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Modern parenting is a joy but a challenge. We're here to help you accept and problem-solve the painful parts of mommying so you can move on to really enjoying life with your kids, spending less time on your to-do list and more time on the things that really matter.

Win at parenting, don't lose yourself.

From the blog:

Intentional Parenting: How to Spend Time on the Things That Matter to You and Make Space for Yourself

POST:

Intentional Parenting: How to Spend Time on the Things That Matter to You and Make Space for Yourself

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

July 7, 2020

In the summertime, when the living is easy (no, forget it, that doesn’t fit anymore now that COVID-19 is around)…

Seriously, though, no matter what’s going on in the world, summertime really is the perfect time to re-evaluate your dreams and goals, but also to re-evaluate how you spend your time day to day and week to week. Summer is slower, there’s less to do, there are more opportunities for relaxing, and, especially this summer with hardly any summer camps for the kids or vacation spots open for adult getaways, there is a whole lotta empty TIME.

When things are slower, it’s the perfect chance to reset and take a moment to evaluate what life actually looks like for you and what you want it to look like.

Our Priorities Dictate Our Daily Agendas

Last week we talked about dreaming big. Dreaming big allows us to understand our “why”; it helps us understand where we’re going in the next month or year or even ten years. Figuring out our priorities, on the other hand, helps us to get granular about how much time we’ll give to one area or another on a daily basis.

Remember, this is fluid and depends entirely on the stage of motherhood you’re in right now. When you have a newborn, your priority is making sure you’re taken care of, making sure your baby is taken care of, and …yep, that’s about it. And it’s enough, Mama! When your baby or toddler, or even a little older, you’ll be in a completely different stage, …and with that stage will come more sleep and more brain space for bigger dreams and bigger plans. So, give yourself grace, but don’t give up on making time to audit on a weekly or monthly basis where you’re placing your energy and if those decisions are really serving you or your family.

I tell the story of how I developed my own priorities in The New Baby Blueprint:

My friend Christie is a business executive coach. She spends all day guiding leaders personally and professionally as they make million-dollar decisions. One night, discussing life at a bar, she took a cocktail napkin and wrote out the major categories of life—kids, spouse, work, exercise, friendships, hobbies, homemaking, travel and experiences, and appearance. For clarification, exercise to me meant releasing endorphins, stress reduction, and meditation, whereas appearance included everything that goes into looking put together (including exercise for the purpose of having a good appearance).

She wrote them in random order and then asked me to rank them in order in the left-hand column according to what I, in an ideal world, would spend the most time doing. “Rank them as a private, honest list, not based at all on what other people would think is the right way to rank them,” she said.

I called it my ideal list.

Ideal List

  1. Exercise and stress reduction
  2. Kids
  3. Travel and experiences
  4. Hobbies and sports (including writing and reading)
  5. Partner
  6. Friendships
  7. Homemaking (tasks such as laundry and dishes)
  8. Appearance
  9. Work

In the next column, she asked me to rank what I thought I spent my time on.

Here is my reality list.

Reality List

  1. Work
  2. Homemaking
  3. Kids
  4. Hobbies and sports
  5. Partner
  6. Appearance
  7. Friendships
  8. Exercise and stress reduction
  9. Travel and experiences

Then, she told me to compare them.

Understanding Your Priorities Will Change Your Life

That comparison was scary, Mama. I didn’t like at all how I was spending my time in the real world versus how I wanted to be spending it in my ideal world. So, I changed it. I switched it up. I decided I would spend way more of my time and energy on the top three items on my Ideal List, as opposed to the top three things on my Reality List. Why? Because joy lived at the top of the Ideal List. Stress and resentment found their unhappy home at the top of the Reality List.

Putting Your Priorities Into Practice

To put your priorities into action, you’re going to have to get strategic. Weekly and monthly, take 10 minutes to make your reality and your ideal lists, then compare them against your list of dreams.

Especially in the age of coronavirus, the lines are blurred between have-to and want-to as you mother.

