Don’t Let This Happen to You :: My Biggest Baby Years Regret

The only video of me with my baby.

I was recently flipping through old videos on my phone and reminiscing about the baby years. Like most parents, I have hundreds (actually thousands) of videos of my kids. I like the “quick video” approach. Kids are doing something cute, so I’ll grab my phone and take a few 10- or 15-second videos to capture the moment.

My youngest is now 3, so we are quite removed from the baby years. I am so grateful I caught so many moments from those years. I have videos of my babies sleeping, siblings playing, Nana singing to a newborn, first steps, first words, bath time, tummy time, Daddy snuggling and playing with the babies.

However, there are no videos of me with my babies.  

Not even one video (other than a few selfies) of me interacting in any way with my babies in their first year. My heart is broken. I spent hours upon hours every day playing with and interacting with my babies. After so many years, the memories do fade, the feelings fade, the emotions of what it is like to make a baby giggle fade. I can hardly watch a video of my husband playing with our babies because it makes me too emotional that I cannot see myself doing the same, considering I was the one with them all day every day.

I was always so quick to capture everyone else interacting with my children, but no one ever thought to capture me with my baby. Not even my husband. We looked through his phone and did find a video of me holding my son in my lap while my daughter gave him raspberries on his belly. That’s it, folks. One video. Of someone else playing with him while he sat on my lap.  

Please ask your friends and family to take not just photos, but videos of you interacting with your babies. They may not think to do it themselves. Don’t worry about your messy bun and no makeup. Who cares if you’re wearing sweatpants and an old T-shirt. These videos are not for social media — they are for you. You will watch them back and smile at all the goofy things you did to get this little human to laugh, walk, or smile.

It is not about seeing your baby. (You already have plenty of those videos.) It is about seeing yourself. It is about seeing your own smile and pride while you interact with your child. I flip through these old videos now and sob — literally sob — that I can’t see myself playing with my babies.

I am begging you, please stop with the video selfies and ask someone to take a video of you playing with your baby. These years go by too fast — you already know this. Do not be embarrassed to ask; make it a priority to archive these special moments of you and your child.

This is my biggest baby years regret.

Can We Take Anymore? Our Family’s COVID Scare

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As a family, we have not had a COVID-free year. We lost jobs and two very important family members and have had a difficult year, all due to the coronavirus. I honestly thought as a family we had endured enough through this pandemic, and with the vaccine coming in the near future I was hopeful we could continue to be diligent about our masks and handwashing and we could move right through this. 

Unfortunately, I was wrong. 

My 3-year-old son was exposed.

We were notified by daycare that someone had tested positive for COVID, and we immediately sought out testing. After many calls, it was 7:30 p.m. and we headed to an urgent care that offered rapid tests. 

After discussing with the nurse, we decided it was best to do the rapid test and the PCR test, which wouldn’t have results for a few days but was much more accurate. I was nervous about the actual testing for him, but he was a champ. He even laughed and said the swabs tickled.  

We were in and out of urgent care in 20 minutes and didn’t really think much of it. Could he really have COVID? 

Yes. The answer was yes.

Less than 15 minutes after leaving urgent care, I received a phone call from the PA with a less than desirable diagnosis: My 3-year-old had COVID. 

My heart sank. And my mind raced. 

I had a million questions and concerns. What should we do? Do we need to wear masks indoors? Where should he sleep? He can’t share with his older brother. How do we disinfect? How long would he be contagious? How do we keep my compromised husband safe? So many questions, and honestly, not as many answers as I wanted. 

So, we did our best based on research and advice. 

The next day, my husband, my other son, my mother, and I all got tested. We have included my mother in our bubble and thought it was best that she also be tested so we could figure out a quarantine situation between her house and ours.

We also wore masks in the house. All of us. And it was hard. 

In less than 24 hours, we had results. All negative. We decided it was best for my husband and older son to head to my mom’s to stay away from an actual COVID case.

That left me and my asymptomatic son. I consider us lucky in that sense. He did not experience any symptoms connected to COVID. Even though I questioned every sneeze, took his temperature multiple times a day and night, checked him, asked him questions, and worried about everything, he did not show any symptoms. He was eating, sleeping, drinking, and seemed fine. 

In between monitoring potential symptoms, I had to notify anyone we had been in contact with. I felt guilt, shame, and, above all, responsible. I know we are in a pandemic, and people make choices, but I did not want to be responsible for getting my husband’s aunt sick, who we’d had lunch with recently. Or my friend and her baby, who we’d taken a walk with and sat with outside at a brewery and had a beer. This part of the diagnosis also kept me up at night. 

As the hours of his 10-day isolation dragged on, I could see light at the end of the tunnel. Still no symptoms. Those close contacts tested negative, and, miraculously, I was still negative after getting re-tested a week later.

I am not sure how the rest of the family was spared and my son remained asymptomatic, but I am very thankful for that. We will continue to be diligent about mask-wearing, handwashing, and limiting contacts — because COVID is still out there, and it does not discriminate. 

So if you haven’t already learned these lessons the hard way, learn them from us: Keep it small, stay vigilant, and be safe!

Confessions of a Yelling Mom :: Keep It Together by Being Mindful

Yes, I yell.

I am a preschool teacher and am so patient with my students. I am often complimented on how calm and chill I am in the classroom. Children respond so well to gentle guidance and positive reinforcement. I even train other preschool teachers on behavior management techniques and bringing gentle parenting skills into the classroom.

I know what to do. I know how to do it. Most of all, I know, and explain to others, how important it is to validate children’s feelings, allowing them to be heard, and to model behavior that you expect from them. I am mindful and present at work.

