Tag Archives: SAHM

Letting Go for the Sake of Balance

I realized I was so focused on trying to find a way to work from home that I wasn't actually focusing on what matters most when I'm at home.
I realized I was so focused on trying to find a way to work from home that I wasn’t actually focusing on what matters most when I’m at home. My family.

Something happened last summer. I was suddenly in turbo drive. After nearly a year and a half of being in total mommy mode, all my other curiosities flooded back. I wanted to do EVERYTHING. Teach, write, start a business, work for my husband, take care of my family…

I felt like supermom. I could do it all. And, I did, for about six months and then it became too much. I found myself less present with my family. I wasn’t exercising as much as I needed. I couldn’t keep up around the house. I forgot what it felt like to sit on the couch. Still, I couldn’t decide what to let go. I liked it ALL so how could I make a choice?

Thankfully, I had this nagging feeling time would tell. Oh, patience, a lesson I must need again and again. And, just like that, a new (part-time!) teaching opportunity I’ve been lusting after presented itself. Suddenly everything else made sense. Teaching, writing, family were non-negotiable.

It all feels a little obvious as I write this now. After all, I taught and wrote before my daughter was born, but I had been so focused on keeping myself at home as much as possible that I’d lost track of why I wanted to be home in the first place, to be with my family. By letting go and being out of the house a bit more, I’m actually able to be more present in all aspects of my life.

Even so, I had fun experimenting with my previously dormant entrepreneurial spirit. I learned a lot. Especially about margins and what my time is worth. I let myself be a hummingbird and I have renewed faith it will prove useful somewhere down the road.

For now, Wandertots is mostly on hold. At first I thought it would require a lot of humility to share this but instead it feels empowering. We should have the right to experiment and put ourselves out there without worrying about how it makes us look. I have no trouble taking ownership over the fact that I have a lot of interests and love learning through experimentation.

I’m still fulfilling orders and have oddly become the queen of selling kid’s headphones, so if you want any busy items, get in touch. I’ll give you a good discount for being a loyal reader. That’s the irony. Wandertots received a ton of interest and still receives regular orders, it’s just not the best home-based model, or at least not the way I’m doing it.

Whew.

Sharing all that feels like the load is getting lighter and I can focus again. If you’ve been in my shoes of doing more than you can handle, I wish you the patience and awareness to let what matters most float to the top. It’s not easy letting anything go, but the last few weeks have felt so much better for me. I’m even writing again, something that had fallen to the bottom because it seemed the least profitable. But I guess that’s just it. You never know, you just have to keep working at what calls you, even when sometimes you’re called multiple places at once.

Creating Space for Ourselves in a Busy World

Getting to watch the world anew through her eyes is pretty much all the inspiration I need to be intentional with my time.
Getting to watch the world anew through her eyes is all the inspiration I need to be more intentional with my time.

Lately my plate has piled up higher and higher. In an attempt to avoid full-time work outside the home, I’ve taken on a variety of part-time jobs. While the flexibility is awesome, it’s all too easy to get lost in the endless tasks I could (not necessarily should) be doing. Add in domestic responsibilities and the desire to be present with my ever-changing daughter and, well, parts of me are being left behind. Like writing. Like yoga. Like self-care.

So, here I am today making a sweeping declaration. I’m allowed to stop working (for the most part) on the weekends and do things like write even if writing doesn’t pay the bills. It’s okay to have a slightly messier house so I can go to yoga at least once a week. It’s not the end of the world if I’m occasionally not home for my daughter’s bedtime so I can meet up with other moms to write or actually go on a date with my husband.

Basically, I’ve realized I need to look at where I can let go so I can take care of myself. And, I know I’m not alone. We could all benefit from some honest reflection on how we use our time. In the spirit of creating more space for self-care, I offer you the list of journal questions I’m asking myself this afternoon.

