Confident Parenting And How To Set Healthy Boundaries

It doesn’t matter if you are a confident, bold parent or a nervous and insecure one, the time will come when someone has something to say about your parenting.

Some have learned how to shut those people out and not give a darn what strangers think but it is a completely different ball game when the someone saying something is a family member whose opinion you care about.

If you are nodding your head like yes yes yes then this post is for you.

I am normally a very confident person but parenthood has made me question a lot of things and I find myself feeling more upset than I usually care to admit when a family member mentions something. I usually like to play out scenarios in my head and have intense conversations or even fights imagining what I would say when someone says something but when the time actually comes, I shut down.

Let me tell you a little story about the first week of my first child’s life. I was extremely nervous before my baby was born especially since none of my family was nearby and it was just me and my husband. Cut to the birth where we had a rough time especially when a nurse let me know 5 minutes before pushing that they might have to air flight my sweet baby to the nearest major city an hour away.

My sweet little girl was born and she would not latch which nobody had prepared me for and sent me into a deep spiral of insecurity and sadness. I was at the hospital two nights.

My mother in law and her parents decided that it would be a great idea to show up the night we got home from the hospital. I was honestly too exhausted and sad to even say anything about it even though I had previously imaged just the three of us for the first few weeks until we got the hang of things. That is not what happened at all. Instead, I got “helped” by having my baby held and people all in my business. I had an incredibly difficult time letting anyone know what I wanted. It was an awful experience for me that I have only recently worked past emotionally.

I honestly thought I was going to be my normal self when my baby was born but post partum hormones are no joke and I was plagued with insecurities. I did learn a lot from that experience though. I learned that I can only control my own actions and cannot expect people to know what I want, think, or feel.

Ultimately, I am responsible for my own emotions and what I choose to do about them. Through years of therapy, reading, and discussion, I have learned ways to set boundaries in a way that I feel confident. Allow me to give you the SparkNotes/CliffNotes (is this still a thing?) of how I work through comments about my parenting when it comes to family members with some examples.

1. Make boundaries clearly with yourself.

You cant let others know what your boundaries are if you don’t yourself understand them.

For example: My husband and I have made the decision to not pierce our daughters ears until she asks for it if she ever decides its something she wants. Bodily autonomy is extremely important to us. This is absolutely non negotiable for us.

My mother has often brought up how we should pierce her ears and how if we wait longer, it will be harder but we know where we stand and it is easier to explain to others
(which you don’t have to do but I find useful) when we can clearly communicate the reasoning for our decision even if they still don't agree.

In fact, my mother still doesn’t agree but continuing to state the same “it is her body. We will absolutely take her if and when she decides this is something she wants to do.” has made it clear that we will not shift and thus, left no room for her opinion.

2. Get used to saying no.

Practice if necessary. Check yourself in the mirror and watch yourself saying no. You look cool, don’t you? Remember that next time you have to use that small but powerful word. “No” is a full sentence. You can do it. They are your kids and it is okay for you to set whatever boundaries you find reasonable as well as reject anyone else’s suggestions. It is your life and you are allowed to set limits to your comfort.

For example: My MIL can be…difficult. She raised five kids and thinks she knows best on all things parenting. She doesn’t always give suggestions but she likes to make comments. You know the type. We all have a relative who cannot keep their opinions to themselves.

When my daughter was born, I got a little too excited buying bows and clips, and all other kinds of hair accessories. My son has grown up watching my daughter wearing these accessories and choosing which ones she wants to wear on from the collection. My son has very strong opinions about everything.

In fact, both of my kids do and we encourage it. We want them to know they can make choices and have a choice in their style always. My son one day about six months ago grabbed a hair clip while my daughter was choosing. He handed it to me and pointed at his head. I obliged and put it in his hair.

I kid you not, he went and looked at himself in the large mirror that was a few feet away. He felt so beautiful and you could tell because he was smiling at himself. Since then, he wears clips whenever he wants which is almost daily. He has his favorites and he gets so excited to get to choose from the clip bin.

My MIL is what some would refer to as traditional. She lives in a different state than us and we recently went to see her for the first time since my son was born because of the pandemic. She has seen pictures of my son of course and Facetime’d but I think she always assumed my daughter was putting these clips in his hair.

