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Ahhh, summertime... warm, lazy days, swimming, lots of ice cream, and hopefully a family vacation or two for the chance to relax and unwind with the ones you love the most. But if the thought of packing for that vacation has you stressed, mama, we're here to help!

Let's face it: Traveling with little ones is daunting. So much so, that lots of people just give up on the idea! But we're here to tell you that you shouldn't—sure, seeing the world with a tiny tot on your hip is tricky, but it's doable and the memories will literally last you a lifetime.

To get you on the right packing path, we've put together a list of vacation must-haves that will make your next trip a whole lot easier. Whether you're headed to a remote international location or a beach a couple of hours away, you're going to need an arsenal of baby-proof products to make the journey seamless and fun.

These are the 13 items you don't want to leave off your packing list!

1. The crib

BabyBjorn Travel Crib

When you're away from home, finding a safe, comfy spot for baby to sleep is key. It's also key to find a travel crib that's lightweight, easy to carry, compact, and doesn't take a PhD to open and close. Enter the BabyBjorn Travel Crib Light: our absolute favorite travel crib, ever. Yup, it's that good.

Weighing in at only 13 pounds, this crib is perfect for any family adventure. Setup is super easy (truly—once you get the hang of it, it takes about one minute), and the mattress is much more comfortable than any other travel crib on the market that we've tried.

The mesh sides allow for great air flow, and the crib works for kiddos up to 35 lbs. And best of all? The travel cribs folds up easily into a tiny carrying case, making it perfect to take on the go.

$299.99

2. The bassinet

Ultra Compact Travel Bassinet

If your baby is still teensy—too small for the above crib—consider this Delta Ultra Compact Travel Bassinet. Surround by an exterior of breathable mesh, the bassinet is the perfect place to lay babies age infant to five months old. Our favorite features are the washable fabrics and the electronic pod that emits sound, vibration and a soft light (if you want it during late-night feeds!). The bassinet weighs just 10 pounds and folds flat and can be carried to and fro via the included travel bag. Whether you're traveling to grandma's house or a hotel in Italy, this is your most portable bet for a baby bassinet.

$79.99

3. The sound machine

Rohm Travel Sound Machine

If you employ a sound machine at home... then you better be bringing one on the road! We love the Rohm—it's the mini, on-the-go version of our favorite Dohm sound machine from Yogasleep. Packing an equally masking sound in a much smaller package, the Rohm can be attached to your stroller for an on-the-go nap or place in a travel crib for a good night's sleep.

Just 3.5-inches in diameter and 3.8 ounces in weight, the Rohm takes up zero space... but it will be a lifesaver when you find yourself in a noisy restaurant or a foreign hotel room that baby simply is not having. It offers up three sounds (white noise, deep noise and ocean) and can operate all night long on one single charge. Amen to that!

$19.99

4. The travel stroller

Colugo Stroller

There are so many travel stroller options out there, but this one caught our eye... how could it not with this pattern?! And fear not, this pride-themed pattern isn't the only punchy pattern on offer, there's also a pretty floral, a sassy leopard and your basic black (and others!), too. But the real reason why it made our list is two-fold—the Colugo Stroller is both portable and durable.

At 16 pounds, it's not the lightest on the market, but the featherweight strollers on the market are not going to cut it on gravel or bumpy sidewalks! Colugo's no-puncture tires and maximum suspension give the ride of a bigger, utilitarian stroller, while the one-hand fold, carrying strap (a carrying backpack also comes with the purchase), and it's ability to fit in most airplane overhead bins solidify it's positioning as a travel stroller. At this price, you'll be surprised to learn that it also comes with a UPF 50 sunshade canopy and an ample storage basket.

$285.00

5. The car seat

WAYB Pico Car Seat

Our editor-in-chief tried the WAYB Pico Forward Facing Carseat while flying cross-country with her toddler recently, and, let's just say she's now a huge fan. "We've gone through several travel car seats and this is by far my favorite one," says Karell. "It's the lightest (only 8 pounds!) and the least complicated to set up. I especially love the travel bag because it makes the folded up car seat like a backpack you can just schlep around with you to your next adventure. I can't stop recommending it to all my mama friends."

