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I paged through Sheryl Sandberg's women-in-leadership missive, Lean In, while stuffed into a tin-can airplane winging south to Toronto, delivering me to my first, and only business trip. I'd left my husband and 2-year-old daughter behind in our small northwestern Ontario town, confident that they could survive without me.


The trip did absolutely nothing to bolster my career, nor did the book, but it was nice to get away for a weekend on my own.

I am—or rather, was—a reporter for a small community newspaper serving a town of roughly 6000 people. I started the job fresh out of a college photojournalism program, driving myself 2000 kilometres north in a station wagon, iMac lovingly buckled into the passenger seat, celebratory champagne buried beneath the suitcases and boxes.

The plan I reminded myself of when I questioned why, exactly, I was subjecting myself to this drive and the utter remoteness of my home to be, was simple. I’d move north and work for a year, then head off to something exciting and adventurous, maybe a reporting job in the real north of Yellowknife or foray into perfecting my high-school Spanish skills in Nicaragua.

On my very first day at the paper, I nosed my station wagon into the rutted dirt parking lot and looked up at the red brick building to see a floppy-haired fellow bounding up the slumping stairs with a cardboard tray of coffee.

Reader, I married him.

Really, I did. I dated him; the world's worst-kept office secret. I had a panic attack when the delivery truck carrying two sofas arrived in the driveway of our rented home, understanding that I could no longer easily pack my possessions into a vehicle and flee. But I dug into the relationship, and into my job.

Ink and newsprint, as much a part of our relationship as love and fidelity.

Northwestern Ontario winters as bitterly drudging as they are, our daughter, Marigold, entered the world 14 months later. I spent 11 months home with her and despaired at leaving her in the care of a stranger when my parental leave ran out, but the day I walked back into my office and reclaimed my desk, my former job and former life as an independent adult wrapped itself around me like a well-worn blanket, comforting me with its familiarity.

Marigold thrived on a level of socialization I could not give her on my own, and I thrived on talking to adults, using the bathroom without an audience, existing somewhere with my own thoughts and my own life for a handful of hours every weekday.

Yet balancing motherhood and journalism challenged me. Matt was working 12-hour shifts; I had no choice but to work evenings and weekends, and our childcare was not always reliable. I toted Marigold along with me to the office and in the field, hiking her up on my hip with one hand while maneuvering a camera with the other, handing over stacks of Post-its she stuck all over the office walls, listening to interviews I'd taped and episodes of Curious George simultaneously.

Sometimes congratulatory images and articles spread across social media, lauding women who bring their children into work, in politics especially, and all I can think when I see them is, Wow I know how challenging that is, how is she possibly making government-level decisions while her kid is chewing on her blouse?

It wasn't all work with no joy, though. Our son came along three years and nine days after our daughter. I had every intention of circling back to my job a year after his birth. Then, a few months before my workplace due date beckoned, I changed my mind.

After eight years at the same job, eight years at the only job I have held as an adult, the only job I have held in my industry, the entirety of my fledgling career, really... I decided to lean out.

Eight years of my life I have remained in this place where I landed, and my job has been one of the biggest constants. It is the reason I settled here in the first place. Newspaper work is cyclical and I could easily mark eight years of seasons by the stories written in my notebook each week.

Quitting feels like cutting my safety net loose, but the plunge is exhilarating.

These days that go by, days when I'm not entirely sure I actually accomplished anything at all, days of pressing nut-free sandwiches into dinosaur shapes, of sweeping the same spot on the floor three times in six hours, of purchasing dry shampoo in bulk amounts and pondering when I showered last, of color-coding activities on a calendar that takes up at least half of our refrigerator door real estate—these days will not last forever. I know this.

I know this because these days are already a shifting sea, as baby becomes toddler and kindergartener becomes self-declared big kid.

