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Dear Stay-at-Home Mom,

by: Kelly Bay

You are crushing it.

Our eyes meet almost every morning as we drop the kids off at school. My day has already been chaotic, and I’m sure yours has, too. Making breakfast and packing lunches and convincing small children to wear clothing are not jobs for the faint of heart.

I notice a toddler hanging from your leg as I chase mine down the hall. We both smile, thinking that they may be in the same class someday. Somehow we manage to get our older children to their classrooms and our younger children back to our vehicles. It’s a monumental moment in the day, a shared struggle of parenthood.

I wanted to let you know that as a mom who works outside of the home, I am so impressed by you. I know that there’s this myth that we are somehow at odds with each other, but I think you are amazing, and I’m grateful for everything you do.

For what it’s worth, I never call myself a “working mom,” because I know you’re a working mom, as well. Somehow you feed your toddler lunch while spooning pureed peas into your infant’s demanding mouth. You sing lullabies and rehearse colors and walk the dog with a baby strapped to your chest.

You welcome your older children home from school and prepare yet another snack and field the demands for TV time and help locating sports equipment. By the time 5 p.m. hits, you’ve done multiple loads of laundry and repeatedly picked up the house and wiped your children’s faces approximately 100 times, none of which would be obvious to an onlooker at this point.

And then you start your second shift, rushing from appointments to soccer practice, picking up the neighbor’s kids along the way. You make dinner and help with homework and give baths and read bedtime stories. You fill your spouse in on the details of the day and upcoming events and manage multiple schedules like the boss that you are.

On a good night, you may get 30 minutes to crash in front of Netflix before someone needs a drink of water or a third trip to the bathroom, or for you to check for monsters under the bed just one more time.

Maybe you chose to stay home with your kids because of their special health issues or your spouse’s demanding career, or maybe it wasn’t a choice at all. The astronomical cost of childcare makes the decision for many parents and I know firsthand that the workforce can be a brutal environment for moms who try to do both. There is a good chance that the company you worked for didn’t offer the flexibility or support parents need to continue with their careers.

The time you have with your children at home is precious, but I know that it’s exhausting trying to juggle so many different roles and meet everyone else’s needs. Your own needs often fall to last on the priority list and you sometimes worry that you’re too distracted when you interact with your kids.

You have no reason to be concerned. My mom stayed home with us and I’m sure she was distracted most of the time but, honestly, all I remember is that she was there for us, always.

It’s a common misconception that you’re “off” all day. I know that your day actually never ends and you don’t get the breaks that I do. Lunch out with friends is a highly orchestrated and extremely rare occurrence. Dropping your kids off at daycare to attend a doctor’s appointment of your own simply doesn’t happen.

I also know that your daily work, with both its struggles and beauty, is overlooked in our culture. You notice that people talk more to your husband at parties. Since becoming a stay-at-home mom your input into conversations seems to be less important. You may even wonder what your former colleagues or classmates think of you now that you’re “just a mom”. The value of being a caretaker is minimized in our society because there isn’t a dollar sign attached to it. That sucks, and I’m angry for you.

I want to tell you that I see you. I want to tell you that your work is important. More than likely you’re committed not only to your family but to all of ours. I’m not always available to help in my son’s classroom, I’m grateful that you take time out of your day to be there. We often need assistance getting our kids to extracurricular activities, I’ve noticed you are one of the first to offer help. You take constant requests for PTA involvement and coaching positions and field trip chaperones and you rarely say no.

I love that I’m able to work outside of the home, but it’s vital for our sons and daughters to see the value of a loving, involved parent from others, too. I watch you demonstrate this every single day.

You are making the world a better place and I wanted to thank you for that.

In case you don’t hear it enough: job well done.

Sincerely,

A Work-Outside-the-Home Mom

Dear Working Mom,

by: Jackie Semmens

You are crushing it.

It’s 7:30 in the morning, and I’m staring out the window with blurry eyes watching you load your kids into the car to head to daycare, or walking them to the bus stop. I haven’t brushed my teeth yet, much less gotten my kids dressed, but you’ve been up for two hours already, answering work emails, packing lunches, waking sleepyheads up and making them breakfast. It’s not even 8 a.m., and you’ve accomplished plenty – yet you’re already worrying that you’re slipping behind.

I wanted to let you know that, as a stay-at-home mom, I am so impressed by you. I know there’s this myth that we are somehow at odds with each other, but I think you’re amazing, and I’m grateful for everything you do.

