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To the ambitious, exhausted mamas out there—it’s worth it

I owe it to my son to be a good example of problem-solving and pushing forward to achieve my dreams.

To the ambitious, exhausted mamas out there—it’s worth it

My hair is caked with dried spit-up from the 3 a.m. wake-up and I am exhausted. At least my 3-month-old Adrian only woke up twice last night. He nursed and fell back asleep, an hour each time.

For the first time in my life, I don't know if I'm doing it right.

I just keep pushing forward.

"Take a nap this afternoon," my husband tells me. He told me the same thing yesterday, and the day before that. I can't, I have too much to do.

Like many optimistic first-time parents, when I became pregnant I convinced myself my life, for the most part, would remain the same.

Sure there would be no more late night partying with friends, but I'd stick to my daily exercise routine, build my freelance writing business, keep a perpetually clean home, and continue having no trouble getting dinner on the table every night. The baby would just fit into my life.

Three months into motherhood, and a good day constitutes squeezing in three hours of work, wiping down the bathroom sink, taking a walk, and making dinner with ingredients from one of those meal delivery services. All this with a content baby in my arms.

Most days do not look like this. Most days I feel guilty for waking up at 9:00 a.m. after a sporadic six hours of sleep. My house hasn't been vacuumed in two weeks, and I cringe when making dinner because that means my son will likely cry to be held the entire time.

I'm a freelance writer. I nurse my son while working on the computer, propping him in my lap with pillows for a hands-free experience.

Work pauses when he wants to babble because he deserves my full attention. I've muted my side of a call with a client when he's gotten fussy and dealt with a diaper blow out while on speaker phone.

One-handed typing while rubbing his back is second nature now, and leaving work undone until after Adrian's bedtime is no longer a difficult decision.

I just push forward.

In the nursery, there are stacks of baby milestone and sleeping books alongside books about creativity and tips for freelance writing. Ever the organized scheduler, I've spent the last three months rearranging routines based on my son's habits, desperately welding a marriage between my aspirations and my motherhood duties.

My husband left for a six-month deployment last week. On top of the heartache of missing him, I miss having someone to hand Adrian to at the end of the day. There's no one to tag in when I just have to finish this one email or write one last paragraph.

My friends offer to help, but those are special occasions: mini-interruptions into their lives, a glorious hour-long break for me. They'll go home thinking of the cute baby they got to play with, and I'll still be typing away furiously during nap time or while Adrian happily plays.

My life has become a series of time blocks stacked precariously between nap times.

I keep pushing forward.

I've always thought of myself as ambitious. I graduated from a demanding university and worked in a demanding career managing the operation of busy Air Force airfields before taking on freelancing. I never knew my ambition had yet to be tested until I became a working mother.

Ambition means not letting motherhood consume me as a person.

Yes, I am a mother, but I'm also a wife, a writer, a person who likes being fit, a friend who likes to give undivided attention, a sister, and soon-to-be aunt.

Indescribable love is the reason I knew from the beginning that I could care for this tiny person, but ambition is why I know this tiny person won't deter my goals. Everything will work out, I'll make sure of that.

When my husband is not deployed, most days when he comes home he immediately nuzzles our son and says, "Babe you're so lucky you get to hang out with Adrian all day." I know am lucky. I know .

I'm luckier than other working moms, because it's tough dropping your baby off at daycare or worrying he might mistake the nanny for his mom.

I'm luckier than many people who find themselves stuck in meaningless jobs, counting down the days until the weekend. I have a meaningful career that I enjoy doing.

I'm lucky to be my son's mother. I owe it to him to be a good example of problem-solving and pushing forward to achieve my dreams.

If he sees how ambitious his mother is, maybe he'll dare to dream bigger.

Even when all I've managed to do is email a client and write a couple hundred words, I did something other than the repetitive diaper changes, laundry, and dishes that fill the hours outside of my home office.

My son doesn't know I work right now. He knows when I'm not giving him undivided attention—his displeasure materialized in cries, kicks, and waving arms. He coos when I gently explain what I'm writing, and offers a quizzical look when I ask him an editing question.

