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I tried kids. I really did. I tried my hardest to be the perfect parent.


One that feeds you only organic, homemade meals. One that never exposes you to TV or gives you sugar in any form. One that is always fun, fair and firm. One who is consistent with discipline and rules, balanced with love and encouragement—never giving into stressful situations or moments of frustration.

This was my grand plan.

Sounds good, right?

No, it sounds ignorant. If anything, it resembles a bad instruction manual from someone who has never parented a day in her life. The “rules” of perfect parenting remind me of those annoying instances when your boss tells you how to do a job he’s never done himself.

In my early days of being a parent, I was too naïve to know any better.

I strictly adhered to all the guidelines to ensure we were raising our children "the right way." Are they watching too much TV? Are they eating healthy enough? Are they hitting their age-appropriate milestones? Are they getting enough socialization? Are they learning the basic principles of being a good person?

I was the definition of a mom who was parenting too hardconsumed with trying to fit our family into this perfect mold.

Why was I allowing this unrelenting pressure to get in the way of being the parent I wanted to be? I was spending way too much energy attempting to be this ridiculous, unattainable notion of a “perfect” parent.

But then I realized—I was missing out.

I was missing out on the beautiful, spontaneous moments that happen when you learn to let go and embrace the chaos.

As a mom of three children under four, I'm completely familiar with a life of chaos and unpredictability. Throughout the craziness, I've learned the importance of flexibility, compromise, and moderation. If life isn't black and white—especially with three very little ones—why should we parent like it is?

Some days we will have more screen time than the latest and greatest recommendation dictates, especially when a much-needed distraction is required.

When time is in short supply, or I'm just too exhausted and depleted of energy, we will have a hot dog for breakfast or dinners comprised of dinosaur chicken nuggets and french fries. (In those moments, I'll just be happy my boys are consuming something other than crackers.?)

I pick my battles when necessary, while understanding my children's limitations, character and temperaments.

When my children are tired, cranky and overdue for a nap, I'm not pressing the need to pick up their toys.

If I'm desperate to get through an experience that's excruciating for a toddler—AKA grocery shopping—I may call upon a sugary bribe.

On a night when there isn’t an urgent need for a bath, it might not be worth the battle to get them in the tub.

If allowing them to bring their favorite toys gets us out the door when we’re in a rush, then I guess the whole chest of dinosaurs is coming along for the ride.

When they wander into our room at night asking to sleep with us, I might agree —even if we usually say no—because we’re all in need of an extra hour or two of sleep.

To embody this notion of a perfect parent, you'd have to be a robot with no human emotion and insurmountable patience and resources. No consideration is had for the unexpected nature of children, and life itself, with its constant, intense demands and struggles.

This ideal just doesn't exist, yet many of us are subjected to feeling an unbelievable amount of pressure to fulfill this unattainable goal. You'd have to have a perfect life with perfect kids—neither of which exists.

Every child is different and individual, just as each parent is. You take the approach that best aligns with your morals, values, and attitudes, and adapt it to coincide best with your child's unique personality and disposition.

My approach isn't the same as another parent's, but neither is wrong. We are all in this together trying to raise our children to the best of our abilities.

Living in the real world of understanding and compromise, I'm content being “the world's okay-est” mom. In addition to keeping my sanity, I'll have the relief of knowing I'll be able to look back on this time and remember the moments filled with laughs and smiles—not thinking about how well balanced my kids’ diet was, or how well they cleaned up their toys.

Sometimes the feeling that I should try to be a perfect parent returns— but I quickly snap out of it when I remember how much fun my children and I have when we don't follow the rules.

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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

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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