We’ve got a lot of togetherness with our families right now. Most of us are home more than we’ve ever been and, although it was great and all at first to spend eighty hours a week picking up laundry and hanging with our kids, it’s now getting old. You need space, Mama, and it’s not selfish AT ALL to take it. Give yourself the gift of 10 minutes of meditation or journaling in the morning before everyone else needs you. Take an extra 5 minutes in the car when you come back from the grocery store to roll back the seat and listen to your favorite jam and to consider how you want tomorrow to look. Take time to start thinking about how you feel and what you need before you start thinking about what other people need. If you do, you’ll be able to show up as a mom and as a human more freely and fully.

Intentional Parenting: How to Spend Time on the Things That Matter to You and Make Space for Yourself
Intentional Motherhood: How to Identify Your Own Dreams

POST:

How to Be an Intentional Parent: Identifying Your Own Needs First

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

July 2, 2020

It’s July. No, it’s December. What month is it again? Cause it sure feels like we’ve been living in a complete time warp for the past three months. I can barely remember the last time I wore makeup or went clothes shopping…or the last time I traveled anywhere further than my local grocery store or my pediatrics office. 

I’ve thought a lot about the fact we’re halfway through the year lately. I’m a big believer in regular, intentional self check-ins, in taking stock of what worked personally and professionally in the last few months of life but this mid-year reflection on what’s important, on what I want my life to look like as an individual and as a parent, is on a whole other level. 

I mean, I’ve had some more time to think about it this time around, that’s for sure. But we’ve also been living in a completely unique time with completely unique stressors… the kind that defines a generation, the kind that makes you take pause and think about big picture things. Like, what do I want my life to look like in five to ten years? What dreams do I have? What did I always think I would do but suddenly seems out of reach for the foreseeable future (guess my never going to happen but nice to think abour two-year sabbatical in Southern France is going to have to wait given the EU’s most recent decisions and the risks of unnecessary international travel at a time like this) but are now on my “Yes, as soon as it’s open I’m going to do it” my bucket list? 

Forced Intention

What happened when my life was basically forced to stop in March? The hustle and bustle were gone, most of the to-dos fell away, social pressures were off. Were there parts of that I really enjoyed and want to hold onto even post-pandemic? Did my dreams crystalize? 

Setting an Intention to Dream

We all, but especially all we moms, HAVE to prioritize dreaming. We have to have a clear goal in mind as we’re weaving our way through life and through parenthood because man, are there some hard days and some bumpy roads and it can all seem a little pointless when there’s baby poop on your white jeans and marker on your counter….UNLESS you’re looking at the bigger picture, seeing those seemingly pointless moments as just blips along your journey.

Maybe your dream is to own your own business or to travel the world. Maybe it’s to solve a major problem in your community or to be an advocate for those who need one most. It doesn’t matter what your dream is. It matters that it’s yours, and that it will carry you through times of uncertainty and times when you feel bogged down in solid foods, and potty training, and first-grade math. 

Dreaming 101: Setting Yourself Up for Success 

Step 1: Visualize Your Dream

Close your eyes and let your mind wander. Visualize yourself with your priorities in-line, living your most authentic life. Where are you? What are you wearing? What does it smell like around you? What colors do you see? Where are you going? Think about who you’re with and what you’re doing. Notice what’s around you. Goal-setting guru Rachel Hollis has so much more on this.

List your biggest goals. Think big. Forget about what your life looks like now as you do this exercise and instead think about what you want it to look like. 

Ex. I will be financially secure 

1.         ____________________________________________________

2.         ____________________________________________________

3.         ____________________________________________________

4.         ____________________________________________________

5.         ____________________________________________________

Step 2: Pick one dream to focus on.

Now, write three goals to get to that dream. Make sure they’re S.M.A.R.T. – Specific, Measurable, Attainable, and Realistic. 

Specific:

Make sure you have a concrete goal in mind. “I want to feel better about myself” is not a goal. It’s a great reflection. It’s a starting place, but it’s just too ambiguous. There is no way to tell if you’ve actually achieved your goal once you get there.

Measurable:

Measurable goals have an outcome you can assess after a certain amount of time to determine your level of progress. That way, you know when you’ve met your goal and can set a new goal. 

Attainable:

If you set a goal that is too far out of reach, the chances of you reaching that goal are pretty slim. Instead, set a goal that is possible to reach. For example, an unattainable goal for me would be, “I will be a marathon runner next month.” Instead, “I will complete a 10k run in three months” is more likely. 

