The Working Mom: Tonight I can’t ‘do it all, be it all’

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Let’s be honest. As working moms, there is SO much pressure on us to perform the impossible: be a dedicated employee staying late, but be the dedicated mom that leaves work early to not miss one ballet performance. And you know what? I’m not buying it. There is no such thing as balance. As working moms, we manage, and do our best as an employee, a parent, a student, a wife, a friend, an athlete, a volunteer, and the countless other things we are and do. But, even knowing there’s no such thing as balance doesn’t relieve us of the guilt we feel to do it all and be it all.

I wake up. See my daughter for about 15 minutes. Commute to work. Stay at work late. Get home late. See my daughter a couple hours. Get my daughter to bed late. Eat late. Clean up late. Pay bills late. And fall asleep sitting on the couch trying to make time for my husband.

Let me just tell you how my “balance” has gone these last few weeks:

– Most nights I go to bed late late because I get home at 7pm after picking my daughter up, and I still need to cook, feed her, spend time with her, and get her in the bath and off to bed. Then, after bedtime, begins the “adult” stuff like bills, cleaning, organizing, etc.

– Last night I was up a lot because my child wanted milk, and my husband was sick.

– This morning I got up early to check my work email, try to remember to put stamps on the bills, water the garden, and get ready before my daughter woke up.

– This morning I struggled to stay awake on my drive to work.

– The last few weeks I’ve been working overtime about three nights a week.

– The last few weeks I’ve forgotten bills, car oil replacements, lunch dates, doctor appts. and more because the overwhelmingly long checklist in my head and the few hours I have to fulfill them.

– The last few weeks I couldn’t sleep because I had a cold and my hips hurt when I lay down due to pregnancy and being in the third trimester.

Y’all, I’m exhausted.

They say…

“They” say I need to cook healthy and meal plan (that’s how to love my family and stay on a budget). They say I should go to bed early and get rest (if I want to take care of myself). They say I need to exercise every day (that’s to stay fit). They say I need to practice a hobby every day (that’s for future growth). They say I should be there for my family, but I should also stay late to meet a deadline (to be both a good mom and employee). They say I should limit my kid’s technology time (as a responsible adult). They say I should have her potty trained (if I’m any kind of parent…). They say I should move into a good home in a good neighborhood, but I should also not spend too much on a house loan and be saving money (for the future of my family).

Tonight, I can’t “be it all, do it all.”

Tonight I’ll eat pizza or mac and cheese because I stayed at work late and hadn’t had time this week to meal plan.

Tonight I’ll add water to the soap to make it last a few more days because I can’t seem to remember to buy any when I DO finally make it to buy groceries.

Tonight I’ll let my daughter play on the iPad past her bedtime because emotionally I need a little quiet time before trying to get her to bed.

Tonight I’ll sit in my chair and cry once she goes to bed, because I was too stern with her the third time she wanted her diaper changed in 15 minutes, but yet I hadn’t seen her all day and should have spent time loving on her.

Tonight, I’ll know that it’s okay, this is normal, and “this too shall pass.” That the hard mixes in with all the good, and the good memories and sweet moments remain as our strength.

The Honest Truth: My Second Child, My Sweet Baby Boy

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In October we found out we were expecting, and on January 24th we got to see our squirmy little baby BOY on the ultrasound monitor. Making it to this ultrasound was extra special – for one because it’s the ultrasound we never made it to with Jordyn, but also because seeing my second baby on the monitor suddenly made things REALLY real. I’m going to be a mommy of TWO sweet little children, a girl and a boy!

I had never considered, TRULY considered, what it may be like to be a little family of four. As a lay beside my joyful, squirmy little daughter while reading her a book, I’ve teared up thinking about how this time with her, my undivided attention, is slowly coming to an end. I KNOW there will be so many joys to come, but with every stage of life, there is something sweet you must leave behind for more blessings to come. 

At night we always do “family hug” before she lays down for bed. My husband takes us in his arms while I hold my daughter and we all embrace. I think about my new little addition and where he will fit in this family hug. Will my daughter stand by my leg and I hold this little boy in my arms? Will I attempt to hold my daughter on one hip and this little boy on my other hip?

I smile when watching my daughter play — knowing that she will be such a sweet, caring little lady. I imagine her watching her little brother and wanting to help me take care of him. I imagine him smiling up at her, laughing at her little gestures.

Then, I wonder if my daughter will feel misplaced, forgotten, or ignored. I pray that she won’t. I pray that if she does it’s temporary. And I pray that I never get so consumed by bottles, diapers, baby cries, and sleepiness that I forget to love on my daughter too.

I also think about how I’m a full time working mom. Sometimes I allow the guilt to creep in, that perhaps I shouldn’t have a second child when I only have evenings with them, and weekends — but I know that thought only comes from lies from within of insecurities and silly things I’ve heard hinted by people who don’t understand.

