Stay at home? Go to work? Why it’s my career, my child—and my choice

“The question boils down to this: Which option will help me be the best mama I can be for my baby?”

Stay at home? Go to work? Why it’s my career, my child—and my choice

Any working mama has been there: you are on maternity leave and you are dreading the thought of going back to work.

Or, after a particularly tough day with your newborn, you can’t wait to get back to the office. You go from seriously debating turning in your resignation to texting a co-worker to catch up on the latest gossip within the span of a morning.

In the middle of the blur that is pregnancy and postpartum, it’s totally fair (and really smart) to examine if you should head back to work or stay at home after your baby arrives.


And the question boils down to this: Which option will help me be the best mama I can be for my baby?

Every mama is different and what works for one may not work for the other. I do know how intense and emotional this decision—you might be giving up a career you are really proud of or scared of what your friends and family will think if you head back to work.

How can you find the right option for you and your family?

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Do a Dress Rehearsal

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received when it comes to big-life decisions is to have a dress rehearsal— in your mind, in your routine, and with your resources.

The catch is to put away the pro/con list and completely ignore one option while you rehearse the other.

Jump into one reality—preferably for at least a few days, if you have the time.

This will allow you to find out what you will really enjoy and what will annoy you to no end.

There are so many logistics to working motherhood:

Do I need my job so we can pay the bills? Do I enjoy my job? Can we figure out the logistics of transportation, meals, day care, doctors appointments, vacations, time off, sick time? Does my employer “get” how unpredictable life can be with a baby?

When it’s time to do test-run, practice getting yourself and your baby ready by the time you’ll need to leave for the day. Get in the car and drive to the daycare or get the house ready for the nanny to come over. If you can, hire a sitter for a half day and get out of the house to experience your emotions of being away from your baby for a prolonged amount of time. Figure out what time you’ll get home in the evening and how you’ll feel when you tuck your baby into bed when you just got home 45 minutes ago.

On the flip side, there are so, so many things to consider about staying at home:

Can we afford to live off of one income? What would we need to adjust about our lifestyle if we only had one paycheck? How would mama get some much-needed adult time?

To rehearse staying at home, cut down your budget as if you are living off of just your spouse’s paycheck. Turn off your work email. Figure out what your routine would be and how you would find other kids/moms to hang out with. Figure out how you and hubby will tackle the night routine, considering you both will be tired from a full day’s work - but will both be craving different things.

Be Honest with Your Boss

The bigger question you are looking to answer is your company’s culture and treatment when it comes to working parents.

If your employer isn’t accommodating or understanding, you may find that it’s not a good fit. That’s a huge bummer—but at least you know.

Or you may fortunate enough to work somewhere that understands that, should you need to leave suddenly at 3pm because the baby got sick, you will hop back online once your little one is asleep to wrap up the day.

But it all starts with honesty around what you need.

In the days leading up to my return to work, I was trying to figure out how tell my boss that I would need to step away for a total of 90 minutes per day to pump (3 times throughout the workday). But I didn’t want my boss to think that I was trying to slack off, take advantage of her, or that I was a needy wreck of a human being.

And—hi, what isn’t more weird than essentially talking about your boobs to someone at work?

As we started to communicate more frequently towards my return, this tension sounded something like this: “So, um, I am breastfeeding and, uh, plan to keep it up as long as I can. But pumping takes like, 20 minutes, and I need to do it every 2-3 hours otherwise it starts to hurt. So I need to step away but I promise I will bring my laptop to keep working and will still be able to keep up with what’s expected of me…”

Nothing says cool, confident, working mom than filler words and run-on sentences. I’m annoyed with myself just writing that out.

I was blessed enough to have an employer who stepped into my ramblings and eased my fears.

She gave me some advice that I’ll share here: Communicate. Over communicate. Be honest with what your needs are as a new mom and don’t apologize for them.

What you are asking for will probably enable you to be a better employee and mama—make sure you share how your request will do accomplish both. Your employer may not always be able to say yes each time, but they might be able to provide an alternative solution.

But you won’t discover any of this if you only say what you think is expected of you.

Give Yourself a Deadline

I remember feeling the clock ticking as my maternity leave was winding down.

3 weeks left.
1 week.

One day.

I spent one of my last weeks in tears over the idea that I was going back to work.

My husband patiently listened and endured all of my emotions - even when they didn’t make sense. Because sometimes I would call at lunch and exclaim, “ I can’t wait to get back to work, I need out of the house!” and then be a hot mess of tears about leaving my baby by the time he got home.

I felt a little crazy and he was a champ.

So we set a deadline. I would go back to work in December and work until April before we allowed ourselves to start talking about staying at-home full time. That didn’t mean I wasn’t allowed to have tough days—it just meant that we were investing time into allowing my true desire to come to the surface. Setting a deadline gave me a full 5 months to ride any and all emotions about going back to work, find a rhythm and evaluate if me working full time benefitted our family. It would also give my anxious, new-mama mind some peace that this doesn’t have to be forever. If we find that it’s best for me to stay home, it can be possible.

For me, April came and went before I realized I missed our deadline.

I love my baby and I love what I do.

There are hard days—days when I wear waterproof mascara because I know I’ll tear up a bit as I kiss my baby goodbye for the day. But there are so many sweet moments too: like the quality time I get with my daughter before and after work. It’s purposefully and sincere —because I know it’s limited.

Maybe you’ll find the same thing as I did. Or maybe you’ll end up staying at home. You won’t find a perfect option (pro tip - it doesn’t exist!), but you will find the one that makes the most sense for you and your baby.

And that’s all that matters.

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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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My 3-year-old is eating peanut butter toast with banana for breakfast (his request), and we are officially running late for preschool. We need to get in the car soon if we want to miss the morning traffic, but he has decided that he no longer wants the food that he begged for two minutes earlier. What started off as a relatively calm breakfast has turned into a battle of wills.

"You're going to be hungry," I say, realizing immediately that he could care less. I can feel my frustration rising, and even though I'm trying to stay calm, I'm getting snappy and irritable. In hindsight, I can see so many opportunities that fell through the cracks to salvage this morning, but at the moment… there was nothing.

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