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!
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.
And God Created a Mom
By Jenny Rapson for The Mustard Seed Foundation
The Bible says that on the sixth day of creation, God made man and woman. And He also saw that it was good. If you know what happens next, you know that it went from good to not good when Eve sinned by eating the forbidden fruit. God’s original plans were foiled by free will, and He had to set about redeeming it.
When I look back at the early days of man, I can’t help but think that one way God brought redemption was by creating a mother. Yes, the pain of childbirth was one of Eve’s punishments, one that all women have inherited. But, oh! The reward at the end of that punishment! The feel of a newborn baby in your arms. The knowing that you’ve been part of creating something so beautiful, so precious as a new life. And looking back, even carrying that life within you for nine months is a priceless gift as well.
My friends, out of darkness, when things were bad…God created a Mom.
When He created a mom, He duplicated His own unconditional love. When He created a mom, He created selflessness and sacrifice. When He created a mom, He created a calling.
Moms are inspiration. They are empowerment. They are strength, motivation, and unwavering belief. They are devotion, they are sass, and they are fierce to their cores.
When God created motherhood, He gave women a priceless gift. Not just a child, but a child who was made for that mom, and a mom that was made for that child. He instantly equipped each mom with every individual superpower that she would need to provide for her specific child.
My heart swells when I think of it, my friends.
Moms have been called to an often thankless task. Motherhood is a blessing, a gift, but also an indescribable challenge. Moms need not just the strength that God has endowed them with, but the unwavering support of a community, of friends and loved ones, to help them stay the course in a world that will throw obstacles in a determined mom’s path again and again.
In a time of unthinkable grief, of wrecked plans, of uncertain futures…God created a Mom. A baby cried, a woman’s heart beat anew, and a sliver of light broke through the darkness.
Support the moms in your life, and keep the light shining bright.
Meet the Lawyer and Former Teen Mom Who Never Said the Words “I Can’t”
On the outside, it looked as if Amanda Ray Jelks had nothing going for her. Raised in an impoverished East Chattanooga, Tennessee neighborhood by a single mom, Amanda was kicked out of her house when she became pregnant at age fourteen. Most members of her family wrote her off.
“I remember one family member, in particular, who said I was going to end up being one of ‘those girls,’ with three more children by the time I was 18 and living on welfare. That would be the extent of my life,” Jelks said in a 2011 interview with Chattanooga’s Times Free Press.
But Jelks had two things going for her that weren’t visible from the outside: an extremely intelligent brain, and a work ethic that literally would not quit. She also had the support of an aunt whom she moved in with. She had her son, Desmond, got a full-time job, and worked hard at school, graduating as the valedictorian of her class at age seventeen. Because she attended Middle College High School, she also got college credit for many of her high school classes, so after graduation, she was able to enter college as a junior.
Her hard work at school earned her several scholarships to attend the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga. She also worked full time in addition to school to provide for herself and her son. “I had a HOPE Scholarship [in addition to working],” she told the Free Press about how she made it through those years on her own. “I also was given a scholarship by the Executive Women International, the Jean Bradford Memorial Scholarship. It was special. It was an extra dollar amount to pay rent, light bills, books or whatever I needed.”
Because of the college credit Amanda earned in high school and her strong work ethic, she graduated from UTC in just two-and-a-half years with her bachelor’s degree. She dreamed of going to law school, but says she wasn’t sure she could do it.
“The people in my family were still saying the same thing: ‘You’re smart but not that smart.’ Growing up in my household, it was a given you’d graduate from high school, but college was never discussed,” Jelks said. “I didn’t know a lawyer, I couldn’t afford to go to law school. I didn’t know they had scholarships for law school.”
Since she had lost so much time with her young son while pursuing her education, Jelks says she decided to take a year off school after her undergrad work was completed, and just work and be with her son.
“That year was solely Desmond’s time. He got to play football, I got him through kindergarten. But at some point it hit me that I wanted to go to law school. I started studying for the LSAT and filling out applications,” she recalled.
Once again Jelks’ hard work paid off: she was accepted to law school at the University of Memphis. She was awarded a full scholarship. After law school, she quickly got a job with Chattanooga firm Chambliss, Bahner & Stophel, where she spent the first five years of her career. In 2015, she opened Jelks Law, her very own law firm in Chattanooga.
Not bad for a girl who was told she would never amount to anything.
Jelks says she knows that because she had to work so hard both at her jobs and in school when her son was young, she missed out on valuable time with him. But, she says, she hopes that he will look back at that time and see that she did it all for him, and use her as an example.
“Hopefully” she says, “when he grows up, he’ll never think about saying, ‘I can’t.’ “
Amanda certainly is glad that she never gave up and said “I can’t.” With hard work and community support, she rose above her circumstances, and now she inspires other to do the same as a motivational speaker. “Since 2001, I have given motivational talks to diverse audiences at schools, colleges, churches, and nonprofits to help individuals overcome tremendous odds to reach their maximum potential,” she says on her website. She’s also gives back to her community by serving on the Board of Directors for the City of Chattanooga’s Health, Educational and Housing Facility Board, Chattanooga Women’s Leadership Institute and the board for the Chattanooga Theatre Centre, and well as on the advisory boards for the Diversity and Inclusion Committee of theChattanooga Chamber of Commerce, the MOMentum Network and the Educational Opportunity Center.
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.