Some moms think leaving their children with someone else, even for a short time, is not an option. However, taking a break can benefit both moms and kids.

“I know moms who feel guilty if they are not with their children 24/7,” says Leslie Parrott, therapist and co-author of The Parent You Want to Be. “It is almost as if leaving the kids with someone else would be a sign of weakness. Yet, I know many moms are tired and stressed and long for a break.”

Dr. Parrott knows exactly what it is like to long for a break. She gave birth prematurely to her oldest son, and he required round the clock extended care.

“Even though I felt some guilt about leaving John in the care of someone else, I knew I needed some time away to relax and re-energize. Taking care of a medically fragile baby is quite stressful. Scheduling 1 ½ hours away for quiet time, twice a week, helped me to be a better mom. I realized I could not pass on what I did not possess. If I was exhausted, my son picked up on that and was fussy as well.”

Children need to understand that attachment can remain firm even when there are brief parental absences. 

When they have the opportunity to rehearse this, they learn that there are other people in their lives who love them and can take good care of them.

“If parents never give their children the opportunity to experience these absences, when it is time to enter kindergarten or they are separated for some other reason they often experience extreme anxiety,” Parrott says. “I remember my father telling me about his first day in kindergarten. He had never been away from home before so he was very nervous. His class went outside for recess and when the bell rang, he panicked. He could not remember where to meet the teacher, so he just walked home.”

Being away from your children can refresh you.

It may also give you fresh perspectives about them, Parrott advises, even though some parents may feel anxiety about leaving their children to take a break.

“There have been times when I have gone away and come home and received a report on my children from their caregiver, allowing me to see them through her eyes,” Parrott says. “Things I don’t see because I am around them all the time are the very things our babysitter points out to me. I get the benefit of her wisdom. One time, upon returning from a trip, my friend asked me if I had noticed how much John had matured. ‘He is implementing his politeness skills with everyone,’ she said.

“I think that moms who deny themselves the luxury of time away and time for their marriage truly believe they are doing something heroic. What I have experienced with many of them is they are tired, stressed and frustrated. And, their heroic acts don’t create the results they imagine.”

When considering the parent-child relationship, the parent’s call is to always be the healthiest person in the relationship. Taking a break can help with that.

If you have never been away from your kids, Parrott encourages moms to do something different. Here are some suggestions:

  • Schedule brief absences. Even short periods of time away from your children can be refreshing for your family.
  • Don’t worry about making sure everything stays the same. In reality, a short change in routine won’t damage the children.
  • Find friends you trust, with children the same age as yours. This was a blessing for the Parrotts. The children became such great friends that they begged to get together again. The next visit became a play date for the kids and the parents!

“I truly believe the best gift I can give my kids is the gift of love from other people besides their mother and father,” Parrott says. “I walked in the door on Saturday night from an out-of-town speaking engagement. The children were all ready to get out the keyboard because our babysitter had taught them a duet. They don’t know how to play the piano. I could tell she had spent time coaching them and doing something different than I would have given them even if I had been home. I smiled as I watched them play and thought to myself, ‘This is good.’”

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Are we there yet? He’s touching my side of the seat.  I’m hungry.  I need to go to the bathroom. If you’ve ever taken a family vacation, you know these words are part of the package when it comes to vacationing with children.

Whether you’re taking a two or 10-hour adventure, families can actually succeed in spending lots of time together in a small confined space, create great memories and share some good laughs. 

Although there’s no guarantee you’ll have a perfect trip, these suggestions can help when vacationing with children:

Include your children in the vacation planning process.

Even young children can help find information about your destination on the internet or in books. Whether you plan to camp for the weekend or take a long trip, let them help you choose the activities.

Mark off the miles. 

Once you know where you’re headed, ask the kids to draw a map from home to your final stop. As you click off the miles in your car, have them fill in the road on their drawing. This will help them visualize how far away they are and may help curb a few of those, “Are we there yet?” questions.

Allow each child to assemble their own trip kit.

Make sure you give them a size limit, like a backpack, for their goody bag. Ask them to include games and toys they can play by themselves and at least one game they can enjoy with the entire family. You can even put together your own trip bag with surprise activities or treats to share. Rand McNally has fun travel games for families, including a scavenger hunt.

