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There's a lot I miss right now about my pre-pandemic life as a mom. I miss the obvious things, of course, like having a school-day routine that felt comfortable and achievable for both me and my daughter—as opposed to crisis-schooling, the only honest name for what we're currently muddling our way through.

I miss walking to and from school together holding hands. I miss being able to snatch some time to myself after school drop off, and after bedtime, too. Now any child-free minutes I have are claimed by work, household logistics or catching up on the news. I miss free time.

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But a dear friend recently expressed something that feels unexpectedly tough about parenting through this pandemic—something I didn't realize I was missing until she said it.

"I miss saying yes," she said. "I feel like all I do these days is say no. No, I can't do that right now. No, I can't play with you or read to you right now. No, we can't do that. No, we can't see friends yet. No, I don't have time. I just miss being able to say yes to stuff with my kids."

This friend, she's a lot like me—like a lot of us, really— working from home while trying to manage our kids' school obligations and our own fears and anxieties. We all have eleventy-million jobs right now and we have no choice but to do them simultaneously, in the same place: parent, employee, tutor, therapist, home logistics expert—not to mention grocery shopping tactician and personal chef. (Instead of living through this dystopian-future novel about online shopping carts, can I please upgrade to a cooler one with some lasers and aliens?)

I have it comparatively easy—I'm employed, we're healthy, we're safe. But even so, I can't believe I used to think being a working mom was hard. It was hard, don't get me wrong. But this? This has totally reset what I used to think was hard.

Because as hard as it used to be to balance and juggle everything—and it was a challenge that demanded a lot from all of us, every day—at least I felt like I'd managed our family life to a point where I could say yes to things that felt important, doable or just fun. Yes, let's do a family vacation. Yes, let's stay up late and watch a movie together. Yes, I'll sit on the couch and read to you even though I know you can read it yourself (any excuse to snuggle up with you, kiddo).

The demands on our time, these days—these packed-to-the-brim and yet weirdly empty days—just make it feel impossible to do what all the experts are saying to do, for our own sanity: Slow down. Say yes.

Yes to creativity, to comfort, to affection and kindness. Yes to fun, to exercise, to deep breaths. Yes to "good enough." Yes to "five more minutes, Mama."

As much as I want that—and I do know it'd be good for me—still, so often I have to say no. So. Much. No. No, Dad's in a meeting. No, we can't go to the store for that. No, there's no soccer this year. No, we can't really do a birthday party this year. No, I'm so sorry ladybug, I have to do this other thing right now.

But even as I write this, and even as I wholeheartedly agreed with my friend that night on the phone, I know there's really not much preventing me from slowing down long enough to say yes—not as much as I think, anyway.

My partner and I need to keep our family working, healthy and safe. But beyond that, there's got to be room for more yes. For my own sake as much as my child's.

So here's my new mantra: Slow down. Say yes.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.

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The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.



As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.

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Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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