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Editor’s note: This is the first in a four-part series in which writer Lizzie Simon will examine the ways that radically upping her grooming game impacts her life, her sense of self, and her interactions at home and in the world. 


There is no paid consideration involved in this series.


This spring my daughter turned one, I turned 40, and for the first time I stepped into a tiny salon on my block called Joli Beauty Bar to inquire about a deal they were offering: unlimited blowouts and makeovers for a month for $250, “The Ultimate Zsuzs.”

I had walked by this place every day, multiple times a day, since it opened in September, and it had me thinking a lot about grooming. It’s an area in which I’ve never been particularly high achieving, and one that had really taken a hit since having a baby.

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Brushing teeth, showering, shaving, moisturizing, tending to my roots, toenails, brows, pubes, putting on a little lip gloss and mascara, wearing clothes that are clean and that fit, adding a key piece of jewelry to the mix— some of these things happen some of the time, some of them happen none of the time. 

There have been few apparent consequences to my shlubbiness. I work in a co-working space as an author and freelance arts reporter for the Wall Street Journal and I Airbnb a home in upstate New York. Both professions require no fuss, no muss.

I live in a neighborhood – the East Village — where there are indeed glamorous people, but I don’t actually know any of them. The hiking sneakers I wear almost every day are sneered at in exactly none of the places I typically inhabit. 

I think of myself as someone who has a pretty decent self-image, which is to say, I feel I am good looking enough. It was agonizing to me in middle and high school to not be one of the beautiful girls but I got over it. That existential achievement occurred a long time ago.

Pre-zsuzs

Yes, perhaps sometimes it’s dispiriting that men flirt with me about 10% as often as they did when I was in my 20s, but it’s also nice to not be sexually harassed on the street. I know for sure, from the various playful grabs at my body in the kitchen and living room and bedroom, that I’m attractive to my husband. There is no crisis.

Still, from time to time as my 40th birthday beckoned, I thought: Maybe it’s time to up my game, put a little time and energy into self-presentation, to walk proudly through the world. Invariably, several minutes later, that aspiration has dissipated and others prioritized — writing projects, time with my husband, baby, 13-year-old stepson, friends, self, bed. 

Which is why it was interesting that Joli and the notion of unlimited upkeep persisted in my consciousness. How would my life change if I got my hair and makeup done a few times a week for a month? Would I feel energized by it? Would people flirt with me more? Would it send me out into the world more, wrest me from the couch and Netflix into adventure and pleasure? Would it lead to career opportunities? Or would it be a colossal waste of time? 

And so I found myself wandering into Joli Beauty Bar where I encountered its co-founder, Zsuzsi, who welcomed my experiment. “Most of the women coming in are childless,” she said. They’re prepping for dates or wedding-related events or they’re married with extremely active social lives. “Once a client tells us she’s pregnant we know we’ll probably lose her.” Oh dear.

Day 1

Before and after

My stylist, Chardé, gave me an iPad with a Pinterest board to choose from dozens of makeup and hair looks.

“Why don’t you do whatever you think is best,” I said.

I realized I was entirely out of touch with any of my own instincts about personal style and overwhelmed/intimidated at the invitation to make aesthetic decisions.

Chardé decided to go for the “lived in” look for my hair which, fortunately for me and other time-strapped moms, is apparently on trend.

I tried following her every makeup move on my face but quickly lost track. The thing about professional makeup artists is that they utilize techniques and tools and products that you don’t have — lots of them. I’m pretty sure she used 20 different products on my face, and that was for something “easy and approachable.” 

A second generation aesthetician, Chardé is a single mother to a seven-year-old. “It’s really easy to let yourself go as a mom,” she said. “You don’t remember that when you’re good, everyone’s good.”

So true. But grooming demands a shepherding, or hoarding, of one’s time – mind and body. Family life demands relinquishing control and sharing time – mind and body. But what our home actually requires, the thing that makes it all work, is me toggling between sharing and hoarding my resources to my own sense of satisfaction.

It wasn’t clear to me whether fancy hair and makeup had anything to contribute to my feeling satisfied. Because after Chardé finished her work on me, I was all dolled up with no place to go.

