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Top Chef's Gail Simmons has had an incredibly busy year. Her latest cookbook, "Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating" entered the world not long before her second child, little Kole Jack Abrams, was born in May.

At 42, Simmons is now a mother of two, and spent the last year balancing life with a 4-year-old (daughter Dahlia Rae) and a book tour, TV projects, and a pregnancy she wanted to keep to herself for a while. It's been a busy season for Simmons, who recently scheduled some well-deserved down-time.

She was enjoying a beach vacation with her family when she took the time to speak with Motherly about planning pregnancies, planning book tours, and outsourcing support in the absence of a traditional "village."

On having a second baby

According to Simmons, the decision to have another baby with her husband, Jeremy Abrams, was "sort of planned," because IVF was a factor in both her pregnancies.

"I don't easily get pregnant. That was never my forte. I also decided to get pregnant later in life, in terms of fertility years," she tells Motherly. "So, our second pregnancy was definitely something that I had to think a lot about, and take very specific steps towards, if we wanted to have a second child."

Having a second child wasn't "a given, by any means" for Simmons. She says she definitely knew she wanted one, but wanted to see "how that goes, and how much I can handle." While a lot of families do value having kids close in age, Simmons says she never saw herself taking care of two babies at once.

"To me, in my own head, for my own life, that was never gonna be possible," she explains.

When her daughter was approaching school age, Simmons felt the time was right, and that a four year age gap would give her the bandwidth to revisit the baby days with a second child.

"She's out of diapers. She has her own friends, and life, and she's starting kindergarten in the fall. So, she's in a place where she's a little more independent," she explains. "That was the only way that I could wrap my head around having a second child, was if there was a little space so that I could sort of get myself together, and be a bit more of a whole person before I went through it all again."

On her second first trimester experience

Simmons isn't just a whole person, though, she's also a whole brand. When she and Abrams first started talking about having another child she was right in the middle of writing "Bringing It Home" and by the time she was pregnant she was embarking on a book tour. During her first pregnancy she'd spent her first trimester shooting Top Chef in New Orleans in the middle of summer, an experience she describes as both decent and difficult, in that she wasn't vomiting, but was exhausted and had "mild but consistent queasiness" basically the whole time.

With a book tour itinerary that included 17 flights, and visits to a dozen cities in two months, Simmons worried what it would be like to be pregnant on the road this time around, but the fatigue that plagued her while she was pregnant with Dahlia thankfully did not return.

"The second time around, I was fine. I felt great the whole way through. I did my whole book tour with this little secret, and felt great about it. Then when I got home from the biggest part of the book tour, around Thanksgiving, was right at the end of the first trimester, and I could start telling people," she explains.

So many mothers can relate to the relief one feels in that moment where you finally feel comfortable telling your friends and family that you're expecting, and can finally put on some maternity pants. "I had to buy a lot of new clothes that I hadn't anticipated, just so that I had things to wear on book tour that fit. But, I wasn't full on into maternity clothes, and I didn't want to look pregnant, because no one knew I was pregnant, so I had to be very smart about concealing it. That became a bit of a struggle. But, in the end, I felt great, and it worked out perfectly," Simmons recalls.

On building her own village

These days, Simmons' closet isn't as much of a concern as the bed is. She tells Motherly Kole is a pretty good sleeper, and she and Abrams are more relaxed about his sleeping patterns than they were about Dahlia's, but of course with a new baby in the house, "no one's getting enough sleep, ever, as a new parent."

That's one of the reasons Simmons has been strategic about building a support system for her family in New York City, because her family isn't there and she can't just drive over to Grandma's house for a break when Kole has kept her up at night.

"I realized as soon as I had my daughter how valuable that is. It would've been incredible if I had chosen to live in the same city as my parents or my in-laws, and we would've had built-in support and family, and cousins, and aunts, and all those people. But, we don't," she says, noting that today, a lot of people don't.

"You need hands. You need help. It is so exhausting, and there's so many pieces to it. You can't be alone, and it's very isolating, the experience of early motherhood, those early weeks. So, the second time around, what has been great is we already have a system. We know what to expect, and we have help."

