This Is What ‘Mom Burnout’ Feels Like

You are probably a lot like me. As a mother, you’ve had days when you slump down the wall and feel like you cannot function, no matter what you try to do or how you try to change your mindset. You cry. You tell yourself you can do better and you are lucky to have kids in your life. Every little thing bugs you and you want to scream and slam your fists on the counter. And as soon as you see a break in the clouds — a moment of silence or a second away — something else happens.

Maybe it’s a spill. Perhaps it’s a tattling child. It could be another dirty diaper that sends you over the edge. Whatever it is, you can’t seem to pull it together and these are the days you know with your entire being that you need a damn break.

But then there are the days your burnout isn’t so obvious. You just feel a little off, a bit tired despite a good night’s rest. You feel forgetful and short tempered even though everything is going as smoothly as it can. 

These are the days we mentally take ourselves down pretty hard because we think, Things aren’t that bad. What’s my problem?

Just because a wound isn’t obviously bruised or throbbing doesn’t mean it doesn’t hurt. Burnout in moms seems to be the same way. It’s not always blaring. We can’t always put our finger on it. There are days when it’s hard to recognize, so we keep plugging away because we are ignoring it or we literally don’t have a choice in the matter. 

We are the ones who see when something needs to be taken care of like no one else can. My ex-husband once told me I could be in a deep sleep and wake up the minute one of our kids moved in bed, or he forgot to lock the door before he went to bed.

Moms don’t get a day off, ever. Even on the rare occasion when we’re out of the house and have someone taking care of all the things (let’s face it, when the hell does this ever really happen?) our minds are spinning non-stop. 

It’s exhausting, and yeah, it’s gonna cause some burnout.

Scary Mommy polled some of our readers to tell us what their mom burnout felt like, and this is what they said:

Sharon S. says that when she’s suffering from burnout, “I have no energy to stay focused and it’s too easy to react.”

Oh yes, I’ve been there a few times already today and it’s not even noon yet.

Gretchen K. reports how different burnout can feel, which may make it hard to recognize. “Can’t focus. At all. And it depends on which type of burnout. When the kids were young, I remember wishing for a non serious type of medical emergency (like appendicitis) that would put me in the hospital for a few days to catch up on sleep. Now it’s more the worry of teens/college students. SO MANY WORRIES.”

Aleksei Morozov/Getty

And the mind just goes and goes which is so exhausting.

Katie K. feels her burnout physically, saying, “It’s physical pain in my neck and shoulders, crying at the drop of a hat and a hair trigger temper.”

So many mental struggles show up in physical ways, and we blame it on lack of sleep without realizing we just need a break.

Scary Mommy also talked via email with Dr. Pavan Madan, M.D., a child and adolescent psychiatrist with Community Psychiatry, the largest outpatient mental health organization in California. 

Madan says, “There are three main symptoms of burnout — feeling physically or emotionally exhausted, not being able to handle usual tasks, and feeling annoyed easily.”

Hello, this is why your shoulders are tense, your head hurts, and you feel like you can’t focus. 

A 2018 survey found half of all parents suffer from burnout — and those results were pre-pandemic. I think now we all feel more burned out than ever.

So, now that we are aware we have it and we know what it can feel like, what can we do about it?

Dr. Madan says, “Burnout can be prevented by having a better balance between family time vs. ‘me’ time for moms, and between hands-on activities vs. screen activities for all family members.”

Having a routine for our kids as far as sleep, meals, and study time “can help children feel prepared for the next activity and avoid some conflicts,” he says.

If you feel like you don’t have time to take a few minutes for yourself and get some breathing room as we so often do, Dr. Madan reminds us it’s important — as it will result in better health and that means we will be better parents. 

Burnout is a serious thing that can impact our lives in many ways. But the truth is, moms don’t get the time needed away unless they are proactive about it.

Ask for help if you need it. Set a routine for your children. Don’t forget to schedule some time for yourself. Even a little bit may go a long way. If you find yourself thinking, I really don’t need to go for that walk today, or I really should say yes even though I don’t want to, remember you are worth it — and your family would cosign. You really are doing a service for all involved, so don’t gloss over it and tell yourself you can wait. 

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Why Do Moms Think It’s Okay To Break The Commitments We Make To Ourselves?

Last week, I told myself before I went to bed that I’d rise early and get my run out of the way before it got too hot. We’ve been having a rare heatwave where I live and if you don’t get out and get it done, it’s hard (not to mention unsafe) to exercise in 90-degree temperatures with high humidity.

When I woke up, my kids were still sleeping soundly and would be for a few hours according to their teenage sleep schedules. I’d promised my daughter we’d go get a slushie later in the afternoon when I was done with work, before she went to her father’s house for the night.

I lay in bed and tried to think of all the reasons why I shouldn’t go for a run. I wasn’t really feeling it although I was awake at the perfect time. 

I tried to talk myself out of a goal I’d set for myself even though I’ve never, ever regretted a workout. 

As I reached for my phone to scroll instead, I realized if I didn’t get my butt in action and get out there soon, time would run out. Sure, I’d have the day to get my work done so I could still take my daughter to get her treat before she left for the night.

I always make good on my promises to everyone else — my kids, my editors, my friends and other family members. If I say I’m going to do something, I come through, except for those rare times when circumstances are out of my control.

Why, then, is it so easy to blow myself off? Why do I find it acceptable to give up my time so I can fulfill commitments to others, only to put the ones I make to myself last? And why do I do this when I know full well it leaves me angry and resentful every damn time?

