A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood
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My husband recently said to me, "Why has life become so complicated?" It's true—gone are the days when all I had to worry about was rent, a car payment, and where to spend New Year's Eve. Now that I have children, the weight of responsibility has settled heavy on my shoulders. Preparing for our financial future and our children's wellbeing has been a top priority. No one said that "adulting" is always fun, but as parents, it's something we all have to do.


Here are five things to think about as you embrace this whole "adulting" thing as a parent. Think of this as a checklist, and work your way through it in whatever time frame works for you. Security is priceless.

1. Start an emergency fund

You never know when you're going to have an accident, flood, dental work, or even replace a kid's broken glasses. It's good to have a little emergency fund. But how much is enough?

Ellie Thompson, CEO of Money Therapy recommends saving more than two months' salary. "An emergency fund should be funded to cover your family's income for 3-6 months. Start slowly and be patient with your savings; a fully-funded emergency account may not accumulate for a few years."

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2. Contribute to your 401(k) or an IRA

401(k)s are one of the best benefits of working for a company. If you don't have retirement savings, you'll have to work longer than you might like or be able to. Thompson says, "One of the biggest financial stressors of today is not adequately saving enough for retirement—which can put pressure on you and your children if they are not equipped to financially care for you."

The maximum contribution you can make for 2018 (for those under 50) is $5,500. If you have a 401k from a previous employer, but can no longer contribute to it, you can roll your 401k into an IRA and still continue to make contributions to the new iRA. If you can, try to max out the annual contribution. Any time you get a raise, consider putting the extra money into your IRA or 401K. The money that you put into a retirement account when you are young is far more valuable than any contributions as a senior—that money has time to grow. Your future retired self will thank you.

3. Get life insurance

Life insurance can feel confusing, overwhelming and morbid. It's difficult to envision your own death and can be hard to sift through the many different types of life insurance to figure out what's best.

Check out this list of the best life insurance companies in the U.S. for some recommendations (and more information about life insurance in general). There is whole life, term and even life insurance that requires no medical exam (great if you have a pre-existing condition, but more expensive).

Life insurance is important, especially to cover the breadwinners in your household, should anything happen to one of you. Jason P. Veirs, Owner & President of Insurance Experts Solutions, Inc., says that term life is the best solution for most, which is lucky because term life is especially inexpensive right now.

4. Name a permanent and temporary guardian for your child(ren)

The best and most legally-binding way to name a permanent guardian for your children is in your will (you can even write your own). You should do this, especially if you don't want your "next of kin" to raise your children. Nothing upsets a parent more than thinking someone undesired will raise their child(ren), right? Get a will, especially if your family situation is not ideal.

But who will take them while that is sorted out? The answer is your emergency temporary guardian. This could be the same person as your permanent guardian, but if your permanent guardian is in another state, you may need a temporary guardian.

Kimberly M. Hanlon, an estate and business attorney with Lucere Legal, says that we should all have a temporary guardian in place. If you forget to pick the kids up, or (heaven forbid) were to go missing after a date, the temporary guardian will get notified instead of the police. This is a safer option for children if the unthinkable should happen and they lose their parents. What better than a close, trusted family friend or extended family member to help grieve?

Here is Hanlon's step-by-step instruction for putting a temporary guardian in place:

  1. Think of one to three people who know your kids well, and your kids are comfortable with AND who live within 20 minutes of your home.
  2. Ask them if they would be willing to act as temporary guardians if something were to happen to you until the permanent guardians could be appointed.
  3. Fill out a temporary guardian nomination form and get it legally executed. (Sign it before a notary—all banks have a notary available, and most will notarize your document for free or for a very nominal charge. It's important that you not sign it until you are actually in the presence of the notary and he or she watches you sign the document.)
  4. Keep a copy of the temporary guardian nomination form for yourself (with your other important papers) and give one to each temporary guardian so they have it on hand if needed.
  5. Complete a letter to your child's school or daycare giving authorization for them to call your temporary guardian(s) if you don't appear to pick up your kids, instead of the police. Make sure the institution has the temporary guardian(s) names and phone numbers in their records since they wouldn't otherwise remember to reference the letter in an emergency.
  6. Complete written babysitter instructions that give the sitter the names and numbers of your temporary guardian(s) and tell him or her to call those people if it seems like something has happened to you.
  7. Complete a little card that goes behind your driver's license that tells first responders that you are a parent of small children and that you want them to call your temporary guardian(s) if you are unconscious. List the names and phone numbers of your temporary guardian(s).

