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A few weeks ago, my daughter turned 20 months old, exactly a year and 8 months. So I thought I would list the 20 things I've learned since I became a mother on that cold typically British, rainy afternoon in January of what seems to be eons ago but was only last year.


Now some of those things are tips and tricks I've adopted for basic survival, some "accepted" truths were forced on me which I had to chuck aside and replace with my own realizations, others I'm still in the process of learning.

So here goes:

1. Sleep is no longer my God-given right

It is a luxury that I would gladly give my right arm and leg for. And if you are lucky enough to get it, congratulations! You are officially part of the 1% of the 1%.

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The first few months of motherhood taught me that and I will never be able to unlearn it. Ever. But I’ve discovered a couple of loopholes.

One is sleeping when the baby sleeps. This is one piece of advice I carelessly tossed aside and suffered greatly for it. But when I decided to follow my baby's lead and made nap time my favorite time of the day, my body and mind thanked me for it.

The other loophole is co-sleeping. Nothing has helped me and my baby more than sharing a room and, more often than not, a bed. It’s not right for everyone—but it was for me. (P.S. learn how to more safely co-sleep here.)

Breastfeeding while in the horizontal position has been another Godsend. I don’t regret it.

2. Breastfeeding is the journey of a lifetime

While we're on the subject of breastfeeding, I won't pretend to speak for every mother out there, but my decision to breastfeed and continue breastfeeding turned into an intense journey. However, while initially excruciating, the highs were definitely worth it. I wonder sometimes if the bond that I painstakingly forged with my baby would have been as strong if I hadn't breastfed, given my PPD. Or perhaps it would have taken longer to emerge.

3. Depression is real

Nothing else about motherhood broke me like depression. So I read about it, closely monitored my moods for tell-tale symptoms and talked to my doctor. But aside from getting the required treatment (homeopathic, pharmaceutical or therapy), little things helped like opening up to loved ones about how I was feeling, getting help with housework and making some time in my day for me.

Ultimately, I had to learn to reach out for help, cry out for it if I had to. There's no shame in it. I just wish I wasn’t silent for so long thinking that I could go it alone. Turns out, I can’t. No one can. (For help with depression, go here.)

4. There were times when it felt like there was no "me" anymore

People addressed me as the mother of so-and-so, or bitter old women shamelessly told me point blank that I simply didn't exist beyond my one mission in life of keeping my husband happy and my baby alive. People are ruthless.

This is one of the hardest truths I've had to learn. So I had to lose the wide-eyed naiveté, develop a thicker skin and learn to simply tune out the noise. What do they know anyways? They're not ME.

5. I should’ve talked to my spouse about parenting styles, BEFORE we became parents

I can't stress this enough. My husband and I never really discussed anything beyond having the baby in the UK. I guess we just thought we'd figure it out along the way. And we did, the hard way.

After much going back and forth, arguments, and counterarguments, we've found a tentative middle ground. We've found what worked for our little family.

So if there is one piece of advice I can give to new mothers and their partners is to talk to each other, A LOT. It will save you a lot of time, energy and frustration. (P.S., Motherly offers a class helping couples become parents.)

6. Just be present in the moment

I've personally struggled with this a lot. Sometimes I still do. I experienced motherhood for the first time in a new country. Add to that my PPD, plus my initial problems with breastfeeding, plus having hardly any help, plus a Pandora's box of other little annoyances and issues and it’s no wonder that I found myself under water so many times.

I forgot how to enjoy those all too fleeting moments with my daughter. But after a while, I learned to stop the inner chatter, and breathe. It's just me and my baby. No one in the world will love me like she does. I am grateful for that love. I have found nothing else calms my soul like my daughter's smile.

7. Follow my instincts above all else

I learned to trust myself, rather than some parenting book written by some snooty doctor who has no idea about my child's complexities, or people who had babies before the age of cell phones. In fact, I had to get rid of them.

Nine times out of 10, when I went with my gut, I was proven right and was able to act in the best interests of my child, rather than follow someone else's advice and then end up doing damage control and engaging in a vicious cycle of self-blame and self-doubt.

