The best parenting advice I've read in a long time. Someone will always criticize you.

Like most parents, I didn't know what I was doing when I first became a mom — because I'd never done it before.

I was 27 when our first child joined our family through adoption. He was 10 months old. 

My son and me shortly after his adoption. That look on my face can probably best be described as "clueless but hopeful." All photos of my kids and me belong to me.


I'd read everything I could get my hands on — books, articles, blog posts, and a whole lot more — in the year leading up to his adoption. So I had some solid book knowledge. But real life experience? Nah. 

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Sure, I babysat as a teenager, and I was a really good parent before I actually became one. However, as most parents know, parenting is very much a learn-as-you-go gig. We use the abstract knowledge we arm ourselves with and apply it the best we can while trying to keep our heads above water. 

My husband and I made some mistakes, and we did some things brilliantly.

We faced a lot of challenges — both the regular ones that all new parents encounter and some more complex ones because our son spent 10 months in an orphanage before we became his parents. But we felt pretty good about our family, and we gained confidence as parents. 

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We thought: "Hey, we like this parenting thing. And we're decent at it. We're not the worst. Let's do it again!" 

So less than a year and a half later, I became a second-time mom when we adopted our daughter, Molley.

My daughter and me on her first birthday, about four months after she joined our family.

She was eight months old — and just as amazing as our son. After she was with us for about six months and we'd overcome some serious health challenges, her personality began to develop, and I quickly realized something: 

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I had no idea what I was doing.  

Seriously, no idea.

All of that parenting experience I'd gained with my son did. not. apply. to. this. child.

 She was a different person with a totally different personality, and those magical "skills" I'd allowed myself to think I'd developed were basically useless.

She was spirited and clever, kind and thoughtful, inquisitive and skeptical, opinionated and insistent. 

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And did I mention spirited? 

After the first time she threw herself down on the ground in public and proceeded to scream bloody murder — probably when she was around 15 months old — because she wasn't interested in whatever I'd suggested, I called my mom. 

Not my child. But it totally could have been.

"What's happening?" I asked. "Mattix never did this. What even is going on here?! The world is ending. Send help STAT!" 

As moms often do, she imparted upon me some words of wisdom: Kids aren't carbon copies of each other. And sometimes, we have to do everything differently ... even when what we did before worked. 

So that's what I did. 

I parented her the way I felt would work best, adjusting as we went.

I did most things differently than I had with Mattix, all in response to her needs. It just so happens that parenting Molley in public was a bit more of a spectacle, as she was a lot more vocal and physical about her displeasure, which she seemed to experience often.

I didn't allow us to interrupt other people's dining or shopping experiences. But on the sidewalk, at the park, in the parking lot, at the super-noisy pizzeria where we could barely even hear ourselves talk because it was so loud ... we did our thing. If she hurled her sippy cup or dropped her stuffed animal and then promptly hit the deck to really drive home the point about how annoyed she was with me, we waited there until she got up herself, picked up her stuff, and walked on her own.

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Sometimes that took five minutes. Sometimes it took 45. It turns out that we're well-matched in the stubbornness department, and I truly felt that what we were doing was best. 

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Parenting her at home was quite different, too, but nobody was around to judge that. 

I'd noticed things about Molley that were different. She was incredibly verbal by 12 months old — she had hundreds of words and spoke in sentences. By 18 months old, she'd go to her room when she was mad and stay there for hours, waiting me out, declining my offers to join the rest of us. 

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I was certainly learning as I went, but I knew one thing for sure: I couldn't parent her like a typical child. Because she wasn't a typical child. And that meant people, especially strangers, had lots of opinions. 

I learned a few things very quickly: First, a lot of people want you to know exactly what they think of your parenting skills and style.

The second thing I learned is that there's no consistency to others' opinions. One person would walk by us, doing our thing on the sidewalk during a meltdown, and tell me what a wonderful, patient mother I was and how my daughter was going to grow into a respectful, good person because of what I was doing. 

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Five minutes later, another person would encounter us in the exact same situation and loudly comment about what a terrible mother I was and remark upon me being "the reason kids are so awful these days." 

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It happened all the time. The fact that we obviously look so different from each other probably made us stand out a bit more, but I think this is something all parents of spirited children encounter. People would even take photos of us with their smartphones. Now that I think about it, I wonder how many "shame on this parent" Facebook posts we were featured in. 

It didn't take me long to tune out the negative, focus on my children and myself, and put my energy into being the best parent I could be, the opinions of strangers notwithstanding.

