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“Girl, the dishes will be there tomorrow.”

“There are more important things than a clean house.”

“You could spend your whole life cleaning, and you’d still be behind, why not spend a little more time with your kids, instead?”

“I know you want to keep things nice, but it’s just as important to take care of yourself.”

“How often does your bathroom really need cleaning? Honestly!”

All of these are delightful pieces of advice, friendly reminders to parents (but mostly to moms) that life is short, and there’s really no need to spend all of it doing boring chores. Before I say what I’m about to say, I want to stress that I understand that these tidbits of wisdom come from a very good place, a place of kindness, and caring, and even love.

Maybe these tidbits are extremely helpful to some mothers. Maybe, for some moms, a platitude like “the dishes can wait” is exactly the gentle and nurturing reminder that she needs to give herself a freaking break once in a while, accept that she can’t be perfect, and let her hair down.

It’s just that, for me, and (I suspect) plenty of other moms like me, they feel a little bit um, off.

I’m a mother to a toddler, and I’m told he’s at one of the most “intense” ages there are. Intense doesn’t have to mean bad. It happens to often be a really fun age, actually. He’s learning new things incredibly quickly, he’s getting better at communicating every day, he’s affectionate and loving, and he no longer needs to be carried 100% of the time. It’s great!

But, of course, he’s also loud, obstinate, clingy, and requires pretty much constant supervision because, yes, he will take things out of the garbage and eat them and, if you are extremely lucky, those things will be food.

I’m also, frankly, really freaking busy. I’m not busy in that, “You ever notice how our culture glorifies being busy and everyone says they’re busy these days?” sort of way.

I’m busy in that, “I am bone numbingly tired and I have not stopped going since seven in the goddamned morning and there is no way I will finish all of the things that were on my MUST DO TODAY THIS IS URGENT list before I inevitably pass out” sort of way.

I’m extremely lucky to be doing this whole parenting thing with a fabulous partner, but that fabulous partner and I both have to work, and the money that we make goes for luxuries like bills and the occasional food item, so we have no money for childcare. That means that we are constantly trading off. One of us is caring for the kid, the other one is working, and vice versa. All of the many household tasks required to keep a family of three going (six if you count the cats) have to happen in the spaces in between, or, often, in the hours right after the kid goes to bed.

I’m going to level with you for a second: It blows.

And I get stressed. And I complain. And it is right then, when I am complaining that the house is a mess and I’m never going to catch up and I had twelve things to do today and accomplished three, it is exactly at that moment when someone tells me – sweetly, earnestly – that the dishes can wait.

I know the dishes can wait.

I know the dishes can wait because they are already waiting. I know the dishes can wait because they have waited for as long as they possibly can. I know the dishes can wait because three times today I had to wash a child-safe plate before I could get my 1 year-old something to eat.

I understand very well that the dishes will still be there in the morning, because they always freaking are. Almost every morning, I get up, and I stare at the dishes that are still very much there, and I curse.

The same thing is true for nearly every other chore that folks are encouraging me to put off a little longer. Trust me, I have already put it off as long as possible. If I’m complaining about it? That’s because I can no longer get out of doing it. And it isn’t because I’m lazy – although, I might be lazy – it’s because I have too many things to do than can actually be accomplished, and so my life is a constant exercise in bumping things down to a lower priority until they become really, really urgent.

I think part of the problem is the image that we have in our head of motherhood, and of womanhood in general. When I try to summon some image of who the “the dishes can wait” platitudes are for, one face swims into view. It’s Aunt Petunia, from Harry Potter. In the books, several mentions are made of Aunt Petunia’s “surgically clean kitchen” and at least one reference to her “pre-bedtime wipe down of all the kitchen surfaces.” And I’ve known people like this. There are people who just can’t fall asleep until they know that all their stuff is clean and in order.

I’m not like that. Most of my mom friends are not like that.

Our kitchens are not “surgically clean” (seriously though, do NOT do surgery in my kitchen) and the surfaces only get wiped down when something gets spilled directly on them, if that. We are doing the best we can, but we are treading water. Our houses are messy and we know they are messy and we know they are probably going to stay messy for a very long time. We aren’t demanding perfection of ourselves, and we really don’t need to be reminded that perfection isn’t required.

When we complain about the dishes, or the laundry, or the bathroom, it isn’t because we’re trying to stay 100 percent on top of all the household tasks and we’re worried we might slip just a tiny bit behind. We aren’t stressing out about that one knife with a little peanut butter on it in the sink.

No, when we complain it’s because we desperately want to have enough energy tonight to wash a couple of coffee cups, so we don’t have to do it before we drink our coffee tomorrow morning. We’re hoping to wash the toilet maybe once a month, preferably before our in-laws come over this time. We’re wishing like hell that we had time and energy to vacuum, because wondering what’s sticking to the baby’s feet is getting kind of old.

When we talk about the dishes we feel like we should be doing, what we’re actually talking about is the desperate – and often hopeless – desire to get just a tiny bit ahead. Or maybe it’s the desperate desire to just not get any more behind. We aren’t forgoing valuable family time because we’re obsessed with having a clean house. Rather, we’re working our butts off to have a house just clean enough so that, once in awhile, we can actually take some family time.

I want to not have to fish a sippy cup out of the sink before I get lunch for my kid. I want to be able to run a bath without thoughtfully touching the inside of the tub first to see if the grime is really “too bad” this time.

If you want to say something helpful when it looks like I’m struggling, I understand, and I appreciate it. But please, refrain from telling me that the dishes can wait. Because the truth is that they’ve already waited exactly as long as they possibly can.

Believe me, if I could possibly spend any less time on the housework, I would.

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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