To the mid-30s mama—our time is now

When I was younger, I needed the constant encouragement from teachers, my parents and even my husband. But not anymore. I'm noticing I don't care as much about other people's opinions as I get older—I have found a comfort and a confidence in myself.

To the mid-30s mama—our time is now

"Forty was my prime," my mom always said. "I felt confident and strong." This past weekend I inched a little closer to that number and while I'm unsure if 40 will be my prime or not, I am starting to feel okay about this whole aging thing.

In fact, there are some things I wish my 20 or 30-year-old self had known in order to make life easier—especially after becoming a mother.

Sure, I could do without the silver hairs that seem to beg for attention by shooting straight up into the air. (They love to steal the show from my brown locks.) I can admit that stuff like this bothers me but, overall, I'm trying to embrace what comes with getting older—some of which I wish the younger version of myself would have understood.

Here's what I'm learning:

1. I'm more confident the older I get

The young me cowered at the thought of failure—like the time I bowed out of running that half-marathon in my 20s because I never thought my legs could cross that finish line. But today, if I want something, I go after it.

What do I have to lose?

Now, as a writer, I feel empowered to submit pieces of my work without fear of rejection. When I get a pass from an editor, I simply shrug it off and pursue another.

And I don't second-guess my parenting choices anymore. I know I make the best decisions for my own children, and I don't care what society has to say about them.

2. I can (and should) speak up

When I was younger, I never would have told someone if they had offended me. In the workplace especially, I'd keep my lips ironed shut. The thought of conflict made me squeamish, but now, I know that it is vital in all solid relationships. So, today, if you tick me off, you're going to know.

The best part about this lesson is that I get to teach this to my children, too. In life, it's vital that they learn to speak up for themselves in all different types of scenarios.

3. I'm grateful for my mistakes

Without the blunders of my youth (okay, and even the ones from yesterday), how would I learn and grow? Yes, sometimes I regret the mistakes of my 20s (like all of those failed classes in my undergrad), but I now know that they are a part of who I am today.

Those failures are lessons learned in what hard work means to me now, where my determination comes from and why I am now pursuing second grad degree. Honestly, failure has helped me flourish as a woman—and a mother. Whenever I make a mistake, even a parenting mistake, I own it. I talk openly to my children about it so that they understand that mistakes will only make you stronger.

(Plus, most of those mistakes were pretty fun. 😉)

4. I have nothing to prove

When I was younger, I needed the constant encouragement from teachers, my parents and even my husband. But not anymore. I'm noticing I don't care as much about other people's opinions as I get older—I have found a comfort and a confidence in myself. I am at ease with where I am in my life, and I am chasing my dreams because I want to, not because I want to impress anyone.

Same goes for motherhood. I don't have to feed my children all-organic or have them sleeping through the night by six months of age. I don't have to prove that I am a "perfect mother"—because I'm not. My imperfect mothering is perfect for my kids.

5. I'm better at finding balance

I don't rush toward the buzz of those reckless nights anymore like I used to. I spent so many nights in loud bars and hanging out with people I didn't even care for. Today, however, I often settle for the comfort and relaxation the corner of our couch offers me. I know that as a mother I need this balance now more than ever. There are days when I need time away from my loving children, and that's okay.

(But don't forget, you're never too old to chase the occasional wild night, too. You just may pay for it a little more the next day. 😜)

6. I focus on what matters

In my 20s, I found myself giving my time and efforts to everyone and anyone who asked for them—even those who didn't necessarily give back. But today, I put my energy into relationships where we nourish each other. I don't waste my time messing around with people who live negatively or who drain me emotionally. Instead, I spend time with those who challenge me, love me despite my flaws, and support me. Usually, this focus is zeroed in on my children, because right now, being a mother is what matters the most.

I am a woman. Of course, I wish that my boobs were still perky and that my hair color was a sleek dark brown. But I can't escape aging—no one can. Despite all of the eye creams, hair dye, and push-up bras that I buy, I am going to look older—no matter what.

So instead of focusing on all of that nonsense, I'm going to take care of my body by working it, but only because I want to stick around this magical life with these magnificent people for as long as I can.

