My divorce taught me to say 'yes' to my kids—and myself—in a way I had never done before

Last night my kitchen got trashed. Completely obliterated. It smelled like a possum died in the oven and looked like he'd used every last pot, pan, dish and utensil to make his last meal.

Why? Because I said “yes." Yes to my daughters and their friends making supper. Yes to using the oven and cutting food with the sharp knives. Yes to trying recipes from Grandma's Betty Crocker cookbook. Yes to creating new recipes from their own brains and whatever they pilfered from the fridge.

Yes to me sitting back and letting it all happen.

It wasn't that long ago that the mere thought of potential chaos made my stomach clench. I might have tolerated a few moments of raw creativity, but then I would jump in to help this or guide that. The end result would be me running the show. I would keep things from getting out of control.

I feared things spinning out of control.

I had good reason to feel this way. My marriage made me feel like the floor was littered in broken eggshells. My job was to tiptoe carefully around them, a basket of laundry in one arm and a heavy, shifting tray of glassware balanced in the other. Voices must be kept down. Laughter must be appropriate. Joy and creativity and spontaneity must be contained.

To keep things under control, I said “no" a lot. No keeps things clean. No keeps people safe. No makes things quiet and orderly and proper and acceptable and appropriate.

No follows all the rules.

I am not in that relationship anymore. I am now divorced, a single mother of two. I am now the breadwinner, the bread baker, and occasionally someone who finds time to eat something. By many people's standards, I am a mess. A train wreck. My life is trashed, completely obliterated.

Thankfully, my standards are not the same as many people's.

To me, the mess you see is a home of warmth, playfulness, laughter, and joy. Dropping the eggshells dance means I have space to say yes all the time. I can embrace the chaos, because chaos is the brave starting point for something beautiful and new.

It took a lot of saying yes to myself to get here. I had to learn that my own happiness was just as valuable as anyone else's. That my job was not to suffer in relationships, but to put boundaries on the toxic ones that threatened my freedom to laugh and love. I had to learn to not feel guilty for choosing relationships and activities that bring me joy and fill me with peace.

I had to learn that sometimes the best thing you can do for the people you love is break all the rules.

Today, my kids spill things and we mop it up together. We make mistakes and just flat-out poor choices, but we patch things up and are back to laughing within minutes. Sometimes my kids get mad and shout things, and I don't even demand an apology; I sit and wait. I trust their kind hearts and know they will offer one up when they are ready. Sometimes I get mad and shout things too, but instead of clenching up or retreating, they sit and wait for Mom to get herself together. They trust I always will.

We embrace the messiness, because a mess means someone was brave and tried something new. Last night, for example, someone learned the difference between baking soda and baking powder. Someone else learned that you can't fix stiff cookies by pouring milk on them halfway through baking. And someone learned that you can't skimp on water when you microwave rice (hence, the dead possum smell).

And we all learned that the best place for broken eggshells is the trash bin.

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Who says you have to wait for birthdays or holidays to give your bestie a great gift? A sweet surprise that tells her you've been thinking of her might be the pick-me-up she needs in these more-than-trying times. We've rounded up some of our favorite go-to gifts that are certain to be a bright spot in her week. But be warned, you may want to snag a few for yourself. (You deserve it, mama.)

Here are some our favorite "just because" gifts to give our hardworking mama friends.

New Mother face + body care duo

volition face + body care duo

This correcting oil and stretch mark minimizer is perfect for the pregnant mama looking to keep her pregnancy glow. The correcting oil brightens the skin while reducing dark spots, and the stretch mark minimizer works to smooth her ever-growing belly.


Allover roller

esker allover roller

This jade roller goes beyond your typical face roller and can be used anywhere on the body. It works to increase stimulation and reduce puffiness and is perfect for applying any oils to the face or body. Plus, it feels like a mini spa treatment.


