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Relax, mama: Working mom balance is always a work-in-progress

Sometimes a mama’s life feels a little like keeping 100 spinning plates in the air.


Her job, her house, her marriage, the kids, her health and wellbeing. All of those things could sap a 24-hour-day with no effort. Add in potential extras like church/community involvement or caring for an extended family member and you’ve got a woman who is probably craving balance in it all, because it all demands so much of her.

Or, she’s craving a nap.

That was—and is—me, at least. At the end of a work week with a few late nights at the office, I’ll do the math and figure out that I’ve spent a max 90 minutes each day with my daughter. These aren’t fun, family-bonding minutes. These are move-along-to-the-next-thing minutes. Getting her up and ready for daycare. Getting her home, fed, bathed, and in bed.

Or the opposite is true—after a few days of a sick baby at home, I’ll carry around this subtle, ever so slightly panicky feeling that I’m a million years behind at work and everyone at the office thinks I’m a slacker because I was home with my kid.

In these seasons, I find myself wishing I was better at balancing work and motherhood. Maybe because I crave a way to stop carrying guilt of my perception that I'm falling short in one area to the other one.

I know it doesn't have to be this way.

I was about seven months into motherhood when I heard a perspective that was absolutely game-changing. It was a simple concept. But that’s the ironic thing about something speaks to your soul—it’s more often than not a simple idea, waiting right in front of you.

It came from a department-wide meeting with one of our Vice Presidents at our company. This woman is one of those who looks like she’s got her life together approximately 2 million times more than you do: an executive at a successful company, a darling family with two young children, and the most coordinated wardrobe I’ve ever seen. She’s respected by her peers and those who work for her, she’s kind and caring yet assertive and visionary.

She probably only eats healthy things like kale and quinoa.

We were closing out the meeting with a brief Q&A when a younger employee asked her how she balanced work and personal life. She paused and smiled as if this seemingly simple question had an answer that was hard-fought and well-earned after much struggle.

Mamas know the feeling, right? I do. You have this deep longing of figuring out how to balance it all, like it’s a finite place that you arrive at one day. So many spinning plates spiraling around at once and so much resting on each one. It can be a soul-crushing feeling, the longing for balance. And the hope of finding it “one day” deferred to a next day, a next week, a next month.

But she told us that she realized the idea of finding balance is not a finish line or a place we arrive to, never to leave again. It’s more like walking on a gymnast’s balance beam; a thoughtful discipline to practice vs. a place of arrival.

You are always adjusting, always using mental effort and physical energy to stay on the beam. When learning to balance on the beam, you are wobbling back and forth, throwing your limbs and torso around as you adjust to it. As you learn and practice, it becomes more natural and effortless. Seasons can come that make you feel like you are learning the beam all over again. But it’s always a place of movement, a practice to master. You begin to listen to your mind and body with an attuned ear so you can adjust earlier, quicker, smoother.

And what’s so interesting is this: you usually only need slight movements to find balance. To feel centered again.

Craving some quality time with your kids and feeling like work is taking up most of their waking hours? Say no to the guilt of putting work aside and grab 20 minutes with your kids at the park.

Hint: You’ll actually perform better at work if you do.

Feeling like the only conversations you have are with your littles and it’s got you a little on edge? Give yourself grace for being impatient and ask a friend to grab coffee for 30 minutes or an hour, if you’ve got it. You’ll have more patience with your kiddos afterward.

Has work been at the back of your mind recently because the kids have needed some extra time and attention? Set 1-2 small goals for the next few days at work, and crush each one of them. You’ll feel better once you see some tangible results that you achieved.

If you are like me, the first time you do anything mentioned above will be difficult. Like a rookie on a beam, you’ll wobble a lot. Guilt is not an easy emotion to silence. The first time I took my daughter Ella to the park when I realized I was craving some time with her after a lot of time at work, I was tense the whole way there. Guilt was screaming in my ear—you’re being selfish, you’re slacking off, you are lazy. But after hearing her dissolve into giggles on the swings, the guilt got a little quieter.

And I laughed with her, grateful for a moment to be present with her, to be her mama.

And I came back to work the next day with a lighter heart and a more ready mind to take on the projects ahead of me.

The pressure to reach a destination of a balance is off—because that place doesn’t exist. Instead, we can start practicing the balance beam. Becoming comfortable in the learning and wobbling. Listening to what feels off so we can adjust. Putting aside guilt—because when did guilt ever make you better at anything? Being gracious with ourselves if we topple over—because it happens to all of us. The point is to keep going.

Because when we don’t take a moment to inventory our one and only life, we’ll always remain in the wondering and craving, the guilt and the restlessness. Isn’t that the goal of balance? To soak it all in and make the most of our days.

And yeah—maybe also to occasionally have a glass of wine while reading a good book.

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Without camps and back-to-school plans still TBD, the cries of "I'm bored!" seem to be ringing louder than ever this summer. And if you're anything like me, by August, I'm fresh out of boxes to check on my "Fun Concierge" hit list. It's also the point of diminishing returns on investing in summer-only toys.

With that in mind, we've rounded up some of our favorite wooden toys that are not only built to last but will easily make the transition from outdoor to indoor play.

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.

$30

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!

$75

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.

$30

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.

$100

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.

$45

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.

$40

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.

$121

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Why do all of my good parenting or baby-focused inventions come after they've already been invented by someone else? Sigh.

Like the Puj hug hooded baby towel, aka the handiest, softest cotton towel ever created.

Safely removing a wet, slippery baby from the bath can be totally nerve-wracking, and trying to hold onto a towel at the same time without soaking it in the process seems to require an extra arm altogether. It's no wonder so much water ends up on the floor, the countertops, or you(!) after bathing your little one. Their splashing and kicking in the water is beyond adorable, of course, but the clean up after? Not as much.

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Check out our favorites to make bathtime so much easier:

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When we recognize kids' unwelcome behaviors as reactions to environmental conditions, developmental phases, or our own actions, it lets us respond proactively, and with much more compassion.

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