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For most of my life, living near family was never a priority. We moved around a lot when I was a kid so I grew up less sentimental about childhood homes and without a strong need to live near relatives. Instead, I followed my career across the country from my parents, and never really felt too much of a strain to keep in touch.

That all changed when I became pregnant the first time.

Suddenly, I felt an innate desire to talk to my mom almost every day. I wanted to share every detail of my pregnancy with someone who could not only relate, but also cared about each baby kick or hour of heartburn as much as I did.

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When my daughter was born, the pull of the village grew even stronger. Because—true talk? Raising a baby is hard, but doing so without family support is even harder. I can't help but feel that my friends who have done it with grandparents nearby may have had a slightly easier go of things.

Raising a baby without grandparents nearby is hard because you have less help. The practicality of free babysitting aside, finding any kind of babysitting can be a challenge when you don't have family to lean on. Leaving my baby with a stranger rattles my nerves. And even close friends aren't always so readily available to drop everything to spend an hour with my daughters. I feel a twinge of jealousy when my mom friends casually mention leaving their children with their parents so they can run errands, work with more ease or simply take a nap.

Raising a baby without grandparents nearby is hard because you have less emotional support. Don't get me wrong—my small village of friends is an incredible support system for me. But there's just something about the people who have known you your whole life—who know that you had the same sassy streak as your toddler when you were her age, or who can pull out a baby photo showing that you had the same cowlick your infant now flaunts. They can give you perspective on the bad phases while reveling in the good ones alongside you. They know your whole history and they have a hand in helping you raise your future.

Raising a baby without grandparents nearby is hard because there's not as much time to focus on my marriage. My husband and I have a date night probably once every other month—and it's always when one set of grandparents is visiting.

As our girls get older, I like to think we'll make it more of a priority, but for now, I find myself hesitant to spend extra money on a sitter or impose on friends to sit with the girls for an evening. Even though I know they probably wouldn't mind, it's hard to coordinate schedules and I feel emotionally burdened asking for help all the time. With grandparents, the extra time with their grandchildren never seems like a burden, and I would be lying if I said I didn't wish we had that time more often.

For now, it doesn't look like we'll ever live close to either set of grandparents. But while it can definitely be a challenge, I also know it makes their visits so much sweeter. My toddler waits at the window all morning when she knows they're coming to stay with us, and it fills my heart watching her play with them from the moment she gets up until she goes to bed (though the grandparents are probably exhausted!).

So we do our best to keep grandparents close in mind, having daily FaceTime calls and sharing photos on social media. And the grandparents do their part, too, visiting every other month or so to be here as much as they can.

I've also learned the importance of embracing the village we do have close by―my girls are lucky enough to have a few honorary "aunties" and "uncles" who do their best to help out when I need an extra hand or two. Living far from grandparents isn't always easy, but it does come with one very important positive: It makes us appreciate our time together even more.

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Lace up your shoes: A baby on the move means a mama on the move!

Scooting, rolling, crawling—there is no denying that their increasing mobility makes your life a bit busier.

Gone are the days when your baby was content to hang out in one place to observe. And, really, who can blame them? With so much to discover, your curious little one's cognitive skills are booming along with their fine motor skills.

It's natural to feel as though everything revolves around your baby's schedule, wants and needs right now. But it's time for you to think of yourself, mama! Now is the perfect time to treat yourself to something that'll help you adjust to mom life. Maybe that's a cozy new outfit (perfect for Sunday morning snuggles), a product that streamlines your beauty routine, or something that'll motivate you to get back to regular workouts.

As you celebrate the 8-month mark, here are a few helpful items to toss in your shopping cart:

For a little jam session: Bright Starts safari beats

Sitting unassisted offers your baby an exciting new view of the world! Keep them encouraged as they build their sitting endurance with a toy that also introduces colors, musical sounds and more.

$9.99

For safe exploring: Skip Hop playpen

Skip Hop playpen

When your baby constantly wants to play with mama, it can be nice to give yourself a breather. A spacious playpen is a lifesaver when you need to keep them in your sights while crossing some items off your to-do list.

$159.99

Indestructible dinnerware: Cloud Island plate

cloud island

As your little one graduates from purees to more traditional dinner time fare, it's a nice time to introduce plates, bowls and cups—just not your grandma's breakable dish set.

$5.99

Follow the leader: Skip Hop crawl toy

skip hop

It's a fact that remains true throughout life: Getting moving is easier with proper motivation. If your baby is this close to crawling, give them a bit of extra encouragement with a toy that begs to be chased around the room.

$24.99

For keeping stairs off-limits: Toddleroo safety gate

Having a baby in the house certainly makes you look at things differently, like those stairs that now feel incredibly hazardous. On the flip side, since permitted people (like you!) will want to access the stairs regularly, it's helpful to have a gate that's easy to open with one hand.

$24.99

For looking cute in your sleep: Stars Above short pajama set

Stars above

If you've spent the past few months sleeping in milk-stained pajamas, you are due for an upgrade, mama. We're willing to bet that a special someone in your life will approve of this cute set, too.

$21.99

For supporting your ladies: Auden full-coverage t-shirt bra

t-shirt bra

Let's just call it like it is: Your breasts have been on quite a rollercoaster ever since that pregnancy test was positive. Whether you are nursing less frequently or exclusively bottle feeding now, you owe it to yourself to try out some bras that actually fit.

$14.99

To cover up household odors: Project 62 3-wick candle

Project 62 candle

One of the quickest, best ways to refresh a space? A candle with your favorite scents. Take a moment to take a deep breath in and exhale any tension—ahh.

$12.99

If you have to skip that shower: Living Proof dry shampoo

living proof

If a day of chasing after your baby means you have to pick between collapsing on the couch or taking a shower, just know we have zero judgment for the camp that goes with dry shampoo.

$23.99

For the nap time hustle: Merrithew Soft Dumbbells

soft dumbbells

Running after and picking up your baby is a workout all on its own. But if you also like a little dedicated sweat time for your mental and physical health, a basic set of hand weights is a simple (yet super effective) way to ensure you can squeeze in those at-home workouts.

$18.19

This article was sponsored by Target. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.


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