As moms, we love to give our kids good gifts.
It’s part of the natural maternal instinct, for sure! But there also usually comes a time in every mom’s life when we realize: this child has TOO MANY TOYS! Whether a family member has gone overboard or whether we’ve found one too many great deals we can’t pass up, there comes a time in every mom’s life when she realizes her kid owns more toys at two years old than she ever owned in her life—and that it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.
Well, I’ve got good news for you, Mamas. Science agrees with you that your kids has too many toys. And not only that, but a study done on Infant Behavior and Development proves they are also HAPPIER with fewer toys!
For real! Moms, you can totally save your hard-earned money for more practical needs! In a study of toddlers ages 18-30 months, scientists found that those placed in a room with just four toys played longer and more happily during a 30-minute time period than those placed in a room with sixteen toys. The study showed that the kiddos in the room with only four toys used their creativity to play with the same toy in multiple ways, which is great for brain development!
Researchers also said that the toddlers with fewer toys to choose from showed more genuine interest in each toy they played with. “This suggests that the other toys present may have created a source of external distraction, provoking the participants to abandon play with a toy at hand to explore another,” the study says. In other words: too many toys make a toddler’s short attention span even shorter! So giving your child fewer toy choices will also increase their aptitude for paying attention. Now that sounds like a win to me!
I don’t know about you, but I feel like this is a great reason to return to a simpler way of play for our kids, saving up money for educational outings like a trip to the zoo or to the children’s museum, rather than on gobs of toys. Of course a few great toys are important for a child’s development, though. I love “pretend” toys that relate to real life such as play kitchens, food sets, and tools to really get a toddler’s imagination growing.
No matter HOW many toys your kiddo has, remember that just having three or four to choose from at a time is a better way to play. Give it a try and see if it makes a difference in your baby’s playtime!
Being a single mom has its unique challenges, but also very unique rewards. Though few of us start out dreaming of raising kids on our own, the truth is that the trial by fire of single motherhood can teach us just how strong and amazing we truly are. Here are some quotes from warrior single moms who’ve been there, done that, and continue to inspire other single moms who are in it to win it.
1. “When you’re a single parent, you’re often lonely, let seldom alone. There is no backup…it is mothering without a net.” – Amy Dickinson
2. “Being a single mom is is not a life full of struggles, but a journey for the strong.” – Meg Lowrey
3. “Some days, she has no idea how she’ll do it. But every single day, it still gets done.” – Unknown
4. “Single moms: You are a doctor, a teacher, a nurse, a maid, a cook, a referee, a heroine, a provider, a defender, a protector, a true superwoman. Wear your cape proudly.”– Mandy Hale
5. “A single mom tries when things are hard. She never gives up. She believes in her family, even when things are tough. She knows that above all things, a mother’s love is more than enough.”– Deniece Williams
6. ”Being a single mum is twice the work, twice the stress and twice the tears but also twice the hugs, twice the love and twice the pride.” – Anonymous
7. “Because your child is your first priority, you’re more selective, so in order to let someone into that world, they have to be really special. You cut out the bull that you might fall for if you didn’t have responsibilities.” – Helena Christensen
8. “She has to have four arms, four legs, four eyes, two hearts, and double the love. There is nothing single about a single mom. – Mandy Hale
9. “I would say to any single parent currently feeling the weight of stereotype or stigmatization that I am prouder of my years as a single mother than of any other part of my life.” – J.K. Rowling
10. “A single mom keeps going, even when things are at their hardest. She never gives up. Because a mother’s love is stronger than any love there is.” – Unknown
Yes, single mamas, you are up for a huge challenge, but, the truth is: you were made to be your child’s mother, and you can both thrive together. Don’t give up! You may be single, but you are in no way alone.
Single Mom Graduates Harvard at Age 24, Says “Let’s Keep Beating All the Odds”
By Jenny Rapson for TMSF
Photo Credit: Briana Williams on Instagram @lovexbriana
Atlanta native Briana Williams seemed to be unstoppable. The first of the six kids in her family to graduate from college, she did so well in her undergrad Legal Studies major at St. John’s University (magna cum laude!) that she got into the renowned Harvard Law School. Truly, a dream come true.
Unlike many of the students whose families can afford to send them to Harvard Law, Williams didn’t have the luxury of concentrating solely on her studies. She worked as a server and bartender to support herself while hitting the books as hard as she could. All her hard work paid off, and in her third year at Harvard, she was the communications director for the Harvard Black Law Students Association.
