I was scared working would hurt my kids, but it actually saved us

Because of work, my children thrive, I thrive and we’re able to live the simple, focused life we love.

I was scared working would hurt my kids, but it actually saved us

When I started working at home, I was terrified that my children would suffer for it. Wouldn’t they miss out if I wasn’t spending every possible second making memories, providing exceptional learning experiences and communicating at them? I had bought into the myth of fetishized motherhood: that every mothering moment had to be Instagram-worthy.

A third child, and four years later, I’m finding my feet as a work-at-home mom. It’s an awkward balance between changing diapers and cleaning up pee in unexpected places; meeting deadlines and being present on conference calls. Reading books and teaching children how to read; designing websites and growing a client list.

It’s hard and beautiful; stressful and peaceful. I’ve found I’m not nearly enough, and I’ve found unexpected grace for all those places. As it turns out, love thrives in the small things, in the daily decisions to love my children well, despite whatever title gets tacked on to me as a mom. Instead of hurting my family, working at home has saved us. Here’s why:

1. We’ve lived simplicity, not just talked about it

I think most of us would admit a longing for more simplicity and less chaos; I get to live it! Life is like a bucket: You have limited space for everything you want to do. When you drop a toy into a bucket of water, water is displaced. So it is with life: When you add something to a life that’s already full, something will be displaced.

Before working, my bucket seemed large, and I crammed a lot in, including things I didn’t truly care about that didn’t provide value for our family. Now, my bucket barely has any extra space and I’m forced to stay ultra focused on my priorities and family values. Our life has simplified, tenfold, as a result.

2. It’s forced me to get rid of the guilt

I used to think mom guilt was just a permanent fixture in my life. It got so bad, however, when I became a working mom, that I was forced to deal with it. Now, I use the Guilt Check Worksheet and ask these two questions, when I start feeling guilty:

Have I actually offended or hurt somebody?

Do I honestly think I should be doing something different?

If the answers are yes, I can make a change! But more often than not, the answers are no—and I relax! No more guilt means I’m a kinder, gentler, more patient mom. The atmosphere in my house is a thousand times happier and more peaceful when I’m living from a place of joy, not guilt!

3. No more hovering

Remember all those memories, exceptional learning experiences and love communicating I thought my children needed? No wonder I was exhausted! What I discovered is that all that “educating” (playdates and classes and educational activities) was just another form of entertainment, and that I was going to entertain my children to death.

Now that I don’t fill up my children’s time with education and entertainment, they’re free to play. When they play freely and independently of me, they’re able to explore real-life concepts, learn how to interact with each other naturally and grow their imaginations. They are happier, calmer and less anxious as a result.

4. I found my people

Historically, women have had deep community to enrich their lives, and by extension, their families. They shared chores together, raised kids together and lived intertwined closely in each others’ lives. When I was a stay-at-home mom, I never found that kind of community. But when I became a work at home mom, I found a team of dynamic women and we helped to encourage one another at home and work. Partnering with these amazing people to do work that matters has been meaningful to me, and my family reaps the benefits of a mom who feels strong and capable.

5. It keeps our lives slow

Thanks to my income, my husband is free to choose a “slow” job that allows him to be home fairly often. Because, frankly, our kids need both of us—not just me.

Working at home hasn’t been without its struggles and challenges, but I love it. Because of it, my children thrive, I thrive and we’re able to live the simple, focused life we love.

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14 outdoor toys your kids will want to play with beyond summer

They transition seamlessly for indoor play.

With Labor day weekend in the rearview and back-to-school in full swing, most parents are fresh out of boxes to check on their "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys. So with that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play. Even better, they're Montessori-friendly and largely open-ended so your kids can get a ton of use out of them.

From sunny backyard afternoons to rainy mornings stuck inside, these toys are sure to keep little ones engaged and entertained.

