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Ma. Ma. Ma. Ma, uppy. Ma, you push swing high? Ma, potty? Ma, we go walk? Ma, we play tag? Ma, read book?


From the second – and I mean the second – they open their precious little blues, we spend all our time together. In fact, I am not sure we have spent but a handful of their waking moments apart since conception. We dress, shower, run errands, even crap with those little suckers attached to our hips.

All this time together helps create the inseparable bond we seek from birth – the connection that ensures they know we are their life force, so they don’t go wandering away with every other lady who has disheveled hair, coffee breath, and bags pulling on her eyelids.

This relationship also slowly changes the women we once were. Attention to self slips slowly to last place. Quiet moments of reflection are no longer. Gone are the days of endless meandering through life, as time is now set in blocks of feeding and nap schedules. Emails go unanswered, dates become cold meals at home, your nails (go ahead, look) scream for a file and some polish. You gradually start becoming a barely recognizable version of yourself.

 

 

A dear friend of mine, seeing me in the throes of this newfound Mommy-and-Me condition, suggested an open gym class for the boys. I signed up immediately, looking forward to them enjoying some time playing with someone other than Mommy.

I went to bed the night before class like a child before a holiday. Images of me relaxing and drinking my hot cup of coffee, maybe even catching up on some emails, while the children frolicked with their new friends, danced in my head.

As I entered the gym, my cheeks hurt from smiling, gleeful for the adventure ahead. My amusement abruptly halted, though, as I walked in the room. In front of me, a scene unfolded not much different than my living room: a bunch of toys tossed from one end of the room to the other and a bunch of mothers sitting on the floor playing with their toddlers.

Seriously??! Had I just rushed through our morning routine, raced over here, and walked through my own front door? I could have easily stayed in my pajamas and done all this in the comfort of my home. And, to top it off, I was now paying the woman who organized this “gym class.”

I figured it had to be a joke. No one would pay someone to do what they already have to do.

Sure enough. Another Mommy-and-Me trap. One more scenario where it’s just me managing my gremlins. I mean, sure, now I could look around the room and commiserate with the other ladies struggling to enjoy the torture they endured. Is there nowhere I can go and get a break?!

I love playing with my littles. Building a tower, swimming in the pool, making a playdoh house, even running in the backyard. But every now and again, I long for a secret little place we could go where my kids played with someone else for a few minutes. Where I could sip my coffee and watch them enjoying themselves from afar. Where they might not catch me savoring a pastry. Where, even for a minute, I could enjoy some time without someone hanging on me.

When I was young, my mother read to us, a lot. Some of my fondest memories are of her reading the “Little House on the Prairie” series during her work breaks. My sister and I eagerly awaited the next day’s installments. I remember her occasionally walking us to the park, where she sat on a bench and watched us play.

We had lots of Barbies and puzzles and one of those pretend kitchens. I still remember the Christmas I received my favorite plastic guitar, which I was allowed to play outside, by myself. I don’t have a tremendous amount of memories playing with my mother.

She didn’t sit on the floor and dress our dolls. We didn’t tumble and jump on her back in a gym class designed for toddlers. We had play dates with friends, where my mom and her friends sat and chatted and we kids played together, without video screens or constant adult interactions. We didn’t expect mom’s undivided attention from waking moment to sleep because, quite frankly, we knew that wasn’t an option.

So when did it become the only option??

We live in a different world now. We are judged for our parenting skills more than any other role we fill. The scrutiny has brought some significant changes in our parenting. I am all for increased car seat laws, not smoking around littles, hell, even forcing healthier food choices. These changes have all positively impacted the lives of our children. But how has attachment parenting and doting on them nonstop impacted them?

I love my kids more than life itself, and I enjoy most of the moments I spend with them. But I don’t enjoy being their buddy. I am their mom. I am the crucial part of our Mommy-and-Me, but I’m losing the Me.

I want to be the best mom I can without losing everything I once knew about myself. I want to push trucks down the banister. I want to finger paint and mold clay. I want to race each other to the park.

But I also want to get some wash done while they play. I want to drink my coffee in the morning without reheating it four times and then accepting it cold. I want a quiet dinner with my husband. I want to pee without someone trying to get in my underwear.

I hope we all find that secret hole in the wall where kids entertain themselves for a few minutes, where a play date doesn’t include us creating some orchestrated fantastical experience for them. I wish for us all to gain the strength to lock the door and let them scream outside while we use the bathroom. I wish for a break in the day to call our long-lost friends. I wish for a damn warm coffee each morning.

Here’s to taking a few minutes each day to look in the mirror and dig out the woman in there. Here’s to finding the balance between being the Mom in Mommy-and-Me and the Me in Mommy.

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Ah, back to school time. The excitement of a new year for our kids and the impossibly busy schedule for their mamas. Anyone else get to the end of the day and think, "What did I even DOOO today, and why am I so exhausted?" 🙋

Luckily, finding a system to help you plan out your days can help reduce stress and improve your overall quality of life—which we are all for.

Here are eight planners we love that'll quickly take you from "What is happening?!" to "Look what I did!"

1. Day Designer

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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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A new school year is looming and while a lot of parents are looking forward to seeing their kids take the next steps in their education, many of us are not looking forward to getting everyone back into a weekday morning routine.

Mornings can be tough for kids and their mamas. One of our favorite celebrity mamas, Kristen Bell, does not deny that mornings with her daughters, 5-year-old Lincoln and 3-year-old Delta, aren't easy at all.

"It's miserable," Bell recently told POPSUGAR. "It's awful no matter who's doing what. And I'll tell you right now, the 3- and 5-year-old aren't doing jack."