Realistic:

Realistic goals are goals that are not based in fantasy. Instead, they are possible to achieve, even if it takes multiple, painful steps to get there.

Time:

Even with self-care goals, time is an important element. For example, “My goal is to write a children’s book by one year from now. I’ll do step x by one month from now, step y by two months from now, and step z by three months from now to work toward that goal.” 

Ex. In three years, I will have no consumer or student loan debt 

1. ________________________________________________________________

2_________________________________________________________________

3.________________________________________________________________

Step 3: Set three mini-goals to achieve that larger goal.

Make sure the mini-goals are positive—things you will do, not things you won’t do. 

Ex. I will bring my lunch from home every day to work (not I won’t eat out at lunch). 

Go big if you can but make sure the goals are very specific here. 

Ex. I will reduce my child care costs by 50%

1.         _______________________________________________________________

4.         _______________________________________________________________

5.         _______________________________________________________________

Step 4: Choose one goal to focus on first. 

Write out all the factors you’ll need to consider to make that goal happen. This is where you want to deep dive on potential pitfalls that could trip you up or think outside the box about how you might make it happen. Once you’ve worked out the details to get to that goal and have started to make a change, move onto the next goal, still within that dream.

The coronavirus pandemic only has a few tiny silver linings, but one of them FOR SURE is the fact that it’s forcing all of us to take a step back and reconsider where we are now and where we want to be. 

My dream? 

To reach mamas nationwide with the message that taking good care of ourselves means we’ll be better prepared to take good care of our kids.

What are your dreams? Where do you want to be in five to ten years? 

We’re so inspired when we hear others’ stories of trials and successes in the past, but also when we hear about their hopes and dreams for the future. Share away, Mama! We’re all ears and we’re here to support you as you dream on.

Intentional Motherhood: How to Identify Your Own Needs
How to Focus Less on Performance and More on Connection with Your Kids

POST:

How to Be Less Focused on Performance and More Focused on Connection with Your Kids

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

June 26, 2020

Of all the gifts I want to give my kids, there’s one that stands out above the rest: I want them to know that their performance, that what they produce, matters infinitely less than their character and their effort along the way.

Carol Dewitt, PhD, talks about this in her groundbreaking book, Mindset. She layed the foundation for what it means to live life always learning and growing (a growth mindset) and what it means to live life always focused on proving or maintaining an idea that you’re smart and accomplished (a fixed mindset).

Dr. Ken Ginsburg, author of Raising Kids to Thrive, takes it one step further. He incorporates mindset into a larger concept: focusing on 7 main core characteristics that help kids grow to be resilient adults.

Their books are must-reads but can be a bit overwhelming on the surface. It’s daunting at first to think about how much it really does matter how we approach parenting.

I think about performance a lot with my kids. At this point, I understand enough about child development to know pushing them too hard in traditional ways (like focusing on the way they look or on if they’re top of the class) will only backfire. It’s in the smaller moments that I find resisting the urge to encourage perfectionism more difficult. It’s especially true on Thursdays, my day off, when I spend the day with my youngest daughter.

Pre-COVID, we spent the majority of the days running errands or going to appointments together, having a special lunch, and getting in some special time together at the park or the local ceramics painting studio. I’m going to be honest here, though: sometimes we JUST spent the day running errands.

Now that there’s hardly anywhere to go, I can reflect back on what I didn’t like during those busier times together and the thing I realize is missing now compared with before is me saying over and over, “Please hurry up, We need to go now. We’re going to be late. Let’s go. We have a lot to get done.”

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think it’s wrong to train my child to listen or to just be along for the ride. It’s just part of life that my kids get dragged to a few boring meetings. But I’ve started to build awareness around how, if all the time I spend with them is about them sitting quietly and behaving or docily cooming along for the ride for a bajillion errands I need to accomplish, our entire relationship is about them keeping in line. If they don’t perform, it messes Mommy’s plans up.

When I push my little one to perform, she starts getting frustrated (and so do I). The more I push and prod her to get with the program, especially when it eats into our originally-planned easy-going itinerary, the more she resists.

“Come on, baby,” I hear myself saying and regretting all at the same time,”I really need you to help me more. Come on!” My voice would get slightly more shrill as I watched the clock tick down to the next appointment we needed to get to.