$320

6. The potty

OXO Tot 2-In-1 Go Potty

Have you ever been out in the wild with a toddler who has to go potty? There's no "hold it for a few minutes, honey." Nope, they need to go NOW. Which is why a portable potty is a must. We love the OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty, because as it's name suggests, it's dual purposed. First, it's a standalone potty that you can plop down in your car trunk (or the middle of an airport terminal if it's a true emergency!), add the disposable bag and BAM, problem solved.

It's second purpose is for those times when you have in fact found a bathroom, but you'd rather walk over hot coals than sit your kiddo directly on the toilet seat. In these scenarios, simply fold out the seat legs and place the potty on top of the seat (grips keep it stable on both round and elongated seats), and there you have a solution!

We love that it comes with a wipeable travel bag, it's got a shield that prevents splatter and that the seat is perfectly sized for tiny hineys. And at 1.5 pounds and 10- by 12-inches, it's not going to weigh you down.

$19.99

7. The mat

Gathre Mats

Summer is the perfect time to relax on the beach or spread out for a family picnic. To keep everyone mess-free (and sand-free!), we absolutely 💜Gathre mats. Made from a soft bonded leather that's water impermeable and easy to wipe clean, they're a beautiful place to, well...gather!

Whether you need a spot on the beach, a place for a family meal, or your stuck at an airport gate due to a weather delay, the uses for these mats are truly endless. And have we mentioned they are absolutely gorgeous? You're going to have trouble choosing between the huge assortment of modern colors and prints.

$20

8. The highchair substitute

Phil & Ted's Lobster chair

If your little one is eating solids, tossing your high chair in the trunk of your car for your next family vacation probably isn't going to fly. The Phil & Ted's Lobster chair is a safe, easily portable solution for families on the go.

Featuring a 4-point safety harness with padded shoulder straps and super strong 'lobster claws' with rubber grips, the Lobster is quick and easy to clip to any stable countertop or table. It's also easy to open, close and store—it folds up and slides right into its own carrying bag.

The chair's fabric slides out of the frame for cleaning, and it even comes with a dishwasher-safe food tray that slides between the clamps to keep those gross restaurant germs off of baby's tiny hands. And it's safe for babies up to 3 years old and 37 lbs.!

$89.99

9. The bottle-cleaning solution

OXO Tot On-the-Go Drying Kit

This one may not seem like a must-have, but trust us here. We can't tell you the amount of times we've gone on vacation and realized we didn't have anything to clean our bottles or straw cups except for the dingy sponge sitting next to the sink at our beach rental house 🙈 Was it the end of the world? Definitely not. But remembering to throw the OXO Tot On-the-Go Drying Kit into our suitcases would have made things a whole lot easier.

We love how the brush comes apart and fits securely into the carrying case (which also doubles as a drying rack for bottles, nipples, or even breast pump parts—genius!) and comes with everything you need to keep bottles and cups clean while you're away from home. The whole thing is top-rack dishwasher safe, making it easy to clean before you pack it away for your next adventure.

$14.99

10. The carrier

Ergobaby Omni 360 Air Mesh

For hands-free baby carrying, or for when a stroller isn't an option, we love the ease and portability of a baby carrier. Carriers offer a great spot for babies to get a birds-eye view of all the sights and sounds around them, and are also the perfect place to snuggle up next to mom or dad for a nap on the move.

For summer travel especially, the Ergobaby Omni 360 Cool Air Mesh is our carrier of choice. The Omni will keep baby comfy with multiple carry positions, and mom or dad comfy with a wide, padded waistband and a soft mesh fabric that allows for breathability and air flow for those sticky summer days. The Omni works from seven to 45 pounds (from newborn to toddler!), so it will be around for lots and lots of family adventures. Bonus: The carrier has been acknowledged as "hip healthy" by the International Hip Dysplasia Institute.

