Lessons in Motherhood

Whether you’re single, dating, or married, chances are that you’ve given some thought as to whether or not you may want to have a baby someday. Their sweet little toes, that fresh baby smell, and a love like you never imagined. Along with the magic of parenthood comes sleepless nights, attempting to balance your career and interests, relationships, and of course, taking care of yourself. Now more than ever, balance seems to be one of the biggest issues for women. Today we’ve turned to thirteen of our favorite moms to share the lessons they’ve learned, their advice, struggles, and a few of their favorite products.

Are you a parent? If so, what are some of the lessons you’ve learned? If you are not a parent, have you given thought to if and when you might want to have a baby? What are some of your fears? What do you look forward to?

Camille Styles

Name: Camille Styles, 29
Children: Phoebe (10 months)
Blog: Camille Styles

Favorite products
1. Beaba multi portion freezer tray. I usually make Phoebe’s baby food (see how we do it here), and this tray allows me to freeze larger portions that I make on the weekends. On busy mornings, I can pop out just one portion and always have something healthy and delicious ready to go.
2. Freshly Picked moccasins. They’re the only ones that stay on her feet!
3. The Mixed-Up Chameleon. I love ALL of Eric Carle’s colorful books, but this is Phoebe’s current favorite. It’s about a chameleon who wants to be like all the other animals at the zoo, and when he finally gets the chance, realizes that just being himself is the best thing of all.

One product you didn’t need
I kept my baby registry pretty minimal, and really tried to narrow it down to the necessities. Instead of buying “gear” way in advance, I tend to wait until she’s at the stage when she might need it, and then judge whether it’s a “must-have” or not. As a result, we haven’t acquired items that we didn’t end up really using…which is great for someone like me who does not deal well with clutter.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. I’m a “baby person.” I always knew that I loved kids, but wasn’t too sure how much I’d love having an infant. They don’t really do anything besides sleep, cry and require constant diaper changes! Turns out that (surprise!) I am a total baby person. Phoebe’s infancy was one of the sweetest times of my life and I still get a little teary when I look at her and suddenly see a “big girl!”
2. Lack of sleep makes you crazy. Luckily, Phoebe got into a sleeping routine relatively quickly, but those first 6 weeks were rough, and not getting enough sleep made me a bit irrational at times (sorry husband). It’s so crucial to remember that you and your partner are on the same team and if you can stay supportive and kind when the going gets rough, things will feel a million times better.
3. Don’t try to do it all or do it perfectly. I remember during that first week home from the hospital, I was already trying to achieve a sense of routine and normalcy. Too soon!!! When you’re learning how to take care of an infant, the last thing you need to be thinking about is making a homemade dinner, catching up on emails, or getting right back into shape. Those early days slip by way too quickly, and it’s so important to stop and just get to know your baby. I promise that the rest will fall back into place later.

Best advice you received
Don’t try to institute a “routine” to soon! Sure, I’ve heard of those moms that manage to get their child on a napping/eating/pooping routine from the get-go but I’m not sure if I believe them! As much as I love being in a daily routine myself, infants need time to settle in and just go with the flow for a while. Once I embraced the idea of following Phoebe’s natural rhythms and allowing a looser structure to our days, we both became a lot less stressed. And you know what? Once she hit 3 months, the napping schedule fell into place completely naturally.

Something you struggle with as a mom
As someone who really loves my job and always has a million projects going on, there’s a constant temptation to start tackling something on my to-do list the minute there’s a lull in our schedule. The problem with that is that if I’m always doing, I end up being always a bit distracted and missing out on those precious moments of just watching Phoebe play or letting her cuddle up into my lap. And those are the best. I’m learning to put my iPhone away when I’m with her and embrace the idea that even though I’m not being “productive,” there’s no better way I could be spending my time.

