I wasn't prepared for the adjustment of becoming a single mom

Everything from the pattern of our wedding china to the curtains in my daughter's nursery felt like a reflection of our family and myself as a wife and mother.

I wasn't prepared for the adjustment of becoming a single mom

I'm a single mom—well, sort of.

I'm a sort of single mom. It's complicated. I'm not really sure what to refer to myself as.

Getting divorced does that to you. It takes everything you know to be true—all of the million tiny decisions you've made to build a life and an identity—and it smashes them to bits. Seemingly trivial things like living room throw pillows and patterned dish towels aren't just the background noise of your daily minutiae anymore. Instead, they've become stakes in your personal battlefield; marked his or hers, they are either packed up or left behind.

I never thought I'd be getting divorced. It certainly wasn't the life I envisioned for myself when building my family. As I planned our wedding, bought and decorated our first home, and gave birth to our child, my identity became inextricably linked with these milestones.

Everything from the pattern of our wedding china to the curtains in my daughter's nursery felt like a reflection of our family and myself as a wife and mother.

Sure, there were times, particularly in those hazy postpartum days, that I struggled with my evolving sense of self. I was exhausted and managing new hormones, but I was a mother and no lack of sleep could change how amazing that felt. I wore my motherhood like a badge of honor.

It never occurred to me that it could all change.

When my marriage reached its tipping point, I knew that there would be difficult days ahead. As my ex-husband and I disentangled ourselves from one another legally and emotionally, I began the painfully complicated process of picking up the pieces of my shattered identity. I was no longer a wife. Even worse, I was an ex-wife. I was the satirical equivalent of the the Wicked Witch of the West.

With my decision to divorce, I lost a husband, several mutual friends and an extended family that I cherished.

I took on the stigma of being divorced at 30, with all the salacious gossip and rumors that accompanied it. I steeled myself for the storm and rode every wave that hit me with as much grace and courage as I could muster.

However, what I hadn't prepared for was the effect it had on my identity as a mother. It has been a transition that rocked me to the core. I poured over articles on how to tell your toddler about divorce and the best joint custody plans for 2 year olds. I ordered co-parenting books off Amazon and dutifully read “Alex Has Two Houses" to my sweet girl every night those first few months. I attended parenting classes and counseling sessions. It was all I could do to minimize the effect my decisions would have on her outlook.

Lucky for all of us, our daughter is young enough that she'll likely never remember a time when she didn't have two homes. Her “normal" will always be a continuous rotation of Mommy Days and Daddy Days, where she gleefully shares her time with both of us.

And therein lies the toughest part of all. My ex-husband and I share equal custody of her. I've gone from being a full-time, 24/7 mother to...?

I hesitate to say I'm a single mom, because technically, I'm not. My child's father is very much in the picture. He's an active and contributing factor in her life. But then I pause again. He's not an active part of my day-to-day life with her. When it's Mommy Day, it's all-Mommy-all-the-timeall-Mommy-all-the-time. There is no one there to tap me out on an especially difficult toddler day so I can hide in the bathroom and cry. And conversely, there's no teammate to high-five in celebration after she nails a new milestone.

It's a strange thing when you realize that although you've created a life with someone, you're no longer going to experience it together. Over the past year, I've continuously questioned what this new method of motherhood means to me.

Some days, I'm absolutely crushing it. Dinner's on the table, laundry is done and there's still time to throw an impromptu tea party in our pajamas. Other times, it's more of a marathon and I'm hitting the wall. I feel weak, wracked with guilt over the life I'm providing for my daughter. There's never enough time in the day and I can either finish my work, do chores around the house, or give my daughter the quality time she needs in those few precious hours between day care and bedtime... but I can't possibly do all three.

It is there, in trying to strike a balance, that I feel the most alone.

In those moments, I am faced with a choice. There is an internal identity crisis that happens in the blink of an eye, where I must choose what kind of mother I want to be. Every time, the answer is the same: I want to be the best one I can in that moment.

It's about being kind to myself and practicing patience. No parent—married or divorced—has it figured out all the time. My daughter feels loved and has acclimated to her new normal with the inspiring resilience only children exhibit.

That is what matters to me.

So am I a single mom?

Maybe. Maybe not. Guess it depends who you ask. I do know without a doubt that I am my daughter's mom.

I am an army of one with the determination of a thousand.

