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My best friend and I decided to move in together and co-parent our children

Our arrangement goes beyond that of roommates. We're genuinely leaning on each other; when one of us has more capacity than the other, she tags in.

My best friend and I decided to move in together and co-parent our children

I've known my best friend Tia for 10 years. We've seen each other through marriages, career changes and the journey into motherhood.

This year was a year of relationship changes for both of us. Her marriage was coming to an end, and my live-in boyfriend and I decided to take a significant step backward so we could work on some of our conflicts. Despite our respective emotional rollercoasters, we were both forced to shift our attention to logistics. Finding an apartment in New York City is hard enough, but finding one that accommodates kids is like searching for a very expensive needle in a very expensive haystack.

As we shared our experiences with each other, the idea of merging our households kind of hit us like a brick. The aim was to help make both of our lives a little easier.

Tia is the mother of two boys, ages 3 and 13, and I am the mother of one 5-year-old. Her three-bedroom apartment in Bedford-Stuyvesant could accommodate all of us. The master bedroom was converted into the boys' room, with space designated on one end for the oldest child so he could retain some semblance of adolescent autonomy.

Tia and I took the remaining two smaller rooms. We agreed to share all housing expenses―groceries, rent, utilities, even Netflix. We also agreed to support each other, be each other's first line of defense when dealing with parental ups and downs.

Logistically, we had it all figured out. We scheduled my move-in date for a little over a month ago; I packed my things and arranged movers. She cleared out the second bedroom for me, and we spent an afternoon figuring out how to set up the two youngest boys' beds (one Hot Wheels bed and one Batmobile bed)—which felt like a complex game of Tetris.

When it was all said and done, the boys were wrestling in their giant room while Tia and I escaped to the backyard to sip on some congratulatory tequila.

Our arrangement goes beyond that of roommates. We're genuinely leaning on each other; when one of us has more capacity than the other, she tags in.

When I had to figure out childcare for my son during the two weeks between his last day of kindergarten and his first day of summer camp, we sat down and talked about how we could work our schedules around the issue. She offered to take him to work with her for a few hours so I could get work done―something I might have struggled to figure out had I been going this alone. When she needed to rest after a long night of work and play, I got up and made the boys breakfast. I use her car to take my son off to school if I'm running late.

We support each other with everything. We don't need to reach out to expensive babysitters or strangers; there is always someone in-house who has our backs.

The most difficult time of day for most single mothers is between 5 pm and 8 pm on weekdays. We scramble to get children fed, bathed and into bed while also possibly finishing up work we left undone when we left the office. Having one woman in the house who can put down a plate in front of the kids while the other responds to important emails is a saving grace.

Our home has two parents in it. Two parents who have agreed to be each other's backup before deploying more expensive or inconvenient options. This is a godsend in a city like New York, where work never sleeps and kids hardly ever settle down.

As one battle (the move) subsided, another gracefully crept in behind it: the heart stuff. I was watching my friend go through the end of her marriage. Arguments about when the child would be picked up and who wasn't being supportive enough would often leave her exhausted. I was spun into an overwhelmed stillness as I dealt with my own issues, too, and grappled with questions concerning my career and relationship.

I, on the other hand, had established a home with someone I still love, and post-move, I was navigating my own raw emotions. We both had some mending to do which made our arrangement all the more helpful.

Being able to hand off the baton to each other quickly became a saving grace. I was able to reintroduce myself to myself, embrace alone time and create more balance in my life. I have also been able to help Tia, like when she needed a break from her youngest son so she could facilitate a workshop one evening. I didn't need to be asked, because I'm a mom. I know it's nearly impossible to do anything in the presence of a 3-year-old.

Best of all, our sons get to bond like brothers, learn how to compromise, share and help our household function by pitching in with clean-up and meal prep. This wouldn't be the case had we attempted to live alone in New York City with our respective kids.

There is a stigma about single mothers—that we are overstressed, overtired, under-appreciated and permanently in bad moods. There is a sense of acceptance around these ideas. We ourselves accept them as truths and try to work around them with the pressure of society at our feet.

It's as if we are constantly apologizing for failing to create the socially acceptable nuclear family. So instead of asking for help, we take on more than the average person. As women, this is already something we're used to doing―this piling-on of life. As mothers, we do it usually to the detriment of our sanity and health.

Mothers need each other―single or otherwise. We understand the day-to-day and we hear the things that usually go unsaid. My co-mother doesn't have to explain why she propped up her son on the couch to watch PJ Mask for 30 minutes while she sat in her room in silence.

I don't have to explain to her why I needed to spend the night at my boyfriend's place just to feel emotionally catered to by someone who didn't ask for a peanut butter sandwich as soon as I sat down.

These things we don't have to say allow us space that the world won't give us. Space we greatly need.