Bailey McCarthy of Peppermint Bliss

Name: Bailey McCarthy, 27
Children: Grace (23 mos.)
Blog: Peppermint Bliss

Favorite products
1. Aden & Anais swaddle blankets
2. Baby Einstein take along tunes
3. Noodle and Boo bath products

One product you didn’t need
Dedicated changing table. Pick a dresser or piece of furniture that you will love and use for a long time instead. There is no ideal height for changing a baby, and within the first year you will be shocked at the creative places and surfaces you will end up changing your babies diaper.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. You might not have that moment of all-consuming love you hear about the first time you see your baby. For a lot of reasons-exhaustion from labor, PPD, or it just might take you longer to get there. For some people, myself included, it takes time. But it will come. Be patient with yourself and your baby. Settle into your relationship, your love and bond will deepen each moment, and one day in the not so distant future you will realize your heart has somehow grown three sizes and is still filled to the brim with love.
2. My baby’s poop is not gross. But other babies’ poop is disgusting. I can’t explain it, it’s science. This will be true for you too.
3. The day your baby is born, you are really, seriously, no longer in control. Baby, hormones, and bodily functions are running the show for the next three months, minimum. Try and let go and survive the ride.

Best advice you received
“If you don’t control your tendency to be controlling you will imprison yourself. Go ahead and try to be perfect if you want, but don’t blame the institution of motherhood or your baby when you go two years without finishing a sentence, sleeping through the night or having sex.” – JJ Keith

Something you struggle with as a mom
I struggle with being fully present and in the moment with Grace. I’m busy. My mind wanders. My phone sneaks its way out of my pocket to take a picture of my girl and then somehow I am checking my email and dealing with work and not paying full attention. I am much better when we are having experiences together, and while I try to work on shutting off the tecnology and enjoying quiet moments, I also plan adventures to fully take advantage of our time together.

Jessica Garvin of Little Baby Garvin

Name: Jessica Garvin, 27
Children: Harper Eve (16 months)
Blog: Little Baby Garvin

Favorite products
1. Summer Infant baby monitor
The best peace of mind a new mom can have–being able to see your baby breathing on the screen in night vision while they sleep!
2. Aden + Anais swaddle blankets
3. Boon grass

One product you didn’t need
A baby food maker. I had big plans to make all of my own baby food, but when the time actually came, it was so much easier to just buy it. I was so happy that I waited instead of rushing to purchase this before the baby came.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. Hormones are crazy. After Harper was born, I experienced such a rush of mixed emotions for the first few weeks of her life. An extraordinary amount of love & happiness, the overwhelming feeling of needing to protect & care for a new fragile life, and a burdening sense of sadness at the thought of time passing too quickly & watching your newborn grow right before your very eyes. It is so intense & so much to handle. Nobody could have prepared me for it, just as I feel like I could never prepare anyone else for it.
2. Time flies when you’re having fun, but time really flies when you’re crazy in love with your brand new baby. I wish that as a new mom, I would have spent more time snuggling with my newborn, soaking her up, rather than worrying so much about whether I was doing things right or everything that wasn’t getting done.
3. The love you feel instantly for your baby & the amount that it grows each day. You can never prepare for it & there is nothing else like it. But this is the best part of motherhood!

Best advice you received
Trust your instincts. I’m not sure if this was even advice or if it is just the unspoken rule of motherhood, but it’s something all moms should live by. As a new mom, it’s hard not to listen to what all other moms say or to call the doctor (or Dr. Google) for every uncertainty. But every baby is different & every mom does things differently. Sometimes you just have to trust your instincts because there isn’t always a right or wrong answer.

Something you struggle with as a mom
Time management. I am always at war with myself about time that I should be spending working/blogging/doing housework vs. time that I should be playing/reading/dancing like a fool with my daughter. Since I work from home, Harper is home with me all day which calls for lots of late nights catching up on work when we get carried away during the day. I don’t know if there is an answer to this since every mom wishes that they could spend every waking minute making their children smile, but finding a good balance is one of the hardest things for me.

Natalie Mason of Designer Bags & Dirty Diapers

Name: Natalie Mason, 33
Children: Sterling (3), baby number 2 due in November
Blog: Designer Bags & Dirty Diapers

Favorite products
1. 3 Sprouts Storage Bins. We have two of these and use them all the time in and I always give them as gifts. They are great for laundry, toys, traveling you name it!
2. Ella’s Kitchen squeezable baby food. My son is three and we still use these often. He is a picky eater and it is a great way to get him to eat his veggies!
3. Tickle Monster laughter kit. This is our favorite nighttime book, it comes with gloves to use to tickle your little one. Such a cute gift too.