Then I get home, and it is all gone.

I’ve used up all my patience during the day with other people’s children, and I can’t even muster a bit of calm while my daughter asks for help with her writing assignment. My first reaction is to just yell — tell her I don’t have time, I’ve just walked through the door, I need a few minutes before I can help her. Can’t I just walk in the house and have a few minutes to myself before having to give more of myself to others?

During the months we were all home, my patience with my children increased. I was able to stay calm in frustrating moments and really just be present. As much as 2020 gave us so many new things to be worried about, it also took some off my plate. I was away from my classroom for four months, and even when we went back in July, it was a slow start with a small number of children. I felt that the pandemic had given me a fresh start and a new perspective.

Then, September happened.

Back to full-time work, with new regulations, and my plate was overflowing. I realized it wasn’t that I was a bad mom, or even an angry mom. I just wasn’t balancing myself well. And there wasn’t anything on my plate I cared to take off.

So how can we manage these full plates that bring us so much joy but leave us feeling overwhelmed and burdened? As I realized I wasn’t living in the “now,” my focus shifted away from blaming myself for being less than perfect. And I started with three easy things to bring peace to my family’s life.  

1. Following some “mindful” Instagram accounts!

In addition to being a yeller, I am a scroller. I started following a few great accounts that support both parents and children in bringing mindfulness and calm into their lives. While I scroll, I stop on their posts and take a minute to really read them. Just by following these accounts, I am forced to slow down and find a mindful minute. My two favorites are Mindful Minis, a Boston-based mindfulness coach for children whose tips also work for adults, and School of Mom, another Boston-based, woman-owned business with a focus on parenting mindfulness.

2. Setting transition boundaries

I have asked my children to wait until I come in the door, use the bathroom, and get changed before asking me for anything. They can, of course, say hi and tell me something about their day. They just can’t ask for anything until I’m settled. Using the bathroom is on the list, because that is the time I can take, away from it all, to decompress for a few minutes. I am setting myself up for success in having peaceful interactions with my children.

3. Practicing calm and mindful activities with my children

A few times a week, we pull up a children’s yoga video and do it together. We focus on our breathing together, or we just take turns talking about our day. I am realizing that by doing this, I am getting to know my children a little bit better. I share some frustrations I had in my day with them, showing them that it is okay to be frustrated. And, oddly, it makes me less frustrated.

For me, 2021 is going to be about being more mindful, bringing some of the unforeseen positive side effects of the pandemic into my daily parenting life. I am leaving guilt in 2020 and welcoming 2021 with a fresh perspective, while giving myself the grace to make mistakes.

{Free Printable} Inauguration Day Activity For Kids!

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Inauguration Day is a BIG day in our country! Are you sitting next to a future president of the United States? It’s possible! Ask your child these questions, and save this keepsake printable for years to come.


If I Were President

Losing Justice :: My Tweens Are Losing More Than Just a Clothing Store

Justice - Boston Moms

The year 2020 — year of bad tidings — claimed another victim: Justice.

No, I don’t mean our justice system or the larger concept of justice. I’m talking about the tween girls’ clothing store Justice, which is currently running a liquidation sale. Justice’s parent company, Ascena, went into bankruptcy earlier this year and is closing the Justice line.

The end of Justice makes me sad. I’m not usually one to mourn the loss of a clothing chain, as I’ve never been much of a fashionista. But the end of Justice feels more personal, because of my two daughters.

My twin girls, 11 years old, are sixth graders in their first year of middle school. They fit right into Justice’s prime age demographic, which is girls aged 6-16. Over the past few years, Justice has become a part of their lives.

Until they were in fifth grade, I had searched out most of my daughters’ clothes at secondhand stores or stores for younger kids. The girls were just fine with this. But, sometime around their tenth birthday, things started to change. Ruffled dresses and pink pants suddenly lay untouched in their dresser, as the girls instead donned jeans and T-shirts with emoticon graphics and “Girl Boss” logos. Suddenly, they had ideas as to what clothes were cool. I started hearing about Justice: “So-and-so wears clothes from Justice.” “I want to go to a Justice store.”

So, we made our first trip to Justice.

The girls were excited and, for the first time, tried on outfits in dressing rooms. The Justice clothes were different from what I was used to. There was more bling, less cuteness. One of my daughters picked out a denim blue shirt-dress I would never have chosen. The other selected cheetah print shorts and a halter top. Clearly, we’d reached a milestone: My daughters were ready to start expressing their creativity and personality in their clothing choices.

From there, it grew.

One of the girls asked for Justice gift cards for every birthday and Christmas. Anything I bought from Justice seemed to be met with approval. It was as if some secret ingredient magically made the clothes cool. Putting on a Justice top seemed like a step to belonging in a whole new age group and phase of life (middle school).

I still remember the anxiety and excitement of my own first year in middle school. The big lunchroom with all the new faces and no one I knew. The cool girls with the cool jeans. The sudden intense desire to be pretty, which I don’t remember having felt before. Middle school was not easy then and is probably not easy now. If Justice clothes could help smooth the path, I thought that was all for the good.

Sure, as a parent, sometimes the clothes seemed a bit overpriced. Some shirts were too thin; occasionally there was too much polyester and glitter. (Then there was the shirt that came with an attached bright gold lamé bra top.) Yet, a majority of the clothes were of better quality than I expected. And yes, my girls did look cute and fashionable in them.

There were other positives to the Justice brand.