Eventually the baby woke from her afternoon nap and we strolled to Rite Aid where, among other things, I bought a palette of eye shadow, some makeup remover, and some cookies in the shape of teddy bears. Then I took my daughter to the park because she loves to see dogs and she loves the swing. Then we sat outside a tiny restaurant next to our apartment because she likes to watch the dinner service unfold and flirt with the servers.

Did it matter that I was done up? It did not.

Who was this beauty for? Unclear.

Day 2

One of my recurring nightmares is that I have a second apartment somewhere that I’ve forgotten about that’s in horrid disarray. In the 24 hours following my first beauty appointment, my appearance felt like that second apartment.

A sense of defeat had set in. Grooming was a domain that required vigilance and attention to detail. I was already tracking the bits and bobs of a baby, a 13-year-old step son, two homes, a book-in-progress, the New York dance and theater community, my friends and family, and a digestive condition (don’t ask) that requires a rather elaborate attention to nutrition. I needed fewer things to be vigilant about in my life – not more.

My resistance to taking on hair and makeup was, in part, the resistance of someone who didn’t want two new domains of responsibility in which I might fall behind on a regular basis.

This experiment can’t turn in to something punishing, I kept thinking, later in the day, while strolling with the baby post-afternoon nap. We were on our way back to Rite Aid to pick up some more product Chardé recommended, plus bleach for the dark mustache hairs I discovered while sitting in the salon chair.

Those hairs weren’t the only unpleasant discovery I made there. I also noticed chin hairs in need of plucking and a new mole on my left cheek. It was a small mole but it told me something big: I hadn’t really looked at myself in the mirror for very, very, very long time. 

I thought that having polished hair and makeup would be fun but instead it brought about a mildly agonizing self-consciousness and guilt for spending my time/energy/resources on something so trivial when I had so many other things to get done. Not to mention the world is full of so many more worthy opportunities and problems.

But is it trivial? There are indeed sad and wasteful and small-minded aspects to devoting oneself to one’s appearance, but there’s also something sad and wasteful and small-minded about abandoning one’s appearance.

I wanted to stay resolutely on the life-affirming side of things. I hoped to discover that grooming can inspire a lively way of engaging the outside world, it can contribute a sense of dignity to the identity narrative you’re telling yourself and other people, it can nurture the friendship with self (the greatest love of all, as Whitney said).

Beauty on my terms, for my own satisfaction. It was worth discovering and defining.

Day 3

Meg, who co-owns the Beauty Bar with Zsuzsi, styled my hair and makeup in my second appointment at Joli. Several times she called what she was doing “the effortless look,” which tickled my funny bone because effortless is exactly what I’d been doing on my own.

I really liked supporting Zsuzsi and Meg and their small indie business. They came across as smart, real, immensely knowledgable about hair and makeup, and empowering. They were not at all oppressive about beauty. And they weren’t constantly trying to upsell me.

But I wasn’t having fun. The night before I’d been to a Passover seder with my aunts, uncles, cousins, husband, and baby in Harlem, where we drank and ate and read and sang and talked together for hours about the meaning of life and love and suffering. That was fun. The beauty parlor was more like school or work.

I’ve been thinking a lot about fun recently – about how shitty women, particularly mothers, are at identifying what is pleasurable to them outside of their domestic role, and then carving out time and space to partake in it. In the whole ecology of self-care, I think fun is hugely important. The fact that I wasn’t having fun at the beauty parlor made me worry that something deadeningly un-fun had unfurled inside of me since having a child.

Regardless, at the end of the day it felt silly, wasteful, even a little tiring, to have logistiticated for this time in the salon when all I was going to do afterwards was stroll my baby to Tompkins Square Park. 

Who was this makeup and hair for? Certainly not my husband. His knee jerk response to seeing me all done up was: “Can you wipe it off?”

I had room in that day for one activity to myself and it ended up being the beauty bar. Seeing a friend, working at The Writers Room, or taking a yoga class all would have been far more fulfilling.

Day 4

This morning on my walk to work I clarified for myself what I wanted from this experiment: to develop three looks – daily, professional, and special event. I planned to tell the beauty shop ladies this, plus the fact that I didn’t want to deal with foundation any more. Somehow it was foundation that felt the most false, the most like a mask.

At sunset I walked across town with my husband and my baby to an art opening. My hair was still done from the zsuzs the day before and I applied makeup — lip gloss, blush, eye shadow, mascara, eyeliner — that I felt good about.