Then, when she could see the light at the end of the law school tunnel, with graduation so close she could taste it…she got pregnant.
Williams faced the reality that she was going to have to finish her last year at the toughest law school in the nation as a single mother, without the support of a partner.
Photo Credit: Briana Williams on Instagram @lovexbriana
Like everything else in life, she buckled down and did it—and did it exceedingly well. In an Instagram post on her account @lovexBriana” she captions a photo of herself and her one-year-old daughter Evelyn on her Harvard graduation day with the inspiring story of her journey. She says,
“I went into labor in April- during final exam period. I immediately requested an epidural so that my contractions wouldn’t interfere with my Family Law grade. And, with tears in my eyes, I finished it. This “biting the bullet” experience is quite quintessential of my time at Harvard. To say that my last year of law school, with a newborn, and as a single mom was a challenge would be an understatement. Some days I was so mentally and emotionally fatigued that I did not leave my bed. I struggled with reliable childcare. It was not atypical to see me rushing through Wasserstein to the Dean of Students’ office with Evelyn in her carriage, asking DOS can they keep her for a few until class was over. If not, she’d just have to come with me to class. Evie attended classes often.
So I’m going to be honest with you guys.. I didn’t think I could do it.
I did not think that, at 24 years old, as a single mom, I would be able to get through one of the most intellectually rigorous and challenging positions of my life. It was hard. It hurt. Instagram can make peoples’ lives seem seamless, but this journey has been heart-wrenching. However, I am happy to say that I DID do it.
Today, Evelyn in my arms, with tears streaming down my face, I accepted my Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. At first, I was the anomaly of my [marginalized] community. Then, as a single mother, I became a statistic. Next, I pray that, for the sake of my baby, I will be an example.
Evelyn- they said that because of you I wouldn’t be able to do this. Just know that I did this BECAUSE OF YOU. Thank you for giving me the strength and courage to be invincible. Let’s keep beating all their odds, baby.”
Photo Credit: Briana Williams on Instagram @lovexbriana
Williams’ story is a perfect example of the saying, “When a child is born, a mother is born also.” Some would think that an unplanned pregnancy at this point in Williams’ journey would be the end of her life. But in reality, it was the beginning of two new lives: Evelyn’s as a beautiful soul entering this world, and Briana’s life as a mother, in which she has already proved she is more powerful and stronger than she ever was before.
To the single moms struggling today: you may have a huge challenge in front of you. It may be more or less daunting than Harvard Law School, but one thing is for sure: your status as a mother doesn’t make it less likely that you will overcome this challenge. It makes it MORE likely that you’ll have the strength to conquer it.
To the Young Single Mom During the Holidays
By Jenny Rapson for the Mustard Seed Foundation
Dear Strong Mama,
It’s the “most wonderful time of the year,” or so the song says. And I truly believe it is. But, I realize that for a young mom like you taking care of her children on her own, it can also be a thousand kinds of hard. Maybe you feel pressure to make everything “Merry and Bright” for your child when you are worn out at the end of a long day. Perhaps you feel like “How in the world am I supposed to make things magical when I am just trying to get by?” Or perhaps you feel like you wish you could give your child a “picture perfect” family for Christmas, and worry that you are not enough.
Beautiful Young Mom, this is what I want you to know this holiday season.
You are not incomplete, and your family is perfect.
One of the natural joys of being a mother is that you were made for your baby and your baby was made for you. The two of you are a perfectly formed family and have been since the beginning. As time goes on, your family may grow, but even if it doesn’t, the two of you are enough for each other. Truly, surely, meant to be.
Comparison will steal your joy.
You are uniquely you, and your story is 100% yours. Do and be the best that you can be, and don’t worry about what someone else is doing. Comparing your journey to others is simply a waste of time. Keep your gaze on your little family and strive to give them your best. Don’t worry about the opinions and actions of others, and don’t let someone else’s achievements take away from your victories, big and small.
More stuff doesn’t equal a happy child.
Moms always want to give their kids the world. You are not alone in this. Every mother feels this way when it comes the holidays. But the truth is, more doesn’t equal better. Don’t worry or beat yourself up if you can’t give your kids all the material things you would like to this holiday season. Focus every day on giving them a mother that will love and support them through anything. That is truly the very best gift you can give your children…and one they will never outgrow.
Single doesn’t have to mean lonely.
