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To the mama whose child is struggling at school, you are a good parent

Your child's struggles at school are not a reflection of your parenting.

To the mama whose child is struggling at school, you are a good parent

Hey mama,

I know today was another rough one. Maybe you got that call you've been dreading from the preschool, the one where the teacher says, in a polite, professional tone that's it's time to come in for another discussion.

Or maybe you got a note home—the kind that described your child's behavior neutrally, but that you could tell was written by frustrated hands.

Or maybe there was no note or call, maybe it was the sight of your little one standing off to the side, kicking the mulch while the other kids twirled and played after drop-off. Or the side eye from another parent as your child melted down during pick-up.

Or maybe, it was the lack of something that made today hard. The lack of a smile from the teacher, telling you how proud you should be of your baby. The lack of a gold star in the corner of your little one's folder. The lack of a friend who understands what it's like to have a child who's struggling in school.

Whatever the reason may be, today was tough. And you deserve a big bowl of ice cream, a good book and a hot bath. You deserve to be told, and to believe, that even though your child is struggling in school, you are an amazing parent.

In the early months of your child's life, you looked at them with adoration and love. You wondered what those little hands would grow to enjoy doing and what would make those tiny lips curve into a smile.

You spent a lot of time soaking in their newborn scent, sure, but you also spent a lot of time daydreaming about who they might become as they grew. You wondered if they would like to read or like to dance or be interested in bugs or dinosaurs or outer space.

As they grew, you watched them begin to explore the world: to take tentative steps and utter sweet first words. All the time you were filled with wonder at who they were becoming. As they began to get closer to finger-paints than they were to swaddles, you probably started to think about preschool and make a plan for how and when they would begin their formal learning journey.

When you thought about them with a tiny backpack and lunchbox, you were happy with the thought of them heading off somewhere warm and welcoming each day—excited for them to learn and play and make friends. You certainly didn't think about notes home or quiet calls or missing birthday party invitations.

On the first day of school you snapped their picture and sent them off, a tear in your eye and pride beating through your chest—it was almost unbelievable. Your child, who was once a newborn, wet and warm in your arms, was now in school.

And then, maybe harder times started for you. Maybe it started on the first day of school with separation anxiety from you, or perhaps it was a few months in when they were consistently having a difficult time with transitions.

Whatever your experience was, and I'm sure you can remember the first time you felt a pit in your stomach about school, something was off and you weren't the only one to notice.

Oh mama, I know how hard it is when something's not right with your little one. I know there have been tears shed and arguments with your partner and lots and lots of up-too-late reading and researching.

When you have a child that's struggling in school you'll get lots of advice. People will tell you to change their diet, to be stricter, to let them play more, to take away screens, to add more screens, to adjust your parenting style or to put them to bed earlier—frankly, there's no shortage of tips and tidbits.

What I found a shortage of, though, was support.

I know you know your kiddo and you're doing everything in your power to help them excel. I don't have any big advice on what to do with your individual child (I'll leave that to the professionals), but what I do have for you, and it's really important, is a list of things you need to hear. Things that you might not see but that, I promise, are very true.

1. Your child’s struggles at school are not a reflection of your parenting.

Say it with me now, "My child's struggles at school are not a reflection of my parenting." They're not—plain and simple. Despite how other people may make you feel, you are a fantastic parent and you're doing a great job.

2. Your child is not defined by their struggles at school.

I know how painful it is to have the "challenging kid." Parent-teacher conferences are hard and playground friendships are harder but, the hardest thing of all is often realizing that others don't see all the magnificence contained in your child's little body. They struggle, yes, but they are also a wonderful, dynamic child full of love and creativity and spark.

Don't let the fact that others can't see your child's sparkle dull it in your own eyes.

3. You are a powerful advocate.

I know that before your child started school you probably envisioned your presence there as something fun: maybe you'd serve cupcakes at the fall party or pass out tickets at the spring carnival. Now though, you know the school phone number by heart and spend most of the time you're there working, and sometimes fighting, to get your child what they need.

Keep at it mama; demand every single thing your child needs to thrive. And take comfort in knowing that the fight is worth it.

4. You’re doing a great job.

There's no "right way" to help a child succeed at school. While the world is full of people willing to give advice (or to let you know when you're doing something they don't agree with) the truth is that you know your child best. Parenting is hard. But in the end, if everything you do is out of love, you're doing something right.

