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I recently got this email in my inbox, from someone who was feeling like a bad mom. Why? Because she’s a working parent.


I keep telling myself I am enough and that I am making the choice that’s right for me and my family by continuing to work with (now two!) kids. However, I sometimes feel judged by those closest to me for that decision, particularly a few female family members.

I know they mean well and perhaps are biased by their own experiences having decided to stay home with kids and work once they were older, or to work part-time. Although I can rationalize this, I still can’t shake the guilt and the feeling of being judged as a “bad mom.” —Working Mama Feeling Judged

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Dear Working Mama Feeling Judged,

Oh, mama. Everywhere we turn, and no matter who we are, we can find evidence that we are all, indeed, “bad moms.” We’re doing too much of this. Not enough of that. One way or another, we’re ruining our children. And failing as parents.

I’ve never been a fan of all this judging. And I’ve always hated the mommy wars. Today, I’m here to offer empathy. A hug. Some stories. And five concrete suggestions of things I’ve done that have helped me get my own head in a better place as a working mom.

First, learn the history and the research

In my own struggles with this question, I took great solace from learning that so-called “alloparents” have been critical to child rearing for pretty much all of human history. I learned the term “alloparents” from Brigid Schulte’s amazing book, Overwhelmed: Work, Love and Play when No One Has the Time.

Here’s a good introduction to the idea, from the book. For context, Brigid is interviewing Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, an evolutionary anthropologist, and they’re discussing Kung women in the Kalahari Desert in Africa, 2,000 years ago:

“The whole idea that mothers stayed at camp and the men went off to hunt? No way! These women were walking thousands of miles every year with their children. Or if it was not safe, they were leaving them back at camp.” She pauses to drive that point home: Sometimes mothers left their children back at camp. The children were with their fathers, older siblings, grandparents, relatives, and other trusted, nurturing adults- people Hrdy calls “alloparents” (“allo” means “other than” in Greek). “It’s natural for mothers to work. It’s natural for mothers to take care of their children,” she says. “What’s unnatural is for mothers to be the sole caretaker of children. What’s unnatural is not to have more support for mothers.”

I also recommend you pick up a copy of Avital Norman Rothman’s wonderful essay collection entitled The Good Mother Myth: Redefining Motherhood to Fit Reality. In the book’s Forward, Christy Turlington Burns writes that the “deeply entrenched ideal of the Good Mother” is a myth that “creates false standards that set women up for failure, not success, and for judgment, instead of support. It is an attempt to disempower the experience of motherhood. It tells us we are not worthy of our power to create, and that we must conform to narrow ideals of what makes a mother ‘good.’”

“Our collective point of reference for a ‘healthy’ family often goes to a contrived golden era of the 1950s and 1960s, when television shows and magazine advertisements blasted this stereotype into millions of American homes, only perpetuating the Leave It to Beaver fantasy,” says Emma Johnson, in her book, The Kickass Single Mom.

As someone who was raised, in the early years, by a stay-at-home mom, I definitely grappled with the “bad mother” notion when I had kids of my own. I knew I wanted to keep working and that I’d be a better mom if I did so. But I had a lot of fear about transitioning my baby to childcare, and missing his “firsts.”

The daycare world seemed so foreign to me. And the cultural messages told me that working outside the home was somehow going to hurt my kids. Apparently, something like 60% of Americans still believe children are better off when a parent stays home.

We know from research like this Harvard Business School study, however, that this simply isn’t the case. What did the study find?

That women whose mothers worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves. They are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs. And they are more likely to earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.

Men raised by working mothers are more likely to contribute to household chores. And they are more likely to spend more time caring for family members. Not bad qualities in life, I’d wager.

Finally, though I won’t go into detail about it here, check out the literature on “good enough parenting.” Yep, that’s actually a thing. David Winnicott, a British pediatrician and psychoanalyst, coined the term “good enough mother,” which says, basically, that our children benefit when we “fail” them in manageable ways, so that they can learn to live in an imperfect world. “In short,” says Carla Naumburg, Ph.D., “building our children’s resilience is the gift of the good enough mother.”

Second, seek out examples

Okay, enough with the intellectual piece of this. Now it’s time for stories! I truly believe that storytelling has the power to help us weave together work and home.

