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You know it's important. You hear phrases like "you cannot pour from an empty cup" or "put your own oxygen mask on first before helping others" and you nod in agreement. It's true. Deep down you know it. But for some reason, you just aren't doing it.

You set out each week with plans to take some time for yourself. You get lost in daydreams thinking about an afternoon pedicure with girlfriends or a day reading the latest novel by the pool and you get excited. You start thinking about how to make those things happen.

You'll just ask your partner to cover the kids one of these Saturdays. You can trade them for the next weekend! Or you'll finally hire that babysitting service you've been wanting to try out. You'll call your girlfriend and magically find a weekend where no one has travel planned, or soccer practice, or a birthday party... oh and when everyone is healthy. Yes, you'll do that!

But... you never do. Something always comes up. Finding childcare feels hard. Swapping with your partner isn't as simple as it sounds. It's just easier to do what you've always done. I'm guessing none of that makes you feel energized. That your life starts to feel like groundhog day after a while, and that you start feeling upset. You're upset at yourself. For never doing anything for you.

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What if you could figure out the root of the issue? The real reason you're not making the time, and find a solution.

1. "There's just not enough time."

This is probably the number one reason most moms don't take time for themselves. They argue that every second of their day is already filled with commutes, drop-offs, pick-ups, work, cooking, bath time, playing, laundry and chores and they're lucky at the end of the day to have a few spare minutes to catch a TV show or scroll through Facebook. With everything we have to do, how can we possibly find time for something fun or something focused on us?

What if you changed your vision of what self-care could look like? Have you tried any self-care activities and set a timer to really know how long it takes? What if self-care looked like dancing to your favorite song, listening to a podcast on your drive to work, writing one page in a journal, or sitting down for a minute in the morning to drink your cup of coffee and stare out the window?

If it's something that you enjoy, something that makes you feel good, or feel grateful to be alive, then that is self-care. Nothing more. The key is to just start and then to recognize that what you're doing is taking care of you. It's not lucky that you have these five minutes, it's deliberate, and it's necessary.

2. " I feel guilty not spending my free time with kids."

When you're a mom and you already have a full plate, there is a common feeling that time outside of what you "have" to do, should be spent with your little one. If you're a working mom, this could be because you're not with them all day. If you stay at home, you might want to give them more of your full attention.

Taking some time for yourself is not saying that you shouldn't still want to spend time with your baby. In order to truly enjoy that time, and be present in those moments, you need to feel happy and cared for yourself. So if you decide that self-care for you right now is an entire afternoon away at the spa or on a shopping trip with your mom, that's okay. You can miss your baby while you're away, but you shouldn't feel guilty. We all deserve and need, a little time for ourselves. And maybe you'll decide that for now, self-care will be something that you do while your little one sleeps, either early in the morning, during afternoon naps on the weekends, or in the evening after they're asleep. Either way, you will notice, if you haven't already, that you appreciate the time with your family even more after you've been away.

3. "But I watch TV every night... that's what works for me."

Catching up on your latest Netflix binge or competition show can be a good thing. Some nights you just need that time to put your feet up, check-out and let your mind focus on something other than daily life. For a lot of moms, this is time that you connect with your partner, too. Date nights may be few and far between for this stage of life, but at least you can share the experience of watching a show you both love at the end of a long day.

Taking time for yourself doesn't mean giving up your shows, however, consider whether zoning out in front of the TV every single night is really leaving you feeling energized and empowered to do life again tomorrow. Compromise is definitely at play here. Could you experiment with giving up one evening of TV watching for something else that challenges you, that taps into an interest you've maybe forgotten, or allows you to fully relax in a way that an exciting show does not? Or could you use that time to work toward a goal that is important to you, perhaps do something fun with your partner that allows you to talk about something other than household logistics and kids? One night. And see how different that feels from your normal routine.

4. "It's too hard to find childcare."

This is a challenging one and unique to each household situation. If your self-care options only include activities that will take you away from home, this will be a requirement, but you could approach a solution from two angles:

  1. Get creative with childcare. Find a mother's helper that will allow you a little bit of peace and quiet within your own home while this sitter-in-training plays with your kids in another room. Swap time away with your partner—maybe you each get one evening or one weekend morning a week to yourself and you trade. Or swap time with another mom! Especially when kids are out of the baby phase, it's often not any harder to supervise a group of playing kids than it is to watch just your own. Challenge each other to take this time for yourself and make it fun! And if all other options fail, build your babysitter directory. It's so important to have sitters you like and trust. You just never know when you'll need one.
  2. Rethink your self-care options. Opt for activities that are short, can be done at home, and can be squeezed into early mornings, naptimes, or evenings after the kids go to bed. Childcare issue solved because you won't need it!