8. About guilt: Been there, done that.

So don't go there. Just don't. I know it's easier said than done. It seems the one universal trait shared among all mothers is guilt.

There's no rhyme or reason to it. We do the best we can, with whatever resources we have, expending all our energy and giving up chunks of our lives for the well-being of our children. So where exactly does the guilt fit in?

If I let it in, I open my psyche to a whole host of other monsters: low self-esteem, self-doubt, and misery all around.

We do this to ourselves. Baby doesn't care about the unwashed dishes in the sink, the laundry I didn't get to, or even that I didn't change her diaper exactly on the 2-hour mark. Babies are surprisingly forgiving, (they will forgive you even when you lose your mind and you can't seem to forgive yourself). So I took a page out of their books.

9. Just like how I had to learn to ask for help, I had to learn to say no to people

Most importantly, to my inner critic. I don't have to make it to every social engagement. I certainly don't have to have a gourmet dinner on the table every night. Take out and Netflix turned out to be my best friends.

10. The little things matter

For the first few months of motherhood, I looked like a hot mess. But when things settled down and I established something approaching a normal routine, especially when I was working from home, I made it a point to wear makeup every day.

I'm not talking about full-on glam makeup. Just a little concealer, some mascara and lipstick did wonders. It made me look and feel more put together, more human, more like a woman than a zombie from the Walking Dead.

11. Meditate, meditate, meditate.

I'm still working on this one. When I'm all over the place and I feel the onset of a panic attack because I decided to torture myself with questions like, OMG, what if we never leave Egypt? What if I can't get my career back on track? What if my daughter never weans? What if she inherits her father's hair? I simply take a few deep breaths and detach myself from the feeling of being overwhelmed.

If I have to listen to a YouTube meditation session then so be it. I observe those questions, the feeling of anxiety they produce and simply watch them go by without attaching myself to them.

I simply tell myself, I am not that anxiety. I researched mindfulness and practiced it. It helped me get through the rough spots without medication.

12. I involve my baby in the things I love to do

For example, I take my baby out to the garden and we look at the plants together. I point out certain flowers. Sometimes I bring her into the kitchen with me when I'm making dinner and I turn on the radio.

She loves it when I pretend I'm on stage, holding a mic, singing along to the songs and dancing all over the place. It's great fun. Of course, the kitchen floor that I have to clean up afterwards because she pulled every conceivable food item from the pantry drawers is not so much fun.

13. I reach out to other mothers WITHOUT comparing myself to them

Each of us is on our own personal journeys, and each of us has to deal with our own challenges in our own unique ways. So it helped to share war stories, learn from other mothers without comparison or competition.

I used to look at other mothers with mild envy and wonder how they look so put together. But then I realized that they must be going through their own struggles. I'm just not privy to it.

I realized that this is not a race, a sprint or a marathon and I won’t get a prize at the end of it. I just had to do the best I could. Who’s to say that other mothers weren’t looking at me and wondering how I do it all? After all, it’s all about perspective.

14. It’s okay to make some baby-free time for myself

I got into the habit of waking up extra early in the mornings, making myself a cup of coffee and spending a few quiet moments in my patio garden.

Sometimes I write in my journal, sometimes I flip through Pinterest for inspiration for a project I want to start working on (although I try to keep this time as technology-free as possible), sometimes I just sit and sort through my thoughts.

I try to go out with friends, or have a spa day (admittedly this happens once a year), or go for a manicure/pedicure. I’ve noticed that I always come back missing and loving my baby more, once I've had some "me" time.

15. I’m exploring things I never thought I could do

This has been one of those joyful, hopeful and completely unexpected side effects of motherhood. Becoming a mother suddenly triggered passions and ambitions I never knew I had.

Once I became a mother and my time was no longer my own I suddenly wanted to do everything. Or at least try. So I did, slowly and randomly here and there.

I stopped regretting all the time I wasted in my youth and started better utilizing the time I still have. I started writing more, I even started drawing and exploring my creative side. I’ve learned there is always something you can do, so do it.