Can you seek out some examples of other children who go to childcare? Can you find examples of adults who had “alloparents” growing up? For me, two different experiences had a tremendous impact on how I feel about working parenthood:

Story one: I was pregnant with my eldest and happened to be at my in-law's house for a holiday. At the time, I knew I was planning to send my baby to daycare, but I was definitely intimidated by the prospect. So much so that I sometimes wondered if my baby would “turn out okay” if subjected to the wrath of the daycare baby room.

While I was there, a family came over to visit—two parents, and two little kids, both of whom were in daycare and had been from the start. My eyes lit up, and I started asking a million questions. These kids seemed fine. Seemed normal (whatever that is for toddlers!). Seemed well-mannered. And friendly. Well-adjusted. And, perhaps most importantly, seemed to be incredibly well-attached to their parents.

Was that possible? Yes! I saw it before my very eyes. Proof that “daycare kids” could turn out just fine. And that their parents could be wonderful parents, too.

Story two: At one point when my babies were little, a friend of my was talking about her childhood. She happened to mention that she had gone to daycare while her mother worked.

“Daycare was wonderful!“ she exclaimed with a twinkle in her eye and a smile on her face. “I can still remember exactly where everything was in each little room. I loved the teachers. The toys. My friends. And I have such beautiful memories of that place.” Wow, I thought, reassured. For me, it was so helpful to hear her reminisce with fondness about her caregiving situation growing up.

Third, consider critical conversations with family members

You mentioned feeling judged by your female family members. Is this based on anything in particular they have said? Or done? I’m wondering if a critical conversation with any of them might be in order, using the formula I set out in this piece, New Parents’ Script for Tough Conversations: 4 S’s to Remember.

Are there any ways you can invite these family members deeper into your own world, to learn more about how it works? I know, with two small kiddos and a full-time job, your bandwidth for extra effort (or drama!) is probably nonexistent.

I’m just wondering if part of their judgment is coming from a place of not knowing how your childcare arrangement works. Or for not seeing examples of the many ways there are to be a good parent.

Finally, I’d say that if their comments are shaming in any way, remind yourself that “hurt people hurt people.” And consider drawing some strong boundaries for yourself around what’s okay and what’s not okay for them to do and say when they’re around you.

Fourth, welcome the guilt

What’s left after you address any specific comments with your loved ones is, of course, what’s happening in your own head. My favorite mantra, which I repeat to myself daily, is, “comparison is the thief of joy.” (Here are the other nine mantras for working mamas that get me through the day.)

Essentially, I’ve learned to welcome in the guilt. Sounds counterintuitive, I know. But it turns out that acknowledging that the guilt is there is way more effective at reducing it than trying to drown it or shame myself for feeling it. By sitting with the guilt, and simply knowing it’s there, the guilt loses its sting. And when the sting is gone, I feel much more empowered to be a kick-ass career professional. And a pretty darn good mom, too.

Finally, gather your working mama posse

Last, I’m thinking it would be incredibly helpful to have a group of working moms to rely on for support. Do you have one already? If your children go to daycare, can you find a way to connect with the other parents there?

For awhile, the other daycare moms and I were going out once a month after the kids’ bedtime for a drink at a local bar. Are there other working parents in your office in whom you can confide? Is there a parent group at your workplace?

If not, can you create one? Are there online communities you can join for support? (Take a session of the Mindful Return course, and you’ll have an alumnae Facebook group of working mama buddies for life!)

What Avital Norman Rothman, editor of The Good Mother Myth, discovered when she started talking to other moms, was that “many other women were just as frustrated and annoyed with this [good mother] myth as I was. They felt as if they were being held up to unrealistic and arbitrary standards. Who created this measuring stick for what is good enough and then proceeded to spread it as gospel? The more I spoke with other moms, the more I realized that the narrative surrounding the Good Mother will only change if we share the realities of our lives and deconstruct the myth, which for too long has been hijacking the hearts, minds, and attention of women across every economic, social, and racial background–some more than others.”

The power of “me, too” is immense, mama.

