A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

If you had asked me what I expected motherhood to be like, I would probably have said, "So, so different from how it turned out!" Looking at my life pre- and post-baby is often like comparing two entirely different lives. I'm in both, but wholly changed.

If I stopped to imagine motherhood prior to having babies, I might have pictured something like what I often see on my Pinterest boards or in my Instagram feeds: beautiful, well-behaved babies; an organized home stocked with educational toys; and me in the middle, juggling all the balls and never letting so much as one drop.

Oh, sweet, naive pre-baby me!

Because if there's one thing I've learned from motherhood, it's that it's so much more than a perfect, filtered capture.

Showing my children the world with Britax.

Motherhood is raw.

I could probably have never predicted the way becoming a mama would turn me inside out at times. The frustrating days leave me close to tears, and sometimes I think I won't be able to make it to bedtime. The exhaustion can make time nearly stand still, whether I've been up all night with a fussy baby or simply spent the day chasing down a toddler with seemingly endless energy.

Every night, I collapse into bed only to wake just as tired as I felt when I laid down. But for all the emotionally taxing moments, I'm rewarded with love beyond compare. Before my first daughter was born, I never knew I could love in this capacity. Yes, feeling something so purely and deeply comes with some baggage, but I wouldn't trade a single ounce of it.

Even the tiredness can be its own reward because it speaks to this incredibly important work I'm accomplishing (dare I say crushing?) every day—being the best mama I can possibly be.

Motherhood is messy.

Beyond the emotional mess that sometimes leaves me feeling ragged at the end of a particularly trying day, being a mama means wrangling the literal messes nearly 24 hours a day. From wiping crumbs from countertops to wiping chubby baby cheeks, I'm probably single-handedly keeping the baby wipe industry in business.

I've learned to pare down our toys to speed clean-up time, but I often still find myself staring at the same to-do list at the end of every day. But even in those cluttered, chaotic moments, I've learned to appreciate the inherent beauty. Our living room may sometimes look like the toy box exploded, but it's also filled with giggles and ear-to-ear grins as my daughter and I play for hours. The kitchen may be covered with tiny fingerprints and streaks of maple syrup, but it's also where we start our morning with freshly made pancakes as we plan the day's adventures.

Our stroller may take its fair share of splashes and splotches from sippy cups and snack packs throughout the day, but it's also the vehicle that helps me show my child the world (plus, gotta love that water-resistant fabric that helps me rise above the messy moments!). Motherhood is messy, but that's how you know it's full of life.

I never expected motherhood to be this messy—but it's beautiful too. Britax

Motherhood isn't perfect.

Being a millennial mama comes with an added layer of difficulty—the struggle not to compare my reality with other people's highlight reel. On days when I've been pushed to my limit (and probably not even had time to shower), the it's sometimes hard to see an Instagram post of a mom who has it all together (and who even had time to blow out her hair!).

I applaud these women for their ability to do.it.all (and I hope to be them on a better day!), a part of me always wonders if I'm getting the full story. Is there a pile of laundry just out of the frame of that stunning selfie? Did her toddler actually eat that perfectly balanced organic meal...or just the strawberries like my little one often does?

I find myself drawn to other mamas who keep it real—who see the beauty not only in the picture-perfect moments, but also in the ones that capture the memories we really want to remember. Like the baby cuddles that happen when your little one falls asleep on your chest instead of in their crib. Or the bath time splashes that end with warm, damp hugs—and huge puddles on the floor. To me, that feels better than any "perfect" picture ever could.

The mess may not be what I expected. Even so, the life we've made for ourselves is so much more wonderful than I ever could have imagined.

One day, my floor will no longer be littered with toys. I won't find cereal in the car seat crevices, and I won't even think to grab a package of wipes before I head out for a day of errands. One day, my little ones will be grown and the messes will gradually fade away.

And I'm so worried I'll miss it all. So, for now, I embrace it. I embrace the love and the mess that comes with it. I embrace the clutter and the cuddles. The spills and the snuggles. I'll take it all because that is where the beauty really lies.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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We've had some struggles, you and me. In my teens, we were just getting to know each other. It was a rocky road at times, like when people referred to you as "big boned." I was learning how to properly fuel you by giving you the right foods. How to be active, to keep you strong and in good shape. I wish I knew then what I do now about you and what a true blessing you are. But that's something that has come with the gift of motherhood.

In my 20's, we became more well-acquainted. I knew how to care for you. After I got engaged, we worked so hard together to get into "wedding shape." And, looking back now, I totally took that six pack—okay, four pack—for granted. (But I have the pictures to prove it.)

Now that I'm in my 30's (how did my 30's happen so fast, btw?) with two kids, I'm coming to terms with my new postpartum body.

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If there are two things a mama is guaranteed to love, it's Target plus adorable and functional baby products. Target's exclusive baby brand Cloud Island has been a favorite destination for cute and affordable baby clothing and décor for nearly two years and because of that success, they're now expanding into baby essentials. 🙌

The new collection features 30 affordable products starting at $0.99 and going up to $21.99 with most items priced under $10—that's about 30-40% less expensive than other products in the market. Mamas can now enjoy adding diapers, wipes, feeding products and toiletries to their cart alongside clothing and accessories from a brand they already know and love.