For what it’s worth, I never call myself a “full-time mom,” because I know you’re a full-time mom as well. You’re pumping milk on your lunch break, fielding calls from the school in the middle of the day – no matter how many times you’ve asked them to call your husband first because his schedule is more flexible than yours.

You’re clutching your cellphone under the table during a meeting, hoping daycare won’t call to tell you your baby’s fussiness turned into a fever. You’re folding laundry well past bedtime, or spending precious dollars on a housecleaner so you can spend a few more hours with your kids. You’re burning the candle at both ends and trying to figure out if you can light the middle, too.

Even when five o’clock rolls around, you’re off to your main job, walking into the insanity of tired and hungry kids. You’re up all night with a teething baby who only wants to nurse, and a toddler who had another bad dream. Even if you have some help watching your kids during the day, you’re never off the clock.

As a mom and an employee, you are giving 200% of yourself every day. I bet that you’re amazing at what you do, because research shows that mothers are actually more productive in their jobs than their childless counterparts. When you get to the office, there’s no wasting time on Facebook. You plow through your to-do list because you don’t want to stay late tonight. Having kids makes you acutely aware of how precious time is, and you know that it is not to be wasted.

I know those efforts aren’t always rewarded, however, and are too often overlooked. There is a good chance that you aren’t earning as much as a man doing your job would be, especially if you’re working after spending some time at home with your kids. You’re worried about telling your boss that you’re pregnant again, and trying to figure out how you will make it through an unpaid maternity leave.

That sucks, and I’m angry for you. As a stay-at-home mom, I know how little our society values caregiving, and how hard you work when you’re on maternity leave. Trust me, I know that you deserve to be paid.

Working is the right decision for you, the best way to support your family. But I know that you occasionally wonder if you’re spending enough time with your kids. In all likelihood, though, you are spending more time with them than your parents spent with you, whether they worked or not.

And even if your time is limited, take heart that research shows quality far outweighs quantity. Take it from someone who spends almost all of her time with her children – there is nothing inherently magical about it. My kids love their dad, whom they see on evenings and weekends, just as much as me.

Stay-at-home mom to working mom, thank you for everything you do. The nurse holding my son’s hand as he gets his blood drawn, knowing exactly how it feels to see your baby cry? His teacher, teaching him his ABCs and how to play nicely with his friends? Their pediatrician, diagnosing life-threatening allergies? All working moms. These women touch our lives every day, and I couldn’t do what I do without you.

Maybe you’re punching numbers into a spreadsheet that will never personally impact our lives, but I still wanted to say thank you. What you’re doing is so important. Our sons and daughters need to see women in all sorts of careers, and our world benefits from having mothers in the workforce for their abilities, perspective, experience, and skills. You’re at the forefront of social change, and I want to thank you for fighting the good fight.

Right now, staying at home with my kids is the balance that works best for our family. But when it’s time for me to re-enter the workforce, I’m glad to know that there are mothers out there now who have been proving that women can be great mothers and great employees. You’re making the world a better place, and I thank you for that.

Occasionally, my afternoon walks take me past a local daycare. I watch parents pick up their children, ready to head home for their second shift. Wave if you see me. I’m the one pushing a stroller, thinking that you are an amazing parent.

In case you don’t hear it enough: job well done.

Sincerely,

A Stay-at-Home Mom

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While breastfeeding might seem like a simple task, there are so many pieces to the puzzle aside from your breasts and baby. From securing a good latch, boosting your milk supply and navigating pumping at work or feeding throughout the night, there's a lot that mama has to go through—and a number of products she needs.

No matter how long your nursing journey may be, it can be hard to figure out what items you really need to add to your cart. So we asked our team at Motherly to share items they simply couldn't live without while breastfeeding. You know, those ones that are a total game-changer.

Here are the best 13 products that they recommend—and you can get them all from Walmart.com:

1. Medela Nursing Sleep Bra

"This fuss-free nursing bra was perfect for all the times that I was too tired to fumble with a clasp. It's also so comfy that, I have to admit, I still keep it in rotation despite the fact that my nursing days are behind me (shh!)." —Mary S.

