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“How are you today?” one of your mom friends asks as she passes you in the hallway of your sons’ elementary school. You fire back the typical, expected response. “Doing well,” you say, even though, if one were to open up the heart of you, one would see that you are not, in fact, doing well.


But it’s too complicated. Too raw. You don’t know her well enough. These are the excuses you offer yourself as you pass by, on your way back home with four-year-old twins clutching a stroller holding a 19-month-old.

The truth is, you’re incredibly lonely. Not lonely in the sense that your marriage is rocky, or your relationships with your kids aren’t healthy, or you have nobody and no one on the planet. You are lonely in one sense only: You are a parent of young children.

It’s so hard being a parent of young children.

It’s hard to find time for practically anything, especially socializing, because all your time is consumed with kids, and all your nights are consumed with making sure they get enough sleep, and all your days are consumed with signing school folders and folding clothes and tidying up a house that gets ransacked in half an hour of kids being home.

You don’t have much opportunity to make friends or cultivate friendships. Because it’s too much work to get everyone packed up in the car, and then, when you’ve finally got the little ones strapped in and ready to go, you don’t really feel like going anymore, because one fought you for half an hour on which shoes they wanted to wear, and one of the older ones is still packing up all their stuff because they want to take a thousand Pokemon cards with them even though you’ve tried to explain that the kids at your friends’ house aren’t old enough to be interested in Pokemon.

So it’s a very lonely place you find yourself, because no one has time to talk except about what’s simmering on the surface, and you get really used to exchanging pleasantries like, “Hey, let’s get together soon,” and then it never happens, because life is busy and parenting is hard and sleep looks a little more inviting at this point.

And before you know it, you realize that the only real friends you have are a 19-month-old and two four-year-olds, because the others are in school and no one ever calls you anymore, not even your sister, and you don’t go anywhere, because you’re not all that big on play dates, and who needs friends anyway? That’s what you’ll tell yourself, because you’d rather not think about what you’re missing.

This stage of parenting is really hard. It really is.

Sure, it’s a whirlwind. You’ve heard it said that the days are long, but the years are short. You’ve seen it in motion, because how is it, exactly, that he’s now nine years old? How is it, exactly, that you’re now in your thirties? How is it, exactly, that you’ve gone three months without calling your sister?

Time flies. And yet doesn’t. It’s a mystery to every parent on earth.

You feel lonely, because not only do you never get out, but no one ever talks about the hard parts of parenting. They just all make it look easy. Which makes you feel a little guilty. And probably they feel guilt too. Because, really, they’re just like you.

And let’s talk about this guilt you’re battling all the time.

You feel guilty for not spending enough time with your kids, or for spending too much time with your kids, because your partner needs you too.

You feel guilty about pursuing a career outside the home, or feel guilty about not pursing a career outside the home.

Or you feel guilty about not breastfeeding or not co-sleeping or that one time or four thousand times you yelled.

You try to achieve balance, but it’s always just out of reach. You’re exhausted. You make it to the end of the day, and that’s really saying something.

But one day, this stage of life will only be a memory.

It’s true that in your reality, as it is today, sometimes you’ll feel a bit too close to crazy.

It will seem like it’s never-ending. But it’s not.

It will feel like your kids will always be this challenging, But they won’t.

This stage of life will pass.

Today is not tomorrow and little by little, you will see how things can change. They will need you less and less, and with each new piece of independence they gain, you will gain some back too.

And when it does, you’ll only have your memories. So let’s make them good. And full. And way bigger than the loneliness we feel for a small moment in time.

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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This article is sponsored by Walmart. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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If you're about to be a parent, whether it's for the first time or not, then you've probably thought about all the changes in your life that are coming—especially in the area of finances. Having a baby alters your financial picture. If you take maternity or paternity leave, those changes can be even more pronounced.

If you have student loans in repayment, you may find it difficult to make monthly loan payment with a new baby, and you might be wondering how to make it work.

So how do you handle student loan payments while on maternity leave?

Here are the options available to student loan borrowers:

Family leave deferment

If you have a federal student loan, you can ask for a parental leave/working mother deferment, which offers you time without payments. Becoming a new mother isn't cause for an automatic deferment, like a job loss or serious illness, and so you'll have to work with your servicer directly to request this type of deferment. Navient, one of the largest federal loan servicers, offers information about this deferment on their website.

To be eligible, you'll need to either be pregnant or have a baby less than six months old. You must prove this via a birth certificate or doctor's statement confirming your pregnancy.

In addition, you cannot be working full-time or attending school during the deferment period. If you're hoping to ask for a deferment without taking the time off work, you'll find your request denied. The maximum length of a deferment is six months.