16. I’ve decided that my dreams still matter and I won’t let go of them

I struggled a lot with this in the beginning. I used to think: I'll never have time to do anything else in my life. This is it. I peaked. It's all downhill from here. I got caught in that quagmire. I let people tell me that I have to put aside my dreams, if only temporarily.

So what did I do, eventually?

I started dreaming again and striving and aspiring for things. I’m not delusional, though. It will be harder, no doubt, with kids, but still possible. My baby will turn two soon, go to nursery school and sleep through the night. And just like that, I will have more time.

I will use it wisely. There's still a lot I want to achieve. It may not happen right now, or ever, but I have no regrets about dreams. Even if I never achieve some of them, I'm glad I had them.

What I will regret is allowing people to make the decision for me or convincing myself to stop trying.

17. My husband is in this, too

Bless their souls, even when they fumble, our husbands have the best of intentions. So I made time for my marriage. Once I factored my husband into the equation, I started feeling like we were a family, a unit onto ourselves, rather than survivors trying to make it through a war. I appreciated him more as a husband and a father and felt grateful for him. He became my rock once again.

18. I’m no longer sweating the small stuff

If I was a perfectionist before I became a mother, well let me tell you, motherhood was one rude awakening. Motherhood taught me that I won't get everything right all the time. So I decided to stop trying and enjoy the chaos. It saved my sanity.

19. Turn off the TV, and let my baby entertain herself

I witnessed the miracle of my daughter’s mind developing before my eyes. But somewhere along the way, I started keeping the TV on almost all day, until a child psychologist told me nothing could be more detrimental to my baby's development. As soon as I turned of the screen, I did notice a marked difference in her behavior. She started exploring things around the house, touching objects to get a feel for their texture. It was actually quite entertaining to watch—much more so than mindless TV.

20. Having more kids is my decision—alone

No one, no matter how close they may be to me, no one has the right to weigh in or try to manipulate what should be a very personal decision. I’ve realized that the people who are telling me that it's time I was working on baby number two are the ones who will conveniently disappear when I need their help and support the most.

This is my life, my body, my family. No one knows better than me or my husband our circumstances or the plans we have.

And there it is. I've learned a lot more than this, but those were the top 20 things I've pondered for the past couple of years or so. They're specific to my experience as a mother, but hopefully they will serve as words of encouragement and support to other mothers out there.

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When I think about the Super Bowl, two things come to mind: funny commercials and tasty snacks. If you're hosting the Super Bowl and have kiddos around, the name of the game (pun intended) is to offer a spread of snacks loaded with proteins and vitamins that will keep everyone's energy levels up the entire game, and won't make your friends rely on greasy items.

Try these healthy go-to treats for your viewing party that even your toddler will love:

Skinny baked mozzarella sticks

Skinny baked mozzarella sticks

Serves: 16 pieces

Time to cook: 1 hour and 18 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 8 sticks part-skim mozzarella string cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 5 tbsp Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp parmesan cheese optional
  • olive oil cooking spray

Instructions:

  1. Cut the string cheese in half and place it in the freezer for 30-45 minutes. Beat egg in a small and set aside. In a separate bowl mix the parmesan cheese and breadcrumbs and set aside.
  2. Dip one string cheese in breadcrumb mixture than in egg mixture and then back in breadcrumb mixture. Repeat this for all the pieces. Place sticks on a greased foil or pan. Return the cheese stick back to the freezer for at least 30-45 minutes. Note: do not skip this step because the cheese will melt if they are not frozen.
  3. After the cheese is finished freezing, heat oven to 375 degrees. Spray the cheese lightly with cooking spray and place in the oven. After four minutes flip the cheese sticks and continue baking for another three minutes or until they are golden. Do not overbake because the cheese will melt. Serve hot with your favorite marinara sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Broccoli cheese balls

