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In writing this article, I have hit delete and started from scratch three times now. (Third time's the charm!) Truth be told, I feel conflicted about this story. The struggle has probably been around since the cavemen and even more prevalent in today's age of “Pinterest parenting."

Mommy guilt.There, I said it.

We have all felt it. From the moment baby is conceived (or maybe even before), our entire being is flooded with this feeling. It may ebb and flow, like the tides, but it is always there.

During pregnancy alone, I could have filled a diaper pail with all of the guilt I placed on myself. In those 40 weeks, I ate too much chocolate, not enough leafy greens, and I even drank a Diet Coke or two (or six). It only got worse when my son was born.


Mommy guilt consumed me on a daily basis.

Why lie? It still does.

When I walked in on my son playing with the cords on my husband's laptop, I felt guilty for yelling…and a little worried that my neighbor heard.

I then proceeded to feel guilty about passing by the park to run errands instead.

After a re-route to the park (in lieu of grocery shopping),I felt guilty for pressuring my son to take one bite of fish at dinner.

After dinner, I felt guilty for letting him watch 15 minutes of a movie. What can I say, I was too wiped to do anything else with him.

After he goes to sleep, I will feel guilty for taking 45minutes to watch House of Cards instead of catching up on work.

My whole day is filled with guilt. From sunrise to sunset (and it's spring in Sweden, so we are talking about loooong days). With the constant struggle to face this guilt, isit any wonder I am so exhausted at the end of the day?

I have a feeling this nagging sense of culpability consumes many of us mamas. We almost feel like there is some mystical presence peeking through the window, keeping an eye onus and judging when we fall short.

We have all had our fair share of fails as parents. Whether we are running on 3 hours of sleep and literally can't stop the “Just go to sleep!" rant before it pops out, or we accidentally bonk little one on the head while lifting him from the car seat, I know we feel those moments even more than our precious babes.

So, what's the solution?

After much consideration, I have decided that it is unrealistic to simply “stop feeling guilty."

Guilt is what makes us better parents, after all.

The fact that we feel guilty simply means we haven't completely given up on caring. It may be a pain, but I think guilt is an adaptive trait, promoting better parenting (and happier kiddos) with every generation.

Instead of trying to ditch it completely, there are a few things us mamas can do to harness and channel our inner guilt.

Embrace it. Just a little bit.

If there is something in your daily routine that regularly makes you feel uncomfortable, think of ways you might change it.

Of course, we can't change everything that makes us feel guilty. We must choose our battles.

I will probably ignore my guilt and concede a few minutes of screen time for my tot after dinner tomorrow (and forgive myself later). But, I will also embrace my guilt and try to cut down on yelling at my little one for making mischief. He is a child, after all!

Stop comparing your apples to another mama's oranges.

Even as a child “expert," I still feel like I am winging it most of the time.

I dare you to find one mother out there who really has it all figured out. I don't care how many picture-perfect family photos we are bombarded with on social media. It simply isn't a representative picture of reality.

This is why it is crucial that we stop trying to compare our parenting realities to other parents' showpiece moments.

The time spent comparing ourselves to other mamas could be better spent enjoying time with our children…or at least folding the laundry.

As long as our children's needs for safety and security are being met, everything else will get done in your own uniquely effective way, mama!

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Focus on your accomplishments.

Some of my best friends are the most inspiring (and intimidating) mothers I have ever met.

One entrusted her one-year-old son with a Montessori bed, another gives her daughter daily outdoor time to “become one with nature," and one actually added a custom-made backsplash to her daughter's play kitchen.

These women inspire me to be a better mother...when they aren't making me question my competency as a parent (and human being). I simply must remember to think of my own accomplishments as a mother when thoughts of inferiority start creeping up.

It's true. We could all benefit from a little self-praise each day.

Before you go to sleep tonight, ponder 2 or 3 things that went well with your little one during the day.

Even if it's just that you spent 15minutes playing with your babe without checking your phone, or you didn't burn dinner during the witching hour.

Being a mother is hard. Without a pat on the back once in a while, burn out is imminent.

Take criticism out of the equation.

Sure, we know that every child is unique. Every family has different needs. Every mother has different philosophies and principles. Yet, it is almost second-nature to judge a mother for making different decisions from our own.

As mamas, we know firsthand how challenging motherhood is.

The next time you feel yourself judging another mama, try to remember how hard parenthood really is. Whether a mother chooses to introduce a pacifier at one week or uses a front-facing car seat before four years (gasp), she probably has a good reason for her decision—and has likely already faced her inner guilt trip.

If it helps, try to think of one specific reason that mother might be doing what she is doing.

