Being A Parent Is The Greatest Adventure

Tonight I sat alone on the living room couch, watching my husband soothe our daughter to sleep on the glow of the baby monitor. I reflected on how being a parent is hands down the greatest adventure I have ever been a part of.

Sure, it has its ups and downs. Some days I don’t want to get up at the crack of dawn. Some days I want to pull my hair out in frustration with a baby who won’t stop fussing. And sometimes I wonder if I’m doing everything wrong raising this tiny human…

It’s definitely one crazy ride.

But I always try to remind myself on difficult days that I will never get this time with my daughter back again. I wonder where the time has gone already when I look back on these last ten months.

I remember the first few weeks my daughter was earth side. How quickly she learned I was her go-to person. She always needed me, always wanted me. I was her walking, talking, warm and comforting food source.

I remember I was able to soothe her cries quicker than anyone. I was the person who could whisk her to dreamland with little to no effort. I was the one she stared at with wonder or awe in her eyes. And I was lucky enough to be the reason for her first smiles.

She was completely a mommy’s girl.

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My husband would sometimes become frustrated that she preferred me over him. He didn’t understand why he couldn’t calm her cries as quickly, or put her to sleep as I did.

I understood his frustrations, and every once in awhile, I wished someone else could rock her to sleep so I could have a break.

But for the most part I secretly reveled in the fact that I was her lifeline. I felt on top of the world that I meant so much to this tiny human already, at just a few weeks old…

I remember holding my daughter and crying when she was just a few weeks old, knowing these precious newborn moments couldn’t last forever. She wouldn’t always be so small. She wouldn’t always rely on her mother.

I knew I would never get that day, or any of the precious past days back. She would never again be as little as she was in that moment…

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Then in the blink of an eye, ten months passed. About a week ago, the tables turned.

My daughter suddenly refused to let anyone hold her to sleep other than my husband, not even myself. All of a sudden when she wakes crying in the middle of the night, it’s my husband’s strong, comforting touch on her back she’s seeking. He is the only one who can soothe her wailing and put her back to sleep…

I thought to myself, when did things change so abruptly? When did she turn ten months old and become such a daddy’s girl? She already seemed to no longer need me as much. At least not at this current moment in time.

I’ve heard so many others say babies go through stages. Sometimes they prefer their mother, and other times they need their father. I, for one, can’t wait for my daughter to prefer her mother’s cuddles before bed once more.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to see my husband triumph now! To succeed in the little things when it comes to parenting, as I once did just a few months ago.

But the slight difference in parental preference at night serves as a reminder of just how quickly time passes and changes… How short these last ten months were. How fleeting the baby years are in general.

Even eighteen years of childhood are so very brief when you actually think about it. In the blink of an eye, one day I am my child’s hero, while the next day my husband is. One day I’ll be helping her learn to walk, the next I’ll be watching her head off to college…

So tomorrow morning when my daughter wakes, I will hug her a little tighter. I will embrace every stage of her life. Each milestone in her childhood as it happens, even the difficult ones.

Because one day she will wake up and no longer need me as much at all. And one day she won’t need my husband as much either. That’s the beauty of this parenting adventure. Doing the best you can to raise a little human being in the time you are given.

So soak it all in moms and dads! Do your best to enjoy this fast-paced, chaotic adventure, full of learning experiences and growing pains for all. You’re doing the best you can. You’re not alone.

And just remember, it won’t last forever.

There’s only one part of this adventure that I know will always remain constant. Maybe it’s the most important…

I will always remember my daughter as she is right now. Beautiful. Ever-changing. Full of life. Youthful… My baby, forever.

And nothing will ever change this love my whole heart holds for her. A powerful mother’s love that adapts with each new season of both her life and my own. A love like no other I’ve ever felt before.

This is the greatest adventure.

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Cherishing every season you are in!

Momming is not always easy; pretty sure that’s an obvious statement right!? I always knew being a mom wasn’t all cupcakes and rainbows, but there are some things that people can’t prepare you for. For instance the newborn stage that pretty much turns you into a zombie, or the constant fussiness because your baby has a sensitive tummy and nothing sits well. What about the sleep regressions?! Right when you think you’ve figured it out something changes and you are back to square one! Raising kids is hard! But there’s something that I constantly…try..to remind myself of, and that’s to enjoy the season you are in. 

