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‘The days are long but the years are short’—but the days are L-O-N-G

“The days are long but the years are short,” and, “Oh it goes so fast! Enjoy every minute!”

What they say is actually true. I know.

I’ve watched my firstborn baby zoom into preschooler mode. I do not know where the last four years have gone. It really, truly does go fast when you look back.

I mean, quite often, by 9 am I’ve already negotiated a clothing debacle (putting clothes on to go outside can be a very unreasonable request to a 2-year-old), broken up a sister skirmish, vacuumed the floor from the Cheerios incident and nursed the baby four times.

But when you’re in it?

When you’re in it, it can go real slooooow. Like, how-is-it-only-noon-but-I-feel-like-I’ve-lived-a-thousand-lives slow.

As a mom of three kids under four, every day feels like I’ve done everything, but I haven’t really done anything for myself yet.

By 10 am

I’ve heard my own voice ask my children to brush their teeth and put their sock and shoes (back) on at least six times. I’ve remembered to write out a check for soccer class, dug out the winter hats and gloves, added more diapers to the diaper bag, brushed my teeth, replied to five text messages, finally ordered thank you notes on Amazon and put the same load of laundry that’s been sitting in the washer machine on for the third time to get rid of the mildew smell (again.)

By noon

I’ve gotten the kids into their car seats, fueled up on caffeine with a drive-through coffee (bye, money!), settled the great snack debate (don’t worry, I literally have enough veggie sticks for everyone and their mama), changed a couple of diapers, sang Spaghetti Eddie songs at *just the right pitch and decibel* to please my tiny audience, found and turned on the baby shusher to soothe my crying infant, gotten the kids out of the car and 10 minutes late to soccer, and answered 57 questions.

I’ve also paused to wonder if I’m doing anything right.

If my children appreciate what I do for them?

If my husband understands the rat race that is my daily life?

By 3 pm

I’ve fed my children lunch, ate something on the fly, gotten my daughter to and from preschool, signed up for parent volunteer slots, gotten my younger two down for naps, downed more coffee (an IV would be helpful, I’m not going to lie), called the doctor back, helped my friend make a big decision through an intense text conversation, ordered a few shirts that might be comfortable and look semi-decent since purging things that don’t fit (aka pretty much everything), meal planned, and nursed the baby about eight times.

By 4 pm

I often wonder where the energy will come from for the rest of the night. I’ve debated more coffee. I’ve texted my husband to ask him which train he’ll be on and I’ll wonder if I am going to be able to survive another two and a half hours...

I’ve day dreamed about having enough energy for a date night when my husband got home.

I’ve decided to peruse the internet for a new top to wear for girl’s night out—if we can ever find a date that works.

I’ve decided I really do need to get out soon.

By 6 pm

I’ve cooked and served dinner, I’ve broken up roughly 10 arguments, I have found the right babydoll that goes with the pretty red dress, I’ve negotiated Bubble Guppy watching and I’ve vacuumed (again.)

By 8 pm

I’ve had a 20-minute chat with my husband, nursed the baby three times, explained why one can’t eat an entire bag of chocolate chips, watched a meltdown over the wrong pajamas, put toys away, cleaned up the dinner dishes, put the recycling out, added things we need to our running grocery list, ordered new leotards for dance on Amazon, and put a reminder in my phone to order boots for the girls.

By midnight

I’ve soothed and shushed and bounced and nursed my baby, I’ve watched a television show, I’ve come up with tomorrow's to-do list, I’ve finally scheduled a hair appointment, I’ve gotten my toddler water, I’ve googled fun activities in the area to do this week and I’ve written an essay.

I’ve fully exhausted myself for the day.

Oh, and by midnight, I’ve finally gone to bed.

In between all of the things, I’ve listened to a fair share of yelling, crying and whining. I’ve been touched by someone at almost all hours of the day. I’ve changed a ton of diapers and made so many plans—plans of things we should do, things we need to do.

Some days, by 3 pm, I want to call it a day. I just feel like it needs to end.

I want our days to be busy because when they’re not, I can't seem to come up with anything to do and I feel lonely.

But I also want our days to be calm because when there’s too much rushing around, I feel overwhelmed.

Quite often I either feel overwhelmed by the loneliness of motherhood, the busyness of motherhood or the vulnerability of motherhood.

Some days by 6:30 pm when my husband gets home from work, I want to give him a kiss and then run to my bedroom and not come out until the next morning. I want to relax and be by myself and sit in quiet and not hear any requests at all.

The days are long but the years are short. Yes. That is for sure. I don’t really know how four years of motherhood have passed so quickly.

But our daily life? It can feel long. And those long days are tough. But mama, so are we.

If anyone can handle these long, tough days, it’s a mother. That’s what I’ve learned.

So, I propose we change the saying to—

“The days are long, but the years are short. You’re really strong and amazing and please ask your people for help when you need it and never forget to schedule your hair appointment and get a massage every now and then because you deserve it for keeping up with the daily mom grind so flawlessly.”

Mama, you’ve got this. ?