5. Educational savings account (ESA) or a 529 Plan

Putting aside money for education is a smart idea, but there is more than one way to do it. Ms. Thompson had a lot to say about these different plans and the information was so helpful I wanted to include it all. Here is what she had to say:

"ESA and 529 plans are both plans to use for your child's education. However, there is one main difference. An ESA account can be used for K-12 expenses while a 529 plan can be used only for college. Both the ESA and the 529 Plans are savings plans for educational expenses. Both are funded with after-tax dollars, are allowed to grow tax-deferred, and can be withdrawn tax free for qualified educational expenses. Both are preferential to a savings account because of these reasons.

"The main difference between an ESA and a 529 plan are the contribution limits. An ESA, or education savings account, has a maximum contribution of $2,000 per year per beneficiary. Unlike an ESA, 529 plans are allowed unlimited contributions until the maximum amount which is around $400,000 depending on your state. However, you do not have to contribute to your state's plan - you can shop around for any state's plan.

"You can establish an ESA in multiple places. You can go to your bank, credit union, mutual fund company, or brokerage firm." Click here for more information about ESAs, and here for more information about 529 plans click here. To learn more about the differences, click here.

Here's the bottom line: Life is uncertain. It is impossible to plan for everything, but the more that you can do to provide security for you or your children, the better.

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Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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By: Justine LoMonaco


From the moment my daughter was born, I felt an innate need to care for her. The more I experienced motherhood, I realized that sometimes this was simple―after all, I was hardwired to respond to her cries and quickly came to know her better than anyone else ever could―but sometimes it came with mountains of self-doubt.

This was especially true when it came to feeding. Originally, I told myself we would breastfeed―exclusively. I had built up the idea in my mind that this was the correct way of feeding my child, and that anything else was somehow cheating. Plus, I love the connection it brought us, and so many of my favorite early memories are just my baby and me (at all hours of night), as close as two people can be as I fed her from my breast.

Over time, though, something started to shift. I realized I felt trapped by my daughter's feeding schedule. I felt isolated in the fact that she needed me―only me―and that I couldn't ask for help with this monumental task even if I truly needed it. While I was still so grateful that I was able to breastfeed without much difficulty, a growing part of me began fantasizing about the freedom and shared burden that would come if we bottle fed, even just on occasion.

I was unsure what to expect the first time we tried a bottle. I worried it would upset her stomach or cause uncomfortable gas. I worried she would reject the bottle entirely, meaning the freedom I hoped for would remain out of reach. But in just a few seconds, those worries disappeared as I watched her happily feed from the bottle.

What I really didn't expect? The guilt that came as I watched her do so. Was I robbing her of that original connection we'd had with breastfeeding? Was I setting her up for confusion if and when we did go back to nursing? Was I failing at something without even realizing it?

In discussing with my friends, I've learned this guilt is an all too common thing. But I've also learned there are so many reasons why it's time to let it go.

1) I'm letting go of guilt because...I shouldn't feel guilty about sharing the connection with my baby. It's true that now I'm no longer the only one who can feed and comfort her any time of day or night. But what that really means is that now the door is open for other people who love her (my partner, grandparents, older siblings) to take part in this incredible gift. The first time I watched my husband's eyes light up as he fed our baby, I knew that I had made the right choice.

2) I'm letting go of guilt because...the right bottle will prevent any discomfort. It took us a bit of trial and error to find the right bottle that worked for my baby, but once we did, we rarely dealt with gas or discomfort―and the convenience of being able to pack along a meal for my child meant she never had to wait to eat when she was hungry. Dr. Brown's became my partner in this process, offering a wide variety of bottles and nipples designed to mimic the flow of my own milk and reduce colic and excess spitting up. When we found the right one, it changed everything.