It’s no one else’s fault when we break appointments with ourselves. There wouldn’t be anyone to blame but me had I put myself on the back burner, skipped something I really did want to do because the reward goes a long way, and carried on with my day fulfilling all other responsibilities.

It’s all part of being a mom — I get it. We feel like we have to sacrifice ourselves first so we can be this or that for everyone else.

Whether we admit it or not, we don’t want to appear selfish by telling a friend “no” when we know we don’t have the energy for them.

We dig back into the depths of our childhood and want to make up for all the wrongs our parents doled out, and we hate saying “no” to our children or letting them know we’ve changed our mind about making their favorite dinner.

We buy them new things before we replace our own ten-year-old underwear.

We make sure their appointments are up to date, all while neglecting our own because we think, “I can wait. I can do it later.”

When we have kids, we go from being on our own schedules — able to come and go as we please, and prioritize ourselves — to learning how to do that with little human beings being dependent on us. And damn, it’s hard to do both.

We say we don’t have time for self-care. We claim we are too busy to read any more, even though we desperately miss it.

We make excuses and break promises to ourselves without even thinking about it. Then, we suffer for it.

I’ve learned this the hard way. Since becoming a mom seventeen years ago, this is what I thought a good mother did. I figured I’d put everyone first — and if there was something that had to go or give, well, it would be me and my plans and my hobbies.

It’s taken me a long time to learn that you can be a great mom and not break your promises to yourself. The two aren’t mutually exclusive.

I spent years being resentful, throwing up my arms and saying, Fine, I just won’t do it, so everyone could have a piece of me. I got really good at it and was a bitter martyr.

Then, I realized all I had to do was stay true to most of the commitments I made to myself that were important: Getting to bed early if I needed more sleep, even if it meant canceling sexy time or a prior commitment. Staying true to my goals with work and my health. Trying to recognize when I was forgetting about me, even if I felt selfish for speaking up about it.

The truth is, no one is going to advocate for us but us. No one is going to stand on the sidelines and watch to make sure we keep the silent promises we’ve made to ourselves, whether they were made last year, last week, or last night.

So, the next time you think about giving something up, or telling yourself “no” when you really want to say yes, think about the hoops you would go through to meet these commitments to your kids, your partner, your work, or your loved ones.

Then ask yourself why you feel it’s okay to blow yourself off if you wouldn’t do it to others.

When you ask yourself that question, you’ll find it harder and harder to make excuses. Once you do this, you’ll never go back — because you’ll discover exactly how much better you feel when you honor yourself just as much as you would honor your family.

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Multi-Tasking May Not Be As Productive As It Feels

As I open the document to start on this essay, I’m supervising my eight-year-old who is working on his summer review math problems (yes, I’m “that” mom, but distance learning threw me for a loop, and I’m trying to make up for that over the summer), I’m texting a friend who is worried about the realities of distance learning, I’m keeping an eye on the pot simmering on the stove, and I’m listening for the chime of the dryer signifying that the load of laundry I threw in has finished.

I am a proud, self-proclaimed multi-tasker. As a solo parent, I have to be. How else can I possibly do all the things that need to be done? As it is, I’m doing all the things I listed above, and still didn’t get around to calling the plumber or returning the emails that keep getting pushed to that “do-tomorrow” list.

But also, I’ve re-read the same sentence a few dozen times in an effort to get this essay going. The clothes currently drying had been sitting in the washer, forgotten about, for more than a few hours. The dinner cooking on the stove was supposed to have been for yesterday, but I got distracted, ran out of time to throw the ingredients together, and ordered in instead.

So, I’m a proud, self-proclaimed multi-tasker, and I’m half unfocused and disorganized at all times. If I’m giving myself a little grace, I could say: it’s a pandemic and I’m solo parenting through it. But, to be honest, I’ve been half unfocused and disorganized for a long time.

Which is fine—the laundry can sit for a few extra hours, and the ingredients for dinner didn’t spoil in one day, and being half-unfocused isn’t that bad (although the plumber actually should have been called but that’s a story for another day.) Maybe that’s just life in the twenty-first century.

Or maybe I’m trying to do too much all at once. Maybe, in an effort to multi-task in order to save time, I’m wasting precious minutes.

A study from the American Psychological Association suggests that rather than making us more productive, multi-tasking, or more accurately task-switching (because we’re actually just jumping from task to task rather than doing tasks simultaneously) coupled with distractions caused by technology can cost up to 40% of someone’s productive time.

40%! That means nearly half of our productive time could be lost to the in-between. Or, more accurately, nearly half of our productive time is spent on (wasted on?) the time it takes to switch between tasks, also called the cost of switching, or switch costs.

There are two parts to the switch cost—“one attributable to the time taken to adjust the mental control settings (which can be done in advance if there is time), and another part due to competition due to carry-over of the control settings from the previous trial (apparently immune to preparation).” Essentially, the switch cost is the time it takes to adjust from one task to another, and the time it takes to reset your brain from one set of rules to another set.

What does that mean in mom-life terms? The switch cost is the time it takes for my brain to adjust from setting the water to boil for the mac n’ cheese to re-reading the last sentence I wrote, and switching from the rules of cooking to the rules of writing.

That mental switch might seem to happen instantly, (and I would swear that it does). But, in reality, it does take time—maybe even one tenth of a second. But those microscopic tenths of seconds add up, especially if you’re spending your whole day jumping from task to task…to task to task.