It was fun to walk across town as a family with the feeling of being put together, to encounter at the opening, held in Diane Von Furstenberg’s garage, particularly glamorous friends, and feel the dignity and freshness of having spent a little time and attention on myself.

Afterwards, my husband took our baby home and I met up with my best friend from high school for a swanky drink at 11 Madison Park. She’s a curator, poet, and Buddhist scholar, and actually a pretty glamorous person, too. She’s always dressed in a way that I admire — stylish but completely individual, and her makeup is the kind of minimal that I’d like to espouse.

She was excited to see me “upping my game.” I was just excited to look at her. We love each other’s faces, these faces we’ve confessed to and sought out and humored and challenged and cracked up. Seeing her face, I realized how much I like the look of real skin on an adult woman.

My skin has lines, creases, dark spots, acne scars, and unevenness in tone, but I like that my history shows up on my face. I want it there, I just want my eyes and lips to pop out as beautifully as they can from that complex, not entirely tamed, imperfect terrain.

It occurs to me that all of the models on the Pinterest boards were in their teens and early 20s, how terrific it would have been instead to look at dozens of photographs of middle-aged women, how much I like looking at older women’s faces, to see idiosyncratic examples of beauty and identity on a face bearing experience, care, and damage.

Who might this beauty be for? Each other.

Day 5

My husband and I went to see a brilliant, spectacularly inventive, invigorating performance by a tap choreographer, Michelle Dorrance, who I’d just written about for the Journal. I dressed up and applied makeup and it felt really good to show up in my professional world looking put together.

Afterward we had a drink and a bite to eat in the restaurant next to our house. My husband brought up my experiment with makeup and hair. He said that he didn’t get it, that when he saw me after the salon the first two times, it freaked him out, he didn’t recognize me.

It gave me the opportunity to talk about why I was doing this, to talk about self-care and beauty rituals and identity as a new mom and a woman on the other side of 40. I was grateful to be in a marriage where grooming didn’t matter but it felt good to enroll him in what I was doing, rather than have him be alienated by it.   

Day 6

I explained my new take on foundation to the aestheticians at Joli — which they happily ceded to — and the whole enterprise of getting done up felt more fun, less charged, less estranged.

Day 7

I think I have found my day look. It’s very simple — a kind of white silver incandescent eye shadow, mascara, blush on the apples of my cheeks, and a colorful lip. It’s a simplified version of what Meg showed me on day three. It’s fast, fresh, understated, and pretty.

When I left the house today my husband said, “Bye Lizzie-upping-her-game!”

Day look

Clothes are the next frontier. I don’t know where to shop or what size I am or what my style truly is, but I don’t have the money to explore that right now. So I’m just taking an extra couple of minutes to find things in my closet that I like, to wear flats instead of hiking sneakers, to put on a necklace. The necklace, I mean. I own one necklace that I like.

But a shift has occurred. I’m starting to feel more than just good looking enough. At no other point in my life would I have chosen my face from a Pinterest board, but that’s changing as I think more and more about how marked my face is with all that I’ve seen and experienced.

The kind of honesty, hard work, and grace I know I’m capable of at age 40 is really quite beautiful. I’ve survived a variety of heartbreaks, failures, tragedies, and traumas with hopefulness and empathy intact. That’s beauty and it’s in my face. That’s only occurring to me now because of the wrestling with and contemplation of my appearance demanded by the Ultimate Zsuzs. 

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Pop quiz, mama! How many different types of car seats are there? If you guessed three, you're partially correct. The three main types are rear-facing car seats, forward-facing car seats, and booster seats. But then there are a variety of styles as well: infant car seats, convertible seats, all-in-one seats, high-back booster seats, and backless boosters. If you're not totally overwhelmed yet, keep reading, we promise there's good stuff ahead.

There's no arguing that, in the scheme of your baby and child gear buying lifetime, purchasing a car seat is a big deal! Luckily, Walmart.com has everything you need to travel safely with your most precious cargo in the backseat. And right now, you can save big on top-rated car seats and boosters during Best of Baby Month, happening now through September 30 at Walmart.com.