  1. Responsibilities. Make a list of the responsibilities you have in life. What jobs do you have in and out of the home? What obligations do you honor with your friends, family and/or community?
  2. Set days/times for each responsibility to be met. I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing many of my responsibilities to wash over each other so I feel like I never get a break. While some obligations may not realistically be categorized into specific time slots, most can be limited to specific days and times. As a student and a teacher, I set up a schedule for myself and stuck to it. This afternoon I’m attempting to replicate the same approach to life as a mom/wife/teacher/entrepreneur/etc.
  3. Develop weekly/monthly/yearly goals for each responsibility. Keep it simple, but actually map out what you hope to accomplish this week/month/year for each of your responsibilities. Finding clarity in what you plan to achieve helps get rid of all the time wasters, (cough::: Facebook).
  4. Acknowledge your distractions. Actually make a list of your biggest distractions from each responsibility. While tools like social media are crucial to many of my roles, they can also be big time wasters. Recognizing this helps me free up time for more important priorities, like meeting bigger goals and actually having time for myself. My newest plan is to set a timer as a reminder to limit distractions.
  5. Acknowledge what brings you joy. Our responsibilities should ideally bring us joy. But what else makes you happy? Make a list of everything you enjoy doing in life, both work and recreation.
  6. Set weekly self-care commitments. Look at your joy list and figure out what you want to do for yourself on a regular basis. Examine your calendar of responsibilities and figure out a way to consistently schedule in time for things like exercise, meditation, creativity, friendship and romance. We all need personal time to prevent burn-out, stay healthy, and be present for the people in our lives.
  7. Allow space to be unproductive. I have a tendency to over-schedule myself and my family. It’s okay to have time not dedicated to anything in particular. We all need hours to lie around the house and get nothing “done.” Instead of feeling like this is wasted time, acknowledge the need to rest and just be as part of the critical ebb and flow needed to maintain momentum in a busy world.

Have anything else that belongs on this list for self-reflection? Please share– these questions have evolved out of conversations I’ve had over recent months and I’d love to hear your secrets too!

Coming Home

Among the many pictures sent to me throughout the day. Hard to miss them too much when they're having this much fun together.
Hard to feel bad about leaving when she’s having this much fun with her dad. The picture updates also help.

At first I just wanted to get my feet wet, to see what it felt like to work again. Then I found myself to my ankles, and now I am up to my knees. Sometimes I open doors without thinking. Now the question remains, do I dive the rest of the way or continue to enjoy the ability to step back out, should the mood strike.

“For two years, no one wanted me.”

Those words from a child repeat in my mind. This week I met my match. The first kid in four years I could not crack in two solid days. Games of Horse followed by games of hiding. Maybe more days together would do the trick. I may never know. It all depends on decisions. A little deeper, a plunge perhaps, or the safety of the shallow end.

Last night, I needed a working family’s dinner, no dishes and no cooking. We invited friends to join us at a restaurant down the street. They have a brand new baby and as my friend described the feeling of leaving her son for the first time to go to a doctor’s appointment, the memory of intense attachment flooded back.

In the beginning, I could not leave her. I would get in my car and cry before I left the driveway. Still, I would go, for an hour or two, until the feeling became too intense and I had to be home again with her in my arms. As the months went on, I could go a little longer, an evening date perhaps or an afternoon of yoga and grocery shopping. Still that feeling would usually return and leave me desperate to be home again.

Did I mention they made it all the way to Coloma just so E would take a nap in the car?
Did I mention they made it all the way to Coloma just so E would take a nap in the car?

The first day I subbed I cried. It was in a friend’s classroom at a sister school for just four hours. To my great relief, I hadn’t forgotten how to be a teacher. The kids were great but I missed my girl. Then I subbed five hours with a gigantic smile on my face, homecoming to my old campus with my old friends and students. This week, a test. Two nine hour days back-to-back at the other school.

I missed her, but I was all right. Tired, but all right. Time after work was condensed to the essentials. Food, rest, time together. Each afternoon, when I arrived home, she and her dad were waiting for me in the driveway. Sweaty, covered in a little dirt, with gigantic smiles. They were better than all right. They had days packed with new adventures, happy to be together and happy to welcome me home.

Watching the kids play at recess, my thoughts returned to E. One day she won’t want me to hold her and squish her with so many kisses. I’m not ready to let go of our closeness, of our sweet time together. Still, maybe a couple days a week isn’t so bad. Maybe I need to let her dad have his turn. Maybe going away makes me better when I return.

This is the first Saturday in a long while where a weekend has taken on the familiar texture of time ticking, ticking, ticking. I used to hate the sensation of never having enough time, but there is also something powerful about making the most of each minute.

Maybe I’m in deeper than I thought.

Maybe the Secret to Happiness is Getting Organized

The first few months of E’s life were quiet and slow. We nursed and napped and often that seemed like it. Time moved like taffy, languid and sweet. People often asked if I watched television. The answer was no. My life was an ongoing meditation. Somehow the stillness was enough.