On the website, their young models looked, well, real. They weren’t slim little waifs with dark blond wavy hair and dreamy expressions. Instead, I saw girls with Afros, girls with flyaway braids and big smiles, girls who were closer to plus size than not. Justice projected an image of diversity and body acceptance. There was positivity to their direct messaging, too. You could buy Justice sweatshirts with phrases like “Unity,” “Equality Peace Hope,” and “Be Brave, Take Risks, Live Active.” Messages a mom could get behind.

Sure, Justice is a brand and a business whose purpose has been to sell clothes and make money. Nonetheless, it’s a brand that loomed large in my daughters’ lives — and meant something to them.

Last autumn was short on Halloween fun, but getting back-to-school clothes with Justice gift cards was exciting. One of the girls chose an 80s-style off-the-shoulder red sweatshirt that became her uniform for the fall. The girls’ hybrid learning schedule at their new school was so tightly structured that they could barely talk with other kids and missed out on new friendships. But at least they felt good in their back-to-school clothes.

As Christmas approached, we learned Justice was closing permanently.

All sales were now final. We put in a last order. The girls kept asking, “When will our Justice order come?” I felt sad.

It’s been a year of losses for our kids. Loss of time in school, loss of social time with their friends, loss of opportunities for lessons and camps and activities. For my daughters, the end of Justice is another loss to absorb in this season of losses. I’m sorry for the kids who will miss Justice, along with all the other things they’ve missed out on lately.

Sometimes, a store is just a store. Sometimes, it’s something more.

Our Guest Writer

Claire Cloutier is a part-time writer/editor and a full-time mom. Born and raised in the suburbs of New York City, she moved north to the Boston area in 1996. After living in Norwood, Mansfield, Belmont, and Watertown, she eventually found her way to her current home in historic Salem, where she lives with her husband and twin daughters. Claire worked as an editor in the publishing industry for many years. After having her twins in 2009, Claire started pursuing freelance writing and blogging. She looks forward to writing more in the future.
 
Likes: Figure skating, reading, cooking, long walks, going places, kids’ concerts and plays, Twitter, exploring the North Shore.
 
Not so much: Cleaning, reality TV, organizing a house full of kids’ stuff, cold New England springs.

 

Meet a Boston Mom :: Misty Lynch of “Modern Money with Misty Lynch”

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Meet Misty Lynch — financial planner, life coach, and founder of the “Modern Money with Misty Lynch” podcast!

Moms don’t get the recognition they deserve! As a business run BY local moms FOR local moms, Boston Moms is excited to showcase the hard work local moms are doing — both at home and in their professions.

Boston Moms is proud to feature Misty Lynch in the first “Meet a Boston Mom Monday” of 2021!

Misty is a mom of two and the founder of the “Modern Money with Misty Lynch” podcast. She’s passionate about combining her skills as a life coach and financial planner to help women feel empowered to take control of their finances and feel confident that their financial planning fits their family. 

Join us in celebrating Misty and the important contributions she makes at home and at work! 

We asked Misty to share a bit about herself. Get to know her here! 

Full name: Misty Lynch

Occupation: Certified financial planner at Beck Bode LLC in Dedham. 

Children: Clark, 8, and Natalie, 6

Hometown: Walpole, MA

Favorite local restaurant: Jalapeño’s Grill in Walpole

Favorite local business: Burn Boot Camp in Norwood, MA

Tell us a little bit about your work: I help people feel more confident when it comes to their money using financial planning, investment strategies, and a lot of communication! 

My clients are typically smart women who are still learning how to manage their money, and most of them are self-employed and/or the main financial contributors to their families. 

I’m also a life coach, so I approach money differently and in a more well-rounded way than most advisors. Traditionally, financial advice mainly focuses on actions that yield results but ignores how people think and feel. I’m able to provide financial advice while integrating the philosophies I have learned as a life coach. 

What about your work is the most fulfilling? Money is something we all have to use and can’t avoid forever. It’s amazing to see my clients go from a scarcity mindset to curiosity and growth. I love when I end a meeting with a client and they’re able to leave feeling better and more confident. 

What is the one thing that surprised you the most about motherhood? I had zero experience with kids before I had my own — I never babysat, and I was the youngest in my family growing up. When I got pregnant, I wasn’t sure if motherhood would come naturally to me or not, but luckily it did. The first time I changed a diaper was the day Clark was born, but you get the hang of it! 

What is one piece of advice you’d offer to another working mom? You aren’t going to be a perfect mom — but you ARE the perfect mom for your kids. Sometimes my kids eat fast food, and I’ve definitely forgotten it’s pajama day at school. Although lots of moms seem like they have it all together, none of us have it together 100% of the time. Through it all, we are all still perfect for our children. 

What is your favorite kind of self-care? I’ve become fascinated with self-care lately. A lot of my clients label everything as self-care, like any spending they do that isn’t for the family has to be justified and labeled. It’s OK for women to do things for themselves, or for the heck of it! I don’t consider a manicure or a glass of wine to be self-care — those are just things I like, and I feel totally fine about having room in my budget for them! Just as important, though, is that it shouldn’t be an excuse to overspend and then wind up feeling stressed about later. For me, reading and journaling are self-care because I feel better when I start my day that way. 

Talk to us about your podcast! My podcast, “Modern Money with Misty Lynch,” discusses financial topics with local business owners. My goal is to get people interested in learning about personal finance without feeling intimidated by it. I’ve had lawyers, realtors, social media experts, and even a spirit medium on the show. It’s entertaining, with tips sprinkled in along the way! You can find the podcast on Apple, Spotify, and iHeartRADIO.

