How You Can Wholly Support Someone Who’s Infertile or Has Experienced Pregnancy Loss

Second to the pain of infertility or pregnancy loss, the most painful part of losing a child or not being able to have one is dealing with people’s comments, questions, and well-intentioned advice. Even though most comments or questions are meant to be helpful or uplifting, they can actually seem insensitive and naïve.
In 2011, I learned firsthand how hurtful loved ones and complete strangers could accidentally be.
November 30th began like any other work day. I got up and got in the shower. That’s where the normalcy ended.
As I flipped a towel over my wet hair, I heard and felt something pop inside my body. I was overcome with instant pain, not too dissimilar from excruciating menstrual cramps. At first I thought I had pulled something. I tried stretching it out, laying down, using a heating pad. The pain only intensified. I called my husband in tears, knowing I needed help, knowing that something was wrong.
After many painful tests at the hospital, a vaginal ultrasound included, I learned that I was pregnant. We had been trying to conceive for two months and had no idea we had been somewhat successful. I had been blacking out and moaning in pain, but I forgot all that and sat up and reached for the doctor.
“Can you save the baby?” I pleaded. I didn’t care about my own body in that moment. I only cared about my baby, the baby I didn’t even know existed until that moment. But that didn’t matter. My only wish was to save my baby.
The doctor promised to do what he could, but it was out of his hands. It turns out I had a ruptured ectopic pregnancy. Not only could I not save my baby, but she almost took me with her.
I marveled at the whiteness and starkness of the operating room as they wheeled me in, just like in the movies.
“This is going to be painful,” one of the nurses said as they turned me on my side and moved me to the operating table.
Painful didn’t begin to describe it. The weight of the blood in my abdomen crushed my internal organs. I felt my eyes bulge out of my head, and in the moment, I prayed for death. I begged for it. I knew I was dying, and I just wanted it all to end, to find relief.
While they strapped a mask over my face, I remember screaming “NO!” over and over again until the drugs mercifully kicked in.
Emergency surgery, a removed fallopian tube, and four blood transfusions later, I was once again childless and full of physical and emotional pain.
About six months later, I took the precautionary measure of getting a hysterosalpingogram, which consists of dye being pushed into my cervix to see if my remaining fallopian tube was open. Once again, I was met with heartbreak.
My remaining tube was blocked with thick scar tissue that could not be removed without risking even more damage. Even if it could, my uterus was misshapen, so additional surgery would be required to make my uterus baby-ready. At that time, pregnancy wasn’t an option for us.
The comments poured in, from both the inexperienced and the experienced, from everyone from my fellow church members to my own mother. Most people were simply trying to help, and they didn’t know how to respond to the gravity of the situation or the emotional torment I felt. Even their good intentions couldn’t take the pain and trauma away.
In fact, most times, it only amplified it.
If you’ve experienced hurtful comments after pregnancy loss or infertility, the most important thing to remember is that they aren’t meant to be hurtful, even if they do cause emotional harm. If you know someone who has experienced this loss, and you’re not sure what to say or if what you want to say will be hurtful, the best thing to do is to be mindful, considerate, and empathetic.
Here are some comments I received that did more harm than good, why they don’t help, and what to do or say instead:

Silver lining comments to uplift or minimize pain

“At least you know you can get pregnant now!”
“You didn’t even know you were pregnant? Oh, then that loss isn’t so bad.”
“You could always just use a turkey baster.”
“You’re lucky that you’ll never have to go through childbirth,” or “You’re lucky you won’t have to worry about your body and stretch marks after having kids.”

How they’re meant to help

It can be difficult to see a loved one going through a painful experience. These types of comments are meant to be upbeat, happy, funny, or help the person see their experience from a new perspective.

But even though comments like these are meant to minimize emotional pain, it can actually feel like the person is trying to minimize the experience itself and the grief that comes along with it. This makes the person in pain feel as though they’re not allowed to grieve deeply because they should be looking at the silver linings instead.

What to do instead

Sometimes allowing yourself to grieve is one of the hardest parts of infertility or miscarriage. Grief is a natural part of these experiences. It’s a natural – and healthy – part of life. If you’re the one that needs to grieve, let yourself.

Write out your feelings or find someone you can talk to, someone who won’t judge you when you say shocking or alarming things as part of your grieving process (like a faith-based crisis or simply feeling hatred or bitterness toward those around you who aren’t going through it).

If your loved one is going through this, be there for her. Lend her your listening ear. Let her get it all out, unfiltered and raw. Sometimes that alone can lift a portion of the weight off her shoulders.

Remind her that she doesn’t have to look at the silver linings yet and to take the grieving process one step at a time. Most importantly, tell her that you’re there to listen whenever she needs to talk.

Comments meant to give hope

“God has His reasons,” or “Everything happens for a reason.”
“Time heals all.”
“I know exactly how you feel.”
“There’s always adoption.”

How they’re meant to help

Part of the grieving and healing processes requires finding hope in the future. It may not be the hope of having children, but it can be a hope to feel whole again, to feel happy, or even simply content. Many people who say these types of comments are trying to make the person feel better by offering hopeful statements.