In closing, always remember, Working Mama Feeling Judged, you are not abandoning your children by working. That’s not the definition of “abandon,” by any means. I know there are no easy answers here, but I hope a few of these suggestions brought you some comfort.

If my experience can serve as a helpful example, please know that my boys, who are now 4 ½ and 6 ½, are more than fine and are well-attached to me and to my husband. And we’ve both been working since they were infants.

I once had a mentor say to me that my concern and worry about whether I was being a devoted enough mother was evidence itself that I was an excellent parent. You wouldn’t be asking these questions if you didn’t care, mama. And that you care says to me there’s no ounce of “bad mom” in you.

Originally posted on Mindful Return.

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I'll admit it: I love a pretty pink and blue nursery. It sounds overly cliche, but it's really classic. Traditional nursery colors are all well and good, but wouldn't it be cool to incorporate the same colors you love in your living room and bedroom in your baby's room? If you're ready to step outside the box and be a tad darring, we reached out to designers at Decorist to help us reimagine nursery color palette trends to put a spin on our existing designs.

Here are the top new nursery color palettes for 2020:

1. Mint colorways

"What's really popular are subtle mint shades paired with organic neutrals (think textural ivory and wood tones) with soft pops of black and white, creating a soothing retreat for you and your little one," says Decorist designer Meg Weber. When used in its more vibrant shades, mint can add moments of playfulness and it blends itself well to maximalist spaces. "There is a strong case for calling this shade of green, in its more subtle hues, the new grey," says Weber. "It feels updated and can act as a neutral itself while adding more dimension."

Get started with:

Pairings:

2. Blue + yellow balanced with brown + grey

It's important to remember that blue isn't just for a boy nursery, and pink isn't for girls. The color of your nursery is all about colors you like that make you feel good. You want it to be your happy place.

A blue and yellow palette is a great foundation for any nursery. "This color palette is a classic that strangely feels new again with the infusion of brown and gray furniture in fun colors and bohemian accents," says Weber. "The key is to keep a neutral ground so the blues and yellows pop in a modern way and work with bold geometric shapes. This palette is another great gender neutral option that can also grow with your tot."

Get started with:

Pairings:

3. Jewel tones + vibrant tropicals

Jewel tones are officially trending in 2020 and it feels especially fresh when paired with tropical accents and hints of blush. If you're looking for depth in your nursery, go for rich colors like sapphire, topaz, emerald, ruby and amethyst. This palette works best when executed with a maximalist approach, layering color on color and mixing bold patterns with natural materials. If you're new to the trend, and not quite sold on it, start small with a jewel tone rug. Rugs are a great way to add color without fully committing.

Get started with:

Pairings:

4. Neutral Bohemian colors with a touch of terracotta

When it comes to Bohemian colors, you'll want to look to browns, greens and grays. Think of 1970's design when creating a Boho aesthetic—it's all about mixing colors, patterns and textures. "While I'm personally not a huge fan of Boho, I do love the serene and neutral space it creates," says Decorist designer Belinda Nihill. "Layering texture rather than color is such a beautiful way to do so. For boys, I love adding leather and timber to the soft neutrals; for girls, it's the palest of blush tones."

For terracotta colors, you'll want to look for earth tones that land somewhere between orange and brown.

Get started with:

Pairings:

5. Brooding, moody hues

"Brooding hues are also trending across the board in home decor and translate beautifully to nurseries," says Weber. Moody hues like blue, green and gray undertones are soothing and can make both large and small spaces feel extra cozy. They also look lovely paired with dark greys and rust, and can be infused subtly or saturate a room.

Get started with:

Pairings:

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

Lifestyle

It's finally 2020. It's hard to believe but the old decade is over, the new one is here and it is bringing a lot of new life with it. The babies born this year are members of Generation Alpha and the world is waiting for them.

We're only a few days into the new year and there are already some new celebrity arrivals making headlines while making their new parents proud.

If your little one arrived (or is due to arrive) in 2020, they've got plenty of high profile company.

Here are all the celebrity babies born in 2020 (so far):

Laura Prepon is a mama x 2! 

Actors Laura Prepon and Ben Foster share 2-year-old daughter Ella and now share another "bundle of love".

Prepon announced her pregnancy back in October on Instagram:. "We are so excited to announce that our family is growing. Life is beautiful!" and has now announced her birth as well.