3) I'm letting go of guilt because...I've found my joy in motherhood again. That trapped feeling that had started to overwhelm me? It's completely gone. By removing the pressure on myself to feed my baby a certain way, I realized that it was possible to keep her nourished and healthy―while also letting myself thrive.

So now, sometimes we use the bottle. Sometimes we don't. But no matter how I keep my baby fed, I know we've found the right way―guilt free.


This article is sponsored by Dr. Browns. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.


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Learn + Play

Mother's Day is almost here, and whether you're shopping for a favorite mama in your life, dropping some hints to your partner, or planning on treating yourself (you deserve it, mama!), we've got just the right gift to help you enjoy your special day this year.

From family portraits to flowers, we've rounded up 16 of our favorite Mother's Day gifts that are sure to put a smile on any mama's face. Happy shopping!

1. Custom family portrait, Etsy, $74.99 and up

Cue the tears—we could not be swooning more over these heartwarming custom family portraits. We love the artist's attention to detail + simple, modern aesthetic, and we think any mama would be overjoyed to show off her family with one of these handmade portraits.

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2. This is Motherhood: A Motherly Collection of Reflections + Practices, Amazon, $16.34

This is motherhood

This collection was written by—and for—mamas. You'll find reflections on each phase of "the wild ride of motherhood," including the soaring highs of meeting your new baby, the ground-shaking lows that make you doubt everything you've ever known, and all the beauty and pain in between. Each chapter closes with practices from Motherly's team of wellness experts to help you define, clarify, process, and celebrate your journey.

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3. Mama necklace, Tiny Tags, $105.00

mother's day gift ideas

There's no sweeter name than 'mama.' This handwritten pendant is a sweet, beautiful way to tell mom just how much she's loved.

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4. Classic tote, Cuyana, $175.00

mothers day gift ideas

This tote is truly a timeless classic. Made from genuine Italian pebbled leather, it's simple + sophisticated in all the right ways and will last mama for years to come.

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5. Breakfast in bed set, Target, $24.99

mother's day gift ideas

Breakfast in bed paired with the incredible style of Joanna Gaines? Let's make every day Mother's Day, okay?

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6. Tassel earrings, Baublebar at Nordstrom, $38.00

mothers day gift ideas

These tassel earrings are a fun addition to any look, and just right for mama's night out (or any night out, really!).

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7. Heart bowl, The Little Market, $10 and up

mothers day gift ideas heart bowls

These hand-carved bowls are perfect for anything from serving snacks to storing jewelry—and each purchase supports the Wood Carvers of Kenya artisans.

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8. Promptly Journal, Amazon, $34.99

promptly journal mothers day gift

These beautifully bound journals are a great gift for the mama who wants to chronicle all of life's important moments but doesn't think she has the time. Each journal is filled with short, easy prompts, making it easy to document all the little moments she'll never want to forget.

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9. Leather band vase, Mark & Graham, $29.00

mothers day gifts mark and graham

With a rustic twist on a classic, this vase is the perfect place to show off your Mother's Day flowers (hint, hint). Monogramming available.

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10. Fresh, ethically grown flowers, Farmgirl Flowers, prices vary

mothers day gifts flowers

She has the vase, so now she'll need the flowers to fill it! We not only love these natural, beautiful arrangements (they come wrapped in burlap, a detail we think is genius!) but we love that they're ethically sourced and grown, as well.

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11. Mama T-Shirt, The Bee and the Fox, $33.00

mothers day gifts t shirtsthe bee & the fox

This statement tee is a great way to remind mama just how awesome she is.

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12. Diaper Bag Upgrade, Mini Bae, $178.00

mini bae diaper bag mothers day gift

Upgrade mama's diaper bag with a chic backpack. This one has multiple pockets on the inside and outside and coverts to a crossbody.

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13. iRobot Braava Jet, Amazon, $169.99

We know what you're thinking—a mop for Mother's Day? BUT WAIT. It's a robot mop! (And a damp sweeper, and a dry sweeper.) It cleans all by itself! It gets rid of all those crusty ground-in kid stains while mom sits back and relaxes! YES!

