The Top 5 Gifts You Can Give Mom to Make Everyday Feel Like Mother’s Day

A goldfish cracker fell out of my bra this week. I bent over in the kitchen and plop! Out it tumbled onto the wooden floor. I stared at it intently. Had anyone even eaten goldfish that day? No. They hadn’t. I don’t think any other moment has made me feel more like a mother than that one.

All moms have had goldfish in their bra kinds of days. Motherhood is messy and filled with struggle. After all the boo boos are kissed and the stains pre-treated (who does this?) moms are left with one day a year when we rightly sing their praises. I’m talking of course about Mother’s Day, a greeting card industry scam perpetrated in cahoots with the brunch industry.

Moms are amazing the whole year through, and they deserve more than a fake holiday to honor them. They do it all and they ask nothing in return, except maybe for some love and respect, and also that you pick your damn clothes up off the floor. I say it’s high time we start appreciating moms the other 364 days a year. With that in mind, here are the top five gifts you can give the moms in your life to make everyday feel like Mother’s Day.  

1. The Gift of Knowledge

What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and repeat college. All of those opportunities to learn and grow were placed right at my feet, and I spent most of my time partying. Not that I didn’t genuinely have a blast, because I did, but I didn’t take my academics seriously until I was older. I was too young and spoiled to appreciate the chance to be a scholar. Today, I relish any opportunity to learn. 

I know a lot of women like me who crave information. So yes, by all means visit that local bookstore and get me a gift card. Or perhaps even get a library card in my name. How sweet! But to make it a little more fancy, you can take that extra step and get me that pottery class? I have always wanted to take one of those Master Classes they are constantly advertising to me on facebook. That would be an awesome gift. What’s happening at the local adult school? Maybe you as my partner offer to watch the kids for the next ten Wednesday nights while I study Mandarin in our high school Spanish classroom. That would be aces. Or maybe it’s just that you get the kids into PJ’s and I get to spend a half hour devouring that history book I have been reading. There are any number of ways to get mom to get her learn on. What’s important is the intention. 

2. The Gift of Time

We all want it more than anything. The time to savor life’s sweetest moments. Or even just the simplest ones. This is when you hire the sitter and let mom have some “her time.” Or maybe you take the kids out on an outing yourself, or stay home with them and send mom off on her own adventure. In either case, this is alone time and it is essential for your well-being so says me and a bunch of other experts who I’m not going to list right now. Suffice it to say that I speak from experience. Give mom the gift of time for herself. She needs it. And if you’re wondering if this is the perfect gift, maybe check out 5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break and act accordingly. (Hint: She Probably Does)

3. The Gift of Self-Care

Sure, a lovely lotion or some sweet smelling soap are both pleasant enough gifts. But why not treat mom to the care that she deserves. You can bust out the big guns and the big bucks with a spa gift certificate or gift card for a mani/pedi at a local salon. Or even better why not allow mom the TIME to get to that yoga class? Or give her that hand sweet massage yourself. Is mom a gym nut? Maybe hiring a sitter so she can make that weekly pilates class is the way to go. Even a hike together at a local park or preserve is enough to show mom that you care about her and are willing to go the extra mile. Literally.

We all know parenting is hard and sometimes mom needs a little reminder (push?) that among a plethora of other things, Self Care is a great (and important) way to Cope with Parenting Stress and Anxiety

4. The Gift of Culture

This can be a hard one depending on where you live. If you are in a big city culture is easier to find, as there are museums and galleries galore to choose from. But thanks to COVID, culture is just a Zoom room away. Give mom tickets to that online reading by that actor she loves, and then allow her the TIME to watch it. Are you sensing a theme here? All of these gifts require the necessary time needed to savor the experiences. Time, the ultimate luxury. 

Maybe live music is more mom’s jam. Or a public reading at a local book shop. As our artists begin to make their voices heard again, more and more opportunities will be opening up for public performances. Get those vaccinations and get mom out there!   It’s important for her to remember her identity as a parent because guess what? She wasn’t born with the name mom (*gasp*).

5. The Gift of Cultivation

Not everyone enjoys gardening like I do. Putting my hands into fresh soil, even if it’s just repotting a plant feels like nothing else. But all moms can benefit from some time spent savoring the fruits of the earth. Does your mom love to cook? Maybe a subscription to one of those meal delivery services is the ticket to her heart. How about a local CSA membership? Or even just a stroll through a local orchard or farm during picking time. One year my husband built me gardening containers with his own two hands. All that it required was some lumber and some hard work, but it meant so much to me. The best gives are those that allow mom to explore the world that she loves. Or maybe just hire that sitter and give her the chance to take a nap!  

5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break. Now.

5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break. Now.