I want to make more memories with the people I choose to love and who choose to love me. I want to make more mistakes and learn from them—just like I did when I was twenty-five. I just wish I knew that when I was that age. So, today and tomorrow, I'll focus on keeping my mind youthful instead of buying more skincare products—because that's what will really keep me young.

I've got a couple of years left until I hit 40, but I'm thinking that as always, my mother will be right.

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This is how we’re defining success this school year

Hint: It's not related to grades.

In the ever-moving lives of parents and children, opportunities to slow down and reflect on priorities can be hard to come by. But a new school year scheduled to begin in the midst of a global pandemic offers the chance to reflect on how we should all think about measures of success. For both parents and kids, that may mean putting a fresh emphasis on optimism, creativity and curiosity.

Throughout recent decades, "school success" became entangled with "academic achievement," with cases of anxiety among school children dramatically increasing in the past few generations. Then, almost overnight, the American school system was turned on its head in the spring of 2020. As we look ahead to a new school year that will look like no year past, more is being asked of teachers, students and parents, such as acclimating to distance learning, collaborating with peers from afar and aiming to maintain consistency with schooling amidst general instability due to COVID.

Despite the inherent challenges, there is also an overdue opportunity to redefine success during the school year by finding fresh ways to keep students and their parents involved in the learning process.

"I always encourage my son to try at least one difficult thing every school year," says Arushi Garg, parenting blogger and mom of a 4-year-old. "This challenges him but also allows me to remind him to be optimistic! Lots of things in life are hard, and it's important we learn to be positive during difficult times. Fostering a sense of optimism allows kids to push beyond what they thought possible, like biking without training wheels or reading above their grade level."

Here are a few mantras to keep in mind this school year:

Quality learning matters more than quantifying learning

After focusing on standardized measures of academic success for so long, the learning environment this next school year may involve more independent, remote learning. Some parents are considering this an exciting opportunity for their children to assume a bigger role in what they are learning—and parents are also getting on board by supporting their children's education with engaging, positive learning materials like Highlights Magazine.

As a working mom, Garg also appreciates that Highlights Magazine can help engage her son while she's also working. She says, "He sits next to me and solves puzzles in the magazine or practices his writing from the workbook."

Keep an open mind as "school" looks different

Whether children are of preschool age or in the midst of high school, "going to school" is bound to look different this year. Naturally, this may require some adjustment as kids become accustomed to new guidelines. Although many parents may wish to shelter our kids from challenges, others believe optimism can be fostered through adversity when everyone is committed to adapting to new experiences.

"Honestly, I am yet to figure out when I will be comfortable sending [my son] back [to school]," says Garg. In the meantime, she's helping her son remain connected with friends who also read Highlights Magazine by encouraging the kids to talk about what they are learning on video calls.

Follow children's cues about what interests them

For Garg, her biggest hope for this school year is that her son will create "success" for himself by embracing new learning possibilities with positivity.

"Encouraging my son to try new things has given him a chance to prove that he can do anything," she says. "He takes his previous success as an example now and feels he can fail multiple times before he succeeds."

There's no denying that this school year will be far from the norm. But, perhaps, we can create a new, better way of defining our children's success in school because of it.

This article was sponsored by Highlights. 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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All the things that were left unsaid during the first presidential debate and why it matters

What parents need to know about President Trump's first debate against Joe Biden.


[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

Parents in America have been living in survival mode for half a year now. Mothers are depleted and burned out, but most plan to use some of their precious-little energy to vote in the upcoming presidential election. According to a recent survey by Peanut, 93% of moms will be voting on November 3.


The "mom vote" will be very important in this election. The Democratic Party is counting on moms who are angry with President Donald Trump, while a Republican PAC called Moms for Safe Neighborhoods hopes its 30-second ad is scary enough to convince suburban moms to re-elect the sitting president.

But this election isn't about mom rage versus maternal fear. It's about looking forward to a future where both are reduced. That is what America's moms really want, and need.

The two men vying for the leadership of America would do well to remember that, and should be paying more attention to the issues that impact families every day.

On Tuesday night when they took the debate stage for the first time, President Trump and Joe Biden talked about a lot of topics (sometimes at the same time), but they missed some real opportunities to talk to American mothers.

Here's why that matters:

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