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We parent equally—but he's seen as Super Dad and I'm not seen at all

Yesterday our family embarked on a long trip across the country to visit extended family. My husband and I have four small children, aged seven, five, two and 2 months. We decided before the trip that it would make the most logistical sense to navigate the airport with my husband wearing the 2-month-old in a wrap and our 2-year-old strapped in the kid carrier backpack. I would manage the suitcase, backpack, diaper bag and two older children.

It's not nearly as comfortable for me to babywear since I'm a pretty petite person and it's hard for me to get stuff done while having a kid strapped across the length of my torso. My husband loves wearing our kids and feels he can get a lot done with his hands free, while I just feel prohibited and weighed down.

(Not to mention that I just spent the last nine months with a baby in my womb—three years total with all four kids—and spend hours a day breastfeeding so yeah, sometimes this mama needs a break from having a kid be attached to her.)

While we were walking through the airport with my husband loaded down with the "Littles" and I cared for the "Bigs" and the bags, he was lauded with praise. People watched him with admiration, making comments like:

"Wow, super dad"

"Dad beast"

"Dad of the year"

"You're doing such a great job!"

These types of phrases are common while we're all together in public, whether traveling, grocery shopping or at the zoo. And what did people say to me? Nothing.

It reminded me of the time a few years ago when my husband and I were taking a stroll in the neighborhood with our oldest son, then two, and our newborn daughter who was about 2 weeks old. My husband was holding both the kids and had our dogs on a leash. I was just walking next to him. A neighbor stopped us and praised him, then looked at me and said "Wow, he's doing all the work. That's not fair!"

What she didn't know was that I was recovering from a complicated and traumatic emergency C-Section and this was my first time venturing out of the house. Her comment left me feeling discouraged. Ashamed almost. She had no idea what I was dealing with physically and emotionally, and her thoughtless sentiment was not what this hormonal postpartum mama needed to hear.

All of these instances have gotten me thinking about our cultural expectations for young moms and dads. It's as if the bar is set so low for dads that when they are simply being a good dad, it's surprising to many people. Moms are expected to do a lot and since that's what's "normal," it often goes unnoticed.

All of this isn't to say, "Hey, look at me! I need praise and attention, too!" My husband is an amazing father to our children, and he deserves the praise he is receiving. My husband and I share the load of parenting together. I can't tell you how many times I've been at work, and people ask if my husband is babysitting our kids. No, he's not babysitting. He's parenting.

Maybe our culture needs to have higher standards for dads. Many families have two working parents, yet somehow it's still the underlying expectation that moms will be doing most of the parenting and manage all household responsibilities.

And you know what, being parents to small children is hard work. It's exhausting and demanding and pushes you to the brink of your limits. Young families need support and encouragement.

So yes, praise the dads who are being great parents. But also notice the moms. The moms who are quietly doing their mom thing and often fly under the radar. Even if they look like they might have a handle on it all and are managing well, inside they have their doubts and insecurities. Struggling with the weight of their endless responsibilities.

You never know what someone is going through, and a simple "Good job" can mean the world.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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

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

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

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When expecting a baby, there is a lot you can test-run in advance: Take that stroller around the block. Go for a spin with the car seat secured in place. Learn how to use the baby carrier with help from a doll. But breastfeeding? It's not exactly possible to practice before baby's arrival.

The absence of a trial makes it all the more important to prepare in other ways for breastfeeding success—and it can be as simple as adding a few of our lactation aiding favorites to your registry.

MilkBliss chocolate chip soft baked lactation cookies

MilkBliss lactation cookies

Studies have shown the top reason women stop breastfeeding within the first year is because they are concerned about their milk supply being enough to nourish baby. Consider MilkBliss Lactation Cookies to be your secret weapon. Not only are they wholesome and delicious, but they were formulated specifically for breastfeeding moms based on the science of galactagogues—also known as milk boosters. They also come in peanut butter and wild blueberry flavors.

$23

Evereden multi-purpose healing balm

Evereden multipurpose healing balm

Also up there on the list of reasons women stop breastfeeding: the toll the early days can take on nipples. Made from just five ingredients, this all natural healing balm is ideal for soothing chafed nipples, making for a much more comfortable experience for mama as her body adjusts to the needs of a breastfeeding baby.

$20

Lansinoh milk storage bags

Lansinoh milk storage bags

For a breastfeeding mama, there are few things more precious and valuable than the milk she worked so hard to pump—and it's the stuff of nightmares to imagine it spilling out in the fridge. With these double-sealed milk storage bags, you can be assured your breastmilk is safe and sound until baby needs it.

$12.50

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Belly Bandit bandita nursing bra

Nursing a baby is a 24/7 job, which calls for some wardrobe modifications. Because Belly Bandit specializes in making things more comfortable for the postpartum mama, they've truly thought of every detail—from the breathable fabric to the clips that can be easily opened with one hand.

$47

boob-ease soothing therapy pillows

Boob Ease soothing therapy pillows

For nursing moms, duct can quickly become a four-letter word when you suspect it's getting clogged. By keeping these soothing breast pillows in your breastfeeding arsenal, you can immediately go on the defense against plugged milk ducts by heating the pads in the microwave or cooling them in the freezer.

$25

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

Belly Bandit perfect nursing tee

A unfortunate reality of nursing is that it can really seem to limit the wardrobe options when you have to think about providing easy, discrete access. But by adding functional basics to your closet, you can feel confident and prepared for breastfeeding on the go.

$59

Bebe au Lait premium cotton nursing cover

Bebe au Lait cotton nursing cover

Nursing in public isn't every mama's cup of tea. But babies can't always wait until you've found a private place to get down to business if that's your preference. That's where a nursing cover comes in handy. This one is made from premium cotton and features a patented neckline that allows for airflow and eye contact even while you're covered.

$36

Lactation Lab basic breastmilk testing kit

Lactation Lab breastmilk testing kit

Curious to learn more about the liquid gold you're making, mama? The testing kit from Lactation Labs analyzes your breast milk for basic nutritional content like calories and protein, as well as vitamins, fatty acids and environmental toxins to help boost your breastfeeding confidence.

$99

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In just over three weeks, we will become parents. From then on, our hearts will live outside of our bodies. We will finally understand what everyone tells you about bringing a child into the world.

Lately, the range of emotions and hormones has left me feeling nothing short of my new favorite mom word, "hormotional." I'm sure that's normal though, and something most people start to feel as everything suddenly becomes real.

Our bags are mostly packed, diaper bag ready, and birth plan in place. Now it's essentially a waiting game. We're finishing up our online childbirth classes which I must say are quite informational and sometimes entertaining. But in between the waiting and the classes, we've had to think about how we're going to handle life after baby's birth.

I don't mean thinking and planning about the lack of sleep, feeding schedule, or just the overall changes a new baby is going to bring. I'm talking about how we're going to handle excited family members and friends who've waited just as long as we have to meet our child. That sentence sounds so bizarre, right? How we're going to handle family and friends? That sentence shouldn't even have to exist.

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