Here’s What You Need to Consider When Naming Your Baby

Choosing a name for another person is no easy task. The possibilities are endless, but keeping these factors in mind can help narrow it down.

Recently as I was scrolling through Facebook, I ran across a post by someone asking for suggestions for unique baby names.

The suggestions ranged from the odd to the ridiculous to the just plain weird, but one thing that all the names had in common was that they were not actually unique. 

In the last couple of decades giving a baby a unique name has become extremely trendy. See the irony there? It has become commonplace to choose names that are either made up (Daxton), weirdly spelled (Kouper), or pulled from pop culture (Hazel – thank you, John Green). So, in the end, the very act of trying to be different is actually quite unoriginal.

The problem with choosing a child’s name based solely on uniqueness is that this rarely works. The name Kellan (or Kellon or Kellyn or Kellen) might be your very own creation, but next month when your neighbor gives birth to little Paiden (or Paydon or Paidyn or Payden), your child will just be another kid with a weird name that no one can spell. 

Not only are unique names confusing, often they don’t even stay unique. Ask any one of the countless Brandies born in 1978.

Full disclosure, my children all have very, very traditional names. But of course that isn’t for everyone either. Instead, when naming a baby, perhaps parents should consider a name inspired not merely by a desire to be different, but by something greater.

Here are five things, besides uniqueness, to consider when choosing a baby’s name:

1 | Family names 

So your dad is Earl and your mom is Sue. Maybe those aren’t your first choices for your precious bundle. Okay, dig a little deeper. Talk about some unique names! Most family trees have a them. I have a great-great-great uncle whose name was Welcome. I always thought that would’ve been a perfect name for our fifth baby – if we’d had one.

What was your great great great grandmother’s name? What was her maiden name? The point is, whether it’s unique or not, a family name has significance and meaning. Family names honor another person without whom you and your baby would not even exist.

2 | Religion and literature

This, of course, makes much more sense if you happen to be religious. My kids all have saints’ names. But even if you aren’t, there are countless stories of saints and sages in religious literature that offer an inspiring story and a name to go with it.

Or if religious literature isn’t your thing, there are certainly plenty of inspiring characters from other genres. Just be sure to read the story. Gatsby or Cressida might be cool names, but their stories aren’t exactly up lifting.

3 | Family origin or ethnicity

Even if you don’t identify strongly with a specific ethnic group, choosing an ethnic or regional name can be a cool way to acknowledge and honor your family’s heritage.

4 | A favorite place 

I’m not suggesting you name your baby Four Seasons or Smoothie King, but a meaningful place name can be a cool option with a great story to go with it. Did you meet your husband in Denver? Did you grow up vacationing at Avila Beach, California or Bryson City, North Carolina?

A place name is a special way to pass down a special memory. 

5 | Meaning

Think first of what you want your child’s name to mean, and then look up the corresponding name. Do you want your daughter to associate herself with strength? Consider Audrey, Jaiyana or Valerie. Do you consider your son a gift? Name him Jonah, Mateo or Kendrick. 

A name is no guarantee of passing on a specific value or characteristic, but it can be a great reminder to your child of what’s important to your family. But the whole point is that a child’s name should be about more than just what sounds cool.

A name should mean something. We are Christians or Muslims. Our family is Jewish or Chinese, Scandinavian or Scottish. We come from these people, or from this place. This is what matters to us. This is what we value. 

That’s not to say a name can’t just be unique. But a person’s name is important. It matters what we’re called. That’s why any name – unique or not – that carries meaning and significance is beautiful gift to give to a brand new person.

Yes, I Have Twins, But It’s All Hard. As a Mama, You Just Do It

Sure, having two babies at once is hard, but you know what? We’re all doing the best with the hand that we’ve been dealt.

Having twins, you get lots of comments from strangers.

“Are they fraternal or identical?”

“Boys or girls or one of each?”

“How do you handle two at once?”

“Were they conceived naturally?” (This one, by the way, is a super personal question that should never be asked of a stranger.)

“You sure have your hands full!”

The list goes on and on and on. People generally mean well. Mostly, they just want to chat, which I’ve learned to do, especially since moving to the Midwest where apparently talking to strangers is normal. (In my home state of New Jersey? Not normal.)

But there’s one comment that comes up often from friends or even strangers who have one child, or have had multiple children but one at a time. They say something like, “Wow, I only had one. I have nothing to complain about. I don’t know how you do it with two.” Or they’ll be talking about a hard parenting situation they faced, then realize I’m standing there and become almost apologetic for admitting they had a tough day with their child.

Mama, hard is hard. Yes, I had two at once. Yes, that was and is hard. But the challenges I face as a twin mama do not invalidate the challenges you face in your journey of motherhood.

Yes, there are varying degrees of “hardness,” and I can imagine a thousand parenting scenarios more challenging than the one I’m personally in. But if you have one baby who is happy, healthy and an “easy baby” as they say, you are still dealing with the life-altering responsibility of parenting and will likely face many days that bring you to tears. And let’s just be clear on one thing: No baby is easy.