Here’s what I do really intentionally to lessen my day-to-day expectations of performance with my kids now that the initial coronavirus lockdown and then subsequent societal slow-down has forced me to reset:

  • I limit the number of errands I do with my kids and make sure I don’t over-schedule to-dos when I’m with them.
  • I plan yes-days and Special Time with my kids where they are completely in charge of our agenda and they have my full, undivided attention. That means I have to PUT MY CELL PHONE DOWN, even if it takes stuffing it in a drawer for an hour and turning it completely off so I’m not tempted to be distracted.
  • I watch the way I talk to my kids when I’m with them. I think about how I would feel if someone told me to hurry up, get in line, and move, move, move all day long (crappy). Then, I hold my tongue when I’m tempted to speak in an impatient tone with my kids anyway.

The last few months have been challenging in so many ways. They’ve also provided a unique opportunity for all of us moms to take a step back, looking more closely at how we live our lives and how we parent, including the ways we unintentionally ask our kids to perform (especially when we’ve got stuff to do). Slow it down, Mama. Less performance-based days with our kids = more opportunities for genuine joy and connection with them.

How to Focus Less on Performance and More on Connection with Your Kids

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How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Family During Crisis

POST:

Caring For Your Family and Yourself in Times of Crisis

CATEGORY:

Parents

Date:

June 18, 2020

There are times in a family when you hit rock bottom, times when you can’t even pick yourself up off the floor. My family was in that place a few months ago. COVID-19 hit and my sensitive first-born, who needs structure and routine to mitigate her anxiety symptoms, was at a loss. Everything in her world was a no: no school, no gymnastics, no playdates, no playgrounds. No, no, no. Closed, canceled, coronavirus. 

In fact, she wouldn’t even speak the word coronavirus (or let us speak it, for that matter). Instead, she regressed. It happened slowly, over time, as if, as the reality of the situation set in, her new outlook on the world did, too. She lashed out at her sister, she cried at the drop of a hat, she screamed for 20 minutes when she didn’t get her way. She threw a vase on the ground and smashed it to smithereens. She wanted nothing to do with walks around the block. “Boring,” she said. She could care less if she got to take her scooter to the grassy area at the park. “I’ve already done that,” she told us, “and you can’t make me.” 

My sweet girl was miserable and, as I watched her act less like the thoughtful, kind six-year-old I know and more like an angry rebel teenager day after day, I became miserable, too. We all did. Suddenly, chaos greeted me whenever I returned home from work. Screams echoed through my halls instead of laughter.  My husband and I started arguing more, emotionally exhausted by our child yet again, reminded of her colicky newborn days and her hardest toddler years. It felt like there was never any peace. And it kept on going for weeks and weeks on-end. 

We were a family in crisis. 

I know we weren’t the only one. So many mamas have come to my office since everything went down in March feeling completely overwhelmed, especially those with high-needs children. I also know family crisis is not limited to the coronavirus pandemic variety. 

What do you do when everything suddenly falls apart? How do you take care of yourself and your kids in those moments when you feel like you’re really going to lose it as a family? 

You remind yourself that “kids do the best they can when they can, and so do parents.”

It may seem like your newborn is trying to turn you into a sleep-deprived zombie for months, but she’s not. Your hangry toddler might appear to be acting like a small he-devil on-purpose, but it’s not true. My daughter pushed every button we have on our darkest days with a fiery, defiant glare in her eye, but underneath all that was a scared, sad, confused little human who couldn’t harness her emotions. You can learn more about understanding the reasons behind your child’s big emotions and on collaborative problem solving here.

You remember the times you’ve struggled through hard times in the past and came out okay on the other side.  

You think back on patterns that may be repeating or on lessons you learned last time something similar happened. You differentiate what you can do to change your situation versus what you can’t. You make sure there isn’t some underlying issue at play you haven’t fully addressed (in my daughter’s case, a shift in caregivers impacted her significantly more than we thought it had, further contributing to an already stressful time).

You trust your instincts. 

You are an amazing mom even if in times of crisis you don’t feel like it AT ALL. You CAN trust yourself to make the right decisions for yourself and your family. Think back on the times you weren’t exactly sure what to do with your six-week-old’s diaper rash or you had no clue how to fix your toddler’s thumb sucking issue. You read about it, you asked others what to do but, in the end, you had to rely on what your intuition told you to do. The more you listen to your gut instincts, the more confident your parenting and your sense of self. 