Create tech-free time frames along the way. 

Remember the license plate game, road trip BINGO, Name That Tune and add-on storytelling? All of these would be great to teach your kids while giving them a break from DVDs or video games.

Start a daily “Positive Attitude” contest the minute you pull out of the driveway. 

Select a family mascot, then award the it to the person who has had the best attitude of the day every evening. The selected family member can keep the mascot until it’s someone else’s time.  

Plan “play breaks” into your allotted travel time.

Even adults can find it hard to travel for long distances without a break. Instead of taking the quickest route to your vacation destination, plan some stops along the way so the children can run off pent-up energy. Have lunch at a park. Look for educational points of interest along the way and give the family a break from the cramped quarters of a car.

All of this may require a little extra planning, but the outcome will be worth it. Since families get to spend so little time together these days, it’s especially important to make the best of the times you do have with each other. Here’s to happy travels and making great memories.

It has been said that life is about leaving a legacy. Mother’s Day is a great time to celebrate the legacy of moms and those who have come alongside us as stand-in moms, whether for a season at college or life in general.

According to a 2017 study of 2,000 American moms with kids between 5 and 12, commissioned by Welch’s, being a mom is the equivalent of working at least 2 1/2 full-time jobs. The study found that a mom works an average of 98 hours per week. 

The average mom starts her day around 6:23 a.m. and doesn’t stop until 8:31 p.m. And, she is lucky to get an hour and seven minutes to herself each day. Four out of 10 moms said their lives feel like never-ending series of tasks all week.

This information made me think about my life as a mom and my mother’s life as she parented three children, many of those years on her own.

My brother Lee was two years older than I and my sister Diane is 5 years younger than I.

My mom was 22 years old when she had my brother, and the doctors said he had a 50/50 chance of survival. On day seven, they took him out of the incubator and sent him home. At 4 months old, Lee became diagnosed with cerebral palsy. The physicians said he would be a quadriplegic, unable to walk.

At 10 months, my mother suspected a hearing problem when she noticed that Lee did not respond when she called his name. A hearing test confirmed a severe to moderate hearing problem. Lee was enrolled at the speech and hearing center when he was 2, where they learned he had significant learning challenges.

Growing up, I witnessed my mom being a ferocious mama bear when it came to making sure my brother had what he needed to learn and grow.

My sister and I certainly were not neglected, but my brother had some pretty focused needs. My mom stepped completely out of her comfort zone to advocate for Lee and make a difference for many others who faced all kinds of challenges. At one point she was the statewide president of the association for children with learning disabilities. Not only did my brother learn to walk and talk, he also graduated from high school with a special diploma and went on to do great things.

Lee passed away at the age of 56, having lived an incredible life. Although he faced many challenges, nothing discouraged him from embracing and living life full-on. Though he was far from perfect in the world’s eyes, Lee took his opportunities very seriously. Whether volunteer coaching middle school football or basketball or taking people’s dirty dishes in the cafeteria at K-25 Gaseous Diffusion Plant in Oak Ridge, Lee was all in. One time his basketball team lost by one point at the buzzer. As the coaches assessed the situation outside the locker room, one of the coaches asked Lee what he thought. He looked up and said, “I did my job.” He loved people and became affectionately referred to as the Mayor of Oak Ridge.

After my brother passed away, I was thinking about my mom’s legacy. For 60 years of her life, I’m pretty positive my mom worked at least 2 1/2 full-time jobs as she parented the three of us. Even on the most challenging days, she just kept putting one foot in front of the other and carried on. My mom’s example made a profound impact on her family.

Watching my mom navigate life taught me how to be strong, passionate and relentless. I learned that taking risks and stepping out of your comfort zone is part of living a full life. Through her love of cooking and entertaining, I have carried on many of her traditions and started some of my own. I also learned the importance of doing things right the first time. And yes, to my horror, I have opened my mouth at times to say something and heard my mom’s words come out with a phrase I’m sure I swore I would never say to my child. Sometimes you just have to laugh, right?

Every year on Mother’s Day, we celebrate the legacy of moms, whether they gave birth, chose to adopt or became one in some other way. Sometimes motherhood can feel like a thankless job. Truth be told, it is the chance to give the gift of life and leave a powerful impression on children. To my mom, the women who have spoken into my life, and all of the moms and women who have filled the role of mom through the years: Thank you!