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14. Photo display box, Artifact Uprising, $55.00

artifact uprising photo box mothers day

Every mama loves to show off photos of her family + her little ones—and this brass and wood display box makes it effortless and stylish. We love how it doubles as a storage box and a beautiful frame-like display.

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15. Limited edition apron, Rifle Paper Co x Bennett

mothers day apron

If you know a mama who loves to cook, this stunning (and sturdy) apron may become her new best friend. It's a limited edition collab with an LA based chef-quality apron maker and crafted from gorgeous Rifle Paper Co. fabric, and it's truly an heirloom piece. There's even a matching mini-me style!

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16. Ceramic styling brush, Amazon, $58.99

In styler styling brush mothers day gift

If there's one thing all mamas need more of, it's time—and this cult favorite ceramic styling brush provides just that. It instantly delivers shiny, straight and smooth styles with just one single pass, or the perfect blowout look.

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Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Shop

As a young adult, I lived in fear of pregnancy. In the small town where I'm from, enough girls became pregnant in high school that the saying “It's in the water" wasn't just a funny joke. Way before I became sexually active I knew having a baby young changed your life choices.

I wanted to go to college. I wanted to travel the world. I also believed I could have children later in life. My father had a friend who had a baby at 40. Her success left quite an impression on my 12-year-old self. If she could do it, so could I.

My infertility journey began after a miscarriage in my late 30s. I took the loss hard but thought becoming pregnant again would be easy. When getting pregnant didn't happen right away, I became obsessed. Each day that passed I became even more determined, yet alone.

It seemed that everyone around me was darting down the path of parenthood without a glitch. When someone I knew became pregnant, I would casually ask how long it took to conceive. The answer was always, “We got pregnant on our first try."

These conversations made me feel as if I was the only one deficient, old and barren. I remember interviewing for a promotion at work and not getting the job. The co-worker who got the promotion was pregnant. The heaviness of failure consumed me.

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One year after the miscarriage, I found myself in my doctor's office. She explained that the tests indicated a low ovarian reserve—a fancy way of saying that the number of eggs I had left had diminished. She went on to say that due to my advanced maternal age (a term for anyone over 35) the remaining eggs might be at a lower quality. Having a baby wasn't impossible, it was just highly unlikely. I was devastated.

The biggest toll of infertility is the silence

I couldn't talk about my infertility. My struggle was somehow my fault and confiding in others would be highlighting my imperfection. Instead, I attended baby showers, lived through Facebook birth announcements and baby pictures, and listened to mothers complain about their children. All of it seemed unfair and hurtful. Every new baby born was a personal attack against me. It wasn't logical.

I even stopped talking to a good friend of mine when she became pregnant. Staying connected seemed too hard. I couldn't even talk about my feelings of shame and frustration with my husband. He kept telling me to relax and be patient. His biological clock wasn't ticking as hard as mine. Our different perspectives only further highlighted how alone I was.

Infertility is not only silent, it's physically draining

Each month that passed, my obsession increased. I woke up early each morning and popped a basal thermometer in my mouth to check for ovulation. I rubbed progesterone on my wrists in the first half of my cycle to extend the luteal phase (giving the fertilized egg more time to plant itself in my uterus).

I went to acupuncture three times a week to increase the quality of my eggs. I popped an organic, raw-food multi-vitamin that gave me heartburn. I decided to complete 30 days straight of Bikram yoga to cleanse my reproductive system.

I stopped sleeping. Once I was up for 36 hours straight. I saw a psychologist and a doctor to get a prescription for Ambien. I bought a juicer and grew wheat grass. The smell eventually made me gag every time I drank the green goo. There wasn't anything I wasn't willing to do or try in order to increase my fertility. I was physically drained, yet I couldn't stop.

Infertility is also expensive

Most insurance policies don't cover infertility. Not even diagnostic tests to determine the problem are covered, let alone a more costly procedure such as In Vitro Fertilization (IVF). Vitamins, supplements, and diagnostic tests add up fast.