The best part? The Target team has ensured that the affordability factor doesn't cut down on durability by working with hundreds of parents to create and test the collection. The wipes are ultra-thick and made with 99% water and plant-based ingredients, while the toiletries are dermatologist-approved. With a Tri-Wrap fold, the diapers offer 12-hour leak protection and a snug fit so parents don't have to sacrifice safety or functionality.

So when can you start shopping? Starting on January 20, customers can shop the collection across all stores and online. We can't wait to see how this beloved brand expands in the future.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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Many people experience the "winter blues," which are often worst in northern climates from November to March, when people have less access to sunlight, the outdoors and their communities. Another 4% develops Seasonal Affective Disorder, which is a form of clinical depression that often requires formal treatment.

If you have the winter blues, you may feel “blah," sad, tired, anxious or be in a worse mood than usual. You may struggle with overeating, loss of libido, work or sleep issues. But fear not—it is possible to find your joy in the winter, mama.

Here are eight ways to feel better:

1. Take a walk

Research has shown that walking on your lunch break just three times per week can reduce tension, relax you and improve your enthusiasm. If you are working from 9 to 5, the only window you have to access natural sunlight may be your lunch hour, so head outside for a 20 minute brisk but energizing walk!

If you are home, bundle up with your kids midday—when the weather is often warmest—and play in the snow, go for a short walk, play soccer, race each other, or do something else to burn energy and keep you all warm. If you dress for the weather, you'll all feel refreshed after some fresh air.

2. Embrace light

Research suggests that a full-spectrum light box or lamp, which mimics sunlight, can significantly improve the symptoms of the winter blues and has a similar effect to an antidepressant. Bright light at a certain time every day activates a part of the brain that can help restore normal circadian rhythms. While light treatment may not be beneficial for everyone (such as people who have bipolar disorder), it may be a beneficial tool for some.

3. Plan a winter trip

It may be helpful to plan a getaway for January or February. Plan to take it very easy, as one research study found that passive vacation activities, including relaxing, "savoring," and sleeping had greater effects on health and well-being than other activities. Engaging in passive activities on vacation also makes it more likely that your health and well-being will remain improved for a longer duration after you go back to work.

Don't overschedule your trip. Relax at a beach, a pool, or a cabin instead of waiting in long roller coaster lines or visiting packed museums. Consider visiting or traveling with family to help with child care, build quiet time into your vacation routine, and build in a day of rest, recovery, and laundry catch-up when you return.

4. Give in to being cozy

Sometimes people mistake the natural slowness of winter as a problem within themselves. By making a concerted effort to savor the slowness, rest and retreat that complement winter, you can see your reduction in activity as a natural and needed phase.

Research suggests that naps help you release stress. Other research suggests that when your brain has time to rest, be idle, and daydream, you are better able to engage in "active, internally focused psychosocial mental processing," which is important for socioemotional health.

Make a "cozy basket" filled with your favorite DVDs, bubble bath or Epsom salts, lemon balm tea (which is great for “blues,") or chamomile tea (which is calming and comforting), citrus oils (which are good for boosting mood), a blanket or a favorite book or two. If you start to feel the blues, treat yourself.

If your child is napping or having quiet time in the early afternoon, rest for a full 30 minutes instead of racing around doing chores. If you're at work, keep a few mood-boosting items (like lavender spray, tea, lotion, or upbeat music) nearby and work them into your day. If you can't use them at work, claim the first 30 minutes after your kids are asleep to nurture yourself and re-energize before you tackle dishes, laundry, or other chores.

5. See your friends

Because of the complex demands of modern life, it can be hard to see or keep up with friends or family. The winter can make it even harder. While you interact with your kids throughout the day, human interaction with other adults (not just through social media!) can act as a protective layer to keep the winter blues at bay.

Plan a monthly dinner with friends, go on a monthly date night if you have a partner, go to a book club, get a drink after work with a coworker, visit a friend on Sunday nights, or plan get-togethers with extended family. Research suggests that social interactions are significantly related to well-being.

Realize that given most families' packed schedules, you may need to consistently take the lead in bringing people together. Your friends will probably thank you, too.

6. Get (at least) 10 minutes of fresh air

A number of research studies have shown positive effects of nature on well-being, including mental restoration, immune health, and memory. It works wonders for your mood to get outside in winter, even if it's just for 10 minutes 2 to 3 times per week. You might walk, snowshoe, shovel, go sledding or go ice-skating. If you can't get outside, you might try these specific yoga poses for the winter blues.

7. Add a ritual

Adding a ritual to your winter, such as movie night, game night, hot chocolate after playing outside, homemade soup on Sundays, or visiting with a different friend every Saturday morning for breakfast, can add beauty and flow to the seemingly long months of winter. Research has suggested that family rituals and traditions, such as Sunday dinner, provide times for togetherness and strengthening relationships.

8. Talk to a professional

Counseling, which helps you identify the connections between your thoughts, feelings and behaviors, can be extremely helpful for the winter blues (especially when you are also experiencing anxiety or stress). A counselor can assist you with identifying and honoring feelings, replacing negative messages with positive ones, or shifting behaviors. A counselor may also help you indulge into winter as a time of retreat, slowness, planning, and reflecting. You may choose to use the winter to get clear on what you'd like to manifest in spring.

The opposite of the winter blues is not the absence of the winter blues—it's taking great pleasure in the unique contribution of a time of cold, darkness, retreat, planning, reflecting, being cozy and hibernating. Nurturing yourself and your relationships can help you move toward winter joy.

Weary mama,

You are incredibly strong. You are so very capable.

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