I have friends with five kids and children with special needs. I know mamas handling parenthood on their own, mamas without help, mamas with triplets, mamas with one who just. won’t. sleep. I look up to them and am inspired and encouraged by their unshakeable resilience. I don’t know how they do it – but as a mom, you just do it.

You love your kids and work with the hand you’ve been dealt. You recognize the challenges you’re facing but embrace the joys at the same time. You grow, you change and you learn to love your children more deeply than you ever thought possible.

You don’t have to appear like you have it all together, even when you’re struggling. You do not need to pretend that your heartache, your sleepless nights, and your tears don’t exist because someone else may have more sleepless nights and deeper heartache.

Yes, have perspective. Show compassion and seek to serve those facing difficulties. Recognize that you are not alone as you navigate the daunting task of parenting, and be aware of what others around you and around the world go through to support their families.

But also know that your pain, struggles, tears, cries, frustrations, and heartache matter.

Sure, there are times when having two newborns at once can be more challenging than having one newborn at a time. But Mama? That doesn’t mean having one newborn isn’t hard.

The 12 Stages of Naming Your Child

You made a human. Now comes the hard. Part. Figuring out what to name them.

One day, when I was around four weeks pregnant with my first child, I was walking along the road and, “PING!” into my head came the name of the baby. Ramona. I knew it instantly to be her name, with every bone in my body.

I went home and told my husband and he said, “Nope.”

After a little discussion it turned out that he felt my name choice belonged to a “certain kind of person.” So we checked with Google Images and Google Images had my back as we discovered a diverse range of awesome people with my name choice. My husband gracefully relinquished his opinion and the baby was named; from start to finish the process took about 30 minutes.

When I became pregnant for the second time, it wasn’t at all like this. It was the opposite. It was an agonizing, arduous, stressful period filled with the opinions of, seemingly, everyone on the planet. Apparently this is a far more common baby-naming experience. 

Here’s what I went through, in order:

Unbridled Excitement Stage

Wheeeeee!!! We are pregnant! This is the greatest day of my life! Nothing compares to this! We made a human!

Panic Stage (two minutes later)

Feel overwhelmed with responsibility. WHAT WILL WE NAME THIS BABY? It is such a big deal! They will be stuck with this name their whole life! It will make-or-break them! I am not worthy of naming another human being! WHERE IS MY DIVINE INSPIRATION?

Searching the Internet for Divine Inspiration Stage

Googles “nature baby names.”
Googles “alternative but not too strange baby names.”
Googles “feminine but strong baby names.”
Googles “boy names that give an impression of being in touch with feminine energy baby names.”
Am overthinking.
Googles “nice baby names.”

Searching the Neighborhood for Divine Inspiration Stage

Go for a walk around a graveyard. Leave feeling upset by all the babies that died in Victorian Era. But also scribble Alice, Margot and Henry into notebook.

Look with new eyes at shop signs. If child becomes a barber, “Barbara” would be a great name. Or if child owns a bookstore, could be called “Rook’s Books!” Or could sell doorknobs – Rob’s Knobs! Child could be anything! Anne’s Pans! Jean’s Jeans! Peter’s Heaters! Try to think of name that rhymes with very fulfilling career. Realize have gone too far down rabbit hole.

Searching History for Divine Inspiration Stage

Write lists of grandparents, great grandparents, great great aunties. Is “Gertrude” antique enough to be cool now? Derrick? Mildred? Wonder what it was like for great auntie to have such a great auntie name when she was tiny baby. Do they go by nickname until they become more noble/wrinkly?

Pick out a book in the library “Great Women of History.” Scrawl Rosa, Emmeline, Sojourner into girls’ column in notebook. Later on, scribble them out – don’t want child to think will only love her if she is magnificent world changer.

Pick out another book: “Goddeses of the Greek and Roman Eras.” Lots of good, strong names but also much sexual wildness. Do not want child to be sexually wild.

Deciding Not to be Confined by Small Mind Stage

Decide that internet, neighborhood, and Google limited by the narrow scope of human mind. Let’s make up a name! The dude that wrote “Peter Pan” did it for Wendy! Write a list in notebook of all the things I like, try adding a “Y” on to them. Ocean-y. Rainbow-y. Chocolate-y. Need to get more abstract. Start adding “Y” to things I see around me. Night-y. Lamp-y. In desperate moment Bird-y makes it on to list. Husband crosses it out.

Subtle Gauging of Public Opinion Stage

Begin dropping some of the names on our lists into conversation with friends and family to see what reaction is like. So far, every one has an opinion. An extreme opinion. Most of names on list are “hideous” or “ridiculous” or “boring.” Mum says my favorite name so far sounds like name of Lady Gaga and Charlie Chaplin’s love child. Point out that lovechild between Lady Gaga and Charlie Chaplin would probably be very successful person.

Sign in to anonymous online mom forum and ask what people think of “Zebedee” – everybody loves it and says “nearly called my own son that!” Now very suspicious. Think maybe internet strangers want my child to be laughing stock of his generation.

Playground Test Stage

Take list of names to brother-in-law who was badly bullied when child. He goes through them and turns every single one into a playground taunt. Children/brother-in-law can make almost every possible name rhyme with genitalia words or fart words!

Back to square one.

