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Being a SAHM can be a thankless job—and yes, it's real work

I am the always-on-call parent. And if I miss any of it, if I slip up, that's all on me, too.

stay at home mom
@crystalmariesing via Twenty20

Being a stay-at-home mom was never my dream. In my early 20s, as I pounded the pavements of Manhattan in platform shoes typing fanatically into a Blackberry, I remember envisioning how one day I'd fit babies into that life with the help of a nanny and the more decent hours that would come with a higher-level editorial position.

But when my husband and I found out we were expecting our first baby right after moving out of state for his job, my options dwindled. I distinctly remember being eight months pregnant and waddling out of what would officially be the last of a string of lukewarm interviews, sitting down to crunch numbers with him and realizing that even if I got the job, we'd be losing money with what we'd pay in childcare. Mutually, we decided I'd stay home with the baby.

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Once our daughter came, I flourished in this accidental role of stay-at-home parent. Her coos and cries were my new constant, daily purpose, her late-night feeds my unmissable meetings. I did still work part-time from home, typing blog posts into the notes section of my iPhone at 3 a.m. and taking calls from prospective clients hooked up to my breast pump. But despite my fierce desire to hold on to some semblance of a career, it became increasingly clear that mothering was my new full-time job.

Nearly five years later, we've added another child, and I dream of at least one more. The rhythm of my days (and nights) is predictable in that each day brings chaos. The role of stay-at-home motherhood, I've found, makes you more than a mother — it makes you the go-to person on all the things.

I am the go-to appointment-maker and mess-cleaner, grocery-shopper and laundress.

I am the disciplinarian, short-order cook, and changer of practically every single diaper.

I have to beg, borrow, and steal to make time for myself.

And when I do get alone time, I usually just choose to sleep. Sometimes I daydream about having a commute, just so I could listen to some music by myself and get lost in a thought that has nothing to do with princesses or peanut butter.

Yet, some people don't see what I do all day, every day for what it is: work.

As a SAHM, I am the always-on-call parent. The kisser of every boo-boo and giver of every bath. The one whose brain ticks on at night for hours while the rest of the household drifts off to Dreamland, because every single piece of the day-to-day falls down on me, and if I miss any of it, if I slip up, that's all on me, too. And I'll be the one who has to deal with the consequences.

The work piles up constantly and is reborn unto itself. Many days I power out at full force, scrubbing and mopping, signing and calling, straightening and preparing. I feel the satisfaction of having built the biggest and most beautiful sandcastle on the beach. For just a few calm moments I relish in my success. And then the tide washes up drags my work back out to sea. The organized turrets of sand dissolve into a natural state of disarray. No one saw the castle — it was only mine to admire briefly.

Such is the work of the stay-at-home parent, who cleans one thing or answers one call or prepares one meal only to find a sticky mess in a new corner, an epic battle over a toy in another. A call from a spouse coming through on the line with a whole new set of needs to be fulfilled. All. Day. Long.

I love being a stay-at-home mom. I love being the one to teach them their ABC's and colors. I love baking muffins on a whim and watching them fly high on the swings at the playground. I love being there for the shrieks of delight when I know many of my contemporaries are at their desks, wishing they could be doing the same.

Still, some people act like I'm not working.

Yes, there are playdates and coloring books and a whole lot of laughter. But there is also a relentless, break-free stream of full-time labor. I might be there for all the snuggles but I am also there for every single tantrum, blowout, and meltdown. Every missed nap, the sweeping up of each crumbled snack. And the invisibility of it all is so hurtful, especially when it comes from people who are supposed to care.

I have been asked what I do all day, and if I believe my college degree was a waste. I have been asked "What about your career?" and "Won't you feel useless when they're in school?" Society, and sadly, some people close to me, seem to view stay-at-home mothers as a pack of freeloaders bopping around town in yoga pants having lunch with girlfriends and getting spray tans while the rest of America taps pencils against their desks, willing the hours to move faster so they can get home to their kids.

I get it. Being a mom is hard for everyone. I understand the struggle. But I want my struggle acknowledged, too.

