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At the age of 4, my daughter looked at me and said, “Mama, we have a problem–I don’t like to sleep.” Shocked, I managed to stifle my horror and mutter, “Well that’s unfortunate because I do.” In fact, I never appreciated sleep until I had children and got so little of it.

As my daughter and I faced off across the bedtime divide we couldn’t have been at more opposite ends of the spectrum. She wanted to hold onto me and I wanted her to let me go. It was only when I realized we could both get what we wanted that I was able to find my way through. First, I had to surrender to the idea that she was going to be the one to change.

I realized it was me that needed to lead us through the sleep impasse—but couldn’t do so without first understanding what was going on for her.

What alarms a child most of all is separation from their caretakers. The reason separation is so hard is because attachment is their greatest need. Children weren’t meant to take care of themselves and seek to be strongly tethered to adults who assume responsibility for them. As immature beings, children are highly dependent upon their caretakers to meet their hunger for contact and closeness, safety and nourishment. When they are apart from us, their alarm system can be highly activated leading to clinging, protest and crying in distress. The alarm can appear more subtly like needing to go to the bathroom, get a glass of water, more food or have help in fluffing their pillow up!

The biggest separation a child faces in the day is bedtime–not school or even when we are at work. We think because we are all in the same house they feel connected but sleep represents a long separation–up to 10 hours of unconsciousness where they can feel very far away from us. When you drop them off at preschool or daycare there is at least an adult to greet and take care of them. When they go to bed there is no one waiting saying, “Hello, welcome to your sleepy dream time! I will make sure the monsters don’t bother you tonight.” What children face when we put them to bed is the biggest disconnect of their entire day. It seems like such a cruel irony that when children need us the most, we typically have little energy left.

The idea of being generous and giving, things that come so easy on a full parenting gas tank, can reduce us to tears.

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When I started to listen to what my daughter’s behavior was telling me, I realized she was scared and lonely. It was actually a compliment to our relationship that she depended on me to keep her safe and wanted to be close. When I asked her why she didn’t like to sleep she told me, “Because the monsters come out of my eyes.” She then pointed to the ceiling and said, “That dream catcher is broken.” She was telling me she needed more from me and to take the lead in helping her rest. I told her that monsters weren’t her problem nor broken dream catchers, I was there to care for her throughout the night. Before you start to panic, I didn’t give up sleep, but I did certainly made it appear to her that I did.

I started by finding the generosity in me that she needed and accepted some things would need to wait–like housework or emails. I found my tears about the ‘me-time’ I craved and surrendered to the sacrifices that come with being a parent. I worked hard at not rushing her, having warmth and delight as I put her to bed, sending her a genuine message that I loved being with her. When the desperation would sneak in on me again I would remind myself that I could sleep all I wanted when she eventually left home or when I was dead.

Instead of expecting her to say goodnight and “see you in the morning,” I moved to make our separations shorter. I told her I would check on her in five minutes and that she could listen for my footsteps in the kitchen or for the sound of my voice. I always returned as I had promised full of more kisses while reminding her of the plans for the following day. I would tie invisible strings between our beds and tell her she just had to tug on them if she needed me. I told her I visited her in the night and watched her sleep. I once kissed her cheek with lipstick when she was sleeping but she told me in the morning, “I don’t like it when you make my face all messy!”

I even experimented with putting things under her pillow to find in the morning like treasure. She enjoyed the picture books most of all, running to read them together in our cuddle time. However, she was not happy with me when I left a pair of her favorite princess underwear under her pillow to wear. I tried many things–some worked and some did not, but the message slowly got through.

I worked hard to build a bridge from bedtime to the morning, conveying I was holding onto her so that she could let go of me.

Instead of saying goodnight I tried to point her face into the next hello. I aimed to sooth her alarm system that had become activated by separation. I created pit stops for her to anticipate, breaking the 10 hours of separate space into bite size pieces she could manage. We both started to sleep better as a result.

As I took the lead in navigating us through the bedtime separation my daughter grew more confident that this was my job and not her duty. While singing her to sleep one night she looked at me and said, “Mama, no offense, but I can’t sleep when you are singing to me. Can you go now?” I stifled my laughter and said, “I’m sorry honey, have I been keeping you awake all this time?”

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


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I'd make these for dinner, too.

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