Panic Stage Number Two (around 38 weeks)

Due date looming. Every morning wake up with new name in head. Oscillate between whimsical, wonderful name, and traditional, very serious name. Begin to believe baby won’t come until have truly settled on name.

Who Cares Stage (around 41 weeks)

Preoccupation with naming baby, an obsession that has lasted nine months, massively overtaken by preoccupation that baby is not ever, ever, ever going to make an appearance. Will be first woman in history to be pregnant forever.

Feeling so overwrought by overdue-ness, decide husband can name baby.

Baby Stage

Baby is here! Joy and Jubilation! Husband’s feelings are too immense to cope with pressure of naming baby. Start calling baby “baby.”

Family members say “We can’t call her Baby her whole life!”

Think about “Dirty Dancing.” Baby will hear, “Nobody puts Baby in a corner,” every day for rest of life as humans think themselves very funny. Agree with family.

Final Stage

Settle on name in rush of heady determination. Quick Google search of name along with “famous murderers/psychopaths” just to check. Tell everybody baby’s name and hope everybody keeps their thoughts to themselves. Especially brother-in-law.

Finding Community in a Pile of Plastic Containers

The pile of plastic containers, ziploc bags, and tupperware tell the story of a community that nurtured us as new parents. Now it’s time to return the love.

Darkness flows up from the cellar. It’s been over two years since we settled into this house and we still haven’t found the will to install a light, not even one of those touch lights that sticks to the wall. It’s okay though, I know where to reach now.

The good dishes rest on wooden shelves above the basement steps, next to a case of seltzer and our 20 pound bag of rice. The shelves are sturdy, anchored into 19th century brick with a permanency that has outlasted generations. The open shelving makes the dishes easy to find, but offers little protection. If the stairwell door slams too hard a shower of plaster crumbs will rain down. I always wash them before use.

You won’t find my grandmother’s serving bowl or the milk-glass deviled egg plate on these sturdy perches. Instead, the sacred shelves hold the Glad containers and the take-out boxes. There are disposable aluminum baking pans, Ziploc bags, and marinara-stained Tupperware. Plastic cups and utensils fill in the cracks. An array of leftover napkins flutters down the steps if you move too quickly, coating the concrete floor with images of wrinkled balloons, monkeys, or lace.

The collection is significant in size and meaning. These are the dishes that fed us, day by day, when we first became parents. These are the good dishes.

Our community showered us before the birth of our daughter, but they fueled us in the aftermath. The crab cakes weren’t just pan-fried and the enchiladas were more than just cheese and chicken. They were a welcome to our girl and a tangible offering of love, infused with support and served with a side of hope. Nothing says “we believe in you” like Thai red curry and a six pack of Kölsch.

People emerged from all parts of our community in those early, hazy days. Friends who poured a glass of wine, family who offered that secret recipe, co-workers who before had never been invited for dinner. There was a woman from church whose name I first learned when she knocked at our door. As she dropped off her tortilla soup she said, “In a bit you’ll be on this side of the meal delivery too. You’ll make it. Hold on to the containers.”

These are the dishes that are passed on to others.

When it’s time, I choose each one carefully, first evaluating the volume of the container and then the seal of the lid. There is always a matching lid. A lost or cracked lid indicates the dish has fulfilled its purpose, and it should be laid to rest on Thursday morning with the week’s empty milk jugs and old newspapers.

Our stash is dwindling, but still, there are three newborn onesies and six burp rags hanging on the wash line next door. It’s time to raid the shelves again.

I cross the street to our overgrown garden plot with a chipped blue colander and a pair of scissors, cutting only the most tender lettuce leaves while collecting half a dozen mosquito bites. I return to our kitchen, praying for sleep for the new mama in the other half of our duplex.

The lasagna noodles are just starting to boil as I mix an egg in with the ricotta, adding a shake of pepper and a pinch of salt. I slice radishes, shred carrots, and whisk wishes for health and no colic into a dressing.

The rhubarb blueberry cobbler in the oven bubbles steadily in its square aluminum pan, the peaks golden and crispy from the love-and-butter-filled dough.

I unhook the lock at the top of the door and feel my way through the paper and plastic. There it is: a clear, round container with a light blue lid that will fit the salad perfectly. As I reach for a pan suitable for layering lasagna, my two year old daughter runs into the kitchen.

“Mommy, what you doin’? Makin’ supper?”

“I’m making supper for Miss Sara and Mr. Dave.”

“And Baby Violet?”

“Yes, and Baby Violet.”

“Can we do it together?”

We are now the feeders. My baby can demand whole milk with words instead of wailing for breasts. She can run into the kitchen and ask to carry the salad next door. Each good dish we have parted with has strengthened not just the people we fed, but has been a sign of the growing strength of our family. As we got back on our feet, we could begin to lend a hand. Our empty shelf is a sign of our supported clan.

When my husband and I talk about adding to our family, I first remember how a newborn consumed us. Then I think of the dishes and how they’ll be replenished – emptied of the chicken & rice casserole, filled with encouragement and a side of tacos. 

For every family fumbling in the dark, there is another family who has memorized where to reach and knows which lid fits. They’ll pull out the dish, fill it with goodness, and pass on the beauty of community. 