You don’t have to be alone and lonely just because you are parenting without a partner. You do have people in your life who love you and who are cheering you on. Reach out to your community of family and friends and embrace your community this holiday season. Open your heart and share your little family with another young mom looking for someone who gets what she is going through. The holidays are about giving, and when you spend time with your community you are giving and receiving in the best way. Loving others costs nothing, and adds everything.
Mama, more than anything this holiday season, I want you to know you are loved, and so is your child. You are seen, you are admired, and you are valued. Rather than feeling stressed and overwhelmed this holiday season, I pray you feel treasured. You are your child’s whole world, and you were made for this. You are enough…at this and at any time of year.
What Teen Moms Want You to Know
By Jenny Rapson for the Mustard Seed Foundation
Here at the Mustard Seed Foundation, supporting teen moms in foster care and their babies is our number one priority. Living with these remarkable young women day in and day out, we are regularly confronted with just how strong, amazing, and determined they are to raise their children and succeed in life. Yet, in our society, teenage mothers are often marginalized and looked down upon. Communicating the strengths of these young women while still maintaining their privacy can be a real struggle for those of us who know and love the Mustard Seed Foundation and the young women within its walls, and yet it’s vital that we do so.
Fortunately for us, a recent article from New York-based parental mental health non-profit Seleni features some wonderful quotes from teen moms who have succeeded beyond their teen and early motherhood years. These women sounded off about what teen moms want you and I to know—and their thoughts are pretty revealing. We hope you’ll take their words to heart when you’re thinking about our moms and babies, and what your donations to TMSF enable and empower them to do.
The author of Seleni’s article, Gloria Malone, was a teen mom herself. She says, “The huge focus on preventing teenage pregnancy has turned teen moms into cautionary tales and scapegoats when in reality we are women and mothers who need support and encouragement. We are often spoken about and condescended to, but we are rarely given the chance to speak for ourselves.”
Wanting to give a voice to young women who had walked the teen motherhood path as she had, Malone interviewed several American and British women who became parents in their teenage years. Here, she says, is what teen moms want you to know.
A mother is a mother
“I had kids in my teens, 20s, and 30s and can tell you there’s NO magic time in your life when you suddenly ‘get’ parenting,” says Lucy, now 34 and a mother of three. “It’s a seat-of-your-pants ride, and anyone who says otherwise is a liar.” Another young mom, Krystal Cisneros, adds, “Teen mothers and adult mothers have the same anxiety and nervousness all mothers do.”
Words hurt and help
When asked what she wished people would have said to her whens she was a pregnant teen, Kenya Golden says simply, “Don’t give up. You’re doing fine. To know you have someone in your corner and that they are supportive of you.” Kenya’s thoughts echo what we strive to do at TMSF, but sadly not all people give teen moms this support. When asked the opposite question, about what she wishes had not been said to her, 23-year-old Yumi, a Philadelphia moms, says she was given, “Condescending comments like, ‘It’s not as fun as it looked, huh?’ Or ‘I bet you wish you hadn’t done this.’ That didn’t help or empower me to be a better woman or mother. It just made me feel insecure and lonely.”
Society can help teen moms in simple ways
The moms Malone talked to wanted to emphasize that society can help teen moms first and foremost with their attitudes toward them. “Stop shaming us, “ says Kenya Golden. “All the blame is on [women]. Shaming us does not help anybody. It makes us more depressed and makes us less likely to talk to people about how we feel.”
“Help them instead of bashing them [teen moms],” adds Krystal Cisneros. “We just need a support system.”
Support comes in many forms
The teen moms were also adamant that a support system is vital for their success, but that support doesn’t have to be extravagant. Once again, a little simple action goes a long way.
“Support comes in all forms: non-judgment and empathy from teachers and caretakers. Babysitting and encouragement is a form of support,” says Yasmin McMorrin, who became a mom at age 19.
Mariely Moronta-Santos adds that teen parents who are finishing their education need extra support to do so, and called for local governments to make it happen. “…this means our city setting funding aside for teen parents who are in school or on their way,” she says. Teen parents also want access to higher education. We need institutions to create spaces for us to access tutoring and childcare without judgment.”
Teen moms are capable
Finally, these now-adult teen moms want young women currently parenting in their teens to know that they can succeed. “You got this! Don’t listen to naysayers. Respect your kids as human beings too,” says Kenya Golden.
Teen moms need to take pride in their motherhood status, especially when things are hard, says mother of two Victoria Porto. “Patience is key when things get tough. Take a deep breath and look at your child. Realize you are everything to that child and you mean something.
