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Motherhood transformed my marriage

Why was new parenthood so hard on me and my husband? Because we just didn’t know what we were doing.

Motherhood transformed my marriage

I reflected on how much I missed “Us” (me and my husband) in this article, just a few weeks after our daughter was born. It was a whirlwind of change that knocked the wind right out of me.


I missed my pre-baby life and I was racked with guilt because of it.

It’s taken over a year, but I’m finally able to put some definition around why that season felt so. . .clunky. And it comes down to this: We didn’t feel like a family yet.

Before Ella, we were a couple. A group of friends may or may not have given us the nickname “Niclicia” (Nick + Alicia). Running errands felt more like a fun outing with my husband. We loved brunch on the weekends and spontaneous weekend trips to nearby destinations. And we loved dreaming together about the future—where we would live, what we would do … and of course, how many kids we would have.

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In the time immediately following Ella’s birth, we no longer felt like a couple—it was more like two adults playing some sort of tag-team game of caring for our precious baby and helping the other one stay sane and/or get some sleep.

It felt like a 24/7 job with no real breaks.

In my rawest moments, I felt threatened that our marriage would dissolve into an endless list of things to do, chores to complete, bills to pay. Bye-bye, spontaneous life of adventure and fun. See you later, weekend brunch. Bye-bye, best friend and love of my life. See you when we retire.

My breaking point came on a Saturday morning when I said goodbye to my husband as he left for the grocery store. That was something we did together before a baby. Now it was one more thing among many things that completely changed. It became a chore. At the time, we felt like couldn’t bring our newborn outside of our home because she was so very tiny.

But looking back, I think the reason we struggled was much bigger and simpler than that: We just didn’t know what we were doing.

And we were scared to death we would mess it up.

Any veteran parent will recognize that we were in the throes of the 4th-trimester. Baby blues, mama’s recovery, and zero sleep for everyone makes your heart raw and vulnerable at depths you didn’t know were possible. Your emotions run wild and you find yourself ugly crying for things as strange as your mother-in-law showing your son the basement for the first time and you didn’t get to (true story of a friend of mine).

My body had adapted and grown and shaped itself to forming my daughter while my husband cheered me on. Now, it was both of us adapting and growing and being shaped into parents. It’s a shaping of the soul and one that stretches you to the brink of yourself, only for you to find more strength than you ever thought you had. It’s a sweet and difficult transformation.

And make no mistake—it is a transformation. Before I became a mother, I thought it just happened like a light switch. Poof, hello mama! Poof, hello daddy! In retrospect, it seems laughable—how can the deep and holy calling of parenthood happen with the flick of a switch? How can a marriage of two souls shift to become the foundation for a new life in an instant? Like so many beautiful things in life, these things can only happen over time. With lots of mistakes and learning, tears and laughter.

And the component I was missing the most when this crazy journey began: grace and patience with my husband and myself.

Fast forward to this past fall: my newborn baby girl has evolved into a little toddler, with a handful of teeth and an ever-emerging personality. My husband and I are slowly bringing back date nights. We are watching the Mommy and Daddy emerge within the other, which brings a new depth of love and appreciation to our marriage.

And we've learned that there's no fight worth having when the baby wakes up at 1am screaming—each of us (baby and parents) are monsters in the wee hours in the morning.

My husband and I just power through with silent determination, knowing we'll all wake up human in the morning.

The other Saturday, we woke up early (because toddlers don’t know how to sleep in) and made coffee. We let Ella stay in her pajamas and play on the floor while we piled onto the couch, chatting about the week that was. Then we stuck her in the stroller and walked 2 blocks to the grocery store. Ella coo’d and watched us as we picked out produce, bread, and eggs. We packed up our groceries in the stroller and headed back home. She insisted on helping carry the load, so she held onto one of her new food packets.

It was an autumn morning and there was a breeze that kicked up the golden leaves that blanketed the sidewalk. We were going in and out of chatting with each other while baby-talking to Ella when my husband paused, looked at me with a smile, and said, “Can you believe it? This is our family. This is our life."

This is the New Us.

Ella belongs to us, we belong to her. We are a family.

And I write this knowing that this family thing is an ever-evolving process. We will evolve again with each milestone, and we will remold ourselves when another little one comes along.

The greatest victory in it all was learning that there is no finish line, no way to check all the boxes that I've “made it” in motherhood. My mom always says “As soon as you figure something out about your baby, they change on you.” That’s still true—but we’ve gotten better at adapting. Or at least, not being as surprised when the changes come along.

It isn't a light switch, it's a potter’s wheel.

One that will shape what we know as Us again and again and again.


Photo credit: Sri & Jana Photograpy in Chicago.

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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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So, what's new this week?

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We could not be more excited to bring the magic of Meri Meri to the Motherly Shop. For over 30 years, their playful line of party products, decorations, children's toys and stationery have brought magic to celebrations and spaces all over the world. Staring as a kitchen table endeavor with some scissors, pens and glitter in Los Angeles in 1985, Meri Meri (founder Meredithe Stuart-Smith's childhood nickname) has evolved from a little network of mamas working from home to a team of 200 dreaming up beautiful, well-crafted products that make any day feel special.

We've stocked The Motherly Shop with everything from Halloween must-haves to instant-heirloom gifts kiddos will adore. Whether you're throwing a party or just trying to make the everyday feel a little more special, we've got you covered.

Not sure where to start? Here's what we're adding to our cart:

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