I will love and work and play with every ounce of myself, because that's what she deserves and that is who I want to be for her. It's taken me a while to get here but lately when I look in the mirror, I no longer see a woman standing alone.

Instead, I just see myself and I like what I see.

We're so glad to live in a time when modern baby gear exists. Sure, no one is going to argue that having a baby is easy—but it can be easier with support from some gadgets designed to help your baby and put your mind at ease.

As you build your baby registry, look for products that go the extra mile to make your life a whole lot easier. For example, what's better than a bassinet? A bassinet that can rock by itself. And what's better than a traditional baby monitor? One that allows you to actually take a peek at your baby. Believe us when we say these upgrades can make all the difference.

Here are 10 baby gadgets that will make your life so much easier… relatively speaking, of course!

A bassinet to promote safe + sound sleep

HALO Innovations Bassinest Swivel Sleeper Essenta Series Nautical Net

The safest place for your newborn to sleep is in your room, but not in your bed. Thanks to the swivel function of the Halo Bassinest, you can easily tend to your baby during the night—which means more sleep for you, too. Trust us when we say that is the best gift you can give a new parent.


A smart swing for your baby

4moms mamaRoo 4 Bluetooth Enabled High-Tech Baby Swing - Classic

Believe it or not, many babies are born with strong opinions about how they want to be rocked, swung or shushed to calm down. With the mamaRoo's various motions and reclining positions, you'll be able to find a setting your baby loves when you need to free up your hands for a bit.


A complete travel system for car + sidewalk

Chicco Bravo Travel System - Indigo

No matter where the day takes you—or what mode of transportation you need to get there—getting a complete travel system for your baby will equip you for anything.


A swaddle you don’t have to wrestle

Love To Dream Swaddle UP Original

What do babies and Harry Houdini have in common? A knack for breaking out of tight constraints—which can be a headache when swaddling is the best way to help promote good sleep. Thanks to a breakout-proof swaddle that allows your baby to sleep with their hands up, you don't have to work up a sweat just to get your baby comfortably swaddled.


A nursery wherever you need it

Baby Trend Lil Snooze Deluxe II Nursery Center

During the early days of parenting (when you are feeding and changing your baby around the clock), having convenient access to everything you need with a go-anywhere nursery station can save you serious time and energy.


A little help for stuffy noses

Fridababy NoseFrida Nasal Aspirator

Up until the point years down the road when your child is able to blow their own nose, the sniffles can be a real struggle—but not with a nasal aspirator that makes it easy for you to get that snot out of their nose.


A way to keep an eye on your baby

VTech 5" Digital Video Baby Monitor - VM5251

Trust us when we say you'll sleep better when you know your baby is also sleeping soundly. That's why we're so thankful for modern-day video monitors, which allow you to check in on your sleeping baby without running the risk of waking them up when you sneak in for a peek.


A bassinet for hands-free rocking

Simmons Kids Silent Auto Gliding Elite Bassinet - Odyssey

Babies are soothed by rocking motions. But what does that mean for you if you can't rock them throughout the night? With an auto-gliding bassinet, they can comfortably drift off to sleep... and continue snoozing.


An easy way to contain diaper smells

Diaper Genie Expressions Pail

Sometimes it's the little conveniences that make a big difference in the quality of your day-to-day life. That's why a great diaper pail should not be undervalued: By containing the smell, you will save yourself dozens upon dozens of trips to the garbage can.


A white noise machine that pulls double duty

Hatch Rest Sound Machine, Night Light & Time-to-Rise

A phone-controlled sound machine may be something you never considered until now, but it will be a major lifesaver for years to come, especially as it can also function as a time-to-rise clock that promotes good sleep habits for your child.


And as for securing all these awesome products? Well, a Target baby registry is the way to do it. By creating your baby registry with Target, you will also enjoy their Year of Benefits registry program, which includes perks like a welcome kit with more than $100 in savings and samples, two 15% off coupons to complete your registry, and a full year of returns. The benefits are better than ever right now: Target just launched the Year of Exclusive Deals perk as one of its registry benefits, and this includes a year's worth of discounts on baby essentials (think diapers and formula) and comes complementary when you sign up for Target Circle.

Because while parenting may not be "easy," deciding to register with Target definitely is an easy decision. Start your Target baby registry now and enjoy shopping with a Year of Benefits featuring a Year of Exclusive Deals available via Target Circle, two 15% off coupons, a year of hassle-free returns, a free welcome kit and more!

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

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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