How Trying to Stand-Up Paddleboard Is a lot Like Becoming a Parent

Open waters, trying to balance. Stand-up paddleboarding is more like becoming a parent than I’d realized.

“I can’t do this!”

These words had spilled out of my mouth before.

On this particular day, my husband and I were in a picturesque setting on vacation at a beachfront resort. I was standing in the Gulf of Mexico, in waist-high water, waves crashing against me as I watched my paddleboard float away. I wanted to give up, I felt defeated.

Rewind four years: different circumstances, same feelings. My husband and I had just become parents. I was struggling with breastfeeding, had no self-confidence when it came to my parenting skills and was exhausted. I was a walking zombie-robot sort of creature that went through the motions of feeding, changing, rocking, and bathing a baby with no feeling, except a strong desire to sleep.

Finally, the weeks of no sleep, no adult interaction, and an overall sense of losing myself came to a head.

Books had warned me about this, friends told me cautionary tales, and the nurse at the hospital had a serious conversation with my husband about it. But I was still unprepared for that night when your baby stays up crying – all night long.

Some call it colic, I call it torture.

After hours of rocking, swaddling, and attempting to feed my kid, I was done. I started crying, rocking myself and desperately wanted to crawl in bed and sleep. I looked at my husband with tears in my eyes and said, “I can’t do this.”

Back in the present, I grab the paddleboard. I have renewed determination to get up on this thing. I swim towards the shore taking in the cloudless sky, the warm water encompassing my body like bath water, it’s paradise.

I reach shallow water, mount the board and steady myself on my knees. I start paddling out to deeper water, away from swimmers and docked boats into uncharted territory. Space for myself, where I can concentrate. An area where I can find balance, literally and figuratively. I find it.

I feel secure, confident, ready to stand. I position my left foot underneath my body – so far, so good. I slowly raise myself. I quickly transition my right leg from kneeling to standing and I’m up! I start wobbling. I remember what the teenager at the rental shack told me: “As soon as you get up, start paddling.” 

I paddle like a madwoman. I’m starting to feel great, then I hear a jet-ski behind me. Like a cartoon character, my arms are flailing. I’m trying to maintain balance and praying my husband isn’t recording this on his phone. My board gets taken by the waves out from under my feet, I sink under the water.

Feeling underwater is a good analogy for how I felt the first few months as a parent. Drowning in new responsibilities, overwhelmed by emotions and often relating to Tom Hanks’ character in “Castaway,” minus Wilson.

There were times I would come to the surface to catch my breath. I would even tread water some days, feeling like I was excelling at this parenthood gig.

When my daughter was three-months-old, I started feeling “off.” I was exhausted, but then again I had a baby that I was tending to day and night. I also felt nauseated and certain foods really turned me off. Could I still be experiencing pregnancy symptoms, three months postpartum? That seemed weird. Could I be pregnant again? Oh no, God please no.

“I can’t do this,” I say again to my husband back at the beach.

“Yes, you can,” he reassures me. I don’t believe him, but he refuses to take the paddleboard for his turn, insisting I try again. I agree with the stipulation that this is my last attempt.

Paddling on my knees is my comfort zone. I’m close to the board, less vulnerable. I stay here for as long as possible. I smile at the mother holding her baby in the ocean water as I pass. I head out to the same spot I was moments earlier. I have a talk with myself that goes something like this: Just do this for Brian, then you can be done. Although it would be awesome if I could get up on this thing. You can do this, you’ve got this.

I steady myself and stand up. I start paddling like the teenager told me to. I’m just going through the motions trying not to fall. Then it hits me. I’m up! Enjoy it. I see fish in the water, I take a deep breath inhaling the salty air, I indulge in my accomplishment.

I can do this.

I also managed to navigate the uncharted waters of being pregnant while caring for a baby, and then bringing home a newborn to a house with an 11-month-old and juggling both their needs. I did it, and you can too. (The new baby part – the having two babies so close in age I don’t recommend, but to each their own).

That uncharted territory should not be feared, it should be embraced. You’ve got this.

The New Parent’s Guide to Getting the Most out of Date Night

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT start a date night without having a plan beforehand. “What do you feel like doing tonight?” is not part of the new parent’s date night vocabulary.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]1 | Plan Ahead[/su_highlight]

Use some spare time during the week to discuss plans for date night. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT start a date night without having a plan beforehand. “What do you feel like doing tonight?” is not part of the new parent’s date night vocabulary.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]2 | Prepare Logistically[/su_highlight]

Aside from taking time before the date to discuss plans, you might find it useful to take time to actually prepare the specifics of the date in advance. Whether that means getting a hair cut a few days before the date or renting your significant other’s favorite movies on your way home from work, you can definitely benefit from doing those things before you’re on that babysitter’s clock. Time is of the essence, people.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]3 | Plan some fun family time pre-date[/su_highlight]

Before my husband and I go out, we like to make sure we have some bonding time with our son. Since we have a baby, that looks like an evening round of elaborate hide-and-seek or reading his favorite books five or six times through before we go. Whatever it is for you, getting time with your little ones before a date is always a good idea. That way they will feel more relaxed when the sitter comes and you won’t feel guilty for having too much fun while you’re away.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]4 | Get energized[/su_highlight]