5. "I have too much to do around the house."

We all have a million things that need to get done. There are regular chores that just keep our house running smoothly and then there are the projects that we create for ourselves to make life easier in the long run. Chances are, there will always be something on your chore list. So put off doing something around the house and swap in an activity that is fun, relaxing and just for you.

As with time and childcare, you will have to make compromises. What can you delay doing, what can you finish faster than you thought, or what can you complete that's "good enough," instead of perfect, that will allow you to move on to doing something for you?

6. "I'm too exhausted."

In those early years of parenthood especially, this is a common state of being. If you aren't already in the habit and routine of taking care of yourself, it can be hard to get started when you're tired, exhausted and run-down. So start small. Maybe taking care of yourself is having a smoothie for breakfast, trying a new supplement or getting a physical. Maybe it's a 10-minute walk around the parking lot at lunch, or a quick stretch in between meetings, something to get your body moving. Then maybe you move to a little break on the weekends where you spend a few minutes doing something fun, just for you. Or maybe you jump-start some self-care by scheduling a girls' night out and diving in head-first for a much-needed change in routine and change in scenery.

It's going to be hard to get started, but having a plan, setting aside and scheduling the time, and then following through on that commitment to yourself could be just what you need to get out of this stage of exhaustion.

7. "I don't know what 'fills' me up."

To this, I say, experiment! Pinterest is filled with lists of ideas of self-care activities, big and small. Print one of those and start crossing them off as you try them. Be sure to keep notes as to how you felt and whether it's something you would do again.

Another good idea is to think back to the activities you did as a kid. Did you take lessons, play on a team, doodle or craft, spend time outdoors? Go back to some of those things that used to make you happy before you had adult responsibilities.

Which excuse have you been using? Are you ready to do one small thing to take care of yourself? If you need someone to help hold you accountable, find an accountability partner. Until then, may we fill up our own cups and put on our own oxygen masks so that we can show up and be amazing mothers and kick-ass women!

Originally posted on Mother Nurture.

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There are certain moments of parenthood that stay with us forever. The ones that feel a little extra special than the rest. The ones that we always remember, even as time moves forward.

The first day of school will always be one of the most powerful of these experiences.

I love thinking back to my own excitement going through it as a child—the smell of the changing seasons, how excited I was about the new trendy outfit I picked out. And now, I get the joy of watching my children go through the same right of passage.

Keep the memory of this time close with these 10 pictures that you must take on the first day of school so you can remember it forever, mama:

1. Getting on the school bus.

Is there anything more iconic than a school bus when it comes to the first day of school? If your little one is taking the bus, snap a photo of them posed in front of the school bus, walking onto it for the first time, or waving at you through the window as they head off to new adventure.

2. Their feet (and new shoes!)

Getting a new pair of shoes is the quintessential task to prepare for a new school year. These are the shoes that will support them as they learn, play and thrive. Capture the sentimental power of this milestone by taking photos of their shoes. You can get a closeup of your child's feet, or even show them standing next to their previous years of first-day-of-school shoes to show just how much they've grown. If you have multiple children, don't forget to get group shoe photos as well!

3. Posing with their backpack.

Backpacks are a matter of pride for kids so be sure to commemorate the one your child has chosen for the year. Want to get creative? Snap a picture of the backpack leaning against the front door, and then on your child's back as they head out the door.

4. Standing next to a tree or your front door.

Find a place where you can consistently take a photo year after year—a tree, your front door, the school signage—and showcase how much your child is growing by documenting the change each September.

5. Holding a 'first day of school' sign.

Add words to your photo by having your child pose with or next to a sign. Whether it's a creative DIY masterpiece or a simple printout you find online that details their favorites from that year, the beautiful sentiment will be remembered for a lifetime.

6. With their graduating class shirt.

When your child starts school, get a custom-designed shirt with the year your child will graduate high school, or design one yourself with fabric paint (in an 18-year-old size). Have them wear the shirt each year so you can watch them grow into it—and themselves!

Pro tip: Choose a simple color scheme and design that would be easy to recreate if necessary—if your child ends up skipping or repeating a year of school and their graduation date shifts, you can have a new shirt made that can be easily swapped for the original.

