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Being a single mom over the holidays can be lonely—but there's still so much joy

But our lives are full of love, happiness and health. ?

Being a single mom over the holidays can be lonely—but there's still so much joy

I still vividly remember the Christmas mornings of my childhood. My three siblings and I would always be up by 4 a.m., but to avoid our parents' wrath we'd vibrate under the covers until the more acceptable hour of 7 a.m. rolled in.

Then, on the dot, we'd leap out of bed, launch down the stairs of our large family home and gasp at the glittering tree surrounded by dozens of multi-colored presents.

We'd creep around the boxes, guessing at the larger ones and hungrily dig through our stockings while mom and dad brewed coffee. Once they were appropriately caffeinated and could combat our excitement—we'd take turns opening gifts, marveling at what new toys, books and clothes had arrived overnight.

After presents, my dad would set about putting together the various "assembly-required" pieces and mom would make breakfast—platters of fluffy pancakes with bacon or waffles topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

I guess as an adult, I always pictured giving my children the same experience I had growing up—not just the big house adorned with garland and tinsel, not just the large tree we'd all cut down and decorated together, not just the presents and pancakes—but that magic of family too. A day of slowing down and remembering how lucky we were to have each other.

Since I've grown up and have gone through a divorce, my definition on a lot of things has had to change. My twin daughters and I don't have a family home but instead a two-bedroom basement suite, where one of the girls sleeps Harry Potter-style in a finished storage closet under the stairs. Our space is small and our Christmas tree fake, and both my counter space and budget are so limited that making that brilliant Christmas breakfast is going to be a challenge.

And most of all, my girls' dad won't be with us. He's wonderful, but he's spending the morning with his family so we don't confuse the children, which means they'll miss out on the way the holidays made my parents' love grow, how it would reach out and hold us all in its golden bubble. Instead, I'll have the kids for the morning, he'll have the kids for the evening, and in a way—I feel like we all lose out on something.

Some December days break my heart. This time of year families are everywhere and their excitement is inescapable—it's the mom and dad on either side of their child lining up for a picture with Santa, or taking a picture on one of those Polar Express train rides with hot chocolate. It's this beautiful caroling chaos—and sometimes it feels like my girls and I are on the outside of it, watching through a frosted window.

During the holidays I feel like I exist in this liminal space between happy families and happy childless couples—never sure if finding the same joy they have is possible or even acceptable to the masses. Christmas is a time where our hearts and homes are lit up to celebrate the happy glow of the season and as a single mom, I often don't know where the darkness of my grief fits within it.

I try my hardest to create the same magic other children get—with half the team and half the budget—solely carrying the burden of two parents on my shoulders. As the weeks draw closer, Christmas can feel like a reminder of my feelings of failure around not being able to provide what other children receive—an intact, unbroken family.

But recently, it occurred to me that perhaps my own sadness is entirely due to the fact that I'm expecting the holidays to look like what I once thought they should look like, rather than embracing the beauty in what they are.

Our home might be tiny and I might not be wealthy, but our lives are full of love, happiness and health. My kids are, despite the trauma of divorce, thriving and I am, too—against all odds, I've emerged from the darkness and have come out stronger and quite grateful. At the end of the day—we have a roof over our heads, food in our fridge and gifts under the tree.

We have been blessed with the beauty in the little things.

Instead of feeling sad about not having a house to adorn with lights, we go for magical evening walks and admire everyone else's. We won't spend any time this year worrying about keeping up with long gift lists or the status quo. And rather than trying to meet certain family traditions, we get to make our own. Like the way we baked a huge batch of gingerbread cookies last week and ate them hot from the oven, dripping with unset icing and sprinkles. We've got no one to impress and I'm still scraping glaze off the floor— but there is bliss in our free, unstructured joy.

And ultimately, the biggest reward this year is that I am exponentially more grateful for these holiday moments with my daughters. This Christmas, we've been given the gift of perspective. We're finding love in the limited and joy in our journey, and that could make this the best Christmas yet.

While I might be a divorced single mom this holiday, together my girls and I sure are dancing merrily in a new, old fashioned way—and if I'm being honest, I'd take that over picture-perfection any day.


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Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

$9.99

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

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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

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

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Two weeks. I cannot believe that it has been two weeks since my second son was brought into this world. Two weeks since my husband and I welcomed baby Simon, the final piece of our little family.

But, here is the whopper: It has been two weeks since I have been the mom of a toddler and a newborn. I am now responsible for taking care of two tiny humans.

It absolutely blows my mind how much my life has changed in the last two weeks. It's definitely not all rainbows and unicorns around here, but things are going pretty well. This is me being cautiously optimistic.

What I have done is learned a lot about myself, my kids and my new life in the last two weeks.

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