I can’t wait to meet this sweet baby boy and have him in our family. I’m both anxious and joyous to think of the changes this will bring to our routine, our life, our experiences, and our family. What a beautiful blessing.

I’m ready for the dinosaurs, trains, swords, and Hot Wheels to mix in with the shopping cart, stuffed animals, gaudy jewelry, and dress up pink hats.

❤ Welcome to the family sweet baby boy. ❤

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Stay-At-Home Mama, Your Job is Invaluable

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Imagine with me a certain work environment:

You work seven days a week. Your boss, Boss B, calls you every morning at unpredictably early hours to wake you up with an urgent task. Once at work, Boss B stands over your desk as you type out his report, but as soon as you are about to finish what took an hour, he slams your computer shut and laughs. Then, he demands he needs it within the next 5 minutes. When you need to use the bathroom, Boss B follows you, listing off all the things he needs from you and recapping what you haven’t done yet. If you don’t pee fast enough, he starts counting, knocking on the door to the loud, demanding cadence of his voice. Oh and your colleagues? They critique you throughout the day, telling you what you could have done better and that they themselves can easily pull it all off. The day comes to a close, and you must drive him home. You must listen to his music on the way home, not yours. And, he never leaves your side. Also, did I mention you have zero sick leave? Notta. Zilch. Sorry my friend.

Sound like an exhausting job? Maybe now you understand the energy it takes to be a stay-at-home mom. It’s a 24/7 job that never ends and goes without breaks. You’re a cook, a psychologist, a maid, a recreational specialist, a teacher, a coach, a cheerleader, a motivational speaker, a nutritionist, a nurse, and at times a pirate or perhaps a firefighter, or even Elsa. Even vacations are with this tiny Boss B, and so is your lunch break. When nap time arrives, you only relax with part of your mind, the other part in expectation of when your child will awake.

In our society, the significance and energy of being stay-at-home mom often gets downplayed. In society that emphasizes name suffixes, awards, resumes, concrete accomplishments with a start and end date, academic and career achievements, we sweep under the rug the abstract: raising a generation how to be compassionate, how to love, how to think, how to serve. Unfortunately, sometimes stay-at-home moms begin to fall for this lie too, to feel they themselves are less valuable than the suit wearing woman, exchanging their computer of honor for a wipe to clean little red bottoms. 

From working mom to stay-at-home mom (or shall I just say from mom to mom), let me tell you, I SEE YOUR VALUE. And your value is unimaginable, and your job is one of the most physically, emotionally, and mentally demanding careers there are – and one of the most rewarding and beautiful.

You are raising generations. And, you are on the clock constantly: You are teaching a child to love unconditionally. You are teaching a child to think deeply. You are teaching a child compassion. You are teaching a child beauty in a world full of hate. And mama, you are raising GENERATIONS – your love will not only affect this little one, but your little one’s teachings will create ripples in the people he or she comes into contact with, and with the children they someday raise. And when you shut yourself in a closet to cry so no one sees, or when you hide in the bathroom to eat that last cookie, I want you to remember this: Your job has immense value, and I see it.

Your career may go unnoticed. Your achievements unrecognized and unnamed. Your paper resume may sit empty. You may be critiqued for every tiny decision you make. You may feel insignificant when you say “I’m a stay at home mom” – but NEVER feel the need to make an excuse as to why you chose this path. And NEVER accept the lie that you don’t contribute to this society simply because you don’t have some official title and business card.

Mama, you are immensely valuable, an unstoppable force of love, selflessness, steadfastness, and compassion. You are the spark that will someday ignite a flame. You are planting the seed that grows and matures into a forest. Never see yourself as less than this. Never.

To the Friend that Only Called When They Needed Something

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I love you.

I’ve heard so many people speak down about your type. The one that’s here for a season for assistance and then gone for a year. The one that only calls to ask a favor, but never calls to say “how are you?”

We all have seasons.

Some seasons are harder than other seasons. Sometimes, you need attention. Sometimes, you need to know you’ve been heard. Sometimes your current backlog of issues are so overwhelming that hearing about someone else’s may make your anxiety and depression crumble you to pieces. Sometimes you don’t have the confidence that you could help anyone, so you don’t ask. Sometimes you haven’t learned reciprocation. Sometimes, you don’t know how to communicate you care. Sometimes, you’re so extremely busy with work and kids and marriage and school that it’s difficult to fit one more thing in for a friend. Sometimes mental illness only allows you to reach out when it’s really bad. And, perhaps you called me because your closest friends wouldn’t listen, or ran from you when things got bad.

Call me.

You may not ask me “How are you?” although I’d love for you to. But, I’ll be here to listen either way. Because someday, that might be me on the other line — too overwhelmed and distracted by life to realize I never asked you how you were doing before I began crying on your shoulder.

You may not stick around for my season of need.