Re-charge from the day on your way to the date with a coffee or an energy drink. But obviously use a drive-thru because, here’s the thing: you’re a parent and therefore you do not have time to actually get out of the car anymore. NO STOPS ON THE WAY TO THE DATE.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]5 | Stay Close to Home[/su_highlight]

Sure, date night is great for trying out new restaurants or bars outside of your usual stomping grounds, but the last thing you want is for the majority of your date to be spent in the car. Staying nearby gives you the freedom to relax on your date without having to worry too much about drive times, traffic, or unforeseen circumstances. Then you can focus on what really matters: the perfect, beautiful, wonderful, glorious LOVE.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]6 | Shoot for More Activities in Fewer Locations[/su_highlight]

Lots of couples try to squeeze a ton of plans into a small period. This leads to lots of rushing around and stressing about getting where you need to be on time. For those couples, a good alternative is to go somewhere where many options are available in close proximity to one another. That’s where things like movie theater/bowling alleys and karaoke restaurants come in really handy. Dueling piano bars? Sure. Those too.

couple-romance

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]7 | Be Honest[/su_highlight]

Sticking to the plan is always good when it comes to using date time wisely. But hey, if your plans suck, make new ones! If you two discover that the modern art exhibit isn’t exactly what you thought it would be or you actually don’t know anyone at the boring charity event, just actually walk the eff out. Seriously, leave. You are parents now, you don’t have time for pleasantries.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]8 | Limit Screen Time[/su_highlight]

Oh great, another parenting article preaching less screen time. But at least in this case we’re talking about the parents themselves. It would be nice if we were disciplined enough to just say “no” to our phones for an entire night out with our soulmates. But the truth is, this is time off from parenting for a bit too, and we might want to spend a few minutes of that time on Instagram. Hey, that’s okay! But we can make the most of our date time by setting aside a big portion of the night as phoneless ahead of time.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]9 | CHILL[/su_highlight]

It’s a good idea to do something during the date night period that you wouldn’t be able to do on just any old night. But that could just mean eating an entire pint of ice cream and watching something R-rated. There’s no shame in getting a babysitter to Netflix and Chill. DO NOT BE ASHAMED OF WHO YOU ARE.

[su_highlight background=”#E08283″]10 | Check out your Date[/su_highlight]

Whatever the date night activity, take a few minutes out to just look at your sweetheart and think about how hot and funny and intelligent and all around great they are. Sneak your arm around their shoulder when they’re not looking. Flirt with them a little. Hell, cop a feel here and there. This is your night, parents. Take advantage of it.

How My Shopping Habits Changed When I Became a Mom

I used to go to Target, sure, but when I became a mom they let me start paying rent there.

Since having kids, I’ve noticed many changes in the way I shop. Here are a few of them.

I Shop Realistically

Before I had kids I would shop with aspiration: buying lots of healthy foods in the hopes of doing things like make fancy smoothies, cook elegant dishes, and try out new recipes.

But gone are the days of having time to cook for hours, read cookbooks, or research nutritious snacks. I still try to eat healthy, but I also know that if I buy only foods that require a lot of prep, I’m going to be very hungry.

Now I buy things like cans of soup and bags of rice that can be steamed in the microwave in just two minutes. TWO MINUTES.

I also resign myself to the fact that I’m going to want to eat tons of post-baby-bedtime carbs and just buy frozen french fries and boxed macaroni and cheese. Realism is key.

I Do Aisle Research

Now that I have a child I always find myself using my smartphone to get information on different products while shopping.

I look up product reviews, text my friends to ask what they think, Google “side effects of (insert product name here)”, and, if everything comes up clear, am ready to be on my way.

Okay, okay. Sometimes I also read the company’s mission statement on their website just to be sure.

Supermarket shelves and corridor

I Buy “Average” Products

When shopping for things like diapers, baby foods, or baby bathroom products, it’s easy to separate the products by quality. Take diapers for example.

I stare at the assortment of urine catchers and can place them into three obvious categories: good, better, and best. I consider the good and decide that I won’t go for them because for whatever reason in this moment I am imagining that the popular cartoon characters plastered all over are intended to hide the stain of the thousands of chemicals that were used in their making.

I then find the best diapers there, all shiny and set-apart. I cringe to see that they are being sold for my entire savings account because they are soft and gentle and made out of angel’s wings.

I hate both extremes more than I do the morning after a big debate, so I settle on the average, run-of-the-mill urine catchers because they are, after all, used for catching urine.

I Return Stuff I Don’t Need

Before I had kids, I used to have stuff I didn’t need in my house. There were things lying around serving no purpose and this was perfectly alright with me. I would buy stupid things knowing that I shouldn’t have, but once they made it inside the house, they were pretty much going to stay there.

Now I do this brilliant thing called returning things for store credit. If I come home from the store having purchased a roll of tape and realize we already have a perfectly fine roll of tape in the drawer, I take it back the next time I go to the store.