A co-mothership is about partnership. It requires the same level of commitment and communication as any partnership. We have to stay on the same page, respect boundaries, be honest about what we can and cannot do and about what we need.

In cities like New York, where the median rent cost is upward of $3,000 a month, being a single parent feels impossible. But entering the realm of finding a roommate can be just as problematic. How would this new person respond to your child? How would your child respond to them?

My first roommate as a single mother was a woman without children. She loved my son as if he were her own, but I still felt like I had to apologize when he was louder than normal, wanted to be rambunctious in the living room or spilled something all over the floor. These are all things that wouldn't even warrant a blink from another mom (who is also my best friend).

Our arrangement has already proven to be fruitful and healthy. There have been bumps along the way, of course. Like the moment we looked around the apartment, completely in disarray after my things had been dropped off, and wondered what we'd just done.

Or the fact that we have one bathroom and five people who need to leave the house every morning. We're constantly reminding the kids to share toys, even if they were previously designated to a child who had his own bedroom. There's the work of remembering who likes almond milk and who likes cow's milk, who prefers turkey bacon and who prefers pork bacon. Keeping track of who is in the house on Mondays and who is out of school on which days. What mother can pick up or drop off which kids and who will do the grocery shopping today or mop the floor next week.

We soon found out that the caveat to co-mothership is to remain frightfully organized and stay ahead of the storms. But above all else, it's about respecting each other's contribution and experience in motherhood and womanhood. I wouldn't be able to do this without Tia, and I am so grateful for the life I share with her right now.

Originally posted on HuffPost.

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Why right now is the best time for a drivable getaway

Flexible schedules mean more vacation options. 🙌

Looking back now, last winter feels like a lifetime ago. At the time, my husband and I were eagerly planning our summer vacation just as we've done in years past. You know how the next part goes: COVID-19 came into the picture and changed our plans not only for vacationing, but for so much else in life.

In the time since then, we've gained a truly valuable new perspective on what matters—and realized we don't have to look so far to make beautiful memories with our kids. By exploring getaways within driving distance of our home, we've developed a new appreciation for the ability to "pack up the car and go."

Of course, that isn't to say that travel is the carefree adventure it once was. With COVID-19 still a very big part of the equation, we've become much more diligent about planning trips that allow for social distancing and exceed cleanliness standards. That's why we've exclusively turned to Vrbo, which helps us find nearby accommodations that meet our new criteria. Better yet?

Thanks to the money we've saved by skipping air travel and our remote-friendly work schedules, we're able to continue with the trips throughout the fall.

Here are a few more reasons we believe it's a great time for drivable getaways.

Flexible schedules allow us to mix work + play.

After months of lockdown, my family was definitely itching for a change of scenery as the summer began. By looking at drivable destinations with a fresh set of eyes—and some helpful accommodation-finding filters on Vrbo—we were able to find private houses that meet our needs. (Like comfortably fitting our family of five without anyone having to sleep on a pull-out couch!)

With space to spread out and feel like a home away from home, we quickly realized that we didn't need to limit our getaways to the weekends—instead we could take a "Flexcation," a trip that allows us to mix work and play. Thanks to the ability to work remotely and our kids' distance-learning schedule for the fall, we're planning a mid-week trip next month that will allow us to explore a new destination after clocking out for the day.

We’re embracing off-season deals.

With Labor Day no longer marking the end of our vacationing season, we're able to take advantage of nearby getaways that mark down their rates during the off season. For us in the Mountain West, that means visiting ski-town destinations when the leaves are falling rather than the snow. By saving money on that front, we're able to splurge a bit with our accommodations—so you can bet I search for houses that include a private hot tub for soaking in while enjoying the mountain views!

Vacationing is a way to give back.

If we've learned one thing this year, it's that life can change pretty quickly. That's given us a new appreciation for generous cancellation policies and transparent cleaning guidelines when booking trips. By seeing both of these things front and center in Vrbo listings along with reviews from fellow travelers, I feel confident when I hit the "book now" button.

Beyond that, I know that booking a trip through Vrbo isn't only a gift to my family. On the other side of the transaction, there are vacation home owners and property managers who appreciate the income during these uncertain times. What's more, taking getaways allows us to support our local economy—even if it's just by ordering new takeout food to enjoy from our home away from home.

While "looking ahead" doesn't feel as easy as it once did, I am confident that there will be a lot of drivable getaways in our future.

This article was sponsored by Vrbo. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.

$40

Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.

$30

Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.

$100

Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.

$40

Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.

$121

Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.

$100

Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.

$45

Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.

$179

Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.

$100

Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.

$33

Baby forest fox ride-on

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Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.

$88

Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!

$75

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.

$30

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Mama, all I see is you

A love letter from your baby.

Mama,

I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

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