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I thought I was going to be the 'perfect mom'—before I had kids

The "shoulds" of motherhood seem to be around every corner:

I went to my daughter's school when I should have been getting work done. I was working even though I should have been helping our babysitter calm my toddlers' tantrum.

I work from home but I should work in an office; I'd focus better. I work—full stop—but I should be staying home with my children.

I was out with friends when I should have been home soothing my baby's cries. I was watching a mindless TV show when I should have been spending time with my husband.

I was up late (again) when I should have been sleeping. I was catching up on work when I should have been taking time for myself.

I was looking at Instagram when I should have been folding laundry. I was holding my baby while she napped when I should have been cleaning up.

I was eating takeout when I should have cooked a healthy meal with the groceries we have. I was doing the dishes when I should have been watching my daughter's dance moves.

I was online shopping when I should have been emailing. I was daydreaming when I should have been crossing tasks off my to-do list.

I was wearing three-day-old yoga pants and a sweatshirt when I should have been in jeans and a cute top. I was sipping coffee in silence when I should have been getting something, anything done before the kids woke up.

I was eating ice cream when I should have been going to the gym to shed the baby weight. I was hard on myself for that mistake when I should have let it go.

I was snoozing my alarm when I should have been showering and shaving my legs. I was playing and having fun with my kids when I should have been organizing and decluttering.

I was too tired and canceled my plans when I should have pushed through. I ate leftover chicken nuggets and macaroni and cheese when I should have eaten something healthy.

I was crying when I should have been calm. I was doubting myself when I should have been believing in everything I have to offer.

I was talking down to myself when I should have been lifting myself up. I was kicking myself when I should have been comforting myself. I was focusing on the negative when I should have been celebrating the positive.

I should have been on time—instead, I was late. I should have been productive—instead, I was overwhelmed.

I shouldn't have yelled—instead, I am sorry. I should have been nice—instead, I lost my patience.

I should have said the right thing—instead, I said it wrong. I should have come up with something more creative to do—instead, we had a fun doing something 'ordinary.' (And you didn't even notice.)

I should have gotten my hair highlighted—instead, I have roots. I should make sure my cup is filled—instead, it's running on empty.

I should worry about keeping up with the Jones'—instead, I'm trying to save for our future. I was going to be the "perfect mom," and instead of that, my kids got something else: me.

I don't always do what I "should." And I'm not even remotely close to "perfect." But I'm trying to be a good mom and a good partner and a good sister and a good friend and a good daughter and a good person.

Is the TV show Riverdale more worthy of my time than sleep? No—but, I need to unwind. Are yoga pants the most fashionable thing to wear? No—but to me, comfort is key right now.

Is cleaning my house important? Yes—but, so is holding my baby when she's small. Are healthy meals good for you? Yes—but, sometimes takeout is necessary for my sanity.

Is interacting with my children and watching their songs and dances and tricks and "shows" good for my soul? Yes—and so is a clean, empty sink.

Are plans with friends fun? Yes—but sometimes, I crash so hard at the end of the day I can hardly move.

Is being kind important? Is practicing positive parenting #goals? Is patience a virtue? Yes, yes, and yes—but parents are only human, too. And sometimes, we lose it.

And sometimes, we make mistakes.

And sometimes, we falter.

Usually, we learn a lesson. Usually, we can make things better.

Because we can always try again. Because tomorrow is a new day.

There are a lot of "shoulds" in this world, but the only one I'm interested in is: I should be proud of myself. I'm learning and growing and evolving. And I'm trying.

And sure, I may not be THE "perfect mom", but I can say with absolute 100% certainty—I am the perfect mom for them.

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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 the 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, it's 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. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all 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?

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 that 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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