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Working makes me a better mother—and motherhood makes me a better worker

Some of us are invigorated by the day-to-day of motherhood. And some of us need something outside of motherhood to keep that cup full enough to be able to pour out all that our family needs to thrive.

Working makes me a better mother—and motherhood makes me a better worker

I love being a mom. I love working. My motherhood defines me. So does my work. For me, it's not an either/or thing. It's an and. Equally important, I am truly empowered by both.


Before I became a mom, my work was my life.

I thought about it all the time. I woke up in the morning and parsed out my day in the shower, then detailed the minutes during my commute and usually enjoyed a well-executed plan throughout the day—without much interference—revisiting the wins and losses on the journey back home in the evening, satisfied that I was one more step further down the path towards my goals. I was happy. I was fulfilled.

Then I became a mom.

And I realized that my fulfillment was only partial. There was a whole half of me I didn't even know existed. No one could have prepared me for the transformation that happened when I became a mom.

Nothing before having children had ever reached that depth in my soul or expanded my heart and notion of everything I believed was possible in life. Suddenly everything took on new meaning and relevance. Suddenly everything I did was seen through the lens of motherhood and how it affects my family.

Motherhood is a full-body sport. and there's a lot of hands-on that comes with wrangling little ones. And though the mental load is comprised mostly of to-do lists dictated by the three-foot-and-under crowd, there is also the mental task of trying to remain one step ahead so as not to be outsmarted by them while they do the important work of challenging boundaries and stretching limits.

On a good day, this can be exhausting, even for the most veteran of us. And on a bad day, well, on those days we have coffee—lots of coffee—and later, wine. It takes a lot to keep up.

Some of us are invigorated by the day-to-day of motherhood. And some of us need something outside of motherhood to keep that cup full enough to be able to pour out all our family needs to thrive.

Before I went back to work, it was far too easy for me to become complacent at home, blaming a long day of duties for the lack of energy and will to give even more. I was watching the clock tick towards bedtime—both their's and mine— resenting myself for how I felt, and them for how much I was needed.

Bottom line, I was not completely happy. And instead of looking to my husband to fulfill every adult need I may have had, draining, perplexing and vexing him in the process, I realized I needed to take care of what it meant to me to be fulfilled.

For me, that's work.

My work validates me, defining me in a way that motherhood cannot, reaffirming that I am an individual independent of my role as wife and mother. My work is rejuvenating, giving me the energy and resources to bring my best self to my family. And if work is what allows me to be that best version of myself, then I need to own it.

There are so many benefits of work to appreciate, but now there is also something else. Now I'm working not just for me, but for my littles at home who see what I do and how it teaches them they can do what they set their mind to, that sometimes it's difficult, but you have to focus, prioritize, sacrifice and work hard for what you want.

My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the opportunities it gives me to model perseverance, strength, commitment, determination.

My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the perspective it provides me on the importance of motherhood and my job of raising these little humans—the important work of providing them with a childhood and all the love and care and support that entails.

My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for what it allows me to add to my family—the funds to enrich their lives with experiences and the extras that bring out the talents of each one, but can add up to more than can be siphoned off a single income.

My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the dedicated time I have to use the part of my intellect that cannot be satisfied by the company of these cute little creatures who compel me to abandon all things adult and just immerse myself in their sweet world.

My motherhood helps me appreciate my work more… for the distance it gives me to see more clearly how to make each day count. Both at home and at the office, I can see what is most important, what needs more attention, what needs to be addressed, what needs to be done to keep moving forward.

Each day I go to work and focus attention and intent on keeping my career momentum up to speed, if not sped up, with the clarity that an awareness of a newfound value of time imparts. Then at the end of a full day, I turn my attention towards home, satisfied, making my way, with a full cup, ready to pour, thinking of all that may have happened and what I will do to make the rest of the moments of the day matter and count toward moving everything and everyone in the right direction.

At home, I savor… the moments with my kiddos, marveling at how each has grown that very day, my distance bringing into sharp focus the difference in each from the day before. I can hear a new word learned (and hysterically uttered). I can see a new skill developing, however awkwardly executed.

