To my child-free friends—I might have to say ‘no,’ but please still invite me

There's been the occasional photo on social media of friends at a concert that I wasn't invited to or a passing mention of a dinner that I hadn't gotten the memo on. I've missed mani-pedi dates and music festivals and destination bachelorette parties alike.

But don't worry—I've had my own parties at home. Sad little pity parties that usually only my husband is invited to.

"I know I probably couldn't have gone. But I do wish I were invited." I've said that line to him a few good times. And he's felt it in young fatherhood, too.

We started having babies when we were 27 and a lot of our friends were in a totally different (not thinking of children yet) stage than us. And we've missed out on some friend stuff. Invitations dwindled. Memories were made without us.

It doesn't feel good, but I do understand.

I'm one of the only moms in my circle of friends. I have three kids—they're all little. I've been pregnant or at home nursing a newborn or dealing with toddler bedtimes or sick kiddos who need me, for five years.

Trying to schedule something with me sometimes looks like I might be in charge of a very powerful government department. But really, it's mostly because I'm in charge of dirty diapers and big feelings from tiny humans. And preschool drop-offs and doctor's appointments and cleaning up toys and writing essays during nap time and refilling Amazon orders and making 200 meals a day. (No, I'm not a chef. I'm a mom to an almost 5-year-old, 3-year-old and 15-month-old.)

But I don't say this for sympathy. This is the life I've chosen. The life I want. The life my husband and I have dreamed about. I love it.

I say this for the invite. I want to be included. But I don't want a pity invite. I want you to want to invite me. Because I'm still me underneath all this motherhood. I'm still the girl who loves belting every word to 'Shoop' at the top of my lungs and reminiscing on the dumb things we did in college. I still love watching movies and getting my nails done and well, taking a break and getting out of the house once in a while.

I need to. And I need you.

Even though my dance parties may be fueled by the Sing soundtrack instead of Snoop Dogg and Pharrell, I can still drop it like it's hot (if we're talking about the cookie sheet with chicken nuggets on it, because dang my oven mitt is really wearing thin these days! *Mentally adds new oven mitt to my Amazon cart*). And even though my late nights look like nursing a baby in the wee hours of the morning or changing sheets because of an accident (not mine, my kids), I can still hang. I mean, I just basically pulled an all-nighter last week because none of my children wanted to sleep—I can make it a few hours past bedtime. That's what caffeine is for!

I'm still funny, guys—even though sometimes my jokes may involve breastmilk or baby poop. And I'm still relevant—I scroll Instagram enough to know the 4-1-1 on celebrities and news. (I just said 4-1-1. Is my motherhood showing?)

I'm still up for an adventure—I have changed a blowout diaper in a random parking lot on the passenger side seat with only TWO WIPES left and size 3T pants for a non-size 3T person. I'm game for anything!

So if you have to wait for me to get the baby to sleep or for my husband to get home to take over with the kids—please be patient with me. And if you have to read my texts that say, "Ugh! I can't make to tonight, everyone is puking," please still text over my invite.

And if I've said "Sorry, I can't make it!" the last five times—please don't think I didn't want to make it all five of those times.

I did. But duty called. And, in this season of life, my family needs a lot from me and I'm okay with that. I expect it and I'm proud of my role of mother and wife. The to-do lists and the sleepy snuggles make my life feel so full these days. But even in the fullness of my life, there will always, always be space for you.

So, send that invite, girl. I'll try my best to get there. And if I can't be there, know that I always am in spirit. 💜

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My village lives far away—but my Target baby registry helped them support me from afar

Virtual support was the next best thing to in-person hugs

They say you shouldn't make too many major life transitions at once. But when I was becoming a mama for the first time nearly five years ago, my husband and I also moved to a new town where we didn't know a soul, bought our first house and changed jobs.

To put it mildly, we didn't heed that advice. Luckily, our family and friends still made it feel like such a magical time for us by supporting our every move (literal and otherwise) from afar. They showered us with love through a virtual baby shower (expectant parents nowadays can relate!) featuring the unwrapping of gifts they were able to ship straight to me from my Target registry.

Here's one piece of advice I did take: I registered at Target so I could take advantage of the retailer's benefits for registrants, which include a welcome kit valued over $100, a universal registry function and more. Fast-forward a few years and Target has made the registration perks even better for expectant parents: As of August 2020, they've added a Year of Exclusive Deals, which gives users who also sign up for Target Circle a full year of savings after baby is born on all those new mama essentials, from formula to diapers and beyond.

Honestly, even without the significant perks of a free welcome kit with more than $100 in coupons, additional 15% off coupons to complete the registry and a full year of free returns, registering at Target wasn't a hard sell for me: Even though the experience of shopping for baby items was new, shopping with Target felt like returning home to me… and the comfort of that was such a gift.

And of course, Target's registry plays a vital role right now, as expectant parents everywhere are being forced to cancel in-person baby showers and navigate early parenthood without the help of a hands-on village. A registry like this represents a safe way for communities to come through for new parents. If you're anything like me (or any of the other mamas here at Motherly), you certainly have emotional ties and fond memories associated with Target.

What to register for at Target was also an easy talking point as I began to connect with moms in my new community. I will always remember going on a registry-building spree with my next door neighbor, who had young children of her own. As we walked the aisles of Target back in 2015, she suggested items to add… and we laid the foundation for what has since become one of my most cherished friendships.

Even as I made connections in my new hometown, I was nervous that expecting my first baby wouldn't feel as special as if I were near family and friends. But my loved ones exceeded all expectations by adding the most thoughtful notes to gifts. They hosted a beautiful virtual baby shower and even encouraged me to keep the registry going after my baby made his debut and new needs arose.

In the years since, "community" has taken on a wonderfully complex new meaning for me… and, in these times of social distancing, for the rest of the world. I've come to cherish my newfound friends in our local community alongside those long-time friends who are scattered around the county and my virtual mama friends.

Now, as my friends' families grow, I'm so grateful that I can show them the same love and support I felt during my first pregnancy. I sing the praises of Target's baby registry—especially in light of the pandemic, since I know mamas can do everything from a distance thanks to Target's website and the added benefit of getting trusted reviews and helpful registry checklists.

And now that I'm on the gift-buying side of the equation, I've found new joy in picking thoughtful gifts for my friends. (Because goodness knows Target has something for everyone!)

For my friend who is a fellow runner, I teamed up with a few others to give the jogging stroller she had on her registry.

For my friend who is a bookworm, I helped her start her baby's library with a few books that are also well-loved in our home.

For other friends, I've bundled together complete "sets" with everything they need for bathing or feeding their children.

I know from my own experience that, yes, the registry purchases are so appreciated, but the thoughtfulness and the support they represent means even more. Because although my village may have been distant, the support they showed me was the next best thing to in-person hugs.

Start your own Target Baby Registry here to experience a Year of Benefits including a Year of Exclusive Deals through Target Circle to enjoy for a full year following your baby's arrival, a year of free returns, two 15% off completion coupons and a free welcome kit ($100 value).

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

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on 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 supporting Motherly and mamas.

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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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