So if multi-tasking isn’t as productive as I’d always believed, what’s the alternative? The answer may be as simple as single tasking, or focusing on one thing at a time and being wholly and completely present in that singular task, completing it, and then moving on to the next task.

There may be some exceptions. Psychology Today reports that “The only exception that the research has uncovered is that if you are doing a physical task that you have done very very often and you are very good at, then you can do that physical task while you are doing a mental task. So if you are an adult and you have learned to walk then you can walk and talk at the same time.” For me, I’m fairly sure I could fold laundry while also cooking mac n’ cheese.

But in other situations, maybe it’s time to admit multi-tasking isn’t working out.

To finish writing this essay, I made sure the kids were fed and dressed and sent them to the playroom to play. (They are old enough where they don’t need me to facilitate play at all times.) I turned my phone onto airplane mode and enabled the “do not disturb” function. And then I wrote.

It certainly took some retraining. My mind wandered and I stood up to water my plants. I reached for my phone—though found the self-control not to disable “do not disturb.” But I wrote. And I completed my essay. And then I called the plumber.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve toiled under the belief that multi-tasking is synonymous with productivity. I’ve been sure that if I’m not doing a few dozen things at once, then I’m not doing all that I could do. Even though it seems almost counter-intuitive—to do only one thing when I could be doing four—maybe it’s finally time to re-examine that long held belief. Maybe it’s finally time to admit that multi-tasking isn’t working out for me as well as I’d like. And maybe, more than that, it’s time to admit productivity isn’t the measure of success I’d always believed it needed to be.

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If Your Wife Starts Engaging In Self Care, Support The Hell Out Of Her

My wife Mel has been running lately, and I’ve noticed a few things. She looks pretty hot in running pants. But what I’ve noticed more than any physical stuff is that she’s taking more time for herself, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

She talks about her running goals. She fusses about her running shoes and her gear, and to be honest, this is the most I’ve seen her talk about herself and her own self-care since we had kids. She’s even suckered me into joining her on one of those social distancing 5Ks where everyone runs wherever they are on the same day and tracks themselves with an app.

Now listen, this is not a post where some husband talks about how his wife is working out and you all need to get in shape, children be damned. This is me saying that moms don’t take a lot of time to do things for themselves, and 90% of the reason they don’t is because they feel guilty about it, so when they do, it’s on us to make sure they feel supported.

There’s this notion built into most mothers’ DNA that tells them if they are not fussing over their children 24/7, they are doing it wrong. Then there is the judgment factor, and every mom wants to judge other moms for this or that, so it causes moms to burn the candle at both ends, never pausing for a moment to realize that their own needs are not being met.

I’m sure every mom reading this post can relate to those feelings.

A few years ago, Mel and I came up with an arrangement. We each would get three hours a week to ourselves, to do whatever we wanted. On Sunday afternoons, I’d usually go for a bike ride or work on writing. But when it was Mel’s turn, I usually had to fight her to break away from the family so she could go in the backyard and garden or go in our bedroom and read a book. For a long time, I didn’t understand this. Until one day when she mentioned that she has a difficult time breaking away, and taking time to herself didn’t feel as relaxing unless she had everything in order.

Naturally, with three kids, nothing will ever be in order, and she didn’t need to worry one bit about dropping her obligations to have some Mel time. But that didn’t matter, and every time Mel’s weekly time to herself came around, I had to remind her to take it. Only recently has it begun to sink in that she deserves this time.

I think most mothers struggle with these same feelings, and it doesn’t take much for them to feel guilty about taking time to themselves. One snide comment from their husband, one quid pro quo, one phone call to ask where something is, and they are shoved right back into the motherhood madness. And the reality is, mothers need time to not be mothers. They need time to be who they were before children, and one of the best things a husband can do to help them with that time is to be supportive of it.

Listen folks, if your wife mentions that she’s thinking of joining a gym, or taking up running, or cycling, or doing CrossFit, tell her to spend a little more on the better workout gear, or join the closer, nicer, gym; don’t squabble over the price. She knows the budget as well as you do. Pay for the competition entry fee and don’t call it a waste of money. Vocalize your encouragement in her journey.

If she decides she wants to join a book club or have a regular girls’ night with friends or start writing a book, put together a schedule, tend to the kids, and don’t complain about it.

And definitely don’t ask for favors in return.

It could be gardening, or blogging, or fixing up old cars, or scrapbooking, or meditation, or yoga, or sewing, or knitting… whatever it might be, support the heck out of her as she engages with it.

If you notice that your wife is starting to feel suffocated by spending all her time with those kids that won’t stop clinging and asking and wanting, work out a time for her to spend a few hours by herself. Then support her when she takes it, and don’t cave when the kids only want mom. Fight with those little buggers, and let them know that mom time is sacred time.

Above all, take all that guilt a mother feels for spending time and money on herself off the table and replace it with reassurance. Make sure that she feels comfortable making this a long lasting commitment to herself, and be with her for the long haul as she engages self care. Don’t become critical of it two weeks in; rather, still be encouraging of her 10 years out. View the time and money as an investment in her, your marriage, and your family, because that’s exactly what it is.

Trust me.

She will appreciate it, and honestly, after everything a mother gives to her family, she deserves it.

