It's okay if all you did was watch 'Paw Patrol' today

For the next several weeks I am embracing imperfect parenting, loosening up about screen time and giving myself a high-five for every day we get simply get through.

It's okay if all you did was watch 'Paw Patrol' today

Most weekends I take my 4-year-old to the library for a program called Sensory Sunday. For a kid on the Autism spectrum it's a chance to engage in sensory play and build social connections. But this Sunday we obviously stayed home.

"Is the library closed because people are sick?" kiddo asked me. I told them yes—and we spent our day watching Paw Patrol, eating pickles and folding laundry. It's hardly stimulating, but I refuse to mom-shame myself over this.

For the next several weeks I am embracing imperfect parenting, loosening up about screen time and giving myself a high-five for every day we get simply get through. Our school is closed. Our support system is gone. And I'm not going to hold myself to an unrealistic parenting standard during this pandemic. My daily schedule is not going to be worthy of Pinterest.

I'm going to be very honest with you: It's gonna be frozen pizzas and PJ Masks marathons up in here until things get back to normal (or at least until I find my feet in this new normal).

Our "old normal" involved playdates, playgrounds, parenting coaches, respite workers, therapists and support from our community. My preschooler goes to a special needs Pre-K program. It is amazing. The kids get multiple therapies and tailored early learning lessons to enhance their language and social skills. There are multiple professional educators in the classroom at all times. I don't even know how many years of post-secondary training in education they have between them, but I know how much I have: zero.

I don't have any degree in education. I'm not trained in supporting kids with special needs. I just love one and I'm doing my best as an amateur mom. We're going to read. We're going to go for walks. We're going to practice the skills we've been learning in Pre-K. But I'm not going to pretend that I have the capacity or training to do what my child's teachers and therapists do every day (especially as I am also working from home).

We just learned my child's school will be closed indefinitely. This comes one week after my child missed a week of Pre-K due to a fever (we didn't want to risk getting classmates sick). So kiddo stayed home with me for four days while I worked. They watched me type on my laptop, watched a ton of TV and ate the McDonald's breakfast burritos I asked Uber Eats to leave on our front porch when I realized I had no food (as school provides hot meals).

It was not a super awesome week. My spouse worked outside the home 12 hours a day. My child interrupted my video meetings and my productivity. I spent my evenings catching up on work after they were asleep. And I did not have the time or the energy to do in-home speech, occupational or behavioral therapy sessions. I was exhausted.

I want my child to thrive, but without my village all I can do is survive.

All I can do right now is pizza and Paw Patrol and that's okay.

I worry that without proper teachers and therapists my child will regress, their progress will stall and my patience and parenting skills will be tested. But I'm not worried about keeping up with all the awesome homeschooling ideas and COVID-19 family schedules on Instagram and Pinterest.

Parenting a special needs child means that my parenting experience is different from my peers' a lot of the time and this is just going to be another example of that. But we have survived so much so far. We have survived the horrible time before our diagnosis when we didn't know what was going on with our child. We survived the diagnosis and all the feelings that comes with it.

And we will survive this. It just might not look good on the 'gram. But I can confidently say—I am okay with that.

Let this be your permission to be okay with whatever your 'that' is, too.

My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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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 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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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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