine cones, dried flowers, or even sticks from outside. The bottom of a celery stalk stamps like a rose and apples and citrus fruits make beautiful prints. Forks make amazing prints too, like lion’s fur!
      Recycling: Take a look at what you are recycling, and upcycle it! Your toilet paper rolls can become binoculars, stamps, or slides for toy cars. Empty tissue boxes can become a bed for dolls, a sorting bin, or with a few rubber bands it can become a guitar. 
      Sensory play: Sensory play encourages motor skills, scientific thinking and problem-solving, and is so much fun for exploration! Shaving cream, popcorn kernels, and even shredded paper can provide a great sensory experience to explore. Toss in a few small toys and have your child fish them out. There are lots of taste-safe options, too: yogurt, Jell-O, Cool Whip, food-coloring-dyed spaghetti noodles, ice cubes and even dried lentils.
      Beyond these projects, reading, singing and sharing nursery rhymes encourage language skills. Your young child’s brain is a sponge! Use books as a springboard for projects and talking about various topics. Include your child in at-home chores such as laundry sorting, stirring and mixing in the kitchen, and pulling out pots and pans to make instruments. 
      Take advantage of this time together and make some special memories. By seeing the world through your child’s eyes, you, too, will develop a sense of wonder and creativity! Allow yourself to be empowered by your own ideas—you and your children will be glad you did! And when in doubt, just dance! 

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    • We asked our working mom members their top tricks and tips for keeping themselves and their kids happy and sane despite hectic schedules.
      Coffee alone won't cut it. Parents who work full time need a plan to get out of the house on time in the morning with everyone fed, dressed and backpacks packed—without tears. (No one would blame you if you have a little cry on the way to work, btw.)
      How do seasoned working moms make it all happen? We asked our members their top tricks and tips for keeping themselves and their kids happy and sane despite hectic schedules. Hopefully these hacks can make your routine go a little more smoothly.
      Plan ahead 
      Many of our members said the key to a smooth day is preparing nearly everything the night before—or even earlier.
      "I plan my outfits every Sunday so I never have to wonder what I'm going to wear," says one member. And this working mom has a great closet strategy: "I keep my everyday, in-season work clothes grouped together in the closet, with whatever I wore most recently on the far left, so that every morning I can just grab an outfit from the 3-4 that are the farthest to the right."
      Dinnertime is another opportunity for advance prep. "I prep a lot of meals in advance and freeze them," says one mom. "If I don’t get everything cooked on the weekend, I usually cook it the night before, so I can get dinner on the table quickly. If I don’t have a plan the night before, we don’t eat!"
      And here's a genius cooking hack: "Whenever I cook anything requiring spice assembly, I create extra baggies of the same spice mixture so that the same future 'from scratch' meal is a lot easier/faster."
      Enlist the kids
      Why should parents have to do everything themselves? As soon as kids are old enough to help out, many parents put them on the chore list. "During the school year, I used a visual checklist so my kid could figure out what task needed to be done next (this also helped me and my husband)."
      Here's a great idea to ensure more adult time: "[My kids] have to help put everything away before they go to bed, so that there aren’t more chores for adults to do after bedtime."
      We can all aspire to get our kids to do as much as this mom's: "They make their own breakfast 80% of the time (I'm in charge of mornings). I've started getting the kids involved in doing their laundry but we are nowhere close to having them take it over yet." But still. They are feeding themselves and washing their clothes. High-five, mom.
      Enlist other parents
      Getting the kids ready and driving them to school can add a lot of stress and time to an already hectic morning. Many parents suggest splitting driving duties with other parents. "I work from home a couple days a week so I drive the carpool the days I don't have to get myself ready for work," says one mom. "The days I go into the office, I only have to have them ready to walk out the front door and I can finish getting myself packed and out."
      And what about after-school activities? Carpools can help with those, too. Says one mom: "The kids were on baseball/softball teams this past spring with a ton of overlap so having friends on those teams to share driving with was the only way it worked."
      House help
      Hiring help around the house isn't attainable for everyone, but if you can afford even a little help, you will save yourself a lot of time (and stress), according to our members.
      "We have a before school nanny/house manager that helps get our son ready for school, takes him to school, and comes home and cleans up breakfast, folds and puts laundry away, accepts said grocery delivery (marks everything off so we know what came and what didn't), starts laundry, and will do light cooking, load/unload dishwasher, help clean/cut up fruit, and help with little things and projects around the house. She also helps with Target returns, etc.," says one mom. Yes, she is living the dream. But wait, there's more. "We also have an afterschool nanny (college student) that picks our son up from school and drives him to his activities, etc." 
      Possibly more attainable for some of us: a house helper who comes one day per week. Check out how much work this mom squeezes out of once-a-week help. "She arrives at 6am so [my] husband and I can get one early-day start to work, and she gets kids ready and drives them to school. Then, she cleans our house from 8am-1:30pm, including laundry and changing all sheets, and then runs errands for us like...returns, dry cleaning, a few groceries as needed, buys all household cleaning supplies. Then picks up the kids at 3:30 from school [and] drives them to all after-school activities and goes home at 6pm." Phew! That's quite a day. "All other days [my] husband and I juggle responsibilities but this one-day-a-week position is amazing," she adds.
      Delivery
      Delivery isn't just for pizza and Amazon packages you forgot you bought. Many working moms recommend getting everything from dry cleaning to groceries delivered to save precious time. "We have all groceries delivered...It saves [my husband] and me a ton of time. [Now] I don't impulse shop."
      This mom did the grocery delivery research so you don't have to. "I used to do grocery delivery but then did a side-by-side cost comparison between Instacart and regular old Jewel Drive Up 'N Go, and well, I now mostly do Drive Up 'N Go."
      Do you have any tips and tricks you'd like to share? NPN members can comment on this thread on our member discussion forum.
       

