The Best Of Romper: Our Favorite 50 Stories From 2018

What. A. Year. Looking back and trying to sum up 2018 is a mind-boggling task. What's the best way to mark the end of a year filled with so much undeniable, if sometimes painful, growth? We are different people than we were on January 1. Our kids have grown, our voices have grown, Steve Carell is hot now. We've come a long way.

This was the year when moms ran for office in record numbers, our teenagers started the first movement with any hope of reducing gun violence, and our leaders finally got the message that we need to do something about our nation’s shameful maternal mortality rate. We welcomed a new Royal baby (and had many thoughts about his royal mom) and we watched a fairytale wedding that was also a symbol of societal growth unimaginable even a half century ago. Meanwhile, our toddlers went completely bananas for baby shark (do do do do do do do).

Those touchstones barely scratch the surface of what happened in the World. Meanwhile, moms everywhere were doing our best in our individual worlds —  to keep our children fed, dressed, and snuggled; to pay bills and be creative and see a movie that isn't Frozen; to consolidate the chores we don't have time for with the purchase of a magnificent Instant Pot; to hold on to some semblance of our own identities. The growth that has brought in the past twelve months, often unseen, matters just as much.

At Romper we've always tried to represent the intersection of all of the people any given mother is each day in the many spheres in which she operates. (Here's our best of Romper 2017.) Parenthood is personal and different in so many ways for everyone, but the desire to locate yourself — integrated, whole, still you — in the middle of it all seems near universal.

The stories below (in no particular order) reflect both that versatility and yearning. This is our list of the Romper moments that make us the most proud this year — that made us laugh or made us cry; that made us angry and fired up and determined to make change; that made us wave our phones at our partners (See!); that made us sigh and say, Yes, I understand exactly.

"New Moms & The Importance Of Touch, Postpartum," by Michele Perez

Fotolia

"'I am a HUGE supporter or massage before, during, and after pregnancy — or anytime really,' she tells Romper, thinking back to her own experience. 'I have tears in my eyes just remembering this.'"

Read it here, and then read the rest of our Body Builders digital issue.

"These 21 Photos Break The Stereotype Of What Breastfeeding Is Supposed To Look Like," by Jamie Kenney

shurkin_son/Fotolia

"There is no one breastfeeding story. Some love it. Some hate it. Some try it for a few days, while others continue for years. Some are supported by family and professionals, some feel very alone. Some are shamed for their choice, others are praised. Some prevail in the face of seemingly insurmountable difficulty, and others find it comes to them very easily. Broadening our ideas about what breastfeeding looks like is an important part of the effort to destigmatize the range of experiences, and diffuse a reactive culture to breastfeeding. The photos here capture little pieces of the breastfeeding journeys of 21 different women — from first latches to tandem-nursing toddlers; from struggle to jubilation."

Read it here.

"The Gender Gap In Children's Books Is The Real Monster In The Room," by Samantha Grindell

Stocksy

"The centering of male characters is common across genres, as any good English major will tell you."

Read it, and see more custom graphics that illustrate the disparity, here.

"Mom Bod," edited by Margaret Wheeler Johnson

Having a baby changes your body, yes, but rather than view pregnancy as a physical anomaly, these six women viewed it as a transformative experience. Artists, athletes, and professionals, each has a different story to tell about the strength and beauty they discovered in their bodies after becoming mothers.

Read Mom Bod here, and then read our Body Builders digital issue here.

"'Nailed It' Is The Show & Parenting Mantra Of Our Time," by Christine Hernandez

Netflix

"Nailed It is essentially the Netflix version of a softball participation trophy. Each episode features three eager amateur bakers attempting to recreate Pinterest-worthy desserts with the hope of willing the grand prize of $10,000. The way Nailed It sets itself apart from other baking competitions — or any other reality show competition for that matter — is that there is no consequence for failing. There are no eliminations, there is no loser.

"In fact, the weakest link in the first round is given a helping hand in the second and final round; meanwhile, the winner of the first round is given a ridiculous hat to toil under as they compete for the cash prize."