One thing I wasn’t prepared for when becoming a parent was all the negativity that people will speak over you, your children, and honestly your life. People don’t say these things to be cruel, or because they wish bad things upon you. They say them because it’s what was always said to them and it’s just become a reality. Has anyone ever told you “Say goodbye to your freedom because once that baby comes your life revolves around them”? Or what about “Oh just wait until they hit the terrible twos”? I can’t tell you the amount of things people have told me regarding the season me or my girls are in. When I hear the sayings above, I can’t help but think, “Why can’t they be the Terrific Twos?!” I choose to empower my little ones, and speak life into them. Not putting them in a box. So chances are, mamas, you have heard all of these things and maybe even told another mom some of these, and that’s okay but I want to speak on this for a minute. 

Every age, season, and phase has its own set of difficulties and rewards. There’s nothing that says because your child hits the two year marker, it means they will automatically turn into a terror. As a mom you are always finding new ways to parent the stage your little one is in! But that season only comes once. My husbands grandma told me something when I had my first baby and it has stuck with me ever since. I was making a comment about how I can’t wait until Charlie can start sitting up. She told me don’t say you can’t wait because one day you’ll be wishing for these times back. It’s SO true! Yes you can look forward to things in the future but cherish the moments you have right now. Soak all of it in. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Soak up every tear, laugh, cuddle, or if you have little girls like mine- every sassy remark. 

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Let me clarify really quick! I am a mom of two little ones and I know parenting is HARD! It’s exhausting, emotionally and mentally draining, and some days I feel like a total failure but I don’t want any mama to fall into the trap of the hard times. I think because we have been told so many times the newborn stage is exhausting, the twos are terrible, pre teens are disrespectful, and those teenage years will make you cry we just go into those seasons believing all of that! Your kids are your kids and however you parent them will determine how they turn out. Don’t let someone else’s words distract you from the beauty in every stage. 

I know it can sound so cliche to say soak it all in and embrace every season but it’s so true. Here are some things I have found helpful for me personally and things I remind myself of constantly. 

  • Our kids are little humans. They have emotions, feelings, curiosity, and independence just like us. 
  • We are not here to be their dictators. We are here to be their guide through life! 
  • I will never get this moment back with my girls. 
  • Breathe, mama, breathe! 

That last one, I tell myself often! When my ten month old is teething and screams literally all day, I take lots and lots of deep breathes. When my toddler is fighting me on every little thing I walk in my closet and take lots of deep breaths. But after those breathes I walk back out and serve my babies. 

God did not make a mistake by making you their mama! You are the best mom for them and know exactly how to parent your kids. Don’t let the world blur your lens of the beautiful season you are in. Being a mom is hard, but I promise you there will come a day you will beg for that “testy toddler” phase back or those teething baby cuddles. Cherish the season you are in with your kids, and go in your closet and take a deep breathe! 

Don’t Blink, Mama.

Don’t blink, mama. 

I have always struggled with my perception of time. When I was a kid time moved so slowly, I measured my years by my birthdays and they always seemed so far away. I would tell my mom all I wanted was to be a grown up. I didn’t want time to slow down, I wanted it to speed up. So I would blink as fast as I could hoping that one day I would wake up and find myself to be that “grown up” I had always wished for. Once I became that grown up I discovered that time sped up. The more I appreciated time the faster it went. I began to understand why everyone complained about time slipping away from them and how fast time really does change. 

Please blink, mama.

After my first was born I told myself to enjoy every moment. My pregnancy had gone by quicker than I thought but I was so excited to hold my baby that it didn’t matter. I had heard other moms saying “They grow up so fast.” and  “This phase will be over before you know it”. I knew they were right but still didn’t completely believe them. I tried, honestly I did. I tried to enjoy every smile, to appreciate all the cuddles, or every time she fell asleep in my arms. I tried to remember every outfit, or commit to memory her first smile or how she struggled trying to roll over. I tried not to worry about the laundry or the messy house, but the truth is I still did. I got distracted and would say I can cuddle tomorrow, she won’t grow that fast. I tried to breathe in her new baby smell and when I was rocking her at 3am because she wouldn’t sleep, I tried to tell myself how quickly this phase would pass, but I didn’t believe it. I couldn’t see through the tiredness, the loneliness, and the stress of adjusting to motherhood that those early days would go by so fast. Each day felt so long but so rewarding and those moms were right, that phase was over before I knew it. Soon she wouldn’t let me rock her to sleep, she stopped needing me to feed her, she wanted her independence. When did my newborn baby turn into this independent sassy little girl? 

You blinked, mama.

I did, and I woke up one morning to find out I was pregnant again. We were trying, so it wasn’t a huge surprise but in that moment I found myself asking, “How is this even possible, didn’t I just have a baby? I can’t be pregnant again, it just isn’t physically possible.” With this pregnancy I knew it would go by in the blink of an eye so I tried to take more time to enjoy being pregnant. To love my growing belly, to appreciate every kick, but even though I knew it would fly by I still blinked.

