We Know Remarkably Little About The "Right" Bedtime

Don’t struggle with bedtime. Read up on what’s known about sleep, what’s unknown, and what’s negotiable.

Plenty of parenting websites will tell you the “right” time to put your children to bed. Many of these resources even include age-based charts broken into 15-minute sleeping and waking intervals so you’ll know that if your five-year-old goes to bed at 6:45, she should be up at 6:00.

Surprisingly, these sleep guidelines are based on remarkably little evidence.

Before you waste time charting your child’s sleep or struggle to get your kids into bed while the sun’s still up, read up on what’s known about sleep, what’s unknown, and what’s negotiable.

Sleep is poorly understood

We all know we’re supposed to be getting eight hours of sleep a night. We know that our kids are supposed to be getting more than that. We also know that our families generally fall short of those guidelines, whether it’s demanding work schedules, sleep-resistant toddlers, or just needing to enjoy our quiet houses in the late-night hours.

How do we know how much sleep we need? Emmanuel Mignot, director of the Center for Sleep Sciences and Medicine at Stanford, calls sleep “one of the last remaining mysteries in biology.” We know we need to sleep, but we don’t really know why we need to sleep for a third of our lives, or why sleep-deprivation is so profoundly damaging.

Part of why sleep is poorly understood is that it’s really difficult to study. Sleep is governed by the brain, and brains are hard to study. Sleep studies are time consuming and expensive. They often require getting subjects to sleep in a lab connected to various wires and measurement tools for a prolonged period of time.

As a result, sleep studies tend to be quite small. Even then, the results are not necessarily applicable to the population at large. Children with sleep issues may undergo sleep testing to study their sleep patterns. These sleep studies are helpful in diagnosing and treating a range of medical concerns, from sleep apnea to sleepwalking, but they cannot be generalized to how all children should sleep.

Sleep recommendations are broad

If the available sleep studies don’t explain how much we should sleep, where do these recommendations come from? How do professional sleep organizations know what amount of sleep is ideal for children of each age group?

In a review of 100 years’ of sleep recommendations, Lisa Anne Matricianni and colleagues found that only one of 35 formal recommendations provided specific scientific rationale behind its conclusions. The reviewers concluded that, “after more than 100 years, sleep recommendations are still being issued in the acknowledged absence of meaningful evidence.” In short, the organizations making recommendations about children’s sleep are not necessarily basing their guidelines on very strong evidence about children’s sleep habits. The evidence tends to be largely anecdotal and practice-based, and while these observations have value, they are often the starting point, not the end point, of scientific research.

The lack of good sleep evidence makes sense. No study is going to definitively prove how much sleep anyone needs, because such a study would need to follow a subject over the course of a lifetime. It would require decades-long data collection on daily sleep, diet, and exercise, and even then there would be so many confounding variables that it would be difficult to draw definitive conclusions about how much sleep is necessary.

Although they were not able to pinpoint strong evidence undergirding each set of recommendations, Matricianni and colleagues found remarkable similarities between the rationales for the amount of sleep recommended in each set of guidelines. In nearly every case, there is expressed concern for children not getting “enough” sleep. The reviewers noted that, whether it was 1897 or 2007, people believed children’s sleep to be adversely affected by modern life, from schoolbooks then to the internet now.

Perhaps the most comprehensive sleep guidelines to date are those put out by the American Academy of Sleep Medicine (AASM) in 2016. Drawing from hundreds of sleep studies, the AASM recommends the following daily sleep amounts for children:

  • 12 to 16 hours for infants aged four to 12 months
  • 11 to 14 hours for one- to two-year-olds
  • 10 to 13 hours for three- to five-year-olds
  • 9 to 12 hours for six- to 12-year-olds
  • 8 to 10 hours for 13- to 18-year-olds

These recommendations, which were endorsed by the American Academy of Pediatrics, are for total sleep time, including naps, during each 24-hour period.

The first thing to notice about these guidelines is how broad they are. There are wide gaps between the low and high sleep amounts for each group. There are also no optimal bedtimes included within the guidelines, or even the requirement that the sleep be continuous. The looseness of the guidelines suggests that either individuals’ sleep needs are so different as to defy categorization, or there is just not enough strong data to draw a definitive conclusion about sleep needs.

The American early bedtime

The above AASM recommendations do not recommend a specific bedtime or wake time, but instead an overall amount of sleep by age group. When translated into articles about parenting, those recommendations often turn into strict requirements for children’s ideal bedtimes.

That’s not necessarily because earlier is better, but because American parenting – and American daily life in general – requires early bedtimes for us all.

First, our kids have to go to bed early because they have to get up early, a point Slate parenting columnist Melinda Wenner Moyer makes in her defense of the “absurdly early bedtime.”

When we say that putting kids to bed early is better, we gloss over a really important distinction. It’s not the early bedtime that matters so much as the amount of sleep children get. Children who go to bed at 7:00 can get 11 hours of sleep. Children who go to bed at 9:00 can get 11 hours of sleep. The difference is that, when parents have to be at work early, kids have to be awake early.

Second, our kids have to go to bed early because we need “alone” time.

Stories about early bedtimes often include the “me” time that parents want away from their children. There’s no evidence that late bedtimes need to disrupt this sacred time for parents. That need for “me” time stems from more than just sleep schedules. It comes from our own cultural expectation to be 100 percent present with our children.

The combination of early morning wake times and the hyper-involved parenting expectations of many Americans is a losing combination that means somebody – maybe everybody – isn’t getting enough sleep.

Sleep is cultural

The sleep guidelines offered by the AASM suggest that there are many different routes to the “right” amount of sleep. Internationally, that seems to be true. How kids get their sleep differs dramatically from one country to the next.

Even as we try to find the “right” bedtime, we can probably all recognize that people sleep differently and happily in different countries (think siestas!). Joanna Goddard’s eye-opening Motherhood Around the World series helps showcase the difference in a wide range of parenting styles, including attitudes toward sleep, from Italian playdates that extend past many American kids’ bedtimes, midnight snuggles during Icelandic summers, and shared bedtimes for Indian parents and kids alike.

As examples from different countries show, there isn’t necessarily a “right” way to get a full night’s sleep. Armed with that knowledge, parents should feel more comfortable negotiating sleep times that work best for their kids and themselves, whether that’s two-hour midday naps or getting the kids in bed before sunset.