Read it here.

"Picky Eaters," edited by Samantha Darby

When you're tired of playing the How Many Bites Do I Have To Eat game, here's the advice you need. From photos of what real moms cooked for their kids (vs. what they actually ate), to advice about how to tell if picky eating is actually boredom or anxiety, tried and true hacks, and essays exploring the reality of eating and kids with special needs, this series aims to let you know that you’re not alone — and it’s going to be OK.

Read the rest of the infographic above, along with the Picky Eaters series here.

"New Family Separation Documentary Shows The Heartbreaking Impact Of America's Broken Immigration System," by Kaitlin Kimont

Courtesy of Beck Media

"You can disagree on the politics but I think, generally, if you have a beating heart and you watch the film, you’re going to identify with the struggle, the pain, the heartache of separating someone from their immediate family."

Read aboutColossus here.

"Ruth Bader Ginsburg Is Now A Baby Costume & A Parenting Philosophy," by Courtney Gorter

Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"There are bibs manufactured to look like jabots. It is 2018, she is the oldest supreme court justice, and Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a force among the preschool set."

Read it here.

"We Need To Have A Mature Conversation About How Terrible Our Childcare System Actually Is," by Korey Lane with additional reporting by Josephine Yurcaba

NadyaEugene/Shutterstock

"It costs more to put your child in care than to go to school or pay rent every month. And it's exhausting."

Read it here.

"Stork's Eye View," edited by Janet Manley

You'll never forget the birth of your child, but what does everyone else who was there remember?

Read the series, featuring a look at birth from the point of view of people like the anesthesiologist, the hospital gift shop worker, and the Uber driver, here.

"These Are All Our Children," by Samantha Darby

John Moore/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"What happens when we fail to remember the migration our own parents and grandparents took to get here? When we 'other' child migrants? We get the story of Aylan Kurdi, 3, a refugee who drowned en route from Syria.

"... These are all our children. The immigrant children, the refugee children, the children drinking contaminated water and being shot on our streets — they are all ours. You can't proclaim 'all lives matter' when you feel oppressed and then ignore the children that aren't white. You can't wave an American flag and talk about freedom while ignoring that you're simply a natural American-born citizen because of sheer good luck."

Read it here.

"Why It’s Harder to Be a Poor Parent Today Than It Was 20 Years Ago," by Ashley Austrew

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images

"In the U.S. we talk a good game about pulling yourself up, putting your best foot forward, and living the American Dream, but it could be that the dream isn’t even possible for most people anymore."

Read it here.

"Believe It Or Not, Millennials Actually Like Parenting," by Janet Manley

Winnie Au

"It is not trendy to paint parenthood, so often reduced to diaper pails and temper tantrums in the aisles of Target, as sublime. But it is."

Read the cover story of All I Want, our holiday digital issue, here.

"Recovering From Birth After Handing The Baby Over To Their Parents," by Risa Kerslake

"Leaving the hospital empty-handed after delivering a baby is definitely surreal."

Read it here.

"I Was Cheated On While Pregnant, & It’s More Complicated Than You Think," by Samantha Darby

Joe Scarnici/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"When it happens to you, you blame yourself. You tell yourself that it was because you got 'fat' and pregnant. You wonder if you were so focused on the baby you forgot to pay attention to him. You think about all those nights you fell asleep early during the first trimester instead of making time to have sex with your S.O. You assume that he's scared of being a father, that you pressured him too much to be a good dad, that your family is too much for him. You think this is some kind of karma you were due to receive.

"... Being pregnant means being vulnerable. It brings every worry and fear you've ever had about yourself to the surface."

Read it here.

"These Dancers Shook Up All Our Ideas About What Kids With Special Needs Have To Offer," by Hillary Savoie

Hillary Savoie

"A dancer in the front, Shira, has caught my eye with her broad smile. I can't help but smile back, laugh with her. I press my hands together in front of my mouth, and, suddenly, feel tears welling up in my eyes. Laurie, the mom of the dancer who goes by 'Ava Flava,' slides a few seats over, and says, 'You’re going to be laughing and weeping all week. They should warn the new parents.'”