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    • Use these tips to keep you and your kids on time during your busy morning routine.
      I hate the discourtesy of being late. I hate running from place to place. I hate to keep people waiting. With three little ones in tow (ages 2, 4 and 6), though, it kind of comes with the territory.
      But does it have to? These are some of the tools I’ve tried in my endeavor to avoid tardies at school, hold down a full-time job, keep stress and tears at bay, and even enjoy going about our day together. (Full disclosure: We don’t have this subject mastered, but we are committed to keep trying!)
      [Related: Purge alert! Enlist the kids in sorting and donating unwanted stuff]
      Countdown app
      When kids are very young and have no concept of time or the workings of a clock, you need a different mechanism to help them gauge how long they have to complete tasks. There are some good countdown apps that can provide the visual assistance they need, and in an entertaining way. We use Tico Timer, with its disappearing shapes or diminishing circles easing the transitions from home to daycare and daycare to school.
      Play 'Beat the Clock'
      As youngsters get older and become more interested in mastering telling the time, you could try instigating a "Beat the Clock" game. A traditional timepiece with hands and a child-friendly face makes this a more appealing activity. A little competition can be a successful motivator, and you can't beat the euphoria of starting the day off on the right foot. 
      Superhero game
      Giving family members superhero alter egos that can be called upon during the morning madness can be an imaginative way to generate the positive results you’re seeking. Task your team with accepting a mission: Operation Dash to School. After all, who’s heard of a superhero that doesn’t want to zoom into action?
      Playing teacher
      Implementing roleplay can provide some relief from always being the parent-in-charge, doling out instructions only to have them questioned. Children pretty quickly determine the steps that need to happen in order to get out the door or to prepare for bed. Have a kids takeover day and allow them the opportunity to play teacher (with a little guidance, of course).
      To-do chart
      As children get bigger they are able to take on their own chores. Creating task lists for each member of the household can be effective. Have specific morning and evening to-dos and utilize stickers or colored pens for a more tempting check-off. My daughter created “to-do” and “done” chore jars at Girl Scouts, which has provided some motivation for taking greater ownership of what she needs to accomplish.
      In our household, we continue our love-hate relationship with time but are always seeking that timely perfection nirvana. While a routine is helpful for kids so that they know what they need to do and when, having a few tricks up your sleeve can help keep them moving, or provide some much-needed motivation when the going gets tough. 

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    • Nobody tells you about all the anxieties and weird conversations you'll have when you have twins.
      Congratulations on your double whammies! You are in for the best and most challenging adventure of your lives! Here is some information I wish I had heard from other twin parents before mine were born.
      Instead of taking turns with your spouse at night, you will both be up. All night. One baby will wake up first, and, after feeding, rocking and gingerly placing the first back into the crib (while holding your breath and crossing your fingers), the second baby suddenly will wake up. It is as if their cribs are booby-trapped, and you now face another screaming baby, who will certainly wake up the first baby, continuing the cycle. Eventually, they will adapt to some type of schedule (hopefully the same schedule!), and you will either get your sleep or perfect your caffeine regimen. Each month seems to get a little easier.
      Another thing they won’t tell you is how guilty you will feel about not being able to hold/feed/snuggle/bathe/change both babies at the same time. You will worry about their head shapes from lying down too much and they aren’t getting the same amount of attention and human contact. You will worry they aren’t eating the same amounts or pooping the same amounts, and one has a funky rash when the other one doesn’t, etc. because it is only natural to compare them.
      You will be concerned that one rolls over first, one sits up or crawls first, and one starts communicating first. You will be anxious about the twin who doesn’t pave the way and wonder what is wrong and how you have failed that baby. Those feelings subside over time. I vividly remember my anxiety when my son only said, “Yayaya” while my daughter had a handful of words, but now, at age four, he is actually the more verbal child. They will certainly follow their own independent developmental schedules!
      Finally, you will humor anyone at Target and the grocery store and your neighborhood and the park who stops you to ask if they are twins and marvel at how lucky and blessed you are. People swarm to babies in general, but with twins they just can’t help themselves and lose all control of their social filters. They ask bold questions like, “Were they born naturally?” “Did you do IVF?” (I even had an older man approach me during a walk and ask me, “How did you get them out of you?”). You will summon all the politeness you can muster to respond. Lately, I’ve taken the approach that anytime someone says something bold or makes me uncomfortable, I classify it as a story to tell at a cocktail party…if I can stay awake long enough to tell it.
      Congratulations and best of luck with your double blessings. Remember, life gets easier! Keep your sense of humor, and you will have twice as many good stories to tell along the way.
       

