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My truck-driving husband called me this morning, as he usually does, to say good morning. I heard the slightest sadness in his voice and asked what was going on. I expected the usual: morning traffic jams, getting cut off, witnessing far too many try to drive while putting on makeup or reviewing piles of papers for work (yep… that sadly happens). What I didn’t expect was to fall into an hour-long philosophical discussion.

“What if I wasn’t a truck driver? What other versions of me could be out there? What if I’d been a teacher? I could’ve taught for eight years by now and be working on a Master’s degree. What if?”

Honestly, who hasn’t wondered about other versions of themselves?

I responded, “It honestly doesn’t matter what you did or didn’t do eight years ago, because you can’t change any of that. The only thing to focus on is the now. What are you going to do right now?”

This is a topic I wish someone had had with the 18-year-old me. I felt completely unprepared for college and life, and it’s a conversation that should be taken seriously with all kids. Not just the high schoolers who are applying to schools and taking SATS but even little kids. Kids need to imagine and even act out the different versions of who they could be. It’s not enough to pick a college major simply because that was your best subject in high school, which is what I did. Although it has worked out for me now, it was a rough start.

Here are four conversation pointers to ask your kids now to help them decide future careers.

1 | What do you want to be when you grow up?

I know, I know, kids get asked this question all the time, but that doesn’t make it any less important. Ask it. Ask follow-up questions. Ask the question again, because the answer may shift just a bit or do a complete and total 180.

Once you know this answer, it helps for two reasons. One, you can help foster this passion and help him prepare for what needs to be done to meet that goal. Two, it gives you the opportunity to test out this passion. If your child says he wants to be a chef, sign him up for a kids’ cooking class and let him feel what it’s like to act out that dream. Maybe he’ll realizes it’s not for him and will cross it off the list before he commits too far, or maybe he realizes he loves it as much as he thought he would.

2 | Why?

When most adults ask kids what they want to be when they grow up, the conversation ends once the child replies, but it absolutely should not end there.

Play the why game. My son, who could probably build Lego cars in his sleep, has the brain of an engineer. I’ve always pictured him building or designing buildings, or inventing machines. I thought I knew what his answer would be to the first question, so I didn’t ask him for the longest time. When I finally asked him, he said he wanted to own a bakery. I was surprised, so I decided to dive deeper. “Why?” I asked. He shared how he likes to bake and thought it would be really fun to “design” new breads and desserts. Since then he consistently says he wants to own a bakery.

3 | Dreaming big versus unrealistic goals

I like to think that I dream big. I grew up hearing that the sky was the limit, that the world was my oyster, and that I could be whatever I wanted to be. Of course, one of the things that I really wanted to be was a mother. It’s what I wrote on my first grade “all about me” poster. Most kids wrote doctor or astronaut, but I drew a stick figure mom with stick figure babies all around her. It was not a “big” dream in the sense that I had ambitions to become the queen of the universe or anything, but it was a big dream because it also happened to be an odd goal. Not to get into a feminist debate, but I executed my rights as a woman to choose my life path, and I chose motherhood. I’ve since added “author” to the list of dreaming big, but the point is that my parents didn’t have to talk me down from dreaming something unrealistic.

What do you do if your child does have unrealistic goals? Is it possible to address the “unlikely” aspects of her goals without crushing her spirit? She wants to be the first woman president? Great! Since that job opening is hard to snag, discuss the steps that lead to a presidential campaign. Talk about career choices that would foster a solid political career such as attending law school or majoring in political sciences. Get her involved in politics in your town if you can. Help her create a realistic (yet still dreaming big) goal. Perhaps she will get involved in local politics, attend law school, run for local offices, and do her best to move up in the political world. The question of presidency isn’t out of the question, but it’s not the end-all, be-all goal either.

This also works if your son professes the desire to be a pro football player. What could help him get a foot in the sports world? Focus on sports journalism? Focus on sports medicine?

Unrealistic goals can also pop up when money (rather than personal satisfaction) is made too important. If your easily-disgusted-faints-at-the-sight-of-blood daughter declares her decision to be a doctor, don’t let it slide. A happy life can’t be obtained with a job you hate, and following a true passion can help lead to personal satisfaction in life. Obviously, money is important: we all need it. Just help your child realize it should not be the driving factor in deciding his career fate. Help him find the balance between passion and practicality.

