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Getting a puppy made me realize that we’re definitely done having kids

I'd expected that my new puppy would fill a baby-shaped hole in my life, but instead, she gently revealed that perhaps, babyhood wasn't all that appealing to me anymore.

Getting a puppy made me realize that we’re definitely done having kids

A few years ago, when my kids were both in elementary school, I noticed a pattern emerging in my social media feeds. Puppies. Everywhere. "Meet the newest member of our family!" my friends would share with delight, bombarding the world with photo after photo of their undeniably adorable new pet.

I quickly did the math—their children were always between the ages of 4 and 8—and realized they had clearly entered the 'I'm Done Having Babies' zone. Their puppy was a baby-replacement of sorts.

Some of them were transparent about their decision not to have more babies, some weren't so sure. One friend said something akin to, "My body wants another baby but my brain doesn't, and apparently my body doesn't know the difference between a baby and a puppy, so...."

For years I had watched one after another succumb to the puppy acquisition stage of this ambivalent new parenting territory, knowing exactly what they were doing and why they were doing it. I almost felt sorry for them. I, at that time, was still firmly planted in the land of the unknown—maybe we weren't quite done yet. No puppy for us! I felt sorry for those poor baby-deprived mamas—their longing was so obvious and the puppy was a clear replacement for the void left behind.

And then, lo and behold, after a year of getting used to the idea—we got a puppy, too. It was suddenly glaringly apparent that these animals were quite useful at filling the newborn hole—I became obsessed with her rhythms and functions, her sleeping and pooping, and I was deliriously excited to see her when I came home from work. I felt comforted and validated every time another mom (they were coming in droves at this point) shared her "new family member" photos on Facebook.


But something unexpected happened during those first weeks of falling in love with my new puppy. As I settled down in my bed to read one evening—a luxury only a mother done with the destruction-prevention-stage of parenting can enjoy—I remembered that my husband wasn't home and my kids were clearly doing an inadequate job of supervising their new "sibling." Resentment flooded me as I heard Winnie yapping downstairs. I heaved myself out of bed, muttering, and grudgingly let the dog outside.

As the weeks went by, I realized I could no longer teach a few classes in the mornings, run to the grocery store, hit yoga class and come home in time to clean up the kitchen before kid pickup. My hours were no longer my own, and after a few years of having adjusted to that perk, it stung. I had to come home within a two to four hour window and let Winnie out of her crate, play with her in the backyard and return her to her crate to pick up the kids.

As excited as I was to see her emerge from her crate, nestle between my legs, circle behind me, nuzzle some more, then trot down the stairs—glancing behind her to make sure I was following (yes, we had a reunion routine)—I felt frustrated that, just like when my children were young and dependent, the obligation fell on me as the default parent who was home more than my husband.

Winnie will not be in her crate for many more months and I will go back to feeling some of the freedom I used to, before she joined our family. I hadn't even realized, preoccupied as I was with the many things I lost as my children grew older, how much I relished my new/old life rhythms.

I missed the smell of their baby clothes, the weight of a child asleep on my body, the sound of those beautiful toddler mispronunciations and the road trip memories that actually weren't all that fun but yet, were still seared into my brain.

I missed it all so much I forgot to notice how much I loved it when my days became my own again. When I could do things like read a novel in bed after dinner was over or sleep for ten blissful hours every weekend morning, knowing my children could reach the cupboard and competently navigate their devices.

It didn't take long before Winnie grew old enough to snuggle up next to me while I read or worked in bed, before she no longer roamed the house looking for mischief like a toddler might. Soon she was able to go hours without needing a bathroom break; soon she settled into our routines and habits; soon my freedom returned.

Years ago, I ran into a mom who used to attend my toddler music classes with her daughter. "How old are the kids?" I asked. "How are you doing?"

She looked genuinely radiant as she proclaimed, "They are 7 and 10 and I have my life back again! I can't believe how happy I am!". I was a bit taken aback that she admitted this longing for independence so openly. And yet for years, I subconsciously clung to her words as a talisman of what would one day be mine—my oldest was not yet 5, my youngest merely a twinkle in my ovaries.

I had been so caught up in the series of microscopic losses that comprise parenthood that I hadn't realized how much I was enjoying my life with older children. It took the adjustment of tending to a new puppy to remind me how much I appreciated what I already had.

I'd expected that my new puppy would fill a baby-shaped hole in my life, but instead, she gently revealed that perhaps, babyhood wasn't all that appealing to me anymore. Our newest family member is the one I never knew I needed, the one who truly ushered in that sense of completeness I had been looking for.

14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school 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 summer-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.

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

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

Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective 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

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden 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

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

janod toys baby fox ride on

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

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