You could say that Natalie Ebel had experience taking care of children long before she became pregnant. As the Chief Marketing Officer of Pencils of Promise, Natalie has worked tirelessly to empower children all over the world by providing education to primary school students in developing countries like Guana, Guatemala and Laos. Pencils of Promise has already build nearly 400 schools, serving close to 70,000 students.

And yet, Natalie believes that becoming a parent and being present for her daughter could be much more challenging. After all, raising children comes with the great responsibility of helping them to become genuinely good people.


So it’s no surprise that her work has made an impact as she preps to welcome her baby girl. Not only has the Pencils of Promise team swarmed Natalie to help her prepare for her new child, taking photos, getting her ready for maternity leave, and even designing custom art for her nursery. But they’ve also been her moral compass, and with their work demonstrated the values she hopes to instill in her own daughter.

Here are 3 things about philanthropic life that are also important to keep in mind when it comes to parenting.

1. You can give back in so many ways. It doesn’t have to be money. Resources, connections, time, talents and abilities--what you have to offer can make a huge impact on those around you, and a lot can grow from a seemingly small start. Much like Pencils of Promise, which grew from a tiny seed into a global movement, the power of accumulated efforts can’t be underestimated.

2. Education is critical. There are 250 million children in the world who can’t read or write, and their work has been to open doors for them by improving literacy. For young women in particular, being able to read and write helps to close the gender gap, empowering them to make life choices and reach the goals they set for themselves. “Many drop out of school when they start their periods because they don’t understand their cycle,” Natalie said. Giving them these skills is in a large way, giving them an understanding of who they are in the world.

3. Nothing replaces a human connection. In a world where millennial moms have a hard time disconnecting from their phones and their social media feeds, she thinks one of the most important things she can do for her daughter is teach her to be in the moment. So she hopes to set a good example by leaving her phone behind and being truly present for her. “The kids in the schools we build don’t have smartphones and all that,” she noticed. “But they have a genuine interest, playfulness, and curiosity. Nothing replaces a human connection”


When I was expecting my first child, I wanted to know everything that could possibly be in store for his first year.

I quizzed my own mom and the friends who ventured into motherhood before I did. I absorbed parenting books and articles like a sponge. I signed up for classes on childbirth, breastfeeding and even baby-led weaning. My philosophy? The more I knew, the better.

Yet, despite my best efforts, I didn't know it all. Not by a long shot. Instead, my firstborn, my husband and I had to figure it out together—day by day, challenge by challenge, triumph by triumph.


The funny thing is that although I wanted to know it all, the surprises—those moments that were unique to us—were what made that first year so beautiful.

Of course, my research provided a helpful outline as I graduated from never having changed a diaper to conquering the newborn haze, my return to work, the milestones and the challenges. But while I did need much of that tactical knowledge, I also learned the value of following my baby's lead and trusting my gut.

I realized the importance of advice from fellow mamas, too. I vividly remember a conversation with a friend who had her first child shortly before I welcomed mine. My friend, who had already returned to work after maternity leave, encouraged me to be patient when introducing a bottle and to help my son get comfortable with taking that bottle from someone else.

Yes, from a logistical standpoint, that's great advice for any working mama. But I also took an incredibly important point from this conversation: This was less about the act of bottle-feeding itself, and more about what it represented for my peace of mind when I was away from my son.

This fellow mama encouraged me to honor my emotions and give myself permission to do what was best for my family—and that really set the tone for my whole approach to parenting. Because honestly, that was just the first of many big transitions during that first year, and each of them came with their own set of mixed emotions.

I felt proud and also strangely nostalgic as my baby seamlessly graduated to a sippy bottle.

I felt my baby's teething pain along with him and also felt confident that we could get through it with the right tools.

I felt relieved as my baby learned to self-soothe by finding his own pacifier and also sad to realize how quickly he was becoming his own person.

As I look back on everything now, some four years and two more kids later, I can't remember the exact day my son crawled, the project I tackled on my first day back at work, or even what his first word was. (It's written somewhere in a baby book!)

But I do remember how I felt with each milestone: the joy, the overwhelming love, the anxiety, the exhaustion and the sense of wonder. That truly was the greatest gift of the first year… and nothing could have prepared me for all those feelings.

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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As mamas we want our babies to be safe, and that's what makes what happened to Glee actress Naya Rivera and her 4-year-old son Josey so heartbreaking.

On July 13, the Ventura County Sheriff's Department announced the 33-year-old mother's body was found at Lake Piru, five days after her son was found floating alone on a rented boat. According to Ventura County Sheriff Bill Ayub, Rivera's last action was to save her son.

"We know from speaking with her son that he and Naya swam in the lake together at some point in her journey. It was at that time that her son described being helped into the boat by Naya, who boosted him onto the deck from behind. He told investigators that he looked back and saw her disappear under the surface of the water," Ayub explained, adding that Rivera's son was wearing his life vest, but the adult life vest was left on the unanchored boat.


Ayub says exactly what caused the drowning is still speculation but investigators believe the boat started drifting and that Rivera "mustered enough energy to get her son back onto the boat but not enough to save herself."

Our hearts are breaking for Josey and his dad right now. So much is unknown about what happened on Lake Piru but one thing is crystal clear: Naya Rivera has always loved her son with all her heart.

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