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You need a break...before you break, mama

Put your feet up and relax. Please.

You need a break...before you break, mama

When I read the study that revealed mothers work on average 98 hours a week I was relieved.

Why?

I was relieved...because recently I found myself wondering why I felt so tired all the time.

I was relieved...because it's been years since I've had a week off from work or kids or house stuff.

I was relieved...because I feel like all I do is take care of children, clean or work.

Reading that moms work the equivalent of two-and-a-half full time jobs each week, well, it made me feel validated.

THIS is why I'm so tired.

The study found that women say they start caring for children, on average, around 6 a.m. each day, and clock off after 8 p.m. Add in tantrums, nursing sessions, cleaning, play dates, drop-offs, school forms and millions of micro events in between. (And that's a 'good' day, of course—without sleep issues or illnesses or middle-of-the-night musings about the color of dinosaur tails...) So of course we're exhausted.

Motherhood can do that to you. But does it have to do that to you?

Enter: Andrea. Every woman needs a mom friend like Andrea. Exactly a decade older than I am, her kids were babies 10 years ago. She's wise. She's been through this whole motherhood thing before. Plus, she has a way of planting wisdom for me before I need it—so when I finally arrive at the stage she was talking about, her advice is right there where she left it.

"Nobody will force you to take a vacation, Liz," she reminded me during a recent vent session. "No one else will book you a getaway—or force you to go to the gym—or tell you to stop working late nights. Only you can shape the life you want to live."

Motherhood is so all-consuming that it was beginning to consume me.

It was getting me up super early to get ahead at work. It was keeping me up late to scrub the kitchen sink. It was making me feel guilty for not being a time-traveler who could magically be at swim lessons, work meetings and Barre class at the exact same time.

This all-consuming mentality was making me feel inadequate, even though I knew I was doing the best I could, all the time. It was making me feel like I should do MORE—even though the main thing I needed was a break.

Andrea's reminder was the exact advice I needed to get back into the driver's seat of my own life.

So I'm giving myself a break.

I'm giving myself a break from the guilt of not being the "perfect" mom, and I'm buying myself a "World's Okayest Mom" mug instead. My kids are safe, happy, healthy and loved. We are doing okay.

I'm giving myself a break from working late on my laptop every night, and giving myself permission to slow down and sip tea after my kids are asleep.

I'm giving myself a break from not playing all the exact right developmentally-targeted games with my kids, and spending more leisurely, deliberate, child-led time together. Yesterday I attempted to build a slingshot with my son (his idea), today we're shopping for cake pop ingredients (also his idea.) It makes him feel so happy and loved to direct our play and takes all the burden off of me to plan our "activities." To the bathtub for swim time, and beyond! ?

I'm giving myself a break from thinking my house has to look "picture perfect" at all times. Sometimes it will, but many times it won't. We live here. It's a busy, family life in motion. Our house is not always going to look like Joanna Gaines *just* stapled some shiplap up and sprinkled her Fixer Upper fairy dust everywhere. Sometimes there will be jelly stains on the couch and school forms on the floor and that's real life.

I'm giving myself a break from thinking I would look SO AWESOME if I just lost the rest of the baby weight—because lots of people mistake me for a teenager (I'm 32, I think...#MomBrain) and that's enough of a compliment for now.

I'm giving myself a break from doing ALL THE THINGS, and sending more tasks to my husband to manage during his business trips. School forms can be filled out remotely, doctor's appointments can be scheduled, soccer clubs can be joined—even while he travels. Involved dads, FTW!

I'm giving myself a break from not taking a break, and committed to a getaway with my work partner, a winter vacation with my sister, and an anniversary trip with my husband. ✈️

I'm giving myself a break from not being enough. While I still have lots of #GOALS, I'm focusing less on the feeling of inadequacy, and more on the on tiny steps I'll take to get there.

Motherhood is the one all-consuming, all-amazing, all-exhausting journey—and I'm the only person who can really control how I handle it.

I want to be a role model to my kids—that mommy loves them and is committed to her work—and she needs time for herself too. I need a break before I break and I know that's good for my kids too.



14 toys that will keep your kids entertained inside *and* outside

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With fall 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 outside-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.

Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden 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.

$120

Detective set

Plan Toys detective 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.

$40

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.