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Your 40s Are When You Outgrow Who You Were, And That’s Both Glorious And Scary

I was taking a photo of my chicken coop five years ago. The red siding came into focus and I clicked. Then clicked again. I felt something deep within me: a rush of darkness, a storm taking over my brain, a hotness in my face and heart. It was 16 days after my 40th birthday. My then husband was leaving for the weekend with our oldest while I was staying home with our two younger children. 

As he pulled out of the driveway I told him I didn’t feel right. “It’s mental, not physical. I don’t know what’s wrong.

Whatever it was, I figured I’d paint and bake my way out of it that night. But, here I am five years later feeling the same rush, the same hotness. It comes and goes — this low-level anxiety that makes me stop and ask myself what’s wrong. I can’t put my finger on it, but it stirs and stirs and makes me do things, like write my truth, say “no” more, crave wild sex, and give the illusion I’m holding it together.

I’m not. 

As soon as I turned 40, I slipped out of myself and was looking at this woman I didn’t recognize. She felt incredibly dissatisfied and restless. The things that once made her comfortable and content weren’t doing it for her anymore. She asked what I was going to do next with my life, because surely there was much more.

I felt incredibly guilty about that for a long time. I tried to keep doing what I was doing — being the best mother I knew how, baking cookies, getting together with my sisters and friends to talk about motherhood, acting as if everything was fine.

Deep down, though, it wasn’t. I was burning to have more, to do more, to shed some of my old self — yet I was afraid to let her go. I talked to my husband about the way I was feeling in the middle of the kitchen one morning, which made him late for work. I could tell by the look on his face that he didn’t know what I was saying. Not even a little bit.

I know he wanted to sum it up to a midlife crisis, but he knew me well enough to not go there. 

I’d heard about the “midlife crisis” my whole life — the purchasing of the new car, the affair, the divorce, the coming undone as others thought you’d lost your damn mind. 

But I believe this is simply the time when you outgrow your old self. At least that’s what happened to me. 

I also believe it’s not losing anything when you become a different version of you. It’s more about finding your true self.  And it’s okay.

My whole life, I always have been thinking in the back of my head, Is it okay that I’m here? Is it okay that I said that? Is it okay to be wearing this? Is it okay to really do this or that if no one else is? 

And if I do those things, and it is okay, will I still be okay? Will I still be comfortable or will I fuck up so badly my inner voice will say, I told you so, bitch.

Then, you turn 40 and you feel like you have wasted time wondering if it will all be okay; if you will be able to stay in a neat little package. You lose a lot of the feelings and caring what other people think, which is glorious. So you go for it, ya know? You really go for it.

But it’s also scary as hell because you don’t know what you are doing. You’ve always played it safe. And more times than not, this happens when you have been married for a long time and may be drifting from your partner. You may have kids who are older and more independent who don’t need you unless they want food or a ride.

For this reason, your 40s can be lonely. You are faced with strange feelings you’ve never had before. You may have a bit more time on your hands. You think about all the things that you want to do, things you haven’t done, but can. It’s overwhelming and exciting. You try to squash those thoughts and go on with regular life and it’s like you can’t.

It doesn’t feel like you, but it is you.

Honestly, I’ve found only women going through the same thing have any clue as to what I’m talking about, so I stick with them. They have been my saving grace — well, my friends and the wild sex and the writing. 

This person I am is so different than the person I was when I was younger. There are times when she makes me so uncomfortable that I want nothing more than to sink back into my old life. 

And I could do that. I could. But, if I did, I’d be throwing a lot of myself away. And my 40s are trying to tell me, Enough already, you’ve done that for too long. And you will be okay. 

It just takes some time before you believe it. 

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I’ve Been Living Like A Dude During During Quarantine

There are leaves blowing around inside my house right now. The other day, we went through the drive-through (something we’ve been doing a shit ton of lately) and my son wanted to bring his comforter with him for the car ride.

Now, normally this is something I would frown upon and tell him to leave his bedding on his bed where it will be free from grease and ketchup. But honestly, what else does this kid have to look forward to on any given afternoon right now? Not a whole hell of a lot.

I allowed it, and he did what I thought he was going to do: dragged it through the garage into the car and then back into the house, bringing some debris from outside along with it. You know, a few leaves, a couple sticks, some pine needles.

I literally don’t care. The scene on my floor reminds me of our drive on a sunny day and eating french fries in the parking lot.

The pandemic has changed my lifestyle. Maybe it’s because I’ve realized the importance of living in the moment. Maybe it’s because I’m in a house with my kids nonstop and I’m saving my energy for the battles that matter. I realize I have all the time in the world to do housekeeping or shave my legs, so there’s no rush.

But I think a bigger reason is I was so stressed in the beginning of this shitstorm that I used all my reserves, and the only way to get through this in one piece (for me) is to act more like a dude. 

My laundry is not as up-to-date as it usually is. My house is stocked with frozen pizzas, burritos, cookie-coated drumsticks, all the things to make nachos, and every kind of ramen you can imagine. 

I’ve always bought these things for my three kids on occasion, but reminded them to get some fruits, veggies, try and make a decent dinner every night, knowing it would all round out. But this is quarantine. We’re home all the time and aren’t sure when things will start getting back to normal, so if my son wants to reach for his leftover Dr. Pepper and heat up some chicken nuggets from our fast-food run last night, good for him. He deserves it. I simply cannot keep up with trying to do the right thing all the time. I’m even wondering what the hell the point is. 

My daily uniform has been a sweatshirt and a pair of underpants because it can be. Right now, I’m wearing my son’s sweatshirt because it’s the only clean one in the house. I’ve walked outside in my underwear more times than I can count since the stay-at-home order took effect in our state.

