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In early 2015, TODAY launched a new online community — the TODAY Parenting Team — with this simple idea in mind: We’re all in this together.
Anyone was — and still is! — welcome to join this supportive community of moms and dads who are experiencing the highs, lows, thrills and challenges of raising children. Anyone is free to share their parenting advice and questions and find help and encouragement here.
As the year unfolded, thousands of parents wrote candid blog posts in response to our TODAY Parenting Team challenges. These responses exceeded anything we could have anticipated. All year long, moms and dads have been making us cry, swoon, blush — and, best of all, die laughing. We’ve compiled some of the TODAY Parenting Team’s greatest hits of 2015 here.
In the year ahead, please, please, please join in this ongoing conversation by becoming a member of our TODAY Parenting Team, and stay connected to TODAY Parents updates on our Facebook page. We always want to hear from you, and we really are listening!
Babies can kick your butt — but it's soooo worth it
1. "The 3 a.m. struggle is real." (The Sparkly Life)
"It seems impossible at 3 a.m. when you are this exhausted, but you know that there will be a day when you will yearn for this. Maybe he'll be at sleep-away camp. Maybe he'll be at college. Maybe he'll be an ornery teenager who just wants you to get the hell out of his room. Someday, one night will be the last night you'll ever rock him at 3 a.m. and you won't know it's the last night until it's gone."
'Me time' isn't selfish time!
2. Remember that you're a mom, not a martyr. (Danielle Campoamor)
"Mothers need to be reminded that their personal happiness will only aid their family, for it is their laughter and prosperity and exhilaration that can create an environment their family is sure to thrive in. Mothers need to be assured that having something outside of their families — a hobby, a career, baby-free friends, a moment of celebrated silence — is not only something that is vital to their mental and physical well-being, but something they just plain deserve."
3. View exercise as a mini-vacation. (Lisa Maxwell)
"This is a huge stress reliever for me. I literally run away from my problems. ... I listen to music and have some time to zone out, by myself, and nothing else matters. I also love to do yoga — nothing like a good backbend to make you feel like you're young and yourself again!"
4. But don't overthink exercise or make it too complicated. (Angie Goff)
"Sometimes I go to the gym and I just row on the row machine with my eyes closed for 15 minutes. Then I'll spend another 15 doing more cardio or strength training weights. It's actually relaxing even though my body is working. Truth is, the exercise is never intense ... just enough to get the blood flowing. Even then, sometimes I just don't wanna go. Then I remind myself of one thing: 'I'm just 30 minutes away from a better mood!'"
5. Hey moms! Go hang out with your girlfriends more often! (Jennifer Lizza)
"They make you laugh and if for some reason you are going to cry, they will hug you and give you wine. They understand you. They love you for who you are; not who you think you should be. Be silly with them. Be there for them. Life is so much better when you surround yourself with people who get you."
Our moms taught us the greatest lessons
6. The secret to less stress: WWMMD? (Jen Hatmaker)
"Here is my trick for keeping the joy and losing the stress: What would my mom do? What would my mother do? Drink Tab and lock us outside. Your kids don't need to be entertained and they don't need to be bubble-wrapped; they just need to be loved."
7. My mom taught me to keep my word as a dad. (Doyin Richards)
"Do you want to know the quickest way to piss off my mom? Tell her you're going to do something and don't follow through. After being raised in her household, I'm now the same way, and I'm raising my kids to be accountable. Granted, they're too young to grasp this concept completely, but I keep every promise I make to them. If I tell my daughter that we'll watch 'Frozen'together at 7:00 p.m. and the basketball game I was enjoying goes into overtime, I'll just have to 'let it go' and watch Elsa freeze up her damn kingdom for the 13,035th time."
8. "More than anything, she has taught me how to be a mother." (TODAY Correspondent Jenna Bush Hager)
"Cuddled up reading every night, my mom taught me the love of books. As a little girl, we spent evenings dancing in our front hallway to the Pointer Sisters' 'Fire': Barbara, my mom (Laura Bush) and me locked arm-in-arm. She taught me that uninterrupted fun, even in its simplest form, creates lasting memories. Later as a teenager, she took me rafting down the Grand Canyon and I experienced her passion for the outdoors through her eyes as we camped under the brilliant stars. In college she encouraged my affinity for teaching, and she brought Barbara and me along as she and my dad traveled to Africa. She held women living with HIV and told me — in her gentle way — that it was my responsibility to do something about it."