As if that wasn't enough, Walmart will even take the carseat your kiddos have outgrown off your hands for you (and hook you up with a sweet perk, too). Between September 16 and 30, Walmart is partnering with TerraCycle to recycle used car seats. When you bring in an expired car seat or one your child no longer fits into to a participating Walmart store during the trade-in event, you'll receive a $30 gift card to spend on your little one in person or online. Put the money towards a brand new car seat or booster or other baby essentials on your list. To find a participating store check here: www.walmart.com/aboutbestofbabymonth

Ready to shop, mama? Here are the 9 best car seat deals happening this month.


Safety 1st Grow and Go Spring 3-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

From rear-facing car seat to belt-positioning booster, Grow and Go Sprint's got you covered through childhood. Whether you choose the grey Silver Lake, Seafarer or pink Camelia color palette, you'll love how this model grows with your little one — not to mention how easy it is to clean. The machine-washable seat pad can be removed without fussing with the harness, and the dual cup holders for snacks and drinks can go straight into the dishwasher.

Price: $134 (regularly $149)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Bermuda

walmart-best-baby-carseat

When your toddler is ready to face forward, this versatile car seat can be used as a five-point harness booster, a high-back booster, and a backless booster. Padded armrests, harness straps, and seat cushions provide a comfy ride, and the neutral gray seat pads reverse to turquoise for a stylish new look.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

SHOP

Baby Trend Hybrid Plus 3-in-1 Booster Car Seat in Olivia

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Looking for something snazzy, mama? This black and hot pink car seat features a playful heart print on its reversible seat pad and soft harness straps. Best of all, with its 100-pound weight limit and three booster configurations, your big kid will get years of use out of this fashionable design.

Price: $72.00 (regularly $81)

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Evenflo Triumph LX Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

This rear- and forward-facing car seat keeps kids safer, longer with an adjustable five-point harness that can accommodate children up to 65 lbs. To tighten the harness, simply twist the conveniently placed side knobs; the Infinite Slide Harness ensures an accurate fit every time. As for style, we're big fans of the cozy quilted design, which comes in two colorways: grey and magenta or grey and turquoise.

Price: $116 (regularly $149.99)

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Disney Baby Light 'n Comfy 22 Luxe Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Outfitted with an adorable pink-and-white polka dot Minnie Mouse infant insert, even the tiniest of travelers — as small as four pounds! — can journey comfortably and safely. This rear-facing design is lightweight, too; weighing less than 15 lbs, you can easily carry it in the crook of your arm when your hands are full (because chances are they will be).

Price: $67.49 (regularly $89.99)

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Graco 4Ever 4-in-1 Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

We know it's hard to imagine your tiny newborn will ever hit 100 lbs, but one day it'll happen. And when it does, you'll appreciate not having to buy a new car seat if you start with this 4-in-1 design! Designed to fit kids up to 120 lbs, it transforms four ways, from a rear-facing car seat to a backless belt-positioning booster. With a 6-position recline and a one-hand adjust system for the harness and headrest, you can easily find the perfect fit for your growing child.

Price: $199.99 (regularly $269.99)

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Graco SlimFit All-in-One Convertible Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

With its unique space-saving design, this 3-in-1 car seat provides 10% more back seat space simply by rotating the dual cup holders. The InRight LATCH system makes installation quick and easy, and whether you're using it as a rear-facing car seat, a forward-facing car seat, or a belt-positioning booster, you can feel confident that your child's safe and comfortable thanks to Graco's Simply Safe Adjust Harness System.

Price: $149.99 (regularly $229.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Platinum XT Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

Making sure your infant car seat is secure can be tricky, but Graco makes it easy with its one-second LATCH attachment and hassle-free three-step installation using SnugLock technology. In addition to its safety features, what we really love about this rear-facing seat are all of the conveniences, including the ability to create a complete travel system with Click Connect Strollers and a Silent Shade Canopy that expands without waking up your sleeping passenger.

Price: $169.99 (regularly $249.99)

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Graco Snugride Snuglock 35 Elite Infant Car Seat

walmart-best-baby-carseat

With just one click, you can know whether this rear-facing car seat has been installed properly. Then adjust the base four different ways and use the bubble level indicator to find the proper position. When you're out and about, the rotating canopy with window panel will keep baby protected from the sun while allowing you to keep your eye on him.

Price: $129.99 (regularly $219.99)

SHOP

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

Our Partners

Nannies and early childhood educators do incredibly important work. Parents and children need these workers, they are vital to families and our economy. And they are woefully underpaid.