My first pregnancy- I didn’t believe it would go by as fast as it did, my second pregnancy didn’t allow me to fully soak in those nine months because I didn’t want to miss any of the huge milestones my first was hitting. When we found out we were pregnant I calculated when I would be able to find out the gender and thought 20 weeks is so far away, but I knew that in the blink of an eye we would be on our way to the ultrasound, making our announcement to friends and family and planning for her arrival. As the weeks went on I packed our hospital bag, we transitioned our first out of the nursery and unpacked the newborn clothes into the dresser. I knew she would arrive in a few weeks but the anticipation made it feel like the date would never arrive. I should have known better, soon she was here and we were already home from the hospital. We were introducing our new baby to her older sister who welcomed her with open arms. As I held our daughter down to meet her big sister I realized my brand new 5 lb newborn won’t be this little for long. My journey of holding on to each moment as they passed was starting all over again. I knew that her sweet innocent cries would soon turn into toddler screams and her little hand that couldn’t quite grasp my fingers would soon grow to hold my hand as she stood. I enjoyed the cuddles in bed. I didn’t guilt myself over laundry this time because I knew, this could be that last day; the last night feeding, the last newborn outfit, the last morning cuddle in bed. I took in every smile as they happened and tried to commit to memory every giggle but inevitably I also had to blink. 

You have to blink, mama.

As I looked down at my growing toddler I realized that each moment that seemed to disappear, that slipped out of my grasp too quick, led to new moments that created more memories. When I think of holding my daughter for the first time the memory is blurry. I remember the emotions but I can’t pinpoint the exact moment in my life, but If time had stopped there, or when she was an infant I wouldn’t have gotten to hear her say “mama” or “daddy”.  I wouldn’t have gotten to watch her learn to sing and dance or learn how to go down slides all by herself. As quickly as time goes by and as much as Idon’t want to blink, I have learned blinking is necessary. In those fleeting quiet moments that I’m not chasing the toddler around the stairs, cleaning the house, or doing the million other things on my list, I remember. I remember what her first smile was like, how we would cuddle and she would fall asleep in my arms, how I would rock her to sleep at 3 am, and how precious her new baby smell was. Then I stop remembering and I start living in each moment before I blink and those too become distant memories. 

Tips When Considering Embryo Donation to Create Your Family

In todays world there are many different ways to raise a child and/or have a baby. Finding out that you can not genetically have a child can be devastating and Can make you feel like there is no hope to have a “child of your own”. Many people struggling with infertility are made aware of donor conceived options, such as using donor eggs or donor sperm, but there is another, less talked about option – embryo donation.

Embryo donation is where a person is able to adopt an embryo from another family that has created embryos using IVF. They may have decided that their family is complete, yet still have remaining embryos that are frozen. There are also options of adopting embryos that have been created by donor sperm and a donor egg, but this is less common to my knowledge.

Every couple that is considering embryo donation/adoption (the terms are used interchangeably with generally the same meaning, although you should check with the clinic you are working with) will have different experiences. In my case, my husband and I were on the same page very quickly, we knew that adoption was always a realistic option for us, when we discovered embryo donation, we instantly fell in love with the idea of combining adoption with the ability to carry a baby through pregnancy. We decided to match privately with a family that was willing to donate 2 male embryos to us and we have since gone on to have a beautiful little boy and have grown to be close friends more like family with our donors. We were both open to having an “open adoption”, however we wanted the relationship to build naturally, therefore we chose to not put specific stipulations in our legal agreement and the let nature take its course. We now speak regularly, FaceTime, have met 3 times and are even planning to spend a holiday together this year. “The boys” as we call them will all grow up knowing each other and understanding that they are brothers. We already share their story with them and the oldest child (6) seems to truly understand. We also read picture books to our son regularly, and our hope is that he will learn to love his story and feel how much love it took to create him. This is what works for us, not all situations are like this, in fact most are not so it is important to communicate your needs, wishes and hopes for the future.

Here are a few tips that I suggest to any couple that is considering embryo donation. 

See a psychologist that specializes in donor conceiving.

Most fertility clinics will have this be a mandatory step before beginning the process, but if its not, definitely see a professional to help you navigate your feelings about using an adopted embryo to get pregnant. It is a great way to have a safe space to speak with your partner about all of your feelings and make sure they are on the same page as you. There are a lot of emotions surrounding using an adopted embryo, most importantly the grief of how you imagined getting pregnant and brining a child into the world. Many people struggle with the idea of raising a child that is not their DNA, they fear that they may not love the baby in the same way they would if the baby was genetically theirs. 