Move the Baby or Let Her Sleep? What the Research Says About 3 Non-Ideal Conditions

Carseats, cribs, and couches: all come with dire warnings about the dangers of laying down your baby the wrong way. But what are the real risks?

We all know to put infants “back to sleep,” but babies have a habit of falling asleep in all sorts of positions, in all sorts of places, at the most inconvenient times.

While SIDS awareness campaigns have dramatically reduced the numbers of infants dying in their sleep, they have also dramatically increased the number of parents needlessly panicking about their children’s sleep.

Carseats, cribs, and couches: all come with dire warnings about the dangers of laying down your baby the wrong way. This piece breaks down the actual risks of babies sleeping in non-ideal conditions.

In the carseat

You spent the last three hours trying to get your infant daughter to nap before you had to take her with you to a meeting. True to form, she dozes off in her carseat about five minutes before you need to be inside. You’ve read that you’re not supposed to let babies sleep inside their carseats anyplace outside of the car. Do you wake your daughter up, knowing that she’ll likely howl through the next hour? Or do you let her sleep?

Although it’s difficult to calculate a precise number of children who died while sleeping in carseats used as carriers, we know that the number is small. The Consumer Product Safety Commission recorded 47 infant deaths between 2004 and 2008 related to devices for carrying kids (slings, strollers, carseats, etc.). 31 of those deaths happened in carseats, so we can estimate that approximately six infants per year die in carseats that double as carriers.

The CPSC reported that the carseat deaths occurred in two ways: strangulation due to improper use of straps or positional asphyxiation, which means that the infants wriggled into positions that obstructed their breathing.

Those numbers may make you terrified to let your child nap in a carseat, but the case studies included in the CPSC report suggest that the carseat itself should not be an object of terror. In one case study, a caregiver left an infant in a carseat with only the chest straps buckled, and came back an hour and twenty minutes later to find that the child had shifted down in the seat, strangling himself. In another case, a child was left unbuckled in a carseat placed within a crib, surrounded by three pillows and a blanket.

These cases, as well as others included in the report, suggest that the problem is not with the carseats themselves, but with either inappropriate use or inappropriate supervision. The authors conclude that “most, if not all, of these deaths might have been prevented had the device been used properly and/or had there been adequate supervision.”

Rest easy, the data suggests that if your child is appropriately buckled in the carseat and you continue to supervise her, she can snooze safely.

In the wrong crib

Back to sleep in a brand-new CPSC-approved crib without pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals. You memorized those basics even before your baby was born. Then you bring your baby to your parents’ house and find with horror that they refinished your old drop-side crib and expect your baby to sleep in it. Do you risk co-sleeping? Do you drive to Target to buy a new crib? Or do you just use that death trap for two nights?

Infants spend more unsupervised time in cribs than anywhere else, so cribs need to be safe. Concern for crib safety has led to an incredible number of product recalls. Crib recalls are so common that they’ve been parodied not once, but twice on The Onion. So how dangerous is an old crib?

In the early 2000s, the CPSC recalled over seven million cribs due to suffocation and strangulation hazards. Those seven million recalled cribs all had drop sides, which were connected with 32 infant deaths between 2000 and 2010. The problem wasn’t with the drop side itself, but with detached, poorly-repaired, or incorrectly-assembled drop-side cribs.

Although the vast majority of these cribs caused no harm and were deemed safe for use, the CPSC determined that drop-side cribs were not as safe as cribs with four fixed sides. That’s because the CPSC’s mission is not to create products that are safe when used properly, they want products to be as safe as possible even when used improperly. The CPSC therefore employs “foreseeable use” to set its product-safety standards. That means that, when the CPSC develops crib safety standards, it considers both the person who saves the Allen wrenches and re-tightens a crib monthly alongside the person who duct tapes a crib together.

One consequence of the foreseeable-use standard is that parents using a product properly needlessly panic about safety risks that would only exist if they used the product improperly. In the case of cribs, the danger is not so much “drop-side crib” as “broken-side crib.”

Rest cautiously, cribs themselves appear to be safer than ever, and the babies sleeping in them are safer, too. If grandma’s crib is in good condition with a mattress that fits appropriately and side slats that are not set too wide apart, it’s a reasonably safe short-term solution.

On the couch

Your cluster-feeding infant woke up on the hour all night. Today, despite drinking every ounce of caffeine that your doctor recommends you can safely consume while nursing, you can’t sit down without starting to nod off. You’ve read terrifying accounts about babies who died after their parents nodded off while holding them. Each time you sit down to nurse, you set alarms to make sure you won’t fall asleep, but the house is so quiet, the baby is finally sleeping, and you know if you move you’ll wake her up. Can you take a nap too?

A study recently published in Pediatrics determined that couches make up almost 13 percent of infant sleep deaths, which may make you never want to snuggle on the couch again. However, thinking about that percentage in context may let you rest easier.

If couches were responsible for 13 percent of infant deaths, you would be justified in listing your couch on Craigslist. That would be the wrong way to interpret this study. To put it into perspective, for every 100 infants who die from sleep-related causes (SIDS and SUIDS), 13 die on a couch. That’s not necessarily a reason to be scared of couches. What’s most terrifying about sleep-related deaths isn’t where the babies are dying, it’s that they are dying in their sleep at all.

The proportion of infants dying in their sleep is already low to begin with. The proportion of infants dying in their sleep on the couch is even smaller. The study identified 1,024 couch-related infant deaths that occurred between 2004 and 2012. The study included 24 states so it’s hard to know exactly how that figure would translate to the entire country, but assuming that the 24 states were roughly representative, that is 2,000 deaths over a nine year period. The birth rate in the U.S. is approximately four million per year, so that’s roughly 2,000 deaths for over 36 million births (a rate of .006 percent).

In the majority of the cases in the study, the deaths occurred in a “shared surface,” meaning that there was a caregiver sleeping with the child. That fact has led to many articles about the dangers of allowing kids to fall asleep on snoozing caregivers.

Some other details from the study suggest other already-known risk factors may contribute more to infant deaths on couches. For example, many of the infants in this study were placed on their sides (13 percent) or on their stomachs (29.9 percent), both of which are considered unsafe sleep positions. The study also drew a connection between maternal tobacco use and couch deaths.

Rest warily, the risk of SIDS is incredibly small, but SIDS risk does appear to be slightly more elevated when parents and babies sleep on couches together. Sleeping with an infant on the couch also increases risk of falls. If you do nod off, be gentle with yourself. In an imperfect world of tired parents and colicky babies, it’s helpful to know that the couch is statistically unlikely to lead to death.

