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My son recently turned one, and many people asked me what I learned in my first year of motherhood. What a big question!

As I reflected, I realized how much hands-on experience I gained in caring for a child. I'm no longer squeamish at changing a blowout diaper or intimidated by feeding solids for the first time and, to my surprise, my heart has expanded more than I could have ever imagined.

Despite what I have gained as a mother in this first year, I believe what I let go of in my journey into motherhood is what’s most important. It’s what has truly made me become a better mother to my son.

I’ve let go of expectations.

As a coach working with women struggling with perfectionism, a great deal of my work with clients is adjusting the expectations they have for themselves and others.

A large part of my work revolves around expectations because I know both personally and professionally, when we attach to certain expectations, well...we expect them to happen. And if our expectations are not met, we typically feel disappointed, angry or sad. We feel like failures.

It's natural to want things to work out according to plan, but when they don't, it can cause a great deal of distress.

And what is often wrapped in our expectations, is what we think that expectation means or says about us.

Before my son was born, I knew I wanted to breastfeed. Unfortunately, breastfeeding came with struggles and challenges throughout the entire process. Early on in my journey as a mother, I created an expectation that I would be able to exclusively breastfeed. I didn't realize it at the time, but I was very much attached to that expectation. I expected it to happen.

When I needed to supplement and then when my son self-weaned at 6 months, I was heartbroken. I tried all the supplements, met with lactation experts, and tried to convince my son to keep latching on, but nothing worked.

Since I did not meet my own breastfeeding expectations, I felt like a failure. I felt like I wasn't meeting his needs. I was stressed and sad. The more research I did on breastfeeding, the more discouraged I became. So one day, I just stopped. Stopped researching, stopped trying to convince my son to continue, stopped taking all the supplements. Just stopped.

Instead, I brought in Byron Katie's famous question, "Is this true?" And I asked myself:

“Is this true—I'm a failure as a mother?” Answer: Absolutely not!

“Is this true—I'm not meeting my son's needs?” Answer: No, in fact, he's meeting all his developmental milestones and is growing just fine.

This question stopped me dead in my tracks and helped me get out of my head. It stopped the negative feedback loop that was playing through my mind. I was meeting all of my son's needs, and he was thriving!

I was doing a great job.

The attachment I had to my expectations was not only causing me stress, but it also put a strain on my relationship with my son. When I let go of my expectations, it freed up mental and emotional space and allowed me to focus on what was truly important—the bond I have with my son.

So now, instead of creating expectations, I create plans/goals/intentions and allow for quite a bit of flexibility. This mindset reduces my stress so I can connect more with my son and it provides the stamina I need to handle meltdowns, messes, and lack of sleep in a more productive way.

I let go of perfectionism.

Before having children, I observed many of my friends who had kids, and I was constantly amazed how they seemed to have it all under control. These women have multiple children, hold full-time jobs, and some have side projects going on as well.

I used to look at them in awe and think, Seriously, how do they do it? On social media their kids seem well-behaved, my friends are well-groomed, and they look like they have it all together.

Then, when I had my son, my life with one child did not look as picturesque as my friend's lives.

My life looked like this:

  • Scattered toys were my new trending home decor look.
  • Burned meals were a staple Pinterest recipe at our dinner table.
  • Tackling landmines of endless laundry was my new go-to “me time” activity.
  • Showering? What's that?

Then one day, I had a heart to heart with one of my picture-perfect friends. I quickly learned her life was not as sterile as I once thought. At the time she was dealing with postpartum depression, drowning in endless chores, and had little motivation to socialize or be active. In this moment I was reminded of what perfectionism keeps us from...connection.

When my friend opened up about her struggles, I was able to see her humanity. I connected with her feelings, and together, we were able to offer each other support. This moment of connection allowed us to be real about how we were coping with this reality of motherhood.

I’ve learned that expectations and perfectionism prevent connection with others and disable us from allowing our authentic selves to shine through. They take us out of the present moment and away from valuable time with our loved ones. And where motherhood can be stressful enough on its own, they create additional (and unnecessary!) distress.

Instead of focusing on all the household chores not done, I prioritize my time with my son. Playtime, endless hugs and kisses, curiosity, and laughter is our top priority.

What I have learned the most is, my son doesn't see my flaws. He doesn't care if I've washed my hair that day or that he sometimes wears clothes too small for him. He wants to share his toys with me and loves to listen to me read his favorite book. He wants hugs to feel me close. He wants help when he is stuck. He wants to share laughs with me.

What he cares most about is my presence and letting go of high expectations and perfectionism allows me to be more present with my son.

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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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