What other women inspire you? My mom inspires me every day. We haven’t seen her in person for months, and I know this has been a very hard time for her. But she has gotten the hang of FaceTime and Zoom and checks in with her kids every day so she can tell them she loves them. I’m also inspired by J-Lo, because she is a great example of someone who knows how to work hard, fail, pick herself up, and keep moving forward. I want to become healthier, happier, and more visible in my 40s and 50s, too! 

You can read more about Misty Lynch here, and find her on Instagram, Facebook, and LinkedIn.


Are you interested in being highlighted in a “Meet a Boston Mom” feature, or do you know someone who deserves this recognition? Let us know! Please email Chelsey Weaver at [email protected] to discuss a feature.

How to Survive the Pandemic: Winter Edition

pandemic winter - Boston Moms

Unless you’re our family dog, you’re probably not embracing the winter of 2020/2021. As COVID cases continue to rise in various cities across the U.S. and now Massachusetts, we wonder how much longer our state will remain “open.” News of various cities’ phase reversals creeps up on the Google search more and more these days.

To be honest, I’m in the camp of people who haven’t done much since March. I had a young baby at the start of COVID, and the demographic I work with is high-risk. When things started looking up last summer, however, it was nice to take our boys to parks or a quick trip to the store without being shunned. But now that we’re in the thick of winter and it’s 7 p.m. for about three hours straight each evening, we’re going to have to think differently about our coping tools. (Well, I’ve been thinking differently about my personal coping tools, and I hope it will spark some ideas for your winter pandemic routine!)

We walk and walk and walk. (And then we dance.)

Taking walks with my boys has been a significant highlight in the last eight months. My 2-year-old son Lucas loves running around the city, pretending to be various superheroes, and examining every crack in the sidewalk for bugs. I won’t be trying to tame his curiosity this winter, so we still go on weekly (if there’s not a blizzard) walks.

And on the days we can’t walk, we dance! We dance before naps instead of taking a walk after lunch. Then after lunch, instead of examining bugs in the cracks, we draw the fantastic made-up animals from shows or pretend to be the Hulk and Spider-Man.

We try new workouts and bake bread.

In February, my husband bought his first kettlebell. Little did we know, that impulse buy would carry us through almost a solid year of home workouts. We’ve added a few kettlebells and club bells since, and it’s been great to lift some weights to help pull us through the tougher moments of this year. It felt good to have somewhere to get out the energy that I’d normally expend out and about throughout the week. As great as that has been, I could use a good stretch, so that’s what I’m building in this winter.

We’ve also been baking. My yeast allergy doesn’t allow me to eat the bread, but I’ve had my fair share of cornbread and biscuits this quarantine. So this winter I’ll be intentionally putting more vegetables in our diet.

We Zoom chat and spend a lot of time on social media.

We’ll keep Zooming and FaceTiming and doing what is necessary to stay close to those we love! I hold no judgment for those who travel to see loved ones or have pod meetups or just want to be with their people. I miss all of mine and can’t wait to see old friends and maybe even meet some new ones.

My love for internet games has been reignited — Words with Friends? Uno? Checkers? These can all be played online and in real-time! I’ve also taken up regular phone calls because it’s easier than trying to make sure the front-facing camera is on me while I chase the kids.

Much of what we’ve done since March has worked, so I’m content to stick with the good stuff while also leaning into other positive choices (you know, like the vegetables). Some of the hardness of this season is the monotony — feeling like we’re not doing enough in a season that requires restraint. If you’re sticking to what’s worked because you’ve thrived or survived — perfect! But if you needed some encouragement that your new but not super exciting activities are great, this is it — and I’m right there with you.

“You’re So Busy!”

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busy - Boston Moms

About a decade after I graduated from college, I sat down with an old mentor of mine for coffee. In reminiscing about the “good old days,” and how much I’d changed since then, he laughed and commented, “Yeah, you were a little crazy back then! I don’t think you ever slept. You were so busy!”

We shared a laugh and moved on — and I saved that in my memory as evidence of how I’d matured since college. I laughed again today when I thought about that memory, because honestly, if you looked at my life now, I don’t think you would be able to find evidence that much has changed with regard to my overcommitment.  

I’m parenting three full-time, sports-involved kids, I’m on two committees at my children’s school, I run my own business (which is especially time-consuming during the holidays), I co-lead a women’s discussion group weekly, I volunteer on the alumni recruitment committee for my alma mater, I train for long races and run multiple times a week, I’m an active member of three different moms groups, I write for Boston Moms, I’m in two book clubs, and I run our household without any external help (also a full-time job). I rarely go to bed before midnight, and I’m up every morning by 6:30. Even COVID hasn’t been able to slow me down; I now just hop from Zoom call to Zoom call!

And most days, I love my life.

Sure, it’s not college, where I double majored, double minored, and lived on caffeine and four hours of sleep a night. But it’s still pretty busy. Driving to school pickup today, running late because I was once again rushing from one thing to the next, I wondered: Am I doing it all wrong?!

Was my college professor right — that I was crazy and didn’t actually know how to rest? (True, when I was in college.) Am I still like that overachieving college student who used busyness to avoid dealing with emotions and grief, and ultimately myself? Is my busyness because I’m running away from something? Or because I legitimately find life in staying busy?

Honestly, I think it’s a little bit of both.  

Yes, there are many things I could learn about rest. Many ways I could press more into being the “woman with peace in her presence” — meaning, so comfortable in my own skin that I make others more comfortable in their own — that I decided long ago I wanted to be. And yes, there is a value to saying no that I don’t always practice. Balance is important, and I don’t want to be so busy that I miss out on the ordinary beauty in our day-to-day lives.