The problem is that they are shared when the person is still in the thick of grief. They haven’t gotten to the stage yet where they can even begin to feel hope in the future. Hope is powerful. But it has its own place and time during emotional trauma and healing. In the heart of my trauma, it was nearly impossible to focus on the future.

What to do instead

It’s okay to be happy and hopeful around the person grieving, but let yourself exude it in your actions rather than your words. You don’t have to say anything about hope. When they’re ready, they’ll feel it from you, and then they’ll know you’re a safe harbor for them when they start exploring the new stage of healing.

Once they start talking about the future with hope, you can help it grow into something more stable by simply listening and encouraging them softly.

Comments meant to shorten the grieving process

“Don’t worry. Soon you’ll be back to your old self again.”
“You’re not over it yet? It’s been weeks/months/years.”

How they’re meant to help

Going through the grieving process is hard, and so is watching someone you love go through it. From the other side of the experience, you want your loved one to heal and be alright again, but chances are your loved one is still processing and trying to heal.

Comments like these may be meant to shorten the grieving process, but they can actually add more time to it.

What to do instead

Ask them what they need from you. Ask them how you can help, and if they don’t give you an answer (it’s hard to do when in emotional distress), give suggestions on how you’d love to help.

It can be as simple as doing the dishes, dropping off a dinner, or even buying them some beautiful flowers. The most important thing is to remind them they’re loved, no matter what.

Questions about the future

“When are you two going to have kids?”
“So, what are you going to do now?”

How they’re meant to help

These questions can range from someone being curious to a simple, innocent getting-to-know-you question. No matter how innocent, they can hurt when in the middle of dealing with the emotional pain of losing a baby or not being able to get pregnant.

Sometimes they’re just conversation starters, and the other person doesn’t realize that they’re being hurtful and opening an emotional wound.

What to do instead

Instead of asking questions like this, allow the person in emotional pain to talk about it first. Let them guide the conversation. This will let you know what they want to talk about and what they’re comfortable discussing.

Look for cues in their body language and what they say. It’s okay to ask follow-up questions if they bring up the topic on their own. If they don’t want to talk about it anymore, it will most likely be clear in their body language. Or, they may tell you it’s a sensitive topic. Either way, respect their need for privacy during such a difficult time.

For those of you going through the pain, remember that these comments aren’t meant to harm. They come from people who are concerned and who love you. If from strangers, they simply don’t understand the depth of your situation and your grief. Be patient and kind. It’s also perfectly acceptable to turn them into teaching moments.
If you’re outside the experience and watching a loved one go through it, also employ patience and kindness. Be understanding. Be empathetic. Be aware.
When it comes down to it, we can all do a little better and be a little kinder. It can make a world of difference to those who need it the most.

How to Work Pumping at Work

Take comfort in knowing that many moms before you have pumped on the job, and you can, too.

So, you’ve had the baby, committed to breastfeeding, and watched in disbelief as your weeks of maternity leave flew by. Now you’re digging through the closet for something, anything, work appropriate that fits and trying to figure out just how you’ll make this pumping-at-work thing work.
Well, mama, pumping at work has its challenges. But take comfort in knowing that many moms before you have done it, and you can, too. Check out the tips below to help you ease back into work and succeed at giving your baby the best.

1 | Practice pumping at home

Don’t let your first day back at work be the day that you try to figure out what size breast shields feel most comfortable or how long you need to pump before a second let down occurs.
A few weeks before you head back to work, break out your pump and get comfortable with how to assemble the parts, how to store your milk, and how it feels to pump. Knowing what pumping entails can help you feel more comfortable heading back to work.

2 | Block your calendar

Pumping takes time and, if you don’t block your calendar, your pumping time can easily be encroached upon by co-workers who don’t realize that a few minutes here and a few minutes there can seriously hurt your supply. Many moms need 20 to 30 minutes to pump.
Figure out what amount of time works best for you, and build in a five-minute buffer on either side to ensure you have the time to get set up and wash your parts after each session. It’s always okay to finish a little early, but you don’t want to feel rushed by giving yourself too little time.

3 | Identify your spot

If you’ve got an office, this is an easy one. If you’re in one of the many professions that don’t lend themselves to having a private space, you’ll have to be more intentional about selecting your spot.
Perhaps there’s a conference room or meeting room you can book regularly or an unused private space that you can take over for the next few months. If you’re having trouble finding a spot, reach out to your HR person for suggestions.

4 | Find your allies

Like anything difficult, pumping is easier when you’ve got a friend. If there are other new moms in the office, they’re probably down to chat about lactation cookies, Fenugreek, and the joys and challenges of trying to find a decent nursing bra.
If there aren’t any new moms in the office, you might find some unlikely champions in the form of older mothers or recent dads. Your champions are important because they’re the ones you know you can count on to cover for you in a pinch, whether it’s lending you their private office, pushing a meeting, or taking an unexpected client call when you’re not available.