And the other day, I saw something on the news about how we should be replacing our toothbrushes every three weeks and I literally laughed. Our toothbrushes are fine since me and my kids haven’t seen another human in seven weeks and there’s no way I can begin to keep up with it all.

Oh, and when I get emails from my kids’ teachers letting me know they have missing assignments, I simply forward it to them and tell them to take care of it without breaking a sweat.

I almost don’t recognize myself, and my kids sure as fuck don’t recognize me. Gone is the uptight mom who checked up on them all the time and always felt like she had to shed light on everything by making things look shiny and new.

I simply do not have the energy to do anything except drink too much soda, belch when I want, and make more ramen because this is literally all the excitement I have right now. I do not have the bandwidth to try and make anything color-coded for my kids’ school days. I’ll be damned if I’m going to clean out a pantry and keep up with the laundry. Our wardrobe choices just expanded greatly and I’m gonna ride that wave. I’m not changing the toilet paper roll if I don’t feel like it because those things are not that big of a deal in the grand scheme of things. Whoever sits on the pot next and needs to wipe their ass can do it.

It’s liberating as fuck. 

Being a parent through this pandemic certainly doesn’t come with an instruction manual. From one day to the next, all I’m trying to do is survive my mood and do what I want in that moment, and this is what it looks like for me. 

I remind myself of my ex-husband very much, and you know what? I don’t hate it.

Somewhere along the line, society let moms know we were supposed to do it all: bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, then get it on with hubby at night to keep him happy even if we are stripped to the core. Oh, and don’t forget, taking care of the kids falls on our shoulders too.

I fell for that shit big-time, as do many women. We think someone needs to hold it together, and the heavy lifting is automatically assigned to us. Dudes don’t think that way — and, more importantly, they don’t feel the weight of judgment if they don’t come home from work and cook, clean, and get the kids ready for bed.

It’s a trend that keeps us perpetually overextended and stressed out. Bucking that trend has been fantastic even though it took a pandemic for me to see the light.

Yes, I want this to be over; yes, I care about my kids’ safety; yes, I want things to go back to normal. Maybe once this is all over, I’ll return to my anxious, uptight self — who knows? But for now, it feels good to not give a fuck about how many vegetables my kids have been eating and not double check everything they do.

I know for a fact that trying to be super productive, learn a new language, oversee all my kids’ school work, and tell my daughter that, no, her ducks cannot come in the house and walk around, will not be serving anybody in my family during this.

Right now, life looks like ice cream for dinner and microwave popcorn for a bedtime snack. It looks like an overflowing laundry basket and questionable wardrobe choices. This is me, being my best self in each moment and enjoying the freedom of not living up to anyone’s expectations but my own … and it’s working just fine.

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Moms Who Have Recovered From COVID-19 Have A ‘Strong Immune Response’ In Their Breastmilk

There’s a reason they call it liquid gold and we cry if we accidentally spill it after a 3 a.m. pumping session. Why we let ourselves become engorged, soak through our shirts at Thanksgiving dinner, and sit on a bench at the zoo on a 98-degree day wrangling a sweaty, hangry baby under our shirt. Breastmilk has got the goods, and even during this COVID-19 crisis when it seems the world has stopped spinning, we continue to learn more and more about its incredible value.

**Disclaimer: This article is in no way meant to shame mothers who do not breastfeed. Every mother should do what is best for her own mental and physical health. For a myriad of reasons that are no one’s business but hers, many mothers opt for formula, which is a perfectly safe means of feeding their baby.**

According to an article on Insider, NYC human milk immunologist (which sounds like the coolest job ever, tbh) Rebecca Powell is collecting and studying breast milk samples from lactating women, including those who may have been exposed to COVID-19.

To conduct her study, this mom of three (one of whom is still breastfeeding) puts on her mask and treks across New York City to pick up milk from other lactating women. One day she crossed three boroughs to collect a sample, which shows her level of commitment to this study.

Powell, who is an assistant professor of medicine and infectious diseases at Mount Sinai’s Icahn School of Medicine, safely collects her breastmilk samples via contactless delivery in order to research “whether breast milk helps protects babies from the disease, and whether components of the milk can help lead to a coronavirus treatment.”

Most moms already know that breastmilk contains natural antibodies to help infants fight off infection and disease, but how about during a worldwide health crisis like this one? Can we do more and learn more from the power of breastmilk?

“Antibodies are proteins created by the immune system to neutralize invaders like bacteria and viruses. In some cases, they can be used therapeutically, like for certain cancers or even to treat rabies in humans,” Insider explains. “Scientists have been studying those that respond to COVID-19 in blood for both testing and treatment purposes, but less attention has been paid to their power in human milk.”

But knowing how incredibly valuable and chock full of good stuff breastmilk is, why not pay more attention to it, especially right now?

Rebecca Powell and her team agree.

Their lab was already studying the antibody found in breastmilk that helps fight the flu, and were already researching how this antibody might protect infants after moms were vaccinated.

So when the coronavirus struck, it made sense for them to expand their research.

“It seemed obvious to me that everything we don’t know about flu is a million times more unknown and relevant about COVID-19,” Powell said. “I immediately felt the urgency to initiate a study.”

Published on May 8, her team’s preliminary study included 15 breast milk samples from women who’ve recovered from COVID-19 and 10 negative-COVID-19 samples taken from women before December 2019. And they found that 80% of the COVID-19 survivors had an antibody in their breast milk specific to the illness.