Yet, at the same time, I do actually find joy in (virtually) being with people. It is restful for my soul to lead groups of people in common pursuits. My body rests well when I run, more so than when I sit still. Learning and participating feeds my curiosity and opens my mind. And I feel most alive when I am involved, creating, and participating in the spheres of life we are in!  

Maybe I am a bit of an adrenaline junkie. Maybe there is wisdom in slowing down sometimes — not taking on as many things. But my slowing down looks different than, say, my husband’s does. Mine looks like saying no to things that are not life-giving and saying yes to things that are — not necessarily doing less. I’ve realized in my “old age” that sometimes people are wired differently, and there is no prescription for happiness.

Right now, yes, I need to slow down a little bit. But I also need to give myself grace that a full life is actually something I enjoy, too! And rather than just dropping everything, I need to be more intentional about asking, “What is life-giving?” and doing that instead.

We all need balance. 

We all need to know ourselves and know where we go when we want to escape and what fuels us in healthier directions. And give ourselves grace, that that might change over time and through life circumstances.

So, mama, you do you. Listen to your body and your soul and figure out what brings life to it — and do that. Don’t use busyness or rest or anything else to run away from or avoid things. Instead, find your balance. Find your rest. Find your joy. And stop worrying about how other people find theirs.

This Gymnast Mom Will Inspire Your 2021 Fitness Goals

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gymnast mom - Boston Moms

Looking for a mom to motivate you to achieve whatever your 2021 fitness goals are?

Meet Chellsie Memmel.

When the 2020 Summer Olympics were postponed, Memmel, a 2008 Olympic silver medalist in gymnastics, 2005 world all-around champion, and a mom of two, saw opportunity. The 32-year-old had become well known in the gymnastics community for her social media accounts. After returning to the gym to coach after the birth of her second child, she concocted “Chellsie Challenges” — conditioning exercises for gymnasts, posted on Instagram.

The exercises were great for former gymnasts, Cross-Fitters, and others. She often would demonstrate the challenges herself — be it leg lifts while squeezing a foam block with your feet or pistol squat variations — and many of the gymnastics fans who followed her noted that she was in even better shape now than during her competitive years.

She started training more gymnastics skills and posting the results on YouTube, and then in a mid-summer video she admitted she was making a comeback to competitive gymnastics. Since then, she has shown a return to the uneven-bars skills that made her a superstar in the early 2000s and has started to put together routines for future meets.

Memmel won’t be the first mom to mount an elite gymnastics comeback — just two years ago, former U.S. junior champion Kristal (Uzelac) Bodenschatz made an elite comeback after having three children. She didn’t qualify for the national championships but inspired so many in her attempt that she pivoted her outreach toward inspiring moms in their fitness goals via her Instagram account.

Gymnastics isn’t often seen as a sport one can pursue as an adult — we moms tend to drop our kids at the gym door, wistfully look at the equipment we may have loved ourselves as a kid. We never consider it as something we can still do. But adult gymnastics continues to grow, with more and more gyms offering adult classes for gymnasts of all abilities. There is even an adult gymnastics summer camp in New Hampshire (in non-pandemic times) that draws older gymnasts of all levels from all over the country. And successful elite gymnasts are showing that the sport isn’t just for teenagers — the world’s most decorated gymnast, Simone Biles, is about to turn 24 and is doing harder skills than she ever did as a teenager.

No matter how far Memmel’s comeback goes, she admits that the challenge has made her a better mother. In an interview with NBC Sports, she echoed a sentiment that many moms who start a fitness journey of any kind feel: “When I started working out and taking time each week to do something that was just for me, it made me a happier person, and it made me a better mom.”

5 Instagram Accounts That Make Me a Better Parent

Parenting is hard.

It is equal parts exciting and exhausting. Every phase brings a new learning curve, and we aren’t always equipped with the right tools.

As we have spent more time with our children — and ourselves — recently, it has become important to aim for personal growth, especially in parenting. But it also feels exhausting at the end of the day to pick up a parenting book to discover new ways to better parent our children.

But I do always seem to find the time for Instagram. I have searched, followed, and unfollowed many parenting accounts this year. Here, I’ve whittled it down to a few key Instagram accounts that have provided me with new tools and ideas to become a better parent. 

1. Kids Eat In Color

I love Jennifer from Kids Eat In Color. She is a registered dietician whose posts are informative and relatable. Not only does she offer steady, easy to follow nutrition tips, she shares sage advice on how to create a positive food culture in your home. Another thing I’ve taken away from her is that as women — as mothers — we can’t do it all, and that’s OK.

Jennifer focuses on nutrition and allowing her children to explore and play outdoors, so there’s little emphasis on home décor or cleaning. She is open about the fact that she’d rather ensure her children get their fruits and vegetables than take the time to clean her bathroom. I find this both encouraging and insightful — a woman so sure of herself and her strengths that she doesn’t give way to the things she isn’t as good at!

2. Mama Psychologists

Chelsea and Caitlin from Mama Psychologists are two registered psychologists and mothers who seem to just get it. They focus on maternal mental health with a side of parenting tips and are so positive it’s hard not to want to try. They offer quick meme-formatted tips, like what to say instead of a simple “be good” to your children to ensure clear communication and instruction. This leads to better understanding of expectations for your children, and a more fulfilling way of parenting for us.