5 | Know your rights

Since 2010, the “Break Time for Nursing Mothers” law has enabled moms to go back to work and pump with success. This law requires employers to provide nursing mothers with a private, clean space (that is not a bathroom) to pump milk as needed.
Knowing your rights will give you the confidence to advocate for yourself if you feel like your rights are being infringed upon.

6 | Know who can help when challenges arise

Sometimes it seems that just when you get things figured out with breastfeeding, everything changes and new challenges pop up. When the going gets tough, you’ll want to know who you can reach out to for help.
Keep the names of a good lactation consultant, your local La Leche League leader, and your OB on hand.

Four Ways to Be Allies With Your Kid's Teacher

What we can do as parents to promote a positive relationship with the teachers who invest in the lives of our children?

When “Parenting” magazine joined forces with the National Education Association to study the delicate bridge that unites parents and teachers, their 2012 study found that 68 percent of teachers report difficulty when dealing with parents. Meanwhile, 63 percent of parents indicated that they’d never had difficulty in dealing with teachers.

The question stemming from this research leads us to ask what we can do as parents to promote a positive relationship with the teachers who invest in the lives of our children. For elementary-age children, up to six hours of the day will be spent with one primary teacher. Even as our children emerge into upper grades and encounter dozens of different teachers, these adults will make a formidable impact on the lives of the students they teach. Parents are wise to facilitate positive relationships with the adults who will shape the lives of their children.

For seven years, I taught students with disabilities at a public high school. I experienced drastic extremes as I worked with a wide variety of parents. Some parents did all they could to build a positive relationship with me, while others seemed defensive and guarded from the beginning of the school year. The tone set at the beginning of the year generally indicated the direction of our relationship throughout the rest of the year. 

Fifteen years later, I find it interesting to explore this concept from the other side of the desk. I left the classroom as a teacher in 2011. I only enter the classroom as a parent in this season of life. My hope is to form a partnership with my children’s teachers and work together for the benefit of my children.

Here are a few simple strategies that any parent can implement to foster a positive relationship with their child’s teacher:

Start on a good note

Regardless of what you’ve heard about this teacher from friends and disgruntled community members, remember that this is only one side of the story. Do the best you can to dismiss any negative comments you’ve heard about and begin the year with a clean slate. 

One way to make a positive impression on a teacher who will spend large amounts of time with your child is to write a quick note about a week into the new school year. Make it short. Be friendly and upbeat. Thank the teacher for the work that went into preparing for the year, and end with something like, “We’re looking forward to a wonderful year!” 

Just as it sometimes seems like we’re sending our children into an unknown world of people without recognizable faces, peering into the home-life of a student can feel the same way for a teacher. Introducing yourself before any potential issues arise is a great way to start. If there is an academic or behavioral issue down the road, you will already have a positive foundation on which to build.

Send needed supplies

This might seem obvious enough, but it seems there is a misunderstanding among many parent communities in which every parent assumes that someone else will send in the requested hand sanitizer, snacks, paper towels, or other items. Assuming that another parent probably sent the requested items often leads to basic classroom needs that remain unmet.

According to a 2015 survey of teachers by SheerID and Agile Education Marketing, K-12 teachers spend an average of $490 on their classrooms annually. When parents lessen the teacher’s load by sending requested classroom items, they partner with teachers and show support in a very tangible way. 

Expect the best

In every profession, there are a wide array of personality types and individuals with different degrees of drivenness.Teaching is no different.Though our personalities – and even our personal philosophies on education – may differ drastically from those of our children’s teachers, we take a step in a positive direction when we believe the best.

Believe this teacher has your child’s best interests in mind. Believe you’re on the same team. Believe you both ultimately have the same goal: the educational success of your child.

Let go of the little things

Just as we “pick our battles” with our children, we can operate in a similar mindset when it comes to school. We are called to be our children’s biggest advocates, but there is room for considering when we need to take a stand and when it’s time to let go of something trivial. 

While it might be tempting to send an email on the second day of school to address the rule about using only the school-provided pencil boxes, we’re wise to let go of issues that won’t make a major educational or emotional impact on our children. 

A rule among teachers is to start the year on a positive note with parents. This way, if difficulty arises later, a positive relationship already exists. Parents who follow the same imperative take steps toward a constructive partnership that suits the best interests of their children.

4 Ways to DIY That Will Actually be Successful

DIY projects do not need to be expensive or complex in order to be fun for the family. Here are few to get you started.

I am a very practical person and like things to be easy and convenient. DIY is not my usual forte. Meanwhile, I have friends that make Martha Stewart look like an amateur. Rather than steal their ideas, I decided to dig deep and create my own DIY memories for my kids from the comfort of our backyard and driveway.

Homemade popsicles

I have to thank my aunt for this easy DIY project. She bought my kids a homemade Popsicle tray that seemed destined to be another plastic kitchenware to take up space in my already crowded cupboard. I even considered shipping it immediately to the basement to be a toy in the play kitchen’s abyss. But I showed restraint and a willingness to try, mainly at the insistence of my middle child.
Lucky for me, I have a very wise aunt. Her gift has helped me and my kids make an easy treat that’s also a healthier option than store-bought popsicles. We’ve made them from fresh-squeezed lemonade (with minimal sugar) and also from Crystal Light packages. I haven’t tried the yogurt or fruit smoothie route yet, but it’s on the agenda.
My kids enjoy seeing the whole process of making the drink, pouring it into the tray, placing the stem handles, and then waiting for the freezer to finish the job. These treats have been a big hit in town as we always make plenty to share with our friends and neighbors.

