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To the mama who is barely hanging on

I've been where you are. I was there, and I lost myself 1,000 times. But—I'm here to tell you—I've made it to the other side.

To the mama who is barely hanging on

Weary mama,

I drove past you the other day. You were on a walk with an infant strapped to your chest, the handle of a stroller in your left hand, and the leash of your small and energetic dog nearly yanking your right shoulder out of its socket. Your face said it all.

Your eyes told me you had reached the end of your rope. Your expression told me that you're clinging to some sort of freedom you refuse to lay down. But, I got the feeling that your world is putting up such a fight that you're not sure it's worth it some days.

I'm sure you were stuck in the house all day and the walls felt like they were closing in on you.

I'm sure you grew tired of cleaning up the same 15 toys a dozen times.

I'm sure you started to wonder if all this mothering of little ones is making a difference or not.

I'm sure you found yourself wondering where you are these days.

I'm sure you need a break.

You've given up career advancement. You've let friendships slip to the back-burner. You can't remember the last time you had a girls' night out or ate with both hands in your very own kitchen. For that matter, you can't recall the last time you actually sat down to enjoy your own meal.

You sometimes wonder if you and your husband live on two entirely different planets. The most pressing household needs—hungry children, sticky fingers, toys strewn under the dining room table three minutes before dinner is served, poopy diapers—seem to complete for both of your attention.

And in these different worlds, he still gets to hold onto pieces of his life that you feel like you haven't seen in years ago. He makes time for Saturday morning golf, Friday afternoon happy hour, and career development seminars. He makes time for football games, haircuts, and morning workouts at the gym.

And you're feeling like your individuality doesn't really exist anymore.

You've paused hobbies and have put personal passions aside during this season of life. You traded in your gym membership for baby yoga in the living room, and you now cut your own hair every six months using a complicated system of tilted mirrors. Because they're easier for now; they fit your life now.

I know these things, woman with two children and a yanking dog, because I've been where you are. I was there, and I lost myself 1,000 times. But—I'm here to tell you—I've made it to the other side. And the woman I've found there is a woman I'd like to spend a day with. She's a woman who I happen to like more than the single woman who had a thriving career, passion for travel, strict workout routine, and full social schedule.

I found that when I learned to let go of the rope I was ferociously clinging to, I was forced to jump into a new kind of life. And as it turns out, letting go of that rope was the greatest gift.

Letting go made me a bit gentler. It taught me that I don't have all the answers and that, the longer I live, the fewer answers I seem to have.

Letting go softened me. It slowed me down. It invited me into a life that's less about me and what I want in any given moment, and more about others and how I can invest in a way that brings joy to the lives of others.

Letting go taught me that I don't have to be perfect. I don't have to keep it all together or put on a mask. I simply need to show up.

So, lady with the kids and the yanking dog, I applaud you. I applaud you for trying, and I applaud you for showing up.

I see it on your face that you're barely hanging on, and I'm here to encourage you that letting go isn't as terrifying as you thought it might be. Let go of all that's draining you dry, and keep putting one tired foot in front of the other in all your human imperfection.

This season won't last nearly as long as you expect, and when you emerge on the other side, the woman you've become will look back on the journey with a tender smile. Because you're accomplishing so much, every single day—and it's really pretty amazing, mama. It's just hard to recognize that in the fog.

There are clear skies ahead, though—promise.

I felt lost as a new mother, but babywearing helped me find myself again

I wish someone had told me before how special wearing your baby can be, even when you have no idea how to do it.

My first baby and I were alone in our Brooklyn apartment during a particularly cold spring with yet another day of no plans. My husband was back at work after a mere three weeks of parental leave (what a joke!) and all my friends were busy with their childless lives—which kept them too busy to stop by or check in (making me, at times, feel jealous).

It was another day in which I would wait for baby to fall asleep for nap number one so I could shower and get ready to attempt to get out of the house together to do something, anything really, so I wouldn't feel the walls of the apartment close in on me by the time the second nap rolled around. I would pack all the diapers and toys and pacifiers and pump and bottles into a ginormous stroller that was already too heavy to push without a baby in it .

Then I would spend so much time figuring out where we could go with said stroller, because I wanted to avoid places with steps or narrow doors (I couldn't lift the stroller by myself and I was too embarrassed to ask strangers for help—also hi, New Yorkers, please help new moms when you see them huffing and puffing up the subway stairs, okay?). Then I would obsess about the weather, was it too cold to bring the baby out? And by the time I thought I had our adventure planned, the baby would wake up, I would still be in my PJs and it was time to pump yet again.

Slowly, but surely, and mostly thanks to sleep deprivation and isolation, I began to detest this whole new mom life. I've always been a social butterfly. I moved to New York because I craved that non-stop energy the city has and in the years before having my baby I amassed new friends I made through my daily adventures. I would never stop. I would walk everywhere just to take in the scenery and was always on the move.

Now I had this ball and chain attached to me, I thought, that didn't even allow me to make it out of the door to walk the dog. This sucks, I would think regularly, followed by maybe I'm not meant to be a mom after all.


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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.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 supporting Motherly and mamas.

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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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