Price: $15.99

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2. Dr. Brown's Baby First Year Transition Bottles

"My daughter easily transitioned back and forth between breastfeeding and these bottles." —Elizabeth

Price: $24.98

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3. Multi-Use Nursing Cover

"When I was breastfeeding, it was important to me to feel like a part of things, to be around people, entertain guests, etc. Especially since so much of being a new mom can feel isolating. So having the ability to cover up but still breastfeed out in the open, instead of disappearing into a room somewhere for long stretches alone to feed, made me feel better."—Renata

Price: $11.99

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4. Lansinoh TheraPearl Breast Therapy Pack

"I suffered from extreme engorgement during the first weeks after delivery with both of my children. I wouldn't have survived had it not been for these packs that provided cold therapy for engorgement and hot therapy for clogged milk ducts." —Deena

Price: $10.25

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5. Medela Quick Clean Breast Pump Wipes

"Being a working and pumping mama, these quick clean wipes made pumping at the office so much easier, and quicker. I could give everything a quick wipe down between pumping sessions. And did not need a set of spare parts for the office." —Ashley

Price: $19.99

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6. Earth Mama Organic Nipple Butter

"This nipple butter is everything, you don't need to wash it off before baby feeds/you pump. I even put some on my lips at the hospital and it saved me from chapped lips and nips." —Conz

Price: $12.95

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7. Medela Double Electric Pump

"I had latch issues and terrible postpartum anxiety, and was always worried my son wasn't getting enough milk. So I relied heavily on my breast pump so that I could feed him bottles and know exactly how much he was drinking. This Medela pump and I were best friends for almost an entire year" —Karell

Price: $199.99 Receive a $50 gift card with purchase at walmart.com

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8. Lansinoh Disposable Stay Dry Nursing Pads

"I overproduced in the first couple weeks (and my milk would come in pretty much every time my baby LOOKED at my boobs), so Lansinoh disposable nursing pads saved me from many awkward leak situations!" —Justine

Price: $9.79

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9. Haakaa Silicone Manual Breast Pump

"This has been a huge help in saving the extra milk from the letdown during breastfeeding and preventing leaks on my clothes!" —Rachel

Price: $12.99

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10. Medela Harmony Breast Pump

"Because I didn't plan to breastfeed I didn't buy a pump before birth. When I decided to try, I needed a pump so my husband ran out and bought this. It was easy to use, easy to wash and more convenient than our borrowed electric pump." —Heather

Price: $26.99

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11. Milkies Fenugreek

"I struggled with supply for my first and adding this to my regimen really helped with increasing milk." —Mary N.

Price: $14.95

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12. Lansinoh Breast Milk Storage Bags

"I exclusively pumped for a year with my first and these are hands down the best storage bags. All others always managed to crack eventually. These can hold a great amount and I haven't had a leak! And I have used over 300-400 of these!" —Carla

Price: $13.19

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13. Kiinde Twist Breastfeeding Starter Kit

"The Kiinde system made pumping and storing breastmilk so easy. It was awesome to be able pump directly into the storage bags, and then use the same bags in the bottle to feed my baby." —Diana

Price: $21.99

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

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While you're gearing up for (or in the middle of) back to school season, Halloween may seem like it will never get here, but it's only a couple of months away. And if you can barely wait for the leaves to fall and temperatures to drop, Disney and Amazon are here to get you in the spooky spirit.

Enter: Disney's Halloween shop on Amazon. 🎃This curated collection features tons of items for the season and we love that many are nods to some of our favorite festive movies. Think: Hocus Pocus and A Nightmare Before Christmas.

From Halloween costumes for kids to ghostly mugs for mama, these are the best items for the entire family:

1. Disney Jack Skellington Mug

skellington mug

If you're a fan of Tim Burton's A Nightmare Before Christmas, this will be your favorite mug to sip your coffee or tea from.

Price: $12.99

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2. My First Halloween Board Book

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Halloween doesn't have to be scary, mama. This touch and feel board book introduces baby to the season.

Price: $8.99

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3. Anna + Elsa Costume

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Get a head start on your costumes by adding this one to your cart. Bonus points for having accessories that can be used for playtime year-round.

Price: $16.01-$28.99

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4. Minnie Mouse Sequin Ears

minnie mouse ears

If you don't want to fully dress up to trick or treat, add on these ears to feel festive for less.

Price: $11.99

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5. Hocus Pocus Women's Tee

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Hocus Pocus will always be a favorite. For a humorous take on being a mama, add this one to your wardrobe.

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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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Ashley Graham is having a baby! The supermodel recently shared the exciting news on social media — and it didn't take long for her to make an important statement about pregnant bodies.

