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Being a single mom is the hardest, most empowering thing I’ve ever done

It isn’t easy—but it does teach you how strong you are. ?

Being a single mom is the hardest, most empowering thing I’ve ever done

When I told my own mother that my husband and I were splitting up, the first thing she asked me was, “Are you sure?” She’d raised my three siblings and I almost single-handedly and insisted that it was “the hardest thing she’s ever done.”


However, I didn’t take her worries too seriously. At the time, I was so jazzed on the idea of independence, too busy scream-singing The Pussycat Dolls’ I Don’t Need a Man in the shower that I regarded my mom’s advice as a bridge for Future Sydney to cross.

Well, that future came soon enough.

Once I was on my own, I realized that even if I’d already felt like I was doing 90 percent of the parenting and cleaning and general household running many of us moms take upon ourselves, that 10 percent made a huge difference.

1. It’s so much harder than I thought it would be

My husband and I had a routine where he would do the kids’ bath and put them to bed so I could get a break after he got home from work. After he moved out, suddenly that was completely on me, no matter how burned-out I felt.

And not only was I doing all the work during the day, but then once they were asleep there was no one there to help me clean up the hurricane-house, or fold the endless baskets of laundry or to remember to turn the dishwasher on before bed. There was no one to get up with the kids in the middle of the night either, to help soothe their tears, or put them on the toilet, or give out Tylenol for sudden fevers or scrub puke out of the carpet. No one to pick up the prescriptions or forgotten groceries, to catch the things I'd dropped or missed. I’m not going to pretend I wasn’t overwhelmed at first.

2. It’s empowering

Last week, after I killed the second spider I’d found in my house in a matter of days, I sent my mom a triumphant text bragging about my courage. After all, I’d always been able to shriek and have a man rush to crush whatever creepy-crawly had sent me fleeing onto the furniture. In response, my mom texted me back: “Living alone is empowering because it’s not easy.”

And that’s the truth: Being forced to rely entirely on myself for the first time since I was 20 has caused me take on a level of responsibility that’s ultimately made me much, much happier (though also more wrinkly).

3. It’s lonely

One thing I really didn’t expect was the intense isolation that comes with being a single mom. When you’re married, you’re often so used to your partner's constant presence that you can crave having the house to yourself—an evening alone seems like bliss from a distance.

But quickly I discovered that aaaall that quiet was a huge adjustment. After I put the kids down each night, I was forced to face the long, empty hours before bed that seemed impossible to fill without a companion. The silence was unnerving, and I fantasized about moving into my mom’s house where I could be sure of conversation. But I resisted, and recently, amazingly, I’ve noticed that for the first time ever I’m actually learning how to be alone—and loving it too! But, the odd time I do want to go out...



4. It’s really tough to get a night away

When I was still married, after my husband got home I’d often take off to the grocery store solo. I’d take my time and stroll down the aisles, pushing my cart like I was a celebrity and they’d closed the store just for me. Sometimes I’d stop by a friends’ house for wine and child-free conversation or go for a drive just to enjoy not reaching backwards groping blindly for a toy as nursery rhymes blare through the speakers. Now that I live alone, I’ve lost that free childminding a marriage partner offers, and I spend more evenings on the couch yelling at MasterChef Canada than I’d like to admit.

5. The time off isn’t really “off”

Most Friday nights, my ex will swing by and pick up our kids so they can spend the weekend with him. He brings them back on Sundays, meaning I have about one full day without them. Initially, I had ALL the feelings about this arrangement. (What would I do with so much free time?!)

But it turns out, that day off is usually just me catching up on the things I didn’t get a chance to do during the week−a list that is now much longer than it used to be. ?

6. You compromise more

There is one fewer parent to go around now and my kids definitely feel it. They act out more than they used to and it seems they’re very aware of the fact that they outnumber me. I’m also unable now to give them each as much of that all-important individual time they enjoyed before my husband and I split. The guilt about this can weigh pretty heavy at times, but I’m learning to recognize that while I’m not giving my girls everything, I really am doing the best I can—and that has to be good enough.

7. You compromise less

Marriage is all about compromise, whether it’s agreeing on paint colors, or household chores or how to spend your money. Since I’ve moved out on my own, I’ve discovered that there is absolute liberation in not having to consider anyone else’s opinion. My bedroom is the girliest it’s been since I was a teenager, I have books stacked in every corner of my house and if I don’t want to wash the dishes at the end of the night I really don’t have to. My home is entirely mine and it’s a freedom I plan on savoring, along with sleeping smack-dab in the center of the bed and hogging every last pillow.

8. You begin extreme vetting of potential partners

With all this independence and empowerment, I’ve become very unwilling to give up or even share my new life with anyone. I’m being cautious. I’m wary of needing someone too much, of leaning on them instead of myself—it would probably be an easy habit to slide back into. And even now that I am seeing someone, I’ve set serious limits, most of which equal moving about as fast as frozen molasses in terms of how much time and space I’ll devote to our relationship.

I’m not looking for someone to take back that 10 percent and make my life easier—after all, it’s the tough stuff that reminds me what I’m made of.

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.

$30

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!

$75

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.

$40

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.

$120

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.

$30

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.

$100

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.

$40

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.

$121

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.

$100

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.

$45

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.

$179

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.

$100

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.

$33

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.

$88

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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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

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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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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