Again, liquid gold.

These findings tell Rebecca Powell that there is value in continuing her research on breastmilk and COVID-19 antibodies, especially since “breast milk antibodies are well-known to help protect babies from various diseases like measles while they’re too young to receive a vaccine, and breastfeeding is also associated with a lower risk of conditions including some gastrointestinal conditions, diabetes, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome,” Insider says.

Furthermore, breastmilk antibodies come in the IgA form, which means they are “designed to not fall apart when it’s in the baby’s mouth or stomach,” Powell says, who adds that the IgA form is “quite durable.” This means that breastmilk antibodies, more so than those that come in other forms, may allow them to hold up well “if used therapeutically, like through an IV.”

Powell’s study also furthers support for continuing to breastfeed, even through the pandemic. There is no evidence that the virus passed through breastmilk, and, in fact, has been proven to be an extra healthy boost for babies. Although the info we know about COVID-19 continues to evolve, the general policy from the American Academy of Pediatrics is to keep nursing, even through illness.

“Through breastfeeding, the infant will receive the antibodies that the mother is producing to fight the illness. Most infectious diseases are also not a cause for weaning or interruption. Generally, by the time a disease has been diagnosed, the infant has been exposed and will probably benefit more from the protection he gets from his mother’s breast milk than from weaning,” AAP states.

If, however, a breastfeeding mother does test positive for COVID-19 and quarantines away from her baby, the CDC encourages her to continue pumping and have someone else feed the milk to her child.

If the mother is not isolated away from the child, the CDC recommends the following:

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby
  • Wear a face mask, if possible, while feeding at the breast
  • Wash your hands before touching pump or bottle parts and clean all parts after each use

Unfortunately, despite such promising findings, major funding for breastmilk research continues to be scarce. Powell thinks this is because the topic of breastfeeding is so controversial, and sometimes even taboo. With our country’s abysmal maternity leave policies, so many women don’t breastfeed as they are forced to return to work within a few short weeks. Also, Insider explains, “it can be difficult to study and collect human milk, and there’s no single governing body to oversee those processes.”

But Powell used the best leverage she has—motherhood. As a breastfeeding mom who’s well-connected to other lactating moms in the community, she was able to network through personal relationships and find donors on social media. And, as shown on her Facebook page, she was willing to do the literal legwork and travel all over the city to collect the data she needed.

The word is out though, about how valuable this research can be as the world scrambles to find a treatment for COVID-19. Rebecca has already personally collected about 25 1-ounce samples from new moms who had COVID-19 and recovered. But even more promising is that she has approximately 1,500 people—including 400 who have already been infected—who have signed up to participate.

Even without massive funding, Powell knows she’s doing good, valuable work, as the simple act of “collecting milk samples during this pandemic can yield important epidemiological information in the future, aid researchers developing vaccines, and fill in important gaps in breast milk research.”

Just another kickass scientist mom getting shit done. As moms do.

If you’d like to help Rebecca Powell’s research study, you can contact her at: COVID19HumanMilkStudy@gmail.com.

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I’m A Type-A Mom, And This Is What Quarantine Life Has Taught Me So Far

Welcome to 2020. This year began with so much promise, as new years tend to do. It was the beginning of a new decade. It was a time for new promises to ourselves and our loved ones. We were all going to do better, be better this year. And as with most of these resolutions, by week two or three, most were out the window, either by accident or by lack of discipline.

I had made the promise to myself to eat better, slow down a little, and try to spend more time with my family. I knew it would be challenging, being a busy working mom of three children who were involved in extracurriculars and who had commitments to attending therapy multiple times a week. Weekends quickly became the time to get chores done, and just like that, my resolution to slow down was dissolved by the demands of life. I was stressed, my life was go-go-go, and I found myself taking out my frustrations on those around me. This year was not going the way I had planned.

And then, a few months into our year, I was suddenly forced to stop everything. Schools were closed. Businesses were closed. Parks and museums closed. Work came home indefinitely. Our family went from going our separate ways five days a week to being in one space every hour of every day. Just like that, sports ground to a halt, extracurriculars were no longer required, and therapy happened from the living room couch. Schedules were suddenly erased, as we had nowhere to go. As a planner, this could’ve easily been a nightmare.

I'm A Type-A Mom, And This Is What Quarantine Life Has Taught Me So Far
Courtesy of Robin Davis

I don’t know how you have been feeling about everything that’s been going on. But as for me and my anxiety, this pandemic has triggered fears about trying to keep myself and my family safe while also ensuring we have what we need, making sure that I am keeping my children entertained, and trying to navigate through the treacherous waters of homeschooling.

As with most things, it seems that my friends have it down pat — their children have taken to being at home and getting their schoolwork done around the kitchen table, while I struggle to help my nine-year-old answer a simple reading comprehension problem. I have no idea what the next day holds, no clue as to when things will get back to normal. And while I am still planning a Disney trip for my family for later this summer, I haven’t begun to acknowledge the anxiety that accompanies the unknown for those plans either. If I do, I might explode.

For type-A personalities, this pandemic could have been the worst thing ever to have happened. We have no control over most of the things that we want to be able to have a hand in. Plans are no longer relevant, and we are at the mercy of a highly contagious virus that is having its way with humanity.

But despite the anxiety I have about the unknown, there are a few things of which I am sure. While I can’t control what’s going on out there, I can control how I respond to it. I can control my attitude, which can help shape my children’s attitudes. I can control encouragement and gratitude for the things that we have, the resources we have, and the time we suddenly have. I can control how we spend this newfound time together.