You get help for yourself first. 

When you’re in the middle of a crisis, it can be challenging to see your situation clearly. You need others to come alongside you and provide clarity and guidance. I needed help discovering ways to provide more structure for my little one in creative ways. Maybe more importantly, I needed people who could give me the emotional support I needed to get through it all. Only when we take care of our own social-emotional health can we fully take care of the social emotional health of others. 

Every mama has times of personal or family crisis. Those times are unique and the situations are highly individualized,  but the steps to handle times of crisis with grace– no matter what the cause or issue – are universal. Trust yourself and take care of yourself. Get an outside set of ears and eyes. Give yourself and your family grace. Take a deep breath and remember this too shall pass. There is joy on the other side, Mama.

Want more?

On the podcast this week, I talked with David Hill, MD, FAAP, about one particular kind of family crisis that can bring stress and grief, but that can also be an opportunity for resilience and new beginnings: separation and divorce. You can listen here to what this expert guest had to say about his own personal divorce journey and his advice for mamas who are going through the same thing. 

Taking Care of Your Family Through Separation and Divorce with Dr. David Hill
How to Take Care of Yourself and Your Family in Times of Crisis
Motherhood Hacks: How to Spend More Time on What Matters

POST:

How to Spend Less Time on To-Dos and More Time on What Matters

CATEGORY:

Parents, Toddlers

Date:

June 9, 2020

I have a lot going on — two kids, a full-time job, a career speaking and writing— and I get asked all the time how I do it all. The answer is, I simply don’t. I can’t. I learned a long time ago that I absolutely, positively, jump on a soap box and shout it from the rooftops, CANNOT do everything.

Why? Because I have really important things TO get done. High on my priority list are things like spending time with my kids, excelling at direct patient care, and helping modern moms win at parenting without losing themselves. Low on my priority list? Things like maintaining a perfect appearance or getting lost in a running to-do list of errands and menial tasks.

I bet you’re like me. You have a limited amount of time in the day and only so much energy to focus on what really matters. Deciding what you’re NOT going to do makes just as big a difference as deciding what you ARE going to do when you’re a modern mom.

Here are the tasks I make a point to NOT spend my time on during the week:

1. Laundry

I hate laundry. As soon as you throw the last load into the dryer, another day’s shirts and pants are ready for a deep clean. Laundry is a never-ending reality at my house with six-year-old into building fairy houses out of mud and a three-year-old with constant watercolor painting plans. If I had a million dollars, I would hire someone to wash and dry and fold (and put away) every single last sock.

I don’t have that kind of money. I’m guessing you don’t either. So, instead of wishing for a laundry genie to magically appear, I’ve decided on another method: I save it all for one day a week. Yes, the clothes pile up in my hampers Monday through Friday. My daughter couldn’t find her favorite pink mermaid skirt last week and had to wear the blue one instead. My husband washed his own pair of jeans. And? We all survived anyway.

What I do Instead:

I save washing, folding, and putting away clothes for the weekends. By consolidating my efforts, I know I can make quicker progress with this necessary-evil chore. I fold clothes while watching comedy stand-up specials Sunday night, adding the more menial task to a more pleasurable activity. I streamline my closet and my kids’ closets so there is less to wash in the first place. I keep seasonal items front and center and leave off-season clothes in another area of the closet. When my kids are older, you’d better bet this will be one of the first items I add to their chores lists. Until then, I’ve minimized its impact on my life.

2. Fancy Meals

I decided a long time ago that making gourmet, three-course meals that could wow Martha Stewart was just not worth it during the middle of the week.

What I do Instead:

My husband is the chef in charge on school days. I’m not great at cooking weekday meals other than spaghetti and meatballs or chicken teriyaki out of a freezer bag. I shine when it comes to holiday meal extravaganzas, but my husband is a weekday whiz in the kitchen. Since he and I both know I would probably succumb to take out every night if he didn’t cook consistently (and because we keep working at being parenting teammates), he wears the chef’s hat in our home most Mondays through Thursdays.

3. A Perfectly-Polished Appearance

I need to look professional at my job and it feels good to express myself with personal style. I like looking my best but I don’t have time to spend an extended amount of time on fashion choices OR on hair and makeup during the week.