Broccoli cheese balls

Serves: 20 balls

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups broccoli florets
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup almond flour or panko or Italian breadcrumbs
  • 1 cup shredded cheese mozzarella, cheddar, or favorite melting cheese
  • 1/4 cup minced onion or shallots optional
  • 2 tbsp cilantro chopped optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • 1 teaspoon cajun or taco seasoning or favorite seasoning blend!
  • Pinch of salt and pepper black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.
  2. Steam broccoli in boiling water or microwave until tender. Chop broccoli using a knife or food processor until finely minced.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, combine the chopped broccoli, eggs, almond flour, cheese, parsley and spices. Mix until well incorporated.
  4. Scoop about 1 tablespoon of mixture and form into a ball. Place on a lined baking sheet and spray or drizzle lightly with oil. Bake 25-30 minutes or until lightly golden and cooked through.
  5. Serve on a salad, in a sandwich, with rice, or as an appetizer or snack with your favorite dipping sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Chicken taco lettuce wraps

Chicken taco lettuce wraps

Serves: 4

Time to cook: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

Grilled taco chicken

  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
  • 2 tablespoons taco seasoning
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

To assemble

  • 8 leaves romaine lettuce rinsed
  • 1 avocado diced
  • 1 tomato diced
  • 1/4 cup onion diced

Cilantro sauce

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1/2 cup Greek yogurt or sour-cream or mayo
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 jalapeno optional
  • 1 clove garlic minced
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Pinch of salt

Instructions:

To cook chicken

  1. Add the chicken, garlic, olive oil, and spices in a large bowl or zip-seal bag. Place in fridge and let marinate for at least 15-30 minutes or up to 24 hours.
  2. Remove chicken from marinade and discard marinade. Place chicken on a grill or pan heated to medium-high heat. Let chicken cook until it is no longer pink on the inside, about 9-10 minutes per side (or until it has reached an internal temperature of 165 degrees).

To make cilantro sauce

1. Place all the ingredients in the food processor and blend for one minute or until creamy.

To assemble

  1. Layer lettuce wraps with chicken, tomatoes, onion and avocado. Drizzle with cilantro sauce or your favorite taco sauce.
Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Eggplant pizza bites

Eggplant pizza bites

Serves: 4

Time to cook: 35 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 large eggplant cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 3 cloves garlic minced or crushed
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • 1 cup pizza sauce
  • 1 cup mozzarella shredded

Instructions:

  1. Sprinkle the eggplant with the coarse salt, let sit on paper towels for 10-15 minutes and wipe dry.
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bow, combine the crushed garlic, olive oil and Italian seasoning. Brush the mixture onto both sides of the eggplant slices and bake for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove eggplant from oven and flip eggplant slices, top each slice with a tablespoon of marinara sauce, and a sprinkle of cheese. Return to oven and bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is fully melted.

Recipe from Gimme Delicious.

Rice krispie chicken tenders

Rice krispie chicken tenders

Servings: 4

Time to cook: 20 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb raw chicken, cut into long thin slices
  • 2 cups brown rice krispies (or regular if you desire)
  • 1/3 cup egg whites
  • 1/2 teaspoon each: garlic powder, onion powder, sea salt
  • Dash of cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup plain greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons mustard
  • 2 tablespoons BBQ sauce
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • Sea salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Place egg whites in a shallow bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, add rice krispies and smash with the bottom of a cup until it is a crumb like texture (some will be almost a flour consistency, but don't smash long enough for all of the krispies to be completely crushed). Add seasonings in bowl.
  4. Dip each slice of chicken into egg whites, then coat completely on both sides, and place on a baking sheet sprayed with nonstick spray.
  5. When all are on a baking tray, lightly sprinkle a little more sea salt onto tenders and place them in the oven.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, remove and flip and bake for 10 more minutes.
  7. Combine yogurt, mustard, bbq sauce, honey and seasonings in a small bowl.
  8. Serve with chicken tenders for dipping.
Recipe from TheLeanGreenbean.
Life

I have a love-hate relationship with maternity clothes. On one hand, I love them because they make me feel comfortable as my bump grows, without anything getting in the way of my breathing or baby's movement. On the other hand, I've really struggled finding items that are my style—which I admit is very particular—or don't cost a ton of money.