No Rules, No Manual, and No Right Way

I know I’m still the same person with the same views and values, it’s just that my circumstances have changed. They’ll continue to change.

When I was younger, I never wished that either myself or my situation were different. I accepted who I was, how I looked, and how I acted. I laughed a lot. Most importantly I liked the person I was.

Becoming a mum has changed my view of myself a little. I struggle to switch off and relax, I suppose because as a parent, you rarely get time to yourself. Even a shower or toilet trip usually involves a little person interrupting. The stresses and strains of the various stages of parenthood kick in from day one and affect not just you individually, but your relationship with your partner. There are days I’ve hated the sound of my own voice repeating things or the odd snappy comments as tiredness has taken over.

As a new parent (especially a mum), you can find yourself obsessing over everything, trying to see patterns and creating some form of routine. It can be tricky as things change all the time. As time goes on, different challenges can still crop up: sleep, potty training, and illnesses to name just a few. It’s hard not to let things get to you sometimes and have a good old grumble or a cry.

For me as a parent, the second time around I’m more relaxed about some things. I’ve learned from the first time that you just have to stop obsessing about the things you can’t change and handle the things you can. Even so, I still find things get to me. Having two has been quite tough, particularly in the first few months as lack of sleep builds up and affects my mood, making me feel down and struggling to cope. I’ve hated feeling this way, I just want the fun, happy me back.

I started to compare my situation with other mums’, wishing I could have more sleep or a baby without colic, or wishing I could lose baby weight quickly like other mums had. When I had a miscarriage, I found it really difficult to hear about other friends who were pregnant, especially the ones who were due when I would’ve been.

On that basis, however, I realize that others may look at me or my family and wish for their situation to be more like ours. From the outside looking in, things can seem perfect, but in reality, we all have our ups and downs.

Generally, we tend to try and promote the happy, harmonious, fun side of being a parent (especially on social media) and don’t really admit any struggles. Why would we? You don’t really want people to read about the tough bits. I would never know if a mum-friend was really down unless she told me. I’ve had to openly say in the past, “I feel down” or “I’m struggling,” to get the support I need. I can’t expect others to guess, especially when everything appears to be rosy.

I’ll admit I’ve questioned my ability as a parent in the past. I’m guilty of going for easy food options, for example. I’m guilty of giving them the iPad instead of playing with them. Guilty of bribing to get them out the door (or back in!). Guilty for spending more time with my younger daughter as she needs me more at the moment. Guilty that I wanted to start introducing the bottle to make it easier rather than solely breastfeeding. Guilty of thinking others might be doing it better.

Why should I feel this way? What is making me feel this way? Why am I comparing my situation with others, the media, and other pressures? I’m ultimately doing it to myself. It’s down to me and the way I view things. My kids are wonderful, bright, kind, and full of life. I should be happy and accept I’m doing a good job!

There are so many circumstances I can’t change in life. One of my favorite quotes is, “You can’t change the direction of the wind but you can adjust the sails.” We will face tough times, but rather than let them take over, we can adjust things to make it that bit easier. For example, I have to accept that my husband and I can’t go out on many dates anymore, but we are in the house together after the kids go to bed. We need to make the most of that time, switch off from being parents (and our phones), and focus on us for a bit.

I know I’m still the same person with the same views and values, it’s just that my circumstances have changed. They’ll continue to change. I’ll adapt again, try to stop thinking about it so much, and be happy with everything I have.

Behind closed doors, every parent has something they struggle with. Few people admit how tough things can be, but with the rise of bloggers like “Hurrah for Gin” and “Part-Time Working Mummy,” the struggles and strains are out there for mums to identify with.

In reality, every mum has a different birth experience (no two are ever exactly the same), a different child with a different personality and needs, different husband, job, and family circumstances. Why spend precious time trying to compare? The one thing we all have in common is that at some point, every parent (and not just parent but person), will find things tricky or difficult. After all, there are no rules and no manual.

That’s when you need to speak up. Never be afraid to admit what’s going on or how you feel. It doesn’t make you weak or inadequate. It actually takes some balls to do it. People will always assume things are okay until you talk about it. We can help each other.

Remember, every mum has walked where you have and every mum has stepped beyond it.

No, Dads of Daughters Don't Need Shotguns

You’ve heard it a billion times in reference to our girls. “Oh, better get the shotgun ready!” It’s time to think about what we’re actually saying.

There was an announcement on a friends’ group text recently. “We’re having a baby girl!!” gushed the mom-to-be.
What followed was a flurry of congratulatory messages.
“We’re so happy for you.”
“Can’t wait to meet your bundle of joy.”
“Get that baby registry going! I looove shopping for baby girls.”
Then came one that made me stop in my tracks: “Time for your husband to buy a shotgun.”
Sure, I’ve heard it a billion times. I’m sure I’ve said it myself, casually, like it was expected of me to perpetuate the idea of the overprotective father needing to shelter his helpless daughter from her bevy of suitors.
There’s nothing wrong with the idea of dads wanting to protect their kids. But there is something wrong with the idea that only girls need protecting, and that they need protection from boys who are going to be wooing them.
The gender stereotyping behind the statement didn’t really strike me until recently. Somehow, through repetition over the years, the comment has gained a certain credibility, as though it can’t be questioned.
But we should question things. Especially when it disenfranchises our young women.
First off, shouldn’t we be empowering girls to protect themselves? Maybe their weapon of choice won’t be a shotgun (at least, I hope not!).
Instead we should be inspiring our young women with weapons of self-confidence – knowing their own worth so they don’t settle, never being apologetic for saying no, developing the grit to pursue their goals and the resolve to set their own indisputable boundaries.
Instead, we’re inadvertently sending them the message that, when it comes to relationships, they fall squarely in the hapless category.
We’re sending an archaic message to our young men, too: You’re the one going to be winning her over. And you’re going to be met with resistance in the process.
We’re telling the next generation of young men that it’s somehow cool to be the bad boy chasing down the girl, circumventing the hovering dad looming large on the front porch. Just maybe it’s okay to entertain the idea that a young man is capable of winning the dad (and mom) over, too, with his politeness and hard work and commitment to their daughter.
Or, maybe, it’s the young lady who will be ringing his doorbell.
Then there’s the other line we dash off when we see a handsome little fella. Truth be told, I’ve typed out the cliché on Facebook more often than I’d like to acknowledge: “He’s going to be a real heartbreaker.”
I don’t know how that line has become a compliment. Like, really? We want someone’s kid to grow up and break hearts? And that’s going to happen because he’s good looking?
I don’t think we’re giving the next generation enough credit. Yes, young men will break hearts. So will young women. Hopefully, it won’t be because they’re eye candy, but because they’re in a loving relationship that happened to end.
Both these cultural clichés, one tailored to little girls and the other to little boys, have long outlived their “cuteness.” It’s time to build up our kids, whatever their gender, for things that truly count: their kind heartedness, not their ability to break hearts; their confidence, not their propensity to cower in the shadows.
The next time I’m tempted to recommend that a new dad purchase a shotgun, I’m going to hold that thought and dig a little deeper. I’m going to replace clichés with a genuine compliment about making the world a brighter, lovelier place with their new unique addition.