What I do Instead:

I have my closet arranged for maximum efficiency and easy access. The night before work days, I pick an outfit, including the undergarments I need and the shoes that will coordinate with my ensemble. That way, even if there is mayhem in the mornings as I coordinate getting two kids dressed, fed, and out the door, I’m not trying to make decisions about my own needs at the same time. Last week, I woke up to a power outage when my alarm went off at 6 a.m. I was SOOOO happy with my practice of planning ahead.

I spend, no joke, about five minutes on my makeup in the mornings, and usually I apply it while I sit in the car after school drop-off, using the sun visor mirror to check my progress. I have two make up bags – one I keep at home with date night products I hardly ever use, and one I keep in my car so I don’t even have to think about bringing it along each morning. I’m going to be honest here: if you’ve seen me on my Instagram stories you know that day to day, my routine is pretty minimal: some foundation, mascara, and a little lipstick. If I have a speaking engagement or a media appearance on my calendar, I’ll spice things up but, otherwise, basic is best in my world.

4. A Bunch of Extracurricular Activities for my Kids

The pressure is on for modern moms to say “yes” to every opportunity that presents itself for our children. Every where we turn, society tells us we’d better sign our kids up for as many activities as possible, look for every educational opportunity available, and make sure to never miss out on a chance for social or academic advancement. It can feel like, if we don’t start RIGHT NOW building our kids’ college application resumes (even if Jacob just barely celebrated his fifth birthday and can’t even tie his own shoes yet), they might not ever hold a meaningful job. Though we know that can’t be right, it still sure feels like it’s true.

Turns out, though, over-scheduling stresses our kids out. Maybe less discussed but equally important? It stresses parents out, too. And, the more stressed we get, the more our kids start to feel it. I get it—there are some busy days we just can’t simplify, but when we’re chronically overcommitted, it creates a cycle of anxiety and dissatisfaction. If there is one teensy-weensy silver lining to us all being more home bound lately with the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that it’s giving us a chance to slow down and reprioritize as we look to our future schedules.

What I do Instead:

I focus on one or two weekly non-school activities per kid per season (three max). Mix it up while they are young, if possible, unless they find something they love that they want to stick with. If you can, find one active activity and one more academic or community option (think music class, art class).

For older kids, let them choose from a handful of options, versus demanding that they be involved with a specific activity you really care about. If the coach or teacher is a bad fit, that’s one thing but, if at all possible, try to stick with whichever activity they choose through the season, then switch it up if it’s not working out so you can help foster a little perseverance and commitment.

5. Tasks Others Can Do Just As Well as I Can (or Better Than I Can)

Remember: you are not the only person who can take care of your home, your kids, your bills, or your calendar. The running list of tasks that fills your mind all day long—the appointments you need to make, the dry cleaning you need to take in, the groceries you need to buy–is unhealthy, and it steals away your ability to focus on the here and now.

What I do Instead:

I reduce my mental load by simplifying the number of tasks I have, either by getting rid of them or by delegating them to someone else (including my kids).

This is an area where, if you’re parenting with a partner, working hard at building a team mentality makes a huge difference. Maybe your significant other LOVES vacuuming but hates making school lunches. Thinking about ways to divide and conquer according to areas of strength (or just lesser detest) can help reduce resentment and build a parenting partnership mentality. Not everything has to be fifty:fifty, you just don’t want the scales to always be tipped toward you in the household management department.

The Bottom Line

Every mom you know either pushes herself to the brink to “do it all” or purposely decides she WILL NOT. The ones who choose to not do it all make it happen either 1) because they have the means to financially outsource everything (not realistic for the other 99.9 percent of us), or 2) because they’ve had some real conversations with their partners (or others in their personal village) about being a team, or 3) because they’ve made a conscious decision to let some things go while they go all in on what really matters. For those of us without infinite resources, this is about intention and prioritization.

If we want to avoid burnout, mental overload, and that deep feeling of resentment that so commonly comes these days with motherhood, we have to learn how to prioritize, not just the things we need to accomplish, but also the things we value.

I’m spending my precious resources on the things that matter most to me, and I’m letting the rest fall to the very bottom of my list.

Motherhood Hacks: How to Spend Less Time on To-Dos and More Time on What Matters

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