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What Maternity Leave Looks Like for One Family in a Tiny Apartment

Baby Mabel and I wake up in the big bedroom, formerly the living room. I change her diaper and open the door. The cat and dog stroll in and take their places on the changing table and bed, respectively.


Carrying the baby, I walk into three-year-old Harvey’s room, formerly the big bedroom. We find my husband and Harvey watching videos quietly. We all greet each other and the adults inquire about sleep quality and length. Mabel was up three times but slept til 8. Harvey was up once but slept til 6:30. My husband, Justin, and I cannot decide who had it worse. I suspect it was my husband due to the sleepily discarded PlayStation controller that tripped me outside of Harvey’s bedroom door.

Mabel goes into her vibrating chair as I make breakfast. My husband and I reach around each other and a large Moses basket on a rolling stand to get to the coffee. I dodge for the milk; he lunges for the butter knives. The Moses basket is uneffected.

Harvey jumps on the couch near Mabel’s vibrating chair so I pick her up and put her into the big bedroom for her nap. My husband tells Harvey, “No drumming,” so that the baby can fall asleep. The baby falls asleep.

Carefully, I remove first the dog then, more carefully, the cat who is louder and more pointed. They both lay down under the couch and on the recliner, respectively. My husband tells Harvey, “No drumming,” so that the baby stays asleep. The baby wakes up. Everyone freezes. The baby falls back to sleep.

Grandma arrives. Harvey and the dog jump and bark with excitement. The baby wakes up. I push Grandma and Harvey into his bedroom to jump on the bed and close the door behind them. Hoping to do some work, my husband slogs up to the bonus room, formerly the second bedroom but ornamented with a set of slippery stairs no preschooler would survive in the middle of the night in my opinion, which is the correct opinion.

I put the baby in a wrap and pace around the living room dodging the vibrating chair, the swinging chair, and the toddler-sized Papasan chair that nobody uses. The baby falls asleep. I put her down in the big bedroom.

Harvey and Grandma dash up the slippery stairs to the bonus room and play with the train table. Justin flees the bonus room and settles in the living room. I put my hand on Justin’s shoulder and squeeze it, briefly. Harvey and Grandma, dressed as a black cat and a unicorn, respectively, come to dance in the living room. My husband retreats to the kitchen. The dog is back in the big bedroom. I do not know where the cat is.

I use the one bathroom for the first time that day. As I use the one bathroom Harvey pounds on the door saying he needs to pee. Together we use the one bathroom and discuss what we are both doing in greater detail than I would like. I make Harvey wash his hands despite the fact that, “There no pee on them, mommy!”

The baby wakes up. Harvey and I leave the one bathroom. Harvey races up the slippery stairs to the bonus room where Grandma is waiting with the drum. The baby is now swearing at me in baby talk.

Justin withdraws to Harvey’s bedroom. I put the baby into a wrap and we take the dog for a walk. The baby swears at me until we get back to the house, then falls asleep. Inside, Harvey is drumming. Mabel stays asleep. I put Mabel down into her crib. Mabel wakes up. I put Mabel down into her Rock ‘n Play and rock her. Mabel chooses play and stays awake.

I sit on the recliner with Mabel. Mabel and I look at each other glassy-eyed. Harvey and Grandma want to dance in the living room. I don’t know where my husband is. I don’t dare look in the bonus room because I fear the slippery stairs. Harvey and Grandma go to the backyard with the dog.

I lay down on the big bed with Mabel and nurse her. The cat appears and screams at me. I pet the cat on the head while physically holding him back from the baby. His claws affectionately tear the flesh of my hand. I stifle back cries of pain so the baby won’t wake up. The cat bites me and I wail for my husband, which wakes the baby.

Justin removes the cat and the baby falls asleep and will remain asleep as long as I keep a nipple in her mouth. Hours pass. I don’t know where my son, mother, or husband are and I have no feeling in my right arm.

I remember a different small apartment from an emptier time. My husband and I are there, alone, slunk together on a raggedy couch watching movies until late and using the one bathroom one at a time. I kiss the baby. The baby wakes up.