If I get pajama pants for Christmas that are too big, I don’t save them for some fat day in the future (even if I sort of want to), I ask for the gift receipt and take them back.

If I come home and find the coupon I had forgotten at home for the baby wipes I just bought, I take them back and use the coupon to buy them again. I end up with a fair amount of store credit in the end, but store credit at Target is almost better than money to me now and I’m not ashamed to say that.

I Actually “Come Back Later.”

When I used to grocery shop before I had kids, I would try and get it out of the way by getting everything I needed in one trip.

Sometimes I would see products that were a little pricey and claim that I would “come back later” when the price was more where I hoped it would be. But I would hardly ever remember to come back later or to check for that product when I did indeed return.

Now that I have kids I know that the grocery store is not a place I will forget about anytime soon. I have learned that no matter how much I prepare for grocery shopping, I will still run into some emergency, something I forgot, or something I didn’t even know existed, and need to come back to the store.

So I will actually “come back later” with 100% certainty. While that means I don’t ever feel quite as accomplished as I did in the past, knowing I had finished my grocery shopping for the immediate future, it also means I am able to shop more intelligently.

Knowing that I’m going to be back at the store within the week means I won’t end up buying things that are overpriced or not exactly what I’m looking for at the moment just out of convenience.

Instead, I will say I will come back later when they have what I’m looking for, and I actually will come back later when they have what I’m looking for. It’s genius.

I “Clip Coupons.”

It’s sort of a cliché to imagine moms clipping up coupons from newspapers. And maybe that really doesn’t happen as much as I thought before being a mom, but frankly, it probably should. Because it’s just plain smart.

I used to let all kinds of coupons and deals filter into my inbox without even noticing, but now I am careful actually to take note of when deals are going on and how I can save money on products.

I don’t wait on the edge of my seat for emails about cheap baby socks by any means, but I do search for recent emails from stores before I shop at them so that I can grab extra discounts while I’m there or plan my trip for a time when more things will be on sale.

Because if a little more planning could save me something like 50% on baby clothes I’m gong to do that planning.

I Go to Target

This has come up before, but perhaps the bottom line of all of this is that I go to Target a lot. I used to go to Target, sure, but when I became a mom they let me start paying rent there.
I used to go to Target, sure, but when I became a mom, they let me start paying rent there.
It has everything I need (baby food, wine, cheez-its, and Starbucks) in one place. So I only have to get my kid out of his car seat and into a cart one time. (This post is not sponsored by Target but if they wanted to throw a little store credit my way I would not be mad).

5 Ways Millennials Are Changing Parenting Forever

Research shows how millennial parents are approaching parenting in a whole new way: more democratic, more inclusive, and empowered by technology.

Millennial parents, the cohort born between 1980 and 2000 of which there are an estimated 22 million of in the U.S., are astutely tailoring their parenting style to the needs of their family while challenging traditional societal norms.

Shaped by an era dominated by post 9/11 security concerns, international conflicts, and a massive global recession, millennials have channelled a climate of uncertainty into a commitment to providing their kids with the best possible childhood.

Here are five ways  millennial parents are changing parenthood forever.  

1. DISCARDING ONE-SIZE-FITS-ALL PARENTING

In just the past five years, the international successes of Amy Chua’s Tiger Mother and Paula Druckerman’s Bringing Up Bébé starkly highlight differences in parenting approaches.

While Druckerman is quick to assert that America has a ‘parenting problem’ in comparison to its French counterparts, Chua ultimately concludes that the goal of raising ‘happy, strong, and self-reliant’ children is achievable through many parenting methods.

Millennial parents are open-minded and recognize that there is no one ‘right’ way to raise their children. The availability of books like those mentioned above and the Internet provide a wealth of resources, different parenting ideas, and culturally diverse perspectives from which parents can consider all sorts of information and opinions when crafting an individualized approach to family life.

2. MANEUVERING SOCIAL MEDIA

Though these tech-savvy parents may encounter an agonizing cycle of self-doubt and googling that previous generations skipped coupled with the potential negative influences of social media, millennials’ are navigating new technology to the betterment of their parenting styles. For example, Millennial parents are apt to seek advice and support and share experiences.

Also, a Time Survey-Monkey poll of 2,000 millennial parents’ revealed that 81% have shared a photo of their child on social media compared to 70% Gen X and 47% of Baby Boomers. This group’s propensity for social sharing is positively filtering into their children’s lives as their kids create solid social bonds outside school through increased interconnectedness.

Further, Millennials are demonstrating an equal wariness of the pervasive nature of social media and are more likely to be aware of privacy settings to ensure safer sharing.

3. EMBRACING CHANGING NORMS

Millennial parents are moving beyond an archetypal family construct to adopt a more open-minded, , and unconventional perspective on what modern family life looks like. Parenting among this group has become more team-oriented as millennials depart from traditional gender roles in raising children. Moreover, this divergence has translated to a heightened sense of cultivating kids’ identity and gender neutrality unlike the generations before. 50% of millennial parents have contentiously chosen gender-neutral toys compared to 34% of previous generations.   

Millennials are also defying conventional notions of marriage, with a lower percentage indicating that marriage before children is essential for parenthood. At the same time, they are more likely to be stay-at-home parents than both Gen X’ers and Baby Boomers.

