A couple of nights ago, my husband and I decided to have burgers for dinner. As my husband grilled and the girls played around him in the backyard, I was in the kitchen slicing veggies for a salad. The windows were open and the smells of the grill and sounds of my 4-year-old chattering floated around me. End-of-day sunlight streamed into the kitchen, creating yellow puddles of warmth our dog stretched out in.

It felt so peaceful and happy.

It felt normal.

I noticed my shoulders had relaxed.

My mind had stopped racing through an endless loop of questions and worries.


For a moment, we just were.

Life has felt so wildly different lately. Infused with a lot of fear and uncertainty. I wouldn't be able to sleep the night before I had to make a grocery run. I would fret over every potential germ that could get into our house. I would obsess over news reports and death rates and the endless cycle of bad news. I decided—I can't live this way. I had to switch out of crisis mode for my own mental sanity.

I realize my privilege at even being able to make that transition—we both have jobs we can do from home, I was already homeschooling my oldest daughter and I have consistent (albeit delayed) access to safe, healthy food and other basic necessities.

I don't mean to say I think the situation has gotten any less dire or that it is any less important to continue to comply with the recommendations of trusted health organizations to stop the spread of the coronavirus and protect those around us. I don't mean that I think this is any less of a crisis than it was last week.

For me, the change is entirely internal. Instead of fretting over every next step, constantly worrying and wondering how the situation will evolve and what I should be doing, I'm taking a step back. I'm living differently, but not unbearably. I'm missing how things were, but I'm also able to maintain a sense of normalcy for my kids that even I can buy into now and then.

Since then, those moments of "feeling normal" have popped up a bit more. Maybe it's when my preschooler and I are working on an art project or while my 1-year-old is doubled over in giggles as I tickle her belly. Maybe it's at the end of the day when my husband and I not-so-guiltily decide to watch "just one more episode" before we go to bed. Maybe it's dozens of tiny, insignificant moments that I suddenly realize I don't take quite so for granted anymore.

Of course, things aren't normal right now.

We're still socially distanced from all our friends and family, relying on technology to keep us connected (and keep us from going batty). We're still home, pretty much all day every day as my husband and I try to find a new rhythm of both being work-at-home parents who never really get a break. I still worry every time I have to leave the house to pick up groceries, or any time a package arrives on the doorstep about what germs we could be bringing into the house. I still worry about when my husband has to go back to work, even just for a day, next week.

My worries haven't vanished, but I do feel like I've finally stepped out of crisis mode.

Put simply, I think I've adapted to this new way of living for now. I automatically factor in at least a week's wait time for my grocery pick-ups. I keep a mask and gloves in my purse and an extra set in my car. I wash my hands often and disinfect surfaces daily without thinking twice. I exercise daily, take it easy on my skin and hair and am mindful of taking care of my teeth because I don't know when my next doctor appointments will be.

I look for virtual activities to fill my calendar and plan online playdates to occupy my very social little girls. So much of life has continued on, mostly as usual, despite the seismic changes happening outside our door.

I'm fortunate to be able to do this. I know it—and I'm feeling extra grateful for that blessing these days.

Of course, it's not a perfect science. That same night we made the hamburgers, as my husband tucked the girls into bed and I watched a show, a commercial came on showing all the incredible healthcare workers risking their lives to keep so many of us safe. Within seconds I felt fat tears rolling down my cheeks, the tightness in my throat clenching in a silent sob.

No, things aren't actually normal right now.

But for my own mental and emotional well-being—my own mental and emotional stamina—I'm welcoming those moments that feel almost normal.

When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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I was blissfully asleep on the couch while my little one was occupied elsewhere with toys, books and my partner. She got bored with what they were doing, escaped from his watch and, sensing my absence, set about looking for me. Finding me on the couch, nose-level, she peeled back my one available eyelid, singing, "Mama? Mama? ...You there? Wake UP!"

Sound familiar? Nothing limits sleep more than parenthood. And nothing is more sought after as a parent than a nap, if not a good night's rest.

But Mother Nature practically guarantees that you are likely to be woken up by a toddler—they're hardwired to find you (and get your attention) when you're "away."


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