Still, it's not fun to constantly hear you suck because you're not doing something the way someone else thinks you should. 

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Parenting is fantastic — it's the best part of life I've ever undertaken — and it's a lot of work. As rewarding as it is, it can be physically tiring (OMG my kids didn't sleep when they were babies), and it can be emotionally draining. 

My kids and me, shortly after our daughter joined our family. Ohhh, the look of sweet naiveté on my face...

Most of us are doing the best we can. We're reaching out and asking for help and advice when we want or need it. We're reading everything we can. We're adjusting our techniques and reactions when they're not working. In the interest of keeping it real, some of us will admit we're crying on the floor of our bedroom closet on occasion. 

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All of that is because we care. We love our kids. We want to be good parents for them. 

You know the thing about "good parents?" There's not just one type.

That's why I absolutely loved a recent post by mom and author Bunmi Laditan. She's the comedic genius behind Honest Toddler on Twitter. (If you have young kids and you find humor to be a coping mechanism for the hard stuff parenting throws at you, do yourself a favor and follow her.) She also keeps us laughing, nodding our heads, and even crying a little with her Facebook posts. 

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But this one in particular is something every parent should read: 

She writes: 

"If you work, you're missing your kid's childhood. If you stay home, you're wasting your education and not giving them an example of a strong, independent woman. If you're a strict disciplinarian, your children will be stunted emotionally with damaged spirits. If you practice gentle parenting, you're raising a future serial killer. 

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If you homeschool, your child will never be able to succeed in society and will live in your basement playing World of Warcraft and and attend furry conventions forever. If they go to private school, they'll be elitist snobs. If they go to public school, good luck because they'll be on heroin before 7th grade and are probably pregnant right now. 

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If you have only one child, they're going to be lonely and when you die, they'll have no one. If you have two of the same sex, how sad for you- surely you'll try for the opposite gender? If you have three or more, you're contributing to the collapse of the environment, imminent extinction of all protected species and overpopulation with your freakishly large family. 

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If you're raising a vegan, you're annoying and your child's bones are surely brittle as hell. If your kids eat meat, you're a ruthless murderer and don't you know sausage causes cancer? If your kids can't have sugar, you're denying them a proper childhood. If your kids can have sugar, you're setting them up for a life of obesity and a snack cake addiction. 

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If you breastfed, it was either for too long or not long enough and please do it under a tarp in a pitch black room because nobody wants to see your sex breasts. If you didn't breastfeed, your child will never know true love, good health, or a real mother's love. 

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The moral of the story is, when it comes to parenting, there is always someone who'll think you're doing it all wrong so unless they're paying your bills, just do you."

After hearing the highest of praises and the lowest of insults when my daughter was younger, that's the mental space I had to get myself to.

I kept on keeping on, and you know what? It's going great. We got through our rough period that lasted about three years — until Molley was around 5 — and landed in a really positive place. We have an amazing relationship, and she continues to be a remarkable human being. 

She even got me over my hatred of selfies!

Molley is 7.5 now and the past few years of parenting her have been an incredible experience — fun, humbling, interesting, and, of course, hard sometimes. We recently learned after some extensive testing that she's "gifted." 

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Her 7.5-year-old brain has the logical reasoning and comprehension abilities of a child 10 years old, and her vocabulary is many grade levels above that of a typical second-grader. It all kind of makes sense now — all of those hard times we had — and I'm so glad I didn't let the opinions of others dictate what I did or didn't do. 

Being silly at lunch one day.

Did I make mistakes? Of course I did. Any parent who says otherwise is being dishonest. But I made choices that I felt were best for my child, and in the end, they were generally good ones. Had those strangers who wanted to make me feel like the worst mother ever been successful, maybe we wouldn't be in such a good place now. I'm certain we'll encounter bumps and challenges in the future because that's what happens with parenting and kids. But I know we can handle whatever comes up. 

What Laditan wrote is a variation of what many parents have said and believed since, well, the beginning of time.

Yes, it takes a village. And no, we shouldn't parent in a silo. We benefit greatly from the help of friends and family and sometimes even complete strangers. But when it comes down to it, there's a wide space between "best parent ever" and "worst parent on the planet" — and as long as we're trying hard and landing somewhere slightly to the left of the middle, we're probably doing just fine. 

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So unless we see actual abuse, we should probably just keep our mouths shut or maybe offer a few encouraging words or a small sign of solidarity to the other parents in the trenches. 'Cause it's very likely that they're doing their best, too.  