$179.00

11. The backpack

MZ Wallace Metro Backpack

If there's one universal truth about motherhood that we can all agree on, it's that babies come with a lot of stuff. The last thing you want to worry about when you're away from home is not having a change of clothes or a stash of snacks on hand (can we say 4-hour flight delay, anyone?), so you're going to need a roomy, comfortable place to store all of those emergency must-haves and a back means you'll be hands-free, which is KEY when you're on the go with little ones.

Enter: MZ Wallace's Metro Backpack. Available in 10 eye-catching colors and patterns, this backpack is roomy enough to hold all the extras (wipes, pacifiers, blankies, sippy cups, you name it!). We love the two exterior side pockets because they're deep enough to hold a bottle, the front zipper pocket (perfect for your easy-access items like your phone and wallet) and the detachable interior pouch—ya know, for those times when little pookie happens to puke on the plane. Bonus: Its quilted nylon fabric and luxe hardware don't scream "mom bag!!!"

$245.00

12. The travel shoes

Step foot inside Plae's Crosby and you'll never want to pack bulky shoes again. Perfect for breezing through airport security lines (no laces!), this super versatile ballerina flat comes in eight punchy colorways that will add some serious spunk to your travel day style. The best parts, however, are that the shoes are designed to compress completely flat--you can even store a pair in your glove compartment with ease!--and they are crazy comfortable. Oh, and they're machine washable and made from recycled PET. What's not to love?

$79.95

13. The sunscreen

Blue Lizard Baby

Protecting your little one from the sun is so important—but so is keeping them safe from harmful chemicals. Although choosing a natural sunscreen can be daunting, we've landed on Blue Lizard Baby, which we think rocks for lots of reasons.

It uses only natural mineral barriers (including Zinc Oxide); it has no potentially irritating chemicals; it offers broad spectrum UVA and UVB skin protection; and it's very highly rated by EWG. And, unlike lots of Zinc-based sunscreens, it's easy to apply and doesn't leave a thick, white coating behind. The bottle even turns pink when exposed to harmful UV rays, reminding you to cover up. How useful—and fun—is that?

$14.98

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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When it comes to holiday gifts, we know what you really want, mama. A full night's sleep. Privacy in the bathroom. The opportunity to eat your dinner while it's still hot. Time to wash—and dry!—your hair. A complete wardrobe refresh.


While we can't help with everything on your list (we're still trying to figure out how to get some extra zzz's ourselves), here are 14 gift ideas that'll make you look, if not feel, like a whole new woman. Even when you're sleep deprived.

Gap Cable-Knit Turtleneck Sweater

When winter hits, one of our go-to outfits will be this tunic-length sweater and a pair of leggings. Warm and everyday-friendly, we can get behind that.

$69.95

Gap Cigarette Jeans

These high-waisted straight-leg jeans have secret smoothing panels to hide any lumps and bumps (because really, we've all got 'em).

$79.95

Tiny Tags Gold Skinny Bar Necklace

Whether engraved with a child's name or date of birth, this personalized necklace will become your go-to piece of everyday jewelry.

$135.00

Gap Brushed Pointelle Crew

This wear-with-anything soft pink sweater with delicate eyelet details can be dressed up for work or dressed down for weekend time with the family. Versatility for the win!

$79.95

Gap Flannel Pajama Set

For mamas who sleep warm, this PJ set offers the best of both worlds: cozy flannel and comfy shorts. Plus, it comes with a coordinating eye mask for a blissed-out slumber.

$69.95

Spafinder Gift Card

You can't give the gift of relaxation, per say, but you can give a gift certificate for a massage or spa service, and that's close enough!

$50.00

Gap Stripe Long Sleeve Crewneck

This featherweight long-sleeve tee is the perfect layering piece under hoodies, cardigans, and blazers.

$29.95

Gap Chenille Smartphone Gloves

Gone are the days of removing toasty gloves before accessing our touchscreen devices—thank goodness!

