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70% of young moms are 'most defined' by motherhood—and there's nothing wrong with that

"Nothing has shaped or changed my life like my kids. They are my everything," says Rebecca S.

70% of young moms are 'most defined' by motherhood—and there's nothing wrong with that

Mothers can do and be anything. But chances are that while we're doing and being, our children will never be far from our minds. That's because, from the moment a baby enters the world, our identities shift in fundamental ways—no question about it.


If that noble, consuming, incredible role seems to represent you above all else, you're not alone. According to the 2018 State of Motherhood survey by Motherly, 59% of moms report being "most strongly" defined by motherhood. Among moms under 30 with young children, that bumps up to 70%.

This goes to show that feeling like you are first and foremost a mom is not just natural, but truly empowering. "Everything that I do ties back into my role as a mother," Megan K. tells Motherly. "I'm always thinking about how the decisions I make will help me to be a happier, healthier person, which will allow me to be a better mother."

And when we give ourselves permission to fully welcome motherhood and how it affects our lives, the chances are we're going to take more pride and find more fulfillment in the role—which benefits our children, too.

"The great thing about moms embracing their identity as a mother is that children today are getting more and greater opportunities than ever," says Erin Wiley, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor and the Executive Director of the Willow Center in Ohio. "Their parents are investing time and money into them like no generation has before. It's a wonderful thing when a society prioritizes the growth and development of its children."

For many women, feeling free to express that they are most strongly defined by motherhood is liberating. "Before I had my son, I told myself that being a mom wouldn't be the sole defining factor of my life. Now that he's here, nothing else seems as important," says Jenny F.

Many more Motherly readers echoed that they view motherhood as a reason for pride, rather than a dimension of themselves that needs to be hidden. "I'm employed full time and I love my career," says Rebecca S. "But nothing has shaped or changed my life like my kids. They are my everything."

That is increasingly reflected in workplaces—to the advantage of everyone, explains Georgene Huang, co-founder of Fairygodboss. "From the perspective of workplace culture, I believe the best and most productive companies are those that allow all employees to bring their authentic selves to work."

In addition to motherhood, survey respondents also said they cherish the identities they find through their partnerships, faith, careers, hobbies and friendships. Among those who said motherhood is not their strongest identity, the most common reasons were because of the role faith or longer-held identities have in their lives.

"As much as I love being a mom, I've only been one for 7 months," explains Liz H. "I've been a mountain biker, pianist, education abroad professional, wife and partner, and so much more for so long. I am not defined by one thing, but am the sum of many."

The "season of life" effect

One common thread across the responses was that women recognize the years of parenting young children are both incredibly demanding and fleeting. "I think whatever defines me is fluid and changes from season to season [of life]," says Jena A. "With a toddler and a 6-month-old, motherhood is currently the most defining thing in my life."

As natural as it may be to feel like motherhood overrides all else during this time, many women added they are intentional in their efforts to uphold other elements of their identity. "I believe just as important as cherishing our little ones' childhood is balancing that with the wisdom that your child or children will not be home with you forever," says Wiley.

This means not only equipping them with the tools to thrive on their own, but also modeling for them what balance looks like, Wiley says. "Investing in exercise, the development of romantic relationships and friendships, and practicing other self-care activities all serve our children in the end by giving them a mom who is stable and well-rounded," she tells Motherly. "We also set a great example for our children by showing them a model of a woman who is truly flourishing in life in all arenas, not just as a mom."

The truth is "motherhood" doesn't have to look the same for any of us. It doesn't even have to look the same on an individual level from year to year. But, wherever anyone falls on the question of whether motherhood defines them, there is one point we can all agree on: We are fortunate to live in a time when we can define motherhood.

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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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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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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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