We all know kids are little sponges. They just absorb everything that’s around them — from our words to our actions to how we talk about and treat others. (Confession: I remember the first time my daughter cussed when she couldn’t get a snack out of the package, and I was like — whoops — I need to watch my language there!) And, most of the time, here on Fit Bottomed Girls, we share a lot of tips on how to improve your relationship with your body, your workouts, and your food, so that your kids naturally have a positive,…

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When you become a new mom everything changes. Like, EVERYTHING. With your world turned so upside down it can be easy to put your own nutritional needs aside, but it’s a really, really important time to make sure that you’re getting the nutrients and the fuel that you need — especially if you’re breastfeeding and/or getting back into your workouts. To help with that, we’re sharing this guest post on nutrition for new moms from Kim Daly Farrell, a certified health coach, former magazine editor, fitness fanatic, and mom to Keane and Julia. Kim has worked for national media outlets,…

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when to start eating baby foodBabies can’t live off milk forever. Eventually they must join the rest of us in eating solid food. But how should it happen?

The baby food industry has everyone fooled. You don’t need them. There’s actually more research that goes into commercial pet food than commercial baby food. For all its faults, dog and cat kibble at least has to adhere to certain nutrient standards. Commercial baby food is just random stuff blended up with enough pear or banana to taste sweet. And I’m not saying there’s something wrong with pears or bananas or green beans or whatever else they blend up and throw in those pouches. I’m just saying it’s not enough. You can do so much better with a little thought and innovation.

It’s not as hard as people think. I mean, these are people we’re feeding. Small people, but people. If you can feed yourself, you can feed a kid. If you’re reading this blog, you’re probably feeding yourself nutrient-dense whole foods. Well, do the same thing for your baby only in smaller portions and using different textures. Because there are limitations:

Babies starting solids generally don’t have teeth.

Babies starting solids are only used to drinking fluids. They have to get used to an entirely different state of matter.

Babies starting solids have yet to fulfill their genetic intelligence potential. In other words, they are completely useless.

So you can’t just throw a steak down in front of your seven month old and be done with it. You need a little more care. Here’s when and how to do it:

When to Start Solids

A good rule of thumb is to start a baby on solids when he or she begins showing interest in solid food. Don’t force it on them. Let it develop organically. However, don’t offer any solids before six months regardless of interest. Exclusive breast milk (or formula, if that’s what you’re doing) is that vital.

Some people will recommend that you supplement a “slow-growing” breastfed infant with solid food at four months or so, but I think that’s a mistake. According to the WHO’s birth charts, breastfed babies grow more “slowly” but this is normal. They grow as they’re supposed to grow, not as the solid foods are dictating. In its own FAQ, the CDC recommends against using the CDC growth chart for breastfed babies and admits that the WHO chart shows how “infants should grow rather than simply do grow.”

6 Developmental Signs of Readiness for Solids

Your baby may be ready for solids if she:

  1. Is at least six months of age
  2. Can sit up in a high chair unassisted
  3. Has doubled her birth weight
  4. Has lost the tongue-thrust reflex (if she doesn’t automatically spit out food placed on her tongue)
  5. Shows interest in what you’re eating
  6. Opens her mouth when food comes near her face

Tip: don’t start solids if your baby has a cold. Stuffy noses can make it hard to coordinate breathing and moving food around the mouth, and it may alter the taste of foods, turning your baby off to something she might otherwise like.

She’ll Have What You’re Having

You can drop a few hundred bucks on the infant food machine and refillable pouches and spend hours each week manufacturing your own goops and purees, or you could let your kid nibble on what you’re having for dinner. After all, you’re eating good, nutrient-dense food yourself, right? It’s probably perfect for your baby.

Don’t let me dissuade you from making your own goop. That works for many parents and it’s a great way to fine-tune exactly what your baby is getting. But it’s not the only way.

Start Small

Early solids are complementary, they cannot replace breast milk. Always nurse or feed milk before offering solids; that way your baby doesn’t fill up on food and reject the milk he needs. This also auto-regulates how much food the baby will eat.

Keep Nursing

Breastmilk isn’t just food. It’s also rich in immunoregulatory components that shape and guide the infant’s immune system. Feeding breastmilk as you introduce solid foods (in the same meal) will help your baby learn to tolerate the foods and reduce the risk of allergies.

The Perfect First Food

Here’s the official line:

Give rice cereal as the first complementary food. Make sure it’s fortified with iron, because iron-fortified rice cereal is the only way for an infant human to obtain the iron he desperately needs to grow and thrive.

Does that sound ridiculous to anyone else?