When it comes to being a working mom, things can get kind of crazy. Some days it feels nonstop. You move from changing diapers and cleaning up messes to taking conference calls and looking over balance sheets.

Plenty of moms have felt the angst of believing they don’t measure up as a mom or businesswoman. Jennifer Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway and current CEO and co-founder of Code 8, is no exception. And she definitely has some thoughts about it.

“I think we all have to cut ourselves a little slack and realize that we probably aren’t going to have a perfect balance,” says Fleiss. “No one is perfect. We all have to figure out what works in our particular circumstance, which might mean shaving off a little bit on each end.”

Fleiss confesses that she is her own toughest critic as a working mom.

“As a mom, I definitely feel the tug of guilt when I miss drop-offs, reading class books, cooking for bake sales, planning birthday parties and making lunches,” Fleiss says. “However, I think my husband and I have been able to work out a system that works well for our family.”

When it came down to figuring out what worked, Fleiss understood the importance of having home, work and school nearby in order to save commute time. Additionally, both she and her husband intentionally try to only travel once a month, and syncing schedules helps them avoid being out of town at the same time.

“I think one of the most powerful things that has come out of this is empowering my husband,” Fleiss asserts.

“He bears a huge amount of the responsibilities in our home, which is what keeps me sane – and he is awesome at it. Our children (6, 3 and 1) have strong relationships with both of us, which I believe is a very good thing. And, I have learned not to go behind him and rearrange the dishwasher, or get bent out of shape when something is missing from the diaper bag. In the scheme of things those aren’t worth the time and energy.”

Fleiss contends that in some strange way, being a businesswoman has made her a better mom.

“In the midst of the craziness, you learn not to sweat the small stuff,” Fleiss shares. “I don’t get flustered like I used to. And I am more thoughtful when I respond to my family and others. I think I have learned to decipher between vitally important things that are a really big deal and those that are smaller deals. What falls in the tyranny of the urgent category.”

When it comes to her best working mom hacks, Fleiss offers the following:

  • Wear ear plugs at night (so your husband hears the kids wake up first).
  • Dance parties count as workouts.
  • Going for a run with your husband equals date/catch-up time as a couple.
  • If you get organized the night before, it keeps mornings less chaotic.
  • Have hard-boiled eggs and bananas always at the ready.
  • Choose your battles.
  • Push-ups with kids on your back is a great workout, and it’s fun for the kids.

“What I have learned about myself is that success isn’t just about business for me. It is about being able to enjoy and appreciate every aspect of my life,” Fleiss says.

Fleiss learned from her own mother that balance is the key to enjoying both worlds.

“‘Why not do both?’ was something my mother often said to me, encouraging me to go after every opportunity and find a way to fit everything into my life to create fullness and composite happiness. She also constantly reminded me to slow down, smile and enjoy life.”

Looking for more? Check out this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

Did you know that nearly half of girls ages 3 to 6 worry about being fat, and about one-third would change a physical attribute, such as their weight or hair color? That’s what Stacey Tantleff-Dunn found when she conducted a study at the University of Central Florida.

Girls and boys of all ages feel bombarded with messages of how they should look and what defines beauty. Based on these definitions, they begin a lifelong quest to be beautiful – often doing unhealthy things that could impact them for the rest of their lives.

“Between movies, television shows and airbrushed photos in magazines showing women with ‘perfect bodies,’ impressionable young girls get the idea that it just isn’t acceptable to be anything but a size 6 or smaller,” says Pamela Kelle, licensed nutritionist and registered dietician.

“What many don’t realize is what they see on the screen isn’t real. Their body was never intended to be that size, yet they go on fad diets and do all kinds of obsessive workout routines to get themselves down to their dream weight. The only problem is, even when they get to the size they wanted to be there is still this small voice inside saying, ‘It’s not good enough.’”

Just recently, CVS Health stated they would stop significant image touch-ups in its advertising for beauty products. The company said it has a responsibility to think about sending messages of unrealistic body images to girls. From this point forward, they become committed to not “materially” altering photos used in stores, on websites and on social media by changing a model’s shape, size, skin or eye color or wrinkles. They will use a watermark to highlight materially unaltered images beginning this year.