$9.95

Ember Temperature Control Smart Mug

Make multiple trips to the microwave a thing of the past with a app-controlled smart mug that'll keep your coffee or tea at the exact temperature you prefer for up to an hour.

$99.95

Gap Flannel Shirt

Our new favorite flannel boasts an easy-to-wear drapey fit and a flattering curved shirttail hem.

$59.95

Gap Sherpa-Lined Denim Jacket

Stay warm while looking cool in this iconic jean jacket, featuring teddy bear-soft fleece lining and a trendy oversized fit.

$98.00

Gap Crazy Stripe Scarf

Practical and stylish, this cozy scarf adds a pop of color—well, colors—to any winter ensemble.

$39.95

Nixplay Seed Frame

This digital picture frame is perfect for mamas who stay up late scrolling through their phone's photo album to glimpse their kiddos being adorable. By sending them to this smart frame to view throughout the day, you can get a few extra minutes of sleep at night!

$165.00

Gap Crewneck Sweater

Busy mamas will appreciate that this supersoft, super versatile Merino wool sweater is machine washable.

$59.95

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

Our Partners

[Editor's note: Motherly is committed to covering all relevant presidential candidate plans as we approach the 2020 election. We are making efforts to get information from all candidates. Motherly does not endorse any political party or candidate. We stand with and for mothers and advocate for solutions that will reduce maternal stress and benefit women, families and the country.]

During the previous Democratic debates, we have wondered when paid parental leave would get some air time—and during the fifth debate on Wednesday night, it finally did.

This is so important because as Andrew Yang said during the debate: "There are only two countries in the world that don't have paid family leave for new moms: the United States of America and Papua New Guinea. That is the entire list and we need to get off this list as soon as possible."

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(It seems unbelievable that nearly every single country in the world has beaten the United States to this important milestone, but the Washington Post fact-checked Yang and the statement is correct, according to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development.)

American parents (moms and dads) need access to paid family leave, but new parents aren't the only Americans who need paid leave while doing unpaid care work, as Sen. Kamala Harris pointed out during the debate. The burden of caring not only for children, but also sick or elderly family members often falls to women, and doing this vital but unpaid work can cost women their savings and earning potential.


During the debate and on Twitter during it, Harris said American workers should get six months of paid family leave. One of her fellow candidates Sen. Klobuchar also tackled the topic on the debate stage, noting that she's for half the amount of leave Harris wants. Klobuchar says that while she "would love" to see six months of paid leave, three seems more realistic to her.

(For more information on where the other candidates stand on paid leave, childcare costs and health care see our previous coverage).

Wednesday night's conversation about paid leave was brief, but many paid leave advocates are happy the important issue got any time at all.

"Tonight was a huge step forward in the fight for paid family and medical leave for the 113 million people without it today," Katie Bethell, the Founder and Executive Director of PL+US says a statement to Motherly.

"At last, the moderators and candidates are addressing the fact that voters overwhelmingly support policies that support families. Paid family and medical leave is a winning, bipartisan issue that charts the path to victory in the general election."

America needs paid family leave now, and the American people need to hear the candidates talk about how they plan to make it happen.

Six of the candidates—Biden, Warren, Sanders, Buttigieg, Harris and Klobuchar—have already qualified for the next debate happening next month in Los Angeles.

News

Almost all parents agree that reading is one of the most important skills to encourage in young children, but did you know that reading to your child can directly impact their brain development? Reading to your children is one of the most important things you can do, but there are also many other quite simple literacy activities that not only help kids learn to read, but show them that it's fun and encourage a lifelong reading habit.

Winter is the perfect time to get cozy and spend some extra time reading. Try one of these literacy activities next time you're in need of some indoor fun this winter.

1. Create a listening station

In Montessori classrooms for young children, the classroom environment is considered critical to learning. Part of a successful classroom environment that meets preschool-aged children's needs is including cozy spaces.

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Especially in a group setting, but even at home, children need quiet little nooks where they can escape and feel safe and enclosed. A listening station makes for a perfect quiet space.