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    • Boredom is good for kids. Find out how boredom can stoke creativity, awaken passions and interests, and more.
      Do you find yourself already planning your child’s summer? Are you anxious at the thought of hearing those three words, “Mom, I’m bored!”? Do you feel like your child has to be busy and engaged in social activities all the time otherwise they get into trouble or display negative behaviors?
      Believe it or not, boredom is beneficial. In a day and age where we are accustomed to little wait time, instant gratification, and constant visual entertainment, it is no wonder that our children do not rely on their own imaginations to keep themselves occupied.
      Boredom allows for exploration of their world
      Unscheduled time allows children to tune into their inner world as well as the world around them. It is extremely important for children to be with and learn to cope with their own emotions and thoughts especially while they are in an environment where they can ask questions about the things that they feel.
      In my private practice, I often hear parents say, “If I don’t put my child in activities she gets very anxious.” I’m not suggesting that we expose our children to excessive or unnecessary anxiety. What I am suggesting is that our children be taught to tend to their anxiety — not avoid it. This will allow them to learn how to cope with it later in life. Tuning into their environment can also teach children empathy, safe boundaries, connection, and increase emotional intelligence.
      Boredom awakens passions and interests
      Free time allows children to discover what they are truly interested in and passionate about. Consequently, it allows them to figure out what they are not interested in. Allowing our children to find what excites them, leads to satisfaction and increased self-esteem. It also leads to autonomy and independence, which is something we strive to teach our children as this enables them to be productive members of society
      Boredom increases creativity
      Having the freedom to explore their own imaginations allows our children’s creativity to awaken and thrive. Instead of turning to a computer screen or tablet, your child can create his own imaginary world or game that encourages large motor skills which enhances development. Creativity allows our children to become inventors and problem solvers.
      So we know why boredom is beneficial, but what can we do to encourage our children to embrace it?
      Turn off technology Explore the creative arts (music, art, dance, drama)  Get back to nature  Get moving: move your body to move your mind!  Take time to talk  Create a to-do list “Remember that boredom can also be a sign that our children just need some positive attention and love. Engage with your child and try to figure out why the boredom exists in the first place. Join your child in a game or imaginary play and not only will they be engaged, but your connection will become stronger.” — Nancy H. Blakey, parent educator and author
      Erica Hornthal, a licensed professional clinical counselor and board-certified dance/movement therapist, is the founder and CEO of Chicago Dance Therapy. As a psychotherapist in private practice, Erica is devoted to using movement in conjunction with traditional talk therapy to facilitate awareness, empathy, enhanced quality of life, and greater mental health for individuals and families.

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    • Practical tips from a Chicago psychotherapist on how to help your boy express all kinds of emotion.
      The causes or consequences of why boys aren’t seen as emotional would make for a long and lively debate, but for busy parents just looking for practical ways to improve young boys’ emotional IQ, here are some quick tips.
      The best kind of care is preventative, and it’s useful to help boys explore emotions by starting with what they know. Look to the people they interact with daily—in person or in fantasy—as a way to discuss feelings. Bring up emotions in their territory and space. Television shows and video games are all driven by character interactions and are full of openings to start a conversation about feelings, especially if there is a mismatch and incongruency between what someone is saying and what someone is doing.
      If boys mention that someone was embarrassed or upset, you could ask, “How did you know?” Inquire about what cues they observed: Facial expressions? Body language? Words? It can often feel safer to talk about other people’s experiences and emotions instead of ourselves. If they can begin to identify what others are experiencing, it opens the door to understand their own responses. With that in mind, be careful of putting words or vocabulary at the top of the hierarchy for emotional competence. One can read apprehension in a person from how they take a jump shot in basketball or when being invited to a playdate or party they are uneasy about attending. Give due credit to emotional literacy based on nonverbal cues.
      Boys are naturally exposed to feelings of jealousy, sadness and anxiety—as we all are. However, boys often lack the security that would armor them when talking about emotions that may negatively influence how you see and perceive them. As a result, it is critical for adults to praise expression of emotions in men. If a boy can see that you have a consistent attitude about a man despite his changes in emotional state, then he can begin to feel more comfortable expressing his emotions. If you’re a man, you can promote this idea by comfortably sharing your own emotions. Exercise vulnerability and expression in public and private settings about moments that make you feel irritated, nervous or sentimental, not just the more acceptable emotion of anger. 
      Modeling this kind of behavior and permitting it in others drops the veil of false expectations. From a child’s perspective, if it is okay for you to talk about and express, and if it is okay for others (both females and males) to emote and share, then the message for the boy will be, “It's okay for me too.”
      When talking about feelings with boys, paint the picture that emotionality is a human quality and that it can be dealt with in positive and negative ways. If someone throws their Xbox controller at the screen when they’re angry or suppresses a desire to cry when they feel extremely hurt, address those instances as inappropriate ways to handle emotion. Validate their feelings, but point out and discuss those destructive behaviors in men and women alike so they can be seen harmful or less than ideal for everyone, not just boys or men. Also, praise boys when they express emotions in a positive and healthy manner. 
      It isn’t revolutionary to say that we influence the next generation in ways we don’t realize. But it is helpful to remind ourselves we do influence future generations. I give this advice as a reference point. Obviously it won’t make you an emotional guru overnight, but it does begin a chain of events to bring these ideas to the forefront of your relationships. Exploring, modeling and sharing emotion make it more acceptable for young boys, and eventually expressing emotions for boys becomes part of any normal day. 