Water chalk paint

I have no idea why this DIY is fun, but my kids think it is amazing. I love it from a practical standpoint, because it requires zero planning. A sunny day is preferable, yet even that’s up for negotiation when it comes to implementing this activity.
Make sure you have sidewalk chalk aplenty, then just add water for more entertainment. My kiddos like to color the cement, deck, and stone fire pit with the chalk. Then we add water with paint brushes to turn their masterpieces into watercolor mosaics. The drips and splashes blend the colors and let them run together. My kids put the color wheel to the test, mixing different chalk to create and blend new colors.

Fresh-squeezed pink (or purple or blue) lemonade

One nice evening, we watched my friend’s children, which made for five kiddos running around the backyard. They were all begging for snacks a few minutes after finishing dinner. Knowing they were actually just looking for something to do, I took the opportunity to put into effect a DIY treat I’d been thinking about trying.
My youngest daughter is five years old and currently wants to be a baker when she grows up, so anything recipe related holds great appeal for her. She had found a recipe for fresh-squeezed lemonade in one of those ad magazines at our local coffee shop.
I asked my husband to help me quickly find a bunch of old mason jars with caps and lids. We then needed some water, sugar, and lemons. I also got inspired at the last moment and grabbed a small jar of pink sugar crystals left over from a birthday cake making session.
All five kids (ages two-and-a-half to eight) enjoyed squeezing their lemons, throwing the unwanted seeds into the yard, adding water and some sugar, and then shaking in some cake decorating crystals. They then screwed on their lids and started jumping and jiggling like crazy to “stir up” their lemonade, which turned pink thanks to the decorating crystals – a huge hit.
I plan to do this activity again, and next time have different colors of crystals on hand. The kids got a little sticky, but the lasting backyard entertainment and yummy slurp sounds were well worth the mess.

Obstacle courses

My family is in the “wheel stage” of life. We have numerous bikes, scooters, tricycles, and roller blades in the garage. We live on a quiet street, and our driveway has proven to have the perfect slant for bike races to the mailbox. Expanding upon our wheel-race challenges, we’ve started to set up obstacle courses with the neighbor kids.
Sidewalk chalk is again my best friend for summer. We use it to chart courses on the concrete, drawing in loops, circles, and boundaries for the kids to follow like a map. We use a stopwatch app on my phone as a timer, and there are always a couple “big kids” on hand to serve as judges.
The judge tracks the time of each contestant and keeps score either with the sidewalk chalk or a small dry erase board we keep in the garage. Our scoring system (one through 10) is not always the most democratic, but I’ve never had a West Side Story fight go down in my yard. The kids are too busy having fun to worry about winning and losing.
This activity is great for boys and girls. The majority of the little guys in my ’hood could care less about the organizational aspect of this activity, but they love the competition factor. The little ladies enjoy charting the scores and taking the reins when it comes to thinking up different obstacle course categories, like speed, accuracy, and creativity.

DIY does not have to be complicated

The simpler the better is my motto, especially when it comes to motherhood. DIY projects do not need to be expensive or complex in order to be fun for the family. Keeping things easy keeps me sane and feeling positive, which is beneficial to everyone in my household.

The Best Resources to Ignite a Creative Practice

If you keep a few fundamental strategies in mind, it will be easier to manage your time and create room in your schedule for using your imagination.

I remember working really hard on a sketch for art class in middle school. I sat for a long time examining every stripe on my sleeping cat trying to duplicate it just right in my drawing. I tried really hard and took my time, concentrating on the details and shading. I was pretty proud of how it turned out.
The teacher gave it a C. I’m sure many have similar stories that extinguished the creative spark.
Creativity as a means to make a living has often been viewed as a lesser valued contribution to society. But the millennial generation is beginning to revolutionize the workforce experience.
Courses immediately available at your fingertips will teach you how to do pretty much anything.
And yet, along the path to self-expression, working nine to five doing one thing and five to nine doing another, it can easily feel like you’re being stretched too thin. That’s when creative pursuits often get put on a back burner.
It doesn’t have to be that way. If you keep a few fundamental strategies in mind, it will be easier to manage your time and create room in your schedule for using your imagination.
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Reflect and evaluate

Evaluate your default patterns to discover what takes up your time. How can you change even just one thing in your daily routine to create more time for expression?