Feminine: The Original F Word

Let’s face it, the word feminine has baggage. Not only has it been hijacked by the tampon industry, it can be downright derogatory in certain contexts.

I’m in the shoe store with my daughter. We’re shopping for sandals she can wear to a wedding this summer. She holds up a black, strappy number with a three-inch heel.

“No way,” I say. “One wrong move and you’d twist an ankle.”

Young enough to value mobility above all else, she puts it back, and I show her what I like: a sturdy, white flat with supportive arches.

“Boring.”

“Okay,” I say. “Maybe something a little more feminine?”

Feminine?! She recoils at the word. Anything – even boring or dangerous – is preferable to feminine. My daughter, who is on the cusp of pubescence and therefore the cusp of full-blown self-consciousness, shuns makeup and styled hair, thinks her school’s dress code “lacks modesty,” and bristles if you call her pretty. Along with a growing number of girls her age, she rejects the stagnancy of pink culture and pursues a more accurate gender representation. She recognizes it’s not the color per se, it’s the stereotyping that accompanies it: Boys get comic books, girls get emojis; boys get sports, girls get dolls; boys get dirty, girls hide imperfections. To her, everything deemed feminine is one-dimensional, fragile, and something to passively admire. While I wouldn’t describe her as a Tomboy or even androgynous, she prides herself on being determinedly not feminine.

In the case of the shoes, I refrain from pointing out that her ankle-sprainers are more girlish than my sensible picks, for I well know how inconsistencies and contradictions exemplify the experience of growing up female, when you have only two choices and neither is quite right. Instead, I blandly explain that feminine just means you are female, which is nature’s way of distinguishing gender, and the word feminine is rooted in the Old French, femelle from the Latin, femina…but she is not swayed by the etymology. She wanders into the middle aisle, where the store is genetically split, symbolically flanked by gray and navy-blue function on one side and hot-pink form on the other.      

Let’s face it, the word feminine has baggage. Not only has it been hijacked by the tampon industry, it can be downright derogatory in certain contexts. Feminine has been married into phrases like feminine wiles, feminine guiles, feminine mystique, feminine hygiene, feminine products, feminine odor, and (gasp) feminine itch. When used to describe anything considered traditionally male, like athletic prowess or military might, being feminine is the ultimate insult. Like other well-intentioned euphemisms in the commercial realm – casket or toilet, for instance – the word itself has descended below the concept it replaced.

But is it beyond redemption? Unlike more blatantly offensive gender-derived terms (wench, hussy, spinster, bitch, faggot, etc.), feminine hasn’t passed the point of no return. Though boys snicker in embarrassment when heading up certain aisles in the drugstore and bookstores sanction related material to the far back corner, the word hasn’t delved into the obscene. To both women and men, femininity still has many good connotations: softness, sensitivity, gentleness, beauty.

Language is representational, but it is fluid and ever-changing. Its own transience lies in usage, where ambiguity allows for subtle shifts in meaning. Language represents but it also defines, and words can change our perception of the very thing they symbolize. Continual proximity will forge associations, both good and bad. Consider the words Nazi, communist, or fascist: The accompanying shameful history is what depraves these words and not simply their political origin. Conversely, words like Bohemian, waif, and Gypsy, once pejorative terms, now invoke a sense of whimsy.

Abandoning femininity is impractical, and we don’t have the luxury of controlling its fate. So how are we supposed to integrate feelings about a word that derives meaning from social and biological constructs, implies weakness, menstruation, and nefarious deceit, yet also describes our very essence? More pointedly, how do we override these learned denotations and separate them from our identity? Like my daughter, we are conflicted. Sometimes we want to be feminine, choose feminine, wear feminine, we just don’t want to be called feminine – or at least that kind of feminine. It’s a standoff of sorts, with a continuously shifting boundary.   

We’re left with one option: embrace the word feminine in all its linguistic glory. Own it, take it back, use it with civility, and don’t use it in disgrace. Use it poetically, use it only for science, use it clinically, practically, whatever. Just don’t align it with the levied flaws of gender. And pick out some damn shoes.

In the car on the way home, after agreeing on leather T-straps with an ornate buckle, I launch the comeback campaign for the “F” word, beginning with my daughter.

“Did you notice the clever wording on that billboard back there? Very feminine.”

She turns, “The pink one? For breast cancer?”

It had been an advertisement for the engineering department at the university and admittedly not feminine, but making repeated connections is how we learn. Language moves at glacier speed anyways, and we have quite a ways to go.

Dreaming or Doing – The Perils of Pinning

I wonder about all this time and effort brainstorming, designing, and planning. What about the doing?

I recently read a laugh-out-loud article in Real Simple magazine that depicts the Pinterest version of the perfect morning. In it, author Raquel D’Apice peppers in fake links to made-up DIY projects like “simple felted dryer-lint slipper tutorial” as she satirizes the frenzied follies of motherhood.

It got me thinking about my reluctance to enter the Pinterest world, which has felt less like a polite refusal and more like bracing myself against a torrential storm in a doorway, appendages sprawled out like Spiderman. Everyone’s Pinning, right? Why not give it a go?

It’s not for fear that I won’t like it. It’s for fear that I’ll really, really like it. I already have more than enough half-finished projects kicking around my life: painting that trim in the bathroom, crafting that hot air balloon stencil painting for my daughter’s room, opening those boxes we haven’t unpacked since leaving the condo, building that asparagus bed, writing that memoir, reupholstering that chair, finishing my second child’s baby book seven years later…the list goes on. But the twitching response is building to an alarming crescendo.