I tried a saying from one of their recent posts, choosing one day to tell my son, “I’m glad you’re in our family — I just love you!” He immediately responded, “You’re the best mommy in the whole world!” I couldn’t believe how instant the results were to using positive and loving phrases like that. A for sure follow for me. They also recently did a post about toy rotation, which I wrote about here in April, so I feel like it’s safe to say we’re on the same page!

3. Raise Good Kids 

The Raise Good Kids page posts parenting tips on multiple slides to give specific examples of certain parenting situations and examples of how to respond. I like the format because sometimes we need a more in-depth version — it isn’t always as simple as saying “I love you.” Our children need clear boundaries and instruction, and these examples give us parents the tools we need to be able to help our children grow emotionally and intellectually. I also appreciate that they give multiple examples to cover a multitude of ages, stages, and responses.

4. Big Little Feelings

The Big Little Feelings ladies are fun and informative. They post great reels that can be funny (like, “Get to bed early? Nah, I’ll stay up ’til midnight watching TV!”) but that get you thinking about our natural, and typically cultural, responses in parenting and how to challenge them. I love that they advise parents to apologize to children if they lose their cool, and they give tangible ways to handle those moments differently in the future. Their goal is to give parents “a practical action plan to navigate all the tough moments.”   

5. Busy Toddler

Susie Allison is a former teacher turned busy mom, and she posts practical ideas for crafts and play. While I don’t attempt all her ideas, I like that she makes them practical, with supplies you may already have at home. I like having her ideas pop up in my newsfeed, just to keep in the back of my mind, like a little arsenal of plans for rainy days or long winter afternoons. I especially love her painting tricks (in the bathtub! or painting toy cars that can then go in the bathtub!). Follow her for easy-going parenting play and crafting tips.

Following these influential women as they navigate parenting and share their knowledge has been extremely helpful and healing to me. I want to continue to push myself to change old habits and create a healthy, safe, and loving environment for my children — and that’s exactly what these accounts help me to do.

The New Year Dieting Hype :: Our Kids Are Watching

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Banana on plate, diet culture

“I’m on a new diet.”

“New year, new me!”

“I’m going to lose (insert number here) pounds this year!”

“I’m going to only eat healthy — no sugar, no dessert.”

“I’m trying this new diet supplement that’s all natural.”

“I just need to learn how to control myself.”

“I start my diet on Monday, so I better eat what I want now — while I still can!”

“Look at my before and after pictures!”

It’s January — are you tired of hearing these diet culture phrases on repeat?

I am.

I’ve had an eating disorder since the age of 12, and my recovery in my adult life is now contingent upon avoiding the “new year” hype. 

My journey to recovery really didn’t start until I was a parent to a beautiful little girl who was just entering her preschool years. As I listened to her talk about her body, admiring how beautiful it is and how “perfect” she looks in her tiara with rainbow zebra leggings and her favorite checkered shirt, I hoped with every fiber of my being that she would feel that way forever.

But then, upon some serious self-examination, I realized that her biggest threat was actually me. Her mom. The person who loves her more than anything.

I was the person she would take cues from about her body, and so far I was NOT doing a very good job.

Of course, I was never critical about HER body. I always told her how beautiful she is, how nice she looks, and that she is perfect just the way she is. Initially, I thought I was in the clear because I never talked negatively about her. What I didn’t realize, though, is that children often learn how they “should” feel about their bodies from the observations they make about how we adults feel about our bodies. After feeling like the crappiest mom around, I was confronted with the fact that I needed therapy. A lot of therapy. 

Along the way, I have discovered some really important truths about dieting, the diet industry, eating disorders, and the history of diet culture.

I’m taking the time to share some of the facts I use to help me stay grounded in support of my fellow “in recovery” mamas and the mamas who are still working very hard to get there.

1. Studies show 81% of 10-year-olds are afraid of being fat; 42% of 1st- to 3rd-grade girls want to be thinner; 46% of 9- to 11-year-olds are “sometimes” or “very often” on diets. 

The facts and numbers don’t lie: Our children are getting the wrong message. By the onset of puberty, our girls already want to be thinner. By age 9, many have already experimented with dieting. Somewhere in the crossroads of what they watch, hear, and experience, they’re getting the message that their bodies aren’t good enough. 

2. Over 50% of teenage girls and almost 33% of teenage boys frequently skip meals, fast, smoke cigarettes, vomit, or take laxatives; 91% of college-aged women have controlled their weight through dieting. 

As our children emerge into adulthood, old habits die hard. Children who use disordered eating patterns as coping strategies become adults who use disordered eating patterns as coping strategies.

3. The diet industry was worth an estimated $71 billion in 2020.

The diet industry is not in the business of improving overall health outcomes, they’re in the business of making money. They’re predatory and manipulative. The data they generate and use is biased at best, skewed at worst. They’re not trying to help you as a person, they’re trying to increase their bottom line by taking advantage of human insecurities. 

4. Food, weight, and dieting has nothing to do with morality. Participating in diet culture does not make you more “moral” than someone who doesn’t.

Someone on a diet is not more “moral,” better, or more motivated than someone who is not. Your dieting habits have nothing to do with how good of a person you are, or what your personality traits are. Putting “good” and “bad” labels on foods gives them more power than they deserve. 

child on scale dieting

Our babies are watching us.

They’re watching us as we look at ourselves in the mirror. They see our scowls as we notice our perceived imperfections.

They hear the way we talk about ourselves — the way we look, how we feel about our weight, and even how we label the food we eat as “good” and “bad.”

They overhear us talking to our friends or relatives about issues related to diet culture, and they pick up on our distress or pride.

