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I had a baby at the height of my career—and it was the best decision I ever made

My son mellowed me; he softened me and transformed my ambitions in a way I could never have predicted.

I had a baby at the height of my career—and it was the best decision I ever made

In the early days of my maternity leave, there were times I disliked—close to hated—being home on my own with my son. I adored him of course, but he was born with reflux that kicked in about two hours after I delivered him, as well as a milk allergy that went undiagnosed for a while, so it's fair to say those early days were a struggle.

I found the reality of my leave to be completely different from my original expectations. Don't get me wrong, I didn't think it would be all snuggles and making new mom friends; I had new mom friends who told me it was anything but that.

What surprised me most was how much I missed my job. I couldn't fathom why, when I was being paid to be home with my gorgeous little boy, that I wanted to give that up and head back to work. I couldn't wait to finish my maternity leave.

Three years prior to having my son I had joined a PR agency where I quickly climbed the ranks, and when I left for maternity leave it was with a promise I'd be back within eight months, ready and raring for the corporate lifestyle I had come to relish. In those first months, I longed for my desk, my work bestie and client lunches where I could talk about anything other than the number of times my son had thrown up on me that day. I couldn't believe I had made the decision to have a baby when my career was in its prime.

And then something changed.

As the days somehow got easier (they just do, don't they? No one can explain it, it just happens), and my bond intensified with my little boy, I started to wonder what my career had all been for. I worked extremely long hours for very little remuneration other than a team "Cheers!" at the bar on a Friday after a hard week of slogging for what could often be 15-hour shifts. I saw my rich clients get richer, while my life was no further enriched. And I don't mean in a monetary sense; I mean actual enrichment, where your job enhances your life.

Nevertheless, I clung to the promise I had given and put the question mark in the back of my head down to nerves about putting my son into daycare. Once I'd cleared that hurdle, everything else would fall back into place and the "old me" would come back and once again relish the corporate world and everything about it. Right?

Time ticked on and the question mark turned into a daily debate with myself about what my job was helping me achieve. Yes, we had enough money in the bank for a nice holiday, and I could afford an ASOS order every other week. But other than that, what part of this world I'd been living in had actually made me or anyone I worked with a better person? When had my skills been used to help anyone who was vulnerable or anyone who needed a lucky break in life?

I always thought nothing could take down my desire to be at the top or my passion for overcoming every challenge on the way to the top, head-on. But my son mellowed me; he softened me and transformed my ambitions in a way I could never have predicted.

Rather than money in the bank to buy expensive things, I instead wanted to collect memories. Instead of being able to brag about being a director in a business, I wanted to be able to manage my home and keep everyone within it happy. While I once would've thought anyone saying these things had little to no ambition, I now know it's just a case of our ambitions changing as our life changes.

When I eventually went back to work, I vowed to give it my best shot. But I quickly learned that the environment I was working within would never help me find my worth or show me my true value. Five months in, I handed in my notice.

I'm now self-employed and finding flexibility is the right thing for my family. I'm also working with clients where I am actually making a difference, and that's really important to me.

What I'm here to tell you is that no matter which path your career takes after you've had a child, no one else needs to be happy about it other than you.

Leaving the only industry you've ever known to instead follow a different calling isn't failure, it's bravery.

Jumping off the corporate ladder and taking a pay cut to work in a role that gives you more satisfaction isn't irresponsible, it's self-care.

Taking a step back to assess what it is you actually want to do doesn't mean you've lost your way; it means you're about to find it.

Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on Comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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