Research the different ways to adopt an embryo.

Do your research and decide what type of adoption you are open to or would like to pursue. Just as in traditional adoption, there are several ways to go about embryo adoption/donation. There are 3 main types of adoption: open, semi-open and closed. Open can mean that you talk very often to the family, have many visits, have them be in your child’s life in one way or another. Semi-open could mean that you both decide to only share pictures a few times a year, communicate only through emails but not meeting face to face. A closed adoption would simply mean you receive the embryos and the relationship ends, but you would still have the benefit of knowing the genetic parents and/or siblings. A good place to start is by talking to your fertility clinic and seeing what options they have available to you. You can choose to have a private adoption where you and the donating family work out your own stipulations with a lawyer, this can include how open you would like the relationship to be in the future. There are websites such as https://www.nrfa.org where you can create a profile and match with a family, you can still decide to have a closed adoption even if you were to choose to match privately. You can choose to adopt anonymously from either your fertility clinic or another one that offers embryo donation/adoption. 

Join a social media group for Embryo Donation.  

This is a great resource for anyone considering heading down this path, you will be able to read many first hand true stories that will help you decide what kind of adoption you are interested in pursuing.  You can find support from families that have been through the same experience, have access to a resource to ask questions as they arise and also potentially match with donor couples. 

Embryo donation was the right choice for my family. We couldn’t be happier with our decision, not only did it bring us our son, but we gained this entire village to help us show our son what love and true kindness is all about. If you are struggling to conceive your family, Im sorry, I know how hard it can be to navigate all of your feelings and think about options that were not always part of your plan, but when you are ready, embryo donation is a beautiful choice and just might bring you a miracle.

Brian with his brothers

3 Tips For The Busy Mom

I am a busy mom. I work full time, I single parent two young children on a week on/off basis. I manage our household, I have important relationships that I care about and need to show up for – all while striving to maintain my health as a top priority in my life. I hold my health at the top of my to-do list every week, because I know that if I am not at my best, then it trickles down throughout my life in a negative way. My parenting suffers, my work suffers, and my mental health suffers – and we all know that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Full disclosure though: some weeks I am a hot mess. I am by no means perfect, but I have definitely learned the hard way how important my health is and how different I feel on the weeks where I have all of my ducks in a row. I have spent a lot of time fine-tuning what works for me and have had a lot of questions on how I manage it all. I have developed a great routine for myself and have found such a good groove for myself. Changes don’t happen overnight, and in an effort to not overwhelm you, here are my top 3 tips for thriving as a busy mom!

1. Meal Prep – 100%, without a doubt, absolutely non-negotiable. If you are going to do ANYTHING, start in the kitchen. I’ve been meal prepping for years now, so I have it down to an art. But it doesn’t have to be complicated for you. The top 3 things to have in your fridge prepped are protein, fruit and veggies. I usually hard-boil eggs, cook chicken in the crockpot and shred it, and pick a few veggies and fruit to have cut up and in containers for the week.  Everything else is gravy. If you have this all ready to go, you’re less likely to hit the drive-thru or go rummaging through the pantry trying to find something for yourself to eat. If you feel that you don’t have time to exercise, at the very least having healthy options to grab when you’re busy will be a game changer for you and give your body the fuel that it needs.

2. Sleep – Sleep is one of those things that we put on the back burner, but it is one of the most important aspects of thriving as a mother. If you’re not getting enough sleep, you’re not running as well as you could be. Sleep affects your mood, your energy levels, your stress management, your work ethic… and the list goes on. If you’re not getting enough sleep you are not 100% you, and the rest of the world is missing out. Although I am not one to always follow the rules I set for myself, I try to make it a habit to be in bed by 9pm, and up for my alarm at 5am. That gives me plenty of downtime and sleep and I know that when I follow this routine, I always feel incredible the following day. Below are some tips that will help set you up for a great night of sleep:

– Put your phone on airplane mode at 8pm.

– Enjoy a warm tea/lemon water and a book to settle your mind.

– Keep a notebook beside your bed to write down any thoughts that might keep you up at night.

– Pack lunches/bags the night before so that you’re prepared for the next morning.

 

3. Grace – The thing is, I know we’d all really love to do it all. We’d love to be the perfect friend, perfect housewife, perfect partner and perfect mother. In an ideal world, everything would be meal prepped and your diet would be on point, you’d get all of your exercise and sleep in, everything would be organized and handled, and everyone would be happy and you’d just be killing it at motherhood. But life is busy and messy, and some weeks we just can’t do it all. Some weeks, everything runs smoothly and some weeks one or two or ten balls drop. That’s just how life goes and we can’t be perfect 100% of the time. It’s important to go easy on yourself and remember that life happens. Give yourself some grace and forgive yourself if all you do is just survive some days.