Once I learned that my problem was a low ovarian reserve, I knew that IVF was the best choice. I researched clinics in the San Diego area where I lived, and the minimum amount was $15,000. The cost didn't even include medication, which could be anywhere from $3,000 to $6,000. On average the procedure is $20,000 to $30,000.

The worst part is that there's no guarantee. For someone with my problem and age, I had about a 20% success rate. Flip that around and that's an 80% chance of failure. Most people go through IVF multiple times before the procedure results in a live birth.

I read stories of women getting second mortgages on their houses or borrowing thousands of dollars and being unsuccessful multiple times. Eventually, they had to come to terms with living in debt, childless.

Infertility causes you to lose spirit

I had this sense that whatever I was doing didn't matter or wasn't worth my time. I would be out with friends and the moment seemed lifeless and bland. I was stuck and couldn't move forward. When I saw a mother with her child, tears would spring to my eyes.

I would think why couldn't I have a child? Why was something so easy for her, so hard for me? I began to lose my drive and my spirit, and I stopped making plans. The future looked bleak.

A good friend of mine told me about a friend who struggled with infertility. Her friend decided after many years of trying to live life childless. In this decision, she also promised herself that she would make it the best life possible; otherwise, the choice would be too hard. Her words stuck with me. Perhaps, the time had come to give up. I began the process of letting go of becoming a mother.

But something stopped me.

I stumbled across the book, Inconceivable: A Woman's Triumph Over Despair and Statistics by Julia Indichova. It was being discussed in an online forum for infertility. I devoured the book. The author, like me, was older, had Czech roots, and had a low ovarian reserve. Her personal account of her infertility journey inspired me to look past the science and into my emotional blockage.

I began to practice visualizations like she did. I discovered that despite all my best efforts to conceive, a deeper part of me believed that I would never have a child. I thought I didn't deserve a baby.

I learned to break through this certainty through visualizations. I imagined myself holding a child to my chest. I imagined one beautiful egg dropping down and being fertilized. I watched myself stand in a river with all my fears washing through me.

I then started to sense a shift. I was sleeping better. I began to make plans. I researched IVF treatments in Tijuana, Mexico. Three months later I underwent the procedure. I decided that if this didn't work, I would live my life childless. Not only childless but to the fullest.

I waited two weeks for the IVF results. When the call came, I had my husband answer because I couldn't bear to hear the news. I watched his face for any sign of whether or not my life would include a child. No sign.

Then, he smiled.

I was pregnant. I couldn't believe the results. Joy streamed through me. Nine months later I delivered a healthy baby boy.

Recently, a friend of mine struggling with infertility asked me for advice. My first thought was to say, “Relax, it will happen." Then I remembered how advice like this would have brought me little comfort on my infertility journey. Instead, I told her to be patient, be kind to herself, and to confide in trusted friends.

What I didn't say to her was that the scar of infertility, despite finally being a mother, is never quite forgotten. I look at those years as the dark years. The true cost of infertility can't be measured.

But after the darkness has passed, when you hold your baby in your arms, the struggle is worth the pain. Perhaps, that's what I should have said: The journey to your child is worth it. Don't give up.

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Life

We're not only at the beginning of a new year, but the start of a new life for those due in 2019. If you're expecting a baby this year you've got plenty of celebrity company, mama.

Here are some fellow parents-to-be expecting in 2019:

Jenna Bush Hager is pregnant with baby no. 3! 🎉

There's going to be a lot of new parent talk happening backstage at the Today show this year! A week ago Today co-host Hoda Kotb announced she's just adopted her second child, and now, Kotb's co-host Jenna Bush Hager has announced her third pregnancy!

On Easter Monday, Bush Hager told co-host Craig Melvin (and America) while chatting about what her family got up to over Easter. Apparently, once her girls (6-year-old Mila and 3-year-old Poppy) found out there was no more keeping it a secret.

"Yes, I'm pregnant!" Jenna said. "And I'm only telling because Mila and Poppy found out yesterday in their Easter baskets. (Then) they told the man behind me on the airplane; they told the people at church. So ..."