When we were visiting with her, she asked the first day while my son was wearing his favorite coffee cup clip if we were going to take it off as we were all heading out for brunch. My husband and I, both said no at the same time. She started to say something else and I looked at her and once again stated that “No {we weren’t going to take it off}. He likes them.”

3. Respect your needs. Put yourself and your immediate family first.

I struggled with this a lot at the beginning because my parents are extremely close to us and I found myself feeling like I needed to please everyone and constantly explain myself. It was stressful to say the least.

I have since learned that I will never please everyone and even if it were possible, it is not healthy. I had to learn to put myself and my family first. I know we have all heard the saying about how you can’t pour from an empty cup. This is usually in reference to putting our needs first with our children but we must remember to do the same with our families.

It is completely different to set a boundary when you have had years of conditioning to break through. I noticed that when I was trying to please everyone in my extended family, I was worn so thin that I didn’t have much left for myself or my kids. It was exhausting and honestly not fair to my husband and children.

I had to practice putting myself first daily even when it was something small.

It started with music.

I spent far too long listening to children’s songs that I couldn’t stand. I started handing my oldest a water wow (those things are seriously magic) and listen to music that I liked and made me feel happy.

It completely changed my day to do this small thing. Slowly, I did bigger things like take a few hours for the spa to rest and refresh. This small change of choosing something for me daily, made it easier for me to set boundaries for my own needs with my family.

For example: My mother loves parties and get togethers. She would always ask my husband and I to go with her and because I just wanted to please her, I would go. Despite my own anxiety and exhausting and intense desire to stay home. I fought myself and insisted to my husband that I wanted to go.

As I started to choose myself, I decided that it was not okay for me to feel all those things and ignore them. I said no the first time to a birthday party of a kid I didn’t even know and it was the best day ever. I choose me. I choose my family. You can too.

4. Your kids are watching and learning.

I try to always be super aware of what I do around my kids. I don’t speak poorly about my body in front of my kids ever. I am extremely careful with the way I talk about food. I usually do things with the acute awareness that my kids are watching.

Still, I often forgot that when I didn’t set my boundaries and allowed myself to be uncomfortable, they were watching. I have noticed in the past few months that my oldest is standing up for herself a lot and I am encouraged knowing I am setting the example for her.

For example: Recently, my husbands youngest sibling was playing with my daughter and called her a “goober.” I know this word isn’t necessarily bad but it upset my daughter. She firmly told him “I don’t like that.” I heard her and kept watching. He laughed and called her a goober again.

She came running to me and said he called her a goober and she didn’t like it. I asked her if she used her words to tell him she didn’t like it (even though I had watched/heard the whole thing). She said yes she used her words and he did it again.

My MIL was right next to me and said that their other niece also didn’t like it at first but she got used to it while she chuckled. This did not sit right with me as I saw my little one looking defeated.

I went over to my BIL with her and firmly told him that she does not like being called goober and that he needed to stop. He started to make an excuse for his behavior and I stopped him with a “No. She doesn’t like it. Stop.” He apologized to her.

She grabbed my hand extra tight as we walked away and I saw her smile ever so slightly. Later she told her dad that her uncle wasn’t going to call her goober anymore with a huge smile on her face.

Your parenting choices are yours to make. You are a fantastic parent. Allow yourself the space and the right to raise your children how you see fit (of course, this doesn’t apply to actually dangerous or potentially life-threatening situations). Be confident. Be bold. “No” is a full sentence.


About the Author

Jessica is a Latinx mom to a boy and a girl. She currently lives in California with her husband, babies, and a super cuddly pup. She has many hobbies but her favorites include dancing, hiking, and true crime podcasts.


Diaper Bag Essentials: Advice from an Experienced Hot Mess Mom

diaper bag essentials

Let me tell you a story. It is not a story of triumph. Because, as you may have guessed from the title of this piece, I am not exactly the mom who has it all together. And spending the last year+ living the always-at-home pandemic life has not made that better. So let me be a cautionary tale on the importance of diaper bag essentials and what happens when you forget them.

It’s been a long year…

This tale of despair begins when I decided to take my children out into a public place for the first time in a very long time. We were all out blowing off some much-needed steam when the inevitable happened: one kid spilled, the other decided that it was the worst day of all time and needed their soother, and general chaos ensued. There was crying, screaming, and much stickiness.