Provide a selection of a few different audio books for your child to choose from. If you don't have any at home, public libraries often offer many great choices. If you feel like splurging, there are other child-specific listening devices perfect for a listening station as well. The Chameleon Reader takes this a step further and lets you turn any book your child loves into an audio book. This offers such a great alternative to screen time, especially during tricky times like long days of airplane or car travel.

2. Make a story bag

A story bag has a collection of small objects with which a child can recreate a story. You can make or buy story bags for any book your child enjoys.

Choose a book they are familiar with and love. Show them the story bag and model how to recreate the story with the objects. Then let them take the lead. Don't worry about it if they get creative with the plot, that's all part of the learning!

3. Introduce sequence cards

Similarly, try providing your child with a series of images from a beloved book and inviting them to put them in order. It's fine if they use the book to help them, it's not a test!

This is super easy to do yourself. You can just take photos of the illustrations with your phone and print them, or order the photos from a site like Shutterfly if you don't have a printer. Laminating will of course make them last longer.

4. Act it out

Many children learn best when they are moving and physically engaged, so try putting your child's favorite story into action, pretending alongside your child as you move through the plot.

Stories with lots of action, such as We're Going on a Bear Hunt or Where the Wild Things Are, are a good place to start, but you can really act out almost any children's book with your child.

5. Do an author study

Next time you read a book your child really likes, ask if they'd like to hear about the person who wrote it. Read them the little author's bio at the end of the book and say something like, "Hmm, I wonder if they've written anything else we might like."

Go to the library and search together for more books by the author you've chosen. If it's a less well known author, you may want to reserve some books from the library ahead of time as well.

6. Use a story-telling inspiration basket

This is super simple and easily tailored to whatever your particular child is interested in. Choose a small box or basket and fill it with a few little items to inspire a story. For example, for winter, you may include a toy snowman, scarf, sled and cookie. Show your child you can use these objects to make up your own story.

When you model the activity, you can write down the story you create, but if your child just wants to tell you the story, that's great too. Write it down for them and invite them to illustrate it if they're interested.

7. Share oral stories

Oral storytelling is becoming a bit of a lost art, but it plays a valuable role in helping young children develop rich vocabulary and a true love for storytelling and reading.

Try doing this as an after dinner activity, turning off all of the lights and lighting a candle to make it special. Don't worry if you don't consider yourself creative, children are sucked in by oral storytelling even if you tell them the simplest story about your day.

In time, you can invite them to join in on the storytelling fun as well.

8. Write the words for their pictures.

Long before children learn to write, they tell stories through their artwork. Invite your child to tell you the story behind a picture they've made and write it down for them.

Not only does this make your child feel super special and valued, it helps them make the connection between written words and stories, which is a key literacy skill.

9. Play reading games

There are so many easy reading games you can play with young children. One of my favorites which we use a lot in Montessori is "I Spy". I love this game because it can be done anywhere, and because children love it!

This is a great one to play if you're stuck waiting at the doctor's office or stuck in traffic. Simply say, "I spy something that starts with 'c'" using the phonetic letter sound. Take turns finding things around you that start with that sounds. For older children, you can play "I Spy" with rhymes instead, saying "I spy something that rhymes with bat".

To play at home, you can also use a basket of objects starting with various sounds.

10. Letter boxes

This is directly based on one of the key Montessori language materials.

In the classroom, children use "sandpaper letters," which are exactly what they sound like, letters made of sandpaper so that the child can really feel the shape of the letter as they trace it. A child is given a box of 3-5 letters which they have been practicing and a box of small objects. The child matches the object to its beginning sound. So if there is a little cat, the child will place it by "c".

In Montessori, children learn the phonetic sounds of the alphabet, rather than the letter names, so this comes fairly naturally. There is no need to buy sandpaper letters for your home, but if you have been working on the phonetic letter sounds with your child, it can be fun to play a similar matching game with objects. You can simply write the letters on card stock and find little objects around your house, or in the dollhouse section of a craft store. Young children love tiny objects and are often very drawn to this work.