Read it here.

"'Why Are We Letting Our Mothers Die?' A Conversation About Postpartum Treatment," by Ashley Stoney

Facebook/Jessica Porten; Ashley Stoney

"I was not surprised by the police. Because I used the term 'violent thoughts,' they were legally obligated to call the police, so they warned me before they called the police, they said, 'You’ll have to go to emergency room, the police will have to come and take you there, and we can’t leave you alone with the baby.'"

Read the conversation here.

"I’m A Teacher That Received An $80 Raise Last Year, & I’m Worn Out," by Dina Leygerman

Courtesy of Dina Leygerman

"Still, I continue to do what I do. I continue to give my students everything I have, continue to teach like there’s no tomorrow, and continue to push through my frustrations and disappointments with the education system and how it treats teachers. I continue to make self-deprecating jokes about my salary but cry behind closed doors because I, too, want to give my own children the experiences they need. I tell myself it’s all worth it, I convince myself what I do matters, and I tell myself that, one day, it'll get better."

Read it here.

"Who Decided Our Teenage Years Don’t Matter?" by April Daniels Hussar

The author at 16; Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

"These are old memories, and yet, due to the nature of adolescence — the feeling that everything in our lives was coming to a head, that everything happening to us was so weighted and meaningful — they are some of the most vivid memories we have."

Read it here.

"I Tried Go-To's Skin Care Line For 2 Months, & The Results Were Pretty Damn Good," by Anne Vorrasi

Courtesy of Anne Vorrasi

"Case in point: 'This mask will make me look even amazinger' is emblazoned across a sheet mask packet, and you know what? It kind of did."

Read it here.

"Dear Jenny: Should I Have Another Baby?" by Jenny True

Fotolia

"Instead of pretending my kid is going to die, maybe — just maybe — I could pretend he's going to live. Maybe I could stop feeling distracted by what I might be missing out on in my hypothetical future and pour all my energy into being present, now, with my son."

Read it here, and read all of Jenny's hilarious and perfectly irreverent advice here.

"It's Back To School Season And That Means Segregation For My Kid," by Aimee Christian

Fotolia

"I believe in integration with all my heart and soul. I believe that humans learn tolerance and respect for other humans by seeing them, by interacting with them, by getting to know them. Exposure to people of all walks of life normalizes people of all walks of life. Studies show that children with disabilities are more successful in inclusive environments and I believe it is equally beneficial for typically developing children to have atypical children in their midst. It is the best way to prepare our children for the real world, which Freyja will have to navigate without a team of specialists and teachers and doctors and parents. I don’t want schools to be a place where children like Freyja are always other because I don’t want them to grow into adults who are other."

Read it here.

"Here's What Med Students Actually Learn About Pregnancy — And What They Don't," by Jenna Flannigan

Fotolia

“'It’s supposed to be realistic, but it’s pretty rigid. I would not describe it as lifelike although I think it attempts to be lifelike,'” Bodkin laughs. Even so, she’s glad she had a chance to practice on a mannequin first before examining a patient. “'It’s really nice to go through the motions even just to figure out where you want your lighting and how to hold the speculum.'”

Read it here, and then read the rest of our digital issue, Trying.

"Why Do Millennial Moms Have So Many House Plants?" by Carla Bruce-Eddings

Photo courtesy of Katie Joy

"On one hand, young moms may seem the most equipped to handle the pressures of plant care: they’re already well-trained in being responsive to someone else’s needs, thinking ahead, tending to and generally fretting over the continued health and happiness of another living creature that, for the first few years of life, cannot communicate its needs in consistent human language. Once a new mother has braved the crippling mundanity and nightmarish anarchy of a newborn’s rule, followed by the hair-pulling mania of keeping a toddler clean, stable, well-fed and in one piece from day to endless day, what challenge could a stationary, quiet plant possibly pose?

"Well, quiet may be part of the problem."

Read it here.