Anyone who has ever tried to wrangle a preschooler out of their pajamas, to the breakfast table, then into their school clothes and backpack at seven o'clock in the morning knows exactly what Bell is talking about. She says some days are better than others, but it's hard to know what level of kid-induced chaos you're gonna wake up to on a weekday.

"It depends on their emotional stability, it depends on their attitude toward each other, toward life," Bell told POPSUGAR. "It depends on their developmental stage."

Luckily, Bell has got some backup. She's been open about how she and her husband, Dax Shepard, practice a tag team approach to parenting, and sometimes, Bell gets a chance to tap out of the morning routine. Unfortunately, Shepherd's later schedule means it doesn't happen as often as she would necessarily like.

"I don't want to say that I do more mornings than he does, but if you were to check the records, that's probably what you'd find," she told POPSUGAR.

If, like Bell, you're really not feeling mornings with the kids, there are a few things you can try to make things a little easier on yourself, mama.

1. Change the conversation

Instead of saying "hurry up" or "get in the car, right now,"try to mix up your vocabulary a bit.

If there's a need for speed, remind the kids that it's time for "fast feet" or that you're racing to the car.

If you're feeling overwhelmed, you might consider sharing that with your kids. Let them know that mama's got a lot to do this morning and that it would be a huge help if they could make sure their water bottle is in their backpack.

2. Make breakfast ahead of time

If cereal isn't your jam or your kids need something hotter, and more substantial in the morning, cooking up breakfast can be a major hurdle on hectic mornings.

Check out these Pinterest perfect make-ahead morning meals, like breakfast enchiladas or egg muffins, and make mornings a bit easier on yourself, mama.

3. Bring some Montessori into your mornings

Help your kids take control of their AM destiny by bringing some limited choices (like clothing) into the morning routine and allowing for natural consequences (like having to settle for an apple in the van because they missed breakfast) but also allowing for fun with mom.

"Try doing something simple, with clear boundaries, such as reading two books before it's time to start the morning routine. If they're ready early, you can spend more time together, which is also a great natural incentive," writes Montessori expert Christina Clemer.

Here's to a less stressful AM routine for Kristen Bell and the rest of us mamas. Just because it feels miserable today doesn't mean it will be tomorrow. There is hope, Kristen!

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It was a year ago when I was pregnant, parenting a highly-spirited preschooler and also working a full-time job while trying to maintain a part-time side business when I got to the point of I have had enough.

I can't remember exactly what the trigger was, but like most times, it wasn't just one thing but a build-up over time that culminates in a massive meltdown.

You see, I was not getting much appreciation or validation for all of my contributions. This was a time when my partner, too, was working full-time and in graduate school two evenings a week. It was stressful for everyone, but, as the wife and mother, I carried the family through it by tending to the little details: the pick-up and drop-offs, the shopping, the cooking, all the minutiae of everyday life.

So, after perseverating on my laundry list of seen and unseen responsibilities, I decided to sit down with pen and paper and make a "day in the life" list from wake-up to bedtime that showed my partner exactly what my day entailed—a day that supported two other people in the house and one in the oven.

Even I was surprised to see all of the things listed out in 15-minute increments. On paper, it actually looked even worse than it felt. I thought to myself about how much physical, mental and emotional energy I expend in this hectic season of our lives. And I didn't regret it for a minute.

However, back to my original complaint…I still wanted to be validated for it. I needed to be seen for both the implicit and explicit tasks and expectations in my day-to-day.

So I handed my list over to my husband, expecting him to be awakened to the fact I was indeed working in overdrive and for him to be grateful for all the ways that I take so many burdens off of him so that he can be successful in school and his career.

Instead of that, his response almost put me into a state of shock. He read over the list and then said, "I know. You are Superwoman."

His words, like kryptonite, left me speechless. Part of me knew that his intent was for this to be a compliment, but it felt so invalidating. It completely missed the mark, and instead of leaving me feeling appreciated, I felt less understood.

Superheroes have innate superpowers that I imagine they use with ease. In fact, they are expected to use their powers and perhaps that is their sole purpose. No one ever looks to a superhero and asks, "Do you need a break?" And as a feminist, I sure as heck believe women are strong and powerful. But the idea of being labeled a "superwoman" did not feel empowering.

I already know I am efficient, capable, strong and fierce. But, I am also fatigued, sometimes overworked and underappreciated, and worst of all expected to be the one that keeps it together for everyone else.

What I learned about through my research of who Superwoman really is was this: her powers always wear off by the end of the story. Turns out these so-called "superpowers" really are temporary. That I can relate to.

I am only human and there are days and weeks where I feel on top of the world, days where I can manage it all with ease. I can be up all night nursing a baby, take both kids to school, and show up on time for a 9:00 am meeting with a French pastry I baked from scratch. I can push through the exhaustion and demands every day…until I can't.

And it's not just my spouse who uses this label. I have well-meaning girlfriends who have also tossed the term out there as if it was meant to be a feather in my cap.

When things get tough, I appreciate the texts of support my girlfriends send me. Even when they are far away, it's nice to know someone cares when everyone in your house has the stomach flu while your partner is out of the country. It's comforting to be able to share the ups and downs of trying to balance a career with a growing family.

But when the text comes in and says something like, "I don't know how you do all that. You are a supermom!" I feel like there should be an auto-reply that says, "Connection lost."

The thing is, I don't want to be elevated to superhero status for living my life. It is not heroic and it's probably not too far off from what every other devoted partner and mother provides their family. But, this is what I think we need, what we are starving for. We need someone to say, "How are you doing?" or, "What have you done lately to care for yourself?" or, "Thank you for all that you do and who you are."

Those are the kinds of words that let me know I am seen and make me feel validated when I am working the hardest. They let me know that the people I love the most see me, and not a cape.

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