In my line of work there are no breaks, no sick days, and no time off. Though the rewards are vast, there are no promotions and no raises. The work, no matter how exceptional, often goes unnoticed.

I don't resent my job. In fact, I love it.

But it is a job, and I wish everyone could see that.

This story originally appeared on Apparently.

By its very nature, motherhood requires some lifestyle adjustments: Instead of staying up late with friends, you get up early for snuggles with your baby. Instead of spontaneous date nights with your honey, you take afternoon family strolls with your little love. Instead of running out of the house with just your keys and phone, you only leave with a fully loaded diaper bag.

For breastfeeding or pumping mamas, there is an additional layer of consideration around when, how and how much your baby will eat. Thankfully, when it comes to effective solutions for nursing or bottle-feeding your baby, Dr. Brown's puts the considerations of mamas and their babies first with products that help with every step of the process—from comfortably adjusting to nursing your newborn to introducing a bottle to efficiently pumping.

With countless hours spent breastfeeding, pumping and bottle-feeding, the editors at Motherly know the secret to success is having dependable supplies that can help you feed your baby in a way that matches lifestyle.

Here are 9 breastfeeding and pumping products to help you no matter what the day holds.

Customflow™ Double Electric Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's electric pump

For efficient, productive pumping sessions, a double electric breast pump will help you get the job done as quickly as possible. Quiet for nighttime pumping sessions and compact for bringing along to work, this double pump puts you in control with fully adjustable settings.

$159.99

Hands-Free Pumping Bra

Dr. Brown''s hands free pumping bra

Especially in the early days, feeding your baby can feel like a pretty consuming task. A hands-free pumping bra will help you reclaim some of your precious time while pumping—and all mamas will know just how valuable more time can be!

$29.99

Manual Breast Pump with SoftShape™ Silicone Shield

Dr. Brown's manual breast pump

If you live a life that sometimes takes you away from electrical outlets (that's most of us!), then you'll absolutely want a manual breast pump in your arsenal. With two pumping modes to promote efficient milk expression and a comfort-fitted shield, a manual pump is simply the most convenient pump to take along and use. Although it may not get as much glory as an electric pump, we really appreciate how quick and easy this manual pump is to use—and how liberating it is not to stress about finding a power supply.

$29.99

Nipple Shields and Sterilization Case

Dr. Brown's nipple shields

There is a bit of a learning curve to breastfeeding—for both mamas and babies. Thankfully, even if there are some physical challenges (like inverted nipples or a baby's tongue tie) or nursing doesn't click right away, silicone nipple shields can be a huge help. With a convenient carry case that can be sterilized in the microwave, you don't have to worry about germs or bacteria either. 🙌

$9.99

Silicone One-Piece Breast Pump

Dr. Brown's silicone pump

When you are feeding your baby on one breast, the other can still experience milk letdown—which means it's a golden opportunity to save some additional milk. With a silent, hands-free silicone pump, you can easily collect milk while nursing.

$14.99

Breast to Bottle Pump & Store Feeding Set

After a lifetime of nursing from the breast, introducing a bottle can be a bit of a strange experience for babies. Dr. Brown's Options+™ and slow flow bottle nipples were designed with this in mind to make the introduction to bottles smooth and pleasant for parents and babies. As a set that seamlessly works together from pumping to storing milk to bottle feeding, you don't have to stress about having everything you need to keep your baby fed and happy either.

$24.99

Washable Breast Pads

washable breast pads

Mamas' bodies are amazingly made to help breast milk flow when it's in demand—but occasionally also at other times. Especially as your supply is establishing or your breasts are fuller as the length between feeding sessions increase, it's helpful to use washable nursing pads to prevent breast milk from leaking through your bra.

$8.99

Breast Milk Storage Bags

Dr. Brown's milk storage bags

The essential for mamas who do any pumping, breast milk storage bags allow you to easily and safely seal expressed milk in the refrigerator or freezer. Dr. Brown's™ Breast Milk Storage Bags take it even further with extra thick walls that block out scents from other food items and feature an ultra secure lock to prevent leaking.

