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The early months of motherhood are monotonous—but they don't last forever

Losing yourself for the sake of your children will be something I never, ever regret. Instead, it will be something I am forever grateful for.

The early months of motherhood are monotonous—but they don't last forever

Many of us become lost at the beginning of motherhood. After a while, we look in the mirror and wonder who is staring back at us. Who could that woman be with the spit-up on her shoulder and those tired eyes?

Trust me, I know. This happened to me with my two small children. When I had a toddler and a newborn, my life was so consumed with my children that I had forgotten that behind all of that reheated coffees was an actual individual. An individual who existed before birthing two beautiful babies.

While my children brought me immense joy, a joy I never could have dreamed, the daily monotony left me with little room to work on my own desires, my own dreams, even my own future.

So instead of training to run that first marathon or work toward that promotion, I was caught up in the midst of all of the daily tasks that consume us in motherhood…

We fold the tiny onesies.

We clean the bottles and pumps with those tiny brushes.

We change the poop explosions.

We puree baby food.

We watch one hundred and thirty-two episodes of Daniel Tiger.

We wear our babies while trying to cook a decent dinner at the stove.

And so on...

It's natural that over time, all of this monotony covers us up. Our own identity sits buried.

But over time, I've realized that it's okay, mama. Because the selflessness you put into those beginning months, or even years of motherhood, define you and your motherhood journey. They make you stronger and wiser. This early love for our children also sets the foundation firm. Your children will forever feel and know your love cannot be rocked. But I know that it's not an easy feat, either.

I remember sitting on our couch one afternoon. My two children were napping (a celebration in itself that they were sleeping at the same time) so I folded laundry—just one of the many chores that needed to get done. As I folded what felt like my hundredth onesie and placed it neatly on the stack, I started to cry. I had nothing to cry about. My children were healthy. They were well fed. They were content. And each day they brought me a joy I had never felt before. But as that stack of onesies began to grow higher, the monotony finally broke me.

When my kids woke up, I brushed my tears away and placed my mask back on. I smiled, emptied the dishwasher and played with the Little People on the carpet. Moments of joy broke through the monotony like a sharp blade—making folding every tiny onesie worth it.

Today, my children are four and six. I'm happy to report that all of the monotony was worth it. There are far less monotonous tasks, and my kids can help me with the ones that still exist. I'm learning to get reacquainted with myself again and am enjoying the continued journey that motherhood gifts me. I've realized that when my children were babies and toddlers, they needed me more than they ever will. I'd fold hundreds of those tiny onesies all over again if I needed to.

Losing yourself for the sake of your children will be something I never, ever regret. Instead, it will be something I am forever grateful for.

Once your children get a little bit older, another day will come when you catch a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. The spit-up will be gone, but those tired eyes will remain. Only this time you'll know exactly who's staring back at you...a mother who'd lose herself a million times in order to find the love for her child.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Products that solve your biggest breastfeeding challenges

Including a battle plan for clogged ducts!

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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21 questions to ask your partner instead of, “How was your day?”

2. If you could do any part of today over again, what would it be?

After a long day of doing seemingly everything, when our partners get home it kind of becomes a habit to ask, "How was your day?" In between prepping dinner, handing off the kids, finishing your own work, we don't exactly get much value from this question. Sure, it may open up the opportunity to complain about that awful thing that happened or excitedly share that presentation you killed at work—but it usually stops there.

I could do a better job of really talking in my relationship. After 12 years and two kids, sometimes all we can come up with post bedtime routine is, "You good? I'm good. Fire up the Netflix."

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