The family already had childcare in place for Dahlia, something that Simmons has been sure to budget for in her quest to "create and outsource" a local support system in NYC. She says it's a big part of her financial planning.

"Sometimes it feels counterintuitive to be making a certain amount of money, and spending it all on childcare. Like, what's the point in working? I could just stay home and save all that money," she explains, adding that there's a lot of trade-offs and reasons why it is so worth it to her. "It's very fraught with layers of back and forth. Mom guilt versus work life, and the career that I spent 20 years creating."

On why moms need support

Simmons says she loves her work, she's proud of it and that it's made her a better mom. "I can show my daughter that I can go and do it for my own mental health, and then can come back and be a mother to my children, too, and be more present when I am."

A Canadian whose career brought her to America, Simmons points out the United States could do better in supporting working mothers, through affordable childcare and parental leave.

"I come from Canada where all of my friends got 365 days off with each of their children, no questions asked. Now, there's also paternity, or co-spouse leave, that would tack on another six months if they wanted. So, those examples are hard to look at when I find that I'm going back to work after just a handful of weeks, which seems insane," she tells Motherly.

"The physical and mental weight of returning to work so quickly after having a child, no matter who you are, and how fraught that is with complicated feeling, not only emotions, but physically...Even in the best case scenarios, childbirth is still really intense, and physically taxing."

Simmons obviously isn't going to take a year of parental leave (she's already back at work in a some capacities), but she is taking time now to prepare herself and her family for the TV projects she has on the horizon.

"Right now, I'm hoping to have a really quiet and lovely summer with my kids, and get to know this little guy who has just come into our lives, and just kind of take care of myself, because that's I think the biggest factor in motherhood," she says.

Rest up Gail. You deserve it.

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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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It happens to the best of us. Even to the GOAT. When you have a baby it's so easy for your home to just fill up with brightly colored plastic. Just ask Serena Williams.

Her 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.'s things seem to be taking over the house, as Williams shared with her Instagram followers.


"Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air. #thismama used to have a living room. Now I just have a play room. When did that happen?" she captioned the relatable pic.

We've all been there, Serena. As Motherly's minimalism expert, Juli Williams, previously wrote, when so many kind family and friends gift your child with playthings, it's easy to forget where the toys taking over the living room even came from.

"By the time my daughter was 8 months old she had so many toys that we had filled two huge chests with them," she explains. "Plus the activity gym, bouncy seat, swing and walker that were sitting in our living room. Oh, and don't forget the bag of bath toys hanging to dry in our bathroom tub."

The clutter began to get to Williams, who was tired of picking up toys her daughter wasn't even playing with. When she got rid of almost all of her toys, she found herself "more at peace, with less to clean" and she noticed her daughter was playing more with the toys she did have.

Williams isn't the only one to notice this: Scientists have, too.

As Motherly reported last year, researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys around. Their study involved setting toddlers up in a room with either four or 16 toys. It turned out, the kids with just four toys engaged "in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."

Bottom line: You don't have to sacrifice your living room (and your sanity) to bright bits of plastic when you become a mama. If you're overwhelmed by the number of toys in your space, your baby probably is, too.

If you are feeling the same way Serena is, consider Team Motherly's tips for keeping toys from taking over:

1. If you're moving soon, don't take all those toys 

When Motherly's co-founder, Elizabeth Tenety, packed up her playroom for an interstate move, she didn't bring 75% of the toys to her new house. She had the same problem as Serena, and didn't want to bring it with her.

"Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)," Tenety previously wrote.

Before the big move, she donated a ton of toys and found it has been "absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids."

2. Consider packing even if you're not moving 

Take a look at your living room or play room (wherever the toys replicate in your home) and consider what you would bring with you if you were moving (even if you're absolutely not).

Pack up anything you wouldn't take, and move it to Goodwill or another charity.

3. Prioritize experiences over material goods 

As our children grow, they're going to remember the memories we make together—not the toys cluttering up the house. If you can let grandparents and aunties in on this secret, you can keep your living room from looking like Serena's.