Grandma announces that she’s leaving. I invite her to stay a little bit longer. She laughs at my killer joke. I assure her I’m serious. She looks at me through eyes that speak of a thousand sleepless nights 30 years past and squeezes my shoulder, briefly. She announces she is still leaving. I thank her and ask her where my husband is and she tells me he’s in the one bathroom.

I knock on the door of the one bathroom and ask my husband if he got any work done. He sighs from behind the door. Harvey pounds on the door and tells my husband he needs to pee. They both use the one bathroom.

I put Mabel in the swinging chair and she cries. I put her in the vibrating chair and she cries. I trip over the toddler-sized Papasan. I hate the toddler-sized Papasan. Harvey wants to dance in the living room. The cat is stalking me from the slippery stairs. The dog has been left in the backyard.

It’s nighttime and the children need to eat dinner and go to bed. They don’t, but then hours later they do. I fall asleep in the big bedroom next to the baby in her Rock ‘n Play. I don’t know where my husband is, but wherever it may be, I hope that he’s happy.

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Rachel McAdams didn't talk publicly about her pregnancy or her birth story. There are some things this working mama wants to keep to herself, but the fact that she needs to pump at work isn't one of them.

McAdams was recently doing a photo shoot with photographer Claire Rothstein of Girls Girls Girls magazine when she needed to take a pump break. Wearing Versace and a neck full of diamonds McAdmans did what mamas all over the world do every day, and Rothstein snapped a pic that is now going viral.

In an Instagram post, Rothstein explains that she and McAdams had a "mutual appreciation disagreement about who's idea it was to take this picture," but the photographer says she remembers it being McAdams' idea, "which makes me love her even more."

In her caption of the amazing photograph, Rothstein writes: "Breastfeeding is the most normal thing in the world and I can't for the life of me imagine why or how it is ever frowned upon or scared of."

The photographer added that she wanted to put the image out there to change perceptions about breastfeeding, pumping, and working motherhood.

McAdams decision to normalize pumping through this glamorous image is especially cool when you consider that she's not really a social media person, and spends a lot of days in much less glam attire.

She recently arrived for her first interview since welcoming her son in the spring wearing a grey shirt, baggy pants and sneakers, reportedly telling the interviewer (Helena de Bertodano for The Sunday Times U.K.), "I don't even know what I'm wearing today. The shoes are held together with glue. Isn't that sad? I need to get a life."

"I have clothes on and that's a good thing," McAdams told Bertodano during that chat. Her attire for that newspaper interview was a world away from the clothes she wore for the Girls Girls Girls shoot.

During her Sunday Times interview McAdams declined to discuss her son's name or birthdate.

"I want to keep his life private, even if mine isn't," she explained. "But I'm having more fun being a mum than I've ever had. Everything about it is interesting and exciting and inspiring to me. Even the tough days — there's something delightful about them."

Most of us will never look the way McAdams does in this photo while we're pumping, but we can totally understand that sometimes, motherhood means you're wearing sweats and sometimes it means you're pumping in your work clothes (even if for most of us, that doesn't mean Versace).

McAdams may be keeping some parts of her motherhood experience private, but by showing the world this part of her day, she's normalizing something that desperately needs normalizing.

Some mamas pump, and the world needs to know (and accommodate) that.

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To my children,

It's the New Year, and I have been doing a lot of thinking. I want to say, with all of my heart and all of my soul, that I am sorry. I want apologize for anything (and everything) I have said or done that made you feel less-than or sad or small.

I regret, so deeply, the hurt I delivered through harsh words or sideways glances, for steely eyes you didn't deserve and sarcastic replies you didn't understand. I'm sorry for being upset when I should have been more understanding, for resorting to frustration when I should have found more patience, for pulling away when I should have drawn near.

There were the times when you needed more from me, when you asked for more, and I simply couldn't provide. There were the moments when you wanted less of me, needed less from me, and I couldn't—or perhaps I just wouldn't—back away.

