A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

I was that student in school who stayed up all night studying and got a C. That's how I felt about my life.

It's not that I'm a neat freak (in fact, I'm probably pretty near the opposite). All this work was simply to keep the house functioning. I was trying so hard! I felt little satisfaction, little joy, and every day was a battle for my time that I didn't want to wake up for.

I asked other moms, friends, and people I respected if this was normal, how they managed their homes and kids and if they felt like they enjoyed it. What I was met with was a resounding, "Oh yeah, I remember those days! That's motherhood. It'll be okay and you'll get through it."

I was struggling. I thought I was the only mom in the world who couldn't get it together, who wasn't really enjoying motherhood. I felt terrible. I sat on my couch with a giant pile of laundry next to me. Another day had come and gone and I had barely been able to keep up. The days were flying by me, my kids were all 4 years old and under, but I felt like I had missed what childhood they'd had so far. I was always cleaning up.

When I thought about my days and how I spent my time, all I saw were piles of dishes, an endless mountain of laundry, picking up toys and books and markers and jackets and shoes and empty water bottles and paper artwork.

I thought motherhood was going to mean I'd get to enjoy my kids. I chose stay-at-home motherhood because I felt like this is where I was supposed to be: home with my kids. It felt right. Yet, I never spent time truly with them. I had to keep moving or the house and the day would collapse. When I did press pause and spend some time with my kids, it felt like I had to pay the price: catching up on housework, making up for the time I missed living my life. This made me lose my desire to even play with them. What was the point if I was just going to get more behind, more stressed out?

But what if I wanted more than to just survive in my motherhood? That's what I was doing now.

After another particularly difficult day, I reflected on how I'd yelled, how I'd been the mom I never wanted to be, how I was counting how many hours I had of peace and quiet before morning came and I had to start over. It wasn't like I'd had this one really tough day, but tomorrow would be a fresh start and things would get better; I was feeling like this nearly every day. This wasn't what I wanted, and I knew I was called to more than this for my kids' sake and my own. This wasn't abundant life, it didn't feel purposeful, it felt overwhelming and depressing.

In that moment, I had had enough. I decided I wasn't going to let this be my life, and this overwhelm and depression wasn't going to rule me any longer.

What I did next set my life on a new course, and it never went back to the way it was. It changed everything.

I went into the playroom—the room that was the bane of my existence. This was a room full of colorful bins, each bin full of toys. There were toys on the floor, in chests, in boxes, toys everywhere. I would send my kids in here to play and they would come out less than ten minutes later complaining of boredom. This room was pointless, and I'd had enough.

I started working through the room, making piles—keep, trash, donate. I got rid of every single toy that I felt wasn't benefitting my kids. If it didn't cause them to engage in constructive or imaginary play, it wasn't staying in this house because it wasn't worth the work it caused me.

When I was finished, all that remained were trains and tracks, a couple of dress up costumes, books, and blocks. The trunk of my car was overstuffed with toys to take to Goodwill, my playroom was purged, and I immediately felt lighter.

The next day my kids ran downstairs for breakfast, and as usual, I sent them into their playroom to play, curious to see if meltdowns would ensue because of what I'd done with their toys. They walked in, looked around, said something along the lines of "Hey! It's nice and clean, Mommy! Hey! There's my trains!" and happily started playing.

I was shocked. I stepped out of the room, poured myself a cup of coffee, and sat on the couch. To my surprise, my kids played in that room that day for three hours. Three hours! It wasn't just that day either. They continued to want to be in their playroom for long amounts of time from then on. They started going outside more often, making up stories and scenarios together, playing tag and creating art. It was as if I had unclogged their God-given gift of imagination when I got rid of their toys.

I took my purging into other areas of the house—the dishes, the clothes, the drawers and cupboards—and our whole home life continued to transform.

I was spending much less than half the time managing my house, I was playing with my kids, I took up homeschooling, my marriage even improved because I wasn't a cranky maniac anymore. My depression lifted and never came back.

Life felt lighter and more intentional, and I was no longer "getting through it." This was abundant life in motherhood; I could feel it.

(Note: I've put together a bonus resource at the end of this article that will help you begin this process in your own life.)

Today, almost four years later, we've had a fourth baby, moved cross-country to chase our dreams (very easily, because we weren't tied down by our stuff), I started a business doing what I love and helping other women, and the housework is just a side note in my life. It's something I have to maintain a little each day in order to serve my family and keep things running smoothly; it does not take up the bulk of my life anymore.

My kids' imaginations continue to bloom in amazing ways because there are hardly any toys in our house. They create these elaborate stories together and act them out, they get along so beautifully together, and they prefer to be outside more than anywhere else. I feel like we're giving them an honest-to-goodness 1970s childhood, and I love that.

So why did decluttering give me so much freedom? How does losing my stuff have anything to do with my depression and general lack of joy in my motherhood?

Studies show a direct link between the amount of physical possessions in a house and the stress level of the female homeowner. One study done at UCLA found that the more stuff that was in a woman's house, the higher her level of stress hormones. This same study also found that women subconsciously relate how happy they are with their home life and family to how they feel about their homes. So the more clutter and chaos in the home, the less happy the woman is with her family and her life.

Bingo.

That's what was going on with me, and I believe it's the cause of today's epidemic in mothers. Barely getting by, living in survival mode, feeling like their kids' childhoods are passing them by even when they're right there living it with them. Our stuff is literally stealing away our joy and our lives. It's stealing the most precious thing in the world: motherhood.

I believe mothers need minimalism more than anyone else.

Minimalism is less cleaning, it's the joy of always being ready for company to drop by without stressing out, it's more free time to focus on your priorities, it's enjoying your home rather than being owned by it, it's being able to be a mom who plays rather than a mom who's always cleaning up, it's being a happier person. If you're feeling ready to make some of the changes that led me to this place of thriving in motherhood and removing myself from survival mode, I've put together a free course to help you.

I want this for you, sweet friend. I want you to know it doesn't have to be like this for one more day. You can choose a different path, you can thrive, you can love this life, you can escape the chronic overwhelm that everyone else calls normal. I promise you, it's so worth it.

A version of this article originally appeared on The Balanced Life.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.


Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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