Nothing will ever replace reading aloud to your child, but these literacy activities can be really fun ways to incorporate additional language practice into your home and to encourage a true love of reading.

Learn + Play

"I'm Dave, Olli's dad."

This is the way I introduce myself to people I meet now. It's different from the way I used to introduce myself. "I'm Dave," used to be followed by, "I'm a designer." Or, "I work in startups." And, "I work for X." For the last 15 years my career was a large part of who I was, a peg I hung my hat on. After my son was born, that identity stayed intact for a while. I usually mentioned, "I'm a dad" secondarily, after some casual conversation.

Then, when my son turned about a year-and-a-half old, my wife and I switched places. She went back to work full-time and I became the primary caregiver. I was now a stay-at-home dad.

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I was excited to spend more time with my son because I felt like I was missing big moments in his life while I was at work. Up until that point, weekday time together was relegated to an hour or so before bed. Most of our time spent together was on the weekends and I'd notice the difference in his affection towards me after extended time together.

For the first few months of full-time dad-ing, the sudden influx of quality time felt like a novelty. After a while, things started to feel normal in this new role and we found our groove together. This intensive routine of being with him almost non-stop developed into a relationship that was closer and more complex than before. I became more intertwined with his rhythms, and my parental instincts grew with it.

While I'm happy with the way my relationship has blossomed with my son, this life change has shaken up my identity in ways I never expected.

I still do design work, now on a freelance basis, but "designer" is no longer the linchpin of my identity. In fact, it's shifted a lot of my interests to a second tier, which leaves me struggling to say exactly who I am at the moment.

I know I'm not alone in this reevaluation of self because I overhear bits and pieces of these conversations about identity, worth, and self-perception discussed by groups of moms at playgrounds, parks, and indoor play spaces.

These groups of people form along lines of likeness — moms gravitate towards each other, nannies tend to cluster in groups. Mostly my conversations in these places are brief encounters that hover in the safe zone of children's milestones, small talk like: How old? Potty trained? Preschool? Daycare?

I've yet to come across a dad cohort.

I recognize the difference between my conversations and those that start to veer towards breastfeeding issues or the pains of childbirth. But it can feel alienating.

I don't have it any harder than any other stay-at-home mom, I just don't seem to have the same support network they do.

And when I talk to fathers who work full-time, I sometimes encounter an unrealistic portrayal of what it means to be with a child every day. Like I'm scamming the system and making out like a bandit.

The other day a friend commented that "it must be so nice to be off for the summer." He quickly clarified that he made this statement in reference to not having to go into an office every day. It was an honest slip of the tongue, but it's not an uncommon sentiment.

Looking after a child is hard work, and watching after them full-time invades every part of your focus, brain, and time. A summer day doesn't dissolve the monotony that can accompany watching a child for hours or the anxiety caused by tantrums.

When I was working full-time, I had a solid sense of who I was, who I should be and where I should be. As a stay-at-home dad, I live on uncertain ground. Somewhere between the moms in the park and the working dads I know.

I'm happier now than I was before, but decisions aren't so cut and dry, and the direction doesn't seem as sure. There's not a well-defined path ahead of me.

While the relationships I had have grown more distant with my new focus, the relationship I have with my son is way more fulfilling than I imagined it could be. He's gone from a standard love to an extension of my heart outside my body.

I beam when he's happy and I hurt when he hurts. The goods are tethered to the bads but the bads create opportunities to learn and grow, and that growth means a more developed and engaged human. That is much more satisfying than the work I used to do.

Yes, being a full-time caregiver is hard. And yes, I'm still figuring out what it means to be "Olli's Dad" and a stay-at-home dad in a sea of stay-at-home-moms. But the reward is so much greater than the wins I used to score when I was simply "Dave, a designer."

