Want to be an incredible mother? Just be truly present

Be present during the joy, be present during the frustration. Be present. Be present without expectation.

Want to be an incredible mother? Just be truly present

My little boy (or big boy, I suppose I must say these days) graduated from Pre-K last week.  This means our days of half-day, play-based school is about to shift into full-day, five days a week, real-deal school.

This means he enters the world of truly big kids.

I’m not ready. I’ll put it out there. I’m just not ready. These past five years have flown by.

Everyone says it, but it’s an experience that each family must feel for itself before it becomes real—the time thing. How fast it moves. How one day your little boy adores Thomas the Train and the next, he’s creating elaborate fight scenes from Star Wars and needing to redecorate his room because it’s “too much baby.”


I can’t even explain how quickly these days have passed.

I have been there for each one, and yet, I can’t figure out how the days could have become years. I measure our time by his stages. From his stage of kissing every Melissa & Doug tool goodnight (then sleeping with them in his crib), to the stage of acting out every page of Hop on Pop (night after night), to his stage of memorizing every Thomas Train’s unique whistle sound, to this current stage of knowing what number, color, and driver every Indy racing car has.  His stages mark our days together, the challenging ones, as well as the exciting ones.

And now we are on to a new one. A big one—and beyond.

These years have flown by in a flash. I knew they would, and I tried to stay in them best as I could, but it still went too quickly.

I won’t sit here and tell you to enjoy every moment. Honestly, some moments just aren’t that great. I really can’t say it any other way.  Some moments are incredibly tough—physically, emotionally, and spiritually. It used to make me irate when well meaning people would tell me to enjoy every minute, that I wouldn’t get them back.  The well intentioned comment made me overly tired and overly critical. I felt guilty—that I wasn’t enjoying my children enough, that I wasn’t a good enough mom. That I should be more.

I’m here, with my heart in complete disbelief that these first years are over, to tell you my only words of wisdom.  And they are not enjoy every minute.

Be present.

That’s all I know to say.

Be present during the joy, be present during the frustration. Be present. Be present without expectation.

Nowadays, I find myself watching specific moments, as they are happening, as snapshots in an album of our life. I try to save them in my head as photographs, so that I can catalogue them as memories in this quick thing we call life. I want to remember the details. The way his eyes looked the first time he saw a real race car, his ridiculous laughter over the word ‘nostril,’ the exact way in which my daughter announced one day, “Mom? I love you, because you are my mom. But also? I like you. We have fun together. I’m gonna keep you forever.”

Be present. When I’m not paying attention to the now, I miss these snap shots. If I am not present, my mind is too cluttered to recall the nuances of the moment. It all becomes entangled in an indistinguishable mess of memories and time-lapses.  And then I feel like the time passed without me.

Be present.

As mamas, we inevitably have to multitask. We can’t help but answer questions about dinosaur extinction, while stirring the veggies, contemplating details for school the next day and returning the vet’s phone call because your dog needs a new hip. Multi-tasking is a must for moms, and as women, we are wired for it.

But as much as we can—soften the mind. Tone the multitasking down a wee bit. Let it go. Do one thing at a time. Although we must multitask, often, to make daily lifework (I’m pretty sure the only way out of this is to hire a complete staff), we must also take the time to move slowly. To focus on one aspect of our life at a time. Life gets so much juicier when we come from that place.

We mothers need to realize we can only be in the place where we are.

It sounds stupid—to realize we can only be where we are. But it’s true. We can only be in one place at one time. Yet, we attempt to solve problems all over the place. We think ahead and around and behind us constantly. We try so hard to be so many things at once. We run ourselves ragged, and then we are left picking up the pieces of our frazzled selves.  Instead of responding to our children from a place of presence and wholeness, we are detached, hurried, and tired.

The antidote? Be present.

The Buddhist teacher, Jack Kornfield, says, ‘When you are washing the dishes, wash the dishes.”

It’s a profound practice.