At home, I savor… watching my child's new ability to think, do, feel, say. Sometimes the difference from the previous day is so stark that I catch my breath—not necessarily in regret, but in awe of the tremendous transformation that can happen in a mere 24 hours. And sometimes the difference is so subtle that it can be sensed only when very, very still, in the quiet of a bedtime tuck-in, or after all is said and done, in the reflection of a full day.

At home, I savor… the moments I connect with my husband, that extra splash of wine after the kids are in bed, extending the conversation that connects us, the amalgam of our days setting the next stone along the path towards our mutual goals.

When I feel complete and whole, I provide a solid foundation upon which I can build the best life for my family. If that foundation is weak because it is lacking fortification or is only partially poured, then everything I build atop it will be compromised, uneven, relying on other elements in ways that distort and weaken the structure, my family.

I love owning what fills my cup, and I love having a family to come home to that fills my soul.

As a mother and a professional, these two halves create a whole that makes me the best person I can be.

And that's good for everyone.

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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5 brilliant products that encourage toddler independence

Help your little one help themselves.

One of our main goals as mothers is to encourage our children to learn, grow and play. They start out as our tiny, adorable babies who need us for everything, and somehow, before you know it, they grow into toddlers with ideas and opinions and desires of their own.

You may be hearing a lot more of "I do it!" or maybe they're pushing your hand away as a signal to let you know, I don't need your help, Mama. That's okay. They're just telling you they're ready for more independence. They want to be in charge of their bodies, and any little bit of control their lives and abilities allow.

So, instead of challenging your toddler's desire for autonomy, we found five of our favorite products to help encourage independence—and eliminate frustration in the process.

EKOBO Bamboo 4-piece kid set

EKOBO bamboo 4-piece kid set

This colorful set includes a plate, cup, bowl and spoon and is just right for your child's meal experience. Keep them in an easy-to-reach cabinet so they'll feel encouraged (and excited!) to get their own place setting each time they eat.

$25

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Puj PhillUp hangable kids cups

Before you know it, your little one will be asking (okay, maybe demanding) to fill their own water cups. This amazing 4-pack of cups attaches directly to the fridge (or any glass, metal, tile or fiberglass surface) making it easier for your child to grab a cup themselves. Just be sure a water pitcher or dispenser is nearby, and—boom!—one task off your plate.

$29

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

Wise Elk puzzle tower blocks

These beautiful blocks, made from sustainably-sourced wood and water-based, non-toxic, lead-free paint, will keep your little one focused on their creation while they're also busy working on their fine-motor skills. The puzzle design will encourage patience as your kiddo creates their own building, fitting one block in after the next.

$18

Lorena Canals basket

Lorena Canals Basket

This *gorgeous* braided cotton basket is the perfect, accessible home for their blocks (and whatever else you want to hide away!) so your kiddo can grab them (and clean them up) whenever their heart desires.

$29

BABYBJÖRN step stool

BABYBJ\u00d6RN Step Stool

Your kiddo might be ready to take on the world, but they might need an extra boost to do so—cue, a step stool! An easy-to-move lightweight stool is the must-have confidence-boosting tool you need in your home so your growing tot can reach, well... the world.

$20

We independently select and share the products we love—and may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

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This viral post about the 4th trimester is exactly what new mamas need right now

"We are alone. Together. You are surrounded all the other mothers who are navigating this tender time in isolation. You are held by all of us who have walked the path before you and who know how much you must be hurting. You are wrapped in the warm embrace of mama earth, as she too settles into this time of slowness and healing."

Artist and teacher Catie Atkinson at Spirit y Sol recently shared a beautiful drawing of a new mom crying on a couch—leaking breasts, newborn baby, pile of laundry and what we can only assume is cold coffee, included. Everything about the image is so real and raw to me—from the soft stomach to the nursing bra and the juxtaposition of the happy wallpaper to the palpable vulnerability of the mother—I can almost feel the couch underneath me. I can feel the exhaustion deep in this woman's bones.

My heart feels the ache of loneliness right alongside hers. Because I remember. I remember the confusion and uncertainty and love and messy beauty of the fourth trimester so well. After all, it's etched in our minds and bodies forever.

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