While I can’t control whether or not a child might have a meltdown while trying to complete an “impossible” assignment, I can control how the school day schedule looks, giving my children choices about what they want to do and interjecting fun activities to break up the monotony of worksheets. I can control how much we get outside and explore our neighborhood. I can control how often I work out. I can control how much I show my love for my family during a time when not much else is certain.

I'm A Type-A Mom, And This Is What Quarantine Life Has Taught Me So Far
Courtesy of Robin Davis

Finding peace during this time can be a challenge, but it is also a choice we have to make. It is easy to let anxiety and worry overwhelm us. This is a scary time, and it’s okay to acknowledge that things are difficult right now. But it’s also on us to count our blessings, to realize what this time also brings for our society which is desperately needed right now. We have been forced to close. Earth, for the most part, is closed right now. Most of us have been forced to stop. And in this still, we can gain clarity about what is most important. We can learn to enjoy spending time with ourselves so that we can better appreciate spending time with each other.

We have learned that first responders, medical professionals, military personnel, and those who work in food services are valued and needed members of our society. Our country is literally in their hands right now. We have suddenly been made to understand how to be resourceful and creative with what we have. And we are starting to understand that there is a real difference between what is essential and what we can do without. In appreciating what we have, we can acknowledge that not everyone has what we so often take for granted. It’s time to give back to those less fortunate, to even the playing field so that everyone has a chance to live their best lives. It’s time to come together, to support each other, to love each other.

It’s about time.

I choose to spend this time slowing down, taking in every single day to enjoy for the sake of living in it. Our days are not meant to be counted down or wasted. Our days are not meant to be rushed through or scheduled down to the very last second. We have been given life, not without challenges, to enjoy to the fullest.

In these days of uncertainty, I will be certain to create memories with my family that will help my kids to remember this time, not for the stress it created, but for the adventures they experienced. I hope that this is a time that they will look back and remember the closeness we experienced as a family, playing together, eating together, just being together.

I'm A Type-A Mom, And This Is What Quarantine Life Has Taught Me So Far
Courtesy of Robin Davis

Whether it’s heading in for the beginning of a long shift in the ER; whether it’s checking in for the weekly meeting with your job while trying to keep your preschooler entertained; whether you are out of work and are trying to navigate unemployment for the first time; or whether you still have loads of work deadlines to meet while homeschooling your easily-distracted 3rd grader — my hope is that we all, despite our individual circumstances, can find some peace during this pandemic. That despite all the stress it has the potential to create within us, we can find a way to take our lives back, to remember that within each day is the promise of something amazing simply because we haven’t lived that day before and now we get to live it this day.

Life isn’t easy right now, nor should it be, but we can be in control of how we choose to approach each day. And there is no time like now, when all we have is time. Let’s make it count for something.

2020 isn’t over yet.

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7 Tips For Pursuing Your Dreams Even When You’re Busy AF

Yes, you have time.

As a soon-to-be mom of six, I hear you when you say that you wish you could start a new project or pursue a new goal but you’re just too busy to add one more thing to your plate. None of us have the time. I just finished writing a book, and the first thing most of my friends asked was, “How the f*ck did you do that?”

It’s a reasonable question. As well as being pregnant and taking care of five kids, I run a wedding business. My partner also works full-time as a financial advisor, and, like a pair of masochists, we have our children enrolled in a mind-boggling array of sports and activities.

So how would someone as busy as I am add something as time-consuming as writing a book onto my plate? I’m going to let you in on a little secret. I didn’t. It was impossible, so I did something that probably feels unthinkable to many moms out there. I started sliding other things off my plate to make room. My unbelievably understanding partner caught some of those things while others, like my personal appearance, fell to the wayside.

At home, I took a couple of months off from inviting people over in lieu of cleaning. I worked out less frequently, wore increasingly eccentric outfits as the laundry piled up and dinner mutated from Cordon Bleu to Cordon Bleurgh as I resorted to tossing a random selection of frozen goods into the oven at 6pm. Instead of making sensory boxes and practicing reading with my five year olds, I took them to indoor play centers with ball pits to catch E. coli while I ignored them and stared at my laptop.

It felt… awful. I was a bad mom, a bad partner, an absent friend, and my house was a health hazard. But after two months, I was suddenly an author. My book was being edited and I was able to start picking up where I had left off. My kids got their mom back, my hair got highlighted, and the house got decontaminated. The best part was that no one seemed to notice that it hadn’t always been that way.

The “How the f*ck did you do that?” questions seemed nothing short of bizarre at first, as it seemed so obvious to me. Had no one noticed me looking like a bag lady? My kids looking pale and plump from a lack of home-cooked meals? Apparently not, and you know why? Because no one else is judging you as hard as you’re judging yourself. The first time my kids noticed my sabbatical from parenting was when it ended and they were suddenly asked to eat vegetable stir fries and homemade shepherd’s pies again instead of chicken nuggets and carrot sticks. And let me tell you, they weren’t actually pleased.

In summary, moms of the world, I am here to tell you that you have time to do absolutely anything — you just don’t have time to do everything. More importantly, it isn’t selfish to take some time away from one area to apply it to your career or a goal that is important to you. Your kids will benefit from seeing you do this, even if you fail. Perhaps especially if you fail. They will also celebrate with you when you win.