Forbearance

A forbearance allows you to either make a smaller payment or postpone payments completely. Like the deferment, you'll need to contact your servicer and request it. If it's approved, you can take some time off of your student loans while you're off work. Just be aware that even during forbearance, interest continues to accrue, which means your total balance will increase during that time.

Income-based repayment plan

If you'd prefer to keep making payments but just need the amount reduced, you can apply for a new income-based repayment plan. The Income-Based Repayment (IBR) plan caps your monthly payment at 10% to 15% of your discretionary income. And since it's also based upon the size of your family, it will account for the fact that your family size has changed, and your discretionary income has decreased. To apply, contact your loan servicer.

Pay as you earn (PAYE) plan

Another option is the Pay As You Earn (PAYE) plan, which allows you to pay 10% of your income, but only up to the payment amount you would have paid on the standard plan. Because the income and family size are reassessed each year, this plan is great for growing families. It allows you to get a temporary reprieve with lower payments. Then, as you further your career and increase your income, your payment gets back on schedule. Your servicer can help get you set up with the PAYE plan. Your spouse's income is only counted if you file taxes as married jointly.

Revised pay as you earn (REPAYE) plan

Under the Revised Pay As You Earn (REPAYE) plan, you'll pay the same 10% of your income, with annual reassessment of your situation. You won't, however, get a break from counting your spouse's income. With REPAYE, all income counts regardless of how you file your taxes. The good news is that anything left on your balance will be forgiven after 20 years. Talk to your servicer to see if it's a good fit.

Income contingent-repayment (ICR) plan

The Income Contingent-Repayment (ICR) plan is either 20% of your discretionary income, or what you'd pay on a fixed repayment for 12 years, whichever is less. Just as in the other options, you must update your income and family size each year even if nothing changed. In addition, you may have to pay taxes on any amount that is forgiven because the government considers it income. It does, however, work on subsidized, unsubsidized, PLUS, and even consolidation loans, and can be applied for with your servicer.

Budgeting for a baby

There's no way around it—having a baby brings a lot of new expenses. From the things you'll need to buy before the baby comes, to the amount of diapers, bottles and other things your child will need in their first year, you'll need to figure out how much that will cost and how to correctly budget for it. Babycenter.com has a calculator that can help you break down what your child will cost in a given year. You can divide that number by 12 to understand the monthly costs.

Then, you'll want to identify where you can cut back, if possible, to continue meeting your monthly student loan obligations. For some, that might mean eating out less and bypassing the afternoon latte. For others, it'll require a full restructuring of the budget, especially if you plan to take maternity leave that's not fully paid. Since most maternity leaves are unpaid, you'll need to consider expenses, monthly bills, or other obligations that normally comes out of your paycheck and add those to the budget for the time that you're home.

After you get a handle on what your finances will look like and you have a functional budget, don't wait for your child to arrive before trying to live on that budget. In fact, the sooner you start cutting back, the better. That way, you can get a head start on saving, and you'll also be able to adjust any facets of your budget that prove unworkable.

The bottom line

Having a baby is a joyful experience. But caring for a newborn brings enough stress without the anxiety of how you'll pay student loans while you're on maternity or paternity leave. The best time to plan for your new family member is long before you bring them home. Take the time to talk to your servicer, make a budget and prepare your finances for your baby.

Originally posted on lendedu.

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Learn + Play

Michael Bublé knows how to make music that makes us feel all the feels, and his viral lyric video for his song "Forever Now" proves it.

If you've got kids heading back to school, watch this at your own risk and with some tissues handy, mama.

Michael Bublé - Forever Now [Official Lyric Video] youtu.be

The video is a simple animation of a child's room as it transforms over time from a nursery to the packed-up bedroom of a young adult leaving the nest. We held it together until it got to this part: "It wasn't so long ago, we walked together and you held my hand. and now you're getting too big to want to."

The video reminds us of the classic children's book Love You Forever, and that the babies in our arms today will one day be in someone else's arms.

Right now, when our days are filled with bottle washing and shoe getting and making sure that no one falls asleep in their car seat the days sometimes feel so long, but Bublé's telling us something that we sometimes forget: One day we will be looking back and wondering why these long days went by so fast.

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It would be easy to look at one of Tori Roloff's (of Little People, Big World) stunning maternity photos and think everything is going perfectly for the soon-to-be mother of two, who is expecting a baby girl with her husband Zach. But Tori is keeping it real: Though the photos may show her in a pretty dress, cradling her baby bump against a stunning backdrop, Tori isn't loving every second of her pregnancy. And you know what? That's okay.

The pregnancy is so rough, Tori initially didn't even want to commemorate it with photos (though we bet she's glad she did upon seeing the finished product!).