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The temperatures are dropping and that can only mean one thing. Whether we like it or not, winter's cold chilly months are upon us. As a born-and-raised Alaskan, and mama of three, I've got a lot of cold weather experience under my belt, and staying inside half the year just isn't an option for us. As my husband likes to say, "There's no bad weather, just bad gear."

Here are some of my favorite picks to keep your family toasty warm this winter.

1. Bear bunting

This sherpa bear bunting wins winter wear MVP for being a comfy snowsuit for your littlest babe, or base-layer under another snowsuit for the chilliest of winter outings. Bonus: your baby bear will never look cuter!

Sherpa Hooded Bunting, Carter's, $15.20


2. Patagonia Capilene base-layers

Speaking of base-layers, for any prolonged winter activity outside in the cold, it's best to layer up to create air pockets of warmth. These moisture wicking base-layers are a family favorite.

Baby Capilene Bottoms, Back Country, $29.00


3. Arctix Kids limitless overall bib

These adjustable snow pants keep kids warm and the bib style keeps snow from going down the back of their pants. Bonus: the price is excellent for the quality and they can grow with your child. The Velcro strap also makes bathroom breaks for kids so much easier.

Arctix Kids Limitless Overall Bib, Amazon, $14.99-$49.99


4. Hooded frost-free long jacket

Keep your little one warm and stylish in this long puffer jacket. Great for everyday outings.

Hooded Frost-Free Long Jacket, Old Navy, $35.00


5. Patagonia reversible jacket

This jacket is windproof, waterproof and the built-in hood means one less piece of gear to worry about (or one more layer for your little one's head). It's a best buy if you live with cold winter temperatures for many months of the year and still love to get outside to play. It also stays in great condition for hand-me-downs to your next kid.

Reversible Down Sweater Hoodie, Nordstrom, $119.00


6. Under Armour Decatur water repellent jacket

Made of waterproof fabric and lined with great insulation, kids will no doubt stay warm—and dry—in this. It features plenty of pockets, too, so mama doesn't always have to hold onto their items. We love that the UGrow system allows sleeves to grow a couple inches.

UA Decatur Water Repellent Jacket, Nordstrom, $155.00


7. Stonz mittens

Ever tried to keep gloves on a 1-year-old? It's a tough task, but these gloves make it a breeze with a wide opening and two adjustable toggles for a snug fit they can't pull off! Warm and waterproof, and come in sizes from infant to big kids.

Stonz Mittz, Amazon, $39.99


8. Sorel toot pack boot

Keep their little toes warm with these cozy boots from Sorel. With insulated uppers and waterproof bottoms their feet are sure to stay warm. They're well constructed and hold up over time, making them a great hand-me-down option for your family.

Sorel Kids' Yoot Boot, Amazon, $48.73-$175.63


9. Stonz baby boots

These Stonz stay-on-baby booties do just as their name says and stay on their feet. No more searching for one boot in the grocery store parking lot!

Stonz Three Season Stay-On Baby Booties, Amazon, $29.99-$50.29

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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We make a lot of things this time of year. Gingerbread houses. Christmas cards. New traditions. Babies.

Yes, December is peak baby making season. It's a month filled with togetherness and all the love felt in December is what makes September the most statistically popular month for American birthdays.

According to data journalist Matt Stiles, mid-September is the most popular time to give birth in America. He did a deep dive into the birth stats from the U.S. National Center for Health Statistics and the U.S. Social Security Administration collected between 1994 and 2014 and found that the most common American birthdays fall on September 9, 19 and 12. In fact, 9 of the 10 most popular days to give birth fall in September.

If we turn the calendar back, we're looking at Christmas time conceptions. Stiles illustrated his findings via a heat map, which presents the data in a visual form. The darker the square, the more common the birthday.

The square for August 30 is pretty dark as it is the 34th most common birthday in America. It's also 40 weeks after November 23, and the unofficial beginning of the United States' seasonal baby boom.

And while the Christmas holidays are common times to conceive, they're not common days to give birth, for obvious reasons. Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year's Day and the fourth of July are all represented by light squares on Stiles's data map, meaning they're among the least popular days to welcome a little one into the world (Boxing Day is just a smidge darker, still a pretty rare birthday).

OB-GYNs are not likely to schedule C-sections on major holidays, so that might point to the low birth rates on these special days.

As for the September baby boom, it probably has less to do with the magic of the holiday season and more to do with the fact that many Americans take time off work during the holiday season. It's not that mistletoe is some magic aphrodisiac, but just that making babies takes time, and at this time of year we have some to spare.

This Christmas be thankful for the time you have with your loved ones and your partner. That time could give you a gift come September.

[A version of this article was originally posted November 21, 2018]

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When I gave birth the first time, I had two doulas—one for me, and one for my husband. (I wasn't messing around!) They worked hard to support me in what ended up being a long labor. About 20 hours in, I remember hearing my doulas whisper to my exhausted, hard-working husband, “Go lie down. We can take care of her."