“There is a connection between unrealistic body images and bad health effects, especially in girls and young women,” says Helena Foulkes, president of the pharmacy division at CVS.

“At every turn, sometimes even in the home, teens become bombarded with negative messages about how they look,” Kelle says. “I strongly encourage parents to be aware of how they talk about food and weight. Many parents talk negatively about their own looks. Teen girls pick up on this and often internalize it. If mom doesn’t think she looks good, the daughter thinks she must not look good either. The goal for our kids should be overall health, not a certain weight.”

You can protect your kids from the dangerous lies in the culture. If you want to teach your children about healthy body image, Kelle’s tips can help you out:

  • Encourage and model healthy eating and exercise;
  • Provide healthy foods and nutritious meals consumed by the whole family;
  • Don’t talk negatively about your own body; and
  • Don’t expect perfection.

All their lives, women hear things like, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts,” and “You can’t judge a book by its cover”. Nonetheless, they are bombarded by messages that say looks are the most important thing. As parents, we have to be conscious about the messages we are sending to our kids – both girls and boys.

Imagine a museum visitor tumbling right into a valuable, centuries-old painting at a busy exhibition.

It actually happened on a visit to a Leonardo da Vinci-themed show when a young boy was so intently focused on the piece of art that he stumbled. As he tried to steady himself, he tore a hole “the size of a fist” in a $1.5 million artwork. Do you think they threw the valuable piece of art in the dumpster? No. They recognized its value and began work to restore it to its original beauty.

It would be a really good thing if we could help our children see themselves for the valuable, irreplaceable masterpieces they are. We all come in different colors, shapes and sizes, and we are all distinctly different from anyone else. That’s not a bad thing, it’s actually a beautiful thing.

Looking for more? Watch this episode of JulieB TV on this topic!

As a mother, have you ever looked in the mirror and asked, “Who am I? Where did the woman I used to know go? Will I ever be known by my real name again, or will it always be _________’s mom from this point forward?” If you answered yes to any of these questions, you are in good company. Plenty of moms out there wonder the same thing.

Although being a mom is a great gift, a lot of moms wonder how to avoid losing their identity in the midst of motherhood.

Let’s face it, from the time they are born, children require a lot of time, energy, and brainpower. It’s easy to feel like your identity is slowly fading away as you constantly focus on your family.

While many moms have resigned themselves to thinking this is just how life is, losing your identity in the name of motherhood isn’t helpful to you or your children. If your tank is running low because of all you do for your kids, more than likely your stress level is high, your fuse is short and the least little curveball can throw your entire day or week into a full-blown tailspin. You may even feel guilty about doing something for yourself and think that it may add more stress to the already-complicated schedule.

On top of this, moms often play the comparison game. It may seem that one woman’s children behave better, she keeps a cleaner house or is better-equipped for all sorts of tasks.

If you are in the early years of parenting, moms who’ve been there have some words of wisdom.

Here’s what they wish someone had shared with them during that stage of their lives.

  • Make sure you surround yourself with a supportive friend group that includes women your age and older.
  • Ask for what you need. Don’t assume your spouse or others know your needs. Tell them.
  • It’s really important for your children to see who you are as a person. Consider what you really enjoy doing or are passionate about. Seek to create opportunities to engage in those pursuits. Even involving your children in those activities isn’t a bad thing.
  • Creating space to re-energize and regroup teaches your children the importance of taking care of yourself. Growing up in a family where children learn that the world does not revolve around them is healthy. 
  • In order to parent well, it is vital that you put your oxygen mask on first. You cannot give what you do not have. If you are always running on empty, it’s impossible to be the parent your kids need you to be.

In the end, you’re preparing your children to leave the nest and be independent. But when the time comes for the kids to leave, many moms find themselves in an identity crisis because their entire world has revolved around being a mom. Maintaining some independence of your own and modeling care for yourself as you raise your children is crucial to your well-being and theirs. Then when the next stage comes along, you’ll be ready to take it on with confidence.

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Looking for more resources? Watch this episode of JulieB TV for an in-depth look on this topic!