On average, nannies in the United States make less than Amazon delivery drivers, and day care workers earn less than either.

According to Sittercity's most recent data, the typical hourly rate of nannies in 2019 is $17.50 per hour. According to Amazon, most delivery drivers earn $18 - $25 per hour. And day care workers make only a couple dollars more than they would working in fast food, earning $11.17 per hour on average, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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What does it say about our society that we value the delivery of consumer goods more than we value care work?

Yes, parents are struggling to pay for childcare, but those caring for our children are struggling to pay their bills, too, and it is hard to retain talented professionals when there is more money to be made in other fields. "It is stressful. Everybody loves these children, and that's why they're there, but the love can't pay their bills," day care operator Danielle Frank told KSNB News this week.

Frank owns Smiling Faces Academy in Kearney, Nebraska, but the problem of high turnover and low wages in the childcare industry is an issue all over the United States. This isn't a uniquely American issue, either. In Japan, day care workers are desperately needed, the New York Times reports, but childcare workers there earn about a third less than workers in other industries and report struggling to cover the basic necessities.

Back in North America, this week day care workers in Nova Scotia, Canada who are frustrated with low wages have threatened to walk off the job, a move similar to one made by YMCA childcare workers in Chicago last year. "I make $15.50 an hour, and I have a BA in early childhood education with a certification in infants and toddlers," childcare worker Tahiti Hamer told WGN last year.

From Nebraska to Nova Scotia to the story is the same: Parents pay a lot for childcare while workers make very little, even though some licensed day cares require employees to have training in early childhood education, or even a bachelor's degree. And when you've got student loans, maybe carrying Amazon packages starts to look better than caring for children.

According to a recent study by the Indeed Hiring Lab, the childcare industry has two big problems right now.

"As the labor market has strengthened in recent years, more workers need child care. At the same time, growth in interest in child care jobs has slowed," Indeed Hiring Lab economist Nick Bunker notes. He suggests low-wage earners who work in childcare have more options these days, and employers should consider raising workers' pay.

It's easy to see why the industry has a hard time keeping workers, especially as other lower-wage job sectors (like Amazon delivery) expand. Unfortunately, for many childcare centers, paying workers more is just not doable without some help from levels of government.

And help is needed, not just to ensure that parents have access to quality, affordable childcare, but also to ensure that those providing it aren't living in poverty.

A study out of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California, Berkeley, found childcare workers' earnings are not keeping pace with increases in similar professions or with the costs of childcare and living. "Childcare workers have also experienced no increase in real earnings since 1997, and, as was true in 1989, still earn less than adults who take care of animals, and barely more than fast food cooks. Those who work as preschool teachers have fared somewhat better; their wages have increased by 15 percent in constant dollars since 1997, although their wages remain low. In contrast, parent fees have effectively doubled," the researchers note, highlighting that many childcare workers earn so little they actually qualify for public assistance.

The researchers continue: "While there are no available data to explain this glaring gap between trends in parent fees and teacher wages, it is abundantly clear that families cannot bear the burden of addressing the imperative to provide more equitable compensation for their children's early childhood teachers."

Speaking to the Education Writers Association last year one of the reports' writers, Marcy Whitebook, the founding director of the Center for the Study of Child Care Employment at the University of California at Berkeley, said the problem is that our society devalues the work of looking after and educating children under 5, even though it is as demanding and important as teaching those ages 5 and up.

"Americans aren't used to funding early childhood care and instruction like they do K-12 education," Whitebook said. "We don't look at it as education. And we don't look at it as education everyone should have access to."

That may change in the future, as presidential candidates float plans for universal pre-K and childcare, but right now, having access to childcare is a privilege. And those who are privileged enough to employ a nanny should pay them fairly if they want to keep them, says Elizabeth Harz, CEO of Sittercity. "It's also worth noting that when parents are proactive and offer systems and official paperwork that give nannies protection in the relationship, it goes a long way," says Harz.

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News

Children with autism open our eyes and our hearts to growth, beauty and love in unexpected, marvelous and deep ways that expand our humanity. But, an autism diagnosis is a moment that stays with a parent.

Some parents might have trouble understanding what's happening. Others may worry or have a sense of relief that there's a name for what they've noticed in their child. Regardless of your emotions, there's not a right or wrong way to feel.