4. REFLECTING AND QUESTIONING

Millennial parents are moving away from the helicopter parenting of their predecessors, defined by the hovering, hyper-parenting and over-scheduling of the 1990s, to embrace an overall ‘relaxed and responsive approach’. Millennial parents appreciate that unstructured playtime is just as important as other activities, providing kids with much-needed space for independent learning and growth.

Backing off in a big way, millennials are approaching family life in a more democratic fashion by questioning themselves and asking children for input in decision-making. Plus, these parents are emphasizing a renewed focus on empathy to help children garner a greater understanding and engagement with their world.

5. HELPING CHILDREN CULTIVATE A STRONG SENSE OF IDENTITY

Today’s parents are posting everything from ultrasounds to unexpected success and failures, first grade to freshman year, actually creating an alternate sense of self for their children.

Though the effect of millennial parents’ social media sharing has yet to be realized, University of Michigan assistant professor Sarita Schoenebeck illuminates that millennials’ kids will develop both a public and private, autonomous offline identity.

Moreover, millennial parents foster a greater sense of identity and individuality, more so than previous generations, in simply naming their children. The Time Magazine survey indicated that 60% of millennials believe that children should have unique names, compared to 44% of Gen X’ers and 35% of Baby Boomers.

In a generation more ethnically diverse than any other, millennial parents are honing a distinctive parenting style that is defined precisely by its heterogeneity and open-mindedness aimed to cultivate kids’ unique external and internal identity and self-expression.

The Internet: The Double-Edged Sword of Parenthood

The internet is one the most unnerving tools for mothers, because it can add anxiety instead of removing it.

 

The internet is one the most unnerving tools for mothers because it can add anxiety instead of removing it. I’m thinking of all the times a Google search has put me in a panic for things like accidentally eating soft cheese during pregnancy, or not getting the correct amount of some vitamin while breastfeeding.

The truth is, the internet is full of information about pregnancy and motherhood that’s conflicting and even (gasp!) just plain wrong.

The worst are forum-based websites for new and expecting moms, where people go back and forth for dozens of pages. If you don’t believe me, look up any herbal tea and whether it’s safe to have during pregnancy.

You’ll most definitely find your keyboard covered with tears if you read too many of these forums during pregnancy or early motherhood. No one needs that (and that’s not just because keyboards aren’t supposed to get wet).

My thought has always been that moms should go to their doctors or their loved ones before ending up on a forum, being made to feel like a horrible parent because they washed their kid’s hair with their own shampoo.

Since becoming a mom, however, I’ve found a reason to keep the wireless router plugged in.

One area of the internet is, in fact, an amazing tool for new and expecting mothers. It’s also the loveliest time-waster of them all: social media.

Social media is surprisingly rife with helpful tools for parents. In my experience, they’ve been mostly helpful (still not 100%, but better than the forums). There are Facebook groups for every aspect of parenthood. Since they’re so specialized, they have the upper-hand over vague discussion board websites.

I’m currently a member of the La Leche League Facebook group in my area (they have them all over), which offers tons of information about breastfeeding, eating in general, sleep schedules, babies’ mannerisms, and on and on.

I’m also a member of several mom-to-mom pages on Facebook, where moms constantly post all kinds of baby gear (toys, bouncers, swings, clothes, car seats, strollers, diapers, you name it), whether they’re for sale, for swap, or – get this – for free.

I’m sure this is exactly how Mom-to-mom sales work in real life too, but I love the Facebook groups because they’re 24/7, and you can post things you’re looking for and get direct responses any time you need them.

These kinds of groups defeat faceless forums in that they often host and encourage meetings in real life.

There are plenty of educational pages as well, about infant safety and what have you, but I have benefited most (and trusted most readily) those pages that were local and had other parents I knew in them as members. So search around for different local pages and see what you find. Most likely many of your Facebook parent friends are already members of some of these groups and would love to add you to them. It’s a great way to stay involved in your parenting community.

Instagram is another super parent-friendly part of social media.

There are hundreds of thousands of Instagram accounts that are basically just parents doing cool parenting things. Some are informative, some are silly, and some are just generally aesthetically pleasing, but they are definitely worth following if you have any interest.

I’m a sucker for any combination of chubby cheeks and extravagant vistas, so some of my favorite momstagrams include @heymamaco (a cool page for creative moms), @lovesakurabloom (some insanely artsy photos of moms and dads babywearing), and several different unique mom pages: @pracitisingsimplicity, @itsahuntlife, @megchittenden, and @kirstenrickert.

Of course, everything you learn on the internet needs to be taken with a grain of salt.

But once you have plenty of grains ready, you should definitely use this technology to your advantage. While I think new and expecting mothers should stay away from choosing the internet over their doctors, I give social media my highest recommendation for allowing moms to connect with one another and learn from each other in a very personal way.

And if social media really doesn’t move you, then at the very least you need to get on Macaroni Kid, because that website will definitely change your life. Good luck, millennial mammas and papas!

Minimalism: A Key to Mental Health as a New Parent

Practicing minimalism as much as possible in other aspects of your life is a great way to maintain mental health as a new parent.