4 | “I don’t know”

As your kids get older, their quick replies might fade and you might start to hear, “I don’t know” more and more. This is totally normal, but don’t let the conversation end there. Thinking back to my conversation with my husband, this is where I truly believe he needed the most help as a teen – someone to guide his hand and tell him that not knowing was okay. He needed someone to help him find the answers.

Of course, you can’t make these decisions for your kids, but you can help them try new experiences. Look into various camps (cooking camp, medical camps, etc.) that allow kids and teens to try out new experiences.

Your child has a bit of time before she gets into the real world. Perhaps the most important take-away from all of this is that she will learn that she can talk to you about life decisions and the hard stuff in life. Deciding a life path is never easy, but at least your child knows you are in her corner cheering for her.

Who said motherhood doesn't come with a manual?

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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I can vividly remember the last time I remember feeling truly rested. I was on vacation with my family, and my dad and I had started a tradition of going to sleep at 10 p.m., then waking up at 10 a.m. to go for a run. After five days of twelve hours of sleep a night, I remember actually pausing and thinking, "I am truly not at all tired right now!"

That was probably 15 years ago.

Of course, being tired pre-kids and being tired post-kids are two entirely different beasts. Pre-kids, tiredness was almost a badge of pride. It meant you had stayed up late dancing with friends or at a concert with your boyfriend. It meant you had woken up early to hit a spin class before gliding into work, hair still damp from your shower, for a morning meeting. Being tired meant you were generally killing it at life—and I was still young enough that, with a little concealer, I could look like it.

Tired post-kids is a whole other animal.

Tired post-kids means you probably still went to bed at a reasonable hour, but you're still exhausted. Maybe you even slept in past sunrise... but you're still exhausted. You may not have worked out in weeks... but you're still exhausted. And staying out late dancing with your girlfriends? (I mean... is that real life? Was it ever?) Nope, didn't do that. But—you guessed it!—you're still exhausted.

Sometimes I look at my husband and say, "I think if I could sleep for about five days, then I would feel rested again."

But considering the average new mom loses almost two months of sleep in her child's first year of life, even that is probably a low estimate of what I really need.

Because being a mom is exhausting.

It's exhausting always putting someone else's needs above your own. I often find myself actually giving my daughter the food off my plate (because, when you're two, mom's meal must be better even if you're eating the exact same thing).

Or I'll sacrifice sneaking my own nap to lie uncomfortably with her on the couch because it means she sleeps an extra 30 minutes.

Or I'll carry her up and down flights of stairs she is perfectly capable of scaling on her own because, well, she's tired or it's just quicker than nagging her to hurry up all the time.

I often end the day bone-tired, shocked at the physical exertion of just keeping this little person alive.

It's exhausting remembering all the things. The mental load of motherhood is so real, and sometimes I'm not sure it won't crush me.

I schedule and remember the doctor appointments, keep the fridge stocked and plan the meals, notice when my husband is low on white shirts and wash and fold the laundry, add the playdates and the date nights to the calendar, and add any assortment of to-dos to my day because, well, I'm the parent at home, so I must have time, right?

And when I drop one of the thousand balls I'm juggling, I writhe under the guilt of failing at my responsibility.

It's exhausting not getting enough sleep. The sleep gap doesn't end after baby's first year.

Studies have shown that parents lose as much as six months of sleep in their child's first two years of life. That sounds unbelievable at first...but I completely believe it.

Because sometimes I stay up later than I should just to get a few minutes of "me" time. Because sometimes my sleep-trained daughter still wakes up in the middle of the night with a nightmare or because she's sick or for no real reason at all and needs me to soothe her back to sleep.

Because sometimes I'm so busy trying to keep it all together mentally that I don't know how to turn my own brain off to get to sleep. And because sometimes (almost always) my daughter wakes up earlier than I would like her to and the day starts over before I'm ready.

It's exhausting maintaining any other relationship while being a mom. I try not to neglect my marriage. I try not to neglect my friendships. I try to make time for friendly interaction with my coworkers. I try to be there for my congregation. I try to keep all these connections alive and nurtured, but the fact is that some days my nurture is completely used up.

It's exhausting doing all of the above while being pregnant. Okay, this one might not resonate for every mom, but we all know being pregnant is hard. Being pregnant with a toddler? I'm shocked it's not yet an Olympic event. (I'm not sure if we'd all get gold medals or just all fall asleep at the starting gun.)