When Tenety decluttered her kids' toy stash, she asked her family not to gift the kids with any more toys, suggesting a weekend at grandpa's house, some art supplies or swimming lessons would be more meaningful.

Minimalism expert Juli Williams did the same. "For my daughter's second Christmas, we asked our family to gift us a registration to a toddler class instead of toys—and my daughter loved it," she previously wrote. "I took photos at the class and sent them to our family every week to show them the exciting new things she was learning—and so they truly understood that it was a gift that kept on giving."

4. Consider a no-toy Christmas this year

For a lot of families, a pile of toys under the Christmas tree is a holiday tradition, but more and more parents (including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher) are opting for no-toy Christmas celebrations.

Motherly's own Rachel Gorton has also opted for this minimalist tradition. "Christmas in our household represents so much more than toys under the tree. I don't want our children to be distracted from the real reason we celebrate this holiday by a shiny new toy they don't need," she previously wrote.

"I want them to learn about giving without the concept being tied only to possessions in their mind. I want them to understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of an object."

Like Kunis and Kutcher, (and Tenety and Williams) Gorton emphasizes meaningful gifts and gifts of experience in her family's holiday rituals. Serena might want to hop on this trend, too.

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As the royal tour of Australia continues, it seems the Duchess of Sussex is feeling some jet lag—but it's not necessarily from traveling.

During a visit to Bondi Beach to participate in an "anti-bad vibe circle" with members of the OneWave surf community mental health support group, Markle talked with circle participant Charlotte Connell who is also pregnant, about 23 weeks according to news reports.

Cornell says Markle told her that her own pregnancy has been making her tired, and keeping her up at odd hours. Mamas around the world are nodding in agreement.

"Meghan told me that pregnancy was like having jet lag," Sky News quotes Cornell. "She said she was up at 4:30 a.m. this morning doing yoga in her room as she couldn't sleep."

It's not surprising that (on a two-week tour with a mind-boggling 76 planned engagements) Markle is feeling a bit tired. Fatigue is so common in pregnancy, we hope someone on the tour is making sure Markle can sneak in a nap now and then (seriously, research suggests pregnant women who regularly nap are less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight).

As for being up at 4:30 in the morning doing yoga? Well, if you can't sleep (and so often pregnant mamas-to-be struggle with this) self-care though yoga may be the next best thing.

It's a great way to relax, and a recently published study found working out during pregnancy can cut your labor time down significantly.

Meghan may have pregnancy-induced jet lag, but it sounds like she knows how to take care of herself, something all pregnant mamas should remember to do.

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After one pregnancy, it's easy to be under the impression that you'll know what to expect the next time around. Only, for expectant mama Carrie Underwood, her current pregnancy has been "harder" than she anticipated—and many mamas of multiple kids can relate.

"It's definitely different than the first time," Underwood tells Entertainment Tonight. "When they say every pregnancy is different, it really is."

For Underwood, who recently revealed she experienced three miscarriages before this pregnancy, the new symptoms this time around have taken her off-guard. "I feel like this one is just a little harder on my body for some reason. But it's been really good."

Part of that, of course, may be influenced by the fact she's also spending her days keeping up with her 3-year-old son, Isaiah. Just as Chrissy Teigen also expressed, when you're expecting a baby with an older child in the house, it's simply harder to carve out downtime for yourself. That can make symptoms such as exhaustion and nausea feel that much more intense. (Pro friend tip: Offer to entertain the older child so mama can sneak an afternoon nap once in a while.

)As challenging as that can be, Underwood made the point that expecting a baby with an older sibling around can have perks—even if they still have to sell Isaiah on the idea. "He says he won't change any poopy diapers," Underwood says. "I understand, maybe I can change his mind."

Meanwhile, the family is keeping plenty busy with awards show appearances (and wins) and preparing for a move, which has put Underwood's buying habits on hold. "I haven't bought anything yet, we still have some of the stuff, cribs and stuff from my son, but we'll figure it out," she says. "It'd be pointless to buy it and then move it."