No one will deny that parenting is tough. In fact, I think the only people who had an easy time parenting were Victorian Era royals who had hired help to do the job, or maybe the parents of the babies in Baby Geniuses.

But a great way to maintain your mental health as a new parent is by practicing minimalism as much as possible in other aspects of your life.

Minimalism, for these purposes, can be divided up into three areas: minimizing possessions, minimizing activities, and minimizing people.

Minimizing Possessions

It’s a good idea to start with possessions. It may seem odd to say this, since having a baby often means getting a lot of gifts from friends and family all at once. But often, having too much stuff lying around can make you feel scattered or less in control of you life, which is not how you want to feel when you have a baby running around.

It’s important to ask yourself which of your things are helpful at this point in your life and which aren’t. That way, you can separate out those things that you use currently and take good care of them and then set aside the others.

Now, that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to get rid of all of those things you’re not using at the moment in one fell swoop (in fact, deciding what to keep and what to donate may put some unnecessary pressure on you during those first few months), but it does mean packing away those things you might want to keep so they are out of sight.

I found that just packing up my old clothes that I didn’t wear as much and putting them in the basement made me feel infinitely less cluttered. It’s tough to stay current and organized with your possessions, but as your baby grows and you want to have room for his or her special things, you will be thankful that you did it. It’s a small way to maintain simplicity in one aspect of your new and unpredictable life.

Minimize Activities

Another thing you need to minimize when you become a mom is your to-do list. I found that it was most difficult to maintain my mental health as a new mom when I tried to do too much. In those first few months I was trying to be a cool, adventurous mom, while also working part time, taking an online class, keeping up with social commitments, practicing my hobbies (reading, writing, music, etc.), and on and on.

Needless to say, I grew exhausted pretty quickly.

A good way to minimize your to-do list is to be realistic about it. Parenting is going to take up 90% or higher of your list most days, and I think it’s a good idea to be proud of yourself for completing those parenting tasks along the way (I often had things like “bath time” or “nap time” on my to-do list in those early months because, though it seems silly, it felt good to have everything laid out before me and then be able to cross things off when they happened).

You will want to do lots of other things as well, but having too much going on can make you feel overwhelmed very quickly. A simple way to minimize those other things on your to-do list is to hit all major categories with only one thing during the first year or so as a parent.

So pick one chore on which to focus each day (and if you feel like doing a few others, you can give yourself extra credit!), pick one friend or family member to visit with each few days or week (because you know they are going to be calling all the time trying to plan a time to see the new baby, but you just can’t be planning visits in all of your spare time), pick one hobby to enjoy during your free time (read one book, or learn one new skill).

This way, you will be doing the things you should be doing to maintain your mental health — like cleaning your house, spending time with others, and having time alone — but you won’t be trying to fill those major categories with too many little tasks along the way. Sit down with your spouse (or babysitter, or a helpful friend) and show them your list so they will know when you will need their help, and vice versa.

And I cannot stress this enough: schedule alone time. Schedule alone time. Schedule alone time. You need alone time. Your babysitter will understand.

Minimize People

This is a really important aspect of minimalism, which I think people often overlook as new parents. Many times new parents get caught up in introducing their new baby to all of their friends and family and contacting those friends and family about all the cute little milestones along the way. And while that’s all well and good, people can clutter the brain just as easily as possessions can.

New parents can get caught up with contacting other people, especially during a time when friends and family are constantly accessible thanks to social media. But text messages and missed calls will pile up during those first few months, and there is just no way you will be able to have the social life you once did (at least for a little while).

The best way to minimize people in your life is to decide which people are the most important to you. I am a list-maker, as we can all tell, and I often make lists of people with whom I would like to stay in contact. For me, this list includes people who I feel support me and contribute positive energy to my life.

It can be fun to hang out with friends who throw exciting events or have good stories to tell, but as a new parent, you need to maintain contact with those friends who connect with you on a deeper level. And actually, having limited free time will make it much easier for you to tell who those friends are.

Though social media is a good way to stay in touch with friends as a new parent, it can also add unnecessary clutter. It can make it easier for those friends who you know aren’t adding positivity to your life to stay in touch with you, which means time wasted talking to people who are not going to offer much return on your investment.

I’ve found that an easy way to distinguish friends on social media who are worth taking the time out to talk to as a new parent and those who aren’t is to take note of how those people are reaching out to you. If they are taking the steps to message you, email you, or even call you (does that still happen?) to ask how things are going, chances are that they are really interested in how things are going. If they just like every baby photo you put up; the chances are that they aren’t looking to put in the work that your friendship will now require.

Familial relationships aren’t so different from friendships, and new parents should also spend their time with family members who make them feel relaxed and comfortable. If you find yourself always arguing or becoming frustrated by certain family members, it’s a good idea to keep them at a distance during your first few months as a new parent.

It’s quite common for new parents to feel overwhelmed by the task, to be sure. But in order to maintain your mental health as a new parent, you will need to keep the other parts of your life from overwhelming you also. Minimalism is a good way to control the parts of your life that you can control so that you are able to enjoy the new parts that are a little more unpredictable.