Eventually, he'll grow up and understand that mommy works from home, but I hope he learns the more important lesson of discovering a passion and doing whatever it takes to cultivate it. I hope when he's ready to give up, he summons that tiny voice inside that persuades him to just keep pushing forward, you got this.

I'm a mom of three under 3 so a lot of my time the last couple of years has been spent feeding babies. I started this journey of motherhood convinced that I was going to feed my babies from my chest, but they all had different plans and I had to learn to quickly adapt. So I became an exclusive pumper to provide my babies with as much of my breast milk I could give them.

In these last three years, I've tested almost every single breast pump in the market. I needed to know what pump was best for my needs as a working mom, someone who travels a lot and juggles many kids. I've pumped at home, in the car, on airplanes, at restaurants; whatever place you can think of, I've pumped there.

Yet somehow, I had never used a Medela pump, (mostly because I didn't want an open-system pump, especially after having twins since it meant an extra step and item to clean) except for during my brief hospital stays while recovering from C-sections. After both of my births, my milk took a long time to come in so the nurses suggested I pump to see if I could get some colostrum to feed my babies and help things happen a little faster.

So when I was given the chance to test Medela's new Pump In Style with MaxFlow breast pump, I was super excited—after all, it's a brand moms love, trust and rely on.

Spoiler: I was obsessed. Here's some of my favorite features:

It's super compact.

I was pleasantly surprised when I first opened the box and found a super compact and light pump. Unlike the pluggable pump I used the first time around with my son, this one was small enough to fit in my pumping caddy without the risk of falling out. It comes with a small fabric tab that makes it easy to carry around when needed.

It's super powerful without being uncomfortable.

As soon as I started my first pumping session, I realized that its compact size didn't mean it lacked power. It is mighty. In a few minutes, my pumping bottles were full of milk and needed to be replaced by new ones. But what is more important to me, is that my nipples were so comfortable, which meant I could pump for the 30 minutes the session lasts without any discomfort. I especially liked that the rim of the breast shields is soft, which meant my boobs were also super comfortable while I pumped, and even allowed me to massage closer to the pump to make sure all my milk was coming out. These breast shields are unique to the Medela pump—the oval shaped shields features an 105 degree angle that better fits the breast, allowing milk to flow more freely.

It's a closed system.

The tubes never come into contact with milk, which makes cleaning so much easier since I focus on the bottles and flanges only. It's also so easy to set up the first time, I didn't even need to read the instructions because it's all pretty straightforward and intuitive. Also, the tubes don't tangle; they stay connected to both the bottles and the pump, so there's no readjusting needed to be done mid-session.

It can be used on the go.

This is something that I look for in all my pumps, the ability to move around, because I'm always multitasking. This pump comes with a battery pack that allows you to do just that. It also comes with a bag and ice packs for you to store everything you need while you are out and about with or without your little one.

It increased my milk supply.

I started testing this pump when I was ready to drop a pump a day to have some more free time to do other things around the house. I had been afraid of dropping a session because I didn't want to see a decrease in milk production by doing so. This pump allowed me to maintain the same amount of ounces pumped with one less session, which is literally everything I wanted. This can be credited to the MaxFlow Technology, the first-of-its-kind in the market, the way it works is that it generates a vacuum with micro-vibrations to get more milk, faster, making the process of emptying my breasts much more optimized.

After using it for weeks, I now get why so many moms trust and love Medela pumps. This pump was designed with the pumping mom in mind, and that's why I'm excited to make it my top pump in my roster.

This article was sponsored by Medela. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

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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.

$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

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.

$40

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.

$120

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

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

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.

$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

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.

$179

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.

$100

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.

$33

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.

$88

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The 6 biggest lies I believed before having kids

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves.

Just about all of us had set assumptions about raising kids before we became parents ourselves. Some of these ideas might have been based on our own ideas of how we would absolutely do things differently than everyone else. Others, we believed what everyone else told us would happen would apply to our littles, too. But, that's not always the case, mama.

Below are six of the biggest lies I believed before having kids—and the reality of what actually happened for me.

1. Put your baby down drowsy, but awake

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