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Dear mama: You’re not doing it wrong, it’s just *that* hard

It’s amazing how the smallest thing can change your whole perspective on life. For me, it was the kind words of a stranger.

I was leaving a mommy-and-me gym class, on my way to pick up my preschooler, holding my toddler by one hand and the carseat with my newborn in the other. I opened the door and my toddler made a bee-line for the parking lot—just slipped out of my hand and bolted.

By some marvel of mama-power I was able to grab him before he got there, without dropping my newborn—but not without falling, tearing my pants and skinning both my knees.

I just sat down on the sidewalk and cried. I was relieved he was okay of course, but I just felt so tired, so defeated. That’s when she came—another mom I hardly knew, from the class I just left.

She knelt down next to me, put her hand on my back and said, “Youre not doing it wrong. It’s just that hard.”

In that one moment, with my hair matted to my tear-soaked cheeks and searing pain shooting down my legs, she made me realize it wasn’t my fault. That I could try as hard as I possibly could every day, but sometimes things would just be messy.

As mothers, we often start to believe that if something isn’t going right, that it’s our fault.
Clearly I am missing something that would make this easier.’
‘Other moms seem to have this figured out, why can’t I?’
‘If only I was [fill in the blank]-er, this wouldn’t be a problem right now.’

And so, dear mama, I want to say loud and clear—it’s not your fault.

If you are trying so hard to limit your kids’ screen time, but literally have no other way to make a phone call, cook dinner or get a moment of quiet—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you desperately miss your partner and wish you could spend more time together, but find yourself collapsing into bed—alone—because you are just too touched out to consider anything romantic—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you spend hours a day washing, folding and wiping, but every evening your floors are still covered with Legos, crumbs and tiny socks—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you would love to run a 5k, but can’t even find five minutes to train, let alone get to the gym—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you’ve read three and a half books on sleep, tried everything and your baby still just won’t sleep through the night—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you get so much conflicting parenting advice from every corner of your life that all you can hear is noise so loud it drowns out your confidence in the fact that you are the best person to make decisions about your child—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you lived on Pinterest for weeks researching baby’s first birth party ideas, stayed up until 2 a.m. multiple nights in a row DIYing decorations and cupcakes, only to have to cancel it last-minute because the baby got pink eye—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If every time you cross something off your to-do list you add two more to-do’s—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you love your job but feel like you can’t devote your attention to it the way you used to—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you really dislike your job but can’t leave because you need the money/insurance/tenure—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you love being a stay-at-home mom but are sick of feeling like you have to defend your choice to everyone—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you thought you wanted to be a stay-at-home mom, but now that you’re here, you find that it’s really not what you envisioned—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

If you love your children so much it hurts, yet check the clock repeatedly to see if it’s bedtime yet—you’re not doing it wrong, it’s just that hard.

In that moment when I felt like a complete and total failure, the stranger outside of gym class saw an exhausted mama who was trying so hard to take care of her kids, even when it left her bleeding and crying on a sidewalk. She saw me more clearly than I could see myself—as a mama who was doing a good job.

And so, darling mama, allow me to pay it forward—

Finding time when you are a mother is just hard.

Working on relationships when you are a mother is just hard.

Keeping the house clean when you are a mother is just hard.

Exercising when you are a mother is just hard.

Making parenting decisions when you are a mother is just hard.

Feeling like you can get stuff done when you are a mother is just hard.

Figuring out if and how to balance a career when you are a mother is just hard.

Sometimes it’s all just really hard. Not because you are doing it wrong, simply because it is.

The fact that you keep going, keep cuddling, keep cleaning, keep planning and keep loving in spite of how hard it is, is your super power. You’re doing the hardest job on the planet with dedication, grace and love—and there is nothing wrong in that.

Ask for help, be gentle on yourself and know that you are not alone.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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