7. Post with sidewalk chalk.

Sidewalk chalk never goes out of style and has such a nostalgic quality to it. Let your child draw or write something that represents the start of school, like the date or their teacher, and then have them pose next to (or on top of) their work.

8. In their classroom.

From first letters learned to complicated math concepts mastered, your child's classroom is where the real magic of school happens. Take a few pictures of the space where they'll be spending their time. They will love remembering what everything looked like on the first day, from the decorations on the wall to your child's cubby, locker or desk.

9. With their teacher.

If classrooms are where the magic happens, teachers are the magicians. We wish we remembered every single teach we had, but the truth is that over time, memories fade. Be sure to snap a photo of your child posing with their teacher on the first day of school.

10. With you!

We spend so much time thinking about our children's experience on the first day of school, we forget about the people who have done so much to get them there—us! This is a really big day for you too, mama, so get in that photo! You and your child will treasure it forever.

This article is sponsored by Rack Room Shoes. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I can still remember bringing my first newborn baby home, even though it has been over a year now. And let me be clear—I don't remember it because it was blissful and euphoric. I actually remember it so vividly because it was close to the most anxiety-ridden, stressful, emotional day of my life.

The two previous days spent in the hospital were everything I hoped they'd be. Sure, I was getting virtually no sleep, and my body ached from all it had just been through, but I had an abundant amount of help at my fingertips. I didn't yet feel overwhelmed or inadequate and I was fully confident that I could handle this whole mama thing. Excitement was my overarching emotion.

And then we got home.

It didn't take long for the crying to start. And once it started, there was no end in sight. My sweet baby boy just kept crying, and crying, and then crying some more, and I longed to have a "call nurse" button to press for a little relief.

My amateur mama skills seemed futile as I rocked, shushed, snuggled and nursed my baby. None of it helped; my sweet son wanted nothing to do with this world and was begging to be put back in the warm and comfortable surroundings he had just emerged from.

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And so those first couple of months were a fog of diaper changes, feedings, nap time, crying (so much crying for both of us) and an endless amount of pleading prayers.

I didn't love my new role of being a mom yet. Although I had been dreaming of this calling my whole life, I decided I clearly wasn't cut out for it and figured the rest of my days were surely going to be full of hardship.

My hope and excitement for the future were at an all-time low, which could partially be thanks to those pesky postpartum hormones. This period of life was hard. All-consuming and so hard.

So I'm here to tell you, brand new mama, if you don't love being a mom yet, that's okay. Because here's what's going to happen.

One day, after weeks and weeks of having a fussy baby, that little bundle of joy is going to crack their first smile, and your heart is going to absolutely burst with happiness as you quickly grab your phone to capture a picture.

And then your sweet little one is going to start cooing and oohing and aahing, and you will feel like they're telling you all about their day, which is going to simply melt your soul. It definitely melted mine.

And then feeding the baby is going to get easier, and their nighttime sleep stretches are going to get longer, and taking them out and about isn't going to feel so overwhelming.

And then, mama, one day you're going to look at yourself in the mirror when you get a spare second. You'll see spit-up on your shirt, dark circles below your eyes that not even the best concealer could cover, unwashed hair tucked under your favorite baseball cap, and you're going to say to yourself, "I love being a mom. This is me now."

And you might no longer grieve the old life you once had. You'll stop wishing you could go back to your carefree youthful days, and you'll instead start looking forward to all the many fun family memories that will soon be made.

One day, you're going to love being a mama. I did.

Hang on tight to any little joys you can find during this in-between time and give yourself grace. A lot of grace. You're doing the best you can, and that's all you need to do for now.

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The summer season is the perfect time to get creative and enjoy fun projects around the house with your little ones. Some of the most memorable family moments can start with a piece of construction paper or end with a table covered in shaving cream.

While you're having fun, just remember that being creative is about the process, not the result. Your kids' artwork may not be museum-worthy, but that's okay! Embrace the fun of the creation and not necessarily the end result.

First thing's first, get organized.

before you can begin any project, it's important to start on a clean surface. A fresh canvas sets the stage for family activities and DIY projects so I always put away clutter and clean the surfaces to prepare for new activities.