9. My mother showed me what love means. (Glennon Doyle Melton)
“You taught us that what matters is love, and that love is relentlessly showing up for your people. ... And we will always remember that the most world-changing work we can do is this: We can live in a way so that our children will be able to say, Not one moment of my life did I wonder if I was adored. Never, ever did I feel alone.”
There are so many rock-star dads out there
10. There are dads who play with dolls. (Jill Simonian)
"He plays dolls with a super-squeaky-super-funny-kinda-creepy voice, can give the most industrial-strength toddler bath ever, carves a most wicked jack-o-lantern and sometimes rocks a princess crown arguably just as well as both our daughters."
11. And dads who do diapers — and teach roller skating. (Beyond Mommying)
"He cleans, he changes diapers, he watches the kids so I can work or go out, he does laundry, he builds blocks with them, he takes them bike riding, he teaches them life skills and respect, he chases them around and he showers them with hugs and kisses."
12. And dads who faithfully do story time. (Manic Pixie Dream Mama)
"He reads them dinosaur book after dinosaur book, and patiently answers, over and over, what the biggest dinosaur was."
13. And dads who rock out (to Katy Perry, too!) (Momsanity)
"On the nights that he's on bath duty, he puts on his iTunes playlist and turns it up. Way up. From the very first chords of Rush's 'The Temples of Syrinx,' my son lets out an excited squeal and runs straight to his dad. Often, he'll get there and say, 'Wait a minute! I forgot something!' then race back into the living room to grab his guitar ... aside from Rush, we're talking Slayer, Iron Maiden, Baby Metal, Joan Jett, Bob Marley and Katy Perry."
Time-honored tactics exist for maintaining perspective and contentment
14. 'Don't neglect yourself.' (Jennifer Swartvagher)
"Know your own limits, and if you are starting to feel overwhelmed, focus on your own needs for a little bit. Run yourself ragged, or push yourself too far, and things start to fall apart in a hurry. Spend some time each day doing something entirely for you. If you need to, get up a half hour early or stay up a half hour later each day to exercise, watch television or curl up on the couch with a cup of tea. A hot shower or an uninterrupted bubble bath can do wonders."
15. 'Fill yourself up.' (Molly Jones / The Enlightened Mama)
"If you don't have it, you can't share it. That's right, not just material objects, but energies and emotions too. How can I give joy away to the people in my household if I don't hold joy within? Do whatever you need to do to get the inside right and a happy home life will be yours for the keeping. Exercise, time with friends, time with your spouse, a good book, a reality TV indulgence — whatever fills you up, do that."
16. By scrapping your own agenda, you actually might get more done. (Chrissy K)
"It is hard to let go of our own agenda and goals for the day and let the needs of our children dictate what we accomplish. I have discovered that all the same responsibilities will await me the next day and when I allow the day to unfold organically, and with adjusted expectations, I accomplish everything I set out to do."
17. Do the five-year test. (Anna Angenend)
"Five years from this moment, how important will what I accomplished today seem? Will I be glad I responded to all of my e-mails with remarkable promptness? Not likely. Will I remember the day I took my daughter for a walk to nowhere in particular and watched as she assisted a pill bug back onto his legs and wished him safe travels home? Most definitely!"
18. "Get it on!" (Lisa Maxwell)
"Yes, in the words of Marvin Gaye, take time and get it on! Nothing like the best cardio ever to de-stress you! Sex is a natural stress reliever, so why not? Share the stress, bond with your partner, get under the covers and get busy! It's a win-win!"
19. Get comfortable! (Amanda Mushro)
"Take some time for yourself to relax. Maybe do some yoga, or just wear yoga pants. To be honest, both make me feel really zen."
Feeling beautiful is a good thing
20. With some advance thought, parents can help their kids feel beautiful. (The Nomad Mom Diary)
“I find my five and a half year old standing on the stepping stool and staring at her underwear-clad body in the mirror. ‘I tilted it down and now I can see my whole body,’ she exclaims as she twists side to side and smiles at her reflection. She flexes her arm and comments on her growing muscle. ‘I’m super strong.’ To my eyes she is perfect. She is perfect in her own eyes as well. Someday, though, someone will tell her that she is not perfect. ... Someone is going to come in one day and change the way my daughter sees herself forever.”
21. With some advance thought, parents can feel beautiful themselves. (Mothering the Divide)
"We shared a knowing look. The look women share when we really understand one another. And I felt at peace, for the moment, with my body. ... I vowed to myself, there in that kitschy water park, that I won't ever sit on the sidelines again. I won't deny a pool date because I don't want to wear my bathing suit."
