To the mom searching for balance: Embrace the beautiful chaos

Most of the time it feels like I’m juggling, not balancing. And maybe that’s okay. Maybe this is the season to perfect my juggling act and *not* my balancing act.

To the mom searching for balance: Embrace the beautiful chaos

What really is balance, anyway?

Making sure everything is equal in your life?

Making sure you get enough time with your kids/partner/friends/work/self/responsibilities?

I don’t know.

Honestly, sometimes I’m not sure what ‘balance’ means to me right now. I feel like I’m always trying to figure it out.

I work from home part-time, have been married for five years, have a three-year-old, 18-month-old, am 26 weeks pregnant, do actually have friends I’d like to see and am one of five children in a close family that always has an event that needs to be added to the calendar or an issue that requires attention.

There is always a lot going on, plain and simple.

For everyone.

And, as mothers, we seem to hear the word ‘balance’ ALL the time.

Working or not. Married or not. Overwhelmed or not.

There are hundreds of articles on the internet telling us to find that elusive ‘work-life’ balance and then life will be fine and dandy.

There are books telling us to be sure to ‘balance’ time for yourself with the time you dedicate to your family and you’ll feel more zen.

There are T.V. shows where these magical mothers seem to get out with their friends or husbands whenever they want, perfectly balancing their mom life with their social life.

This so-called ‘balance’ seems to be the solution to all our problems.

But is it even real?

One definition of ‘balance’ is, “a condition in which different elements are equal or in the correct proportions.”

Okay. Makes sense.

So right now, for me, the “correct proportions” of my time seem to range from 80% family, 20% work, 0% anything else one week to 60% work, 30% family, 5% self, 5% friends another week and lots and lots of variations in between.

It’s always different.

To me, and my life, ‘balance’ looks different each and every week. Heck, it looks different each and every day of my life.

Most of the time it feels like I’m juggling, not balancing.

And I’m slowly (very slowly) starting to realize that that’s okay. Maybe this is the season to perfect my juggling act and not my balancing act.

Maybe the balancing act is for Act 2.

I think it is more than okay to aim for ‘balance,’ but also okay to recognize that this stage of motherhood and life, in general, is (mostly) chaos. And it’s still all good.

I am trying to work on shifting gears in thinking of balance as something I can always strive for, but not something I need to chase. Chasing gives me the feeling of anxiety. Striving gives me the feeling of inspiration.

Because right now when I reflect on my life, I realize that it is beautiful but chaotic.

Often very chaotic.

No matter what anyone puts out on their Instagram or Facebook pages, we all know that life with babies and toddlers is insanely busy and overwhelming and tiring. No matter what. It’s a secret of parenthood. can be both crazy and magical.

Both sane and insane.

Both beautiful and messy.

Both creative and structured.

Both balanced and imbalanced.

Both comforting and overwhelming.

Both adventurous and worrisome.

Both calming and hectic.

Both exceptional and common.

Both perfect and imperfect.

Maybe instead of obsessing over ‘balance’, we could focus more on whether everyone in our little bubble is okay—ourselves included. That we all feel loved and safe and included. That we are all integral members of our families.

That we all are fed and clothed and are playing and learning every day.

And those meals don’t have to be Pinterest recipes and those clothes don’t have to be Instagram influencer-worthy outfits. They can be healthy, hearty, simple, quick meals and still be social media worthy. They can be mismatched outfits that are too big hand-me-downs and your kiddo will be more than fine. They’ll be happy and ready to play and most importantly, will actually have clothes on (which is always a win in my book.)

That we can spend time with our partners alone.

And that alone time doesn’t need to mean Bachelor-level date nights, just time to connect one-on-one will do. That can range from a dinner out to a movie on the couch to a hand-holding walk to pillow talk before bed—and everything in between.

That we are seeing our friends and spending time with people outside of our little family bubbles.

And that friend-time doesn’t need to mean fancy dinners and big parties, just time to remind ourselves that there are other parts of our identities aside from ‘mom’ and ‘wife’ that are still alive and well.

That we are taking time for the things we love, whether that means working out or specific hobbies or time for self-care.

And that time to ourselves doesn’t have to be a big production—it doesn’t have to be scheduled and followed regularly/exactly and it doesn’t have to be a full Saturday or Sunday—it doesn’t have to be an all or nothing, go big or go home mentality. It can be 20 minutes in the bath with a face mask or painting after the kids go to bed or two yoga classes per week.

‘Balance’ might really mean “not balanced at all” for us parents right now. ‘Balance’ might be more about finding the right rhythm that works for you and your family.

Most importantly, I think ‘balance’ means ditching outside perceptions of what life should look like in order to embrace what life actually does look like for us.

To me, that means I want to stop trying to force what doesn’t work (even if it should work in theory) and start experimenting with what I think will work and then implementing that.

Maybe I’ll just focus on embracing this beautiful chaos instead of wishing for ‘perfection’ and ‘balance.’ (Because I don’t believe they’re real at this stage, anyway. ?)

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    Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

    There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

    With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

    Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

    Minimize smoke exposure.

    Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

    Do your best to filter the air.

    According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

    Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

    "Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

    Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

    "COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

    Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

    Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

    Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

    Most importantly, don't panic.

    In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

    This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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    14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

    They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

    With fall in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in outside-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

    From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

    Wooden doll stroller

    Janod wooden doll stroller

    Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


    Detective set

    Plan Toys detective set

    This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


    Sand play set

    Plan Toys sand set

    Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


    Water play set

    Plan Toys water play set

    Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


    Mini golf set

    Plan Toys mini golf set

    Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


    Vintage scooter balance bike

    Janod retro scooter balance bike

    Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


    Wooden rocking pegasus

    plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

    Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


    Croquet set

    Plan Toys croquet set

    The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


    Wooden digital camera

    fathers factory wooden digital camera

    Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


    Wooden bulldozer toy

    plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

    Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


    Pull-along hippo

    janod toys pull along hippo toy

    There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


    Baby forest fox ride-on

    janod toys baby fox ride on

    Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


    Balance board

    Plan Toys balance board

    Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


    Meadow ring toss game

    Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

    Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


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


    Cameron Diaz on having a baby at 47: 'You really have to work hard for it'

    "The only pressure for me now is I have to live to be, like, 107, you know? No pressure!"

    This is the decade that saw the face of first-time motherhood change. The number of first-time mamas under 30 is shrinking, while more and more women are becoming moms after 40.

    Cameron Diaz is one of them. The actress and businesswoman, now 48, became a mom in January at the age of 47. In a new episode of Naomi Campbell's YouTube series, No Filter, Diaz opens up about what it's like to become a mom in your fourth decade.

    "A lot of people do it the other way around ... they get married [and] have a family in their youth," says Diaz."I'm kind of doing it in the second half of my life."

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