You know what else has iron? Meat. Sardines. Egg yolks. Liver. There are hundreds of foods with more and better iron than rice cereal. If a food has to be fortified with certain nutrients to become suitable in an infant’s early complementary diet, it’s not the perfect first food. Turns out that if you had to choose just one, meat is probably the most important early complementary food in an infant’s diet. In one landmark study, meat-eating breastfed infants had larger heads, better zinc statuses, and better behavior at 12 months than cereal-eating breastfed infants.https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22624294/‘>2https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17592956/‘>1 Fat adults experience street harassment and job discrimination.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6311448/‘>3 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4381543/‘>5

Of course we want our children to grow up healthy and happy, liked by their peers, and accepted by society. We’ll jump at the chance to help them avoid pain whenever possible. Parents who operate from a place of fear usually try to fit their kids to the cultural ideal, which is just as unrealistic for most kids as it is for adults. The better, more sustainable option is to operate from a place of love and acceptance, helping your kid feel good in their current body.

What if I am Really Concerned About My Child’s Health?

If you are genuinely concerned that your child is developing unhealthy habits, please seek out expert guidance from childhood nutrition and movement experts who are also versed in childhood eating disorders. A lot of eating disorders start in childhood when well-intentioned parents put their kids on diet and exercise programs in the name of health.

Body Image is Always a Work in Progress

Prepare yourself for many bumps in the road. As kids grow and their bodies change, they will come up against new challenges. Their peers’ bodies will change at different rates and in different ways than theirs. Even if you try to innoculate them early, they will confront unreasonable beauty standards and diet talk as they engage more with media and as their friends do the same.

You’ll be working on “body stuff” for as long as you parent. Keeping the lines of communication open is one of the best ways to help your kid navigate their way through tricky body image issues. Let them know they can come to you with their insecurities and fears, confident that you will listen without judgment.

Give Yourself the Same Gift of Working on a Healthy Body Image

No parent looks down at their precious newborn and thinks, “I can’t wait to pass all my hang-ups and insecurities on to you.” Somehow, we believe we can instill a healthy body image in our kids, then turn around and hate on our own bodies. That’s some magical thinking right there.

You have to walk the talk. Do you trust your body’s signals and allow yourself to respond with food, rest, or movement as needed? Do you move for pleasure or punishment? Do you speak to yourself with kind words or harsh criticism?

Put on your own oxygen mask before helping someone else, right?

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parental burnout parent overwhelmLast year, an article in the New York Times described “The Relentlessness of Modern Parenting.” That word struck me at the time and has stuck with me ever since. Speaking as a mom of two, the expectations and pressures weighing on parents can indeed feel relentless.

It’s not enough to keep our children clothed and fed, get them to school, and take the occasional family vacation. Parents today should provide optimal nutrition from birth and ensure that kids have the best educational opportunities. We’re told to enroll them in sports, extracurriculars, and tutoring to give them a competitive edge for college, then we’re obliged to volunteer as assistant coach, snack mom, and classroom parent. By the way, you’re already saving money for college, right?

Don’t forget, we’re also in charge of arranging playdates, monitoring screen time, and searching Pinterest for unique birthday party ideas and fun hijinks for the Elf on the Shelf.

No wonder parents are succumbing to burnout.


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What is Parental Burnout?

For academics, the term parental burnout has a specific meaning. In 2018, Belgian researchers developed the Parental Burnout Assessment, which comprises four factors:https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/2167702619858430‘>2


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Risk Factors for Parental Burnout

Some of the factors that make a parent more vulnerable to burnout are:

  • Holding themselves to unrealistic standards
  • Difficult family situations due to socioeconomic pressures, strain with co-parents, or children with special health or developmental challenges, for example
  • Not wanting to be a parent in the first place
  • Lack of social support, not having a “village”
  • Personality traits like neuroticism, general lack of coping skills

Is Parental Burnout an Especially Modern Phenomenon?

Since research into parental burnout is fairly new, there’s no longitudinal data that speaks directly to this. Intuitively, though, it feels like parents today must experience more burnout than previous generations.

Parenting is continually evolving. Both mothers and fathers spend considerably more time interacting with their kids than they did 50 years ago.https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/‘>4 The financial cost of raising a child continues to rise. Social media presents a host of new challenges—cyberbullying, mommy wars, and FOMO, oh my!

More to the point, parents face social pressure to be constantly “on” like never before. Sociologists refer to this as intensive parenting, so named by Sharon Hays in her 1996 book The Cultural Contradictions of Motherhood. Parents, especially mothers, are expected to invest heavily in their children, devoting nearly unlimited time, emotional energy, and money to parenting. Intensive parenting holds that parents are responsible for managing every aspect of kids’ lives, preventing all manner of potential harm, and ensuring the best possible outcomes for their children.