Mom judging is real — and painful — but it can be overcome
22. Recognize what mom judging is really about. (Dr. Shefali Tsabary, clinical psychologist, author and mom)
"Don't use your children to fill your inner lack. This is not their war. Don't use them to finish your unfinished inner business. I think this mommy judgment comes from a place of inner scarcity, inner lack."
23. Don't be so incredibly hard on yourself. (TODAY Parenting Team Editor Rebecca Dube)
"My harshest mommy judge is me. ... If I can be kinder to myself, that gives me the strength to be kinder to others."
24. Take responsibility for your own part. (Haylie Duff)
"I'm going to ... (take) responsibility for what I put out into the world, what comes out of my mouth, and the way that I judge people."
25. We can be kind to each other online. (LC Hanby Hudgens)
“What do you say, Moms of the Internet? Can we make 2016 The Year of Not Being So Offended By Everything? ... To be honest, I cannot keep up with all the things that I am not supposed to say to other mothers and all the things that I am supposed to be offended by. It’s exhausting.”
If you plan ahead, you might not freak out
26. Anticipate future awkwardness. (Christine Burke, Keeper of the Fruit Loops)
“I promise that you can come to me and ask me anything about sex. I will wear a poker face and I won’t hyperventilate into a bag until you’ve left the room.”
27. Mornings with kids are HARD — but a little forethought can help change their tune. (Rachel Macy Stafford)
"Be especially generous with forgiveness in the morning hour. Don't be afraid to ask, 'Can we start over?' Do-overs are a priceless gift that cost nothing but hold great value."
28. "Safety first" is a good motto to remember. (Christine Burke, Keeper of the Fruit Loops)
“I promise that, someday, when you call me from a party, stone cold drunk, asking for a ride home, the only words you will hear from me are ‘I’m getting my keys. Sit tight.’”
Silliness is contagious
29. Act like a little kid. (Angie Goff)
"When a giant ball pit came to (our area), I think I was more excited than my kids. In fact, I was the first to jump in! As parents we are programmed to be the authoritative voice, the rule maker and all too often the serious one. Look for ways to be a kid again."
30. Laugh with your kids. (Jennifer Gregory)
“In 2016, I want to laugh with my kids. I want to giggle uncontrollably and chuckle until I snort, even if — especially if — it involves singing poop parodies, jamming to gross and gassy melodies from the Fart Sound Machine App, or watching ‘America’s Funniest Home Videos.’ ... I feel closest to my boys when we’re unhinged, candid, and off our rockers laughing until our bellies ache, together.”
31. Don't be sooooooo serious all the time. (Jennifer Lizza)
"Stop taking life so seriously. No, really, stop it."
We really can help each other
32. "Motherhood is a sisterhood." (Annie Reneau)
"Be there for moms who need a listening ear or word of encouragement. Motherhood is a sisterhood if we let it be."
33. We can help each other to worry less. (Siri Pinter)
"Children WILL grow up, it's a certainty. So we can read the books about when they're supposed to stop drinking from bottles, and when they're supposed to be potty trained and so forth, but if it takes them a little longer to reach these milestones, why worry?"
34. Know when to "mind your beez." (Ripped Jeans and Bifocals)
"If you think someone's child isn't hitting their developmental milestones, mind your beez. Don't say stuff like 'Wow, my little Horace was potty trained by his first birthday' when you notice a Pull-Up peeking out of the waistband of a kindergartner's jeans."
35. "Being left out hurts: Moms, stop 'social engineering.'" (Lisa Barr)
"Perhaps the most important lesson to teach and show by example to our children is the oldest and goldest one of all: Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
36. Remember, life is a highway. (TODAY Weekend Anchor Sheinelle Jones)
"We are in different lanes, but we are all on the same highway."
37. We're all in this together. (TODAY Parenting Team Editor Rebecca Dube)
“That’s one thing I wish I’d known when I brought my first baby home: How important community is when you have kids. If you have a question, someone has an answer. If you need a hug, someone is out there with open arms — at least virtually. Yes, making the decision to have a child ‘is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body,’ as Elizabeth Stone wrote. There’s a bunch of us with our hearts walking around out there, and it feels better to realize we’re not alone.”
Follow TODAY.com writer Laura T. Coffey on Twitter @ltcoff and Google+ and learn about her new book, "My Old Dog: Rescued Pets with Remarkable Second Acts," at MyOldDogBook.com.