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If you asked my 12-year-old self where I'd live when I grew up, I'd say without hesitation: "Long Island. Duh." I was going to live where I grew up, by my family and friends and it would all be great. That was my home.

Then when it came time to decide on where to go for college, I chose the one my older sister went to which was five hours away from Long Island in Massachusetts. Then I met my husband there. Then we decided it made sense to live there after we graduated. Then Massachusetts slowly became my new home.

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I miss living near my parents, one of my other sisters and her family and my childhood best friends, but I also got a lot of beautiful gifts out of moving. One of the best ones? Raising my three children near my older sister who has three children of her own—all similar ages.

We live about seven minutes away from one another—she actually used to live around the block from me and I was close to devastated when she added six more minutes onto my commute to her house. (How dare she!)

I have rushed over to her in record time when her son had an accident and she needed my help. She has rushed over here when I've locked myself (and my kids) out of our house. I have filled her freezer with crock pot meals when she was expecting her third baby. She has stopped by with surprise coffees to check in on me on rough days.

We've gone to yoga classes together and play places with the kids when we've all needed to get out of the house. We've met at the park to power through the afternoon together and we've braved the movie theater multiple times with all six kids (typically with the help of our other sister who lives in the area, thank goodness!). We've walked into town with our broods for doughnuts at the local coffee shop and we've signed our kids up for the same music classes and swim classes and gingerbread house making classes...

My sister is a lactation counselor and was there for me tremendously in those first few weeks of trying to figure out how to breastfeed. She was so calm and patient and her knowledge was invaluable. In fact, she was actually at two out of three of my births (my second baby came quickly and my sister was home with her own newborn—so I'll excuse it) acting, basically, as my doula. She was the maid of honor at my wedding, and she was my first best friend. There's nothing she hasn't been there for.

Her mother-in-law who lives nearby has become another grandma to my children. My kids are obsessed with my brother-in-law and scream "UNCLE MATT! UNCLE MATT!" when they see him. My sister's sister-in-law (you following?) has become like an aunt to my kiddos and her daughter, like another cousin. We're beyond lucky to be so involved in my sister's life, but her extended family has become ours too, and that's another gift I'm so grateful for.

I'm at the point where I don't think I could do this without her and her husband and their kids. Watching my kids play with her kids—and the bond they share—makes me so proud. They fight and argue like siblings, but they also light up when they see each other and laugh so hard whenever they're together. My youngest is the baby of the cousin crew in Massachusetts and they treat her like a queen. They protect her, coddle her and love on her like nothing else. It's the sweetest.

I have to say—I definitely wasn't thinking about breastfeeding babies and/or the sheer frustration of getting locked out of my house with three kids in the car when I was a 23-year-old trying to find a cool, affordable apartment in the area. So moving near my sister in order to raise our kiddos together was not really on my mind when I decided to move—but I'm glad it's something that I benefit from now because of a decision I made then.

Being deep in the trenches of motherhood with someone who knows me so well has been a privilege. I remember days as a new mom where I'd drive over just so that I could sit there and cry with someone. That made me feel less alone during days with my newborn which often felt very lonely. She always knew (and still knows!) what to say to make me feel better.

I know this isn't the case for everyone. I know I am lucky. Having family nearby while raising children is a blessing—and one I don't take lightly.

To my sister—we may not have known what our motherhood journey would look like when we were younger, but I'm so glad this is how it has turned out.

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Motherhood is a practice in learning, growing and loving more than you ever thought possible. Even as a "veteran" mama of four young sons and one newly adopted teenager, Jalyssa Richardson enthusiastically adapts to whatever any given day has in store—a skill she says she's refined through the years.

Here's what just one day in her life looks like:


Jalyssa says she learned to embrace agility throughout her motherhood journey. Here's more from this incredible mama of five boys.

What is the most challenging part of your day as a mom of five?

Time management! I want to meet each of the boys' individual needs—plus show up for myself—but I often feel like someone gets overlooked.

What's the best part of being a mom of five?

The little moments of love. The hugs, the kisses, the cuddles, the smiles... they all serve as little reminders that I am blessed and I'm doing okay.

Are there misconceptions about raising boys?

There are so many misconceptions about raising boys. I think the biggest one is that boys don't have many emotions and they're just so active all the time. My boys display many emotions and they also love to be sweet and cuddly a lot of the time.

What do you think would surprise people the most about being a mom of five?

How much I enjoy it. I never knew I wanted to be a mom until I was pregnant with my first. My desire only grew and the numbers did! I am surprised with every single baby as my capacity to love and nurture grows. It's incredible.

How do you create balance and make time for yourself?

Balance for me looks like intentional planning and scheduling because I never want my boys to feel like they aren't my first priority, but it is extremely difficult. What I try to do is not fit it all into one day. I have work days because motherhood is my first priority. I fit in segments of self-care after the kids' bedtime so I don't grow weary.

What's the biggest lesson you have learned from motherhood?

I have learned that sacrifice is actually beautiful. I was terrified of the selflessness motherhood would require, but I've grown so much through the sacrifice. There is nothing better than living for something bigger than myself.

When did you first feel like a mom? How has your motherhood evolved?

I first felt like a mom when I was pregnant with my first son and I intentionally chose to change my eating habits so my body could be strong and healthy for him. I didn't have to think twice—I just did what I thought would be best for him. That decision being so effortless made me realize I was made for motherhood.

My perspective has changed with each baby as I've realized motherhood doesn't have to be one-size-fits-all. With my first son, I was a by-the-book mama and it was so stressful. With each baby, I have felt more freedom and it has made motherhood so much more beautiful. I have evolved into the mother that they need, I am perfect for these boys.

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. Late Wednesday night news broke that Rivera was missing and presumed drowned after her 4-year-old son, Josey, was found floating alone on a rented boat on Lake Piru in Ventura County, California.

According to the Los Angeles Times, Ventura County Sheriff's Department Capt. Eric Buschow said the mother and her preschooler were swimming near the boat Wednesday afternoon. Josey got back into the rented boat after the swim but his mother did not. The preschooler was later found by other boaters, sleeping alone in the boat. Rescuers were able to figure out who he was because Rivera's wallet and identification were on the boat.

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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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