A modern lifestyle brand redefining motherhood

As the proud mother of four young girls I think it’s safe to say that I have been around the old preschool block a time or two. My oldest girls (now ages 10 and seven) went to daycare centers as babies so the transition to preschool was kind of a no-brainer. I had to work, they were there anyways – might as well do the preschool thing.

The twins on the other hand have been a different story. They are my teeny-tiny-stay-at-home-absolutely-positively last babies ever. When they turned three years old this past year I found myself second guessing the decision to send them off into the big, bad world. Would they be ready for preschool? Would I be ready for preschool? Why not just keep them home for one (or two) more years with their best and most favorite teacher: me

Well, here is why:

Early intervention services

If you suspect your little guy might need a bit of extra assistance in his academic journey then you most definitely want to get him into a preschool program. Whether it’s fine motor skills, speech and language needs, or a bit of occupational therapy, preschool can give your tot a head start in areas of deficit. Under IDEA, or the Individuals With Disabilities Act, once a child turns three they are guaranteed special education services by the state agency. A lot of parents have no clue that this service is even available to them and often wait until kindergarten to bring concerns up with educators.

Elementary school prep

If your child never attends any sort of school setting before entering kindergarten he may be in for a very rude awakening. When five-year-olds come into elementary school, so much is expected of them. It is bound to be overwhelming even for the most prepared students. Where traditional kindergarten used to be a half day program, it is now full time in most places. Children are expected to sit, listen, wait their turn, and show growth in the areas of academics, social awareness, and emotional maturity. That is one heck of a tall order for a little guy. Preschool does a lot of this heavy lifting for them.

Emotional and social growth

A lot of the early educational years are spent focusing on child-to-child interactions. By nature young children are egocentric and it can be difficult for them to learn to share, work out their problems with their words, and voice their needs and concerns to adults. Preschool programs allow children as young as two-and-a-half to fine tune their social and emotional growth to prepare them for kindergarten. After sending my three-year-old twins to school for one week I noticed that they were more in tune with each other’s emotional needs. They started to show empathy and apologize for their actions more often than before. At the same time their social development skyrocketed and they began to interact with kids on the playground and seek out friendships more fluidly. It was amazing!

Preschool provides academic instruction that they will need in the future

Let’s face it, kindergarten has drastically changed over the last 20 years. What we adults remember as being a whole lot of coloring, playtime, and learning our Letter People is now an eight hour day of academically rigorous lessons. Kindergartners are tested like never before and in a lot of ways expected to know far more than we did when we entered primary school.

Balance of choice and structure

Preschool does a phenomenal job of providing your child plenty of choices while giving them the structure that they need to feel safe and secure in their environment. Kids need to have some sense of control over their worlds and allowing them to choose the colors of paint to use in a project or allowing them to select a free choice activity at school is a great way to do that. In balance with the choices comes a heavy dose of structure. Preschooler learn that there are rules and hard lines in the sand when they attend learning-based programs. Three-year-olds learn to hang up their backpacks, clean up their messes, and sit on rugs while teachers read to them. They line up for recess, wait their turn to swing, and take turns using the bathroom, all at the age of three.

Mad independence skills

It is insane how much more independent my children became after I sent them off to school. Within weeks they were dressing themselves, pulling up their own pants, and wiping their own tiny butts. Children need to feel capable and preschool provides the independence skills for just that. I wonder if I should send my husband back to preschool and see if he can pick up some independence skills as well. That guy still tosses his dirty clothes on the floor.

New and exciting experiences for your child

I will be blunt. This summer my kids got bored of me. I tried to create exciting days and experiences for them but we basically needed to break up. Sending them to preschool for three hours a day did the trick. Our relationship was saved! Programs these days infuse your little one’s day with a whole new world of interesting activities. They play in spaces that are new to them and use toys and tools which they may never have seen before. At preschool there is a whole new world full of people to connect with and enjoy. The bonus is they miss you and you miss them and when they come home at lunch time everyone is refreshed and ready to spend quality time together.

Your child will build trust and connections with other people

Many of us did the tot-and-mom play dates at the park and story time at the library, but these events are almost always under the guidance and watchful eye of mommy and daddy. Preschool is a time where young children can go into the big world and make friendships and connections with other children all on their own. They also learn to love and trust their teachers and assorted personnel in the buildings. I was really starting to believe that the twins would never connect with another adult outside of myself, my husband, and close family members. Within three days of school the girls were willingly holding their teachers’ hands and asking if they could come home with us.

Create routine in your child’s life … and yours

When your offspring are young the days are long, but the years are short. Kids get up so freaking early and sometimes (or in my case all of the time) it’s just you and them until the moon pops up and you pass out in their toddler bed at 10 p.m. Seven hours later it starts all over again – this goes on for years.

Then bam! Preschool smacks you in the face and hands your family the gift of routine. Most people function better on some sort of routine and my children and I are no different. We now get up at a certain time, get dressed, eat breakfast, and it’s off to school. The kids come home tired, we eat and play, and then the big girls come home. A few more hours and dinner happens, then bath time and bed. The kids have tuckered themselves out with all of that playing and brain work that school provided them with and my day is no longer one continuous flow of everyone screaming, “Mooooooooom.”

You can go to Target by yourself

So you did it. You bit the bullet and sent your babies to preschool armed with tiny backpacks and an extra pair of undies and pants. It isn’t always easy and a lot of time there are tears from little ones and big ones alike as you and your babies experience some separation from each other. There is only one thing left to do and that is to drive up to the local Target store and shop by yourself! I promise you that by the time you get to the home goods aisle you will see that this really was the best decision you could have ever made

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

Subscribe to get inspiration and super helpful ideas to rock your #momlife. Motherhood looks amazing on you.