This was absolutely true. They were more than capable of helping me through contractions, which up to this point I'd been handling really well. So upon their urging, my husband walked about three feet away and lay down on the daybed in the labor and delivery room. And then the strangest thing happened—

I completely lost my rhythm and my ability to breathe through contractions. It was as though I'd lost my way. The next handful of contractions were unbearable and caused me to cry out in anguish. My husband hurried to my side and held my hand once more.

And then, just as quickly, I found my rhythm, my breathing returned, and I was able to to handle my contractions until I gave birth several hours later.

In a recent study published in Nature, it was discovered that when a partner held the hand of a woman during labor, the couple would begin to synchronize their breathing and heart rate patterns, otherwise known as physiological coupling.

In addition, the women reported that their pain lessened while holding hands with their partners. If they were just sitting next to one another, but not holding hands, their pain levels weren't affected.

This study has obvious implications for the families I teach in my Childbirth Preparation classes, and it's important to share this news far and wide:

Everything you do for your partner while she's in labor makes a difference. Even if all you do is hold her hand.

Labor is not just something that a birthing woman experiences. Her partner experiences labor too, just in a very different way. For far too long, we've either diminished or ignored the partner's experience of labor—to everyone's detriment.

I realize that it makes sense to pay close attention to how a woman moves through her pregnancy, labor and birth. But if we're not paying equal attention to her partner's experience, we're not setting this new family up for success. In fact, we might be doing the exact opposite.

If partners don't realize the importance their words, actions and touch can have on the laboring woman's experience, many may freeze up and feel helpless as they witness the power and intensity of labor and birth. They may end up feeling as though all of their efforts and suggestions for comfort measures are without any effect. But this couldn't be further from the truth!

Every little thing a partner does to make the laboring woman more comfortable matters immensely. Every sip of water offered, every new position suggested, every word of encouragement, every reminder to breathe, every single touch, provides comfort to the laboring woman. And partners need to know this and believe in the power that their undivided attention and connection can bring to the laboring woman.

Here's why I think the findings from this latest study are so important—it's that feeling of shared empathy between the laboring woman and her partner that causes the physiological coupling and pain relieving effects that help a woman when she's experiencing pain.

That's why I've always told the partners in my classes that even if they hired an army of the world's greatest labor doulas, their unwavering, focused and empathetic attention during birth, is the reason why she'll tell everyone that she couldn't have made it through labor without her partner! Even if all they did was hold her hand.

It's a conundrum many parents wrestle with: We don't want to lie to our kids, but when it comes to Santa, sometimes we're not exactly giving them the full truth either.

For Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard, lying to daughters Lincoln, 5, and Delta, 3 just isn't an option, so everyone in the Bell-Shepard household knows the truth about Santa.

"This is going to be very controversial," Shepard told Us Weekly earlier this month. "I have a fundamental rule that I will never lie to them, which is challenging at times. Our 5-year-old started asking questions like, 'Well, this doesn't make sense, and that doesn't make sense.' I'm like, 'You know what? This is just a fun thing we pretend while it's Christmas.'"

According to Shepard, this has not diminished the magic of Christmas in their home. "They love watching movies about Santa, they love talking about Santa," Shepard told Us. "They don't think he exists, but they're super happy and everything's fine."

Research indicates that Shepard is right—kids can be totally happy and into Christmas even after figuring out the truth and that most kids do start to untangle the Santa myth on their own, as Lincoln did.

Studies suggest that for many kids, the myth fades around age seven, but for some kids, it's sooner, and that's okay.

Writing for The Conversation, Kristen Dunfield, an Assistant Professor of Psychology at Concordia University, suggests that when kids come to parents with the hard questions about Santa, parents may feel a bit sad, but can take some comfort in "recognizing these challenging questions for what they are—cognitive development in action."

Kids aren't usually the ones who are upset when they figure it out, researchers note. Typically, kids are kind of proud of themselves for being such great detectives. It's the parents who feel sadness.

Some parents may not choose to be as blunt as Shepard, and that's okay, too. According to Dunfield, if you don't want to answer questions about Santa with 100% truth, you can answer a question with a question.

"If instead you want to let your child take the lead, you can simply direct the question back to them, allowing your child to come up with explanations for themselves: "I don't know, how do you think the sleigh flies?" Dunfield writes.

While Dax Shepard acknowledges that telling a 3-year-old that Santa is pretend might be controversial, he's hardly the first parent to present Santa this way. There are plenty of healthy, happy adults whose parents told them the truth.

LeAnne Shepard is one of them. Now a mother herself, LeAnne's parents clued her into the Santa myth early, for religious reasons that were common in her community.

"In the small Texas town where I grew up, I wasn't alone in my disbelief. Many parents, including mine, presented Santa Claus as a game that other families played," she previously wrote. "That approach allowed us to get a picture on Santa's lap, watch the Christmas classics, and enjoy all the holiday festivities so long as we remembered the actual reason for the season. It was much like when I visited Disney World and met Minnie Mouse; I was both over the moon excited and somewhat aware that she was not actually real."

No matter why you want to tell your children the truth about Santa, know that it's okay to let the kids know that he's pretend. Kristen Bell's kids prove that knowing the truth about Santa doesn't have to make Christmas any less exciting. Pretending can be magical, too.

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