People have raved about Pinterest’s gardening boards, parenting boards, meal planning boards, style boards, home decorating boards, and, of course, cat-themed boards. I wonder about all this time and effort brainstorming, designing, and planning. What about the doing? The follow-though? The roll-your-sleeves-up-and-get-to-work execution of a task?

If allowed entry, I could see myself tumbling right down the rabbit hole – broadening my horizons wider and wider as I drift along random redecorating Pin tangents until I’ve dreamt up enough collages to construct an entire neighborhood, let alone my tiny half-bath. My Pin-to-completed project ratio would be dismal.

I’m guilty of allowing myself to be lured by the deceptive charm of a project that is born, lives, and dies entirely in my imagination. If I throw enough vivid detail at it, it seems real(ish). My book, for example: I can imagine its cover, a title, the foreword I’ll beg of an accomplished author acquaintance. I can listen to podcasts and TedTalks on writing a best seller, research how to find an agent, and how to market a memoir.

Or, I can write it. I can decide to fit it into my life – carve out time, pore over my outline, and let it flow.

So what holds people back? The inability to delay gratification? The need for instant results? Laziness? Or is it apprehension that threatens productivity? Are we worried about outcomes being less than perfect…not living up to our expectations? Or worse, becoming a Pinterest Fail? For shame!

You’ve seen the “Nailed it!” montages, yes? The Pinterest projects gone so, so wrong. I first found them on Facebook, of all places. They feature photos comparing the perfect Pinterest project to real attempts made by actual humans. Envision the effort to bake and decorate that perfect porcupine birthday cake (ouch), or cook those owl-face eggs (better just go ahead and scramble ‘em). And how about those sweet yellow ducklings nestled on delicate cupcakes that look more like they’ve been left to melt on a hot sidewalk next to their regurgitated late-night happy meals. I could indulge for hours (mostly because I’m avoiding the first sentence of my sixth chapter in the memoir). Commiseration is comforting.

More than likely, there’s not only one obvious excuse for stalling and procrastination. We’re also busy. Really, really busy. A BBC article cites busyness as the current “indicator of high success,” yet task-completion apparently wanes when our brains are stuck in this spinning hamster wheel mode. Our time management skills worsen and we prioritize the trivial over the important.

For all this keeping busy, the amount of time spent working (at the office or from home) in Europe and North America hasn’t actually increased in recent decades. We just feel busier, stay busier, act busier (even outside of work). Sort of like how my dishwasher does some stuff for an hour and a half to our dishes but leaves the cups smelling like a wet dog.

I know I’m fabulously adept at acting busy. I can create any number of seemingly imperative roadblocks to finishing crucial tasks. When I need a distraction, I can call on the weeds in my vegetable garden, or research for my contract work, my kids’ endless wishes, or home construction projects, or even get a few more hours of sleep when I could be busting out 75 words per minute on my book.

Or, I could turn to that mountain of unfolded clean laundry that spends its days on my bed and nights on the couch. Ha – I kid, I kid. What other than laundry would I dole out as a consequence for sibling squabbles? Exercise also rarely steps ahead in the pecking order, unless of course we count lugging ye olde laundry mountain around the house.

Although the BBC article argues we’re only under the guise of being more busy than generations past, the trend of time spent parenting has been steadily increasing for years. We prioritize being with our offspring, and our little ones are plugged into more activities than ever before. Many parents feel we have less to offer to ourselves when we’re so lovingly dedicated to childrearing.

A parent pal of mine admitted she can only plan day-to-day, sometimes hour-to-hour, because the adulthood juggle-struggle is real. She can’t think ahead to next soccer season or even next week when her daunting to-do list for this afternoon demands her full attention. Amen.

In my marriage, my husband and I have organically settled on roles, for better or worse. He works the steady full-time job with benefits and a retirement plan, and I work creative part-time, flexible jobs while shouldering the bulk of childcare, cooking, housecleaning (toilets are NOT terrariums!), and general management involving all the normal coordination associated with family life.

Don’t get me wrong, Papa doesn’t receive a cigar and whiskey when he walks through the door. He changes diapers, cleans up after meals, cooks waaaaaay better than me, and we almost always pay the rec department to have him coach his own kids in sports. I just have more hours with the kids and at home.

My husband has the enviable ability to hyper-focus, and he really gets stuff done. During weekends or evenings when he’s upstairs banging boards into place and hanging sheetrock, his mind seems nowhere else. He assumes I’ll pick up the parenting slack in his absence. And I do. When he works, he works. When he relaxes, he relaxes.

When I work, I work and attend to dozens of other interruptions. When I relax, I relax and probably try to finish some of that leftover work. I’d like to believe it’s my true zest for living life to the fullest that propels me and not the hamster wheel spazz-brain.

As I’ve contemplated this theme, I’ve come to realize that in order to actually accomplish one goal, six or so others need to be pushed to the back burner. This is the reality of it, and I am trying to accept it, while also blocking out the guilt of neglect.

A friend recently asked me, “How are you so productive, lady?” I had just reworked an essay for the umpteenth time (during daylight hours no less). Before me, a crossroads: On the one hand, I could’ve silently basked in the glory of her kind perception like that mom who spends all day posting photos of her perfectly portrayed world. Instead, I answered honestly. “I ignored the runts for two hours.”

A few years ago, when they were still in the danger zone of consuming pennies, this wouldn’t have been possible. But they’re nine and seven and fairly self-sufficient. We were hanging out at my mom’s condo in the village. They scootered, biked, found kids in the neighborhood to play with, and watched a show on the tube. To fend off that lurking weight on my conscience for choosing writing over my kids, I remembered an article that attests this type of parenting helps nurture your children’s imagination and problem-solving skills. Winning!

Seriously though, something always has “to give.” If I make three batches of homemade jam from berries we’ve picked ourselves, guess what’s for dinner? Jam. When I spend hours preparing chicken pot pie with buttermilk drop biscuits for a special meal the night before my husband’s mouth surgery, guess what happens to my promise of helping him “snap lines” (construction talk)?

Take-backsies for the second evening in a row, because I’ll be cleaning up my culinary genius crime scene until bedtime. When I draft a piece to submit for publication, guess what happens to my contract work? Backburner city. When I play a three-hour round of my favorite childhood board game with my kids, guess what happens to the box next to “grocery shopping” on the to-do list. Unchecked. Looks like it’s jam again for dinner.