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    • A pep talk for women going through infertility treatments, from a mom who's been there.
      If I could write a letter to a woman going through infertility, I would tell her all the things I learned along the way on my journey, all my best advice, and it would go something like this.
      Dear [Desperately Wanting To Be A] Mom Struggling With Infertility,
      As you read this you are probably in a deep dark place, wondering “why me?”. I am here to tell you: The sun will shine again. Your morning routine won’t always include a trip to the infertility clinic to get your blood drawn and ultrasound for monitoring. Your stomach bloat will deflate. Your butt won’t be bruised and lumpy forever from the shots. You will have your life back.
      And it will all be worth it.
      I want to tell you it sucks—it’s OK to have a personal pity party (but keep it short), then stand up, brush yourself off and keep going. You will become a pro at getting your blood drawn. The shots aren’t ideal, but the build-up in your head is way worse; just hold your breath and go! Living through infertility treatments is like riding a roller coaster—constant ups and downs of emotions—you are hopeful, yet also bracing for heartache. It’s OK to be selfish, it keeps you sane. It’s OK to skip a baby shower if the thought of going makes you think you will lose it.
      You will not care who has seen your private parts. Maybe pre-infertility, you only had women OBGYNs; post-infertility, you might have a male doctor get you pregnant and a male doctor deliver your baby in a room full of medical students, and you will survive both. I want you to know that you will overcome this and be stronger for going through it, personally and in your relationship.
      But make sure you communicate your feelings with your partner; you both are struggling, and you need to be open and honest about your needs, your wants and your limits. Remember, you may have a plan, a vision of how your path to motherhood may look, and remember that plan, vision, path, may change over time, and that’s OK! It will make you appreciate being pregnant or being a mom even more, but don’t put too much pressure on the experience or yourself to be “perfect.”

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    • Four tips to reduce stress when moms are at their wit's end.
      Mom, have you ever had the feeling that you are running on fumes? Has your tank ever felt empty already when you were waking up in the morning? Have you gone to bed with your mind racing with all the things you need to get done the next day only to be in a twilight sleep the entire night and wake up as tired as you were when you first went to bed?
      If you are like most moms, you have probably felt like this on more than one occasion. If you are a normal mom, you have probably felt like this at least once a week. I know I have. There are many moments when I want to yell, "Mom down!". In those moments of despair, I am secretly wishing for someone to come to my rescue and say, "Nicole, I got this ... Go relax." 
      Many times when I am stressed, tired, overwhelmed or all of the above, I am guilty of leaving a trail of mommy meltdown destruction. I am more susceptible to being short with my kids or even my husband. My tolerance for normal kid behavior becomes nonexistent. It's not even who I am.
      I want to be a compassionate, loving wife and mom but in those instances where I have reached the point of no return, I realize that it is time for me to rest and recharge. I have recognized more than ever that for my sanity, health and happiness—and my families'—I cannot ever let my cup get that empty where they get the brunt of Mommy being stressed. It's not fair to them or me to create a stressful environment in our home because Mommy is in a bad mood.
      Here's a plan to help save us and our families from cranky mommy:
      Ask for quiet time 
      When my sister and I were teenagers, my mom would ask for 15 minutes of quiet time as soon as we got In from school. She would go upstairs to her room close the door. We didn't know what she did for those 15 minutes but she came back downstairs ready to conquer her second job as Mommy. At first read, your initial reaction may be that you don't have time to take 15 minutes and risk throwing off the evening routine. I would argue that taking that moment to take off the day is worth the sacrifice. 
      Create a bedtime routine 
      As important as bedtime routines are for our children, they should also be mandatory for mommies too! Not only do we need to get as much sleep as possible to recharge our batteries, but we also need to quiet our brains to make sure the sleep is quality. I am inconsistently consistent with my bedtime routine but on a good night, it is comprised of a hot cup of sleepytime tea and a long, hot shower. Every time I am intentional about doing it I often ask myself why I don't do it more often. 
      Ask for help 
      I am a pretty prideful wife and mom and it takes a lot out of me to ask for help. Ironically, the days that I hit a wall are the days I should have raised a white flag much earlier. It's ok to ask a girlfriend to watch the kids for an hour. It's ok to ask your significant other to fold the clothes in the dryer. 
       
      Take a mommy break
      The fastest way to refill your cup is to take a mommy break. You owe it to yourself to take a moment to recharge and reboot. It may be a simple as a manicure and Target run or as elaborate as a full weekend off of mommy duty. Find the one thing that brings you a moment of joy and go after it at least once a month (ideally once a week). It does not cure all the woes of mommyhood but it definitely makes it more manageable!
      Enact these four ideas to avoid your family ever experiencing the wrath of a mommy who is running on "e" and not taking the time to take care of herself. Let's continue to be the fabulous, perfectly imperfect moms that we are and not let stress get too much in the way. 