All the love, mamas!

Amy xo


 

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Amy is a single mother to two girls, living in a small town located on the lakeshores of Lake Huron in Ontario. She loves writing, traveling and maintaining a healthy, all- natural lifestyle. You can read more about her here!

Traveling With A Little One: My Best Tips And Tricks.

I took my son Asher on his first airplane/out of state trip when he was 7 months old. Since then, he has been on 29 flights and to 19 states! We just visited the Outer Banks the first weekend in November and I always think back to that first trip when I was getting ready to pack and how nervous I was to embark on my first adventure with my infant in tow.

My husband, Casey and I got married at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana. We wanted to celebrate our anniversary there but I wasn’t ready to leave my baby over night yet and I was still breastfeeding regularly. Wanting some alone time but not being ready for a baby-less vacation, we invited my mom to come along! I was SO nervous about being a new mom and traveling with an infant. What if his ears hurt? Would people be mad if he cried? What if I had to change a poopy diaper on the flight?!

The plane ride from Denver to New Orleans is almost three hours and I was totally consumed with what those three hours could hold for me. I read all of the blogs and Pinterest tips and was as prepared as I could be.

In the past three years I have traveled regularly with Asher, our longest flight being 7 hours nonstop and our longest travel day being 16 hours. We have had easy flights and we have had downright miserable travel days where we left at 2 am and didn’t get where we’re going for 13 hours. I feel like while it still requires a lot of planning I have definitely figured out some things since then that may be able to help moms who are feeling the same way I was on that first flight!

First off, planning ahead helps so much. When Asher was a newborn he mostly slept on flights which was great for both of us! But, that doesn’t always happen. Here is a list of things I would say are must haves for little ones:

Newborn-crawler age

1. Diapers and wipes.
2. Hand sanitizer.
3. A blanket to lay them down on the floor in the airport so they can play or get changed. (I try to always fold it so the side that is on the ground is always folded up inside and is always the same side on the ground, that way they aren’t playing on the dirty side.)
4. Another clean blanket for covering them up in the plane, stroller, car seat etc.
5. A couple changes of clothes. That first flight to New Orleans, Asher had a major blowout and there was no changing table on the plane. My husband and I cleaned him while one of us held him up midair and the other one washed and changed him. It wasn’t easy, but it was feasible. Extra clothes are a must for kids and sometimes adults.
6. Small toys and books.
7. A bottle or sippy cup for take off and landing for their ears, if they are not breastfeeding. (I recommend nursing or giving them something to drink when you take off and descend to help relieve ear pressure. This worked great for us every time and often helped put him to sleep).
8. Stroller.
9. Baby-wraps (Keep in mind if your baby is in your baby wearing wrap at security they will make you take him/her out. Same goes for the stroller but they are great to have for the rest of the airport).
10. Snacks for you!

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Older babies and toddlers

I have added and changed some stuff on the list. Extra clothes and diapers are a must but we bring a lot more toys than we did when Asher was a baby. My absolute favorite airplane toys are slime and putty! They keep Asher busy for so long and they are less messy than playdough. Make sure they are under 3 oz because airport security considers them a “gel or liquid” and they will take them if they are more than 3 oz. I also love to bring coloring books, magnet play sets, reusable stickers, and small games like memory cards. Amazon has great reusable sticker activity books.

We bring Asher an iPad for long flights. We only let him watch the iPad on airplanes. We do this because we feel like it makes it special for him and gives him something to look forward to. Since he isn’t allowed to watch it at home, it is a lot more fun for him to have something that is just for airplanes. We also use it as a last resort. Once we have played all the games, read all the books, and eaten all the snacks – he can watch his iPad. Some parents let their kids watch their iPads the entire flight and I am all for that as well. If that works for you and gets you through a tough travel day, I call it a win.

We hit bad weather flying home from Georgia this spring and had to be rerouted to a nearby state and were stuck on the plane for 4 hours longer than planned. I can’t imagine the meltdowns we all would’ve had if Asher didn’t have a movie to watch. Asher wasn’t into videos until just recently so we haven’t used that as our main form of entertainment. It’s also nice to have backups in the event of a dead battery, or no WiFi, etc.
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My other bit of advice when packing is to always bring a reusable water bottle and snacks, especially if your child has any dietary restrictions. Finding food at weird times and in a hurry in an airport can be challenging and stressful when you’re hungry so it never hurts to have a backup snack.

