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When motherhood feels heavy, mama—know that you are not alone

Some days mom life isn't all dance parties and hugs and special doughnut treats. Some days it's anxiety and meltdowns and tough decisions.

And on the days when I feel overwhelmed and unsure and the desire to run away with my family so I can hide them away from the scariness of the world—motherhood feels heavy.

Sometimes the lightness of putting my toddler's new sneakers on—and her contagious excitement because of them… is followed by the heaviness of said toddler's hysteria at school drop-off 20 minutes later.

And hearing her cry harder as the teachers encourage her to "come check this out" as I'm encouraged to sneak out of the classroom makes my heart feel like it's physically being ripped out of my chest. So I wait in the family room, with my two other children and give myself a mental pep talk to stop the tears.

Sometimes the lightness of a beautiful, fun day with my kids… is followed by the heaviness of what's going on in the world around me. The shootings, the fighting, the racism, the sexism, the anger—they all get me down and some days I find it hard to re-focus.

And the news cycle continues to spew out hatred and inequalities and sexual assaults and horrifying disasters—and it weighs on my spirit. It weaves me into its web of anxiety and threatens to hide the joy that's right in front of me.

So I try harder to put up boundaries. I work on limiting my intake. I step away. I center myself around the beauty of my family.

Sometimes the lightness of the beauty that is watching my kids play together… is followed by the heaviness of arguing and fighting over a silly toy. And it's frustrating. I don't understand why it happens and am constantly shocked with the how quickly things can turn from good to bad.

The kids melt down. And I lose my patience. And before you know it—a really sweet moment has turned into yelling and attempts to calm them down and empty threats and feeling like a failure.

So I step away. We take deep breaths. We try again. We show each other love, compassion and mercy.

Sometimes the lightness of watching my husband play with our children and kiss me hello… is followed by the heaviness of budget chats and stressful conversations and not having enough energy to clean up after bedtime and wanting to just go to sleep.

And we take out our frustrations on each other and we get mad and we wished we didn't but we're tired and we don't mean to.

So we apologize. We connect. We work together. We look at each other in the eyes and we promise that we've got this. We love and we continue to love and our love will always be there even in the arguments and even in the heaviness.

The weight of motherhood is heavy. Think: 10,000 loads of laundry, 8,000 meals, 6,000 diapers, 3,000 meltdowns, 2,000 tough calls and many many tears and many many worries heavy. And it weighs on us. It sits like a boulder on our chests some days, threatening to break us open.

And maybe that's what we're here to do. Maybe the heaviness has to break us open.

To open our hearts to the light of the children we have brought into this world.

To allow them to teach us—as getting to see the world through their innocent, creative eyes is sometimes the best teacher we could ask for.

To be completely vulnerable in our role of mother so we can grow into the human we were always destined to be.

Every day I am trying more and more to shed the weight of "perfection." The image of a "perfect mother" or "perfect woman" that has been ingrained in my mind for years.

And every day I am working toward opening myself up more and more to what I've been put on this earth for. To recognizing who I actually am. To dig deep into the place that has been opened up completely thanks to my children—and asking myself to muster the courage I need to step up to the plate and be there for them. Really be there.

We will all experience the heaviness of motherhood. But we can't get lost in it. Because the lightness will always be there, too—even when we have to search for it. And search for it, we must.

Because the heaviness is where the truth is.

And the truth is where our heart is.

So mama, on the heavy days—work hard to let the lightness of your life shine. ✨

And on the light days—bask in its glow. It will fill you up and keep you going.

I am with you—in the heaviness and the lightness. I just want you to know that. You're not alone, and I know I'm not either. And sometimes, that's what we need to know most of all.

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We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

BUY

2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

BUY

3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

BUY

4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

BUY

5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

BUY

6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

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7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

BUY

8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

BUY

9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

BUY

10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

BUY

11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

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12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

BUY

13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

BUY

14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

BUY

15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

BUY

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work.We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Christmas is so fun and magical, but if we don't keep ourselves in check it can get really overwhelming.

Sandra Bullock is the latest high-profile mom to talk about toning down presents to make more room for what matters in her family's Christmas celebration.

Mom to Louis, 8, and Laila, 6, Bullock was on the Today show this week when she explained how over the years her Christmas celebrations snowballed until she felt like her family was missing the point.