Here are seven areas to cover after receiving an autism diagnosis:

1. Line up great medical care.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, kids with autism often have other associated medical issues such as gastrointestinal issues, language delay or attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Depending on where you live, your medical choices might be sparse or specialist-rich. Getting good, consistent healthcare is invaluable and establishes important baselines, routines and trust. How do you know which specialists or family doctors have the skills you and your child need? Ask those who have gone before you.

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Medicaid provides services for children on the spectrum but there are simply not enough providers who accept Medicaid. Waiting lists in some states can be as long as 15 years. If Medicaid is part of your family's life, get your child on the waiting list as soon as possible. While you wait, look into attorneys and advocates for additional support. A good advocate will ensure you have a primary role in your child's education, regardless of the insurance plan you may or may not have.

If you don't qualify for Medicaid, the ACA marketplace (also known as the exchange) offers affordable coverage for those who qualify. If your family has private health insurance, call to see what your benefits are so you're prepared.

2. Understand your insurance coverage.

Autism is a medical diagnosis and should be covered by health insurance, but it's not that simple. Many health insurance plans do not cover therapeutic treatment for autism. From 2005 to 2015, Autism Speaks battled within state legislatures to make sure autism treatments were covered under health insurance. Through those efforts, 47 states passed related legislation. But many of those laws address only traditional insurance programs not self-insured companies (which cover most workers), and some have been weakened by loopholes exploited by insurance companies. Make a call to find out exactly what kind of coverage you have.

3. Find a community.

Autism can feel isolating, but it doesn't have to be. There are many autism support groups, some formal like chapters of the Autism Society of America or Autism Speaks and some unaffiliated groups of parents who have bonded in mutual support along the autism journey. Learn from others. Share your story. Find communities of support in churches, parks, restaurants and stores that have a heart and respect you and your child.

4. Start support.

Autism is highly variable. There are a number of decades-long treatments that address autism such as Floortime, Treatment and Education of Autistic and Communication related handicapped Children (TEACCH), and the Early Start Denver Model. The most research-backed treatment is Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) and it's therapy based on the science of learning and behavior. It focuses on improving specific behaviors, such as social skills, communication, reading and academics as well as adaptive learning skills. It is practiced by Board Certified Behavior Analysts (BCBA) and is the most common treatment approach covered by insurance. There are less than 30,000 BCBAs in the nation, but it is a rapidly growing profession with increasingly greater access for families in need of ABA.

5. Find a good support system if you need a break.

Make sure you have loving and qualified family, friends, or professional childcare providers who can stay with your child so you can have an established date night or occasional weekend away. Such activities are important for all parents of young children but they can be especially critical for parents with children on the spectrum. Finding people who understand your child's needs, routines and sensitivities is vital to offering you an evening out while keeping things balanced on the home front. The important thing to remember is having an autisic child is beautiful and it's okay to reach out for help if you need it.

6. Contact your local school district.

Under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) school districts, often in coordination with the public health office, are responsible for providing services from birth. Part C of IDEA mandates that schools conduct "Child Find" to locate children who need help. Among other things, Part C services can provide speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapies to your child, often delivered in your home, and at no expense. It is part of the commitment of special education to assist families in having their children ready to learn by the time they start school. For help, call your local school district and request a meeting to begin the journey of getting the assistance your little one needs.

7. Establish a financial plan.

Many children with autism will grow into healthy self-sufficient adults, but some may require varying levels of support. That is why having a financial and assistance plan that looks after their long-term needs is essential. It's tough, but having important conversations with your partner and members of your family will help your little one in the long run. If you need advice, look into Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) to assist with creating a tax-advantaged savings account to pay for qualified expenses.

The bottom line is simple: This is hard and there will be challenges, but you've got this, mama. There will also be more beauty in this journey than you can ever imagine. The main thing to remember is that your child has you as their mother, which means they're already doing great.

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Learn + Play

It's time for Halloween! And you love dressing up. Or you hate dressing up but your family or friends or next door neighbor really want you to dress up. Oh, and also you're pregnant. 🤰🏽So what the heck are you supposed to be?

Don't sweat it, mama. We spoke to Pinterest to find out their top pinned maternity Halloween costumes, and there are some fun (and funny ideas) in the mix.

Whether you're 8 or 38 weeks pregnant, you'll be sure to find some Halloween inspiration right here. Time to get spooky!