As I rifled desperately through my bag, I realized I had none of the things I needed to rectify either of these situations. In fact, the more I looked, the more I realized that I was missing a TONNE of diaper bag essentials. All of the important sanity-saving items had migrated out of the bag over the long stretch of us staying at home. Quarantine has turned my brain to such mush that I did not even think to collect them again.

Now, this (entirely too) minimalist packing style is a pretty big course correction. When I was a shiny new mom, I was slightly less of a mess. Which meant that I thought through a lot more possible disasters and packed my diaper bag essentials accordingly. This did, however, sometimes lead to me resembling this guy:

Long story short, I am the messy mom who has been on the ugly end of both over and underpacking. So, whether you need a post-pandemic refresher or are a brand new parent trying to get your packing plan started, here are the diaper bag essentials you ACTUALLY need for life in the wild with your littles.

So What’s Essential?

diaper bag essentials
📷 Kelsey S.

The term essential can be a little misleading. It means something different to everyone. What is essential is going to depend on you, your kiddos, and your plans for the day. So when you are gathering your diaper bag essentials, I suggest you try to do a mental walkthrough of your plans. It is generally safe to assume that something weird will happen (because kids are involved) but at least having a general idea of what is in store will help you have the things you need to deal with the day.

All that being said, there are some staple items that you probably aren’t going to want to be without.

Diaper Bag Essentials for the Kids

diaper bag
📷 Alexandra G.
  • Diapers– Let’s start with what should be obvious (but something I have totally forgotten) diapers. You will need one diaper for every two hours you plan to be out, plus a couple of extras just in case. If you have older kids, this is obviously less essential. But if they are still in training pants, make sure not to forget those.
  • Food- Whether this means snacks, bottles, or a boob, don’t forget what you need to feed baby. A hangry kid in the wild is no fun for anyone.
  • Wipes– Wipes are for sure the unsung heroes of the diaper bag essentials. Whether you use disposable or cloth wipes, they are an obvious must-have for diaper changes. But they are also great for cleaning kid-goo off of basically anything, including your child.
  • Change Mat- Even if your diaper bag came with a changing pad, I suggest critically assessing its utility. They are often smaller than you’d like. Plus, other change mats have more uses. If you are short on space, something like our Lifesaver Mini works great. If you can make the room our Lifesaver Mat is a must-have, since it can double as a blanket, burp cloth, emergency towel, or play mat as well.
  • Wetbags- Whether you cloth diaper or not, wetbags are a diaper bag essential for sure. Smaller bags are great for organizing all of the loose items you pack so they don’t end up getting lost in the bottom of the bag. Dry/Wetbags are great for bringing a change of clothes and then carting it home when it gets dirty. If you are headed to the beach or the splashpad a larger bag is great to have to bring home wet towels and suits.
  • A change of clothes- If you have ever interacted with a child, you know why this is necessary. Make sure to throw in a seasonally appropriate hat as well, just in case.
  • Distraction/Comfort Items- This could include pacifiers, toys, or that special blanket. Basically, whatever works to comfort or distract your kiddo long enough to avoid a meltdown at the checkout.

Diaper Bag Essentials for You

parenting essentials
📷 Amanda U.
  • Hand Sanitizer- Even pre-pandemic this was a diaper bag essential for parents. No one knows how fast germs can spread better than a dad who has watched a gastro bug take down their kid’s playgroup.
  • Sunscreen-Bring it and put it on. It is easy to forget yourself when you are worried about the littles. And the lobster look isn’t cute on anyone. I prefer the spray-on variety so that I don’t have to tackle my toddler and wrestle him like an alligator to apply it. Also, throw it and the sanitizer in a wetbag to avoid any issues with leakage.
  • Keys, wallet, phone etc.- Make room for these important personal items in the diaper bag. Even if you would normally carry them in a separate bag. There is nothing like carrying too many bags plus your child to make you feel more like a pack animal.
  • Other items to keep YOU comfortable- Snacks, breast pads, a water bottle (filled with espresso if necessary, we don’t judge). Again, it is super easy to focus on the stuff your little one needs and completely forget about yourself. But you are the one managing the traveling circus once you head out, so make sure you have what you need to stay feeling your best.

One last essential…

Some grace for yourself. Whether you are a brand-new parent or one who is feeling a little rusty after a long and tiring year, you are going to have moments when you forget something important. Don’t beat yourself up. And don’t be afraid to ask for help. I for one would be more than willing to lend pretty much any diaper bag essential to a fellow parent who forgot their own. And I’m betting I am not the only one. So don’t suffer in silence if you forgot sunscreen and it is 400 degrees.