"18 Moms Share All The Things They Do Before 9 A.M.," by Steph Montgomery

Courtesy of Steph Montgomery

"So, what does a typical morning look like? Well, for me, I try to enjoy a few minutes of silence before the chaos starts."

Read it here and share your own list on Instagram with the hashtag #Before9AM for a chance to be featured on our Instagram.

"The Pressure On New Moms: Be Sad & Fat Or Desperate & Thin," by Danielle Campoamor

Courtesy of Danielle Campoamor

"With the added burden of sleep deprivation, I found it increasingly difficult to fight against the prevailing narrative that, as a new mom, I was worthless. I was nothing. That my life, as I had known it, had come to an end."

Read it here, and the rest of Romper's Shameless series here.

"Moms Have Abortions, So It's Time People Stop Saying These 8 Things About Those Of Us Who Do," by Priscilla Blossom

Alex Wong/Getty Images News/Getty Images

"In other words, the majority of people who are terminating their pregnancies are moms. They're people who've been pregnant before, have had babies before, and who know just how complicated pregnancy, labor, delivery, postpartum, and parenting can be. They're the people we, as a society, have trusted to raise the next generation, which makes certain people's failure to trust their decision to end a pregnancy all the more perplexing."

Read it here.

"5 Things Your Toddler's Brain Is Like, According To Science," by Jacqueline Burt Cote

Christin Lola/Fotolia

"Your toddler's brain is like a weekend in Vegas."

Read it here.

"This Changes Everything," edited by Janet Manley and reported by Hillary Savoie

"It is clear that PTSD is a factor in the lives of parents, especially mothers, raising children with disabilities ...

"Parents may be unlikely to bring up their own health concerns with their children’s medical teams, and, even if they recognize their need for support, they may face significant financial and logistical barriers to receiving care. As this project illustrates, what can change is for there to be a greater awareness of the impacts caregivers whether while fighting for their childrens' lives, and for medical staff, friends, and family alike to acknowledge these experiences, rather than shy away from them. What can change is the view of parents as superheroes who were somehow made to withstand a life of uncertainty surrounding their children's health. They aren't superheroes. They are parents like you. These are their stories."

Meet six incredible women here.

"'The Kissing Hand': The Book That Taught Me How To Grieve My Mom," by Samantha Grindell

"I feel her on days with blue skies; in my sister's laugh; in the echo of her face on my aunt's. And I press my hand to my cheek each night when I go to sleep, feeling my mom's love course through me, just as a little raccoon felt the warmth of his mom's touch on his first day of school."

Read it here, and then dive into Romper's series celebrating the books that send us back to the days of our own footed pajamas, This Book Belongs To.

"I Love My Son, But A Crisis Pregnancy Center Tricked Me Into Having Him," by Cherisse

Fotolia

"My son deserved to be born to a mother who would not be left hanging to raise him alone. He deserved to be born into a social infrastructure willing to provide his mother with the necessary social supports to live, and to do so without stigma or shame."

Read it here.

"The Try-ers," edited by Janet Manley

Infertility is often discussed as a hurdle on the road to parenthood, or a feminine mystery; the Trying project set out to create space to appreciate what it is like to try for a family by following five women month to month. Their experiences challenge many of the common narratives around pregnancy, partnership, and fertility treatment.

Alyssa lost her first pregnancy to miscarriage; Ambreia has been trying for her second baby for two and a half years; Jackie is navigating fertility and hypothalamic amenorrhea; Des'Rea is undergoing IVF, after her wife delivered earlier this year; and Jessie is in her second year of trying while battling PCOS. Five women trying to conceive, five very different stories unfolding.

Meet the Tye-rs, and follow their journeys here. Then read our digital issue all about the business of getting a baby, Trying.

"'Tully’ Star Charlize Theron On Motherhood & Having No Clue If You’re Doing The Right Thing," by Janet Manley

Focus Features

"Theron dives to impressive depths in portraying a postpartum woman going through the wringer, aware that simply representing that experience onscreen is a powerful remedy. 'I was hoping viewers would tap into not knowing if you're doing it all right, not knowing if you're doing the right thing, if you're messing your kids up, if you're having a hard time with this while no one else is, and [asking] why is no one talking about this?'"