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan
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Growing up in Indonesia, Farwiza Farhan always loved the ocean. It's why she decided to study marine biology. But the more she learned, the more she realized that it wasn't enough to work in the ocean. She needed to protect it.

"I see the ocean ecosystem collapsing due to overfishing and climate change," she says. "I felt powerless and didn't know what to do [so] I decided to pursue my master's in environmental management."

This choice led her to work in environmental protection, and it was fate that brought her back home to the Leuser Ecosystem in Sumatra, Indonesia — one of the last places on earth where species such as tigers, orangutans, elephants and Sumatran rhinoceros still live in the wild today. It's also home to over 300 species of birds, eight of which are endemic to the region.

"When I first flew over the Leuser Ecosystem, I saw an intact landscape, a contiguous block of lush, diverse vegetation stretched through hills and valleys. The Leuser is truly a majestic landscape — one of a kind."

She fell in love. "I had my first orangutan encounter in the Leuser Ecosystem," she remembers. "As the baby orangutan swung from the branches, seemingly playing and having fun, the mother was observing us. I was moved by the experience."

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

"Over the years," she continues, "the encounters with wildlife, with people, and with the ecosystem itself compounded. My curiosity and interest towards nature have turned into a deep desire to protect this biodiversity."

So, she began working for a government agency tasked to protect it. After the agency dismantled for political reasons in the country, Farhan decided to create the HAkA Foundation.

"The goals [of HAkA] are to protect, conserve and restore the Leuser Ecosystem while at the same time catalyzing and enabling just economic prosperity for the region," she says.

"Wild areas and wild places are rare these days," she continues. "We think gold and diamonds are rare and therefore valuable assets, but wild places and forests, like the Leuser Ecosystems, are the kind of natural assets that essentially provide us with life-sustaining services."

"The rivers that flow through the forest of the Leuser Ecosystem are not too dissimilar to the blood that flows through our veins. It might sound extreme, but tell me — can anyone live without water?"

Courtesy of Farwiza Farhan

So far, HAkA has done a lot of work to protect the region. The organization played a key role in strengthening laws that bring the palm oil companies that burn forests to justice. In fact, their involvement led to an unprecedented, first-of-its-kind court decision that fined one company close to $26 million.

In addition, HAkA helped thwart destructive infrastructure plans that would have damaged critical habitat for the Sumatran elephants and rhinos. They're working to prevent mining destruction by helping communities develop alternative livelihoods that don't damage the forests. They've also trained hundreds of police and government rangers to monitor deforestation, helping to establish the first women ranger teams in the region.

"We have supported multiple villages to create local regulation on river and land protection, effectively empowering communities to regain ownership over their environment."

She is one of Tory Burch's Empowered Women this year. The donation she receives as a nominee is being awarded to the Ecosystem Impact Foundation. The small local foundation is working to protect some of the last remaining habitats of the critically endangered leatherback turtle that lives on the west coast of Sumatra.

"The funds will help the organization keep their ranger employed so they can continue protecting the islands, endangered birds and sea turtle habitats," she says.

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen. Do you know an inspiring woman like Farwiza? Nominate her today!

Jennifer Lawrence

After being a Hollywood staple, Jennifer Lawrence vanished from the public eye following the release of "X-Men Dark Phoenix" in 2019.

Sure, the pandemic had something to do with that … in addition to the usual way our society treats Hollywood "it" girls, once it grows accustomed to the flavor. But in a recent interview with Vanity Fair, Lawrence opens up about some other reasons she chose to step away for a time.

Lawrence went from being a highly sought-after Oscar-winning actress to starring in less-than-successful films like "Passengers," "Mother!" and "Red Sparrow." The films were not only poorly received among critics, but commercially as well.

"I was not pumping out the quality that I should have," she told VF. "I just think everybody had gotten sick of me. I'd gotten sick of me. It had just gotten to a point where I couldn't do anything right. If I walked a red carpet, it was, 'Why didn't she run?'"

So then, why do it? As any workaholic would know, it's about so much more than money.

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Courtesy of Ms. Lopez
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Marcella Lopez didn't always want to be a teacher — but once she became one, she found her passion. That's why she's stayed in the profession for 23 years, spending the past 16 at her current school in Los Angeles, where she mostly teaches children of color.

"I wanted purpose, to give back, to live a life of public service, to light the spark in others to think critically and to be kind human beings," she says. "More importantly, I wanted my students to see themselves when they saw me, to believe they could do it too."