Life is full of “pulls.” I try to remind myself how incredibly fortunate I am to trip over the mundane. My family has food to eat and a home that’s safe and warm. We have our health and bonds of love. We don’t have real problems. Yes, life can feel harried and chock-full, but rarely disastrous. So I’m freed up to dream, plan, brainstorm, and when the stars align, resist self-limiting thoughts enough to get a job done.

That’s when it’s time to proudly proclaim (in earnest or with humor), “Nailed it!”

3 Ways Your Kids Learned This Summer Even Without Workbooks

Just because they didn’t sit and “study” every day doesn’t mean they weren’t learning. They were learning differently. Maybe even better.

Today I was hard on myself. As I evil-eyed a pile of second-grade workbooks, most of them unfinished, I chastised myself for not making my son get through them this summer.

Oh, we’d started out strong in June – two or more pages out of each book plus a lesson on ABC Mouse every weekday. I even had a good schedule going for my three-year-old with preschool books too, and I’d stocked up on “prizes” from the dollar store that the boys could win after completing enough pages.

Within about five weeks, we’d all run out of steam. Fights were had, prizes got boring, brains were fried (mostly Mommy’s), viruses hit that threw us all off schedule, and basic survival with three kids (one being a baby) took precedence over pencil, paper, and books.

Basically life happened.

Now, with the oldest going back to school, I’m grumpy because I feel like I failed at this getting-ahead education thing.

Hold up…Get over yourself, woman!

I have to remind myself that just because my kids didn’t sit and “study” every day doesn’t mean they weren’t learning. They were just learning differently. Maybe even better.

So what did they do all summer and why does it matter?

1 | They spent time outdoors

This is perhaps the simplest and easiest way for kids to learn all kinds of stuff! You can only do so much sitting at a desk staring at pages. Stepping outside leads to a whole new world of real, experiential learning.

They chased butterflies, kept beetles in bug jars, dug for worms to feed our chickens, played with caterpillars, and had a blast catching lightning bugs (who knew a three-year-old would be so good at that?). They dug in the dirt and played in the mud (and learned to follow Mommy’s rules of such messy activities – well, almost).

I even heard the oldest teaching his brother how to count with rocks (that is before they started throwing them, which ended in tears and a bit of blood…and more learning to follow rules!).

Many of us will recall spending lots of time outside as kids. Are your own kids getting their daily dose of nature? Truth is, most kids are lacking in unstructured, outdoor play-time, turning instead to too-much screen time. This has led to an increase in behavioral and attention disorders, not to mention increased obesity and worse overall health.

Nature-deficit disorder is a fitting term for this situation.

Richard Louv, author of “Last Child in the Woods – Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder,” explains that this “leads to diminished use of the senses, attention difficulties, and higher rates of physical and emotional illnesses.” So it’s easy to see that the simple act of getting outside has a huge positive impact on physical, mental, and emotional development – not to mention kids are actively learning about the world around them. Science class reinvented!

I feel extremely blessed to have a good amount of land for my kids to explore, but even if you don’t have much space, you still have options. There are plenty of adventures to be had in a backyard, park, public school field, or on vacation. You can also go for walks around town or on trails (good for you too!) or simply hang out on the porch for some fresh air.

If your kid went to summer camp, you’re gold. Add in social skill building for the win!

2 | They were super active

Those little bodies need to move!

All that outside time meant lots of water play with slip n’ slides, water balloons, kiddie pools, and squirt guns. They were also able to get in some great swim time, thanks to the amazing hubby who set up an above-ground pool. Worthy investment!

The older one learned to ride his “real” bike and actually, finally, loves it. We went for walks (sometimes with running involved), which is good for all of us! They burned off energy and had a ton of fun on the trampoline. (Believe me, that is a real workout.) They climbed trees. (Okay, Mom was not too excited about this one. Enter more rules about not going to high.)

Of course, we all know that exercise is important for physical growth, fitness, and health with many benefits to the body, but it also carries some major brain benefits. Studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between physical activity and better academic scores. The more active they are, the better kids do in school.

It’s really not too surprising considering exercise is proven to create changes in brain structure and activity that increase cognitive ability, boost mood, clear brain fog, and improve memory. It doesn’t have to be a structured workout. They get plenty of cardiovascular and strengthening moves in with all the hopping, running around, squatting, stooping, bending, pushing, and lifting that kids naturally do.

3 | They got bored

Yes, this is a good thing. Boredom is not the enemy.

In today’s world, we think we need to immediately come to the rescue with iPads, games, and ready-made crafts and activities when someone says the dreaded b-word.

When the b-word arises, tell them, “Okay, you can help me clean…or go find something to do.” Believe me, they will find something to do. Plus, this is an important habit they will need the rest of their lives.

(Side note: Depending on age, though, you might need to make it clear what kind of things are okay. We are still working on understanding there is no taking things without permission, destroying anything, or teasing siblings. More rules, oh my!)

Boredom has some amazing benefits. It fosters creativity, improves mental health, and boosts motivation. Bonus: It helps parents too since they don’t feel obligated to constantly entertain (phew.) Now I just smile when I hear those two little words, because it’s an opportunity for them to go learn something on their own.

In short, there’s no reason to feel guilty for an academically “wasted” summer.

You know what surprised me? By the end of the summer, my anti-reading seven-year-old started reading books more on his own…for fun…because I wasn’t “making” him.

They learn so much more than you realize. So how about when next summer comes around, just relax a bit and let life (and learning) happen!

How did your kids spend the summer? Share below!

Turns Out Your Kid Can Pick Their Nose and Eat It, Too

I did what every parent does in this situation. Googled. Apparently everyone wants to know how to stop kids from picking, but no one knows how.

