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5:05 a.m. My eyes open. A faint pearly blade of light squeezing past the blind. The distant metallic scrape of a moving tram.


I lie here in the dawn’s dimness, my dreams still lingering.

“I am a happily married man, and I am not looking for any other arrangement. I would ask that you please do not contact me again.”

I reach for my phone.

The last words of his last message haunt me. It seems impossible that it is “over,” even if our relationship was only ever a virtual one.

“What time is it?” my husband murmurs beside me.

“Early,” I say.

He reaches for my phone.

“I’m in the middle of an email!”

He reaches for me instead.

With a grunt of frustration, I fling his arm off me and get out of bed.

6:14 a.m. I am preparing lunch for my three-year-old daughter – marmalade sandwich, sliced banana – when I hear the soft ping of an incoming email. I pick up my phone. Feel the familiar sting when I see that it’s not from him.

I stand, staring out the kitchen window at the long shadow of the neighboring apartment stretching across the river’s waters. I wonder how I let it get so far. How it became all consuming. I think of the hours spent scrolling through his messages, especially the ones where he said he understood me.

“I get you,” he would say. “We’re on the same page.”

He was a marketing executive for an agency I write copy for, or at least I used to, and our contact, at first, was purely professional. But I quickly became drawn to him – and I thought we shared a connection.

“Mummy.”

My daughter is standing at the kitchen entrance. Tousled blonde hair, unicorn PJs, her stuffed monkey doll dangling from her hand. Swamped in my thoughts, I hadn’t heard her coming down the hallway.

7:04 a.m. My husband is running late. And he has to drop off our daughter at kindergarten on his way to work. I sit down to try and help put on her sandals.

“I’ll do it!” she says defiantly.

She fumbles with the sandal strap. I reach over and raise the prongless buckle. She realizes I am trying to help and squeals with rage, yanking her sandal off with both hands.

“For God’s sake!” my husband says impatiently. “Why didn’t you just let her do it?”

I flip him the bird behind her back.

7:10 a.m. My daughter’s pouting face is the last thing I see as the lift doors seal.

7:11 a.m. I turn on my laptop. Elsa from “Frozen” is my user icon – something I set up to make my daughter happy. What would it be like to have Elsa’s power? How long would it take before I turned my husband into ice?

I scan The New York Times, The Australian, The Guardian. My pulse begins to slow. I am breathing calmly again.

8:03 a.m. I get in the shower and stand there, feeling the cold needles of water hitting my breasts, causing my nipples to harden. I vaguely consider directing the nozzle between my legs, but the indeterminable time of concentration required, face grimacing, desperately trying to break through the barrier just feels like too much to bear.

8:21 a.m. After I get dressed, I check my emails again. There’s nothing. Apart from two that require follow-up: chasing up photos, editorial change requests.

I’m researching something on my laptop when I get distracted by a piece of clickbait in the right-hand column: “Toxic Liver – 30-second quiz”.

It takes six minutes.

8:53 a.m. I am finally ready to start on my article. As I go to open Word, my cursor hovers over the YouTube icon.

I used to watch the marketing executive on YouTube. The same clip. Over and over again. He was part of a discussion panel on the future of advertising. I’d watch with the volume down, admiring his profile, his jawline, the way he made slightly unshaven seem so neat and tidy.

I would touch the screen and watch the rise and fall of his chest. I would imagine I could feel his heartbeat beneath my fingertips.

I check my emails once more. Feel ground down by his absence.

11:15 a.m. I have a phone interview with a psychiatrist. It’s not the one I used to see. I need quotes for the article I am writing. It’s about how our modern addiction to smartphones and social media can be a social barrier for many.

“There’s no doubt that devices have been a wonderful aid to society,” the psychiatrist says to me. He is a professor. He specializes in obsessive behavior. I love the drift of his voice, the deep thoughtfulness in each pause. “But for some people, they have become an overly important part of their lives.”

Listening to him triggers a need inside me to unburden myself. While he talks, I want to tell him about how my marriage is broken and how numb and disconnected I feel.

“What would you say to someone who can’t get to sleep because they keep compulsively checking their phone?” I ask.

“It’s likely to have a cost in terms of your normal circadian rhythm,” the psychiatrist replies. “And it’s likely to have a cost the next day, because you’re going to be less efficient. When you look at those costs, the benefit of knowing you’ve got a message at eleven o’clock at night doesn’t really look very beneficial, does it?”