What do you think? Is this a good list of diaper bag essentials? Is there anything you think I forgot? Let me know in the comments below.


About the Author

Amanda is a teacher and mom of two from small-town Ontario. When she isn’t struggling to keep up with her boys, you can find her reading, crocheting, or writing poop-jokes for Lil Helper’s website, emails, and blog.


diaper bag essentials

3 Easy Crafts To Build Your Toddler’s Fine Motor Skills

Today is World Lion Day, and that seemed like as good a reason as any to get crafty! 9 times out of 10, I like to give my kids art supplies and just let them get creative. But as a former preschool teacher, sometimes I still like to do a little pre-planning and give my oldest a craft that focuses on practicing fine motor skills. Here are my 3 favorite lion themed crafts. These took 5 minutes of prep work and used things I already had around the house. Because fun should be easy too.

Fine Motor Skill: Cutting

This one can be intimidating to some parents, but I would encourage you to not shy away from letting your 2-3 year old try scissors – with adult supervision of course.

At first, all they need to practice is simple snips. Short cuts to use the muscles that open and close scissors.

Lion Craft: Colour and Cut the Lion’s Mane

Draw a lion’s face on a paper plate, and short, single-snip-length thick lines around the outside of the plate. Encourage your child to colour the lion.

Tip: Talk about what colours you think of when you think of a lion, and how a lion’s bushy hair is called a mane (everything can be a vocabulary lesson too!)

Have your child cut the lines to create the lion’s mane. Your child might need you to stand behind them and help them snip but with practice those hands will get stronger and your child will be a pro!

Tip: To help your child remember to hold their scissors correctly, use a washable marker and draw a heart on the back of their thumb. If they can see the heart, they are holding their scissors right!

Fine Motor Skill: Pincher Grasp

While cutting is an important skills, there are lots of other tactile ways to build finger strength. This activity involves ripping tissue paper for the lion’s mane. Ripping the paper and scrunching it into small balls helps build fine motor strength. Dipping it in glue and sticking it helps the same muscles that your child will one day use to write!

I cut the tissue paper into strips first, and encourage my child to rip it between their pointer finger and thumb, rather than in fists.

Tissue Paper Mane Lion Craft

The steps are simple, rip a piece off, and scrunch it up into a ball. Once you have a small pile, dip each piece in white glue and stick around the edge of a paper plate. Once again I prepped the plate by drawing a face on it. This activity is also great as sensory play. Listen to the rip of the tissue paper. Feel the paper in your fingers, and the sticky glue when you dip it.

Practice Using Tools: More than Just Paint Brushes!

Painting is a favorite activity for most kids, but it doesn’t have to be limited to finger paint and brushes! Different tools help kids practice holding different shapes, different ways and using different muscles. For this one, we are painting with a fork!

Lo

For less mess, you can of course use a disposable fork. And don’t forget your smocket!

Lion Mane Fork Painting

For this one I let my kiddo choose what colors to use and we ended up with a beautiful rainbow lion! I demonstrated once how a gentle dip in paint and touch to the paper makes a hairy mane and then let my kiddo get creative. For prep work, I drew a circle with the face in the center of the paper.

Things to Remember when Crafting with Kids

The goals of craft time should be: joy, creativity, sensory play, and fine motor skills. In that order. You won’t get a Pinterest worthy result every time, and you aren’t supposed to. The goal is quality time and learning experiences. Keep it fun, and the learning and skills will come naturally.

Do you have a favorite craft with your littles? Share it with us in the comments!


About the Author

Caitlin lives in Alberta with her husband, 2 little girls, and too many animals cause she is a sucker for a rescue. When she's not chasing kids and changing fluff bums she spends her time crocheting, gardening, and binging true crime docs.


Name That Stain! Strange stains and how to treat them.

Everyone has had a weird stain at one point or another. Whether it’s on clothes, or upholstery or carpet, you’ve probably at least once questioned how something got there. Well, as a parent that only gets worse. A lot of parents will find themselves scratching and sniffing stains or sometimes even a good old taste test will do. Let me tell you, that is a gamble.

Sniff test is a parental go-to

Brick-red stains

You might come across inserts or diaper stains that are brick red or reddish brown. This can be disconcerting especially if you have a younger baby who hasn't started solids yet and you have no idea where this stain could be coming from.