One product you didn’t need
A baby wipe heater– I found this completely unnecessary.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. How little time you really have to for yourself and how exhausted you are.  After a baby your needs are automatically last and I learned they need you round the clock. There is no rest for the weary. Plus I had to get used to never peeing or showering alone again.
2. How hard breastfeeding was. No one prepared me for how dang hard it was nurse.  To me, this was the hardest part of having a baby. Your boobs are always on demand and you are on a tight schedule constantly. Plus I constantly felt left out having to leave the room to nurse.
3. How much love you can have for your child. It literally changed my life the moment my son was born, I had no idea how immense or unconditional my love would be for this sweet baby.

Best advice you received
Do not stress about every little thing. Babies are stronger and more resilient than you think.

Something you struggle with as a mom
Carving out time for just me and my husband. After Sterling was born and our family grew from 2 to 3 he became our main focus. Date nights are few and far between and most weekends we spend cuddling with him in our bed. I want to be better about making time for just us. I think that is so important after a child you can’t forget about the two of you because that is how it all began.

Natasha Schue of Schue Love

Name: Natasha Schue, 29
Children: Ethan (1)
Blog: Schue Love

Favorite products
1. Fisher Price cradle ‘n swing. The baby swing is such a must in the first few months. Ethan would sleep in here all the time and it gave me some moments of solitude, which are very precious in the beginning.
2. JJ Cole essentials blanket. We use this blanket all the time…at the beach or park or in our backyard. It’s easy to clean and to pack up to tote around.
3. B. Toys. I LOVE all of the B. Toys. We have the Zany Zoo, Hellophone, One Two Squeeze blocks, Funkeys, and the Parum Pum Pum kit. The colors are bright and cheerful and they’re all reasonably priced. Can’t get enough of these toys.

One product you didn’t need
The Beaba Babycook food maker is on everyone’s registry as it’s every parents intention to make all of their food from scratch. I quickly learned that this product is just not efficient. If you’re going to make your food from scratch, you’re much better off steaming/roasting your veggies and using a food processor. You can make much larger quantities and store away that food, which ultimately saves time and money.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. Breastfeeding is hard. Really hard. Even if your baby latches on right away and you don’t have any pain (like me), it takes more time and patience than I ever could imagine. I really had no idea what a commitment breastfeeding would be; from being at baby’s beck and call 24/7, to wearing nurse friendly clothing, to still watching what you eat and drink, it’s all very overwhelming in those beginning stages.
2. It took time for my body to bounce back. Some women instantly drop the baby weight, and other women (like me) have bodies that hold onto that weight for whatever reason. Everyone prepares you for how to dress during pregnancy, but no one prepares you to dress your body postpartum. Everyone prepares you for how to care for baby in those first few months, but no one prepares you for how really care for yourself postpartum.  It’s an adjustment and it takes time. I remember staring at my body postpartum and thinking…who’s bosy is this anyway?!
3. My life really changed and all for the better. But it did take a little while to realize that, hey, things are different now. Gone are the days of being spontaneous and going away for the weekend, or heck, even running a last minute errand. Gone are the days of uninterrupted sleep…or sleeping in for that matter. Gone are the days of staying out late or showering in peace. But I’m telling you, that smile or laugh makes it all worth it. I wouldn’t trade my Saturday nights in with the baby and hubby for anything else in the world!

Best advice you received
You must take care of yourself first if you plan to be a good mother. It sounds counterintuitive, but you simply cannot care for another human being if you can’t care for yourself first. That means taking that break to eat a snack or shower so you feel more human again. It also means asking for help and not feeling guilty about it. I always remember that I’m the best mom to Ethan when I look out for myself and ensure that I can be a strong mentor and example for him.

Something you struggle with as a mom
I think all moms struggle with this to some degree, but I struggle with keeping up with it all. From the nursery decorating to the first birthday planning. It can get overwhelming very quickly–especially in the world of blogging and Pinterest. I worry about whether I am documenting enough. Did I make a big enough deal out of the holidays? Ethan wore his pajamas all day. Does that make me a bad mom because he wasn’t decked out in the cutest Gap outfit? Certainly not, but it’s easy to lose perspective.

Kelly Stamps of Kelly’s Korner

Name: Kelly Stamps, 39
Children: Harper (4.5), Hollis (2)
Blog: Kelly’s Korner

Favorite products
1. California Baby shampoo and body wash
2. Tommee Tippee bottles
3. Boppy pillow

One product you didn’t need
Bumbo floor seat

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. I had no idea just how hard recovery would be after having a baby–that’s something no one ever talks about.
2. I had no idea how much of a 24/7 exhausting job motherhood is (and wonderful all at the same time).
3. I had no idea how much you could love a 2nd child just as equally as you love the first.