Clearly, these standards are unattainable for many—perhaps most—parents. In particular, wealth heavily impacts the types of opportunities parents can access for their kids and the amount of time they can devote to parenting. Yet parents across the spectrum endorse intensive parenting ideals.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs10826-019-01607-1‘>6 Not surprisingly, intensive parenting beliefs are associated with greater stress, depression, anxiety, and guilt for mothers.https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5298986/‘>8 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6019475/‘>10 That doesn’t take into account extenuating circumstances such as having a child with chronic illness, which is known to increase parental stress.https://link.springer.com/chapter/10.1057/9781137304612_2‘>12 https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2015/12/17/parenting-in-america/‘>14 At least one study found that mothers and fathers experience parental burnout at the same rate.https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11199-020-01121-5‘>16

Are Primal Parents Especially at Risk?

I’ve been going back and forth on this. On the one hand, isolation and lack of social support are huge risk factors for burnout, and parenting outside the norm can feel lonely. Repeatedly explaining—and defending—your choices to family members, pediatricians, teachers, and fellow parents can be exhausting, especially when they challenge you and call your parenting into question.

On the other hand, Primal parents may be more comfortable with the idea of free-range parenting—exempting ourselves from the pressures of intensive parenting and opting instead for a more relaxed, less “helicopter-y” style. For these parents, I’d expect burnout to be considerably lower.

Pandemic Burnout

Not to ignore the elephant in the room, parenting through a pandemic takes the notion of parental burnout to a whole other level. It’s terribly hard to rely on our villages while adhering to social distancing guidelines. The stress of trying to keep everyone safe, working from home, and carving out time for ourselves can become overwhelming.

Ironically, though, the pandemic and lockdowns probably alleviated burnout for some parents. We’ve been forced—or rather, given the opportunity—to slow down and spend more time with our kids. In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association at the end of May, 82 percent of parents said they were grateful for this extra time.https://psycnet.apa.org/record/2014-35159-001‘>18 So, how about we all try to stop holding ourselves, and each other, to unrealistic standards that make us miserable, okay?

Stop parenting on social media

Another big one. Don’t spend valuable time and energy curating a parenting facade on social media. More importantly, stop following people who make you feel “less than” in comparison. You don’t need to compete with other parents to see whose kid is having the most magical childhood. Keep your eyes on your own paper.

Get help

You deserve to feel good about yourself as a parent, period. If you don’t, whether it’s because you are overwhelmed or need help developing effective parenting tools, don’t wait until you’re totally underwater. Ask for help now.

Burnout isn’t an inevitable consequence of modern parenting. Many parents shield themselves from the weight of the expectations and find everyday joy in raising their small humans. It’s not easy… but nothing about parenting is, is it?

I usually end by asking for feedback, but today I’d just like to offer a virtual high-five, fist bump, or hug to my fellow parents out there. Parenting is tough, but you’re tougher! You’ve got this.

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There are a lot of ways to make a difference and fight for social and racial justice. And, as parents, one of the biggest things you can do is to do the work yourself — and then make sure you’re talking to your kids about it, too. To help with that — and to specifically address the unconscious bias that we all have — we have an exclusive Q&A with the international, award-winning diversity and inclusion speaker and expert Risha Grant. As Risha says: We don’t have diversity problems; we have people problems. “And we have to dismantle the system…

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distance learningHi, everyone, Lindsay here. As a parent of school-aged kids, the upcoming school year is front and center in my mind. Like you, I’m trying to figure out how to make distance learning work for my family. Before starting today’s post, I want to acknowledge that everyone’s situation is different. Family structures, finances, support systems, living arrangements, access to technology, and employment all affect how we’ll approach this upcoming school year. Not to mention, our kids have unique needs, strengths, and challenges.

There is no one-size-fits-all solution. A lot of parents are facing tough dilemmas. Their school districts’ solutions simply aren’t workable for them for various reasons, sometimes reflecting larger societal issues. While I’m going to offer some simple, concrete steps and encouragement, I also don’t want to minimize the challenges that some people are facing. I’d love for other parents/caregivers to join the discussion in the comments and let us know how you’re juggling everything.

The new school year is almost upon us, and I’m sure I’m not the only parent who feels like my head has been spinning for five months. After being thrown into distance learning in March, school districts are still scrambling to figure out what’s happening this fall. Teachers and parents are rightfully worried about how to balance seemingly un-balanceable interests: educating our kids, supporting working parents, making sure all kids have equal learning opportunities (always an issue), maintaining kids’ socioemotional wellbeing, and allowing schools to stay funded, all while protecting the health and safety of students, their families, teachers, and staff.