I always recommend creating or purchasing organization bins or spaces for each activity or categories of items. For example, a container specifically for crayons, markers and colored pencils. Then when it's time to clean up, everything has a specific place. Make sure to clearly label the bins so everyone can easily determine what each container contains. This is a great way to exercise good organizational habits from an early age. As soon as they are 2-years-old, they can play a part in cleaning up and putting things away. And, if you have systems set up for them from the start, it makes it much easier for them! Kids also love to help clean counters once you've put everything away. Whether it's after you've cooked a meal together or exhausted all of the glitter glue, they love wiping down counters with wipes. Set the expectation that kids who craft are responsible for cleaning up their supplies when they're done. It's crucial to start the healthy habit of tidying up after yourself early on.


Ask your kids for their input.

Imagination runs wild, so take advantage of their creativity. Ask them what type of art project or fun family activities they want to prioritize. If you have multiple kids, create a "suggestion jar" they can continually add and pull from when they are looking for an activity to do.

It's important to embrace collaboration. You know what they say: Teamwork makes the (crafts) work. Encourage your kids to work together and call out ideas for each other's artwork.

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Here are a few of my favorite craft projects:

  • Flipbooks: Have each kid create their own flipbook full of creative crafts, poetry, or other fun moments they want to capture.
  • DIY dollhouse: Make a custom dollhouse filled with handmade mini furniture to decorate it in their own way.
  • Out-of-the-crayon-box crafting: Challenge your kids to craft with creative elements around the house—whether it be clothespin snowmen or sponge sailboats, there are endless possibilities.
Garner even more excitement by making the prep part a project itself! Have your kids help create a fun workspace for food-making, craft-building, or DIY science-slime experimenting. They can pick a color scheme, help find the right organizing bins, or decorate the wall with art projects from this past school year for inspiration.

Try DIY projects.

Kids need to get out their creativity and energy so hands-on projects are a fun way to put their growing brains to work while they do it.

Be sure to practice safe crafting. Store all scissors and other sharp objects in protected, designated places, make sure to read all directions for new craft supplies or projects, and watch out for slippery messes!

Stock up on these essentials:

1. On-the-go park bag: Parents should be ready to go to the park at a moment's notice. Have a bag pre-packed with all the essentials: a mini kite, a picnic blanket, a ball to toss around, sunscreen and more.

2. Chalk: I love bringing crafts outside whenever possible, and something as simple as colorful sidewalk chalk is an easy way to make drawings larger than life!

3. Contact paper: You can use contact paper to add temporary color and character to flower vases, glass jars or really any decorative container with a hard, smooth surface. As a first step, wipe the vases or jars down with a disinfecting wipe to make sure the surface is clean so the paper will stick properly.

4. Felt: Felt is one of my favorite kid-friendly ways to incorporate color into crafts. You can make fun flowers, finger puppets, or whatever your heart desires.

5. Bubbles: They provide instant fun for any age!

6. Instant camera: Capture all of your moments —happy, sticky, and everything in between. Let your kids get in on the action of capturing their favorite family moments and compiling them into an end of the year scrapbook!
Learn + Play

Is it too soon? I ask myself as you toddle in and chat excitedly about the baby in mommy's belly. "Where is she?" you ask. "But I don't see her," you insist when I tell you she's in there.

Will you miss our special time as a trio? I wonder, as we snuggle on your rug at night, you, Daddy and me, under a blanket too small to cover us all. But you don't realize, pulling it up over us anyway, feet popping out, giggling all the while.

Were we selfish? I worry as I rush to comfort you during the night when a fever spikes and you call out our names. "Mama!" "Daddy!" And we're both there in a minute.

How can I possibly love another child as much as I love you? I question myself, as you run into my waiting hug and beg for just a million more.

But I tell myself that we'll learn these new steps together in stride, just as we did when you found your way into the world and became all of mine. Because it was you, my sweet boy, who taught me how to be a mama.

It was you who, in those first weeks, rested your head contently on my chest, just when I thought nursing might be too hard to handle. And it was you who flashed your first smile as the washer broke, amid mounds of spit-up stained laundry.

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You were the one who settled my breathing, as it quickened and tightened during my first panic attack. And it was rocking you at night that saved me when my maternity leave came to an end.

When you brought your very first stomach virus home and we all got sick at the same time, it was the sound of your first laugh that saved us during the eleventh hour, when we were questioning what made us think we were strong enough to care for a family.