"Overwhelmed with gratitude." she captioned an Instagram photo of her baby.

Ashley Graham is a mama! 🎉

A new chapter is unfolding for model and podcaster Ashley Graham, who just announced she and her husband Justin Ervin have met their baby.

The baby arrived Saturday, according to a post made on Graham's Instagram Stories.

"At 6:00pm on Saturday our lives changed for the better," reads the Story. "Thank you for all your love and support during this incredible time."

Graham previously announced that she and Ervin were expecting a son. They initially announced the pregnancy on their ninth wedding anniversary.

Congratulations to Ashley and Justin!

Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden just welcomed a baby girl! 🎉

Surprise! Cameron Diaz and Benji Madden are ringing in the New Year as first-time parents!

"Happy New Year from the Maddens!" reads a birth announcement posted to both Diaz and Madden's Instagram accounts. "We are so happy, blessed and grateful to begin this new decade by announcing the birth of our daughter, Raddix Madden. She has instantly captured our hearts and completed our family."

Raddix Madden is the first child for Diaz, 47, and Madden, 40.

The couple say they won't be posting any pictures of their daughter on social media as they "feel a strong instinct to protect our little one's privacy."

Congratulations to the Maddens! 🎉

Dylan Dreyer of 'Today' is a mom of 2! 

Today meteorologist Dylan Dreyer and her husband Brian Fichera, welcomed their second child, Oliver George Fichera, the first week of January 2020. Oliver joins his big brother Calvin to make the family a foursome.

Dreyer is still recovering from birth but her voice was on TV this week when she called into her show with an update on her new family. "I feel good," Dylan told her colleagues. "I just feel so happy and so blessed."

Caterina Scorsone of 'Grey's Anatomy' now has 3 girls!

Caterina Scorsone of Grey's Anatomy has so much to be thankful for in 2020: She's now a mom of three! The actress announced the birth of her daughter via Instagram, noting that her baby's name is Arwen.

Arwen joins big sisters Eliza, 7, and 3-year-old Paloma, who has Down syndrome. Speaking on The Motherly Podcast last year, Scorsone explained how Paloma's diagnosis made her "whole concept of what motherhood was had to shift."

It is likely shifting again, as any mama who has gone from two kids to three knows.

News

We are constantly absorbing emotions from those around us. That's part of the reason being around kids and teens, with their roller coasters of emotion, can be so exhausting. And when our own hearts and minds are clouded by emotion, we are not showing up and responding with our wisest mind and most open heart.

Our capacity for calm in the midst of a kid's emotional storm offers hope, because it signals that calm is possible in the midst of chaos.

What's happening in your child's brain during a tantrum

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Bryson creatively describe "downstairs" and "upstairs" aspects of the brain. Our primitive brains—the limbic system and amygdala—are reactive and emotional, driven by impulsive, short-term interests, and primitive drives. This childlike, impulsive, instinctual system lives downstairs.

Meanwhile, the outer cortices of our brains, which enable us to inhibit impulses, slow down, gain perspective, process emotional stimuli, and articulate these stimuli into thought and action, live upstairs. This upstairs area helps us plan, think before we act, take perspective, make moral decisions, and form relationships.

The "wise mind" integrates both our emotional and our rational minds, according to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy. The four aspects of our brains—left, right, upstairs, downstairs—need strong connections to work together to build wise, healthy brains.

During a tantrum, when the amygdala and emotions flare up, it's almost impossible for logic to penetrate our kids' closed-off outer cortices. Helping them settle down from a tantrum to engage their wise mind takes wisdom, compassion, and plenty of patience on our part.

Why children (unlike adults) can't calm down during a tantrum

Our children are not miniature adults—their growing brains are actually incapable of taking an adult perspective on a situation and using that knowledge to calm down.

Remembering this can help us see that tantrums are not methodically manufactured manipulations. A child's tantrum operates at an instinctual level that simply won't respond to reason.

Once we recognize this, we can make more effective choices about responding.

How to respond calmly to a tantrum

Yes, sometimes challenging behaviors are premeditated, and in those cases, we should respond with intention, logic, and clear boundaries or consequences. However, when our kids are experiencing a limbic system meltdown, what they need is connection and calming.