So, while I don’t claim to know or be an expert on your personal physical or mental health, I do hope you make an effort to go against diet culture this year.

Let your kiddo hear you talk about how beautiful you are. Tell them how your favorite exercise routine makes you feel powerful, strong, and happy. Let them dress you up and take silly pictures together. Eat chocolate ice cream and don’t mention how “bad” it is, and then let them help you cook your favorite vegetables without telling them how “good for you” they are.

Someday, when your kids grow up and look back on their cherished childhood memories, chances are they won’t remember what size jeans you wore or that extra hot dog you ate on the Fourth of July in 2020.

What they will remember, though, is just how beautiful you always looked to them.

This article uses statistics and information from the following resources: NEDAUNC Campus Health, Market ResearchTime MagazineEating Disorder Foundation 

A Family Tree — the Ultimate New Year’s Resolution

family tree - Boston Moms

As we start a new year, many of us have New Year’s resolutions on the brain. Instead of the usual resolutions — which are typically broken by the end of January — consider creating a family tree if you don’t already have one. I have been working on mine off and on for years, going back five Italian generations. This can be something you work on by yourself, or you can make it a family project. 

Four generations

The passing of my grandmother in October prompted me to dig out my family tree. Her death wasn’t unexpected, as she was 94 and had declined a lot over the last few months. But she was tough. She even survived COVID in her nursing home. As I wrote the eulogy for her services, I designed it as a letter to my 7-year-old son. He was fortunate to have had a loving relationship with his great-grandmother. And I was fortunate to have had two great-grandparents when I was a child. It wasn’t until later in life that I recognized the power of four generations existing at the same time — a brief, yet beautiful gift. It was something I wanted to be sure my son was a part of. 

Through the years

My grandmother’s eyes lit up when I brought my son to visit her in the nursing home. He only knew her in that setting. What he didn’t know is the childhood I had with her — the Italian Christmas Eves, the outstanding food she cooked, and the love our family shared. A love that was most certainly passed down through generations. Someday he will understand. Something magic lingered in the rare moments when there were four generations of us in the same room together — my son, me, my mom, and my grandmother. It was a true blessing to have been part of the four-generation link, and I know my family tree will help preserve that bond. 

Preserving your history

I discovered my Italian ancestors’ names and birthplaces as far back as my great-great-grandparents. The older I get, the more valuable my family tree is to me. My son doesn’t know it yet, but he will have his maternal family history at his fingertips as he gets older. Give this gift of family history to your own children; it’s the absolute best gift that transcends time. If you have older relatives still with you, ask them questions about themselves and their parents, before it is too late. Write it all down! 

My grandmother shared many stories about my great-grandparents. I have warm details of all four of my grandparents and great-grandparents that will be preserved forever. And as my son asks me questions about his great-grandmother, who he had the good fortune to have in his life for almost seven years, I am happy to share my memories.

Getting started

Starting a family tree can be a great quarantine project. Talk to your older family members to find out as much as possible about your ancestors, before it is too late. If your family is local, take your children for a ride by your parents’ or grandparents’ old neighborhoods.  Tell them stories about your grandparents. As for the actual research and records, you’ll be amazed at what’s available online. Whether you use Ancestry, Family Search, Archives, or simply a personal journal, you are giving the next generation a timeless gift.

A Nurturing Approach to 2021

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Last year my New Year’s resolutions went out the window by April. So instead of setting goals for 2021 that may not be possible due to the uncertain nature of life in general, I’m instead focusing on nurturing the few things that bring me joy.

My family

I will continue prioritizing being with my family by laughing, learning, cooking, and snuggling with them. I am going to continue building positive memories every day I can. We will watch movies, go on hikes, face challenges, and argue together. However, I recognize that with so much time for seven people to be together, I am sure there will be a respectable amount of door slamming — and I am OK with that. I can control my attitude around them, and I’m going for positive.

My health 

Today I’m healthy. So I’m going to keep working on nourishing my body with healthy foods and beverages. I’m also going to continue focusing on working out three days a week. However, now that I know what a year can deliver, I’m sure we will still order pizza weekly, and when we have to quarantine again because we have the sniffles, I may have a beer or two.

My profession

I own my own content writing business and work from home. So I will continue to build my business. I will continue to learn, research, and give my clients the best service, content, and writing I can provide them. However, if 2021 throws a blow, maybe I’ll take on fewer clients or pivot in a different direction.

My attitude

I get it. This time in our lives is hard. We want normal so badly. So many of us want back what we lost. I do too. Even though I still grieve a time now past, I plan to continue maintaining my positive attitude toward the future and hope that there is something good on the other side of all this. And when I’m down, I’ll let myself cry.

Connecting with friends

For many of us, 2020 allowed us to identify who our real friends are. I had to decide who I was willing to risk COVID for! Now I have a handful of people I’m proud to call friends and enjoy connecting with in person, on Zoom, or through texts. So in 2021, I’m going to continue connecting, because it is healthy and uplifting and so important to feeling normal. And if and when things get hard, I know who I can reach out to for comfort.

So 2021, come at me. I’m ready for you!

Reclaiming New Year’s Resolutions With Small Wins

New Year's resolutions - Boston Moms

My favorite holiday is New Year’s Eve. There’s so much hope and promise for what the new year will hold. We’re feeling optimistic and motivated to do the things we’ve always hoped to do. We’re excited to restart our fitness routine, eat healthier, learn a new skill, or procrastinate less. Anything feels possible on 12/31.