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    • His relationship with his grandchildren wasn't what this mom had envisioned, but it turns out it was what they needed.
      My dad had spent the last several years very unwell, and my mother spent a lot of her time taking care of him. That is a difficult situation for any family, but it is even more difficult when the person you are caring for continuously makes choices that contribute to his bad health. And so, although he was a man we loved, the result was a team of fairly frustrated family members.
      My biggest frustration was trying to understand why he didn’t make choices that would allow him to be involved more fully in the lives of his grandchildren. He adored each and every one of them. Every morning he asked my mother which of his grandbabies was going to visit that day. He had frequent visits from his collection of loving grandkids, who called him The Gaffer. Kids would disappear into his man cave and they’d have the place trashed instantly—toys everywhere, cushions off the couches and the TV channel changed to their station. Every visit was a kid invasion into The Gaffer’s space. Interestingly, he was not at all bothered by the noise or chaos. He was never impatient with them, and he certainly never snapped at any child. Visits ended with hugs, kisses and “I love you.”
      I felt the relationship wasn’t good enough because he didn’t actually do anything with my children. His illness made it so he couldn’t—that pesky illness that didn’t have to be there. My dad never read to the children and certainly never played a board game or made a puzzle with them. He didn’t take them out for walks or do any of the other things I see active grandparents doing with their grandchildren. It made me sad that he was missing out. And so were my kids.
      Apparently, I was wrong. A couple of weeks after his death, my nine-year-old daughter emerged from her bedroom at midnight to share a drawing of him. Included in the illustration were several messages and statements, one for each day since he had died. The most striking message to me was, “I loved EVERYTHING about you.”
      All that time I thought he wasn’t doing anything with his grandchildren, he was very actively doing the thing that was most important to them. He was loving them. And it was all they needed. 
       

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    • I broke nearly every parenting rule I made for myself. And that's totally okay.
      I probably did more reading while I was pregnant than I did in my four years of undergrad. I became obsessed with being the best parent that I could be, or least obsessed with figuring out what that was. Just before my kiddo turned one, I made a mental list of rules that I fully believed that I could follow. Before then it was just flailing for survival, but at one, I thought I had it together enough for a plan.
      Screen time: I always said that I would seriously limit TV. Or, at least try. Oh, who was I kidding? It happened around 18 months with Baby TV. It’s the gateway drug, I swear. You tell yourself it’s only for 10 minutes and realize it’s the first time you’ve been able to load and unload the dishwasher before 7pm in over a year. Then you just want five more minutes of peace, but then, it snowballs into an obsession with Thomas the Train and by then, you’re too far gone….oh well. I thought, I’d find something else to stick to my guns on. 
      [Related: Why I'm deserting the mommy wars]
      Food: I always said that I would give my child a well-rounded, healthy meal and if he didn’t eat it, too bad. He’d just have to be hungry. That’s what I did when I was a kid and now I love all kinds of food. But then it happened: He became picky, as many toddlers do. How could I stick to my guns and just let him be hungry? What if he wakes up in the middle of the night because his tiny stomach is grumbling? That’s no good for any of us. I became a short-order cook. I thought, I’d find something else to stick to my guns on.
      Bribery: I always said that I would be a strict yet loving parent and never be one to use bribery as a tactic. If he was going to throw a tantrum, fine. I can handle it. I’m an adult. He is a child. Until the tantrum happened in public. It was a full blown, flop fest in the grocery store that made it happen. I gave him candy to get through the rest of the shopping trip. “What’s wrong with me?,” I asked myself. This was not part of the plan.
      [Related: 9 social media rules for first-time parents]
      So, “what have you stuck to your guns on?”, you ask?
      I always said that my kid would never drink juice. Our pediatrician scared me straight and convinced me that nothing good can come from the stuff, so I avoid it at all costs. While I’m not judging anyone for a second (lest they judge me for all of my broken promises), my child has somehow been juice-free for 1,081 days.
      Everything else…not so much. And you know what? That’s ok. Because at least I was able to hold onto something, and that’s enough for me.

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    • A white mother fears the day her Black son will be viewed as a threat.
      You fear viruses, kidnapping, accidents, and other parenting woes. I fear the day my sweet baby boy becomes a Black man.  
      I fear the world that doesn't value his life. The world that lives in denial, claiming all lives matter to them. 
      When I think about the day my son will drive a car and be stopped by the police, I shudder in fear. I wonder, How I can protect him, a camera in his car? An alert that will dial me immediately and send me his location if he gets pulled over?  I will teach him to respect police, be polite, keep his mouth shut, stay alive, but I know that without real change, it won't be enough.   He will have to learn the painful lesson that he can't act the same as his white friends and his own white parents, that he doesn't have the same freedoms as them. He can't ask why he is being pulled over, he can't quote his rights. He must stay painfully silent and compliant or risk death.    I will try to teach him to strive for perfection, that small infractions will be punishable by death, but it won't be enough.     The videos confirm, it won't be enough.    My small voice feels powerless to control how the world chooses to see him, but still I advocate endlessly. I fight for a world that won't see my sweet, snuggly, special-needs boy as a threat.    All of the horrific murders play over and over in my mind. I picture my son's face. I have nightmares of his body broken, bloody, left to soak in the asphalt because he has to live in a world that doesn't value him.    I am afraid for these Black children entrusted to my care, their birth families, my Black friends. I am just afraid. I see murder after murder and lay awake in hopeless despair.    I want the rest of my community, my family, my friends to grieve with me, carry the sadness. A few do, but most won't. Their silence speaks volumes. They claim to love these children, yet they are unwilling to speak up for them.    My feelings as a white woman parenting Black children are insignificant in comparison to Black parents who have carried this trauma, this fear for centuries longer than I have, who not only fear for the safety of their children, but also for themselves, because being killed in front of their children in broad daylight and leaving them orphaned is a very real threat.   While I am outraged and scared, it's nothing like what Black families have lived through and have felt for hundreds of years. They are the true experts on this topic, but in honor of raising awareness and giving them a break to process and grieve recent events, I share my experience.    Fellow parents, this isn't the time to argue or point blame, it is the time to cry for justice and safety together. This is a time to rally together and say enough is enough.   It's time to listen to the Black voices who have cried out in fear and oppression, respect them, grieve with them, not blame them for the violence against them.    I hope to add advocates to the ranks in my community. Don't let it be the death of my son to be the thing that finally wakes you up, because let's face it, if nothing changes my son could be shot by the police playing alone in a park in broad daylight.    From one parent to another, please, join the movement, fight injustice, advocate for a world where Black lives matter. 
       