Sleep, sleep, and more sleep

So, apparently, we humans do not get enough sleep. Shocking, right?
Really, though. We know this. We know we need at least eight hours of sleep a night, but we trick ourselves into thinking we will get more done if we use the hours we should be sleeping to do more stuff.
After collapsing on the job and injuring her face falling into her desk, Arianna Huffington is revolutionizing awareness of the importance of quality sleep. I, personally, was super motivated by her TED pep talk encouraging women to “sleep their way to the top.” When you’re done reading this, take a listen, then go take a nap.
Alright. So, you’ve tapped back into your brain power that once had you doodling on notebooks and singing in the shower. All the extra sleep you’re getting is fueling big dreams. Now what? Check Out These TED Talks for Inspiration:
The Beauty of Being a Misfit – Lidia Yuknavitch
The Surprising Habits of Original Thinkers – Adam Grant
How Frustration Can Make Us More Creative – Tim Harford
A Musical Escape Into a World of Light and Color – Kaki King
Success, Failure, and the Drive to Keep Creating – Elizabeth Gilbert

Increase your efficiency with solid resources

BRIT+CO is driven to inspire women to embrace their own creativity. It’s basically everything you need to know to start a side hustle all in one place.
Take a 15-minute quiz on the Adam Grant Originals website to pinpoint your creative gifts and find direction.

Plan and organize to bring things together

I swear by Trello project boards. They’re free and easy to use which fuels my sense of accomplishment. Asana is another project management system with a really pretty user interface that gives the ability to collaborate with team members.
Other apps like Evernote and OneNote are also lifesavers when it comes to keeping all your brilliant ideas in one place.
Sounds easy enough, now. Right?
The paradox of the road to work/life balance is there are so many stumbling blocks and discouraging moments along the way. But, we have the impression that people who are wildly successful got to where they are by some mysterious good fortune. Be inspired by creative artists you admire by learning their stories and you’ll find that’s not the case.
“We do not need magic to transform our world. We carry all the power we need inside ourselves already.” – J.K. Rowling

Stay inspired

Print this list of ages famous people were when they “made it big.” Keep it in a place that inspires your creativity, say some affirmations, and get started.

At age 23, Tina Fey was working at a YMCA.At age 23, Oprah was fired from her first reporting job.At age 24, Stephen…

Posted by Ankati Day on Monday, April 25, 2016

Parenting After the Manchester Bombing

How do families move forward with confidence after scary events like this one take place?

The morning of May 22, I did what I do every morning. Upon peeling my eyes open, I reached for my phone. I checked my email first and then my Facebook feed. That’s when a headline caught my attention and shocked me out of my morning fog.
It read, “Deadly explosion at Ariana Grande concert.”
This year’s news has been full of tragedies. Hardly a day goes by without reading about bombings, shootings, and other acts of violence occurring all over the world. But for the first time, the news felt terrifyingly personal.
Approximately a year before the Manchester suicide bombing occurred, I surprised my two daughters with tickets to an Ariana Grande concert. My oldest, 14 at the time, had already attended a couple of small shows headlining singers who spent the majority of their act screaming inaudibly into the microphone. Her 11-year-old younger sister had begun to ask when she, too, could go to a concert – a first I was beginning to dread.
When I heard that Ms. Grande was coming to a stadium close to us, I jumped on the opportunity. Both of my girls loved her. She was one of the few artists who offered a performance geared toward tweens and teens that promised to keep it clean and empowering, while delivering killer theatrics. The show did not disappoint.
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To date, that evening is one of my favorite parenting experiences. There was a sweetness to making my way through the concert hall with the swarms of excited, young girls all decked out in cat ears and glittery whiskers they had painted across their still round cheeks.
The show was the stuff young dreams are made of. Highlights included Ariana floating above the crowd on a fluffy white cloud and singing her most popular songs as her fans swayed and cheered from below. At one point, she played a touching audio clip of her grandfather giving her advice about life. It was a performance that my girls and I both relished, for very different reasons.
On that morning in May as I stared down at my phone, my stomach swam and sank. I felt sick knowing that if I were to see a photo of the victims, their faces would resemble my own daughters’ faces. “This could have happened to my children,” I thought.
I have two adolescent girls. I worry about a lot. Every day, I have to make fast, smart decisions as the requests roll in for outings with friends and parties that don’t include mom tagging along. I call parents. I research venues and movies and music artists. The Ariana Grande concert seemed like a slam-dunk for some good, safe fun. If asked, there was a good chance I would have let my girls go without me.
In the days following the bombing, I avoided the news. I couldn’t bear to think of the victims. When I gently brought it up to my girls, it was clear they couldn’t either. They quickly brushed my comments and questions off and brought the discussion to a close.
After a couple weeks, the news coverage slowed to an eventual stop with the number of victims finally totaled. My kids never brought the topic up, but small changes in their behavior revealed the toll the event had taken. My oldest, who usually enjoyed the freedom of using public transit, began to call for rides, and her sister stopped asking about attending large events.
Close to two months have passed since the Manchester bombing. As it fades into the past, I can feel the coveted comfort of that false sense of safety returning. I know it won’t be long before the requests start rolling in again. Parties and concerts cannot be put off forever. It’s only a matter of time before I have to start making those lightning-quick decisions.
The question is how do families move forward with confidence after events like this one take place?
Elizabeth Perkins is a marriage and family therapist and psychotherapist based in San Diego, California. She suggests that parents should try to look at the world as a canvas on which many different things are painted. She explains, “Like looking at a painting, what you focus on is what begins to pop off the canvas and come to life.”
She says that young people model their coping mechanisms on their caregivers and their social environment: “To be a parent who acknowledges the scary stuff of life but chooses, rather, to really bring into focus all of the healing and help still left in the world creates that same lens for children.”
Perkins shared the following tips for parenting after a traumatic event:

Accept and focus on the best

School shootings exist, but our children still have to learn. Car crashes happen, and yet we need to get from point A to point B. We accept the dangers of life through minor practices of acceptance on a daily basis.
You literally say to yourself, hundreds of times a day, “Hi, fear. I see you and respect your right to be here, but instead of focusing on the car crash I saw on the news yesterday, I am focusing on the countless safe trips I’ve been blessed with and am doing what I can to protect my family and keep us safe.”