Best advice you received
I think the best advice is just to trust your instincts. You are the best mom for your child. Everyone has opinions on the best way to do everything but you have to do what is best for your family.

Something you struggle with as a mom
The biggest thing I struggle with is discipline and feeling like every thing I do as a mother will affect how the girls will turn out as teenagers and adults. My goal is to turn out kind and selfless adults who are compassionate and caring. It’s harder than I imagined!!

Jenna, Nicole, and Emily of Small Fry

Name: Jenna Rammell, 28
Children: Quinn (4), Jude (22 months)
Blog: Small Fry

Favorite products
1. Puj Tub. I love this tub & shout it from the roof tops any chance I get. It’s simply put together, lays flat when taken down & is comfortable for newborn baby & mom while bathing.
2. Tangled Tantrum. My son has long hair & we couldn’t live without this magic potion. It detangles his hair in a jiffy & no more tears while brushing!
3. Honest Diapers. I’ve tried a lot of diapers but Honest wins for me. They’re organic, plant based dye, adorable patterns & most importantly deliver to your door! You can’t beat convenience.

One product you didn’t need
I found I didn’t need a swing. I live in a small space, my kids didn’t love it nor did I really want them to grow accustomed to sleeping in one.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. Parenting is packed full of things no one could prepare me for!
2. How much I’d love these little people & how fiercely I want to protect them.
3. How intense birth recovery can be & what tired really is.

Best advice you received
Celebrate the good decisions they make! Praise more than you reprimand and choose your battles.

Something you struggle with as a mom
I struggle with being focused. I have a million things on my plate, all of which seem worthy of my time, but it’s a daily struggle for me to stop what I’m doing and say to my self “be present.” My kids & husband both need and deserve that, & it’s something I work on every day.

Name: Emily Frame, 27
Children: Hayes (3), Callum (2)
Blog: Small Fry

Favorite products
1. My boys are 16 months apart so I relied on this Solly Baby wrap heavily for the first 6 months, both my boys loved being wrapped up close to me and I love having free hands!
2. If you’re a nursing mother, I can’t recommend nursing tank tops enough! Wearing it as your bra/cami combo makes nursing so much easier. It hides your back and tummy and you don’t have to worry about pulling or stretching out all your shirts. This one by Belly Bandit it awesome and has compression fabric that pulls you in nice and tight.
3. Noodle and Boo makes my favorite shampoo and soap for babies. It smells amazing and is organic and hypoallergenic, too.

One product you didn’t need
I didn’t need or use a diaper bag, diaper genie, or special changing table. There is just so much stuff you think you’ll need when you have a baby, but I am all about minimalism. All my regular purses work just fine to carry all my baby’s stuff, the regular trash can handle the diapers, and when the changing mattress is properly secured, any table top surface can be a changing station.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. Nursing was painful for the first few weeks with both my boys! There’s really nothing you can do to prepare for that, but knowing it wouldn’t last forever, and feeling tiny improvements each day, helped push me through it.
2. Becoming a mom also means other mothers (and non-mothers, too) start handing you advice, warranted or not. Everyone thinks their way is best, and will defend it at all costs. The “right” way to parent a child is as individual as they are. Take the advice that feels right to you and smile and nod through the rest.
3. As a mother you will learn to adapt fast. Adapt to no sleep, adapt to the sounds of a screaming baby, adapt to having every emotions boiling at the surface all day and night. But there is adapting, and there is suffering. Don’t suffer! Ask for help when things get overwhelming.

Best advice you received
You can’t draw water from an empty well. Take care of yourself and you’ll be a better parent.

Something you struggle with as a mom
I struggle with the desire to clean. I want and love having a clean house, but I will find just about anything else to do before I will get down and clean. Every once in a while I get this crazy energy and motivation and then three minutes later it’s messy again. Isn’t it infuriating!?

Name: Nicole Christensen, 28
Children: Dash (3), Sunny (1)
Blog: Small Fry

Favorite products
1. Capri Blue room spray. Babies diapers can sure stink up a room, this is a quick fix.
2. Ikea high chair. This highchair is sleek, modern and super easy to clean. oh, and insanely inexpensive.
3. Crane adorable 1 gallon cool mist humidifier.