2:12 p.m. I finish another page of my first draft. I reward myself by checking the marketing executive’s LinkedIn profile. I pay for a premium membership so he won’t know each time I look at it.

It hasn’t changed from yesterday.

3:42 p.m. “You need glasses.”

I nod. It’s true. But I really came here to take my mind off the marketing executive.

“You can’t focus,” the optometrist says.

He points to a large poster on the wall. It’s a drawing of a detached eyeball, sliced-in-half. “The human lens continues to grow throughout your lifetime,” he says. He traces the eyeball with his finger. “As the lens gets bigger, the ciliary muscle, which wraps itself around the lens, has more difficulty changing the lens’s shape.”

“Is that why I’m finding it hard to read at night?” I say.

“Yes,” he says.

He puts a heavy, black trial lens frame on my face. He pops two lenses in and stands back, looking at me.

“Better?” he says.

4:07 p.m. I take the long way home. I walk past two souvenir shops, a pub, a real estate agent. There’s a tall model in the window of a new high-rise being built. I continue on past the supermarket, the bottle shop, past Condom Kingdom, Cold Rock.

I think about how, even during the strongest grips of my infatuation, I knew, deep down, how stupid I was being. It was like my mind had flipped back to my adolescence, swept up in a high school-like crush, as if the marketing executive was a movie star or rock idol or something.

I feel ashamed now as I remember the way I would pore over his press releases, searching for any secret messages he might have embedded in them for me. How I’d seize on code words like “open communication” and “rapport” as evidence that he was interested.

At the time, I thought he was just being discreet. Which was very gentlemanly of him. He had the interests of the company to think about after all. And I knew he’d need to break it gently to his wife, to let her down easy.

But when he put out a special release for a startup company called Firmest Bond, I knew that he was ready.

I dashed off an email to him. Aware only of my words, my quickened breath, the click of chewed nails on plastic keys. I gushed out my feelings. “I haven’t felt this way toward another human being,” I wrote.

“Ever,” I wrote.

The following morning he broke it off with me.

I hear the squeal and clank of an approaching tram. The low west sun searing brightly off the sloping window. The thick metal fender.

I have a sudden impulse to step out in front of it.

4:43 p.m. I am standing on the balcony, looking at my phone. As a breeze blows in from the river, I check Facebook again, even though I know he’s defriended me.

6:23 p.m. A sludge of mushed peas. A soggy crust, black with Vegemite. Corn kernels floating in the dregs of the milk cup.

I plunge the dishes into the suds. Scrub them vigorously with the blue brush with the flattened white bristles.

As my gloveless hands chaff in the almost scalding water, I glance over the kitchen half-wall at the blue Lawson-style sofa. The back of my husband’s thinning black hair. My daughter’s little blonde pigtails.

Sitting side by side. His arm around her shoulders. Watching “Ben and Holly”.

Happy.

Oblivious.

8:58 p.m. After cleaning up, bathing my daughter, dressing my daughter, and reading her bedtime story after bedtime story until my voice is hoarse and she has fallen asleep, I am feverish with a desperate compulsion to claw back my self-esteem. I am not revolting. There are other men who would have me.

I go into the bedroom.

My husband is lying there in his chequered boxers and faded T-shirt, reading an old copy of The New Yorker.

I slip off my underpants.

“Hey – ”

I start kissing him. Roughly.

I feel him between my legs. I reach down. I arch back.

He lasts 30 seconds.

“No!”

My hair is dangling into his eyes. I won’t let him get away with it.

I keep going. Furiously.

I’m almost there…almost…no…yes…no…

I imagine the marketing executive beneath me.

I’m there.

Merciful. Sweet. Oblivion.

When my breathing slows, I sense my husband waiting.

I can feel his heartbeat tremor against my breasts.

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Unstructured play is play without predetermined rules of the game. There are no organized teams, uniforms, coaches or trainers. It is spontaneous, often made-up on the spot, and changeable as the day goes on. It is the kind of play you see when puppies chase each other around a yard in endless circles or a group of kids play for hours in a fort they created out of old packing boxes.

Unstructured play is fun—no question about it—but research also tells us that it is critically important for the development of children's bodies and brains.