Ms. Lopez didn't encounter a teacher of color until college. "That moment was life-changing for me," she recalls. "It was the first time I felt comfortable in my own skin as a student. Always remembering how I felt in that college class many years ago has kept me grounded year after year."

It's also guided her teaching. Ms. Lopez says she always selects authors and characters that represent her students and celebrate other ethnicities so students can relate to what they read while also learning about other cultures.

"I want them to see themselves in the books they read, respect those that may not look like them and realize they may have lots in common with [other cultures] they read about," she says.

She also wants her students to have a different experience in school than she did.

When Ms. Lopez was in first grade, she "was speaking in Spanish to a new student, showing her where the restroom was when a staff member overheard our conversation and directed me to not speak in Spanish," she recalls. "In 'this school,' we only speak English," she remembers them saying. "From that day forward, I was made to feel less-than and embarrassed to speak the language of my family, my ancestors; the language I learned to speak first."

Part of her job, she says, is to find new ways to promote acceptance and inclusion in her classroom.

"The worldwide movement around social justice following the death of George Floyd amplified my duty as a teacher to learn how to discuss racial equity in a way that made sense to my little learners," she says. "It ignited me to help them see themselves in a positive light, to make our classroom family feel more inclusive, and make our classroom a safe place to have authentic conversations."

One way she did that was by raising money through DonorsChoose to purchase books and other materials for her classroom that feature diverse perspectives.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

The Allstate Foundation recently partnered with DonorsChoose to create a Racial Justice and Representation category to encourage teachers like Ms. Lopez to create projects that address racial equity in the classroom. To launch the category, The Allstate Foundation matched all donations to these projects for a total of $1.5 million. Together, they hope to drive awareness and funding to projects that bring diversity, inclusion, and identity-affirming learning materials into classrooms across the country. You can see current projects seeking funding here.

When Ms. Lopez wanted to incorporate inclusive coloring books into her lesson plans, The Allstate Foundation fully funded her project so she was able to purchase them.

"I'm a lifelong learner, striving to be my best version of myself and always working to inspire my little learners to do the same," she says. Each week, Ms. Lopez and the students would focus on a page in the book and discuss its message. And she plans to do the same again this school year.

"DonorsChoose has been a gamechanger for my students. Without the support of all the donors that come together on this platform, we wouldn't have a sliver of what I've been able to provide for my students, especially during the pandemic," she says.

"My passion is to continue striving to be excellent, and to continue to find ways to use literature as an anchor, depicting images that reflect my students," she says.

To help teachers like Ms. Lopez drive this important mission forward, donate on DonorsChoose.

Courtesy of Ms. Lopez

@bluffbakes on Tiktok

Chloe Sexton—baker, business owner, mother—knows all too well about "daddy privilege," that is, when men receive exorbitant amounts of praise for doing normal parental duties. You know, the ones that moms do without so much as a thank you.

In a lighthearted (while nonetheless biting) TikTok video, Chloe shares a "fun little story about 'daddy privilege'" that has now gone viral—no doubt due in part because working moms can relate to this on a deep, personal and infuriating level.

Chloe's TED Talks-worthy rant begins with:

"My husband has a job. I have a business, my husband has a job. Could not make that any clearer, right? Well, my bakery requires that we buy certain wholesale ingredients at this place called Restaurant Depot every week. You've seen me do videos of it before where I'm, like, wearing him or was massively pregnant buying 400 pounds of flour and 100 pounds of butter, and that's a weekly thing. The list goes on and on, like — it's a lot."
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Cayce LaCorte explains why virginity doesn't exist.

The concept of virginity is a very loaded issue in American culture. If a woman loses hers when she's too young she can be slut-shamed. If a man remains a virgin for too long, he can be bullied for not being manly enough.

There is also a whole slew of religious mind games associated with virginity that can give people some serious psychological problems associated with sex.

Losing one's virginity has also been blown up way beyond proportion. It's often believed that it's a magical experience—it's usually not. Or that after having sex for the first time people can really start to enjoy living life—not the case.

What if we just dropped all of the stigmas surrounding virginity and instead, replaced them with healthy attitudes toward sex and relationships?

Writer Cayce LaCorte is going viral on TikTok for the simple way she's taught her five daughters to think about virginity. They don't have to. LaCorte shared her parenting ideas on TikTok in response to mom-influencer Nevada Shareef's question: "Name something about the way you raised your kids that people think is weird but you think is healthy."

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