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I became a better mom the moment I decided to focus on what I’m doing *right*

I’ve read so many articles over the last few years where mothers beat themselves up for their ‘failures’ of motherhood. If they aren’t outright condemning past mistakes they may be taking a perceived fault and looking at the silver lining.

I mean, I make mistakes and wish I had done things differently sometimes, too—of course. And I know I can look at how things turned out in the end and realize that mostly everything worked out fine for me and my children.

But instead of just focusing on when things go wrong or when I feel less than perfect, I wondered, are their any parenting wins I can celebrate? Is there anything I can pat myself on the back for?

The most amazing thing happened.

When I stopped to think about it, I realized that I’m doing quite a few things well—even the simplest things felt really good when I looked at them with this perspective.

1. Chatting with my baby

I talked to my babies constantly. From the moment they entered the world. I wasn’t one of those moms that talked to them in utero (not that there's anything wrong with that.) But once I formally met my infants, we quickly developed a bond.

I don’t think it was because they sensed I was their mother, but because we worked on creating that bond together. I even did introductions and a firm handshake (though, not too firm because #babyhands.)

I felt that, if they were going to sit there and stare at me expectantly day in and day out, I should let them know what they were in for. I talked about how I was feeling. I talked about the people they were going to meet. I talked about colors. When we were in the car I talked about the cows.

Here is where I have to tell you how I got extra credit. In the car I sang to them and chatted constantly. I was hyper aware of them being in the car with me because I was telling them about the jogger that was coming along on their left. I pretended I was giving a Hollywood tour some mornings, letting them know I had heard rumors that the Bubble Guppies lived in the pond on the right, and that Elmo was known to frequent the bar on the left. ?

2. Asking for help when I needed it

After I had my babies. I had, what I would describe as, a euphoric feeling for at least 36 hours where I was a mother goddess who was at peace with everything around me. I felt like I probably needed a toga and maybe a white horse to ride around while carrying my baby. (Luckily the sheets were tightly tucked in on the corners or visiting hours at the hospital would have gotten very awkward. ?)

After the 36 hours, though, reality hit really hard. With my first baby, it hit me in the form of tears. Lots and lots of tears. I cried because I was so happy. I cried because the baby was seeing me cry and I was very afraid of her seeing me cry. (Because all I could think of is her sitting in a chair at a therapist's office in twenty years talking about how it was her fault that her mom cried all the time!) I cried because I felt like I was failing. I cried because I wanted so much to feel like that mother goddess again, but it was gone. So I asked for help.

I went to the doctor and I told them that I was not doing well. I quickly received help. At the time, I didn’t like that I needed the help, but boy did it make a difference once I admitted it and received it. (My daughter probably still will need therapy, but for totally different things. ?)

3. I teach and model good manners

We use manners with each other, while out in public, and even while we play. I have found it to be super helpful to incorporate manners into play specifically, because it gives us the perfect opportunity for me to model respect, kindness and manners and she can practice in a safe space.

I mean, some may say that when my daughter was telling me to be the mom witch and she was being my baby witch that we didn’t need to say please and thank you. But you know what I say about that? I don’t care if we are talking about giving the baby witch giant eyeball soup. She can say “Mama witch, may I please have giant eyeball soup with a side of worms?”

I think it’s important for us to stop and reflect on what we’re doing right in a world that loves to focus on what we’re doing wrong or where we’re failing or how we’re not perfect.

Because what we may find, is that we actually are kind of perfect in our own little ways.

So, mama? I hope you find your list long, and your heart full. Because, you’ve got this.

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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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