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Finding the Right Shade of Grey

5 post-baby work options you might not have thought of.

Finding the Right Shade of Grey

It’s often the second or third question on any early awkward mommy date: “So, are you going back?” i.e.: Are you worth investing in? Or are you going to disappear the second that the clock strikes 12 weeks?

That question doesn’t have to be as intimidatingly black and white as it may seem--mommies are, after all, officially recognized as the world’s most resourceful species. There are many work gradients in between “all” (head back to work and relish the quiet at your desk--there’s a lot to be said for that), and “nothing” (100% mommy all the time, don’t miss a smile…or a tantrum--which there’s a lot to be said for too.)

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Be creative and inventive. A few of the modern evolutions of working mommy life might not be so readily apparent but are absolutely worth pursuing. Here are five.

Your first line of defense:

1) Extend your maternity leave. Postpone reality--and any major decision-making--past 12 weeks. The world looks very different at four or five months than it does at three months. (For one thing, you may actually be getting some sleep.)

How to plan: Ask for the most time possible upfront. A mother who calls to ask to return a few weeks early starts off post-baby work life on a much better foot than one who calls begging for more time at the last moment. Once you’ve verified your company’s official maternity leave policy, explore other options. Can you extend it with sick, personal or vacation days? If it’s financially feasible on your end, is unpaid leave an option? Plan for the most, and cut back later.

2) Ease back in. Many mothers find the return to work less daunting if they can re-enter at least somewhat gradually. At a minimum, try to come back on a Wednesday or Thursday so that the weekend with your baby doesn’t feel quite so far away. Or arrange to work two or three days a week for the last month of your maternity leave.

How to plan: Schedule your return date accordingly, and talk to HR or your boss about a part-time ramp-up period (either at a decreased percentage of pay or by spreading out your remaining days of maternity leave).

3) Find flexibility at your current job. This is the easiest place to seek a flexible arrangement of some sort. You have goodwill and knowledge built up, and the cost of replacing you is much higher than the cost of letting you work an 80% schedule or at home on Tuesdays. In other words, you’re Beyoncé and the rose-scented candles in your dressing room are yours for the asking.

How to plan: No one will know you want those roses if you don’t ask. Most mothers who have been through it recommend asking during your maternity leave, once you have a sense of what you want, but before you return to work. Others highlight making sure that you proactively schedule a trial period or regular check-ins with your boss from the get-go to ensure that the arrangement is working on both sides.

Other options:

4) Look for a new job with an element of flexibility. You work at Bank of Overachievers with long hours and lots of face time, and you just don’t see the flexibility thing happening. The stories of Fridays from home and job-sharing from your friends at Bank of Highly Rational People are just too tempting. It’s time to find something else that suits you a bit more now that you’re a mom.

How to plan: Be wary of the grass being greener on the other side. Your friends may only have those great arrangements because of the goodwill that they built up, and you will be putting in plenty of face time at any new place at the start, regardless of the culture. Head back to your old job and give the whole thing a bit of rational thought from your desk. If it still seems to make sense, MomCorps or MayBrooks can be great resources--these companies help connect moms with jobs that have some flexibility. It’s much easier to interview for something that’s clearly understood to be flexible upfront than it is to ask for flexibility when you’re accepting a job offer.

5) Freelance, consult or take on project work. This is the holy grail for many mothers. Work when you want to. Make it to that morning music class, and head downtown for a meeting in the afternoon. Work at night after bedtime. Don’t accept any projects in August so you can lie on the beach with your baby and rub Butt Paste on sandy diaper rashes. Stay just engaged enough in the workforce that fully on-ramping when Tinkerbell heads off to kindergarten isn’t an issue. There are some downsides, however, that any mother excited to whip out her MacBook at the local Starbucks should be well aware of. Half of the job of any freelancer is looking for the next job. This becomes less of an issue over time as you develop a stream of recurring clients, but networking to find clients early on is time-consuming, and often not at the best times for a new mom (industry happy hours at 5pm anyone?).

How to plan: Again, the devil you know--would your old company be interested in using you in a project-based or consulting capacity? If you’ve been in a client service business, is there an opportunity to work directly for some former clients? (And--a shameless plug--consider Prokanga, which does the time-consuming networking for you, and helps connect qualified mothers with project work.)

The most important thing to remember: there is no right answer. ‘Leaning in’ isn’t for everyone…and neither is ‘reclining’. Explore a few options, and find what works for you. Then tune out the peanut gallery.

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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.

$30

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

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.

$40

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.

$120

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

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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 Comfortsforbaby.com 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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