I start every day with a hope, a hope that I will be better than the day before.

Sometimes I succeed, but many times, I fail. Every so often, I fail in spectacular fashion. I think about all the times when I wasn't gentle enough or kind enough or attentive enough to you, about all the moments when I was too quick to anger and not quick enough to forgive.

You don't need me to tell you that I'm not perfect. Lord knows, you know far too well.

But I will say it to you, because I think it helps to hear me say it: I am not perfect. I make mistakes. I am human. I have flaws and cracks and blemishes; they are a part of me, just as they are a part of you.

Sometimes, my dear ones, my mistakes are small—like forgetting to pack your lunch or mixing up the dates for Tot Shabbat, or picking you up an hour late from a play date or accidentally switching your piano primer with your brother's, or sending a snack I know you dislike because I didn't have time to go grocery shopping and have no other food in the refrigerator. But sometimes, they aren't so minor.

Sometimes, my mistakes have to do with the way I've behaved, and the words I have said, and the way I have said them. For those times, and for all the times I failed to support you the way I should, or help you in the way you deserve, and love you in the best way I can, I am sorry.

I wish I didn't make so many mistakes. I'm a perfectionist at heart, but when it comes to parenting, there's still so much I haven't mastered. Even after almost a decade of doing this day in and day out, I still feel like a novice in so many regards and as green as I did on day one.

Precious ones, I've come to realize, no matter how hard I try, that I just can't get it right all of the time. I hope you can forgive my failings.

The older I get, the more I realize that life is a jumble of hits and misses. As many times as we try and succeed, we also try and fail. As much as we hope to do right, we often end up doing wrong. It is the story of the human condition—this mix of losses and gains, triumphs and defeats. It's all very messy (think sloppy joes and pancakes dripping with syrup kind of messy), and yet, it's all we know.

My darling ones, I want nothing more than to do right by you and be the best mother I can be for you. I want to love you unconditionally, support you unreservedly, and be present unambiguously.

In the New Year, I resolve to do better for you, to be better with you, and to act as if God is watching. You mean the world to me. You are everything to me. I love you, always and forever.

All my love,

Mommy


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People often say that having a second child doesn't much add to the workload of parenting. There's no steep learning curve: You already know how to make a bottle, install a car seat and when to call the pediatrician. And you're already doing laundry, making lunches and supervising bath time—so throwing a second kid in the tub isn't a big deal.

Except that it is. Having a second child doesn't just mean attaching a second seat to your stroller. Adding a whole new person to your family is more complicated than that, and it's okay to say that it is hard.

A new study out of Australia disputes the popular idea that after making the transition from people to parents, making the jump from one child to two is easy. The researchers found that having a second child puts a lot of pressure on parents' time and their mental health, and mothers bear the brunt of the burden.

When looking at heterosexual couples, the researchers found that before a first child is born both partners feel equal amounts of "time pressure," but once the child is born, that pressure grows, more so for mothers than fathers.

Basically, parents feel psychological stress when they feel they don't have enough time to do all they need to. One baby makes both parents feel more stress, but mom's increase is more than dad's. When a second baby comes, that time pressure doubles for both parents, and since mom already had more than dad, there's now a gulf between them.

The researchers behind this study—Leah Ruppanner, Francisco Perales and Janeen Baxter—say that after a first child is born, a mother's mental health improves, but after a second child, it declines.

Writing for The Conversation, the trio explains:

"Second children intensify mothers' feelings of time pressure. We showed that if mothers did not have such intense time pressures following second children, their mental health would actually improve with motherhood. Fathers get a mental health boost with their first child, but also see their mental health decline with the second child. But, unlike mothers, fathers' mental health plateaus over time. Clearly, fathers aren't facing the same chronic time pressure as mothers over the long-term."

The researchers say that even when mothers reduce their work time, the time pressure is still there and that "mothers cannot shoulder the time demands of children alone."