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    • The most important things you'll need while breastfeeding, other than a cooperative and hungry baby, of course.
      There are very few secrets left about breastfeeding. We know it’s great for baby; most of us know the benefits to mom’s health, too. It’s always available, it’s always the right temperature, it’s a package of love if/when you return to work, blah, blah, blah… We know all that.
      We also know the more challenging side of breastfeeding: the clogged ducts and teething and pumping and messiness of it all. Breastfeeding horror stories abound in new moms groups, right? But, it’s not exactly news. So, what’s the best-kept secret about breastfeeding? You shouldn’t do it alone. 
      No, I’m serious. Don’t even think for a second that breastfeeding is a do-it-yourself kind of thing. Whether you’re preparing to breastfeed or you’ve been breastfeeding for a while, it’s a good idea to have a couple of the following in your back pocket in case of emergency:
      Phone a friend: Got a friend who breastfed her baby and had a good experience? Call her and call her often. She may not have all the answers, but she can support you emotionally, and breastfeeding is a LOT about emotion, especially in the early days.
      Warning: Friends with breastfeeding baggage are not going to be helpful to you. If you want to breastfeed, you need someone who will cheer you on.  
      Hospital lactation staff: Most hospitals these days are working toward the World Health Organization’s Baby Friendly designation, a set of evidence-based practices designed to get breastfeeding off to a strong start. If your hospital isn’t pursuing this designation, consider birthing at a different hospital because you’re more likely to get booby trapped. After birth, ask for help from the lactation staff. Ask again if needed. Be persistent and ask questions.
      Warning: If you feel like the help you’re getting in the hospital is not helpful, get different help (see IBCLCs below).
      The BSG: Breastfeeding Support Group: Go! Go hang out with a group of other moms who are trying to do the same thing you are! Big plus: no one cares if you baby cries. Well-run groups are supportive, friendly, and informative – they can be a life-saver in those early days of new motherhood. Here is the Chicagoland breastfeeding support group map.
      Bonus: Many breastfeeding support group leaders are available for phone call questions as well. La Leche League and Breastfeeding USA volunteers are trained in helping breastfeeding moms with common questions.
      Warning: Did you attend a group and it wasn’t the right vibe for you? Try a different one! All groups are different. Better yet, bring a friend so if you have to, you can leave early and go get coffee with her.
      The independent IBCLC: Lots of people call themselves lactation consultants, but the term means different things. If you’re having serious breastfeeding issues (ongoing pain, bad latch, cracking or bleeding nipples, slow or low weight gain, lack of poopy and wet diapers), you need help from the most educated ladies in the business: International Board Certified Lactation Consultants. Find a list of independent IBCLCs here. Some insurance plans will pay for visits with an IBCLC.
      Warning: Just as you’d interview a doctor or a doula, you need to interview your IBCLC. Do you have twins, or do you think your baby has a tongue or lip tie? Ask her about her experience with your needs.
      The drop-in clinic: Drop-in clinics are relatively new around Chicagoland, but they’re great for a breastfeeding tune-up! Want to make sure baby is getting enough milk? Is baby’s latch changing and you want to figure out how to fix it? Drop-in clinics are normally staffed by IBCLCs and are less expensive than an in-home IBCLC visit.
      Warning: If you’re having severe breastfeeding issues, the drop-in clinic won’t give you the one-on-one time you need with a professional. You need a home visit.
      Online support: I won’t lie, my favorite online breastfeeding support resource is Breastfeed Chicago. We’ve got a great website and we have mother-to-mother support on our Facebook group. Online resources are great for those middle-of-the night questions or to see what other breastfeeding moms are doing.
      And don't forget, the NPN Discussion Forum is also a great place to communicate with other parents going through similar challenges.
      Warning: Online support doesn’t replace in-person support. If you’re in real need of help, find a real person to help you.

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    • How to recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in new moms, and how to treat this common condition.
      Lifestyle blog Fix put together this helpful infographic about recognizing and treating postpartum depression, a topic you just can't know enough about. Postpartum depression can happen to any new mom, and the effects go beyond the "baby blues." And too few people talk about it, despite the efforts of celebrities such as Hayden Panettiere, Brooke Shields and Drew Barrymore to shed light on the pervasive condition.
      Learn to recognize the signs and symptoms of postpartum depression in yourself and others, and share this with a friend!

