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Transitioning from a working mom to SAHM was much harder than I thought

When my daughter was just 6 weeks old, I went back to work full-time. I was torn, as I left my tiny infant at a daycare for nine hours a day. I daydreamed about staying at home with her full-time. I daydreamed about hours spent in leisure, gazing at my baby. As a few years passed, I fantasized about evenings where I had time to cook a meal, instead of grabbing a cheeseburger at a drive through for my toddler.

And then when she was 4 years old, I was able to stay at home with her full-time. My daydreams had come true. I was ready for mornings not spent commuting on a busy freeway with a sleepy kid in the backseat begging to go back home. I was ready for afternoons spent at the park, and enough time to play games on a weekday morning.

In some ways my life became immeasurably easier. But in other ways, I discovered I really had no idea what the life of a stay-at-home mom consisted of, nor the contradictions I would face.

I assumed that once I was a stay-at-home mom, I would become a laid back, relaxed lady of leisure, but I was so wrong. The truth is that the work of childcare, All. Day. Long, can be staggering.

When I was working full-time I was guilty of thinking (although I hope I was smart enough that I never said it), that stay-at-home moms didn't work nearly as hard as I did. I now see that both sets of mothers, those who work outside of the home and those who stay at home with their children, work equally hard. But their work is different.

I didn't realize how much I would miss lunch breaks, wearing non-yoga-pants outfits every morning, or socializing with coworkers. I didn't realize that there would be no chilling on the couch and watching marathons of my favorite Netflix show. There would be snack requests, doll tea parties, and spilled milk all over the living room rug.

When I worked full-time, I put my kiddo to bed and gave myself permission to lay on the couch and watch TV despite whatever messes or laundry had stacked up. After all, I'd worked a 9-hour day and I felt I deserved it. But when I became a stay-at-home mom, I felt that suddenly I didn't have the same "excuse", and often found myself doing laundry and cleaning long after my daughter had gone to bed.

While we're talking about work, there are a lot of stay-at-home-moms who are also work-from-home moms in some measure. It seems these days that most of my mom friends—myself included—have a "side hustle" (whether it's freelance writing, an Etsy shop, or a consulting business).

And while we have the luxury of not being "full-time" working moms, the time crunch of meeting deadlines while doing laundry, of being part of conference calls while balancing computers on our laps and playing catch with our kids, all while we're in between school carpools, diaper changes, and playdates—feels a bit like walking a tightrope.

There's also the contradiction of fantasizing almost every hour of the day about getting away from your precious children, and yet once you occasionally accomplish this fete, you find that you miss them terribly.

When I worked full-time, I was constantly wondering what my daughter was doing during the day—if she was feeling well, what she was eating for lunch, and if she was getting enough hugs during the day. When I was able to stay at home with her full-time, that separation anxiety eased immeasurably. But suddenly, I found that being together constantly produced a new need: the need to go to Target all by myself, with a diet coke in hand, and the freedom to wander the aisles aimlessly without saying things like "don't break that."

But even then, after about 30 minutes, I once again began to wonder what she was doing. I worried that she missed me. And I missed her.

Somehow, I thought life as a stay-at-home mother would be a bit of a holiday. But I soon found that my idea of a "holiday" morphed tremendously. Every day was not a holiday, it was a combination of wonderful moments reading books together and receiving hugs, while also picking dried boogers off the wall and examining a mysterious food-based stain on the sofa.

I discovered that my idea of a holiday turned into 30 minutes at night where I'd take a bath while drinking a beer and checking social media on my phone. My idea of a holiday became resting in the shade of the yard, watching my daughter run through a sprinkler and being grateful that she was distracted from my presence for the moment instead of demanding that I "do that voice, the scary one" a la Maleficent in Sleeping Beauty.

As contradictory as this life can be, I don't ever regret my decision to stay-at-home with my daughter, just as my friends who work full-time outside of the home don't regret theirs.

And no matter what side of the fence we stand on—no matter if you stay at home or go to work every day—we've all bonded over hiding in a hallway, trying desperately to eat a bag of M&M;'s as quietly and quickly as possible before a tiny voice yells, "I SMELL CHOCOLATE!"

You see—the set of rules and pressures for stay-at-home mothers and working mothers might be slightly different, but at the end of the day we're all committed 100% to our children and we're all striving to create the best lives possible for them.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like the heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends, which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent.

Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, it's more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby—in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued. Crisis averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it all through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

The fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so that there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas


Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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