Read it here.

"Actually, I’m Not Buying My Kids’ School Pictures This Year & Here’s Why," by Ashley Austrew

Courtesy of Ashley Austrew

"I have personally never paid for a family photo shoot, but I know I can snap an iPhone photo of my kid smiling at the park and it will be a much better representation of who they are in that moment than a staged photo of them sitting with their hands crossed in front of a digitally inserted retro purple background."

Read it here.

"Fears Every Black Mom Has About Back to School That White Moms Can't Understand," by Latifah Miles

Courtesy of Latifah Miles

"When my son is robbed of a diverse classroom, he is robbed of the experience of knowing and interacting with people of other cultures. He is robbed of seeing himself in his peers in an academic setting instead of just seeing himself in Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice. He is robbed of seeing his face in the faces of the educators that are leading him, molding him, and guiding him. That is not a robbery my son can afford growing up as a black boy in America."

Read it here.

"As The Parent Of A Transgender Kid, Here's What I Want You To Know," by Jamie Bruesehoff

Courtesy of Jamie Bruesehoff

"Being transgender is just one part of her. At the same time, transgender kids are different. They’ve wrestled with and articulated their identities in a way that most adults I know haven’t. They know that the world can be a damn scary place for kids like them. More often than not, they are wise beyond their years, at the same time boldly self-confident and deeply self-conscious, as they navigate being themselves in a world that would rather they weren’t. Transgender isn’t a dirty word. It doesn’t need to be whispered in hushed tones. It has nothing to do with sex. When you act like the word 'transgender' is scandalous, you’re acting like my child is scandalous."

Read it here.

"Patagonia Dad Wants A Better World For His Kids, & A Vacuum-Sealed Pint Glass," by Emily Brown

Romper/Patagonia

"Nothing sets my ovaries aflame quite like a dad in a Patagonia jacket carrying a baby in a tiny version of the same Patagonia jacket."

Read it here.

"I Love That My Son Chose A 'Girly' Backpack But I'm Nervous For His First Day Of School," by Katie Alicea

Courtesy of Katie Alicea

"When we tell our boys that liking things that are stereotypically for women makes them somehow weaker or make fun of them for liking it, they begin to hear the message that women are weaker and less than. If we are willing to pause and think about it, it really is quite silly to imagine that little children of all genders wouldn’t like sparkly, colorful, shiny things. So why are we trying to get our boys to live in a muted world of blues, browns, and greens, where it’s fine if they play with guns and trucks, but not with Barbies?"

Read it here. (It's not every day that Wonder Woman Instagrams your essay!)

"The 6-Week Postpartum Checkup Is Failing Moms," by Jenna Flannigan

Fotolia

"There’s a total disregard of mothers as having anything other to do than take care of their baby after childbirth. As I often put it, once the candy is out of the wrapper, the wrapper is cast aside."

Read it here, then read our digital issue Body Builders here.

"My Secret to Potty Training Boys? Don’t Bother," by Sarah Bradley

Fotolia

"One day, he did not care enough about potty training to make it happen. The next day, he wanted it. Simple as that. Within 48 hours he was accident-free, using the bathroom and wearing underwear like some kind of potty training rock star, and I had played virtually no part in the transformation.

"It was both awesome and kind of... confusing. How much of parenting was like this? (I had clearly been taking credit for some stuff I had no business taking credit for.) How many milestones had happened not as a result of my dedicated parenting, but because something within my child’s own emotional and physical development had been triggered?"

Read it here.

"Doula Diaries, Season 2," by The Romper Video Team

Bustle on YouTube

"Despite there being so much that is universal about the pregnancy experience, every birth story is different. Last year, Romper launched Doula Diaries, our video series showcasing the people who help others give birth. And now we’re back with Doula Diaries, Season 2, taking viewers inside four more incredible, moving, and very different journeys of women bringing a baby into the world, with the help and support of another woman, her doula."