The family has been making plans, though, like deciding on a name for the baby that they are keeping private for now. And after a difficult road to expand the Fisher-Underwood family, she says they are really trying to enjoy the moment by keeping a positive outlook despite the less than positive symptoms.

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Jessica Alba's Honest Company has joined forces with Rosie O'Neill of the candy company Sugarfina to create some adorable candy-themed limited edition diaper prints, bibs, and gift sets that include a little something special for mom. [Update: And they're now available outside of the gift sets and subscriptions!]

Seriously, Sugarfina and Honest are a match made in heaven. The Honest Company is known for its cheerful prints and Sugarfina is known for its gourmet gummies, and the combo of the two is super adorable. Alba tested the prints on her baby boy, Hayes.

"It's so cute when he just crawls around with the little gummy bear diaper and the matching bib. It's really sweet. That's what's great about our diapers—they just look so cute on your baby, even when your baby's in nothing else but just their little diaper," she tells Motherly.

There are two prints: Boo Bear (the gummy bears Hayes wears) and Sweet Thing (modeled after Sugarfina's popular baby butterfly gummies). The prints are available in diaper cakes and bibs separately on Honest.com or packaged alongside a cube of matching candy on in the gift sets available through Sugarfina.

As Motherly previously noted, Alba feels it's very important for her company to work with fellow women entrepreneurs, which is how this partnership with O'Neil and Sugarfina was born. Alba's been a fan of the candy company since it launched, and often adds a little Sugarfina to gifts she gives.

"I was just thinking that, wouldn't it be cute to do a collaboration with them and have that ultimate baby shower experience? So that you have the diaper cake, and you could even do a themed baby shower around our diaper cakes." Alba tells Motherly.

Alba and O'Neil both wanted to create some surprise and delight for mom by recognizing that when people are giving gifts to a new mom, the presents are often actually for the baby. With these gift sets, mom gets to enjoy a grown-up treat while also enjoying the incredibly cute baby gear.

"Obviously the diapers are for the babies to wear, but there's something to be said for making sure that the product that we're going to use for our babies are relevant, and enjoyable for us too, and they bring us joy," says O'Neill. "We wanted to make it so the box was really beautiful, and you felt proud to give it as a gift and also there's something for the mom."

Alba agrees, adding that pairing some Sugarfina candy for mom with the matching prints for baby also makes for a great gift not only before the baby is born, but after, when mama probably hasn't had much time to treat herself.

"I know, after having three kids, how important it is for you also to be considered and pampered a bit. So yeah, it is definitely a really sweet gifting moment when you can show up, whether you're meeting the baby for the first time, and you have the diaper cake, and you have a little sweet something for Mom. And if she has multiple kids, it's always nice to give something that another sibling can enjoy as well."

Discount code for Motherly readers 

When we first told you about this launch back on October 2 these limited edition prints were exclusive to the Honest diaper bundle subscribers and the diaper cakes (meaning you couldn't yet buy the candy print diapers outside of the the mini cake, the regular diaper cake and the gift sets available through Sugarfina).

Now though, you can get the limited edition Honest x Sugarfina diapers even if you're not a bundle subscriber (or don't need a whole diaper cake) and Honest has offered Motherly readers a 20% off discount code!

CODE: HonestXSugarfina20

TERMS AND CONDITIONS: Eligible for Honest Sugarfina diaper shop purchases only on honest.com. Eligible on order subtotals up to $500 maximum. Limit 1 promo code per person/household. Offer expires at 11:59 p.m. (PST) on 10/31/2018. Promo Code not valid on Bundles or Trials. Code must be entered into "Promo Code" section at Checkout. Discount applied before taxes, shipping or surcharges. Cannot be applied to previous purchases, Gift Card purchases, Gift Bundles or Add-On items. Cannot be combined with any other promotion or redeemed for cash, unless required by law. Certain charges for return shipping may apply. Note, Promo Code will not apply if there is a Trial in your cart. Terms subject to change at any time.

[Update, October 18, 2018: This post was originally published October 2, 2018. It has been updated to reflect the new availability of the diapers outside the bundles and gift sets, and with the discount code.]

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