My five-year-old son was a booger eater. Actually, “booger eater” doesn’t even begin to do it justice. More like booger gourmand or booger zealot. He didn’t just casually ingest his bounty. He relished procuring and consuming the contents of his nose more than I enjoy that post-bedtime glass of wine.
It wasn’t the picking that actually bothered me. I’ll be the first to admit that I love a good nose pick, that feeling of satisfaction when you dislodge a stubborn clinger. But the sheer brazenness of his public picking and subsequent dining put me over the edge.
“Why do you like them so much?” I probed. “What do they taste like?”
“Sweet,” he said. “Tastes like ice cream.”
So I did what every parent does in this situation. Googled. From the hundreds of entries I found, apparently everyone wanted to know how to stop kids from picking, but no one knew how. Yet there was still plenty of advice.
In line with the Grimm’s Fairy Tales method of parenting, one suggested telling kids that their fingers would be eaten by monsters if they put them up their nose. But the majority recommended just handing kids a tissue, encouraging them to pick in private, and making them wash their hands.
Then I chanced upon a series of articles suggesting nose-picking and eating could be good for kids. This position was predicated on the “hygiene hypothesis,” a body of substantial research indicating that kids exposed to less bacteria and parasites during childhood have weaker immune systems, making them more susceptible to allergies and/or autoimmune issues.
So, hypothetically, ingesting boogers could introduce germs into our body, stimulating an immune system response that would strengthen it. One of the main proponents of this idea was Dr. Scott Napper, a well-accredited bio-chemist at The University of Saskatchewan. But as of 2013, when the articles were published, there was no research to support it.
My curiosity piqued. I sent Dr. Napper an email asking if he’d completed any research. Worried he’d think I was mocking him, I tried to shore up my credentials both as a “nose-picking sympathizer” and “professional writer.”
As I waited for a response – spoiler alert: it never came – I tried all the tactics to get my son to stop that didn’t ensure his need for therapy later. I ignored the behavior, hoping it would go away. I made a sticker chart where he could earn a star each day he didn’t pick (there were no stars on it). I even pulled out the almost-always-useless technique of reasoning.
Eventually, I threw down the big guns: bribery. “If you stop picking your nose, you can have pizza every night.”
“Forever?” he asked, his eyes wide. Whenever there was a wish to be made, pizza every night was his wish. Pennies tossed into wells, birthday candles, and shooting stars, I knew without asking that he was hoping for permanent pizza.
“Well, for a week,” I said. “Seven whole days.” With my son’s dubious understanding of time, seven days probably sounded like forever.
“I’ll try,” he said, giving me a look of intensity and hope.
Ten minutes later, his finger was lodged firmly in his nose. He saw me see him and sighed. “It’s just so hard.”
“If you had to choose between giving up pizza and giving up eating boogers, what would you do?” I asked.
“I couldn’t choose,” he said with a deep, serious sadness in his eyes, as if I’d just given him an impossible Sophie’s Choice. “I just couldn’t.”
A few weeks later, it even came up at parent-teacher conferences. His kindergarten teacher explained that his nose picking was a bit out of hand.
“I’m working on it,” I sighed. “But it’s normal, right? Don’t all kids do it?”
She agreed that many kids did, but not quite as much as mine did. Besides, other kids were noticing and refusing to hold his hand. She said, for now, she was making him wash his hands every time she noticed in the hope it would dissuade him.
I sat my son down after the conference and talked to him about it. He shrugged. “I just get so hungry when I’m at school,” he said.
“You could try finishing your lunch,” I said, as I unpacked his bag, holding out half a turkey sandwich and untouched carrots.
His nose picking and our constant monitoring continued until I finally realized that, in the range of things I wanted to waste my mom-splaining on, nose-picking was way down the list. I did encourage him to pick in private rather than at school assemblies or family reunions, but I let the constant nose-monitoring go.
By the end of the school year, his near constant activity petered off to special occasion picks, like right before bedtime, while relaxed, watching television or reading a book. I thought I was out of the woods.
Then, only a few weeks later, I was sitting on the couch with my daughter, two years his junior, when I thought I caught something out of the corner of my eye.
“Don’t look at me,” she said, as I turned towards her, catching her booger-handed, fingertip just brushing the edge of her nostril.
“Why?” I said. “Because you want to eat it but don’t want me to see?”
“Yes,” she said.
As she sat there watching “Shimmer and Shine” and quietly swallowing her boogers, I picked up my computer, curious to see if anything had changed in the booger-eating research world. I was shocked to see that it had.
A new study proving the benefits of nose-picking and eating had been published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology. The study had been a collaboration of scientists at several universities, including Harvard and the University of Saskatchewan (maybe Dr. Napper had been too busy preparing his publication to respond to my e-mail).
The researchers determined that the “rich reservoir of good bacteria”[i] found in mucous prevented cavity causing bacteria from sticking to teeth and could defend against stomach ulcers, respiratory infections, and even HIV.
Faced with quantitative evidence that boogers are not only harmless, but also practically a “superfood,” I felt vindicated…dare I say, proud of my kids? But I wanted the qualitative research, too. I turned back to my daughter again, who was still sneakily eating away.
“Why do you like to eat it so much?” I asked.
“It’s delicious,” she laughed. “It tastes like ice cream.”

Baby Photo Contests: Even the Winners Are Losing

Here’s what we all stand to lose from baby photo competitions, and what a narrow few stand to gain.

“He should be a model.”

Your child’s grandparents, your friends, and even total strangers have been telling you this since your child was three months old. Your friend keeps asking you to vote for her baby in an online photo competition, and you think, “My baby is so much cuter than that one. Maybe I should enter him. We have a huge extended family, so I’m sure he’ll get a lot of votes. And if the strangers online are like the strangers in the grocery store, they’ll all up-vote him too. If I don’t submit a photo, I’m really just leaving college money on the table.”

After losing hours scrolling through your last two months of photos, you submit your favorite. You spend the next few months constantly refreshing your e-mail, sure that you’ll find confirmation of what you already know: your kid is the cutest one in the universe.

The personal let-down of losing is hard enough, because you could already picture the baby room makeover, paid bills, a family vacation, and Ivy League tuition, but you’re not the only runner-up. Here’s what we all stand to lose from baby photo competitions, and what a narrow few stand to gain.

Runner-up #2: Logical reasoning

Some contests, like those run by The CuteKid and MyStarKid, run continuously, with new opportunities each month. Most contests for individual brands, like Gerber or Parents Magazine, are annual. No matter what the submission timeframe, the overall format of the contests is roughly the same: submit a photo and wait for the praise and/or money to roll in.

Well, you’re not quite done. If you want to win the big money (usually in the form of college scholarship accounts), you’ll need to pay the websites for your entries. At The CuteKid and MyStarKid, for example, you’ll need to pay $19.95 per photo entered. Well, you have to spend money to make money, right?

Wrong. You’re not likely to see a return on that investment because of how these competitions are organized.