So mama, take some time today to think about your child—to reflect on how wonderful and caring they are.

And then take some time to think about yourself—to reflect on how magnificent and loving you are. I know this is hard. At times—really, really hard. But you're doing a great job. I promise.

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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9 products that will help baby sleep better (and longer!)

For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

How do I get my baby to sleep? This is one of the most commonly asked questions among new parents, and it makes sense, given that babies are born with their days and nights mixed up. For many parents, attempting naps and bedtime can seem like a never-ending cycle of rocking, shushing and hoping for some kind of magic sleep solution.

And while that might not exist (yet), we have found some of the best products out there that can help baby fall asleep faster and for longer durations. Because when baby is sleeping, so are you!

Dreamland Baby weighted sleep sack and swaddle

Designed by a mama, parents swear by this weighted sleep sack. It mimics your hug to give your baby security and comfort that helps them get to sleep faster and stay asleep longer. The detachable swaddle wing makes it easy to transition as they grow.

It's also super easy to get on and off, and includes a bottom-up zipper for late night changes, so you don't have to wake your baby in the process.

$79

Yogasleep Hushh portable sound machine

Yogasleep hushh sound machine

With three soothing options, this is a perfect solution to help your baby settle when naps are on the go and during travel! I love how compact this noise machine is and that it can run all night with one charge.

$30

Bebe au Lait muslin crib sheets

Burt's Bees Organic Crib Sheets

With a variety of print options to choose from, these breathable sheets are *so* soft and smooth, even through multiple washes. The luxury fabric keeps little ones warm without overheating—a formula that helps ensure more sleep for everyone.

$32

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

The Simple Folk perfect pajamas

You know what's going to help baby have their best sleep ever? Some quality, super soft pajamas. The timeless (and aptly named!) Perfect Pajama from The Simple Folk are some of our favorites. They last forever and they're made from organic pima cotton that is safe on baby's precious skin. They come in a wide range of sizes so siblings can match and feature fold-over hand covers on sizes up to 12 months.

$37

The Snoo bassinet

Snoo

Designed by expert pediatrician and sleep guru Dr. Harvey Karp, the Snoo bassinet gently rocks your baby to sleep while snuggled up in the built-in swaddle. Not only does it come with sensors that adjust the white noise and movement based on your baby's needs, there is also an app that allows you to adjust the settings directly from your phone.

While this item is a bit on the expensive side, there is now an option to rent for $3.50 a day, which is a total game changer!

$1295

Hatch Baby Rest sound machine + nightlight

best baby sound machine

The Hatch Baby Rest is a dual sound machine and nightlight that will grow with your family. Many parents use this product with their infants as a white-noise machine and then as a "time to rise" solution for toddlers.

The thing I love most about this product is that the light it gives off isn't too bright, and you can even select different color preferences; giving your toddler choices at bedtime.

$59.99

Crane humidifier

Crane Humidifier

The only thing worse than a sick baby is a baby who is sick and not sleeping well. The Crane humidifier helps take care of this by relieving congestion and helping your baby breathe better while sleeping.

Personally, I think the adorable design options alone are enough of a reason to purchase this product, and your child will love watching steam come out of the elephant's trunk!

$46.99

Naturepedic organic crib mattress

Naturpedic Lightweight Organic Mattress

In the first few months of life, babies can spend up to 17 hours a day sleeping, so choosing a mattress that is safe (read: no chemicals!) and comfortable is incredibly important.

Naturepedic uses allergen-friendly and waterproof materials with babies and children in mind, making them easy to clean and giving you peace of mind.

$259.00

Happiest Baby sleepea 5-second swaddle

best baby swaddle

There are baby swaddles and then there is Sleepea. Similar to the brand's swaddle that is built into the Snoo, the Sleepea is magic for multiple reasons. First, it's got mesh panels ensuring baby never overheats. Second, the zipper zips from the top or the bottom, so you can change the baby's diaper in the middle of the night without ever waking them. Third, it's hip safe. Fourth, the patterns are SO cute. And fifth, the interior swaddle wrap that keeps baby's ams down has a "quiet" velcro that won't wake baby if you need to readjust while they're asleep.

$27.95

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

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The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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