$7.99


Watch one mama's review of the new Dr. Brown's breastfeeding line here:

This article was sponsored by Dr. Brown's. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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Motherly editors’ 7 favorite hacks for organizing their diaper bags

Make frantically fishing around for a diaper a thing of the past!

As any parent knows, the term "diaper bag" only scratches the surface. In reality, this catchall holds so much more: a change of clothes, bottles, snacks, wipes and probably about a dozen more essential items.

Which makes finding the exact item you need, when you need it (read: A diaper when you're in public with a blowout on your hands) kind of tricky.

That's why organization is the name of the game when it comes to outings with your littles. We pooled the Motherly team of editors to learn some favorite hacks for organizing diaper bags. Here are our top tips.

1. Divide and conquer with small bags

Here's a tip we heard more than a few times: Use smaller storage bags to organize your stuff. Not only is this helpful for keeping related items together, but it can also help keep things from floating around in the expanse of the larger diaper bag. These bags don't have to be anything particularly fancy: an unused toiletry bag, pencil case or even plastic baggies will work.

2. Have an emergency changing kit

When you're dealing with a diaper blowout situation, it's not the time to go searching for a pack of wipes. Instead, assemble an emergency changing kit ahead of time by bundling a change of baby clothes, a fresh diaper, plenty of wipes and hand sanitizer in a bag you can quickly grab. We're partial to pop-top wipes that don't dry out or get dirty inside the diaper bag.

3. Simplify bottle prep

Organization isn't just being able to find what you need, but also having what you need. For formula-feeding on the go, keep an extra bottle with the formula you need measured out along with water to mix it up. You never know when your outing will take longer than expected—especially with a baby in the mix!

4. Get resealable snacks

When getting out with toddlers and older kids, snacks are the key to success. Still, it isn't fun to constantly dig crumbs out of the bottom of your diaper bag. Our editors love pouches with resealable caps and snacks that come in their own sealable containers. Travel-sized snacks like freeze-dried fruit crisps or meal-ready pouches can get an unfair reputation for being more expensive, but that isn't the case with the budget-friendly Comforts line.

5. Keep a carabiner on your keychain

You'll think a lot about what your child needs for an outing, but you can't forget this must-have: your keys. Add a carabiner to your keychain so you can hook them onto a loop inside your diaper bag. Trust us when we say it's a much better option than dumping out the bag's contents on your front step to find your house key!

6. Bundle your essentials

If your diaper bag doubles as your purse (and we bet it does) you're going to want easy access to your essentials, too. Dedicate a smaller storage bag of your diaper bag to items like your phone, wallet and lip balm. Then, when you're ready to transfer your items to a real purse, you don't have to look for them individually.

7. Keep wipes in an outer compartment

Baby wipes aren't just for diaper changes: They're also great for cleaning up messy faces, wiping off smudges, touching up your makeup and more. Since you'll be reaching for them time and time again, keep a container of sensitive baby wipes in an easily accessible outer compartment of your bag.

Another great tip? Shop the Comforts line on www.comfortsforbaby.com to find premium baby products for a fraction of competitors' prices. Or, follow @comfortsforbaby for more information!

This article was sponsored by The Kroger Co. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

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Errands and showers are not self-care for moms

Thinking they are is what's burning moms out.

A friend and I bump into each other at Target nearly every time we go. We don't pre-plan this; we must just be on the same paper towel use cycle or something. Really, I think there was a stretch where I saw her at Target five times in a row.

We've turned it into a bit of a running joke. "Yeah," I say sarcastically, "We needed paper towels so you know, I had to come to Target… for two hours of alone time."

She'll laugh and reply, "Oh yes, we were out of… um… paper clips. So here I am, shopping without the kids. Heaven!"

Now don't get me wrong. I adore my trips to Target (and based on the fullness of my cart when I leave, I am pretty sure Target adores my trips there, too).

But my little running joke with my friend is actually a big problem. Because why is the absence of paper towels the thing that prompts me to get a break? And why on earth is buying paper towels considered a break for moms?

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