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True life: Somewhere along the way, I started feeling like a ‘real mom’

Being a mother is the most challenging, heartening, strengthening and humbling role I have ever had.

True life: Somewhere along the way, I started feeling like a ‘real mom’

The journey into motherhood is a complex one. You make it through the pregnancy, your baby arrives and it is nothing but unmitigated bliss. For a little while. Then the excitement and fodder around the birth settles down and life around you resumes, continues, pulses and somehow expects you to keep up right along with it.


But you have a baby now. You didn't before. And now you do. What, you're just supposed to, like, BE a mom now?

You have endless, consuming decisions to make. Like, what to do when the baby is warm and you can't tell if he's feverish? What to do when he wakes up remotely off schedule, or eats carrots one day and hates them the next? How small to cut the grapes, when to get baby out versus giving up and staying home because it’s all too hard. How not to lose your sanity when baby just Won’t. Stop. Crying.

Taking care of a baby is no-joke WORK.

Then there's the small matter of your identity. What does it mean to transition from Individual Pregnant Person to New Mom? New mothers are far too busy trying to stay awake, stay alive, keep another person alive, etc. that there is little left in us to even have these conversations with ourselves, let alone each other.

To assess within ourselves what it means to be totally transformed by love and responsibility is a great task. It's hard to even remember what you thought about before diapers and teething and sleep regressions consumed your life.

It’s hard to summon enough energy to get back to work and try to pretend that you care about it in the same way you did before.

It’s hard to make the decision to stay home and figure out if it is the right fit for you, if it's fulfilling to you. Or you try to do both. Every option requires sacrifice.

You live in constant duality of before and after, but never solidly planted in either. Willing yourself to be the same, though you're irrevocably different. Because you totally are. Of course you are. You brought life into this world and are raising that beautiful, little, complicated person with all your love, all your soul, all your might—how could that not change you?

There is the part of you that tries to hang on to who you were before, that just wants everything to get back to ‘normal’. Then there's that moment when you realize Oh wow. This *is* normal, now.

There is just so much thrown at you all at once. So many exhausting nights and mornings. So much repetition. So little sleep. So much illness and worry. So much pride and joy. So much unknown goo on my clothes, table, countertops and hair.

But then, somehow, something starts to shift.

It's almost imperceptible at first, but the baby sleeps in a little longer or you are able to take a shower on a predictable basis. Every day feels a little less shocking to your system, a little more manageable. You develop a routine that actually kind of works. Somehow, one way or another, your baby starts sleeping. You start sleeping. Your kid starts crawling then walking then talking.

You stop focusing on all the things you've “lost” to make room for all the things you’ve gained. The abundance of love and pride and joy. The sheer brilliance of it all. Every positive shift is a victory.

All at once, being a mom isn't something outside of you anymore, embodied by the child that you are holding and nurturing and giving everything to, but instead inside of you, safely tucked beside and entwined with the rest of you (partner/sister/friend/cheese-lover/reader).

You start to make new friends and reconnect with old friends, especially the ones who have kids. It slowly dawns on you that these people are your lifeline and soul sisters. They don’t have to be your closest friends to give you the support you really need for they are the ones who can say the words that put so much anxiety to rest: “Oh, I’ve been there. You’re doing great. Hang in there, mama.” (Seriously, join a moms group.)

There will be setbacks to this progress. Like, when you can't attend an event because it's not conducive to an infant's schedule. Or when someone asks you what you thought of that movie that you definitely didn't see because how could you be so insensitive, Sarah? I haven't even worn eyeliner in seven months, let alone had time to go to a movie! (hysterical sobs).

But then those moments pass, too, and you edge ever closer back to the integrated you.

If anyone could actually prepare us for this journey into motherhood, what a cheat it would be. As maddening, confusing, and exhausting as it can be at times, the journey of discovery and navigation through these complexities is entirely the richness of it.

Being a mother is the most challenging, heartening, strengthening and humbling role I have ever had. I am bitter and resentful some days. I am exceedingly grateful others. I love being a mother. I struggle with being a mother. I miss who I was before, and love who I am becoming.