Oh, sometimes I feel like I'm on running on a wheel, a hamster scampering relentlessly inside the cheapest cage sold at the store. Like if I stop moving, all the lights will turn off and everything will cease to exist. But if I'm going to run on that hamster wheel, I want to win Most Valuable Hamster.

Right now, I can't fathom stretching my attention and my resources even further by being an employee, by showing up day after day on someone else's schedule to meet someone else's needs. I have my own hamster wheel and I do not need another one.

Anything new I add to this life subtracts from something else, and that arithmetic cuts my family short and leaves me depleted. I'm not willing to do it.

I know that I like to work. I know that I want to work again when it isn't detrimental to my carefully fought for, seldom realized household balance. I know that I might have this choice taken away from me if something in this precarious balance shifts and we need to shore things up with added income.

So maybe I'm not leaning out. Maybe I'm leaning back, sheltering, instead of squaring my body against the wind and planting my feet. I'm not sure yet. But I don't need to know yet, either.

What I do know is this: I am not going to apologize for leaning out of my career, much as those who lean in should not apologize, either. The thing about leaning is that it isn't permanent. In, out, back, forward; the scales tip as we place and replace what matters and what does not. And we are the individual administrators of those values.

Leaning into the wind—into the bluster of a busy career, or into the tempest of parenting—is in fact the same action, no matter what is powering the gale.

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Summer heat has a way of making the house feel smaller, more congested, with less room for the air to circulate. And there's nothing like heat to make me want to strip down, cool off and lighten my load. So, motivation in three digits, now that school is back in, it's time to do a purge.

Forget the spring clean—who has time for that? Those last few months of the school year are busier than the first. And summer's warm weather entices our family outdoors on the weekends which doesn't leave much time for re-organizing.

So, I seize the opportunity when my kids are back in school to enter my zone.

I love throwing open every closet and cupboard door, pulling out anything and everything that doesn't fit our bodies or our lives. Each joyless item purged peels off another oppressive layer of "not me" or "not us."

Stuff can obscure what really makes us feel light, capable and competent. Stuff can stem the flow of what makes our lives work.

With my kids back in school, I am energized, motivated by the thought that I have the space to be in my head with no interruptions. No refereeing. No snacks. No naps… I am tossing. I am folding. I am stacking. I am organizing. I don't worry about having to stop. The neat-freak in me is having a field day.

Passing bedroom doors, ajar and flashing their naughty bits of chaos at me, is more than I can handle in terms of temptation. I have to be careful, though, because I can get on a roll. Taking to my kids' rooms I tread carefully, always aware that what I think is junk can actually be their treasure.

But I usually have a good sense for what has been abandoned or invisible in plain sight for the lack of movement or the accumulation of dust. Anything that fits the description gets relegated to a box in the garage where it is on standby in case its absence is noticed and a meltdown has ensued so the crisis can be averted. Either way, it's a victory.

Oh, it's quiet. So, so quiet. And I can think it through…

Do we really need all this stuff?

Will my son really notice if I toss all this stuff?

Will my daughter be heartbroken if I donate all this stuff?

Will I really miss this dress I wore three years ago that barely fit my waist then and had me holding in my tummy all night, and that I for sure cannot zip today?

Can we live without it all? All. This. Stuff?

For me, the fall purge always gets me wondering, where in the world does all this stuff come from? So with the beginning of the school year upon us, I vow to create a new mindset to evaluate everything that enters my home from now on, so there will be so much less stuff.

I vow to really think about objects before they enter my home…

…to evaluate what is really useful,

...to consider when it would be useful,

...to imagine where it would be useful,

...to remember why it may be useful,

…to decide how to use it in more than one way,

... so that all this stuff won't get in the way of what really matters—time and attention for my kids and our lives as a new year reveals more layers of the real stuff—what my kids are made of.

Bring it on.

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In the moments after we give birth, we desperately want to hear our baby cry. In the middle of the night a few months later it's no longer exactly music to our ears, but those cries aren't just telling us that baby needs a night feeding: They're also giving us a hint at what our children may sound like as kindergarteners, and adults.