We learned together how to navigate pediatrician visits and shots, what rocks and rhythms made nighttime smoother, how to introduce foods and when to wean. After six months, it was you who gave me the signal it was okay to stop nursing. When endless pumping sessions at work had me in tears, you assured me you'd love me just as much if I picked up a bottle of formula, gulping it down with a smile, your hands resting on mine.

When I worried at work each day that you were bonding more with your daycare teachers in those long hours than we ever could at home, you shared your first word, reminding me how special our bond is in that sweet, jumbled "mama."

We did it all, together.

And even now, as I worry about transitioning you into a big boy bed, you excitedly accept the challenge and graciously tell us we can give your crib to your new baby sister–just not your blanket.

At daycare, you rock the baby dolls, and you tell everyone you pass what your baby sister's name will be. You ask to read about Daniel Tiger and Baby Margaret, making sure I know how to navigate what's on your horizon.

Because, baby boy, you've always been quicker to adapt than me. Sometimes I think it's you who is teaching us.

You see, baby boy, it was your encouragement and love all along that guided me into motherhood. And it was your hugs and kisses and "good job mama's" that told me I could do this again.

Life will change as our family grows, but we'll keep learning together.

It'll be you who marches into that Kindergarten class, head held high as you proudly wear the backpack you picked out yourself, reminding us that time stops for no one.

It'll be you who introduces us to practices and clubs, field trips and permission slips–I'm sorry in advance for the ones I'll forget to sign!

It'll be you who turns my grip white, as you tuck your permit into the glovebox and pull onto the street for the first time.

It'll be you we wait up for first, worried that you haven't called. And it'll be you who heads off to college, leaving the house that seems too small feeling much too big.

But before your baby sister comes, and time continues to carry us in its unforgiving pace, I'll soak up every undivided second of attention I can give you. I'll snuggle you close and savor our chats. And we'll follow each other's leads, continuing to figure out this whole thing called life together.

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A recent trip to the movie theater had me brimming with excitement to reunite with Woody, Buzz, and the crew of Andy's (er, Bonnie's?) toys in the Toy Story franchise's new installment. Sure enough, my family laughed at the adventures of the cast, but it was a newcomer to the gang that really stole the show: a plastic spork named Forky.

While his reluctance to accept his place was charming and sweet, Bonnie's creation of Forky, and her subsequent attachment to him as her new favorite toy, points at a bigger picture—what constitutes a toy? Likewise, what does a child really need to be entertained?

The film's inclusion of such a common, utilitarian object as a chosen plaything serves as a reminder that children's imaginations are a powerful thing, and—when left to their own devices—kids are quite capable of having fun with far less than our society typically deems necessary.

Forky is a throwback to a time when less was more, and when families' homes weren't miniature toy stores.

I remember recently being spellbound as I watched my daughter engrossed in play with a handful of rocks. Each pebble had its role—mommy rock, daddy rock, baby rock, etc—and she carried on with a captivating scene encompassing equal parts comedy and tragedy. It was a rock family saga, and frankly, I was mesmerized.

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Despite a house full of flashy, modern, (and sometimes expensive) toys, I've found that some of the most creative play comes from the most unexpected "things" that most adults would consider non-toys. Kids have a unique way of looking at things, and often the items they gravitate toward as their preferred toy may leave parents not only scratching their heads, but also howling in laughter.

Kitchen accessories seem to be a favorite for many little ones, as I remember my own niece insisting on carrying a serving spoon everywhere with her. These inanimate objects function as the perfect plaything for children, as their minds are free to create whatever story or fantasy they desire. The make-believe is endless.

Other favorites for my kiddos include shoelaces, ropes, or yarn, which have infinite aliases—stuffed animal leashes and zip-lines being their go-tos. And who can forget the magic of cardboard boxes and of course bubble wrap. We're talking hours of fun and play.

After watching the film, I looked around my house at the abundant number of toys that my own children possess. Then I turned around and watched as they chose to stack Tupperware containers and throw foam koozies at them in a competitive game of kitchen bowling.

So yeah, we're all probably a little guilty of overindulgence with it comes to our kids. To be honest, it's fun to watch their eyes light up upon receiving a new toy at their birthday or other holiday. And I'm not arguing that those practices need to change completely. Rather, let's not forget the power of minimalism and its place in our lives. Let's encourage resourcefulness and creativity.

Behind the fun and nostalgia of the Toy Story series are important lessons and messages. In today's culture where more is more, Forky is a reminder that parents don't necessarily have to break the bank in purchasing toys for the little ones in our lives. In many cases, a "spork" will do.

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