Ashley shared a beautiful photo featuring something nearly every woman on the planet has: stretch marks. The photo, which features Ashley nude and seemingly unfiltered, is kind of revolutionary—because while it's completely normal for a woman to have stretch marks (especially during pregnancy), we don't often get to see celebrities rocking this reality on magazine covers or even in social media posts.

That's probably why Ashley, who will welcome her firstborn with husband Justin Ervin, is earning so much praise for the photo, which she posted on Instagram. The images shows the model's side with the caption "same same but a little different".

One follower who is loving this real look at a pregnant body? Hillary Scott of Lady Antebellum, who writes "My Lord, THANK YOU for this."

Ashley's post touches another user in an unexpected way: "I'm such a wimp. I'm pregnant, hormonal, and going though so many body changes. This made me tear up. I really needed this today," she writes.

Another user adds: "I showed my husband this photo and he said, 'See! She's just like you' I am almost 21 weeks pregnant and I've been struggling with my changing body. I love how much you embrace it. I've always looked up to you and your confidence. ❤️ Congratulations on your babe!"

Yet another follower adds: "This is what girls need to see. We need this as a reference for real and relatable. Women young and old. Thank you!"

Of course this is social media we're talking about so a few hateful comments make their way into the mix—but Ashley's many advocates shut that down. We have to applaud this stunning mom-to-be for showing the world how pregnancy really changes your body.

Women everywhere can see themselves in this photo of a supermodel (and how often does that happen?). That's powerful stuff—and it just might make it a little bit easier for the rest of us to embrace the changes we see in our own bodies.

One follower sums it all up best, writing: "I CANNOT WAIT for you to be a mother and teach another human being that ALL bodies are beautiful. You're going to be such an amazing mother."

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For a lot of families, summer is a season where rules relax and bedtimes get pushed back a little later than usual. But with school starting, weekday mornings are about to start a lot earlier for many kids, and parents might be wondering how to reset the clock on bedtimes.

According to Terry Cralle, an RN, certified clinical sleep expert and the spokesperson for the Better Sleep Council, a new school year is a good opportunity for families to get a fresh start on sleep routines.

"We have to start with really making sufficient sleep a family priority [and] having some discussions about the importance of sleep with our children," Cralle tells Motherly. "It shouldn't be at bedtime when everyone's cranky and tired. It should be during the day that families really discuss the importance of sleep for all family members."

If you need to have a conversation about getting enough sleep for school, try the following tips from Cralle.

1. Be positive about sleep

Make sure that younger children, especially, understand that sleep is a positive, not negative thing, and don't use the threat of bedtime as punishment.

"What we want to do is, ideally, change how children perceive sleep because children can see sleep as a great big timeout where they're missing out on things," Cralle explains, suggesting that parents instead try to present sleep and bedtime routines as "with positivity and as just a non-negotiable part of our lives."

Cralle wants parents to make sure they're talking with their kids about how a lack of sleep can impact one's mood, health and academic ability. Just as we teach our kids about the importance of eating healthy, we should be teaching them about the importance of sleeping healthy, and from an early age.

2. Empower your children with choices

According to Cralle, it's really important to empower children with choices around bedtime, because the one thing they can't have a choice in is the fact that they do need to go to sleep.

"They're going be more accountable, more responsible, and hopefully, develop good sleep habits and practice good hygiene early in life," if we empower them through simple choices, Cralle suggests.

"So we can say, what pajamas do you want to wear to bed tonight? What book do you want to read? Let them participate. If they can pick out their color of their pillowcase, let them do it. Whatever's age appropriate."

3. Let them do their own bedtime math

Instead of just telling kids when they need to go to bed, involve them in figuring out an appropriate bedtime.

The American Academy of Sleep Medicine lists how much sleep kids need depending on their age. Have them look up how much sleep a kid their age needs, and then show them the National Sleep Foundation's online bedtime calculator. Kids can choose how many hours of sleep they need and when they want to wake up, and it will show them when they need to go to bed.

It's not an arbitrary decision mom and dad made, it's science and math, and you can't argue with that.

4. Add one sleep item to the back-to-school shopping list

Cralle says adding one sleep-related item to the back to school shopping list can really help children understand the importance of sleep as they head back into the classroom. A conversation about how getting a good night's sleep is important for school success, combined with a shopping trip for a new pillowcase or comforter can really help children see sleep as an important priority, and give them something to look forward to using at bedtime.