Acknowledge your children’s fear

If your children express fear about what they see in the world around them, don’t deny the magnitude of the tragedy or belittle the fear. It’s natural and healthy to bring a certain amount of caution into our real life experiences.
Instead say, “Yes, that was really tragic, and unfortunately, people do really bad things that hurt others, but there are many concerts that happen where no one gets hurt. Let’s try to make those positive thoughts what we focus on.”

Make a plan

There is so much we can’t control, but make a practice of putting minor safety exercises into action for your own peace of mind. Do the small practical things that help you stay safe. For example, make a practice of knowing where emergency exits are in crowded buildings, and pick a place to meet up if you are separated.

Help the healing

Creating a healing action for those who have been hurt can help bring peace to you and your children. Explain to them, “Yes, lots of people were hurt, and it caused a great deal of sadness for many. Let’s take a few minutes and pray for, meditate about, or send healing thoughts and vibes to those people who are affected before we head out to our event.”
We cannot undo the violence and tragedy around us. But we can improve our own place in the world by moving into our daily activities with a sense of love, compassion, and empathy. In some ways, this may take the feeling of powerlessness down a notch.
As a mother of girls on the brink of becoming young women, it’s easy to see danger lurking behind every corner in the world that’s waiting for them beyond my reach. But I know there is no stopping them from entering it, and it is my hope that they will find happiness when they do.
The best I can do is teach them to be smart and safe and to never let acts of hate deter them from seeking joy.

Secrets of Productivity Success

Regardless of whether it’s possible to create more time, it is entirely possible to make more out of the time we have.

Productivity is a hot topic lately. Seems like everyone is trying to sell, buy, or spend more time.
Regardless of whether it’s possible to create more time, it is entirely possible to make more out of the time we have. We’re all after productivity with the latest gadgets and apps. We alter our lifestyles and even our diets in an effort to get our bodies to do as much as they possibly can.
Research is beginning to give us some insight into how society’s most productive leaders accomplish so much with the same 24 hours in a day we all have available. It’s not that successful people never sleep, or are able to create their dream lifestyles at lightning speed.
They are instead perfecting the art of borrowing seconds and minutes from daily decisions, like what to wear and what to eat. Those seconds accumulate and result in extra time to spend doing what they love. Voila! More time!
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What “should” get done with our time is largely subjective and, of course, different for everyone. But there are a few methods to use as a template to kick-start spending more time and energy doing what feels important to you, whatever that may be.

Set your intentions

  • Keep to-do lists short and practical.
  • Establish morning and evening routines.
  • List your three most important tasks.
  • Focus on one thing at a time and don’t multi-task.
  • In the evening, reflect on at least three things you accomplished.

Make lifestyle changes

Evaluate the parts of your day that feel the most stressful. Break down your list of items that need to get done during that time. Prioritize and eliminate tasks that could wait.
Here are three favorite writers I highly recommend who give useful tips for conquering productivity obstacles:

  1. Josh Becker – Becoming Minimalist
  2. Ruth Soukup – Living Well Spending Less
  3. James Clear – Change Your Habits. Change Your Life.

Get your head in the game

In 11 studies with 700 participants, 67 percent of men and 25 percent of women chose to inflict electrical shock on themselves rather than sit quietly and think in a room by themselves for 15 minutes.
As an introvert and one who prefers my own thoughts to most conversation, I found this statistic shocking (pun intended)!

Want to get more done? Do nothing.

Meditation requires nothing but our breath, gives the brain the rest it needs to process new information, and makes neural connections that boost productivity.
Apps like Headspace give simple meditation guidance so you don’t find yourself sitting in a quiet room wishing for an electric shock.

Reflect on accomplishments

Psychological researchers have found that those who spent 15 minutes at the end of the day writing about what had gone well reached a 23 percent higher performance rate than employees who continued working through those 15 minutes.
If the thought of sitting quietly doing nothing makes you squirm, you love stuff too much to be a minimalist, and you know the latest gadgets are the only way to go, you’re in luck.

Check these out and get more done

Trello is free and incredibly easy to use. Create boards and online to-do lists with the ability to include checklists and links.
Evernote syncs with most devices and allows you to keep notes for various categories all in one place.
Purp helps with setting goals, scheduling tasks to achieve those goals, and tracking progress.
I could honestly read, learn, and talk about the topic of productivity all day. But who has time for that? I’ve got shit to do. And so do you. Now, go do it!