One of the best ways to encourage unstructured play in young children is by providing open-ended toys, or toys that can be used multiple ways. People Toy Company knows all about that. Since 1977, they've created toys and products designed to naturally encourage developmental milestones—but to kids, it all just feels like play.

Here are five reasons why unstructured play is crucial for your children—

1. It changes brain structure in important ways

In a recent interview on NPR's Morning Edition, Sergio Pellis, Ph.D., an expert on the neuroscience of play noted that play actually changes the structure of the developing brain in important ways, strengthening the connections of the neurons (nerve cells) in the prefrontal cortex, the area of the brain considered to be the executive control center responsible for solving problems, making plans and regulating emotions.

Because unstructured play involves trying out different strategies without particular goals or serious consequences, children and other animals get to practice different activities during play and see what happens. When Dr. Pellis compared rats who played as pups with rats that did not, he found that although the play-deprived rats could perform the same actions, the play-experienced rats were able to react to their circumstances in a more flexible, fluid and swift fashion.

Their brains seemed more "plastic" and better able to rewire as they encountered new experiences.

Hod Lipson, a computer scientist at Cornell sums it up by saying the gift of play is that it teaches us how to deal with the unexpected—a critically important skill in today's uncertain world.

2. Play activates the entire neocortex

We now know that gene expression (whether a gene is active or not) is affected by many different things in our lives, including our environment and the activities we participate in. Jaak Panksepp, Ph.D., a Professor at the University of Washington studied play in rats earning him the nickname of the "rat tickler."

He found that even a half hour of play affected the activity of many different genes and activated the outer part of the rats' brains known as the neocortex, the area of the brain used in higher functions such as thinking, language and spatial reasoning. We don't know for sure that this happens in humans, but some researchers believe that it probably does.

3. It teaches children to have positive interaction with others

It used to be thought that animal play was simply practice so that they could become more effective hunters. However, Dr. Panksepp's study of play in rats led him to the conclusion that play served an entirely different function: teaching young animals how to interact with others in positive ways. He believed that play helps build pro-social brains.

4. Children who play are often better students

The social skills acquired through play may help children become better students. Research has found that the best predictor of academic performance in the eighth grade was a child's social skills in the third grade. Dr. Pellis notes that "countries where they actually have more recess tend to have higher academic performance than countries where recess is less."

5. Unstructured play gets kids moving

We all worry that our kids are getting too little physical activity as they spend large chunks of their time glued to their electronic devices with only their thumbs getting any exercise. Unstructured play, whether running around in the yard, climbing trees or playing on commercial play structures in schools or public parks, means moving the whole body around.

Physical activity helps children maintain a healthy weight and combats the development of Type 2 diabetes—a condition all too common in American children—by increasing the body's sensitivity to the hormone insulin.

It is tempting in today's busy world for parents and kids to fill every minute of their day with structured activities—ranging from Spanish classes before school to soccer and basketball practice after and a full range of special classes and camps on the weekends and summer vacation. We don't remember to carve out time for unstructured play, time for kids to get together with absolutely nothing planned and no particular goals in mind except having fun.

The growing body of research on the benefits of unstructured play suggests that perhaps we should rethink our priorities.

Not sure where to get started? Here are four People Toy Company products that encourage hours of unstructured play.

1. People Blocks Zoo Animals

These colorful, magnetic building blocks are perfect for encouraging unstructured play in children one year and beyond. The small pieces fit easily in the hands of smaller children, and older children will love creating their own shapes and designs with the magnetic pieces.

People Blocks Zoo Animals 17 Piece Set, People Toy Company, $34.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Mamas have a hard time carving out time for themselves. Our families almost always take priority, meaning things like skincare can easily fall by the wayside. Even though studies have shown the benefits of caring for ourselves also benefit our babies benefit our babies, it often feels just one more task to add to our to-do list.

Fortunately, it's possible to skip extensive routines and start small. If you have just five minutes (or more!) to spare for yourself this week, try these self-care products you can sneak during nap time or after you finally get the little ones down for the night.

If you only have 5 minutes: Remove your makeup

One of the most important ways to care for your skin at the end of the day is removing your makeup. Start with a cleansing towelette to easily wipe away even stubborn mascara and eyeliner so you can go to bed with a clean slate.

Neutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Towelettes, Amazon, 2-pk $8.97

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If you have 10 minutes (or more): Use a jade facial roller

After cleansing, use this jade roller to gently massage your face to boost collagen, flush out toxins and improve circulation in your skin.

Jade Facial Roller, Amazon, $11.99

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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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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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Chrissy Teigen has been very open about the ways pregnancy has changed her body. Mom to 2-year-old Luna and 4-month-old Miles, Teigen—a former swimsuit model—has famously embraced her postpartum body (stretchies and all), while noting that she's still, at times, insecure about it, but she's not ashamed.

That's why, when a man on Twitter commented on a photo of Teigen's red carpet look for the Emmy's to ask the whole wide world (and Teigen herself, he tagged her) if she was pregnant again, Teigen was quick to shut down the shamer.

"I'm asking this with the utmost respectful [sic], but is @chrissyteigen pregnant again?" The man wrote.

"I just had a baby but thank you for being soooo respectful," Teigen replied (from the Emmys).


Fellow moms were quick to jump to Teigen's defense. Many pointed out that Teigen actually looks incredible for any human, let alone one who is four months postpartum. Other mamas were quick to chime in with stories about their own lingering baby bumps.

For a lot of women, our bodies are different after having a baby. Sometimes that means we're a little rounder in the middle than we used to be. It happens to almost everyone, even red carpet-walking A-listers, like Teigen and actress Jennifer Garner, who once told Ellen Degeneres that she would have a bump forever.

"I am not pregnant, but I have had three kids and there is a bump," Garner explained in 2014, after paparazzi photographs fueled speculation that she and Ben Affleck were expecting a fourth child. "Forever and ever, not another baby. Just a bump like a camel. But just in reverse," Garner jokes.

Like Garner, Teigen dealt with the pregnancy question with a sense of humor, but she shouldn't have had to defend her body from the Emmys. As many, many Twitter users pointed out to the man who asked, it's never cool to ask a woman if she is pregnant.

It's not polite to ask, and it's no one's business whether a woman's bump is a pregnancy, some fabric, a burrito, a weird shadow or (as in Teigen's case) basically a figment of someone's imagination.

A lot of mamas online last night chimed in to say that while Teigen's stomach doesn't look like it did in her Sports Illustrated days, it still looks pretty freaking amazing.

Yes, after two kids, Chrissy Teigen doesn't look like a swimsuit model. But she shouldn't have to. She's not a swimsuit model anymore. She is a cookbook author with her own Target line and she hosts a hilarious TV show. She's also a mother. She is so much more than her midsection.

"Honestly, I don't ever have to be in a swimsuit again," she recently told Women's Health. "Since I was 20 years old, I had this weight in my mind that I am, or that I'm supposed to be. I've been so used to that number for 10 years now. And then I started realizing it was a swimsuit-model weight. There's a very big difference between wanting to be that kind of fit and wanting to be happy-fit."

Teigen is happy with her body, and we're happy she spent Emmy night educating the internet about respecting women.

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As parents, we often put a lot of pressure on ourselves to make sure our babies' brains are developing as quickly as possible. But the irony is, for many years the best way our little ones can learn and grow is through play. In fact, research has shown that reading stories, playing simple games, and engaging with toys is one of the best ways to boost baby's brain development for years to come.

It's those kind of findings that fuels the work at People Toy Company, a Japanese-based toy company that believes in encouraging the natural development of children through research-backed toys. Every toy in their line is developed to make playtime engaging for parents and children alike while helping little ones achieve developmental milestones through play.

Here are 10 of our favorite toys for engaging little minds and encouraging motor development from baby's first weeks and beyond.

TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS BEFORE 6 MONTHS

1. Mochi Double Pendant Necklace (newborn on)

It's a fact of life that babies love to explore their world with their mouths. Save your jewelry by swapping in this teething necklace made from rice. Babies will love the easy-to-hold shape and textured design—you'll love the neutral color palette that goes with any outfit.

Mochi Double Pendant Necklace, Amazon, $15.99

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TOYS TO STIMULATE LITTLE BRAINS AFTER 6 MONTHS

1. Magic Reflection Ball (6 month)

Encourage independent play from six months on with this constantly changing reflection ball. Use the suction cup to attach it to different smooth surfaces to encourage pulling up and standing later on.

People Magic Reflection Ball, Amazon, $8.99

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This article was sponsored by People Toy Company. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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