5. Provide an environment conducive to sleep

When our kids are infants we're really good at setting up rooms that can help them sleep. But as our children age out of cribs and start to accumulate a lot of possessions and playthings, their rooms can become a less ideal sleeping environment.

According to Cralle, it's not uncommon for kids to get up after bedtime and start playing with toys in their room. She recommends removing stimulating toys or storing them in another area of the home, and never putting televisions, tablets or smartphones in a child's room.

6. Enact a media curfew

At least an hour before bedtime, screen time should come to an end and other, more relaxing activities can begin. Cralle says families can designate a certain hour as DEAR (Drop Everything and Read) time, or move from away from brightly lit screens and towards a board games or puzzles, "things to do to get that blue light out of their eyes."

A family-wide media curfew can be a good thing, says Cralle, as it helps parents "walk the walk" when it comes to sleep hygiene. "Don't be looking at your iPad and tell your child to put it away," she explains.

7. Remember: It's never too late for good sleep habits.

According to Cralle, age 3 is the ideal time to start reinforcing the importance of sleep for a child's health, but older kids and even mom and dad can reverse bad bedtime habits if the whole family buys in. That may mean curtailing your kids' (and your own) caffeine consumption, says Cralle.

"We're seeing younger and younger age groups of school children walking around with their Starbucks cups, with coffee, late in the afternoon," says Cralle, who thinks a lot of parents just don't have good information on how caffeine consumption can impact sleep—for our kids and ourselves.

She recommends limiting the number of caffeinated beverages available in the house if you've got tweens and teens at home, and watching your own consumption as well.

"We have to say 'Here's how we're all going to approach it.' It's sort of like seat belts with children, we never would buckle them in and get into the car, and not do it ourselves."

This may be the season to tweak your own sleep habits mama. Here's to a well-rested September.

[Correction: August 24, 2018: The sleep calculator was created by the National Sleep Foundation, not the Better Sleep Council.]

[A version of this post was originally published August 23, 2018. It has been updated.]

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Learn + Play

Finding out that you are having multiples is always a surprise, but finding out that you're in labor with triplets when you didn't even know you were pregnant, well that's the mother of all surprises.

It happened to Dannette Glitz of South Dakota on August 10. The Associated Press reports she had no idea she was pregnant and thought the pain she was experiencing was kidney stones.

"I never felt movement, I never got morning sickness, nothing!" Glitz explains in a social media post.

"Well this was a huge shock"

When Glitz posted photos of her triplets to her Facebook page last week one of her friends was confused. "What? You really had triplets?" they asked.

Glitz (who has two older children) started getting pain in her back and sides in the days before the birth, but it felt like the kidney stones she had previously experienced so she brushed it off. Eventually, she was in so much pain all she could do was lay in bed and cry.

"It hurt to move and even breath[e]," she wrote, explaining that she decided to go to an Urgent Care clinic, "thinking I'm going to have to have surgery to break the stones up."

A pregnancy test at Urgent Care revealed Glitz was pregnant—that was the first surprise. The second surprise happened when a heart monitor revealed the possibility of twins.

'I need another blanket, there's a third'

Glitz was transferred to a regional hospital in Spearfish, South Dakota. "And in about 2 hours they confirmed twins as there was 2 heart beats," she writes.

Glitz was 34 weeks along and four centimeters dilated. She was transferred again, rushed by ambulance to the hospital in Rapid City and prepped for a C-section. When the C-section was happening she heard the doctor announce that Baby A was a boy and Baby B was a girl.

"Then [the doctor] yells 'I need another blanket, there's a third' ....I ended up having triplets, 1 boy [and] 2 girls," Glitz writes.

Glitz and her husband Austin named their surprise children Blaze, Gypsy and Nikki and each of the trio weighed about 4 pounds at birth. Because the couple's older children are school-aged, they didn't have any baby stuff at home. Friends quickly rallied, raising over $2,000 via a Facebook fundraiser to help the family with unexpected expenses.

A family of seven 

The family is getting used to their new normal and is so thankful for the community support and donations. "It's amazing in a small town how many people will come together for stuff that's not expected," Glitz told KOTA TV.

Her oldest, 10-year-old Ronnie, is pretty happy about a trio of siblings showing up suddenly.

"One time I seen a shooting star and I wished for a baby brother, and I wished for like two sisters for my little sister because she always wanted a little sister, I knew this day was always going to come," Ronnie told TV reporters.

Ronnie may not have been surprised, but everyone else in this story certainly was.

Congratulations to Danette and her family! You've got this, mama.

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