Who’s the Spender and Who’s the Saver In Your Relationship? 5 Ways to Make It Work

Ten years worth of personal experience as a spender being married to a saver. It’s not easy. But we make it work.

I worked with two women who used to buy clothes and have them shipped to the office so their husbands wouldn’t know how much they were spending.
I’m not judging. Heck, I’m the spender in my marriage. Right now, I have several hundred dollars’ worth of stuff I can’t wait to get – a banjo, a workout bench…the normal stuff.
But there’s a problem. While I’m very much a spender, my wife is very much not a spender. In fact, she loves saving money. So when we first got married and our two money-spending inclinations collided, there were a few…sparks.

That time I really wanted that book

Early on in our marriage, our budget was tight – so tight that we both agreed we’d stick to our budget, come hell or high water. That is, until we were going to the beach and I had no good book to read. (Fellow book nerds, you know what I’m talking about.)
When we walked by a bookstand the day before our trip, this book – the book – sat aloft a golden book throne and had the most majestic light shining down on it. It was the one. It was my beach book.
But when I inquired as to our status on our budget that week (an answer I already knew, but was in denial about) I was gently reminded about our pact to keep to our budget.
Well, I pitched a full-on toddler fit over the book. And, in the end, I got it. But during the whole beach trip as I read that stupid book, I felt guilty about acting like a toddler and breaking our pact. I look back with embarrassment on that moment.
Fast forward nearly 10 years and we’ve both learned not only how we each work, but also how to best work with each other, and best love each other.
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Here’s how we make it work

1 | Admit the benefits of the other side

I am extraordinarily thankful that my wife is a saver. If it weren’t for her, I’d have a pile of toys around me and nothing in the bank. But for my fellow spenders in the house, it ain’t always easy to appreciate your spouse’s inclination to save when that means you have to use a spender’s two-letter curse word: “no.”
I know my wife would say the same about me. I’ve helped her to see the benefits of a good dinner out and an upgrade on a vacation. The sooner you can admit that the other side brings much needed benefits, the better off you will be.

2 | No secrets

Fellow spenders, don’t make secret purchases. I’m not talking about buying shady stuff. I mean, don’t buy anything that you will be tempted to hide from your spouse. It just makes everything worse and prolongs the real conversation you need to have about why you might need that thing, or whether it’s worth saving up for it.
Secret purchases are toxic for a relationship. Just don’t do it.

3 | Agree that you need “spend money”

To all the savers: everyone needs some spend money. Yes, yes, we don’t actually “need” spending money. Anything above paying the bills is just extra. That being said, us spenders will eventually go crazy if we can’t have an occasional treat, even if that treat is inexpensive.

4 | Define “spend money”

Is going out to lunch considered spend money? What if that lunch out is a steakhouse?
My wife and I agreed a long time ago to tell each other before we spent over a certain dollar amount. We also agreed to tell each other about those “little,” “inexpensive” habits that actually add up to a lot over time – like that $4 Starbucks five days a week.

5 | Work together to save up for awesome spending times

Do you know what many of my best childhood memories come from? Vacation. Vacations utilize the best of both of your strengths. You have to save in order to go on vacation, and you get to spend once you’re there.
At the end of the day, it’s all about letting go of control, whether your inclination is to control spending or control getting what you want. Instead, let love and submission (the good kind) rule the day in your relationship and you won’t look back with any regrets.

5 Tips for Raising A Kid Who Can Manage Their Money

Teaching kids about the value of money can provide them with important skills to navigate adult life.

There is a general consensus that one of the reasons we make bad money decisions is because we were never taught about money during childhood. Conversely, teaching kids about the value of money can provide them with important skills to navigate adult life.
According to available research, it’s never too early to start (even though it’s not until after age six that kids begin to understand that coins have different values). As one study has found, children under age seven can understand the processes underpinning financial practices, such as counting and exchange.
Another study suggests that, by age seven, children are able to understand how financial exchanges actually work. For instance, they can understand that they don’t have enough money to buy certain games or other things they desire and that to get what they need, they need to find a means to get more money.
According to Dr. Whitebread and Dr. Bingham, researchers at the University of Cambridge, using abstract financial concepts to teach young children about money is likely to be ineffective, because young children have no money of their own and are far too dependent on parents.
The researchers argue that to instill efficient money habits and practices, parents and other significant adults need to use real life situations to educate children about money. Yet another study has found that children learn best from observation, instruction, and practice.
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How can you make your child financially literate?

Manage impulsivity

The Stanford marshmallow test – a fairly well-known experiment led by Professor Mischel – used a series of longitudinal experiments in which researchers proposed to several children one reward offered immediately, or two rewards if the children waited for about 15 minutes.
Several years later, the researchers interviewed the same people and found that those who had chosen immediate rewards had been less successful in life, exhibiting poorer educational, health, and social outcomes. Mischel’s studies have now become synonymous with grit and self-control.
Making your child financially literate means teaching him “to resist the marshmallow.” One of the ways you can achieve this is by reducing temptations. Another way is to ensure that the reward proposed is worth waiting for.