With each month, the momentum picked up a little here, a little there. Sometimes the stillness was too much. I contemplated returning to work as a teacher, but I could not do it, I was not ready. Being a stay-at-home mom was more than enough.

And, it still is, but my use of time is changing. Forget the labels, SAHM vs WAHM, it is similar enough. Suddenly I am free again, the magic of early bedtimes and well-managed naps. For 2015, I have a schedule. Different chores for different days, focused time use for each block E wakes and sleeps, with spreadsheets to go with it because that is how my brain works.

Writing remains my passion, but I also have a different need, a need to get out, meet people, and contribute more immediately to our household income. It is in my bones. I am doing it for me. Like so many in our culture, I don’t know how not to work for financial gain. For better, or for worse, it is hard to say.

This year, I am embarking on a new adventure and joining the family business after more than a decade avoiding it. I should have known, really, that one day real estate would officially call my name. My first real job post-college, after all, was real estate consulting. I grew up walking the floor plans of the homes my aunt built, the homes my whole family seemed to sell. When my husband took the plunge, I should have known I would be next.

For now, I am assisting my husband with business management, but maybe one day I will also get my license to sell on my own. I did not expect this decision to excite me so much, but it is pretty much the most flexible job I could have with no set number of hours. There is still time in my day to write and be present for my family. It is a win.

Here is a screenshot of Google Keep on my phone, such a great way to consolidate all those to-do lists.
Here is a screenshot of Google Keep on my phone, such a great way to consolidate all those to-do lists.

In order to make it happen, however, we have had to focus on our systems and routines at home. I am a to-do list queen, so imagine my excitement to discover Google Keep, a place to keep all of our to-do lists synched in one place accessible by both computer and phone. I have already completely geeked out and made a list for everything: shopping, separate home and work to-do lists for both me and my husband, social tasks I don’t want to forget to accomplish…

Years ago I read the Happiness Project and it changed my life. Not because it was particularly profound but because it emphasized setting goals and getting organized in the pursuit of living the life you want. That is how getting organized to accomplish my goals makes me feel.

Happy.

Not the smug or obnoxious kind, but just the fulfilled, purposeful, want-to-share kind. As you get organized for the year ahead, I would love to hear your organizational secrets too.

Month Eight: Hints of Independence

E. is still living up to her nickname, Little Beast.
E is still living up to her nickname, Little Beast.

Last night E pulled herself up and stood without holding onto anything for a few seconds. Her dad and I stared at each other. We couldn’t believe it. Around six months she skipped sitting and went straight to crawling. Then last week she suddenly started kneeling. Because she was late to the sitting party, we didn’t expect her to be standing so soon.

This month has been about hints of independence. Suddenly other people can babysit her again (thank heavens!). She makes her own jokes and tells her own stories. She is eating all kinds of foods and insisting on feeding herself. She is becoming a kid instead of a baby, (even though I know there are still plenty of baby moments left).

As she is becoming a little person, I am regaining parts of myself, too.

She is also bonding with Daddy-- even spent three hours with him yesterday so I could drive across town to catch a yoga class... They ventured (successfully!) to the grocery store.
She is also bonding with Daddy– even spent three hours with him yesterday so I could drive across town to catch a yoga class… They ventured (successfully!) to the grocery store.

I am beginning to itch to go back to work part-time again. Her rediscovered comfort around others makes me feel better about leaving. While I won’t stop writing, I am also dreaming of teaching. Literally. Half my dreams have been about the classroom lately. I miss my old students. Even interacting with trick-or-treaters brought out that teacher part of me (much to the chagrin of the 11-year-old who tried to double up on the candy). Writing is great, but it fits into the time I steal for myself.

Maybe that is what needs to change, making time for myself instead of just stealing it when she is asleep. I am ready for someone else to take care of her part of the time. I am ready to get serious about work again, whether it is writing or teaching. I will finish the book I am writing first, but then maybe, just maybe, I will be ready to get out of the house and back into a classroom part-time.

Watching her get bigger is a bittersweet process. We are both gaining independence, but she will always be my sweet, cuddly girl. It is a big relief to know she will not need me close forever, even if there is also a whisper of sadness in this realization. Everything at once. Parenthood in three words. I don’t want to take a single second for granted, even if I am also excited for our future.

Hard to believe 8 months has passed.
Hard to believe 8 months has passed. I am having so much fun discovering the little girl she will become.