My life’s work? It’s taking place inside my home.

I may not be well-traveled. I may not have a doctorate. I may not even wear “real” pants. But my work matters.

My life’s work? It’s taking place inside my home.

He reached up for my hand in the store and said, “I hold your hand, Mommy?” I grabbed his tiny, almost 3-year-old hand and for a second, my heart exploded.

I wanted nothing more in the world than to hold that tiny hand forever and ever.

Lately, I’ve been feeling more often than not those quiet feelings of immense gratitude. I look at my kids and feel a love so enormous it would literally be impossible to express. I see glimpses of the big kids they will one day be. Some days, I feel glad life seems to poke by slowly, and they will still be 2 years old tomorrow. I’m finally wishing for life to slow down instead of speed up.

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Some days, I think I’m finally beginning to be the mom I’ve always wanted to be.

The one who is present when it’s important. Who follows those little whispers to give undivided attention when it matters. The one who breathes in their smell right after a nap and promises herself, wills herself, to remember it. The one who sees the importance of child-rearing and not only appreciates it, but loves it.

But I’m imperfect, and well aware that next week, I might be crying in the bathroom because I yelled at my kids for letting the glow stick leak onto the living room chair and ruin it. I hear a quiet whisper in my head of a quote I heard somewhere, that one time: “People are more important than things.” I swallow the anger and promise myself that I’ll do better the next day. And I might forget that a few days before, I was the mom I wanted to always be.

I’m guessing that every mother goes through the identity crisis of motherhood.

We have this idealistic view of motherhood before we actually become mothers, and then, when reality hits, we question whether or not we truly are who we thought we were. But I thought I was so patient. But I thought I was a good multi-tasker. But I thought I was a good cook. Motherhood swallows some of us whole and spits us out like newborn puppies. We stumble over our feet and fall flat on our faces just trying to walk a few steps.

But slowly, we get the hang of things, feel more confident, and, most important of all, forgive ourselves. Through lots of practice and time, we learn that the guilt will eat us alive, and that acceptance of ourselves (even with all of our faults) is the only way to survive it all. So we dive in and devote hours and days and years of our lives to tiny human beings.

We sacrifice and put our own needs last and learn to shower in 3.5 minutes. When we become mothers, we become a different kind of superhero. One who is invisible to the outside world, but is everything to the world right inside our own houses.

The identity crisis won’t ever really go away, though. We’ll read an article criticizing our choice and feel inferior. I read one recently. The article was fine. In fact, I liked it. It spoke about how moms feel invisible -- but it was the first commenter who shook my own identity for a minute (luckily, I only let her get in my head for a minute). She was telling this mom who wrote the article (whom she presumably didn’t know) that if she had something to say, speak up. Say it. Enlighten us all. Quit feeling sorry for yourself because you are entrenched in motherhood and feel invisible to the outside world now that you’re a mom. I’m paraphrasing, of course. But it was done in such a challenging way, almost daring the mom who wrote the article to have something, anything, of worth to contribute to society.

For a split second, I felt small. I am “just” a mom. What DO I have to contribute? If someone were to start a conversation with me about current affairs, I’d only be able to contribute what I’d recently watched on the Today Show. I try. I really do.

And the truth is, I may not know what’s going on in the world, because my world is right here in my little house. Not with world dictators, but with tiny ones who insist on wearing pool shoes to church.

It would be so easy to have an identity crisis because people are living more well-traveled lives than I am. People are out past 8 p.m. and drinking wine and talking about the current crisis in Syria and what they would do to fix it. People are joining the Peace Corps and doing very important big things that don’t involve fixing the 2-year-old five different meals. People are getting degrees and awards, and making TV appearances. And I could feel very, very small. I could feel invisible. I could easily tell myself I don’t have anything left to contribute except maybe to the laundry, the mopping, and the bum-wiping society right here at my house.

But, you know what? I refuse to accept that.

I may not be well-traveled. I may not have a doctorate. I may not even wear “real” pants some days. But what I do matters. Not just in little ways, but in big ways. Ways that the well-traveled, single, childless critics of the stay-at-home mom will never understand.

So, I’m not going to have an identity crisis because I chose to be entrenched in motherhood for the foreseeable future, and others are out solving the Ebola crisis? Nope—I’m going to pat myself on the back because I taught my 5-year-old the importance of honesty today. I’m going to tell myself that honest, kind people (like the ones I’m raising) are more important in society than judgmental ones anyway.

My identity does not depend on someone else’s view of who I am. It only depends on my own view of it.

Identity can be defined as the distinguishing character or personality of an individual (see how I Googled that?). So maybe those people who categorize me as “just a mom” will see my distinguishing character as a mom in yoga pants who looks like she hasn’t slept in eight years and is only smart enough to talk about child-rearing. So what?

I know I’m more than that. Regardless of the society that might look right past me.

And, when these kids are grown up and are moving on with their own lives, I know that even if I were to win the Nobel Peace Prize (which I’m pretty sure I won’t), being Mom to my kids will still be the most important work I ever did. And I’m OK with that.

This article was originally published on Meredith’s personal blog, Perfection Pending.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. 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 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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A few years ago, while my wife's baby bump got bigger and my daddy reading list grew longer, I felt cautiously optimistic that this parenthood thing would, somehow, suddenly click one day. The baby would come, instincts would kick in, and the transition from established couple to a new family would be tiring but not baffling.

Boy was I wrong.

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