Meadow ring toss game

Plan Toys meadow ring toss game

Besides offering a fantastic opportunity to hone focus, coordination, determination and taking turns, lawn games are just plain fun. Set them up close together for the littles and spread them out when Mom and Dad get in on the action. With their low profile and rope rings, they're great for indoors as well.


Balance board

Plan Toys balance board

Balance boards are a fabulous way to get the wiggles out. This one comes with a rope attachment, making it suitable for even the youngest wigglers. From practicing their balance and building core strength to working on skills that translate to skateboarding and snowboarding, it's a year-round physical activity that's easy to bring inside and use between Zoom classes, too!


Detective set

Plan Toys detective setDetective Set

This set has everything your little detective needs to solve whatever mystery they might encounter: an eye glasses, walkie-talkie, camera, a red lens, a periscope and a bag. Neighborhood watch? Watch out.


Wooden doll stroller

Janod wooden doll strollerWooden Doll Stroller

Take their charges on a stroll around the block with this classic doll stroller. With the same versatility they're used to in their own ride, this heirloom quality carriage allows their doll or stuffy to face them or face the world.


Sand play set

Plan Toys sand set

Whether you're hitting the beach or the backyard sandbox, this adorable wooden sand set is ready for action. Each scoop has an embossed pattern that's perfect for sand stamping. They're also totally suitable for water play in the wild or the bathtub.


Water play set

Plan Toys water play set

Filled with sand or water, this tabletop sized activity set keeps little ones busy, quiet and happy. (A mama's ideal trifecta 😉). It's big enough to satisfy their play needs but not so big it's going to flood your floors if you bring the fun inside on a rainy day.


Mini golf set

Plan Toys mini golf set

Fore! This mini golf set is lawn and living room ready. Set up a backyard competition or incorporate into homeschooling brain breaks that shift focus and build concentration.


Vintage scooter balance bike

Janod retro scooter balance bike

Pedals are so 2010. Balance bikes are the way to go for learning to ride a bike while skipping the training wheels stage altogether. This impossibly cool retro scooter-style is built to cruise the neighborhood or open indoor space as they're learning.


Wooden rocking pegasus

plan toys wooden rocking pegasus

Your little will be ready to take flight on this fun pegasus. It gently rocks back and forth, but doesn't skimp on safety—its winged saddle, footrests and backrest ensure kids won't fall off whether they're rocking inside or outside.


Croquet set

Plan Toys croquet set

The cutest croquet set we've ever seen! With adorable animal face wooden balls and a canvas bag for easy clean up, it's also crafted to stick around awhile. Round after round, it's great for teaching kiddos math and problem-solving skills as well.


Wooden digital camera

fathers factory wooden digital camera

Kids get the chance to assemble the camera on their own then can adventure anywhere to capture the best moments. With two detachable magnetic lenses, four built-in filters and video recorder, your little photographer can tap into their creativity from summertime to the holidays.


Wooden bulldozer toy

plan toys wooden bulldozer toy

Whether they're digging up sand in the backyad or picking up toys inside, kids can get as creative as they want picking up and moving things around. Even better? Its wooden structure means it's not an eye sore to look at wherever your digger drops it.


Pull-along hippo

janod toys pull along hippo toy

There's just something so fun about a classic pull-along toy and we love that they seamlessly transition between indoor and outdoor play. Crafted from solid cherry and beechwood, it's tough enough to endure outdoor spaces your toddler takes it on.


Baby forest fox ride-on

janod toys baby fox ride on

Toddlers will love zooming around on this fox ride-on, and it's a great transition toy into traditional balance bikes. If you take it for a driveway adventure, simply use a damp cloth to wipe down the wheels before bringing back inside.


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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 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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10 photos to take on baby’s first day that you'll cherish forever

You'll obsess over these newborn baby pictures.

Bethany Menzel: Instagram + Blog

As you're preparing for baby's birth, we bet you're dreaming of all of the amazing photos you'll take of your precious new babe. As a professional photographer and mama, I have some tips for newborn photos you'll want to capture.

Here are the 10 photos you will want to take on baby's first day.

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