      Source: Fix.com Blog

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    • What's normal, what to expect and how to cope when it comes to infant crying.
      Most expectant parents understand that after their baby is born, she will cry. A lot. But how do you cope with the stress of hearing your baby cry, and how will you know whether your baby's crying is normal?    Nancy Mork, LCSW, of the Erikson Institue's Fussy Baby Network, offers some great insight on infant crying below.    How do you know if your child has colic, rather than a normal baby who cries a lot? All babies cry, but some certainly cry more than others! The definition of colic is the Rule of 3’s: more than 3 hours a day, more than 3 days in a week, for at least 3 weeks. Babies with colic typically will be inconsolable in the evening and have a higher pitched cry—it often sounds like a pain cry. You might notice that they turn purple when they cry. Although holding more can help, it often does not stop the crying.    Is there a difference in the cries babies make depending on their needs?  Yes and no! It really depends on the age of your baby. You really can’t distinguish the cry in a newborn—with sound alone. Looking at your baby usually helps parents to be able to distinguish the cries. Context also helps, if you know that it is almost time to eat, that helps! The one cry that you can distinguish is pain: It is higher pitched, loud, with sudden onset.   What are some coping mechanisms for parents who are on their last nerve with their crying infant? Crying is probably one of the most gut-wrenching parts of parenting. Most parents find the crying to be stressful and frustrating. It is important to know that it is always ok to put your baby down, in a safe place, no matter what. Taking care of yourself is key. Get support from family, friends or even Fussy Baby Network. If it is the middle of the night, it is good to know that there is a hotline available for you to call, 1-866-364-6667, which has trained counselors ready to listen and offer support. You are not alone in these feelings and no one should parent alone.    Taking a break is also really important. It doesn’t have to be long, but having someone you trust watch your baby for even just 30 minutes is crucial. Remembering to breathe—taking three conscious breaths—can also help.   What expectations should expectant parents have about how much their infant will cry? Believe it or not, it is totally normal for infants to cry up to three hours a day! That’s a lot of crying. It helps to know that all babies go through a normal crying curve. Babies actually cry more at around 5-6 weeks than they did the first few weeks. Although all babies are different, at around 12 weeks babies are crying much less.

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    • Have an anxious child? Check out these tips to help manage your child's anxiety about homework.
      Children are receiving homework as young as the kindergarten age, and some students report spending up to six hours a night on it. Many kids learn how to cope and manage the homework load, but what about children with anxiety? Anxiety negatively impacts concentration, inhibits learning, and can make it difficult for an anxious child to display her true knowledge and grasp of the material. Following are a few anxiety-ridden scenarios and how to help.
      Anxiety: “My logical, problem-solving brain won’t work and I feel stupid.” When children are operating from an anxious brain, their logical, problem-solving, executive functioning brain is out of reach. Can you imagine trying to complete a math problem without the ability to use logic? In addition, anxiety creates added stress, which interrupts the ability to sustain focus. A child may be able to demonstrate her true knowledge when she is operating from a calmer state, but can’t recall the information during an anxious moment. In this anxious state, 30 minutes of homework takes 3 hours, frustration rises, exhaustion enters, and your child ends up feeling stupid.
      How to help: If anxiety is impacting your child’s ability to demonstrate knowledge, is causing your child to spend more time on homework than his peers, or is adding significant stress after school, you may ask your teacher for some accommodations to support your child. Homework may be shortened or broken down into smaller parts, a time limit may be implemented on how much time a child may spend on homework, and in some cases, homework can be completely waived.
      Anxiety: “I worry so much about turning in a perfect paper that I end up procrastinating.” Children and teens will often cope with their fears of inadequacy or making mistakes with procrastination. Parents and teachers may inaccurately label these kids as lazy or tell them to try harder. This only puts more focus on the child’s struggles and shines a light on the child’s need to seek external achievements and rewards to gain self-confidence.
      How to help: Use your relationship to notice what you see. Say, “I notice you have a hard time finishing your homework. What’s the hardest part?” or “I wonder if you worry so much about being perfect, it’s hard for you to get started.” By opening up a nonjudgmental conversation, you may help your child gain some insight into their anxious response to homework.
      Anxiety: “Homework takes away from my play, and I need play to learn, relax, and reduce my anxiety.” Children learn through play. If your child compromises her free time for homework, then your child is at risk for increased anxiety, stress, learning challenges and health issues. A relaxed and rested brain is a brain that is open and ready to learn.
      How to help: Create a routine in which your child is able to relax his mind, body, and burn off energy he may have had to hold onto during the school day. Discover a homework routine that works best for your child. Your child may need to get some physical exercise immediately after school before diving into homework. Alternatively, your child may need to start homework immediately, but utilize sensory supports such as fidgeting, music, or bouncing on an exercise ball while working. Break homework up into small parts and allow frequent breaks. Never sacrifice a child’s after-school play or relaxation time for homework. Be the support network. Homework is mistakenly thought of to be an independent time of study. I encourage caregivers to look at homework as an opportunity to connect and spend time with their child. An anxious child’s brain will calm with your presence and support. You will also discover exactly what parts of homework are difficult for your child and in turn help your child more. You will have the opportunity to teach your child the skills she is lacking and help develop positive coping tools.
       