$179

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

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

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

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Tips parents need to know about poor air quality and caring for kids with asthma

There are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

When wildfires struck the West Coast in September 2020, there was a lot for parents to worry about. For parents of children with asthma, though, the danger could be even greater. "There are more than 400 toxins that are present in wildfire smoke. That can activate the immune system in ways that aren't helpful by both causing an inflammatory response and distracting the immune system from fighting infection," says Amy Oro, MD, a pediatrician at Stanford Children's Health. "When smoke enters into the lungs, it causes irritation and muscle spasms of the smooth muscle that is around the small breathing tubes in the lungs. This can lead to difficulty with breathing and wheezing. It's really difficult on the lungs."

With the added concern of COVID-19 and the effect it can have on breathing, many parents feel unsure about how to keep their children protected. The good news is that there are steps parents can take to keep their children as healthy as possible.

Here are tips parents need to know about how to deal with poor air quality when your child has asthma.

Minimize smoke exposure.

Especially when the air quality index reaches dangerous levels, it's best to stay indoors as much as possible. You can find out your area's AQI at AirNow.gov. An under 50 rating is the safest, but between 100-150 is considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, such as children with asthma. "If you're being told to stay indoors, listen. If you can, keep the windows and doors closed," Oro says.

Do your best to filter the air.

According to Oro, a HEPA filter is your best bet to effectively clean pollutants from the air. Many homes are equipped with a built-in HEPA filter in their air conditioning systems, but you can also get a canister filter. Oro says her family (her husband and children all suffer from asthma) also made use of a hack from the New York Times and built their own filter by duct taping a HEPA furnace filter to the front of a box fan. "It was pretty disgusting what we accumulated in the first 20 hours in our fan," she says.

Avoid letting your child play outside or overly exert themselves in open air.

"Unfortunately, cloth masks don't do very much [to protect you from the smoke pollution]," Oro says. "You really need an N95 mask, and most of those have been allocated toward essential workers." To keep at-risk children safer, Oro recommends avoiding brisk exercise outdoors. Instead, set up an indoor obstacle course or challenge your family to jumping jacks periodically to keep everyone moving safely.

Know the difference between smoke exposure and COVID-19.

"COVID-19 can have a lot of the same symptoms—dry cough, sore throat, shortness of breath and chest pain could overlap. But what COVID and other viruses generally cause are fever, chills, vomiting, diarrhea and body aches. Those would tell you it's not just smoke exposure," Oro says. When a child has been exposed to smoke, they often complain of a "scrape" in their throat, burning eyes, cough, shortness of breath, chest pain or wheezing. If the child has asthma, parents should watch for a flare of symptoms, such as coughing, wheezing or a tight sensation in their chest.

Unfortunately, not much is known about long-term exposure to wildfire smoke on a healthy or compromised immune system, but elevated levels of air pollution have been associated with increased COVID-19 rates. That's because whenever there's an issue with your immune system, it distracts your immune system from fighting infections and you have a harder time fighting off viruses. Limiting your exposure to wildfire smoke is your best bet to keep immune systems strong.

Have a plan in place if you think your child is suffering from smoke exposure.

Whatever type of medication your child takes for asthma, make sure you have it on-hand and that your child is keeping up with regular doses. Contact your child's pediatrician, especially if your area has a hazardous air quality—they may want to adjust your child's medication schedule or dosage to prevent an attack. Oro also recommends that, if your child has asthma, it might be helpful to have a stethoscope or even a pulse oximeter at home to help diagnose issues with your pediatrician through telehealth.

Most importantly, don't panic.

In some cases, social distancing and distance learning due to COVID may be helping to keep sensitive groups like children with asthma safer. Oro says wildfires in past years have generally resulted in more ER visits for children, but the most recent fires haven't seen the same results. "A lot of what we've seen is that the smoke really adversely affects adults, especially older adults over 65," Oro says. "Children tend to be really resilient."

This article was sponsored by Stanford Children's Health. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Mama, all I see is you

A love letter from your baby.

Mama,

I can't see past you right now, I'm so small and everything's a little blurry.

All I see is you.

When you feel alone, like the walls are closing in, remember I'm here too. I know your world has changed and the days feel a little lonely. But they aren't lonely for me.

You are my everything.

When you feel like you don't know what you're doing, you're making it look easy to me. Even though we're still getting to know each other, you know me better than anyone.

I trust you.

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