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

We can try as hard as we possibly can, but sometimes things are just messy.

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.

In This Article

    14 Toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    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.

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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

    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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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

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