Quit hiding behind the “we don’t have the money for this” excuse

Telling your child “we don’t have the money for this” does little to make him financially literate. It’s also a strategy that can backfire: Every time your child has money, she is more likely to spend it immediately because her natural reaction will be “I have the money for this now.”
Rather than tell your child you have no money, explain beforehand what you’re going to buy before you go shopping. Make a shopping list, and make it clear that you’re only going to buy the things on the list and nothing else. If you decide to allow her to get something for herself, be clear about what she has a right to and what price range is acceptable.

Teach by example

If your children see you save money, they will perceive saving as the norm. If you explain why you buy in bulk, or why you don’t always buy brand names, they are more likely to incorporate this “normal behavior” into their own spending habits when they become adults themselves.
A recent study found that children essentially observe and assimilate “values, attitudes, standards, norms, knowledge, and behavior” to understand financial issues. Model what you’d like to see in your child.

Let your child manage money

Letting your child handle some money by giving him an allowance or by paying him for certain tasks can help him develop financial literacy skills. It’s an effective way to teach kids that once money is spent, it’s gone for good. As one study has found, personal economic experiences help children develop their economic reasoning.
Giving your child money can also be an opportunity to teach him about goals. Before giving him money, consider what it will be used for. Will the money be his to use as he sees fit? Will he be expected to take charge of some of the things you previously provided? Is he aware of what is now expected of him?

Incorporate savings from the start

If your child has access to money, incorporating savings from the start helps her learn money saving habits that could last beyond the childhood years.
Each time she receives or earns money, ask her to put away a certain amount for savings and a separate amount she can spend immediately. “Saving for saving’s sake” is a much too abstract concept for kids. Clearly explain what the savings can be used for – a much sought-after toy, a special outing, etc.

Talk about your money decisions

Explain your financial decisions to your child. If you only buy fruits and vegetables in season because they’re cheaper, let your child know. If you’re saving in order to purchase something, talk about it.
Take your child to the bank and explain how banks work. Talk about debt: Why is it important to avoid it? How one can avoid it? Is there “good debt”?
We’d love to hear how you teach your kids about money. Let us know in the comments section.

5 Things I Won’t Skimp on With the Second Baby

First-time-mom-me was way too hard on herself in so many ways.

Yes, the thought of having a second child in a few months is terrifying: the lack of sleep, the lack of finances, and… the lack of sleep. I am already feeling the calming effects of having made it through this once, however. I know that at some point our youngest child will sleep more than 1.5 hours in a stretch. I know that when that happens, my real personality will wrestle its way back from the weeping zombie woman I leave in charge during long periods without rest.
I know my family will experience more moments of pure joy together than we can ever count, or remember… because of the sleep deprivation.
That said, I have every intention of making this second infancy as easy on all of us as possible. I plan to do away with all noble notions of “parental instincts” – a misleading term – and, “toughing it out.” First-time-mom-me was way too hard on herself in so many ways.
I wish I could go back in time, force her to take a nap, and convince her that everyone, including the baby, will be much better off if she stops trying to live up to some unattainable standard of mommyhood.
This time, I vow to do just that, and promise myself that I will not skimp on the following:

1 | Maternity Leave

I now realize what a luxury it is to have a job that offers me any time off whatsoever, and I plan to take every single moment of both paid and unpaid leave that I can. With baby number one, I convinced myself that I needed to get back to work a full two weeks early, due to having an unusually demanding boss at the time. Not this time, whatever it takes.

2 | Pumping Bra

Somehow, with baby number one, I could not justify spending over $15 on what is arguably the most important contraption of early motherhood, the hands-free pumping bra. I told myself I would not be using it forever, and that I should get whatever was cheapest. I ended up with this crazy elastic contraption that frustrated me each of the hundreds of times I had to use it. Pumping is bad enough. This time, I’m getting the best.

3 | Physical Therapy

I have a weak hip from long-distance running. With the last delivery my old injury was exacerbated, and I was left with an unusual amount of hip pain anytime I took a walk during my recovery. My family doctor told me it would take at least eight weeks postpartum for things to “feel normal” again. I believed him. My hips did not. My sports doctor then sent me to physical therapy, and my therapist said I should have been in there six weeks after baby. This time, I will listen to my body and get the right help, right away.

4 | Calls to the Pediatrician

I remember having this internal struggle each time I went to call the pediatrician. I felt I shouldn’t have to because I’m the mother and the mother is supposed to know everything. That, I now know, is a huge fallacy. I also remember feeling a sense of relief wash over me each time I spoke to baby number one’s doctor. Most of the time just hearing the words “that’s completely normal” changed the entire course of our day. Get ready doc. With baby number two, I will be calling you a lot.

5 | Alone Time

Even when my amazing family and friends came by to help last time, I felt the need to play hostess. This is a common problem with new moms. I was excited to show off the baby and I wanted to seem like I had things figured out. I’d end up wasting potential guilt-free nap or shower time hanging out with my guests, but they weren’t there to hang with me! They were there to hang with the baby and give me a break. This time, I’ll take it.