During my first pregnancy I bought a bunch of basic pregnancy outfits and tried to include some of my non-maternity favorites in the mix. Sometimes it worked, sometimes in the middle of a work day I had to run to the bathroom to unzip my high waisted skirt because it was too much to handle. By the time baby came, I realized I had spent a ton of money on clothing that I barely wore, and passed them on to other pregnant friends (some items still with tags on.)

With my second pregnancy, I decided I needed to be comfortable above all, but also not spend a ton of money on fast pregnancy fashion because these months go super fast and I'm trying to be more environmentally conscious. I had tried clothing subscription services before (hello wedding season!) and loved being able to wear different outfits I otherwise wouldn't have been able to. After doing some research, I found three subscriptions that offer maternity clothes. I tried them out in an attempt to dress better while sporting a huge bump and to save money and keep my closet decluttered. The best part was that if I really loved something, I had the chance to purchase it at a super discounted price.

Here are the three maternity clothing subscription services I tried:

Amoire

Amoire Style

About the service: This is a fairly new service and it's currently priced at $149 a month. Once you sign up, you take a style quiz by picking from a group of eight photos of the looks you like the most. Once you are done defining your style, you give your current sizing and then tell your stylist what you are looking for. You get four pieces at a time that you can wear as many times as you want, then return and get new items to wear.

More to know: Unlike other clothing services, you cannot pick from an endless list of clothes what you'd like to receive in your shipment. Instead, you have to go through a stylist who sends picks for you. To be honest, I found this a little annoying since I kept asking for rompers and pants, but kept getting blouses and dresses in my orders. So it did take some back and forth until my stylist sent me things I actually wanted to wear.

My thoughts: I received a mix of maternity and non-maternity clothes that were all bump friendly. The quality of all of them was great and some came with tags, which meant I was the first one ever wearing that piece of clothing.

$149

NUULY

Nuuly

About the service: This subscription is priced at $88 per month for six pieces at a time. The difference between Nuuly and other services is that you cannot return items to get new ones during the month—you return all of them at the same time and get six new ones the next month. This was a bit of a learning curve for me as I was used to sending back things that didn't fit or I didn't like to maximize my month of rental.

More to know: This service provides clothes from more edgy brands, like Urban Outfitters, Reebok and DL1961, which actually made it my favorite service because it was super aligned with my style. They offer both maternity and non-maternity clothes, so I was able to get super cool dresses (like the one pictured above) in a bigger size than my regular size to wear with my growing bump.

My thoughts: Their maternity catalog is pretty limited, however they have super unique items. One of the pieces I requested was already rented by the time my order was placed and they sent me something totally different to what I wanted. I understand the effort to make sure I was getting the full six items in my order but it was a non-maternity summer dress that didn't work with my bump.

$88

Rent the Runway

Rent the Runway

About the service: I went with their Unlimited Plan which is priced at $159 for four pieces at a time (you can exchange over and over again during the month). Their return service is super fast so if you are organized and return pieces you don't love quickly, you can get so many new things to wear in a month.

More to know: They have the biggest catalogue of maternity clothes and brands, including Hatch. Like Nuuly, you get to pick what you want from their options. It can be a little overwhelming since you scroll through pages and pages of really good quality stuff so I recommend going into it with something in mind (do you need jeans or a party dress?).

My thoughts: Because the service is so popular, I got some clothes that were super worn already and even damaged. I returned those immediately and got new items, but you really never know in what condition they are going to be in, despite the service trying to keep super worn clothes out of their rental catalogue.

$159

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When infectious diseases make headlines parents naturally get a little worried, and this week coronavirus is in the news constantly. The coronavirus has infected more than 600 people worldwide, though mostly in China. As of Jan. 23, Chinese authorities have reported 17 deaths from the virus so far. Only two cases have been confirmed in the U.S. and officials are monitoring 63 suspected cases.

Here's what you need to know, mama.