I remember the first time I saw my little guy’s cloth inserts stained brick red and while I didn't worry about it being blood (as it was clearly not) I could not for the life of me figure out where it had come from.

I did hours of research to find one hidden comment in the bowels of a forum by a mom who said the stain could be caused by baby Tylenol. Rejoice! I had in fact given my little Baby Tylenol as he was in the throes of teething. Pain. Fever. Overall crankiness. You know what I'm talking about.

(Gif from Buzzfeed)

Now while this kind soul answered the what of it, I had no answer for the why?
So here I am today to do just that! After much research I found out about Urate Crystals.

Urate crystals (commonly called "brick stain" by doctors) are a combination of calcium and urate, two substances normally found in urine. Most people will see this in breast or chest fed newborn babies as these crystals are often the cause of dehydration and newborns are drier as they wait for a caregiver’s milk to come in.

Urate crystals also can be seen in older babies and children. “This often indicates some level of dehydration, which can result from occurrences such as fever, a reduced number of feedings or volume of human milk or formula, or a shift to warmer weather.”

Medication can also cause an influx in these crystals so I often got these stains anytime I used Baby Tylenol.

While these stains can fade over time and multiple washings I found it helped move things along to sun them. Harnessing the power of the sun does wonders for stains. As any granny or cloth diapering parent will tell you.

Simply wash your item, and while its still damp, leave it in the sun to dry and VOILA! Stain gone. (If your stain is really stubborn this might take a few tries). Just re-dampen your item and lay back out or hang in the sun.*

Small Black Stains

Small black stains can be one of a few things.

1) Grease

Sometimes your washing machine can leak grease onto your clothes or diapers. As your washing machine is built up of a motor and transmission it requires grease to keep the parts properly lubricated. Over time the rubber seals that keep that stuff separate from your wash can break down.

If you start finding black spots on your clothes and you think it might be grease your first step to troubleshoot is to clean your washing machine drum. Overtime detergent and fabric softener can build up. By cleaning out your washing machine you can determine whether or not the marks are from build-up or something else.

Who knows what you’ll find in there!

If you have an agitator consult your owner’s manual as that’s a trickier job. Sometimes you’ll just see a buildup of dirt. You can clean that out and re-install your agitator. If you see motor oil then you’ll have to decide on calling a washing machine repair company or consider buying a new machine.

As for your fabrics that have grease stains, you can take Dawn and a small toothbrush and scrub the grease out and then thoroughly rinse the fabric.

2) Mold

Mold can appear like small black spots. If you suspect it’s mold the only way to kill spores and prevent them from spreading is using bleach. Check out Delight’s Knowledge Base for instructions and ratios on bleaching your diapers (or other products).

Mold must be treated with bleach. Photo credit – K Rachelle

3) Banana Stains

For toddlers just starting to eat solid foods, bananas are a fan favorite. They're soft, easy to mash and swallow and as a finger food, they’re easy for chubby baby hands to hold. What they’re also notorious for are leaving you with impossible stains. A lot of people often mistake banana stains for mold, which drives fear in the heart of cloth diapering parents.

Photo Cred – S Rodz

Banana might seem unassuming, all soft and nutritious and light in colour, however these deceiving delectables dry dark and you are left with a hideously stubborn stain that is often mistaken for mold.

While preventative measures work best (rinsing banana from clothes, bibs and diapers before letting it dry) once the stain is set, some Dawn dish soap and an old tooth brush and vigorous scrubbing can help. Some people swear by Oxiclean as well, but do your due diligence and if on cloth diapers, check with your product’s washing directions to make sure you don’t void any warranty.

Always check a product’s washing instructions to avoid kissing your warranty goodbye. Find Lil Helper’s warranty info here.

Stains are abundant when you have kids or pets but there are numerous ways to take care of even the weirdest ones.

What’s the hardest stain you’ve ever removed? What’s your tried and tested stain removal method?

*Please note that while sunning can have quite an effect on stains it is important that when sunning PUL it not lay in direct sunlight in excessive temperatures as this can damage PUL which can render a product useless and void a warranty. Even sunning through a window can be effective.


About the Author

Heather is a STAHWM who lives in St. John’s NL. where she’s raising two humans, two dogs, a cat and a fish. In between chasing her hooligans and waiting for her Hogwarts letter, she enjoys knitting, crocheting and campy 80’s horror flicks.