Young mom Charlie sums it up best with her advice to current teen moms: your life is NOT over. “Being a mom is such a transformative experience. With support, you’re going to figure it out, and you’re going to thrive. You are not a cautionary tale. You are the head of a beautiful family.”
With all this wonderful insight from teen moms about what they want you to know, we hope you will feel equipped to encourage and support the teen moms in your life, as well as the ones we’re empowering here at TMSF. If you know a teen mom who could use an encouraging word or an hour of free babysitting, please reach out and make a difference.
Science Says: Mother-Baby Bonding Is the Best Medicine
By Jenny Rapson for The Mustard Seed Foundation of Dayton
All new moms want to do everything they can to keep their babies healthy, but often we don’t know what to do, so we follow our maternal instincts and baby care books and do, well, everything. We watch them like a hawk for signs of illness, make sure they’re always warm but not hot, and start reading to them before they can even smile. But according to a prominent endocrinologist and mind-body-wellness advocate Dr. Deepak Chopra, the strength of the emotional bond between a mother and a baby is more powerful than any other medical or physical precautions we can take for a baby’s health.
So what moms really need to do to keep babies healthy? Is CUDDLE them!
Mother-baby bonding is best.
That’s right: when moms and babies bond, the physical health of the baby is impacted just as much as the emotional health. That’s just one reason why our goal here at the Mustard Seed Foundation is to keep moms and babies together, not only giving babies a great start in life, but also ensuring their life-long health.
An article at Parenting.com adds plentiful scientific evidence to back up Dr. Chopra’s claims. “In one study from Ohio State University, “ says the article, “rabbits that were cuddled by researchers were protected against the artery-clogging effects of a high-cholesterol diet. The love and attention affected the rabbits’ hormone levels, the study authors concluded, helping them withstand heart disease.”
If a stranger cuddling a rabbit can have such a positive health impact, how much more can a mother cuddling her own infant add to her baby’s health? The implications are astounding.
The truth is, the evidence that keeping moms and babies together is best for both of them has been on the books for years. For instance, it’s long been known that when a newborn baby nurses, the “love hormone” oxytocin is released. It hits the ”reward center” of our mama brains and makes us feel good, while also making us crave more of that feeling that bonding brings. And you don’t have to breastfeed to get that “love hormone” goodness. Parenting says, “Simply gazing into your baby’s eyes while bottle-feeding or just snuggling or massaging also unleashes the feel-good hormones in both of you.”
Touch isn’t the only bonding sense our biology uses to cement the bond between mother and baby. Our sense of smell gets involved, too. Pheromones, the chemicals we excrete to attract a partner, are excreted by our babies, too, making moms likely to be enamored of their little ones and encouraging physical bonding via touch. And even though newborns can’t even see clearly when they’re born, they can almost instantly identify their mamas by scent, proving once again that moms and babies are simply meant for one another.
When it comes down to it, Francesca D’Amato, M.D., a behavioral neuroscientist in Rome and a prominent bonding researcher told Parenting, “The mother-child bond assures infant survival in terms of protection, nutrition, and care.”
Did you hear that? “The mother-child bond assures infant survival.”
That’s a pretty important reason to keep moms and babies together and bonding during those first few crucial months of life and beyond. But here’s another: Dr. Chopra says positive bonding experiences with a mother and baby can actually alter a child’s DNA to be more resistant to illness. “Immune cells have memory of experiences,” he says.
According to Parenting, what Dr. Chopra means is, that when a baby is born, he or she is a “disorganized bundle of nerves.” They’ve just been thrust out of the warm womb and don’t know what to do with themselves. Bright lights, hunger, having their diaper changed—everything freaks them out! Newborns are under stress and they need to be cuddled and soothed to alleviate this stress. Science tells us that when we’re stressed, our immunity goes down, and we’re more susceptible to sickness. Babies who are not snuggled, hugged and bonded with physically are constantly stressed. Their immune cells remember this stress and their immunity can be permanently affected, even into adulthood. People who have experienced childhood trauma have a 70 to 100 percent increased risk of developing certain autoimmune maladies like Graves’ disease, Crohn’s disease, lupus, and rheumatoid arthritis.
Bottom line? Mother-baby bonding contributes more than any other factor the emotional and physical well-being of children throughout childhood and into adulthood. Let’s do our part to keep young moms and their sweet babies together—and therefore healthy in body and mind.