When we take each moment for what it is, do it with intention and heart and grace, all that extra stuff that seems to get in the way fades away. I find that the tension in my neck and head subsides. I feel laughter bubbling up more often. I try to come back to “washing dishes” as much as possible.

When I am working, I am working. When I am listening to a story about which friend he sat by at lunch, I listen.

Be present.

Lovely sentiments, I know. But how? Trust me—I’m not naturally a carefree, no-worries-in-the-world kind of gal. I’m the grown up version of the child, who at age eight, created a chart on a giant piece of paper that listed all my stuffed animals down one side and the days of the week across the top. This chart lived inside my closet door and was to ensure that I was spending equal amounts of time having each stuffed animal sleep in my bed, lest one have his/her feelings hurt.

That’s who I am.

So being present and calm and working from the heart and not the mind—that’s not something that has come easily. I’ve worked at this skill. And I’m not being dramatic when I tell you that learning to be present has saved my sanity, my joy, my confidence, truthfully—my life.

Here are a few of my go-to techniques—


As often as you can, breathe fully and completely. Pay attention to your breath. Notice what is happening when you are having one of those Mama-anxiety moments. Breathe. Slow down. Breathe into your belly, breathe all the way into your feet. Breathe, breathe, breathe. I work with a yogic breath, pranayama called Alternate Nostril Breath. This breath is essential for my ability to stay present. (Instructions at the end of this essay.)


Find words for your mind that take the place of the noise, the chatter, the daily grind that weighs you down.  Find any word or phrase that works for you—Peace. Love. Om Shanti. Lokah. Somastah. Sukhino. Bhavantu. Joy. Breathing in I feel peace. Breathing out I feel love—anything that stops your mind from wandering here, there, and everywhere.


Stop and stretch. Do yoga. Go for a walk. If you can get out alone, great. If not, take the brood and walk. Search for new colors, flowers, birds, anything that reopens your heart to the beauty around us.

Body work.

I would be a very, very, very cranky Mama without taking care of my body. Massage, reiki, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments—whatever. When my body is off, I am way off.

Fewer goals.

For me, this is a constant and challenging practice. These days, I am trying to make it a priority to cut my list in half. And then maybe into half again. To breathe in the now and no place else. To trust that what needs to happen will happen.  To stop rewinding the tape of yesterday and projecting the worries of tomorrow, but to trust that the now is the only place I need be.

Every single day I find myself cycling through these techniques in order to stay heart centered, trusting, joyful, ready to face whatever my babies throw at me. When we Mamas are rooted in the present with our children, we invite magical moments. We create album after album of photographs, memories placed securely in our hearts, and the experiences that build the foundation for their futures.

As my yoga teacher’s teacher has said, “If the present is passing in peace, it will make a peaceful past and sow a seed of peace to grow in the future.”  It’s true. All we can do is to be present in our now.

As a mom in this busied, frenzied world, I can’t think of a better gift to give our children than to be with them, to show them that as adults, they can, in fact, remain present.

Just as they are now. Just as they were born into this world. Present, joyful, and attentive. What more should we be here for? In my opinion—absolutely nothing.

There is no way to pause time. Even though Zach used to do it on Saved by the Bell, I’ve learned it is not a real thing. We can’t make our children grow up slower, we can’t click on ‘slow-mo’ while we watch them become big people. The only thing we can have control over is our state of mind. Our state of heart. Our presence. Our trust in the moment. Our movement from one breath to the next.

Be present. It’s the best tool we have.

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There is rightfully a lot of emphasis on preparing for the arrival of a new baby. The clothes! The nursery furniture! The gear! But, the thing about a baby registry is, well, your kids will keep on growing. Before you know it, they'll have new needs—and you'll probably have to foot the bill for the products yourself.

Thankfully, you don't have to break the bank when shopping for toddler products. Here are our favorite high-quality, budget-friendly finds to help with everything from meal time to bath time for the toddler set.