Car seats

When we plan to rent a car at our destination, I always bring my own car seat. We have rented them a couple of times and I always prefer to have my own. You can check your own for free at ticketing and it will arrive in oversized baggage at your destination. I’ve had to use rented car seats that are filthy. They have been out of infant or toddler seats and we have had to wait while they go get one from another rental facility (which is the worst when you’ve been traveling all day already), and they are usually expensive to rent.

Strollers

We always bring our stroller to the airport and check it at the gate. You just have to get a stroller tag at your gate and leave it right before you get on the plane.

We have always been really lucky with Asher on the plane. He enjoys it and is usually really good, but if your little one does have a meltdown or cries uncontrollably, just remember that a lot of the people on the plane have kids of their own and have been where you are. They know it’s hard and you’re trying your best. Flight attendants are often awesome with kids and will try and help you calm them or redirect their attention. If you know of something that may help, ask them. I can almost guarantee they will do it. If nothing helps and people are starting to give you snarky looks or making comments, remember that they are grown adults and they should’ve brought their noise cancelling head phones. No one wants their child to cry on an airplane- just try your best to stay calm and know it’s temporary.

Taking your kids on trips can seem overwhelming and be a lot work, but after that first flight, you will feel like a pro. Traveling with Asher has been my favorite thing. We have seen so many things together and at just three years old he has met so many wonderful people along the way. I know that all of those red eye flights and late nights packing and planning have been completely worth it. Take the trip! You will be so glad you did.

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Podcast:How To Have A Minimalist Christmas ( And More) With JoLynn Graubart

 

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Listen on Apple Podcast, Google Podcast and other major podcast apps through here!

 

Co-hosts, Paige + Leslie with Outnumbered Mamas contributor and guest, JoLynn Graubart discuss minimalism. JoLynn is a minimalist- in- progress and gives us tips on how her family celebrates Christmas with their two children.


Show Notes

Co-Hosts: Paige Martinek + Leslie Caruthers

Guest Host: JoLynn Graubart

Links from this podcast:

How To Have A Minimalist Christmas

Letters From Afar

Dear Working Mama, It’s Okay (And You’re Not Alone)

I know the feeling you had as you held your sweet, little baby and realized your precious time was almost up. I got that feeling too. It’s one of the worst feelings I’ve ever had.

My heart broke as I realized that, so soon, I would wake up and have to hand my baby off to someone else. Someone else will be taking care of my baby. I’ll have to miss out on watching her grow up. I’ll have to miss out on some of her firsts. I’ll have to miss out on all these important days of her little life.

I know what you were thinking. Why? Why can’t I have more time? Why did the time I had have to go by so fast? Why do I have to leave my baby when we just got in our routine? Why does this have to be so hard?  

Let me tell you, Mama, I understand completely… and it’s okay. 

It’s okay that you don’t want to leave your baby. I mean, who wants to leave their baby all day? Not me. I mean, c’mon it’s my BABY. The little life that I grew for nine months before anyone else knew her. She was a part of me and now I have to give that part of me away for 9 hours a day. It freaking sucks. 

It’s okay to cry. I still cry. I have days that I get back into my car after dropping her off and just cry. All I want to do is walk back in there, get my baby, and go back home… and it takes everything inside of me to put the car in drive and force a smile when I walk through those company doors. 

It’s okay to be mad when people tell you it will get easier. It’s pretty much one of the most annoying things people say to new working moms. It hasn’t gotten easier. It won’t get easier. It’s hard as hell to walk away from my little girl every day.

It’s okay to feel like you aren’t giving it all you have at work. I often feel like I’m not being the employee that I should be because I’m always thinking about my baby or having to miss days if she’s sick. Or not putting in the extra time and effort that I should because I want to get home and have at least a little time to spend with her between dinner, bath, and bedtime.  

It’s okay to feel like you’re not giving it all you have at home. Sometimes I feel like I’m not the mom I should be because she’s at daycare 9 hours a day instead of with me. Chick-fil-A is typically the go-to these days for dinner. The house never seems to be clean and I don’t think I’ll ever be able to get all the laundry done. But when do I even have time to do all of this and be able to take a few moments to just stop and play with my baby after working all day?  

It’s okay to ask for help. Being a working mom leaves me with a never-ending list of things that need to be done and for some reason I think that I need to get it all done on my own. Asking for help relieves some of the stress and allows me to spend a few extra minutes with my sweet baby. 

It’s okay to need a break. The transition from doing what you want when you want, to being a working mama constantly on-the-go can be an adjustment. Sometimes I really just need some time to myself. Just a few hours alone to go get my nails done, walk around Target or grab a coffee and drink it while it’s still hot. 