"I'm not one of those women who loves being pregnant," Tori writes alongside one maternity photo, which she posted to Instagram. "In fact there's not a lot of times I do love being pregnant. Don't get me wrong. I thank God for this amazing gift every single day and I know how blessed I am but it definitely hasn't made me feel my best."

But let's make one thing clear: Just because Tori is clearly finding parts of pregnancy unpleasant, that doesn't mean she isn't immensely grateful for the chance to carry her baby.

"This photo truly embodies what I LOVE about pregnancy. My growing bump is a symbol of a healthy girlsie [sic]. It's a reminder that I'm in a position that many women dream of and trust me—I do not take it for granted," she adds.

One Instagram user sums up our feelings on this post pretty perfectly. "Pregnancy is so hard and I think some people assume that if you don't love it, you're ungrateful. I think you can recognize the difficulties of pregnancy and still be grateful for it — they're not mutually exclusive. This photograph is stunning and you are glowing. Embrace your feelings, no matter what they are. You're valid in them! Sending you big love," she writes in the post's comments.

Our take? Pregnancy is not easy...at all! Morning sickness, exhaustion, back pain, hip pain, belly pain...let's just say expectant mamas can be in a lot of discomfort and voicing that discomfort is totally acceptable.

Yes, pregnancy is an amazing blessing (and one that not every woman gets to or wants to experience), but not enjoying every single second of it doesn't take away from the gratitude an expectant mom feels. So to Tori (and all the other uncomfortable preggos out there), here's what we'll say: Don't beat yourself up for not loving pregnancy. It doesn't mean you love your baby — or the privilege of carrying them—any less.

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News

There's nothing more important than the bond between a newborn baby and their parents. And while an emotional bond and attachment between parents and a child happen overs years of development, the first year is the most important because a baby's brain grows most rapidly in the first 12 months of life.

In fact, According to Scientific American, paid parental leave benefits baby's brain development. Research shows infant's brains form up to a thousand new connections per second, but those connections form best when the babies are exposed to the kind of stimulation parents on paid leave can provide.

Every parent in America should have the chance to bond with their newborn child, and America deserves a national paid leave policy that supports families.

While the nation works on a single policy, there are some very special workplaces stepping up to the plate and leading the way when it comes to helping parents do what they do best: parent.

Here are 11 employers who get it.

1. Patagonia

Holly Morissette, a recruiter at Patagonia, recently went viral with a post on LinkedIn in which she shared her experience as a breastfeeding mama working at Patagonia.

"While nursing my baby during a morning meeting the other day after a recent return from maternity leave, our VP (Dean Carter) turned to me and said...'There is no way to measure the ROI on that. But I know it's huge.'" Morissette wrote.

"It got me thinking...with the immense gratitude that I have for on-site childcare at Patagonia comes a responsibility to share a 'call to action'. A PSA to tout the extraordinary benefits that come along with not asking employees to make the gut wrenching decision to either leave their jobs or leave their babies. TO HAVE TO LEAVE THEIR JOBS OR LEAVE THEIR BABIES."

Morissette is right here. A recent survey found for 49% of expectant women, it can feel like a choice between breastfeeding or job growth and in two-thirds of cases when breastfeeding mothers point out when they are being discriminated against they ultimately lose their jobs.

That is why Morissette wrote her viral post, to raise awareness of how Patagonia is supporting parents. She hopes that maybe parents will reference her post in conversations with their bosses.

"That perhaps just one person will brave the subject with their employer (big or small) in the hopes that it gets the wheels turning to think differently about how to truly support working families. That with a bit of creativity, and a whole lot of guts, companies can create a workplace where mothers aren't hiding in broom closets pumping milk, but rather visiting their babies for large doses of love and serotonin before returning to their work and kicking ass. It's no wonder that Patagonia has 100% retention of moms. Keeping them close to their babies keeps them engaged. And engaged mothers (and fathers!) get stuff done. Thank you, Patagonia, for leading the way," she wrote.

This is hardly the first time Patagonia's commitment to parents has received attention. The company's family-friendly policies are well known and go way beyond breastfeeding acceptance.

As Quartz reports, Patagonia has been a leader in family-friendly policies for decades. It's had an on-site daycare for over 30 years and busses drop kids off at the corporate headquarters after school. The childcare isn't free, but it is quality care run by teachers and is conveniently located for busy parents. Anyone who has been waitlisted for day care or had to add an hour to their commute for drop-offs can understand why Patagonia employees love this so much.

The company also offers 16 weeks of paid maternity leave and 12 weeks of paid paternity leave. In 2016, Patagonia reported that for the previous five years it had seen 100% of its new moms return to work after maternity leave, and it's no wonder.

[This post was originally published July 8, 2019. It has been updated.]

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