"I overdo it, and then I panic that I didn't do enough. Then I get more—and then everyone else has overdone it," she explained, adding that this year, she just stopped overdoing it, and she's feeling a lot less stressed this Christmas season.

"We just stopped. Because there's so much happening in the world where people don't have anything. And we said, 'Why don't we just make this about other people?'" Bullock explained, adding that her kids were totally into the idea of giving instead of getting this year.

"They were amazing about it. So, Christmas is three small gifts," she told Today's Hoda Kotb.

Why three is the magic number of presents 

Bullock is hardly alone in toning down Christmas. Tons of parents are simplifying the holiday in order to focus on the more meaningful parts, in part because (as Motherly previously reported) giving your kids fewer toys at Christmas actually makes them happier!

Combine increased happiness with the modern desire for less cluttered, minimalist living and you have a trend. In fact, even the number of gifts Bullock is doing this season is trendy. Three gift Christmases are a thing.

Three is kind of a magic number when it comes to Christmas celebrations. There are enough presents to make the morning feel magical, but not so many that the kids are lost in a mountain of wrapping paper and materialism.

With three gifts, kids have an opportunity to feel gratitude instead of overwhelmed. They can truly appreciate their presents and parents can feel less overwhelmed as well, because it's way easier (and cheaper) to buy three presents than try to bring the whole toy aisle home.

Making Christmas about giving 

Research demonstrates that children whose parents talk to them about giving to others are 20% more likely to make charitable donations than kids whose parents did not have that talk. Simply by talking to Louis and Laila about giving to others, Bullock is building capacity for giving in her kids, and in this case, talking does more than modeling, researchers note.

Bullock has the resources to give both a huge charitable contribution and a massive Christmas to her own kids, but both society and her kids are probably better off with her new Christmas plan.

A 2013 study, a 2013 study conducted by the Women's Philanthropy Institute at the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy found that just having a parent who gives their money and time to charity isn't as impactful as having a parent who talks to you about why it's important to do so.

By having the conversation about making Christmas about others, Bullock is instilling her values in her kids in a lasting way.

Helping kids give 

Bullock didn't go into detail about exactly how she's helping her kids make Christmas about others, but there are a lot of ways that parents can do that.

You can help your children choose or make gifts for other important people in their lives, like grandparents, teachers and friends.

You can ask your children to help you choose toys to give to charities that help families who can't afford to buy their kids gifts this year.

You can take your kids with you to volunteer at an organization that's doing good in the world.

You can involve your kids in making a monetary donation to a worthy cause.

The important part is doing it together, and having conversations about why giving is so much more important and impactful than getting.

We're all trying to raise empathetic kids and keep our houses free of clutter, and it sounds like Bullock's plan could help with both those goals.

If you're feeling overwhelmed and like you've been overdoing the holidays, consider taking a tip from Bullock and giving yourself permission to just stop.

Christmas doesn't have to be overwhelming to be magical.

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We all want our homes to be safe for our kids, but for years corded window blinds have been a hidden hazard in many American homes, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.

That era is now over because as of this month, corded window blinds are no longer being sold by American stores or websites.

👏👏👏

Child safety advocates are cheering the decision by the Window Covering Manufacturers Association to require stock window coverings to be cordless or designed with inaccessible or short cords.

A study published last year in the journal Pediatrics found that 255 children died after getting tangled up in blind cords between 1990 and 2015, more than 16,800 kids were injured and seen in emergency rooms.

"We've known about this risk for over 70 years, yet we're still seeing children strangled by these products," study senior researcher Dr. Gary Smith told HealthDay last December. "It's just unacceptable."

A year ago, Smith said it was totally doable for manufacturers to reduce the risks associated with corded blinds, and now, finally, they have.

Now, people who need corded blinds (like those with disabilities who find corded blinds easier to use) will still be able to get them as custom orders, but you won't find them on the shelves at your local home improvement store.

Up until now, one child per month (on average) is dying because of window blind cords. It may have taken 70 years, but we're so glad to see this change!

Removing window blinds with cords

Some parents aren't aware that window blind cords can be hazardous. If you have corded blinds in your home and are now wanting to replace them, look for replacement blinds that have the "Best for Kids" certification label on the packaging.