5 Signs You Need a Parenting Break. Now.

Parenting can drown you. It can overwhelm you to the point of making you feel like you are on the edge of something unavoidable. A tipping point where you either regain your balance or you find yourself lashing out. Everyone now and then needs a break, and perhaps no one more so than parents. As mothers and fathers we find ourselves cascading from one day to the next lost in a haze of muddy clothes and snack packs. We bounce between mealtimes and travel times and find ourselves caught in time loops that feel both somehow fleeting and eternal. Is it Tuesday again? I hadn’t noticed. Here are some red flags that you can watch out for that will let you know if you are due for a respite from the kiddos.

1) You Only Speak in Kid Language.

When was the last time you had a conversation with another adult that wasn’t centered around your children? More than that, when was the last time you sounded like a grown ass adult in a conversation? There are only so many refrains of The Wheels on the Bus that the human ear can stomach. Pushing those limits is unwise. Whether you’re stuck talking a toddler onto a potty, or trying to mediate a battle between six year olds, you need to speak like an adult to other adults or else you will, and I think this is science, go mental. Conversing in concert with the monosyllabic, even if they are your teenagers, is only advancing the course of our species so far. Be a part of the solution, friends. Talk like a grown up.

2) You’ve Started Resenting Your Kitchen.

Maybe you think of it as the land where dishes go to multiply and die. Or maybe you just can’t stand the taste of your own cooking anymore even though you are Jean Freakin Georges. Whatever your kitchen is to you, it should serve as the hearth of the home, not a source of anxiety. If the kitchen feels like just one more space you have to clean maybe you need some time away from it. Take a night off. Let the dishes soak if you have to, or if someone else will do them all the better. Let someone else do the cooking too. Order takeout, or gasp, actually go to a restaurant. Get yourself vaccinated of course before you head out there into the big bad. 

You know who doesn’t look like this in their kitchen? Me.

3) Dressing Up = The Sweatshirt Without the Stains.

Speaking of COVID surely our fashion sense has been amongst its greatest victims. I’m sure Instagram is full of people who are dressing up even in quarantine. But some of us are raising toddlers out here. I’m lucky everyday if I don’t wind up purple with my hands full of poop. Fashion to me is what is stain resistant and comfortable. I am not here for Vogue. God bless you if that’s your thing, but I am just trying to make it to nap time over here. If you are like me and the last time you got dressed up public hugging was a common occurrence then maybe you are due for a night out on the town. Or at least, you know, a night where you change into the good sweats. 

4) You Don’t Remember the Last Movie You Saw/Book You Read/Art You Made.

Yes, you need to have stayed awake the whole time for it to count. Have you taken in anyone else’s creations or created something yourself lately? How about doing both? Why are we here if not to enrich our souls through art? I truly believe art is as necessary as air. We need fiction and painting to thrive. Broadway Babysitters believes that children need art. I believe in that mission, or else I wouldn’t put my name on their platform. You need to refill the well for your kids. How are you going to tell them one day how amazing Godfather 1 and 2 are and how they can just skip right on past 3 because ugh, with Sofia, it’s a mess, if you don’t have this valuable piece of knowledge at your fingertips? You need the time now to have your Godfather film festival night, to benefit them someday. For your kids’ future, get some culture. 

“I have a sentimental weakness for my children and I spoil them, as you can see. ”

5) You Lose It.

I am here to tell you that I have gripped my child’s wrist too tightly and yelled at her too loudly. It’s only happened a few times, but it has happened, and I take full responsibility for it. I do not believe in corporal punishment, so these actions for me crossed some invisible line that I have where I knew that I had personally gone too far. I was never proud after these moments. I always felt awful. Like dirt really. But these things happened and I need to own them. I have felt myself become overwhelmed by my children, and I needed a break. It’s as simple as that. Instead of reacting in anger I needed to step away, and I didn’t. If you find yourself on the edge of crossing your own boundary step back and take a break. Get someone else to watch the kids. Regroup and gather your strength. If you see yourself in this list, there is help! Take a parenting break as soon as it is possible for you to do so. Hire a sitter, or get that spouse, friend, grandparent to step in. Stay sane, parents. It’s a long road ahead. Make sure you are fit for the journey.  

How to Cope with Parenting Stress and Anxiety

(Or What’s Working ~Literally~ Today)

Having children is part blessing and part biology. It’s a crapshoot every time. As humans, we are genetically obligated to propagate the species. We are drawn to do it. But as millions of people throughout history can attest, this shiz isn’t for everyone. Some people have no desire to have children, and god bless them for living their truth. All of us know people who shouldn’t have children. It is not a task for the faint of heart, nor should it be entered into lightly. This thing is for real. There are no returns or refunds. You are in it from morning to night, seven days a week, until you die. That’s it. Parenthood is forever and it’s terrifying. I’ll be embroidering that on a pillow later tonight.  

So How do you Deal with the Anxiety of Parenting?