Most days, I'm so tired and busy I honestly forget that I am pregnant, only to be reminded at the end of the day when I finally collapse on the couch and the little one in my uterus wakes up to remind me. My body is doing amazing things, sure—and I have the exhaustion to show for it.

Of course, I know that this is just an exhausting season of life. One day, one not-so-far-off day, my children will be a bit more grown and be able to get their own breakfast in the morning. One day, they'll actually want to sleep in, and I'll be the one opening their curtains in the morning to start the day (maybe before they're really ready).

One day, they'll always walk up and down the stairs themselves and will stop stealing my food and I'll be able to nap without making sure they are asleep or with a sitter. One day, they won't need me to remember all the things.

And the really wild part? Just thinking about that day makes me miss these days, just a bit.

So, yes, I'm tired. I'm always tired. But I'm grateful too. Grateful I get to have these days. Grateful I get to have this life.

But also really grateful for those days I get to nap, too.

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For the first couple years of a child's life, their feet grow so rapidly that they typically need a new shoe size every two to three months (so, no, you're not imagining how many shoes you've been buying lately!).

Fortunately, things tend to slow down as they start walking and hit school age. Even so, it's important to make sure they're wearing the right size for maximum comfort and healthy development.

That's why we teamed up with the experts at Rack Room Shoes for tips on helping the whole family get back to school on the right foot.

1. Get professionally fitted at least once a year.

We love online shopping as much as anyone, but for the health of your child's feet, it's worth it to make at least an annual trip to a store to get them properly sized on a Brannock Device (yep, those old-school sizers you remember as a kid are still the most reliable indicators of foot length and width!). Back to school is a great time to plan a visit to a store with trained associates who can help ensure your little one is getting the right fit.

2. Remember not all feet (or shoes) are created equally.

Most babies have naturally pudgier feet that thin out as they get older, and many kids need a wider or narrower shoe than their peers. Visiting a store and speaking with a trained associate can help you gauge which shoe brand will best suit your child. Once you have that benchmark, shopping online will be easier.

3. Get good closure.

Shoe closure, that is. Nowadays, there's a variety of ways to fasten kids shoes, from slip-ons to velcro to elastic laces. Provide your child with a few options to find the closure that works best for you both.

4. Watch for tell-tale signs your child has outgrown their shoes.

Children will often be the last ones to tell you their favorite shoes are uncomfortable. If your child is tripping or walking funny, it may be time to size up.

5. Try the push-down toe method.

Think your kid has outgrown their kicks? Push down on the toe of their shoe with your thumb to see how much wiggle room they have. The ideal size is to have about half a thumb's width between the tip of the toe and the end of the shoe. (That space equates to about half a size.)

6. Pick a style they'll want to put on. (Here are some of our favorites!)

Most moms know the struggle of getting kids out the door in the morning—the right pair of shoes can help cut down on the (literal) foot-dragging. Opt for a fun style (consider shopping for their favorite color or a light-up design) that they'll be begging to wear every day. (But feel free to buy a second pair that's more your style too!)

You'll love that they're classic converse. They'll love the peek of pink.

Converse Girls Maddie, $44


7. Don't forget the sneakers.

Whether they're running through the recess or racing in P.E., school-age children need a pair of well-fitting, durable sneakers. Be sure to get them professionally fitted to ensure nothing slows them down on the playground.

8. Understand the size breakdowns.

Expert retailers like Rack Room Shoes break up sizing by Baby, Toddler, Little Kid, and Big Kid to make it easier to find the right section for your child. For boys, there's no size break between kids shoes and men's shoes. Girls, though, can cross over into women's shoes from size 4 (in girls) on—a girl's size 4 is a women's size 5.5 or 6.

Looking for more advice? Step into a Rack Room Shoes store near you or shop online. With a "Buy One, Get One 50% off" policy, you can make sure the whole family will put their best foot forward this back-to-school season. (We had to!)

Who knew Amazon had so many dreamy nursery must-haves? Maybe you have a friend or family member about to have a baby or you're preparing for your new bundle of joy—either way, you can save tons on grabbing some essentials on Prime Day.

We've rounded up our favorite nursery items from basics, like cribs and changing tables, to the essentials you never knew you needed (hint: lots of storage!).

1. 6-drawer dresser

This gorgeous dresser has plenty of space for baby's clothing and accessories—and will transition seamlessly to a big kid room one day. Even better? The top is large enough to be used as a changing table. The shade of white is great for any gender, too!

Dresser, Amazon, $239.99 ($329.99)


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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