Remind yourself that your children may well choose to model themselves on the choices that you make today. Do you want them to feel free to pursue their dreams when they grow up? Or do you want them to think they should squash themselves down inside in exchange for a Pinterest-perfect house?

So, let them see you soar, let them see you roar, and let them see you prioritize passion over a clean floor.

If you have a dream — and I hope you do — then here are my top 7 tips for finding time to chase it.

1. Schedule!

Look at your calendar and block off portions of time that you will spend working on your project. Commit to making those non-negotiable.

2. Use all the scraps.

Keep your laptop close and make use of all of the snippets of time that crop up during the day: waiting at the doctor’s office, the auto shop, or ballet class.

3. Read while driving.

Audiobooks, silly! Or podcasts. I studied the content of my book in the car as well as listening to motivational podcasts on book writing and marketing.

4. Make deadlines.

Have an accountability buddy and commit to sending them evidence of completed tasks within certain timeframes. I splurged on a coach, but this can be your bestie or your mom.

5. Let it go!

Keep Elsa in your head. Drop perfectionism, guilt, and self -doubt. You truly have no time for those. Also drop cleaning, cooking, and laundry for a while if needed. Everyone will survive.

6. Reward yourself.

We all need recognition for our hard work, but that isn’t easy to find in the early stages of a new project. Choose some milestones in advance, and pick a treat to enjoy when you reach each one. A pedicure, a box of chocolates, or some wine perhaps. You did a great job and you shouldn’t be afraid to pat yourself on the back.

7. Remember, it’s temporary.

When you’ve reached your goal, you will have more time again, whether that’s because you have freed yourself up or freed up cash to pay someone else to wash the floors. You won’t have a messy house forever, and you can go back to being super mom again when the time is right.

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An Open Letter To My Friends With Children

Whenever our group text pings with “___ sent an image,” I wait with anticipation for the rectangular box to fill with a black and white fuzzy image of a future person. A soon-to-be member of our ever-increasing friend family. I am flooded with emotions.

First, love. My chosen sisters, extensions of myself, friends that have grown with me for over half of my life, are expanding to love in new ways. Before the little ones are named or even have fingers and toes, I know that I will love them like members of my own family, protect them fiercely, fill with pride as they grow and learn, and spoil them as best I can.

I remember the first time I pressed a hand to a friend’s pregnant belly, tight with new life, amazed at its firmness and the promise it held. I remember thinking “I already love you, little one,” because how could I not? Their mother is a part of my heart. We were forged together wearing plaid skirts and knee socks, telling tales of first kisses and heartbreaks, painting our nails on bedroom floors, sharing illicit first sips of vodka and stale cigarettes behind small-town malls, standing at kitchen counters laughing our heads off until 3 am, and stuffing our faces with all manner of cheeses.

But I’m afraid, too. Every time a friend gets pregnant, I can feel her stepping back from me. The circle of friends with kids gets tighter. You ask each other for advice and bond over the milestones you’ve experienced together, things only moms can understand. I understand why this happens, and of course it should! I’m not in the mom club yet, and I may never be, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to be a part of your new experience.

Friends posing for photo
Courtesy of Katlyn Bennett

I’ll admit it — I started following mommy blogs when my friends started having kids. It’s something that I feel like I have to research to stay relevant, to have some kind of conversational “in” when the topics turn to baby-wearing, breastfeeding, and screen time. I feel like a fraud or a spy, peeking in on a world in which I don’t belong.

Living this childless life offers me some privileges that I know must be annoying to you. I don’t need a sitter to go out, I can wear regular bras, and don’t have to count the number of drinks I’ve had for any reason other than my own sobriety or lack thereof. Sometimes I feel ashamed about how easy my life must seem to you now. When you ask me how I’m doing, anything except “Fine!” must sound like I’m either bragging or ungrateful. I know that your lives are more complex and stressful than mine now that you have mini versions of you to care for in addition to your own worries and problems, and I can’t understand all of the emotional weight you carry. I know it’s impossible to understand until you have children of your own, but tell me about it anyway. I’ll always listen to your frustrations and joys, even if I don’t understand them.

True, I might get a little overwhelmed when the topic turns to effacement, vaginal tearing, or labor… but that’s only because these things terrify me. I don’t know if I’ll ever experience them, but if I do, I’d almost rather not know until they’re actually happening to me. But I know that your body is a mystery that you’re trying to solve, and I understand the need to puzzle through all the things happening inside you. Please never feel like you can’t talk to me about your pregnancy or your kids. I’ll never open a Snapchat or Instagram of one of your children and not squeal with delight. I look forward to scrolling through social media and seeing their adorable wisps of blonde, their chubby thighs, and hearing their exuberant giggles… it makes my heart explode every time.

When your babies grow older, I’ll be way cooler. I know how to talk to bigger kids; I’ll read them books, go with you to the zoo, hold their hands on long walks, and sing all the Disney songs that you’re probably tired of by now. I don’t want to wait until then to know them, though. At our get-togethers, be patient with me. If I’m hesitant to hold your baby, it’s because I don’t feel like I’m good at it. I see the ease with which you sling your little love up on your hip or over your shoulder, and I feel like a football player walking a tightrope. I want to be better, so coach me. I won’t be offended if you tell me to shift positions, or not to hold them in one way or another… because even if I look a little awkward holding your infant, I still want to be there for you and for them. I might not be a new mom myself, but I’m learning too, how to be helpful and not distancing, how to show you (and them) in new ways how important you are to me.

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