Read our introduction here. And watch Season 2 here.

"We Are Still Shackling Women During Childbirth & Pregnancy," by Gianluca Russo

Fotolia

"I literally left the hospital with leg irons and a waist chain. They shackled me while my daughter was in the room with me and it was already hard that I was leaving her, so on top of being shackled it was almost unbearable."

Read it here.

"Toy Box," curated by Anne Vorassi

"'What do I get for a 4.5 year old who likes trucks and cooking shows and hates anything blue?' These are the sorts of questions you find yourself asking when the holidays close in and the small people in your house expect to be rewarded for the stellar behavior they haven't exhibited. Toy Box is our answer, 101 of the hottest and most creative toys out there, divided by age so you get it just right. In the spirit of the season, Romper is donating every sample toy we received to Children's Aid. Please click here to support their work."

Feast your eyes on Toy Box here, and read All I Want, Romper's Holiday digital issue here.

"Why Kate’s Infertility On ‘This Is Us’ Is Something More Women Should Talk About," by Candace Ganger

Ron Batzdorff/NBC

"When I sat in my doctor's office to discuss the same thing, I had no viewers — no fans to cheer in support of me — no script to follow. Having PCOS-related infertility is a lonely journey. You don't know if, or when, it'll get better; if you'll ever have the baby you dream of. You don't know the person you'll become because of going through it."

Read it here.

"We Are Arresting & Incarcerating Moms Who Can't Afford Bail, & The Costs Are Huge," by Danielle Campoamor

"Even if they don't actually go to prison and they're not convicted of anything and the charges are dismissed, in the few days or weeks that they spend in jail because they're too poor to pay to get out they've likely lost their jobs, their kids have been placed in someone else's care, and they've essentially lost their lives."

Read it here.

"'Sesame Street' Will Shed Light On Child Homelessness With A Muppet Named Lily," by Alana Romain

Sesame Street/YouTube

"As Sherrie Westin, Sesame Workshop's President of Global Impact and Philanthropy, noted, the goal of the initiative is ultimately to let children know 'that they are not alone and home is more than a house or an apartment — home is wherever the love lives.'"

Read it here.

"My Vulva Was The Hardest Thing To Love After Pregnancy," by Marie Southard Ospina

YouTube

"I took to my lower-hanging belly and its adorning stretchies much faster than I did to my new vulva. While the former felt like signs of the massive achievement I'd accomplished in carrying that baby in my belly, the latter just... didn't."

Read it here.

"This Politician Has A Few Words For The Anonymous Voter Who Told Her To 'Stay Home & Raise Your Kids,'" by Annamarya Scaccia

Courtesy of Kelly Kraus Mencke

"It was very important to me to bring a real voice for families. It is also important to break the picture of who we see in office representing us, women make great legislators at any level of government and are still amazing mothers."

Read it here.

"Chrissy Teigen Gets Real About Truly 'Letting Yourself Go' During Her Second Pregnancy," by Danielle Campoamor

Tara Ziemba/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images

"Teigen talks, specifically, about the postpartum bathroom situation: a special seventh circle of hell every new mom loathes with every exhausted fiber of her overwhelmed being. And yet, in her laid-back, 'let myself go,' trust-the-process attitude, even Teigen can make a painful pee situation funny. 'I'm just not looking forward to going to the bathroom with a water bottle every day,' she laughs, referring to the dreaded perineal irrigation bottle all moms who deliver vaginally know only too well. 'John was like, 'Are you going to the bathroom?' and I was like, 'Yes. And, yes, this is my water bottle. What?'"

Read it here.

"I'm A Basic Mom & Christmas Is My Time To Shineee," by Christine Hernandez

Photo courtesy of Christine Hernandez

"In the most challenging game of Boggle I have ever played, I spread the letters to my letter board (what basic mom does not own a letter board??) around my kitchen floor and tried to spell out whatever Christmasy phrase I could with the letters I had available. I finally settled on 'I HEART SANTA,' threw my son in the car and headed to the Dollar Tree for a festive hat."

Read it here.