What a mess. It turns out that living through a global pandemic is hard and exhausting.

In the U.S. at least, many of our kids aren’t going back to school, not physically. Certainly, none of our kids is going back to anything like the school they knew before. Some of us are lucky enough to have options—distance or hybrid learning, co-ops, charters, or homeschooling. Others are going to have to go with whatever their district decides. This post is aimed primarily at parents/caregivers whose kids are distance or hybrid learning, but it also applies if you’re choosing a different route instead.


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Start By Taking Stock

Get a notebook and pencil, call a family meeting, and:

1. Decide What You Want to Accomplish This Year

This isn’t about making a concrete plan so much as a general mission statement for your family. What will allow you to feel like this year was a success? What do you need to do to protect the mental health and happiness of the people in your household?

Since we’re all being thrust into something new anyway, it’s the perfect time to pause and consider what’s most important when it comes to your kids’ education. What, and how, would you really like your kids to learn? Given their druthers, what topics would they choose to pursue? Some families are choosing to homeschool this year, seizing the opportunity to try something completely different. On the other hand, if you have a high schooler on track to apply for academic scholarships, perhaps staying on that path is your top priority.

For some families, managing their kids’ social and emotional wellbeing is going to come before academics this year. Maybe you’ll do your best to go with the flow of whatever your district is offering, but let go of all expectations about grades, schedules, and getting dressed every day.

There are no right or wrong answers here, but it’s important that everyone is on the same page.

2. Identify Your Village

Even with social distancing, there are ways we can support one another. Make a list of all the people who can be there for you this year, and vice versa. Then, start to rally the troops.

Do you have grandparents or aunts and uncles who can take an hour or two per week to read or do homework over Skype? What skills and talents do your friends and family members have that they could sharethings like organizing cooking, music, art, or science lessons? Do your friends have high school or college-age kids who can tutor or babysit (safely, of course)?

Some families are creating “learning pods” with a few other families. The kids band together and do schoolwork, while the parents share the load. Perhaps this is feasible for you. Otherwise, maybe you organize standing Minecraft playdates or a movie or book club so your kids can socialize, and you can get your own work done.

Don’t forget about yourself. Who will you talk to when you feel overwhelmed? How will you get breaks when you need them?

3. Budget Your Finances AND Your Time

Lay it all out there. Realistically, how much time can you spend monitoring your kids’ schoolwork? If you have a partner or co-parent, decide how you’ll partition your time. Figure out what you’ll need from your village. Be honest about how much both you and your kids will be able to accomplish.

If your kid is expected to be on the computer from 9 to 3, and that’s simply not going to happen, contact their teacher and ask for accommodations. Better yet, propose an alternative that is realistic for your family. If you’re working from home, explore whether you have flexibility with your hours. There might be a way to start earlier and take two-hour lunch breaks, for example. Make sure to ask if your employer is offering childcare subsidies, which can often go to a family member who helps watch your kids.

Figure out how much money you have available to spend on school this year. For us, rec sports are canceled, so those registration fees bought a not-too-expensive laptop for schoolwork. (By the way, laptops and Chromebooks are in high demand already. Get yours now.)

If you have more time than money, maybe you are the person who can coordinate the learning pod or organize used book swaps if the library is closed. If you have more money than time, you might sign your kids up for online classes and extracurricular activities, or hire a tutor to help with challenging subjects. Sites like Outschool and Coursera offer all sorts of classes your kids might enjoy.

Connect to Homeschoolers

Homeschoolers have the most experience making home learning work. Although homeschooling is different from distance learning, I bet you’ll feel much more confident after reading a few blogs or talking to your friends who homeschool.

Here are some things I’ve learned from homeschooling friends:

  • Daily schedules work great for some families, but they aren’t mandatory for success. Likewise, if you have room to set up a designated classroom area in your home, great. The couch works too. Whatever system works for your family is fine, and you should do it without guilt. Who cares if your kids sleep till 10 and are doing classwork at 7:30 p.m. under the kitchen table if that’s your rhythm (and they aren’t sleeping through all their Zooms)?
  • There are tons of free online resources available to help kids learn. We aren’t stuck with whatever the schools give us if our kids need more.
  • Even seasoned homeschoolers will tell you that it’s hard. The struggle is real, and it doesn’t mean you are failing.
  • Pretty much everything our kids do during the day—reading, watching videos, playing Lego, coloring, digging in the garden—counts as learning. Going for walks is PE. Don’t feel extra pressure to fill every minute of their school day with activities that look like “work.” All of us Primal parents probably know this, but it’s easy to forget when we’re so focused on schoolwork.
  • You can prioritize. Most homeschoolers, and even elementary school teachers, don’t teach every subject every day. They do math and language arts most days, though. Practice and repetition are important in these subjects. “Lessons” can include math games, doing mental math problems in the car, reading to your kids and having them read to you, watching read-along videos on YouTube, and so much more. (Talk to your kids’ teachers if their daily assignments aren’t manageable, too.)
  • Let your kids’ interests guide some of their choices. If they are reading the Percy Jackson novels, check out documentaries or podcasts on world mythologies, or virtually visit museums to see ancient Greek art. For your science lover, grab an inexpensive pocket microscope and encourage them to keep a science notebook documenting their discoveries. Teachers Pay Teachers offers enrichment activities for almost any subject, plus decorations and organizers for your home “classroom.”

If you don’t know any homeschool families, look on Reddit and Facebook. More than likely, you’ll find a local homeschooling group or one that focuses on your kids’ specific needs.

Give Yourself and Your Kids Plenty of Breaks

I mean this literally and figuratively. During the day, allow for plenty of downtimes. Let kids move between tasks and take mental breaks. Even in school, they really aren’t doing focused work for long periods, especially in the lower grades. There will be no getting away from screens this fall, but I’ll be encouraging my kids to walk away regularly.

You need breaks, too. Kids of any age can take 20 to 30 minutes of quiet time in their bedrooms in the afternoon so you can take a breather.

Also, give everyone plenty of grace, yourself included. We’re living through a pandemic. Everyone is coping with grief and pandemic fatigue right now, even if we aren’t labeling it as such. Some days won’t be great. There will be tears. Tasks will not get completed on time. Some nights, dinner will be cheese and (almond flour) crackers with baby carrots if we’re lucky. Laundry will sit in the basket unfolded. It’s ok.

Remember: This is Temporary, and We’re All Doing the Best We Can

I know the advice to do your best sounds so trite to anyone facing decisions that feel impossible. Still, what else can we do?

So many parents are stressing about their kids falling behind. Maybe I’m being naïve, but I’m not too worried about that. It’s not that my kids are exceptionally resilient or anything, but nothing about this year is going to be “normal.” Trying to hold ourselves to previous school years’ standards is unrealistic and unfair. 

Also, kids are resilient. When all this is over, and the dust starts to settle, it’s going to be a whole new educational landscape. Everyone is going to have to catch up in one way or another. We will figure it out.

If your kid is having a hard time with the social isolation, or because they have learning challenges that their schools are not accommodating at home, I’m not blithely telling you not to worry. It stinks that so many families are struggling, and that existing inequities are being magnified by distance learning. I’m saying that none of us needs the added pressure of trying to recreate a typical school year during exceptional times.

Look for Silver Linings

We’re understandably focused mostly on the challenges that come with distance learning, but it can also have its advantages. Many kids are actually thriving at home. For some who were struggling socially or academically, distance learning has been a welcome change. A lot of us parents are reexamining our priorities and finding that we are excited to teach our kids in different ways. There is, for some families, a distinct silver lining.

Gratitude can be an excellent coping tool during stressful times. Can you think of three things that you appreciate about distance learning? Ask your kids to weigh in. My kids would say: working at their own pace, sleeping in, pants are optional. Revisit your list every couple of months and see what you can add. You might find gratitude for new connections in your homeschool pod, or for being there to witness your child’s aha moment when she mastered cross-multiplication.

Hang in there, friends.

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There A LOT of unknowns right now when it comes to school. And, if we parents are stressing this much, imagine how our kids are feeling. That’s why we got with moms and educators, Amanda Kopischke and Angela Anderson who co-founded Incubate to Innovate, to help give us all some tips on how to equip our families for resilience, no matter what happens in the coming weeks. Amanda and Angela crated Incubate to Innovate to give educators innovative pedagogical practices and tools to transform teaching and learning experiences and environments. They offer coaching and extensive resources around their ChangeMaker Mindsets…

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From COVID-19 to fighting for racial justice, right now stress is high for all of us — including our kids. While we encourage you to continue having necessary conversations with your children about racism and COVID-19 often (recent Sesame Street specials can help if you don’t know where to begin — get them here and here), it’s also important to help yourself and your kids to self-care by giving them tools to manage big feelings (and the awareness from us that those big feelings may manifest differently in our kids’ behaviors than they do in ours). To help us with…

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