Already a subscriber? Log in here.

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.

You might also like:

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.

Keep reading... Show less

In the space between birth and raising a baby is a mama who is rediscovering who she is and letting go of what she was. Except there is no road map that guides you on this unknown path. There is only the void, the feeling of overwhelm that comes at the juxtaposition of new motherhood, where piecing together our past and present seems like a disjointed collage.

With this space brings a tide of emotions that ebb and flow as you become acquainted with this new person birthed alongside your sweet babe. Pregnancy is just the beginning of a transformational journey that is motherhood.

But when that void is met with fear, lacking support, and confusion, it is easy to feel like you are grappling in the dark unknown. It is common to feel like you have lost yourself, like you no longer recognize the person that was when you look in the mirror. And that can be a frightening feeling.

New identities, postpartum bodies and weight loss

Coupled with this transition are the gnashing messages that play to our fears: "Get your body back," "Lose the baby weight," creating an illusion that the way to rediscover who we are is by returning to the body that once was.

This is the trap we easily fall in during our most vulnerable moments, in the identity crisis of crossing into motherhood. We are defined by how quickly we lose weight or if we get back into those pre-pregnancy clothes. In the space of the unknown, taking charge of our body size and weight gives a pseudo-sense of control; when in fact, we are seeking a defining sense of self when everything we once knew has changed.

When diet culture takes on the disguise of control, familiarity, and wellness during a time of change and uncertainty, it's no wonder we cling to its false promises, even after everything our bodies have shown to be capable of in the growth and birth of new life.

In its sneaky way, diet culture takes on many different forms, like fasting, skipping meals, cutting out food groups, counting macros and so on. It becomes easy to justify these things for the sake of wellness, but any way you are manipulating food to somehow trick your body to think it needs less nourishment falls into a dieting mentality.

Postpartum dieting is not healthy

Wellness in postpartum has been watered down to mean weight loss, which puts more value on the appearance of our bodies as opposed to its functioning. This dangerous mentality can cause poor body image and overall body dissatisfaction, which is connected with many potential problems postpartum.

Postpartum moms often see themselves as needing to lose a certain amount of weight, which has been shown to trigger body image concerns, increased mental health issues, and eating disorders.

Research has also found that high levels of body dissatisfaction in the postpartum period may be connected with disordered eating behaviors and lower breastfeeding self-efficacy. In many ways, the pursuit of weight loss in postpartum and putting greater emphasis on appearance over function of our bodies could create a vicious cycle that negatively affects both mother and baby during a critical time of development.

Could it be that the overwhelming desire to lose weight after having a baby is related to something deeper, like the fear that is connected with a loss of identity? Is the possibility of regaining your pre-baby body mean more about finding yourself again?

As women, the postpartum period is a time when we are experiencing tremendous change (physically, mentally, emotionally, etc), coupled with pressures from society to meet unrealistic appearance standards. Focusing on weight loss as a solution for "control" during such a stressful time can only further complicate things.

What if you could take a step back and figure out how to redefine new motherhood without focusing on weight loss postpartum? What if you took dieting out of the equation? How could you best support yourself and be kind to yourself during this vulnerable time of transition in postpartum?

Redefining postpartum wellness

For starters, here are some ideas for things you can do to support your postpartum recovery and healing, while being gracious to yourself during a time where there is increased pressure to make health mean dieting or getting down to a certain weight through ways that can be self-sabotaging.

Honor your postpartum body be eating intuitively

Research has found that new mothers who follow a more intuitive style of eating actually had greater postpartum BMI and weight decreases. More importantly, postpartum women who practice intuitive eating principles have positive improvements in mental health and lifestyle behaviors. Tell me which diet can offer that to a postpartum mom?

Respect your postpartum body with gentle movement

A majority of new moms who feel pressured to lose weight may engage in exercises that are actually harmful to their body that is recovering from pregnancy and childbirth. Instead of punishing yourself at the gym or rigid exercise program, move your body in ways that feel good to you in order to reap maximum benefits.

Celebrate with a postpartum closet edit

Hanging on to clothes that don't fit your changing, postpartum body will only worsen your body image and make you feel bad about yourself. Take the time to go through your closet and get rid of clothes that no longer fit your current body, style, or the season of life you're in. A postpartum closet edit can free up so much mental space to focus on what really matters and support a positive postpartum body image.

Let go of unrealistic expectations

There is no denying the internal and external pressures we face to change our bodies in the postpartum period. But what if you could let go of some of those unrealistic expectations? Choosing to care for your body by not forcing an arbitrary standard of weight loss does not mean you are letting yourself go. It means you are proactively being kind to yourself and your body for all it has brought you though.

Do you deserve anything less than that?

The postpartum transition is one of the most grueling times we experience as mothers, and the added pressure to lose weight only makes things more difficult. By being gentle with yourself and caring for your body, mind and spirit, you are creating a secure foundation from which you and your family will blossom.

In the process, you will learn to become better acquainted with the new mother birthed along this journey. You will find that within her is sound wisdom and innate sense of worthiness that has always been there. You just need to give yourself care, compassion, and time to bloom where you have been planted in this new season of life.

In the end, when you step back and look at the big picture, you will realize that those mismatched pieces you were piecing together have in fact created a mosaic, a stained glass picture of your one and beautiful life.

Originally posted on Crystal Karges.

You might also like:

Motherly provides information of a general nature and is designed for educational purposes only. This site does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.Your use of the site indicates your agreement to be bound by our  Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. Information on our advertising guidelines can be found here.