If you are at all like me you can easily find yourself overwhelmed. The world holds a great many fears, and I have envisioned all of them befalling my children a million times over. I get this from my mother, the queen of paranoid moms. We weren’t allowed to leave the front porch when I was a kid due to her overwhelming fear that we would become the next face on the milk carton. As far as my mother was concerned, the world was full of predators, and we children were easy prey. This was the eighties when stranger danger was all the rage, and my mother was its greatest champion. 

My brother, sister, and I spent our childhood under my mother Rosemary’s watchful eye. I was never allowed to attend sleepover parties or travel with any friends. Rosemary needed to have us in her sight at all times. I can’t tell you the number of times I came home after going out with friends after school only to find the town police car parked outside my house, with my mother inside frantically filing a missing person’s report on my behalf. This, all because I didn’t call home right away. Her immediate assumption? The worst case scenario. Heads in swamps. We were always dead, the location just varied; Ditch by the side of the road, bog out in the Pine Barrens, an exit off the New Jersey Turnpike. My mother could picture us becoming the next Adam Walsh no matter where we were. So, you see, I come by my paranoia naturally.  

My mother Rosemary and I several years after she allowed me off the front porch.

I have struggled to maintain my mental health over the years. Through a balancing act of therapists and medications, over years and years of work, I came to a good place. Then I found myself pregnant with my second child during a global pandemic, and suddenly panic attacks found their way back into my life. It’s hard to describe to people the terror of anxiety, but it feels a little bit like a hole opening up beneath the earth and swallowing you whole. It’s a completely helpless feeling. You are powerless to rationalize with the fear. It is all consuming, like water over the head of a drowning man. I couldn’t breathe when these thoughts would overwhelm me. I knew that I needed help. I reached out to my doctor and adjusted my dosages, which thankfully put an end to the episodes. But a strain of that anxiety still runs its course through my body every time I look at my children.

There will always be fear. Being a parent means you are going to worry essentially forever. I know that my parents still worry about me, and I am in my forties. It’s how you cope with that fear that matters. Do you let it devour you, or do you let the kids out of the house to play? When my mind races to the dark spaces I always try to bring myself back into the present moment. 

Stop. Breathe. Ask the Important Questions.

Are the kids happily playing? 


Is anyone currently injured/sick/impaled? 


Then continue to breathe. You are doing okay, mom. They are doing just fine. The way I control my anxiety is one moment at a time. That’s the only way I know how to process it. I’ll let my kids off of the front porch and allow them to run and to fall. If they break, I’ll be there to fix them. When they break, I’ll be there to fix them. That’s the only way I know how to mom.  

And if you need a break, you can always hire a sitter.


How to Survive Traveling with Children

Traveling with children is a nightmare. I’m not going to sugarcoat it, it’s a nightmare.

You thought that getting through airport security was a chore before, now you have to go through it with a stroller, an ergo, a car seat, your luggage, and your shoeless children themselves, all while hoping that you packed enough snacks and toys in your carry-on to avoid a total meltdown. It is not a task for the timid. You go in with a plan and a direction or you fall out quickly. 


COVID of course has added a whole new fun level to the traveling experience. Try peeing in an airport bathroom sometime with a kid strapped to your chest and a face mask on, and then let me know if you manage to get anywhere near the toilet. There’s nothing romantic about this struggle. If you are lucky enough to be able to travel, and you are a parent, then you are going to face the many challenges that await you when bringing children along on the journey. I was fortunate enough recently to travel to Florida with my girls and I learned some things along the way that I thought I would share with you here. 


1. Pack Light

Pack light. I mean it. Your babies don’t care if they wear the same clothes two days in a row. I promise. Older kids are a different story maybe, but for the tiny ones no one needs a fashion show. You’re not a Kardashian and neither is your kid. Think utilitarian. Pack extra outfits for spills and accidents, but overall try to keep clothing to a minimum. Same thing goes for shoes. Your kids need a pair of shoes, not a closet of them. I am the worst over packer in existence and go into every trip paranoid about forgetting something. If you are traveling to Easter Island, okay, supplies might be slim,

but I was traveling to Orlando for christ’s sake. Anything I may have forgotten and needed is right there for the taking. So keep it light and save yourself the heavy load.

2. Keep it Entertaining

Entertainment is key. My kids are of the age where I can get ten minutes of distraction out of them by handing them an empty water bottle. The older they get the more tricks you are going to need. You can’t bring a playroom on a plane, so I selected a couple of jangly things and a couple of stuffed things that I thought would serve as decent diversions. On the way back I downloaded a couple episodes of Masha and the Bear on my iPad, which kept my oldest from freaking out. Incidentally have you seen Masha and the Bear? The bear should have eaten that kid a long time ago in my opinion. If you have a tablet, this is a great way to make use of it. Otherwise a couple storybooks can be a life saver. Just remember, keep it light.