It’s okay to struggle. I struggle daily but I know I’m not alone. YOU are not alone. Other working mamas out there understand the daily struggles we face. Know this Mama… you are strong, one of the strongest women I know and sometimes I just don’t know how we mamas do it all!  

Being a working mom is freaking hard. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise and never let anyone tell you that it’s not okay to not be okay sometimes. You are not alone. 

So, Mama, it’s okay. Cry if you need to. Take a break if you need it. Do what you have to do. Stay strong. You’re an amazing mom! Keep kicking butt and keep loving on those babies! 
 
xoxo, 

Your Working Mom Friend

How to Have a “Minimalist” Christmas

Okay, Mamas. This is an upfront disclaimer that I am a “minimalist in-progress.” Can we just agree that there is a middle-ground somewhere between shaming people who have throw pillows and keeping every book you’ve ever read? Maybe room for a family still clinging to their dying DVD collection, but intentionally inching towards minimalist living? That would be the category my family fits into.

Minimalism is all the rage, right? But what does it have to do with our families? One study found that an average 10 year old owns 238 toys, but only plays with 12 of them on a regular basis (1). Raise your hand if you just started mentally counting all of your children’s toys? (Yes, every Barbie shoe and Lego block counts.)

When I chose to embrace minimalism it was because I saw it as a way to raise content, grateful, and creative kids- the kind of kids who use the things they have with the fullness of their imagination; kids whose general state of happiness floats above the “need” for more and more stuff. Firstly, you’re right if you think that it must be BOTH satisfying and also completely terrifying to purge mass quantities of stuff with small people living in your house. Secondly, the peace found at the end of the process outweighs the energy and time commitment it takes – I promise.

As I’ve introduced this concept to the people in my kids’ lives (in other words, the people who give them gifts), they almost always get around to asking, “but what about Christmas?”

What about Christmas? Won’t there be a full-scale revolt if the pile under the tree shrinks suddenly?! How do you even get started with something like this? First…

Get your kids on board – I think most of us underestimate our kids. Children tend to be open to new ideas when they understand why something is happening. Talk to your kids honestly. Explain how wonderful it would be if their lives (and rooms) were only full of the things that they love and the things that they use. Talk up the beauty of simplicity! They’ll have less things to pick up at “clean up time.” They’ll be able to find that treasured item that always gets misplaced under a pile of junk.

They will follow your lead – Before tackling the playroom, demonstrate the process in other areas of the home and let them be part of the process. Cleaning out the pantry? Mommy is getting rid of things she doesn’t love and doesn’t use. Let them see how you make decisions about what to keep and what to get rid of. Watch an episode of Marie Kondo’s new show on Netflix together, and then hit their closets asking, “Does this bring me joy?” (my girls LOVED this part! They even made Daddy do it). Make it fun and exciting, a whole new way of looking at things.

Start the process now, not on Christmas EveBut what about Christmas?! This is a lifestyle change, guys. It’s going to take some getting used to. So the sooner you start having conversations the better. That also gives you the chance to work with your kids towards simplifying their playroom and bedrooms before a huge influx of gifts.

One thing that’s worked really well with my kids is giving them the option of only picking up the things they love. This is a winner in my house especially when the playroom floor is trashed. I frame it like, “guys I’m going to do you a huge favor. All you have to do is put away the things that you use and that you love, and Mommy will handle the rest.” Note: be careful to preserve trust and to respect your children during this process. At our house, the kids know that those trashbags go to the basement before they head to Goodwill. I stash them there for 2 months, and if they aren’t touched in that time, they get donated. The girls understand this process, so they are way more willing to let me haul that singing Elsa away in a plastic bag.

Clue in the relatives –  People are going to think you’re crazy. Get comfortable with that. They’re also going to be really uncomfortable NOT buying loads of stuff for you and your kids. Don’t apologize about going against the grain, but do give them ideas! If you need some, keep reading. Make an Amazon list for each of your kids and share it with family members. Most people want to get gifts that really bless you, and are thrilled to know exactly what that is.

What do you buy them? 