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    • How to encourage your child to not get caught up in consumer culture.
      Another holiday season is over, leaving many with sweet memories of “joy to the world,” while for others there is a bitterness of “bah humbug.” Some of those feelings derive from the surplus of things and loved ones we were surrounded by—or not. Our materialistic culture gives us both the illusion of abundance and the pressure to replace our possessions with the latest and newest version. Our motivation to consume is to make us happier. But is that what it’s actually doing?
      As a child, I grew up learning hard lessons about the value of money because my family had a tumultuous relationship with financial stability. The inconsistency in having things—both that I needed and wanted—taught me how to be disciplined in saving and savoring. My partner, on the other hand, grew up in material privilege. Despite those differences, we agree on shaping our children’s thinking about store-bought items as complementary and not essential to a meaningful life. 
      People of all ages, socioeconomic backgrounds, races, and genders highly value what our society has placed on a pedestal—smartphones, designer clothes and shoes, or other status symbols. When it comes to feeding the soul, these things mean very little. Instead, the false and temporary sense of importance they give us disappears as soon as hot new items hit the shelves. 
      The holidays are often a hard time for parents. Once the parties are over and the gifts have been opened, all of our possessions, old and new, can make us feel both overwhelmed and empty. Given this bottomless pit of consumer (un)satisfaction, what is a parent or a shopaholic to do? A lot, if you’re striving for unshakable inner peace. It is definitely a long journey to change certain habits, but here are some steps we can all  take while we and our families are on that road:
      Let go of old stuff. Donate smartphones, toys, and clothing to local organizations serving those in need; a school STEM program could utilize your old phone to build an app. A domestic violence shelter could benefit from the use of your unused phone. Don’t just wait until the holidays to volunteer; people are in need all year round. Share your creativities with those who value you—it could feed your soul and others. Playdates rule! The more positive human interaction, the better. Play board games together as a family. It’s a favorite routine for our family after a stressful workday. Listen to music. Name all of the instruments you hear, or play along with your own. As a mother who is aware that my personal growth benefits my entire family, I stay motivated by their watchful eyes. I am hoping that what I am planting will grow into something that will reflect our core family values. So, when my partner and I hear our oldest say that she wants to be rich so she can give money to end homelessness, my partner and I see this as a small achievement. Surrounded by our relentless consumer culture, we do our best to feed our children unconditional love, a sense of community, and the importance of justice as the things truly worth “consuming” every day.

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    • Potty training doesn't have to be stressful. Make a fun game out of potty training your toddler with these tips.
      So your child is about to begin this huge stage of independent self-care and you have a million questions. Are they ready? Is it going to be a complete disaster? Will they cry? Will you?
      On the flip side, there’s the glory of no more diapers. Ever. Think of all the saved money you can stash away in that college fund. Not to mention, you really need a break. Plus, most preschools won’t let you drop off a kid who isn’t fully potty trained.
      Clearly, this has to happen. You survey your friends about what they did and then read a couple of potty training books you don’t have time to read. And yet, it still seems confusing and like a huge drag you’d rather put off till another day, month, year...perhaps forever.
      But what about preschool? This has to happen.
      When getting ready to potty train my own son, I had a crazy thought: Was there any way to make this fun? Not only for myself, but because I still vividly remembered a graduate psychology course in which we learned about Erikson’s second stage of development: Autonomy vs. Shame and Doubt. Usually completed between 18 months and three years old, it’s the period when children first encounter shame — the message of “You are bad” instead of “You made a bad choice.” Without even realizing it, parents and caregivers often use shame in potty training, not understanding how it can affect their littles.
      [Related: Potty Training for All Abilities (members-only video)]
      Knowing this, I was determined to make potty training a shame-free and fun experience. Pictured is the exact behavior chart I used. The result? A fully potty trained kid in no time. Quick note: I also had a second chart just for potty training when out and about. Because children have different things they struggle with — one might fear pooping in general, while another won’t go to the bathroom at school — feel free to get creative and make a chart that fits your child’s needs.
      1. Get out all of your craft supplies and involve your child in the process.
      2. Draw a fun shape like a circle or star and section it off into however many days you choose.
      3. Write a reward in each box. I tried to create as many non-food rewards as possible and added special “bigger” rewards along the way; for example, making slime was a big hit, as was “phone” time.
      4. This is the most important step: Buy or gather all of the rewards and place them in one spot in your home. Make sure your child can see everything. The idea behind this is that they will not have to wait to get their reward. When my son saw everything lined up on top of the hutch, he immediately bought into the program and said, “I’m going to get everything on my chart.”
      [Related: Best Chicago playgrounds for the potty-training toddler]
      A few things to keep in mind:
      No time like the present
      Summer is a great season to start this adventure because your kiddos can be naked without freezing. Less clothing to fuss with in and out of the bathroom is a win for everyone. If you can, take a couple of days off or a long weekend to potty train. Stay close to home, play board games, go to the park, and enjoy time with your little one outdoors. (Added bonus if you’ve got a boy: they can always pee on a tree in a pinch.) That said, always consider...
      Timing
      The best potty training advice ever given to me came from my pediatrician, who said to wait for the child to show interest. I took my son shopping for undies and then asked him every day for almost a month if he wanted to wear a diaper or undies. After Day 26, he finally said “undies” and I had them on him so fast he never had time to look back.
      Patience This is not always a quick process. Try not to get discouraged or frustrated. I quickly learned that if I got upset so would my son. Children feed off of our feelings. I began to act like it was no big deal and with the pressure off, there was room for fun. Phrases to have ready “I would never ask you to do something I didn’t think you could do.” “We all make mistakes; it’s part of learning.” “You’ve got this potty training thing down.”
      Humor Dance parties were the biggest part of our success. Every time he went to the bathroom, we would celebrate. He even had his own potty touchdown move. Take your time with the process so you can appreciate the joy of watching your little one accomplish this huge milestone.

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