Today I did a mini-eye-roll at a mother for jaywalking with her impressionable daughter on a busy street. But, I stopped myself and tried to think of why she might be in such a rush. Maybe she was hurrying to pick up a second child from preschool. Et voila. Judgment replaced with compassion and empathy.

Sometimes I notice myself worrying about what other mothers will think of my actions as a parent. I even find myself justifying and prefacing every questionable decision I make as a mother for fear of being judged.

Yes, yes, my son is having a piece of blueberry pie for lunch today. But, I promise, he has eaten vegetables, whole grains, and heart-healthy nuts for every other meal this week…

Why do we feel the need to explain ourselves? We need to own our parenting choices. Scratch that. We need to rock them. #babyfoodie#enjoylife #onfridayswehavepie

We are our own harshest critics. What we all need from each other is support, reassurance, friendship, and inspiration.

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As a former beauty editor, I pride myself in housing the best skincare products in my bathroom. Walk in and you're sure to be greeted with purifying masks, micellar water, retinol ceramide capsules and Vitamin C serums. What can I say? Old habits die hard. But when I had my son, I was hesitant to use products on him. I wanted to keep his baby-soft skin for as long as possible, without tainting it with harsh chemicals.

Eventually, I acquiesced and began using leading brands on his sensitive skin. I immediately regretted it. His skin became dry and itchy and regardless of what I used on him, it never seemed to get better. I found myself asking, "Why don't beauty brands care about baby skin as much as they care about adult skin?"

When I had my daughter in May, I knew I had to take a different approach for her skin. Instead of using popular brands that are loaded with petroleum and parabens, I opted for cleaner products. These days I'm all about skincare that contains super-fruits (like pomegranate sterols, which are brimming with antioxidants) and sulfate-free cleansers that contain glycolipids that won't over-dry her skin. And, so far, Pipette gets it right.

What's in it

At first glance, the collection of shampoo, wipes, balm, oil and lotion looks like your typical baby line—I swear cute colors and a clean look gets me everytime—but there's one major difference: All products are environmentally friendly and cruelty-free, with ingredients derived from plants or nontoxic synthetic sources. Also, at the core of Pipette's formula is squalane, which is basically a powerhouse moisturizing ingredient that babies make in utero that helps protect their skin for the first few hours after birth. And, thanks to research, we know that squalane isn't an irritant, and is best for those with sensitive skin. Finally, a brand really considered my baby's dry skin.

Off the bat, I was most interested in the baby balm because let's be honest, can you ever have too much protection down there? After applying, I noticed it quickly absorbed into her delicate skin. No rash. No irritation. No annoyed baby. Mama was happy. It's also worth noting there wasn't any white residue left on her bottom that usually requires several wipes to remove.

Why it's different

I love that Pipette doesn't smell like an artificial baby—you, know that powdery, musky note that never actually smells like a newborn. It's fragrance free, which means I can continue to smell my daughter's natural scent that's seriously out of this world. I also enjoy that the products are lightweight, making her skin (and my fingers) feel super smooth and soft even hours after application.

The bottom line

Caring for a baby's sensitive skin isn't easy. There's so much to think about, but Pipette makes it easier for mamas who don't want to compromise on safety or sustainability. I'm obsessed, and I plan to start using the entire collection on my toddler as well. What can I say, old habits indeed die hard.

This article was sponsored by Pipette. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Military families give up so much for their country, particularly when they have small children at home. Those of us who have never witnessed this kind of sacrifice first-hand could use a reminder of it once in a while, which is just one of the reasons we're so happy to see the beautiful photoshoot Mary Chevalier arranged for her husband's return home from Afghanistan.

The photoshoot was extra special because while James Chevalier was serving a nine-month deployment, Mary gave birth to their second son, Caspian.

Getting ready to meet Dad

"During the laboring and birthing process of Caspian, I was surrounded by family, but that did not fill the void of not having my husband by my side," Mary told InsideEdition.com. "He was able to video chat during the labor and birth, but for both of us, it was not enough."

While James had yet to meet Caspian, their 3-year-old son, Gage, missed his dad a whole lot, so this homecoming was going to be a big deal for him too. That's why Mary arranged for her wedding photographer, Brittany Watson, to be with them for their reunion in Atlanta.

Gage was so happy to see his Dad 

"[He] had no idea he was going to be getting to see his daddy that day," Watson wrote on Facebook. "The family met at the Southeastern Railway Museum for Gage to go on a special train ride... little did he know, he'd be doing it with daddy!"