  1. Subscription boxes & magazines: what’s better than one gift that gets ignored in 2 weeks? A give that comes 12 times in a year! There are subscription boxes for everything from cultural cooking to woodworking. Google your child’s age/interest and I bet you find something amazing. Our absolute FAVORITE is Letters From Afar.
  2. Experiences: Museum & Zoo passes, Aquarium memberships, movie giftcards all fall under this category. My in-laws made the sweetest “box of dates” for our girls last year. Each 1st of the month they would open an envelope with a pre-planned date with Nana & Grandpop in it. It was super fun!
  3. Classes: How about getting grandma and grandpa to invest in a skill your kids are dying to work on, like gymnastics, swimming, karate lessons, space camp?!
  4. Open-ended toys: These are toys that can be used in more than one way, and for more than one age-group. I’m convinced that my kids could have happily survived the last 7 years playing with just silk scarves, Animal Figurines, and Magnet Blocks. Those are our top three for sure. (your standard cardboard box also fits in this category)
  5. Consumable items & Handicrafts: Art supplies are a hot commodity around here, and are always a crowd-pleaser. I mean who doesn’t love a fresh box of crayons or an elaborate coloring book.  This is also a great time to invest in a hands-on creative skill like crocheting, felting, sewing, beading, woodworking, or musical instruments.

Focus on the stuff that isn’t “stuff” – Since down-sizing our Christmas, we instead have time, energy, and mental space to pack the whole month of December with memory making. In fact, Advent kicks off the week of Thanksgiving in this house with a cranberry/popcorn/orange garland making fest. We read all the Christmas books, sing all the songs, watch all the movies, eat and bake and just generally pack this month full of good times. Here’s five ideas to get you started:

  1. Read good books together as a family: Sarah Mackenzie at Read-Aloud Revival has a great reading list! Grab a bunch of Christmas picture books from the library, wrap up 24 of them, and open one a day to read as a family. Or better yet, pick a big juicy classic novel like The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe to read over dinner each night (with Turkish Delight of course).
  2. Drive around the neighborhood with cocoa looking for Christmas lights.
  3. Make homemade salt-dough ornaments or sugar scrubs to give out to friends and family as gifts.
  4. On Christmas Eve make (more) cocoa and have a night picnic under the stars. We always take our popcorn garlands outside at this point, and hang them up on the trees for the animals.
  5. Set up a card making station for your kids full of stickers, stamps, and glitter. We make cards while listening to carols or audio-books all month long, and then bring them to a local nursing home. Focus on the GIVING, not the getting.

 

Further reading suggestions: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquilyn Smith

Listen to JoLynn on The Outnumbered Mama’s Podcast to hear more about her minimalist lifestyle, and how she and her family celebrate Christmas.

 

  1. https://www.uctv.tv/RelatedContent.aspx?RelatedID=301

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Not The Nanny

I found myself in unfamiliar territory not that long ago. A sweet, young grandma asked me if I was the nanny to my twins. I figured this was bound to happen at some point. Perhaps it’s surprising it took this long. From the outside looking in, anyone could make this mistake.

You see, the twins are about as white as snow with the most stunning sea-green (yet sometimes blue) eyes. Their hair is wavy dirty blonde like their Dad and Valentina has the same dimple placement as her proud Papa. For the record, I really want to believe that Valentina and Victoria have my nose. And that’s about it.

In case you haven’t seen me in the flesh, I have tan skin, dark brown hair and eyes. Big sis, Gabriella is my spitting image. My “mini-me” in every way. There’s no mistake she’s my daughter. When we’re together I get the sweet sideways glances from strangers who seem to say, “Awwww, look at that cute mother-daughter duo.” I relish that we do look so much alike.

When I was pregnant, Ben and I would joke back and forth about how one twin would arrive looking like him and the other like me. I didn’t give it a whole lot of thought because it really wasn’t that important to me. I had bigger things to worry about with the twins impending arrival.

Back to this sweet grandma on a random day this Summer. The twins and I were having fun at an indoor gym and a light-hearted conversation started between the two of us. After the usual exchange of niceties, she socked me in the stomach when she asked, “Are you the nanny?” I like to think I’m not easily offended, but it did sting just a bit. And I know this is just the beginning of many times ahead when I’ll be in this same situation. Do I need to buy the matching Lily Pulitzer Mommy-Daughter dresses to send the message loud and clear?

I think most people are perplexed when they see the twins and I together. Working out in their minds if I’m the nanny or the Mom. If Ben happens to be around or come around later it’s almost as if there’s a collective “Aha” from the on-lookers. Now it makes sense!

You may be wondering what my response was to this unassuming lady who just sucker punched me. I said, “Nope, I carried them for 37 weeks and 4 days to be exact.” After the blood drained from her face, we laughed and I told her not to feel bad. And I meant it.

While the physical likeness between the twins and I is almost non-existent, I hope that the intangible mother-daughter bond between each of us supersedes any doubt of my role as their mom. They remind me everyday, that no matter how I look (which is usually pretty tired), I’m their mama. Not the nanny.


 

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Lillian Sowles is a wife and mom to 3 girls, residing just outside of Charlotte, NC. She enjoys reading fiction, having fun with her family, trying new recipes and sipping hot coffee. You can read more about her here!