One product you didn’t need
These are darling, but the airplane wings would never fit into the food jar.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. Patience. I have never been a super patient person (ask my mom and probably my husband) but kids have taught be a level of patience i didn’t know existed!
2. To function on little to no sleep.
3. Keep myself fed. If I’m fed, I’m happy. And if momma is happy, we are all happy. It’s super easy to forget meals as a mom since you are constantly feeding and caring for everyone else.

Best advice you received
Don’t compare your children to other siblings or other children you know. Everyone is so individual, and should be loved and taught in their own way.

Something you struggle with as a mom
When Dash was born, I had all the time in the world to snuggle, stare and dote on him. As a first child, there was no one to steal the attention, and i had so much time to bond and memorize everything about him. When Sunny was born, Dash was 2 1/2, an age that demands full attention, all of the time. I struggled with not being able to spend the time with Sunny that I did with Dash a newborn. I wanted to lay around and hold him for hours on end, but wasn’t able to. I spent Dash’s nap time snuggling Sunny, even if he was sleeping, too. Its safe to say the house was a wreck and rarely was presentable, but i quickly learned, that didn’t matter at all. Sunny and I had found our time.

Megan Marshall of In This Wonderful Life

Name: Megan Marshall, 29
Children: Knox and Sloane (22 months)
Blog: In This Wonderful Life

Favorite products
1. Melissa and Doug toys.
2. HoMedics sound spa nature sound machine. I believe the sound machine has a lot to do with how well Knox & Sloane sleep.
3. Seventh Generation free and clear baby wipes. These are our favorite wipes. They are clean, green and I honestly feel like they work best. On occasion, we’ve been somewhere where I had to use something else and I didn’t fee like they cleaned well, but more so left a soapy residue.

One product you didn’t need
A standing high chair. We tried these for a few weeks, but they just took up a lot of room having to use two. We ended up doing the clip-on-counter seats and then in-chair seats.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. I learned how to breastfeed two babies at the same time…for 10 months. I had no idea what I was in for. It was stressful at times, but I loved it.
2. I learned you can have babies that sleep. Thankfully, we had someone come in and help us with sleep training (for a 24 hour period) when Knox & Sloane were two weeks old. We learned soothing methods, timing and several other things. They were sleeping 12 hours a night at three months old and have ever since.
3. I learned I have to give space and have space. I knew I would want to be with Knox & Sloane as much as I could, but at 19 months I knew it was time for a little separation. I was scared I would never want to send them to school, much less Mother’s Day Out. Well, Mother’s Day Out has been amazing. Two days, for a few hours, I’m able to get things done and interact with people. Knox and Sloane are able to play with friends and learn new things.

Best advice you received
Every baby is different. I was grateful for opinions and advice, but at the end of the day hearing “every baby is different” stuck with me. I quickly learned I couldn’t compare my babies to any others or to each other.

Something you struggle with as a mom
Time management. There is just not enough time in a day! I feel like I have a ton to do so when nap time rolls around, it seems like I walk in circles!

Sarah Tucker of Fairytales are True

Name: Sarah Tucker, 29
Children: John Bullock Tucker IV aka “Tuck”
Blog: Fairytales are True

Favorite products
1. Honest diapers and wipes are non toxic, biodegradable, gives back to those in need with every purchase, and delivered straight to your door.  What’s not to love?
2. Pierre of the blabla kids–a gift from The Everygirl. Tuck loves his Pierre and lately it’s been my go to baby shower gift.
3. Organic Ergo Baby Carrier

One product you didn’t need
Shoes for my newborn.

Three Things you learned that no one could have prepared you for
1. You really don’t care when you get peed on.  My pregnant self wouldn’t believe that i just said that.
2.  I’ve really gained even more appreciation for my own mother.  It’s a selfless job that requires lots of sacrifice, and at the same time I totally see why she did it four times.  I now worship my mom’s feet even more.  And I feel like I grew an understanding of her overnight.
3. My crazy desire to want to Lysol everyone that comes in contact with my baby.

Best advice you received
Snuggle them for as long as they’ll let you! I plan on taking that advice as long as I can get away with it.

Something you struggle with as a mom
Being fully present all of the time. I wear a lot of different hats, but my favorite one so far is the mom hat. I often feel pulled in a bunch of different directions.  I’m still trying to figure out how to j