3. Plan the food

You have to feed kids. You can’t just turn them towards the light and water them periodically. Any parent knows to have snacks on hand, but remember that planes don’t provide you with anything anymore. Not peanuts, not a stick of gum, nada. Your plane ticket includes your seat and if you’re lucky some overhead room, so be sure to go into your trip loaded up with food supplies for the journey. I like those squeeze pouches. They’re light on mess and give a quick fruit fix when the kids are fading. Yes, they’re plastic. Fine. You pack all biodegradable snacks on your trip and I’ll read about it in your column next week. Make it simple on yourself Mom/Dad. This is about survival. 

4. Consider Leaving the Kids at Home

Maybe leave the kids at home. I’m kidding, kind of, but not really. I said it at the top, traveling with children is an ordeal, and it’s not for everyone. Maybe you need a sitter to stay home while you jet away for a few days. Or maybe you are someone who can afford to travel with a caregiver. Bully for you! My point is that if you can take the help then do it, either on the journey or at home. For me, watching my Maine born and bred daughter frolicking in the Florida sunshine in February made all the drama of traveling worth it. She might not remember it, but I will always have the memory of her and her sister laughing and smiling in the sun, and for that I would go through security all over again. Even in Philadelphia. 


Remembering Your Identity as a Parent

I didn't meet my husband until age forty, and I am in the unusual position of birthing two children after that age.

I’m an old mom, something I thought was deeply uncool when I was a child. Old moms smelled like hummus. They walked around with NPR tote bags full of overdue library books. In my experience they were weird women with frizzy hair who wore too many scarves. Now there is an old frizzy haired mom who stares back at me from the mirror every morning mocking me. “You don’t donate enough to NPR to earn a tote bag,” she says. Even she is passing judgment. 


Old mom smell.

The secret they don’t tell you is that being an old mom is actually kind of amazing. I got to lead my swinging single life for years. I got to travel the world, I got to work in the field I love, and I still got to have the kids. Of course, it’s a gamble to wait, and fertility is fickle. I was very lucky in that department, and I don’t recommend that women just hang out until age 40 and then give the whole kid thing a whirl. But in truth, now when I see moms who are barely out of high school, I can’t help but feel sorry for them. Having a child opens you up to new worlds, but it also limits you. No longer are you free to take that solo road trip out west. You’ll have to save that for imagination time with the kiddo. Forget about those drunken one nightstands in your twenties. I mean literally, forget about them. You’re a parent now. You need to be home for bedtime. So how do you keep that roaming spirit alive inside of you when you are tied to a nap schedule? How do you balance your own desires with your child’s? How do you live your life while teaching them to live theirs?

There is a selfishness trap here which I think parents are in danger of falling into. Pursuing your own needs isn’t selfish, it’s necessary. You have to practice self-care. What lesson would you be teaching your child by neglecting yourself? That you are unworthy of attention? Our children look to us for every cue. They will spot your sadness from a mile away. You need to live your life too, mom/dad, because if you don’t you will end up living vicariously through your children, which history tells us always works out for the best. No one ever found fulfillment living someone else’s life. I’m pretty sure Buddha said that, or if he didn’t he should have.

And now here comes the guilt! “But my children are everything to me,” you say. Of course they are. And you are everything to them. That’s why it’s so important that you come at them as a wholly developed adult human person. That’s who your children need. A doting mess who obsesses over every failure and lives for every success is helpful to no one, least of all your child. You need to get your own life mom/dad, and keep living it. In between diaper changes and scraped knees, you have to do you. Lest you grow resentful of your children, or drive yourself mad in the process.

My love.

Here is where I lay my privilege cards out on the table. I have a lovely supportive partner who often takes the children so that I may have some Frances time. Not mom time, Frances time. This is when I am able to write, something that I have always enjoyed. It’s time when I feed my soul. I may not have showered in 72 hours. But there are words on the page and my heart is full and open. I know without a doubt that this time that I take makes me a better mom. Even if my baby is lying next to me crying, as she is this very moment, still, I am a better mom for it. I know that she is full, and dry, and warm, and that this is just her tired cry which will pass in a second. In the meantime my purpose is better served here. Being Frances instead of mom, even just for a few moments. And just like that, the crying stops, and I can be fully present for myself again. Then I can be there for my daughter more than ever. 

Not everyone has this luxury. I know there are countless parents out there doing it on their own, and I salute you every last one. If you have a partner, a grandparent, or a trusted friend who can give you a slice of time carved out just for you I promise that it will make a difference in your well-being and in your parenting. Hire a sitter. Take advantage of it. Give thanks for it. Remember who you were before you were a parent and honor that person’s wishes. Take some time to listen to your soul and live your truth. Do it for your kids.