When children descend into lower-brain chaos, parents need to work overtime to first calm our own prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with planning and thinking and is located just behind the forehead—so we can view the situation clearly.

When we show that we've regulated our own emotions, it signals to kids that it's safe for them to calm down. It also models and mirrors to them (often literally, through what are called mirror neurons) how to calm down. Thus, the quickest way to cultivate calm in a child is to practice being calm yourself.

As one meme I recently saw on Twitter says, "Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down."

Telling kids to relax doesn't work nearly as well as a soft voice or a gentle touch, both of which turn on the "attend and befriend" response, shut off fight or flight, thin out cortisol, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.

Once we establish that fundamental connection with our child (or anyone, for that matter), we can open our hearts and minds to each other, see each other's perspective, and move on together.

Once your child calms down, you can move toward processing and planning verbally. Here are some things to try:

  • Continue to engage the PFC by asking what consequence they think would be fair or asking them to reflect on why certain expectations exist in your household.
  • Don't forget your kids' basic needs. That PFC is an energy guzzler—sometimes just a rest or snack is all that's needed to get things up and running again.
  • Sometimes you have to get creative and throw your kid a curveball, maybe literally. In other words, you have to hijack their lower brain by getting them to do something with their bodies—playing catch or doing a few downward dogs.
  • Engage their senses with strong sensory stimuli, like eating a bit of spicy food, smelling or tasting a lemon, or moving to a different room or getting outside.
  • Try to jump-start their PFC with a seemingly random question, like what they want for dinner or what's the name of their best friend's mom.
  • Decrease the dominance of the amygdala with games—a quick round of cards, some fun verbal wordplay, or a checkers match. From there, you can steer your kids back into their wisest minds.

When we interrupt tantrums like this, it's vital that, once things calm down, we address what triggered the tantrum. You don't have to rehash the details of every conflict, but remember that consistency is always key to raising resilient and healthy kids. So if you say you are going to come back to something later, come back to it. This lets kids integrate the experience with their whole brain once it's fully back online.


What's happening in your child's brain during a tantrum

Neuroscientist Dan Siegel and parenting expert Tina Bryson creatively describe "downstairs" and "upstairs" aspects of the brain. Our primitive brains—the limbic system and amygdala—are reactive and emotional, driven by impulsive, short-term interests, and primitive drives. This childlike, impulsive, instinctual system lives downstairs.

Meanwhile, the outer cortices of our brains, which enable us to inhibit impulses, slow down, gain perspective, process emotional stimuli, and articulate these stimuli into thought and action, live upstairs. This upstairs area helps us plan, think before we act, take perspective, make moral decisions, and form relationships.

The "wise mind" integrates both our emotional and our rational minds, according to Marsha Linehan, the creator of dialectical behavior therapy. The four aspects of our brains—left, right, upstairs, downstairs—need strong connections to work together to build wise, healthy brains.

During a tantrum, when the amygdala and emotions flare up, it's almost impossible for logic to penetrate our kids' closed-off outer cortices. Helping them settle down from a tantrum to engage their wise mind takes wisdom, compassion, and plenty of patience on our part.

Why children (unlike adults) can't calm down during a tantrum

Our children are not miniature adults—their growing brains are actually incapable of taking an adult perspective on a situation and using that knowledge to calm down.

Remembering this can help us see that tantrums are not methodically manufactured manipulations. A child's tantrum operates at an instinctual level that simply won't respond to reason.

Once we recognize this, we can make more effective choices about responding.

How to respond calmly to a tantrum

Yes, sometimes challenging behaviors are premeditated, and in those cases, we should respond with intention, logic, and clear boundaries or consequences. However, when our kids are experiencing a limbic system meltdown, what they need is connection and calming.

When children descend into lower-brain chaos, parents need to work overtime to first calm our own prefrontal cortex (PFC), which is associated with planning and thinking and is located just behind the forehead—so we can view the situation clearly.

When we show that we've regulated our own emotions, it signals to kids that it's safe for them to calm down. It also models and mirrors to them (often literally, through what are called mirror neurons) how to calm down. Thus, the quickest way to cultivate calm in a child is to practice being calm yourself.