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

Life

For at least the past month (well, probably longer, but who's keeping track when there's no such thing as a good night's sleep between an almost two-year-old and a 3-month-old), every morning starts with the familiar refrain of my son's tiny voice repeating the same phrase relentlessly like only a toddler can, "Time to wake up mama! Wake up! Time to wake up!" And while I'm sure tomorrow morning will start off no different, I'll close my eyes tonight and know that everything will change. Because tomorrow morning, we'll wake up and he'll be a two-year-old.

Two years since all 8lbs, 7oz of him entered the world after 16 miserable hours of labor. Two years since we met our handsome boy with his full head of hair, fell head over heels in love and decided our lives 'pre-baby' weren't so great after all. Two whole years since I became a mama.

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And what a wild ride it's been. At two, he's a running, jumping, talking, tantrum-throwing, truck-loving, perfectly chaotic mess of a kid—a far cry from the helpless newborn we cluelessly brought home just two short years ago.

I'm sure sometime in the next week (okay, maybe more like the next year), I'll be madly scribbling down all the things I don't want to forget about him at this age in his baby book, but perhaps one of the things I want to remember most is what he's taught me in the last two years. Being the personal assistant to a demanding toddler (and now his little brother) is the hardest job I've ever had, but thankfully he's also the best teacher I never thought I'd have.

Strangely, the longer I'm a mother, the less I seem to know, but I'm certain the last two years have taught me five valuable lessons that I'll keep with me long after my babies are grown:

  1. It's okay to say no. I was a people-pleaser before I became a mom, but becoming a mom kicked my people-pleasing tendencies into overdrive. Thanks to my over-confident toddler who says "no" more times than I can count on any given morning, I've truly learned the power of this simple, two-letter word. Now, when an over-eager relative asks to hold my 3-month-old when I want to be the one to hold him? You guessed it: N-O.
  2. Always ask for what you want. My toddler does it all day and he makes no apologies for it either. If I've learned anything since becoming a mother, it's that I can't do everything on my own and do it well. But I can't expect my husband (or anyone else, for that matter) to read my mind and offer to take things off my plate if I don't ask for it. There's absolutely no shame in asking for help—or for that extra glass of wine—because mom-ing is freakin' hard.
  3. It's okay to make mistakes. We wouldn't be human if we didn't. I'm convinced that one of the best things I can teach my children is not to fear failure but to learn from it, get up and try again. As a people-pleaser (see point #1), the pressure to get things right all the time and to make sure everyone is taken care of is REAL. But as a work-at-home mom of two, things slip through the cracks more often than not and the fact that my toddler STILL can't drink from an open cup without spilling half of it all over himself reminds that it's okay to not get things right the first, fifth, or even thirty-sixth time.
  4. Love and forgive with your whole heart. There's nothing purer than a toddler's love. Trucks, snacks, Paw Patrol, making messes, me. I can't count how many times I've snapped and lost my cool with my 2-year-old only to have him look up at me with his big, brown eyes still filled with complete forgiveness, adoration and love. And each time I'm humbled and reminded of the grace I should give myself whenever I feel like I'm failing (and trust me, it's a lot).
  5. These are the days. Really, they are. The 3-month-old no-sleep nights and 8-month-old separation anxiety "only mom will do" moments? Those were the days. The 2-year-old tantrum after tantrum filled mornings and never-ending messes? These are the days. The 13-year-old "don't embarrass me mom" phase and the 17-year-old too cool for school (literally) period of time? Those will be the days. Yes, right now a walk to the grocery store that's five blocks away easily takes half an hour, usually more, but how else would we pick every flower, notice every spider or feed every squirrel if it didn't? I definitely don't do this with patience 100% of the time but perfect or not, these are our moments and our days. They are a part of our story and will become our memories.

So, on the eve of my 2-year-old's birthday, my mama heart is full. Full of lessons learned, full of memories past, and full of anticipation for the moments to come in year three and beyond. And as I look forward to celebrating my sweet baby tomorrow, there's one more thing that I know is true: Mamas, no matter what age or stage you're at (I see you, sleep-deprived mamas with newborns), hang on to every precious moment a little longer than you think you should because I promise that the minute you blink, you'll miss them.

Life
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