Unfortunately, that feeling fades shortly after the new year begins. Studies show that out of the 50% of adults who make a New Year’s resolution, fewer than 25% actually commit to their resolutions for 30 days — and fewer than 10% commit for several months.

Where do all our good intentions go?

Our resolutions can be a massive change from our typical behaviors and habits. We all have the capability to change into the best versions of ourselves, but an all-or-nothing mindset does not support our efforts. Instead of seeing our resolutions as goals that need to be achieved right now — at this very second — maybe it’s actually more about the journey.

Let’s attempt our resolutions by embracing the small wins! Yes, achieving huge goals feels good. However, we can also celebrate along the way by acknowledging the actions that got us there. How many times have we become frustrated with our progress by the end of January? Our disappointment can lead us to abandon our goals altogether and move into February feeling defeated.

We can approach this differently.

The Progress Principle” just may be the answer. Essentially, when we can recognize the progress we make along the journey, we can feel joy, which, in turn, boosts our productivity and motivation. What if nightly or weekly we check in on our progress by counting the small wins we’ve made?

Small wins can include adding more vegetables to our family’s dinner plates as we commit to eating healthier, forgoing our Starbucks trip today in an effort to save money, listening to a podcast during our commute to learn that new skill, walking the dog as a family to increase our time together, or folding the laundry tonight in an attempt to be more organized instead of dumping it onto the “laundry chair.”

The best part about small wins is that they often lead to big rewards!

Downloading a meditation app can lead to more completed meditation sessions before the rest of the family wakes up. Reading 10 minutes each night could lead to less mindless social media scrolling before bed for a more restful night’s sleep. A soothing Sunday night bath after the kids are asleep can help ward off the Sunday night scaries, reducing your overall stress levels. 

Take a look at a goal you set recently. Instead of measuring whether you’ve achieved it or not, list out all the small wins you’ve accomplished in the process. Then next to each small win, write about a reward that came from it. You’ll be shocked to see how truly successful you’ve been. Achieving our goals does not need a Herculean effort on our part. It’s acknowledging all the small actions we have done that collectively produce big results.

There are bound to be ups and downs in the pursuit of any goal. This shouldn’t lure us away from goal setting or making any New Year’s resolutions. How we perceive our journey makes all the difference. So break out the champagne (non-alcoholic, if you prefer!) and a fancy flute. Toast to the promise of a successful year.

Remember to stay in the present moment and count each of your small wins — because they are powerful steps along the way to living your best life. Cheers!

You can also make goal setting a family affair. If you’re interested in helping your kids write their own goals, check out this Boston Moms post highlighting an exercise you can complete with your kiddos.

Breaking Up With 2020 (And a Few Things I Want to Remember)

2020 - Boston Moms

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to see 2020 in the rearview mirror. Bye Felicia. It’s been real, but we’re so done. Like a bad breakup, I’m ready for a clean break and a fresh start in 2021. I don’t know about you, but I’m done with the wild child of 2020 and ready to settle down for a good, boring, and ordinary year. Amiright?! Goodbye, 2020!

But like even the worst of breakups, when I look back in hindsight, I do see some good things in 2020, and I want to take a moment to notice them. Yes, there’s all the quality time with my family, which sometimes I love and sometimes makes me want to scream. But there are also a few other sweet things that have come out of this year. Call it my break-up box for 2020, but here are some of the good things I’m holding on to: 

I want to remember the deep appreciation for the in-person “real life” connection we all gained.

If I never see another Zoom call in my life, I’ll be completely fine with it. But I don’t want to lose the gut-wrenching love for real connection that I gained this year. It was rare, it was regulated, and, as a result, it was extra special. I don’t want to ever take a hug, or a birthday party, or drinks with the girls for granted. I don’t want to forget the look in my kids’ eyes when they got to play with a “real life” friend for a playdate, even with masks. I want to remember to treasure my time with people in the way that 2020 has forced me to.

I want to remember that when we’re sick, we stay home.

Our culture has a nasty habit of rewarding “work-through-anything” individuals. The ones who show up to work with double pneumonia, a 105-degree-fever, and an asthmatic cough, and still work a 10 hour day — they’re the heroes. COVID-19 has taught (many of) us that our health decisions have real ramifications for others — and that maybe it’s OK to actually take a sick day. I hope that when 2020 has passed we remember to give our health and the health of others the time it deserves.

I want to remember the sense of shared experience and the loss of superiority.

If this year has taught us anything, it is that no one has it all together. No one has it figured out, and we’re all in this mess together. Sure, this has been arguably one of the most divisive and oppositional years on record. But the undertones I hear time and time again are that this is hard for all of us. That we’re just trying to survive this year. And that no one has it all together.

I cried when I watched the first nurse get her COVID vaccine, because this shared experience has shaped us all — and finally, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I hope we remember the desperation we all felt — the sense that we’re all in this muck together — and the sense that no one has it more figured out than someone else.  

And finally, I want to remember the simplification — the deeper sense of what matters — that we all found.

Maybe it doesn’t matter that we climb the ladder or make more money — maybe we’re just grateful to have a job. Maybe losing a job isn’t the end of the world, because we still have people who love us. Maybe that conflict with my friend isn’t that big of a deal because of how deeply I miss being able to hug her. Maybe we don’t need all the social events and résumé builders because we have children who adore us and want to be with us ALWAYS — even when we’re using the bathroom.

So goodbye, 2020 — and good riddance. But like every good breakup, I’m holding on to the treasures I’ve gained through our time together — and hopefully, they’ll make me a wiser, better, woman.

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