1. Mummy-to-be 

www.pinterest.com

Via Womans Day

Bonus points because this punny costume looks super easy to DIY.

2. Your favorite Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle

Via Pinterest

Besides it being an easy costume to make, you get to eat pizza all night. Win-win!

3. Gumball machine 

www.pinterest.com

Via Brit+ Co

This one requires a glue gun and some extra craftiness, but the result is a sweet treat.

4. Kangaroo 

www.pinterest.com

Via The Spruce

Grab a stuffed baby kangaroo and you're halfway there.

5. Mommy to BEE 

www.pinterest.com

Via Redbook

Buzz buzz. You look bee-utiful.

6. Violet from Willy Wonka

Via Pinterest

Can be a family costume or a stand alone, just make sure you have tons of make up remover handy before going to bed.

7. Mama bird 

www.pinterest.com

via Brit + Co

What kind of a mama bird will you be? A flamingo? A peacock?

8. Mike Wazowski from Monsters Inc. 

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via Buzzfeed

Grab a spare shirt and your crafting skills to turn yourself into a literal monster.

9. Mother earth 

www.pinterest.com

via Darian Davenport

You've got the whole world in your hands... and belly.

10. Pregnant Beyonce

Via Instagram

You get to be Queen Bey for a day.

11. Baseball player 

www.pinterest.com

via the Bump

You come prepared with your own bat, and ball.

12.  Prego 

www.pinterest.com

via Brit + Co

Come on. You knew this one was coming...

13. Snowman

www.pinterest.com

Via Ashley Engel

If you have black leggings and a white top, you're already winning Halloween!

14. Juno

Via Costume Works

Such a classic, plus you will get to wear your comfy maternity jeans all night long.

15. Pregnant unicorn

Via Pregnant Mama

Requires very little purchasing and prep.

16. Troll

Via Brit + Co

This one can easily turn into a family costume if everyone is down for a big wig and a sparkly belly button.

17. A magic 8 ball

Via WeBegToDiffer

You can spend the night answering everyone's questions.

18. An emoji

Via Brit+Co

Just pick your fave!

19. A beach ball

Via Instagram

Only for those mamas in warm weather!

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Life

I will confess: I am a car seat safety fanatic. Some people might call me an advocate, but let's be real. I verge on crazy status.

I kept my kids rear-facing well past the age of two. I've schlepped their car seats on and off of airplanes more times than I can count. I've checked their installation again and again until it is JUST RIGHT. Yes, I am that mama. But, I make no apologies. Why should I? If there's one thing I'm crazy about, it's my kids' safety.

That's why I was surprised—no, shocked—to discover that a car seat safety rule exists that I didn't know about. As a result, I was unknowingly putting my son in an unsafe position.

FEATURED VIDEO

You're probably already familiar with the LATCH safety system. LATCH is an acronym for Lower Anchors and Tethers for Children and is the preferred method for installing your car seat. These are the anchor points in your car that allow you to clip your car seat directly into the frame of your car's existing seat.

For years, since my oldest was born, I have been obsessive about always using the LATCH system. When we shuffle the car seats around, I always situate the kids' in the seats with a LATCH system, even when it makes for undesirable seating combinations, like adults jammed into middle seats while my toddlers lounge like kings in the captain's chairs.

Recently though, a fellow mom (who also happens to be a Car Seat Safety Technician) shared a car seat installation rule I'd never heard before: The LATCH system in most vehicles is only built to accommodate a load of 65 pounds.

Sure, no problem, I thought. My oldest is nowhere near 65 pounds. But, she pointed out that 65-pound limit includes the weight of the child restraint, a.k.a. car seat. Do you realize how heavy car seats are these days? In order to use the LATCH system, the sum of the child's weight and the weight of the car seat must be no more than 65 pounds. Since most car seats weigh upwards of 20 pounds now, many manufacturers recommend that you stop using the LATCH system when a child reaches 40 pounds. I had no idea!

Now my son's car seat is secured with the seat strap. When he's done with the five-point harness and transitions to using the seat strap himself, we can return to using the LATCH system. At that point, the straps are made to absorb his impact in the event of a crash, and the LATCH system would then only be used to keep the seat from catapulting through the car. For a list of LATCH weight limits by manufacturer, refer to your car's manufacturer.
Parenting
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