Congrats to Jenna (and to Poppy and Mila, we're sure they'll be great big sisters)! 🎉

[A version of this post was originally published October 21, 2018. It has been updated. ]

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News

The first time my daughter told me someone named Ashley painted her nails at Daddy's house I thought I was going to implode. Another woman was loving on my daughter in the family I built. I texted my ex, "Who is Ashley and how long have you known her and why is she painting my daughter's nails?"

What should have come next was, I feel replaced. I am jealous. I am competitive. I am angry. I am heartbroken.

Instead, I told myself it was my "mama lion" coming out; the woman who wanted to protect her child from a string of girlfriends and hold her little heart safely in my hands. It was partly true, but the hysteria and anger I felt signaled that much deeper hurt was bubbling its way to the surface and using "it's for our daughter" as an excuse to play out my pain.

It took a full 24 hours of deep anger, soul searching, crying and finally surrender, to realize that my daughter would have other women in her life and I had no say in how they entered, behaved or left.

I had to give up my desire to control what happened at Daddy's house. My only power lied in my influence over my daughter and on that day I chose to believe that she would be a much healthier human being if she was raised by strong women who came together to support her in life.

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Women have been programmed to compete for jobs, security and partners in our patriarchal society. It is understandable that we feel competitive when another woman falls in love with the man we once did, and tucks the children that came from our bodies into beds that aren't made by us.

It is programming, but that doesn't mean it is permanent. It also doesn't mean there isn't pain to be felt, processed and released. You have to heal your wounds so you can approach the new members of your child's life with grace and forge new relationships.

It requires a shift in mindset and a retooling of your previous relationship, a lot of confidence and respect on all parts, and a focus on the child first. You have to recognize the influence a stepparent will have on your child and that it is better to be teamed up and kid-centered, as opposed to stewing over past issues, sitting in blame, regret or jealousy. I had to discover who I was as a newly single woman and co-parenting mother without old stories.

Ashley only painted Olivia's nails for a year or so, and her dad and I had great conversations about how and when we would bring people into our daughter's life. When he met Jessica he called me, "I've met someone and I'd like to introduce her to Olivia, but wanted to talk to you about it."

My only question has ever been, "Is she a good person?" We talked about Jessica, his feelings and certainty, and over time they met and we did too. I sent him a text after a brief and completely casual encounter, "I like her. Don't mess it up."

Jessica and I ran into one another at a yoga studio shortly after they all moved in together. She asked how I felt Olivia was handling the change and very sweetly offered, "You are always the mom!" I smiled, appreciative of the unnecessary gesture, and told her that Olivia loves feminine energy and that she'd thrive having Jessica in the same house.

Several years later I not only love Jessica, I love their son, Luke, as well. Our entire little blended family lucked out. Jessica treats Olivia as her own but is so conscientious about my role in Olivia's life that I've never felt threatened. I am thrilled my daughter is supported by a strong, confident woman and that she sees us getting along as a village, as opposed to competitors.

Jessica recently called me concerned that Olivia was receiving poor messages at school about the importance of pretty as opposed to smart. We came up with a plan, laid down a few rules for messaging in both houses and in no time we had a little feminist running around with t-shirts announcing "Girls Are Smart, Strong and Brave." We spend Christmas mornings together, Halloween trick or treating, and have deep respect for one another and our passions, relationships and careers.

When I recently vacationed in Tanzania I had to update my estate plan and asked Jessica if, in the extreme unlikelihood that both of Olivia's parents were to pass while she was a minor, would she become Olivia's guardian? It's important to me that Olivia grows up with the brother she adores and a woman who loves her (almost) as much as I do.

There wasn't a missed beat, "Absolutely. I want them to stay together." While Luke doesn't care for me as much since I keep Olivia away from him every other week, "Sissy mommy, go home," we work.

We are blessed that each one of us, at some point, made a choice to let fears, ego, jealousy, blame and hurt go for the sake of one little girl and our collective family.

Excerpt from LORE: Harnessing Your Past to Create Your Future with permission from Balboa Press.

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