Overall, it will be a year to remember, though you likely won’t because you’ll be so sleep-deprived and hormonal as your body equilibrates and finds its own new normal. Mommy brain is real. (Don’t let anyone tell you different.)

But what will last from this first year, (aside from the three thousand photos you took) is the foundation you have forged with your messy, wonderful love for that kid. The raw emotion of it, the grit it takes, the well of strength that deepens within you.

You are now a mother and a person. Your life as you knew it is definitely over, but the life before you? Tremendous, exhausting, magical.

And when in doubt, remember: I’ve been there. You’re doing great. Hang in there, mama.

You’ve got this.

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Create a school-ready capsule wardrobe for your kids

Dress for success whether virtual learning or in the classroom!

Tina Meeks

Going "back to school" this year may be less of a literal statement than in years past—but there is just as much reason for your kids to celebrate moving on to new grades. Just like in every new school year, a big part of the fun is refreshing your kids' wardrobe with clothes that allow them to express themselves.

Even if finding back to school clothes this year doesn't include a trip to the mall, you can still make an event of it by shopping H&M's kids collection from your computer. Pull up another chair for your shopping buddy and get the cart started with these fave capsule wardrobe options we've already scouted.

Here are our favorite picks:

A t-shirt made for play

H&M t-shirt

Call them essentials, not basics. A graphic t-shirt aces the test when it comes to being perfect for school. And because your little student will probably want to wear something that expresses their personal style as often as possible, it's great to know the shirts can stand up to school time, playtime, downtime and everything in between!

$4.99

Dressed-up casual shorts for total comfort

H&M boy shorts

Whether pulling up a chair for a virtual meeting with the class or heading back to the school for in-person learning, some comfortable, yet stylish, shorts will help your kid focus on the real tasks at hand: learning—and having fun while doing it!

$19.99

Layers for when seasons change

H&M sweatshirt

When it comes to feeling comfortable at school, layers are the MVPs. Whether the AC is blasting or the day started off cool and is warming up quickly, having a unique sweatshirt to shed or add will help your kid look cool while staying warm.

$9.99

A bit of flair with distressed denim

H&M distressed jeans

A school staple for generations, denim is both classic and continually fashionable with updates like distressing and new wash colors. If you're shopping online for jeans this year, take note of H&M's generous return policy—your kids can try on the orders at home and return anything that doesn't fit without a trip to the store.

$24.99

A fashion statement piece

H&M girls skirt

What's better than expressing yourself through a stylish outfit when school is back in session? Still feeling perfectly comfortable and ready to tackle anything the day holds while looking so good. With so many fashion-forward looks available at budget-friendly prices, H&M's children's collection means every kid can find an outfit that speaks to them.

$14.99

Some comfy kicks

H&M boys shoes

A sure way to put a little pep in your child's step this year, cool and cozy shoes are a staple on all back-to-school shopping lists for good reason. (Plus, it's fun to compare them to last year's shoes to see how much your kid has grown!)

$19.99

Anything-but-basic blouses

H&M girls blouse

Whether in the classroom or showing up for a video call with the class, a styling blouse or button-down shirt is a great way for your student to comfortably dress up the day. Better yet? Style doesn't have to come at the expense of comfort with so many made-to-move tops designed just for kids.

$14.99

A shirt ready to go whatever the day holds

H&M boys shirt

With "going to school" meaning anything from showing up in the classroom to doing a virtual session, it's important to have clothes that are perfect for anything the day holds. A classic, cotton shirt with a fashion-forward design is a great way to keep your student feeling ready to start the year with an A+ attitude.

$9.99

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

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12 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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

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.

$30

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!

$75

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.

$30

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.

$100

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.

$40

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.

$121

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.

$100

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.

$45

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.

$189

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.

$100

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.

$33

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.

$88

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In Montessori schools, parents are periodically invited to observe their children at work in the classroom. I have heard many parents express shock to see their 3- or 4-year-old putting away their own work when they finish—without even being asked!

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