Watson did a beautiful job capturing the high emotions of every single family member, from Gage's surprise, to the delight on baby Caspian's face. It's no wonder her Facebook post went viral last week.

"Caspian is natural, a very happy baby, but both James and I felt like Caspian knew who his father was almost immediately," Mary told Inside Edition. "He was easily comforted by me husband right off the bat and seemed to have an instant connection. It was very emotional."

The moment this dad had been waiting for 

If we're sobbing just looking at the photos, we can't even imagine what it was like in real life.

"We are all so blessed and take so much for granted," Watson wrote. "I cannot contain the joy I feel in my heart when I look at these images, and I hope you feel it too!"

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During both of my pregnancies, I was under the care of an amazing midwife. Every time I went to her office for check-ups, I was mesmerized by the wall of photos participating in what may be the most painfully magical moment of a woman's life: giving birth. But there was a painting that always drew my attention: a woman dressed in orange, holding her newborn baby with a face that could be described as clueless. The line above the canvas read, "Now what?"

I felt like the woman in the painting as I kissed my mother goodbye when my daughter was born. She came from my native Colombia to stay with us for three months. When she left, I realized that my husband had been working as usual during those first 90 days of our new life. My baby was born on a Friday and on Monday he was back at the office. (No parental leave policy for him.)


Now what? I thought. The quote "It takes a village to raise a child" suddenly started to hit home, literally.

After a few years in Miami, I had some friends, but it truly didn't feel like I had a village. Some were not mothers yet, most of them worked full-time and others didn't live close by. My nomad life left my best friends spread out in different places in the world. I found myself signing up for "mommy and me" classes in search of new mothers, immigrants like me, alone like me.

It seemed like a utopian dream to think about when my grandmothers became mothers. Both of them had 6 and 10 children and they were able to stay sane (or maybe not? I don't know). But at least they had family around—people cooking, offering help. There was a sense of community.

My mother and father grew up in "the village." Big families with so many children that the older siblings ended up taking care of the little ones; aunts were like second mothers and neighbors became family.

When I was about to give birth to my second baby, my sister had just had her baby girl back in Colombia. Once, she called me crying because her maternity leave was almost over. My parents live close to her, so that was a bonus. Hiring a nanny back there is more affordable. But even seeing the positive aspects of it, I wished I could have been there for her, to be each other's village.

The younger me didn't realize that when I took a plane to leave my country in search of new experiences 19 years ago, I was giving up the chance to have my loved ones close by when I became a mother. And when I say close by, I mean as in no planes involved.

It hasn't been easy, but after two kids and plenty of mommy and me classes and random conversations that became true connections, I can say I have a mini-village, a small collection of solitudes coming together to lean on each other. But for some reason, it doesn't truly feel like one of those described in the old books where women gathered to knit while breastfeeding and all the children become like siblings.

Life gets in the way, and everyone gets sucked into their own worlds. In the absence of a true village, we feel the pressure to be and do everything that once was done by a group of people. We often lose perspective of priorities because we are taking care of everything at the same time. Starting to feel sick causes anxiety and even fear because it means so many things need to happen in order for mom—especially if single—to lay down and recover while the children are taken care of. And when the children get sick, that could mean losing money for a working mother or father, because the truth is that most corporations are not designed to nurture families.

In the absence of that model of a village I long for, we tend to rely on social media to have a sense of community and feel supported. We may feel that since we are capable of doing so much—working and stay at home moms equally—perhaps we don't need help. Or quite the opposite: mom guilt kicks in and feelings of not being enough torment our night sleep. Depression and anxiety can enter the picture and just thinking about the amount of energy and time that takes to create true connections, we may often curl up in our little cocoon with our children and partners—if they are present—when they come home.

Now what? was my thought this week while driving back and forth to the pediatrician with my sick son. I can't get the virus, I have to be strong, my daughter can't get ill, my husband needs to be healthy for his work trip next week, we all need to be well for my son's fifth birthday. And so, it goes on. I texted one of my mom friends just to rant. She rants back because her son is also sick. She sent me a heart and an "I'm here if you need to talk."

I am grateful to have talked to her at that random postpartum circle when I first became a mother. She's a Latina immigrant like me and feels exactly like me. I will do it more, get out of my comfort zone and have—sometimes—awkward conversations so I can keep growing my own little village.

It may not look like the one I'd imagined, but still may allow me to be vulnerable even through a text message.

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Halloween is around the corner, but if you are like me you are still trying to figure out what to dress your family (especially the little ones), so here are some cute ideas inspired by famous characters. There's something for everyone—from cartoon lovers to ideas for the entire family!

Here are some adorable character costumes for your family:

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