Sharing our home with another family helped me realize: It’s okay to accept help

For once, it didn’t all fall on me. I found myself thinking: Is this what “the village” looks like?

Sharing our home with another family helped me realize: It’s okay to accept help

They arrived in their white 12-passenger van one Monday afternoon, unloaded their supplies and settled in our spare room downstairs. My best friend and her family—eight people in total— had chosen to give birth to their sixth child in my home as they have been traveling in an RV and she desired a home water birth.

We weren’t sure how long they would stay, maybe a day depending on how fast her labor lasted, but when the days stretched into nearly a week, I honestly was thrilled. We all were.

Why? Life was simply easier.

You would think with 11 children (once that adorable baby girl was born in my bathtub!) and four adults in our home, we would be going crazy with chaos. My five kids can be loud and messy, so adding five more to that may sound insane to some. Truthfully though, it was often less chaotic because our families were excited to mix for the week and everyone blended perfectly. It was like a giant sleepover for us all.

I suppose the big difference is that they weren’t just guests—we actually all became a team.

Sure, we were two families sharing a space who had their own rules and sleeping quarters—but we worked together in the common areas. We shared meals together in giant proportions, combining what they could offer with what we could offer.

The chore of cooking and washing dishes wasn’t so bad with many helping hands—there was always an adult or an older child to rotate the dishes with. My sink is usually filled with dishes because I can’t keep up (even with my little helpers) and ‘do the dishes’ often is one of the first things to slide on the to-do list. So it was nice to have a clean kitchen with ease!

For once, it didn’t all fall on me. I found myself thinking: Is this what “the village” looks like?

“Many hands make for light work” is what their family declared when it was time to clean up (which I have now stolen to encourage my crew!) and that was the marked difference between parenting my days alone. I often feel like I’m bouncing from chore to chore, just to have it undone minutes later. With many helping hands, there was always someone to chip in and rotate the repetitive household duties with. I admire how helpful they have raised their kids to be. I took notes.

We also had each other to help with our children—someone to stay at home during school pick-up so I could leave the baby to nap, or I happily stayed at home to watch their kids so they could grocery shop in peace. It was a beautiful dance of give and take, which helped to take the stress off one another. At times, I was there to give snacks to her little ones while she nursed or she was able to better calm my crying daughter than I could with her words of advice.

Beyond the tidier kitchen and childcare advantages, it simply was a time of enjoyment to always have someone around. Myself—having struggled with being an introvert, a busy work-from-home mom, and varying degrees of anxiety—I honestly hardly have to leave the house. But yet my soul craves real talk and connection when I’m not wanting to retreat into my internal shell to recharge.

Usually my friend and I have to resort to hurried phone calls and bursts of texting, but it was heavenly to always have her here when we needed to chat. Also, our kids always had someone to pair off with to go play. There was less screen time and more laughter.

The atmosphere was filled with joy.

As my friend and I sipped our coffee in the morning glow and ogled at her sweet sleeping newborn, we dreamed of what life would be like sharing it together—closer. It made us want to buy land and live as neighbors, have a garden and share the crops, let our kids discover nature together and allow our best friend hearts to always having each other nearby.

We imagined ourselves much like villages across the world that they still hold fast to—and for good reason. This week taught me how far off our western culture is in regards to how we shut ourselves off in our boxes of homes. We felt complete and joyful in our roles as we worked side by side. There was a sense of, “Ah, this is what life is supposed to be like! This is what we are wired for and what our ancestors had.”

Sharing the load of life’s excitements, hardships and household duties gave us a glimpse at what we deserve more of in our culture—a village. While we may not be able to combine houses or share land, we still deserve to have friendships like this. A friendship that gives and takes, that helps and allows to be helped. It makes for happier mamas and families all around. Sure—the help is nice when we are the one in need, but it also fills us up to give to one another as well.

While uprooting our lives doesn’t seem like a possibility right now and would be incredibly scary—I know that I can still have a similar feel with the village I’ve been growing as I’ve settled into motherhood with five kiddos. That is, if I allow myself to.

And what does that mean, exactly?

That means more reaching out asking for help. More trading, more giving, more taking. More putting myself out there into my village that I know loves me back.

Moms, it’s important to have your own village. We need it. We deserve it.

A village can consist of so many different people—neighbors, family, close friends across town, our wiser elders , and younger people, too, for us to mentor. People to share life with, run errands for, share meals with, exchange childcare, create soul connections and playmates for our kids.

It’s not just physically helpful, but emotionally as well. Knowing that we aren’t alone makes all the difference as we navigate the treacherous waters of motherhood. It gives us something else to grab onto for hope and move toward the shore of stability.

There is so much value in others’ different experiences and companionship to enhance our own. Don’t be afraid to reach out and make the step into the village around you. Let’s be honest, we can’t do it all or be it all by ourselves. Life bares too much weight without others helping to support us, and us them.

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.


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


This is my one trick to get baby to sleep (and it always works!)

There's a reason why every mom tells you to buy a sound machine.

So in my defense, I grew up in Florida. As a child of the sunshine state, I knew I had to check for gators before sitting on the toilet, that cockroaches didn't just scurry, they actually flew, and at that point, the most popular and only sound machine I had ever heard of was the Miami Sound Machine.

I was raised on the notion that the rhythm was going to get me, not lull me into a peaceful slumber. Who knew?!

Well evidently science and, probably, Gloria Estefan knew, but I digress.

When my son was born, I just assumed the kid would know how to sleep. When I'm tired that's what I do, so why wouldn't this smaller more easily exhausted version of me not work the same way? Well, the simple and cinematic answer is, he is not in Kansas anymore.

Being in utero is like being in a warm, soothing and squishy spa. It's cozy, it's secure, it comes with its own soundtrack. Then one day the spa is gone. The space is bigger, brighter and the constant stream of music has come to an abrupt end. Your baby just needs a little time to acclimate and a little assist from continuous sound support.

My son, like most babies, was a restless and active sleeper. It didn't take much to jolt him from a sound sleep to crying like a banshee. I once microwaved a piece of pizza, and you would have thought I let 50 Rockettes into his room to perform a kick line.

I was literally walking on eggshells, tiptoeing around the house, watching the television with the closed caption on.

Like adults, babies have an internal clock. Unlike adults, babies haven't harnessed the ability to hit the snooze button on that internal clock. Lucky for babies they have a great Mama to hit the snooze button for them.

Enter the beloved by all—sound machines.

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It's science: Why your baby stops crying when you stand up

A fascinating study explains why.

When your baby is crying, it feels nearly instinctual to stand up to rock, sway and soothe them. That's because standing up to calm babies is instinctual—driven by centuries of positive feedback from calmed babies, researchers have found.

"Infants under 6 months of age carried by a walking mother immediately stopped voluntary movement and crying and exhibited a rapid heart rate decrease, compared with holding by a sitting mother," say authors of a 2013 study published in Current Biology.

Even more striking: This coordinated set of actions—the mother standing and the baby calming—is observed in other mammal species, too. Using pharmacologic and genetic interventions with mice, the authors say, "We identified strikingly similar responses in mouse pups as defined by immobility and diminished ultrasonic vocalizations and heart rate."

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