Comforts Fruit Crisps Variety Pack

Comforts fruit snacks

If there is one thing to know about toddlers, it is this: They love snacks. Keeping a variety on hand is easy when the pack already comes that way! Plus, we sure do appreciate that freeze-dried fruit is a healthier alternative to fruit snacks.

Comforts Electrolyte Drink

Comforts electrolyte drink

Between running (or toddling!) around all day and potentially developing a pickier palate, many toddlers can use a bit of extra help with replenishing their electrolytes—especially after they've experienced a tummy bug. We suggest keeping an electrolyte drink on hand.

Comforts Training Pants

Comforts training pants

When the time comes to start potty training, it sure helps to have some training pants on hand. If they didn't make it to the potty in time, these can help them learn their body's cues.

Comforts Nite Pants

comforts nite pants

Even when your toddler gets the hang of using the toilet during the day, nighttime training typically takes several months longer than day-time training. In the meantime, nite pants will still help them feel like the growing, big kid they are.

Comforts Baby Lotion

comforts baby lotion

Running, jumping, playing in sand, splashing in water—the daily life of a toddler can definitely irritate their skin! Help put a protective barrier between their delicate skin and the things they come into contact with every day with nourishing lotion.

Another great tip? Shopping the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices—and follow along on social media to see product releases and news at @comfortsforbaby.

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

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Time-saving formula tips our editors swear by

Less time making bottles, more time snuggling.

As a new parent, it can feel like feeding your baby is a full-time job—with a very demanding nightshift. Add in the additional steps it takes to prepare a bottle of formula and, well… we don't blame you if you're eager to save some time when you can. After all, that means more time for snuggling your baby or practicing your own well-deserved self-care.

Here's the upside: Many, many formula-feeding mamas before you have experienced the same thing, and they've developed some excellent tricks that can help you mix up a bottle in record time. Here are the best time-saving formula tips from editors here at Motherly.

1. Use room temperature water

The top suggestion that came up time and time again was to introduce bottles with room temperature water from the beginning. That way, you can make a bottle whenever you need it without worrying about warming up water—which is a total lifesaver when you have to make a bottle on the go or in the middle of the night.

2. Buy online to save shopping time

You'll need a lot of formula throughout the first year and beyond—so finding a brand like Comforts, which offers high-quality infant formula at lower prices, will help you save a substantial amount of money. Not to mention, you can order online or find the formula on shelves during your standard shopping trip—and that'll save you so much time and effort as well.

3. Pre-measure nighttime bottles

The middle of the night is the last time you'll want to spend precious minutes mixing up a bottle. Instead, our editors suggest measuring out the correct amount of powder formula into a bottle and putting the necessary portion of water on your bedside table. That way, all you have to do is roll over and combine the water and formula in the bottle before feeding your baby. Sounds so much better than hiking all the way to the kitchen and back at 3 am, right?

4. Divide serving sizes for outings

Before leaving the house with your baby, divvy up any portions of formula and water that you may need during your outing. Then, when your baby is hungry, just combine the pre-measured water and powder serving in the bottle. Our editors confirm this is much easier than trying to portion out the right amount of water or formula while riding in the car.

5. Memorize the mental math

Soon enough, you'll be able to prepare a bottle in your sleep. But, especially in the beginning or when increasing your baby's serving, the mental math can take a bit of time. If #mombrain makes it tough to commit the measurements to memory, write up a cheat sheet for yourself or anyone else who will prepare your baby's bottle.

6. Warm up chilled formula with water

If you're the savvy kind of mom who prepares and refrigerates bottles for the day in advance, you'll probably want to bring it up to room temperature before serving. Rather than purchase a bottle warmer, our editors say the old-fashioned method works incredibly well: Just plunge the sealed bottle in a bowl of warm water for a few minutes and—voila!—it's ready to serve.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

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

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

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school 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 summer-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.

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.


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!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective 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.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden 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.


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.


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