As one meme I recently saw on Twitter says, "Never in the history of calming down has anyone ever calmed down by being told to calm down."

Telling kids to relax doesn't work nearly as well as a soft voice or a gentle touch, both of which turn on the “attend and befriend" response, shut off fight or flight, thin out cortisol, and boost oxytocin, the so-called love hormone.

Once we establish that fundamental connection with our child (or anyone, for that matter), we can open our hearts and minds to each other, see each other's perspective, and move on together.

Once your child calms down, you can move toward processing and planning verbally. Here are some things to try:

  • Continue to engage the PFC by asking what consequence they think would be fair or asking them to reflect on why certain expectations exist in your household.
  • Don't forget your kids' basic needs. That PFC is an energy guzzler—sometimes just a rest or snack is all that's needed to get things up and running again.
  • Sometimes you have to get creative and throw your kid a curveball, maybe literally. In other words, you have to hijack their lower brain by getting them to do something with their bodies—playing catch or doing a few downward dogs.
  • Engage their senses with strong sensory stimuli, like eating a bit of spicy food, smelling or tasting a lemon, or moving to a different room or getting outside.
  • Try to jump-start their PFC with a seemingly random question, like what they want for dinner or what's the name of their best friend's mom.
  • Decrease the dominance of the amygdala with games—a quick round of cards, some fun verbal wordplay, or a checkers match. From there, you can steer your kids back into their wisest minds.

When we interrupt tantrums like this, it's vital that, once things calm down, we address what triggered the tantrum. You don't have to rehash the details of every conflict, but remember that consistency is always key to raising resilient and healthy kids. So if you say you are going to come back to something later, come back to it. This lets kids integrate the experience with their whole brain once it's fully back online.

Learn + Play

Most nights as I put my daughter to bed, rocking her to sleep in the darkness, I find my mind wandering to all the things I need to accomplish once she's asleep. I can't forget to throw that load of laundry in the dryer. I need to make sure I finish that lesson plan. I really should mop the kitchen tonight if I have time. As a busy working parent, the mental to-do list is never-ending, and my mind is always taking inventory of all that I've accomplished, and all I've yet to get done.

But tonight as I rocked her, I looked down at my daughter's legs, which now stick out past my arms when I cradle her in the rocking chair. I recalled how my arms used to wrap completely around her tiny little body. She used to lie in my arms, swaddled tightly like a little burrito, and her entire body would fit perfectly in my arms. It feels like this was only yesterday.

FEATURED VIDEO

I blinked, and somehow my tiny, sleepy newborn became a sweet, but strong-willed toddler.

I stared down at her little face in the darkness, forgetting the list of things I wanted to accomplish once I put her to bed. I watched her eyelids flutter as she fought sleep, and I recalled all the sleepless nights we spent in this rocking chair.

I remembered rocking her back to sleep on that very first night home from the hospital, so overwhelmed with love and joy, but also plagued with exhaustion.

I thought of all the nights between then and now. The tough, sleepless nights—through growth spurts, teething, and colds—and those sweet, easy nights where she drifted to sleep effortlessly and slept the whole night through.

I watched her eyelids become heavy as she drifted off to sleep, and I snuggled her a little tighter and rocked her a little longer. The days have flown by since we brought this tiny little blessing home, and I know that time is never going to slow down.

I know that there will come a day in the not-too-distant future where my precious little girl won't want her mama to rock her to sleep anymore. She won't want to hear Goodnight Moon for the one-millionth time. She won't want me to kiss her forehead and wish her sweet dreams before tucking her into bed.

So tonight, I made sure to be present in the moment rather than letting my mind wander to the next item on my to-do list. I watched my precious girl fall asleep and I savored every moment of it. I rocked her and rocked her and then rocked her some more.

I stared at her sweet face, wishing I could freeze this moment and keep her my baby forever. But I know that the future will bring new and exciting things as well.

For the time being, I'm going to enjoy where we are right now and do my best to just be in the moment. Because the laundry will still be there in an hour or two, and if the floors don't get mopped until tomorrow, nothing is going to happen.

Right now, just being here in this rocking chair with my baby is the most important thing in the world.

Life
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