New research published in the journal Biology Letters suggests the pitch of a 4-month-old's cry predicts the pitch they'll use to ask for more cookies at age five and maybe even later on as adults.

The study saw 2 to 5-month olds recorded while crying. Five years later, the researchers hit record again and chatted with the now speaking children. Their findings, combined with previous work on the subject, suggest it's possible to figure out what a baby's voice will sound like later in life, and that the pitch of our adult voices may be traceable back to the time we spend in utero. Further studies are needed, but scientists are very interested in how factors before birth can impact decades later.

"In utero, you have a lot of different things that can alter and impact your life — not only as a baby, but also at an adult stage," one of the authors of the study, Nicolas Mathevon, told the New York Times.

The New York Times also spoke with Carolyn Hodges, an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University who was not involved in the study. According to Hodges, while voice pitch may not seem like a big deal, it impacts how we perceive people in very real ways.

Voice pitch is a factor in how attractive we think people are, how trustworthy. But why we find certain pitches more or less appealing isn't known. "There aren't many studies that address these questions, so that makes this research especially intriguing," Hodges said, adding that it "suggests that individual differences in voice pitch may have their origins very, very early in development."

So the pitch of that midnight cry may have been determined months ago, and it may determine part of your child's future, too. There are still so many things we don't know, but as parents we do know one thing: Our babies cries (as much as we don't want to hear them all the time) really are something special.

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For many years, Serena Williams seemed as perfect as a person could be. But now, Serena is a mom. She's imperfect and she's being honest about that and we're so grateful.

On the cover of TIME, Williams owns her imperfection, and in doing so, she gives mothers around the world permission to be as real as she is being.

"Nothing about me right now is perfect," she told TIME. "But I'm perfectly Serena."

The interview sheds light on Williams' recovery from her traumatic birth experience, and how her mental health has been impacted by the challenges she's faced in going from a medical emergency to new motherhood and back to the tennis court all within one year.

"Some days, I cry. I'm really sad. I've had meltdowns. It's been a really tough 11 months," she said.

It would have been easy for Williams to keep her struggles to herself over the last year. She didn't have to tell the world about her life-threatening birth experience, her decision to stop breastfeeding, her maternal mental health, how she missed her daughter's first steps, or any of it. But she did share these experiences, and in doing so she started incredibly powerful conversations on a national stage.

After Serena lost at Wimbledon this summer, she told the mothers watching around the world that she was playing for them. "And I tried," she said through tears. "I look forward to continuing to be back out here and doing what I do best."

In the TIME cover story, what happened before that match, where Williams lost to Angelique Kerber was revealed. TIME reports that Williams checked her phone about 10 minutes before the match, and learned, via Instagram, that the man convicted of fatally shooting her sister Yetunde Price, in 2003 is out on parole.

"I couldn't shake it out of my mind," Serena says. "It was hard because all I think about is her kids," she says. She was playing for all the mothers out there, but she had a specific mother on her mind during that historic match.

Williams' performance at Wimbledon wasn't perfect, and neither is she, as she clearly states on the cover of time. But motherhood isn't perfect either. It's okay to admit that. Thanks, Serena, for showing us how.

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There are some mornings where I wake up and I'm ready for the day. My alarm goes off and I pop out of bed and hum along as I make breakfast before my son wakes up. But then there are days where I just want 10 more minutes to sleep in. Or breakfast feels impossible to make because all our time has run out. Or I just feel overwhelmed and unprepared.

Those are the mornings I stare at the fridge and think, Can someone else just make breakfast, please?

Enter: make-ahead breakfasts. We spoke to the geniuses at Pinterest and they shared their top 10 pins all around this beautiful, planned-ahead treat. Here they are.

(You're welcome, future self.)

1. Make-ahead breakfast enchiladas

www.pinterest.com

Created by Bellyful

I'd make these for dinner, too.

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