1. Don't panic.

According to the World Health Organization the coronavirus outbreak is not an international public health emergency.

"CDC believes the immediate risk to the U.S. public is low at this time, but the situation is evolving rapidly," Dr. Nancy Messonnier, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said on a conference call with media on Friday. "We have our best people working on this problem," Messonnier explained, adding that we will likely see more cases in the coming days.

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2. There have been no fatalities in children.

The youngest victim of a confirmed case of novel coronavirus is 36 years old. Most of the fatal cases in China have been in people over 60 and more men than women have been impacted.

3. The family of coronaviruses is a spectrum of severity.

According to the CDC, most people will be infected with a coronavirus at some point in their lives. The common strains of coronavirus cause "moderate upper-respiratory tract illnesses, like the common cold" while more severe strains, including Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) and Middle East Respiratory Syndrom (MERS) can be fatal.

The strain that is making headlines is a severe and novel coronavirus. It's new and the similarities to influenza make it difficult for experts to distinguish it from all the other respiratory illnesses floating around this time of year.

4. There is a test for it.

When public health officials suspect someone may have coronavirus they can send respiratory and serum samples to the CDC and find out if it's coronavirus or just the flu within about 24 hours.

5. There are steps to take for prevention.

To prevent the spread of the virus the U.S. State Department has issued its most severe travel advisory for the area of China (the province of Hubei, where the city of Wuhan is) most impacted by the coronavirus.

The CDC offers the following tips for protecting your family from the coronavirus (as well as other respiratory illnesses):

  • "Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds."
  • "Avoid touching your eyes, nose, or mouth with unwashed hands."
  • "Avoid close contact with people who are sick."
Bottom line: Don't panic, mama. The illness is likely to be in the headlines for months, but that doesn't mean we need to live in fear. We just need to be proactive and keep washing those little hands.
News

Every generation has its parenting trends. “The Greatest Generation" had the idealized “perfect family"—a “picture perfect" two-parent, gender-divided home in the suburbs, that was probably more trope than reality.

The Baby Boomers brought us parent-as-life coach/ friend/chauffeur and manager. At best, it's a nurturing style done out of love and wanting the best for your kids. At worst, it's called “helicopter parenting," the idea that parents try to protect their kids from all harm and difficulty, only to make their kids incapable of caring for themselves.

And our Millennial generation has a “free-range" parenting trend, a backlash against the overly-controlled childhood aimed at teaching kids to rise to life's challenges.

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All of this talk about gender roles, helicopter parenting, grit and independence has me wondering—what kind of parent do I want to be?

Do I want to give my kids a picture-perfect childhood? Do I want to control them and make sure every good thing is done to them and for them? Do I want to set them free to figure it all out on their own? Defining the parent I want to be—and deciding what values drive my day-to-day parenting decisions—can be complicated.

The truth is, “helicoptering" comes easy to me, even when I know it's good for my children to work hard, face obstacles, and experience the pride of genuine achievement.

I don't want to helicopter—but I want to make sure my kids have the best opportunities in life, especially in things that I may have missed out on in my own childhood. (Though I'm sure I'm pushing my own values on them and they will find their own way to rebel....)

I don't want to helicopter—but I want to make sure they always look both ways before they cross the street, have their carseat properly installed, and are aware of dangers in our world. (Though I teach them these things and do my best to keep them in safe situations...)

I don't want to helicopter—but having faith that they'll be safe when they're out of my sight is really hard for me. (Though I say a prayer and trust in the universe...)

I don't want to helicopter—but sometimes doing things for them can be so much easier/ faster/ better than letting them do it for themselves. (Though I try to be patient...)

I don't want to helicopter—but I set up play dates, schedule after-school activities, and encourage them socially so that my children can make new friends. (Though I'm sure they will find true friends in their own time...)

I don't want to helicopter—but watching my little ones struggle can be hard for my mama heart. (So I hope they know I'm doing this because I love them...)

I don't want to helicopter—but protecting my kids comes easy. Giving them space to struggle and grow is essential, but hard, for both of us.

Life
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