At The CuteKid, for example, prize amounts for pay-per-entry competitions are linked to the number of contestants. The CuteKid has five age categories: baby, toddler, preschooler, big kid, pre-teen. If any one of those categories has fewer than 50 entrants, the prize money can be reduced. Assuming you want to compete for the full prize money, the absolute best odds you have of winning an individual category are about one in 50. That means that, even with the best possible odds, 98 percent of parents are wasting their money.

More cost-conscious parents stick with the free contests, where the odds of winning are even lower. As of July 31, there were 5,651 pages of internet entries for The CuteKid’s July “People’s Choice” competition. At nine kids per page, that’s over 50,000 kids competing for one prize. Even if you spend the entire month nagging every person you know to vote for your baby, your chances of winning are low.

In all of these contests, the second runner-up is logical reasoning. Our love for our children and dreams for their futures make it easy to ignore the odds.

Runner-up #1: Your child’s college education

Even if you defeat all the odds and your child wins the big prize, you haven’t actually won the cash. If you look at the fine print, you’ll see that the scholarships advertised by many of these competitions is not in present dollars, but in future dollars. The big cash prize at MyStarKid is $25,000, except that it’s not $25,000 in 2017 dollars. Instead, it’s worth an amount that is supposed to grow to $25,000 by the time your child goes to college.

If you scroll through The CuteKid’s website, you’ll notice an asterisk next to every single use of the term $25,000*, including on the giant check given to the most recent winner. To figure out what that means, you’ll have to dig into the website’s rules, where you’ll learn that the prize money is a $10,000 529 plan, not $25,000. 529 plans are great ways to save for college, but it’s misleading to say that your child is winning $25,000 when in reality she’s earning less than half that amount.

Because the odds of winning are so low, baby photo contests are akin to playing the lottery with your child’s college savings. Instead of entering your two-year-old in a photo contest, consider opening an educational savings account. If you invest the price of a photo contest entry each month ($19.95) in an account with a four percent interest rate, in 16 years you would have over $5,000. That’s not going to cover a college education, but it’s a start.

Winner: The contest creators

Your child is not going to win one of these contests. You know who will? The contest organizers.

As parent Buzz Bishop learned after his kid took second place in a Cheerios contest, parents who submit their children’s photos may see their kids plastered over cereal boxes all across the country without any additional compensation. That’s because while you own your image, by submitting it, you’ve given the company permission to use it.

If you submit a photo to The CuteKid, you grant its parent company “the perpetual right to use and edit your photos on our site, as well as for marketing purposes.” At MyStarKid, you’ll grant “a non-exclusive, perpetual, worldwide, royalty-free license to modify, rearrange, copy, reproduce and adapt the images only to fit the format required for product web pages and marketing materials.” MyStarKid’s terms even include protection for media forms that haven’t been invented yet. They can reproduce your image in any audiovisual format “whether now existing or hereafter devised.” They can do this in “any manner without further review, notice, approval, consideration, or compensation.”

Depending on the competition, you may have even signed away your right to sue the competition for reusing your photo. MyStarKid’s terms include an arbitration clause, which means that if you feel the company has wronged you in any way, you can’t take them to court.

Even the companies that do not reuse your images can profit from them, because they can still sell you. Some of the competitions allow people to vote up to five times a day. One reason for that is that the websites can then tell potential advertisers that they have repeat visitors to the site. Your frequent votes make you attractive to advertisers, because they can ensure that you’ll be viewing their advertisements five times a day for a month, and enlisting your family members, friends, and co-workers to do the same.

You already know that your kids are the cutest, funniest, and smartest ones in the world, just look at your camera roll! Instead of entering contests with near-zero chance of success, why not invest in what matters: taking hundreds more photos to keep proving that point to yourself day after day.

Can We Retire the Wine-Mom Phenomenon?

This idea that we moms are surviving on wine, caffeine, and chocolate to get us through our happily-harried lives is a myth. So let’s drop it.

Hey moms, let’s talk! Over a glass of wine, or not.

The whole wine-mom thing is out of control. Not the drinking per se, although that’s another topic for another day, but the idea of it. This idea that we moms are surviving on wine, caffeine, and chocolate to get us through our happily-harried lives is a myth, an airbrushed reality that only the likes of Facebook and Instagram can manage.

We all get it. Mom-ing is hard. Someone’s always crying, fighting, and running away or towards our tired and slightly jiggling arms. There are always meals to be cooked, laundry to be folded, baths to be made, and work to be done. However we are more than this. There is so much more to call us together than that Cabernet or Riesling at the end (or middle) of the day.

The standard formula for a wine-mom is as follows: yoga pants, unwashed hair, Target décor under Legos in the living room, and a fishbowl-sized wine glass in hand. Bring on the selfie. And the meme. And the SNL parody, which you know is coming. It can be the Mom Jeans skit 2.0. Kristen Wiig would rock that. Except the whole thing is already a farce.

This phenomenon makes mom-life so much smaller than it really is. It pushpins us to an idea like a moth on display. We squeeze babies out of places no human should fit. We then teach these humans to eat, sleep at reasonable hours, and not to poop on themselves. We show them how to love one another, be tolerant of differences, talk one at a time, and share toys, which is more than we can say for the current political scene. We talk our daughters through puberty, periods, and peer pressure. We teach our sons to respect women and themselves. We basically prepare the next generation to make the world a place worth living in…all while working jobs in and out of the home.

We are hero multi-taskers and creative geniuses. Without women, there would be no Monopoly, circular saws, retractable dog leashes, or foot-pedal trashcans. There would be no APGAR scores or dishwashers or disposable diapers. We know how to use our minds as well as our mom-arms. Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a mom. Amy Poehler is a mom. J. K. Rowling is a mom. Beyoncé is a mom. Surely we’ve done enough for the world without needing wine as our lynchpin?

If we are going to find something to unite us as mothers, let it be ourselves: the creative, brilliant, funny, sarcastic, and compassionate women that we are. We don’t need wine to bring us together at the end of the day or the caricature it creates of us.

It doesn’t work that way for men. Whether you’re a mustachioed hipster in skinny jeans with a craft beer or a grill-dad in an apron with a Budweiser, you’re still just a dude. You’re not making memes about your “dad-ness.”

Let’s allow motherhood to be a vital part of our identity, while remembering it is still just a part. Let us be more than an oversized glass of wine at the end of the day. Have the wine if you want, but have all the rest too. Go for a walk or run. Read a good book. Create something, whether that be food or art or science. Show all your muscles and intellect and prowess. Let everyone else see the you that is you before, during, and after kids.