If replacing all the blinds in your house is too costly right now, experts recommend starting with the rooms where your child hangs out the most, like their bedroom and the living room.

If you're renting, replacing blinds can be a bit trickier, as some leases prevent tenants from changing the blinds.

Talk to your landlord about the safety hazard (put it in writing and note the study in Pediatrics and the new regulations from the Window Covering Manufacturers Association). Alternatively, if your blinds are the snap-in kind, you can remove the landlord's blinds and store them somewhere safe while using your own, safer, window coverings for the rest of your tenancy.

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If you've ever stood over your baby's crib or clung to the monitor watching them as they slept, you're not alone, mama. Making sure your baby is safe while they sleep is one of the top concerns for parents, and often leads to our own sleepless nights as we struggle to relax while our baby snoozes. But you need your sleep too.

Here are 10 safe sleep guidelines to keep in mind so you can rest a little easier:

1. Place baby on a firm surface in a crib or bassinet.

Although your baby has the capability of falling asleep pretty much anywhere as a newborn, it is strongly recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that all sleep happens in a crib with a firm mattress or in a bassinet. Other than a fitted sheet, nothing else should be in the crib, especially for newborns. By placing your baby on a firm surface, you will greatly reduce the risk of SIDS.

2. Put your baby on their back.

This is the safest position for your baby to sleep until they learn to roll over on their own. Once your baby has the ability to completely roll over, it is okay to allow them to remain in that position for sleep, but you should still put them on their back to begin with.

3. Set the appropriate temperature in the room.

You may have the urge to over-bundle your little one, especially in the winter months, but as long as the temperature in the room is between 68-72-degrees Fahrenheit, there is no need to layer them in excessive clothing. Long sleeve sleepwear with light socks is all they need to stay warm.

4. Make sure baby has their own separate sleeping space.

Although there are strong opinions on both sides of this subject, research has found that sharing a bed with a baby can put them at risk for SIDS. It is recommended by the AAP to room-share for the first 6-12 months of life, but not bed-share. The same goes for sleeping on a couch or other soft surfaces during the day. If you want your baby close to you, you can keep the crib or bassinet next to your bed.

5. Do not expose your baby to smoke.

Smoking is one of the risks of SIDS and even small particles on your clothing can be passed to your baby. Children should especially not be sleeping in an environment where there are particles of smoke in the air. This is something that should be considered when traveling and staying in hotels or homes of friends and family members as well.

6. Use a monitor if they're sleeping in another room.

The use of a baby monitor not only gives you peace of mind but can help ensure your baby remains safe while sleeping. While you don't need to worry over every little sound they make, there will be situations when you need to go in the room and do a safety check based on what you see or hear in the monitor.

7. Feed your baby in a position that isn't too relaxing for you.

This is one that might seem odd as you want to be comfortable as you feed the baby, especially if you are exhausted. However, it is best to avoid any situation where you might potentially fall asleep. For example, sitting in an upright position in a chair versus laying in your bed can help you stay more alert.

8. Use a pacifier and/or breastfeed if possible.

There are numerous reasons why a mama might not be able—or want to— to breastfeed, but if you do have the capability of doing so, it has been found as a way to decrease the risk of SIDS.

Similarly, if your child will take a pacifier, this is a great way to not only soothe them but also to prevent SIDS. I also highly encourage feeding your child as much as needed during the first few months of life. This doesn't necessarily mean you need to feed them every time they wake, but if they seem genuinely hungry, it is safest not to stretch them too long in between feeds.

9. Have carbon monoxide and smoke detectors nearby.

You'd be surprised how many homes don't have these installed or installed correctly. Regularly check the batteries in both devices and make sure they are working properly throughout the home so you'd be notified if something happened.

10. Don't let your baby sleep in an area with animals.

I know this one can be tough, especially if your pets were your first babies, but as much as we love them and as gentle as we think they are, limit the risk. A cat or dog could accidentally suffocate your baby if they have access to their crib/bassinet, or their fur could cause them to have trouble breathing.

These safety guidelines are not meant to induce fear or cause excessive worrying, but rather serve as tools and knowledge that will ensure baby's sleep is as safe as possible.

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