Kombucha making kit

farmsteady kombucha making kit

What could be a more perfect gift for the health-obsessed friend? This kombucha making kit comes with everything you need to brew your own homemade green tea kombucha. They'll think this is the tastiest gift ever.


Laetitia lipstick

cupid & psyche laetitia

This red lipstick is perfect for your makeup enthusiast bestie who is looking to spruce up her life in quarantine. Crafted in the United States, these bee and vegan-friendly and cruelty-free lipsticks are created to flatter all complexions. Cupid and Psyche Beauty makes finding the perfect red lip way too easy!


Jigsaw puzzle

inner piecec jigsaw puzzle

Mamas need to destress now more than ever during quarantine. This adorable jigsaw puzzle is perfect for the mama who needs a brain break! The 500-piece puzzle designed by artist Ray Oranges features an abstract gradient design that fits a standard frame when completed. Bonus: It's printed on recycled paper and the company donates $1 from every puzzle sold to youth mindfulness programs.


Matilda's Bloombox

matilda's bloombox

If we have to be stuck inside, we might as well have some gorgeous florals to brighten up the space. Matilda's Bloombox locally sources blooms, delivers them to her door and provides simple tips on how to arrange it into a beautiful bouquet.


'I Am Enough' bracelet

I Am Enough bracelet

Let this dainty bracelet serve as a constant reminder to your bestie that she is enough. She'll wear this on her wrist and read this daily oath to herself, "I Am Enough."


Glow assorted teas

vahdam low assorted teas

This tea gift box set covers the entire spectrum of flavors from sweet to spicy. Individually packaged in beautiful tins, your gal pal will feel like a queen sipping her morning tea. Originally $40, this set is currently on sale for just $24. We'll take two, please.


Find your voice journal

find your voice journal

Journaling is a great way to ease anxiety and will slow your bestie's racing mind before bed. This gift is perfect for first time journalists and includes prompts, daily quotes and coloring pages to help her unlock her potential and find her voice.


Premium frother

shore magic premium frother

This gift is fitting for your latte-sipping bestie who can't go a day without her coffee. All she has to do is add two scoops of collagen to her favorite drink, and she'll have a perfectly foamy drink ready in seconds. Skipping the drive-thru line has never been so easy!


Bath soak infusion kit

maude bath soak infusion kit

Say hello to hydration! She'll be feeling smooth and relaxed as ever after a long bath soaking in these salts. This vegan + cruelty-free set incorporates dead sea salt and dehydrated coconut milk powder for an ultra hydrating experience.


Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

Tiny Tags 'mama' necklace

It's a hard-earned title she answers to a hundred times per day. Whether she's new to the club or a seasoned professional, this delicate script 'mama' necklace is guaranteed to be a perfect fit.


Superfood honey

Beekeeper's Naturals B.Powered honey

With a lack of sleep and jam-packed days, getting through the afternoon can be a real challenge. Send her a powerful pick-me-up in the form of a therapeutic blend of royal jelly, bee pollen, propolis and raw honey. It makes the ideal companion for tea, smoothies, yogurt or even on its on.


Calming midnight mask with melatonin

Who doesn't deserve a reminder to pamper themself every once in awhile? Even better, this mask does all its work at night while you're sleeping with no extra effort needed. It's an amazing plant-powered antioxidant-packed mask that has melatonin, wild dandelion leaf and hyaluronic acid to rehydrate, repair and reset facial skin. It's so good, you might want to gift it to yourself. We won't tell, mama.


We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.


Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

It sounds simple: Wash your child, sing them a song or two, let them play with some toys, then take them out, place a towel around them, and dry them off. Should be easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, right?

But it hasn't been. It's been more—as one of my favorite memes says—difficult, difficult, lemon difficult. Because until this towel hit the bathtime scene, there was no easy-peasy way to pick up your squirming wet baby without drenching yourself and/or everything around you.

Plus, there is nothing cuter than a baby in a plush hooded towel, right? Well, except when it's paired with a dry, mess-free floor, maybe.

Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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