Adding a second child to the family isn't just a matter of throwing a few more socks in the laundry: It means a schedule that is already stretched is now filling up with twice as many appointments, twice as many school functions. Mothers only have 24 hours in the day, and as much as we wish we could add a couple extra hours per child, we can't.

Time simply can't change to help us, but society can. As the researchers noted, when time pressure is removed, motherhood actually improves mental health.

We love our lives, we love our kids, we love parenting, but there is only so much of our day to go around.

Ruppanner, Perales and Baxter suggest that if society were to help mothers out more, our mental health (and therefore our children's wellbeing as well) would improve even after two or three kids. "Collectivising childcare – for example, through school buses, lunch programs and flexible work policies that allow fathers' involvement – may help improve maternal mental health," the researchers explain, adding that "it is in the national interest to reduce stressors so that mothers, children and families can thrive."

Whether you're talking about Australia or America, that last bit is so true, but this research proves that the myth about second-time parenthood isn't. Even if you already have the skills and the hand-me-downs, having a second child isn't as easy as it is sometimes made out to be.

We can love our children and our lives and still admit when things aren't easy.

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We know life gets a little (okay, a lot) busy around this time of year so if you haven't crossed off everyone on your Christmas list just yet, here's your reminder that you've still got time. Fortunately, that Amazon Prime membership of yours comes in handy... especially for the holidays.

Here are some of the best last-minute gifts to get on Amazon. Also, that extra couple of dollars for gift wrapping is *so* worth it if it's available. 😉

1. Tape Activity Book

So your little can create just about anywhere—on the go, in the car or hanging out at home.

Melissa & Doug Tape Activity Book, $6.47

BUY

2. Instant Pot

Mama, meet your new best friend. 4.5 stars with nearly 30K reviews.

Instant Pot 8-qt, $89.95

BUY

3. Silicone Teething Mitt

Offer relief to your teething one with a mitt that stays in place.

Itzy Ritzy Silicone Teething Mitt, $8.99

BUY

4. Roomba

Give the gift of never having to manually vacuum again.

iRobot Roomba 690, $279.00

BUY

5. Magnetic Tiles

These are always a favorite for kids of all ages. Build endless possibilities and work on fine motor skills—win-win!

Magnetic Tiles Building Blocks Set, $31.99

BUY

6. DryBar Triple Sec

Perfect addition to mama's stocking, or paired with a salon or blowout gift card. Adds *so* much texture and volume.

DryBar Triple Sec 3-in-1, $35.99

BUY

7. Plush Animated Bunny

Plays peek-a-boo and sings for baby.

Animated Plush Stuffed Animal, $32.97

BUY

8. 23andMe

Learn everything you want to know about your family history, where you came from, and even information about your genetics.

23andMe DNA Test, $67.99

BUY

9. Boon Bath Pipes

Make bath time more fun. They suction to the wall and can be played with individually or altogether in a chain.

Boon Building Bath Pipes, $14.99

BUY

10. HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer

For printing all of those adorable Instagram moments—and for getting *all* of the photos off your phone.

HP Sprocket Portable Photo Printer, $99.95

BUY

11. Board Blocks

Kids can sort, learn colors and shapes, and work on their hand-eye coordination.

Wooden Educational Geometric Board Block, $6.39

BUY

12. Ring Doorbell + Echo Dot

A great bundle for the techie in your life.

Ring Doorbell 2 and Echo Dot, $169.00

BUY

13. Pai Technology Circuit Conductor

For the little who wants to learn to code, this offers endless learning fun.

Pai Technology Circuit Conductor Learning Kit, $69.99

BUY

14. Kindle Paperwhite, Audible + Headphones Bundle

Bookworms will love this bundle. Enjoy a new Kindle Paperwhite, wireless bluetooth stereo headphones, and 3 month free trial for Audible for new users.

Kindle Paperwhite Bundle, $139.00

BUY

15. Wooden Grocery Store

We love this imaginative play grocery store, complete with a beeping scanner and hand-cranked conveyor belt.

Melissa & Doug Freestanding Wooden Fresh Mart Grocery Store, $179.99

BUY

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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