But I’ve learned a lot from you. I’ve learned how to be a listener. I’ve learned how to calm someone down. I’ve learned to be patient with you. I’ve learned that sometimes it doesn’t have to be about me. I’ve learned to say “No” when I can’t help you more. I’ve learned life from your eyes. I’ve learned that when I give you my time, it doesn’t mean I’m owed anything in return. I’ve learned how to love this moment because it means you trusted me enough to call.

Of course, I hope you stick around. I hope you call me just to ask how I’m doing. I hope that you’ll be there in my time of need, but perhaps that season is for another friend. And, that’s okay.

In the meantime, I’ll love you. In the meantime, I won’t demand anything in return. In the meantime, call me anyway.

Lord, bless this mess . . .

 

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Here’s my view from where I’m writing this. There’s Chex on the coffee table (and floor) that my daughter more played with than ate. Books that she emptied off the bookshelf, dolls she strung out, a shopping cart she tipped over, a dirty high chair, her favorite bunny she must cuddle with, and more.

Typically in these moments, I put my daughter down to bed and then rush to tidy the house from the tidal wave of a two-year-old. I stress. I tell Tucker to help. I scrub. I get frustrated. Or, sometimes it relaxes me to place everything back in its perfect order. Sometimes I even fantasize about the times before children, with the house a beautiful serenity of peace, quiet, cleanliness, breakable decorations, and candles. Once everything is in order, I pause and soak in the serenity. Don’t we all? I mean it only lasts for a few hours…

Tonight though, I decided to stop. Sit. Stare. In the middle of the mess and chaos, tonight I see beauty and blessings. I see home. I see a place where my child plays and feels safe and secure. I see carpet that pads my child’s knees when she crawls on the ground pretending to be a cat. I see food left out, meaning my child was able to eat her fill and we were yet blessed with more. I see toys given by thoughtful relatives. Toys from birthday parties and baby showers – where we celebrated life, another year, and family. I see clothing folded in the chair, not yet put away – clean clothes that I am able to wash when needed in the comfort of my own home.

Instead of rushing to sanitize the chaos of life and place it within order, comfort, and control, tonight I pause. This mess means that I have abundance: of safety, of comfort, of entertainment, of food, of procreation, of family, of home. Being able to even HAVE a messy house, or a house to fuss about in general, means we are beyond rich.

And isn’t this just like LIFE? Right when we believe everything is out of order, we’ve lost control, we can’t find our way, we’re drowning in to-dos and should-dos, and we feel there’s no where to go to find peace, the veil is torn away in the middle of the storm to see its strength, beauty, and life giving water.

Lord, help me to see this mess for what it is instead of seeing it as a chore and a fuss. Help me to be able to sit in the chaos and feel warmth and beauty, giving thanks for my home, family, and life — beautiful messy life.

Lord, bless this mess.

Tips for Working Moms: Get the Most Out of Your Pumping Sessions

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Hi Beautiful Mommies!

So you’re back at work, but still wanting to provide for your little bundle at home. I won’t lie, pumping is TOUGH! It’s tough emotionally, physically, and mentally. But, it’s so fulfilling and worth every minute. And, it gets easier, truly. After awhile, it’s just part of your normal routine and schedule. After one year of breastfeeding and working full time, I’ve accumulated a lot of time trying out techniques, gathering tips from other moms, and doing research. And, I’m here to share the best of it with you. You got this mama!!

So, first, The Basics:
Your milk supply works by supply and demand — so the more often you pump, the longer you pump, and the more consistent you are, your milk will adjust to this demand and grow; however, a pump will always pull less milk than your nursing baby, but that’s one disadvantage that we working moms just have to deal with. Don’t be discouraged though! EVERY drop counts. Did you know your milk’s composition adjusts to your baby’s needs as they grow older? Yep. Our body is pretty impressive.

The Tips:
This list is meant to give you the most out of your pumping sessions and keep and (maybe even) increase your supply. Pumping at work can be emotionally and physically draining, but hang in there. You’re surrounded by a community of mommies cheering you on. And your baby will thank you too!

1A GOOD PUMP: Have a high quality pump! Usually your insurance will give you choices of pumps that they will provide for you. I love Medela! I use the Medela Pump in Style Advanced.

2. A GOOD SCHEDULE: Make sure you have a good pumping schedule. Ideally, you want to pump when baby would be feeding. This isn’t always possible with different work environments and babies can nurse as often as every two hours in the first few months! Do what you can, and don’t stress if you can’t keep baby’s schedule perfectly.

3. BOTH SIDES: Pump both sides at the same time if you can. It’s more effective and will save you time. Also, your let down reflex will help jumpstart both sides instead of just one.(You can find hands-free pumping bras at the store. But, if you’re on a budget, get a cheap sports bra and cut small vertical slits in them.) I survived without a pumping bra and ending up pumping one side at a time, needing the other hand to continue working at my makeshift desk. If you can’t do them at the same time, make sure you pump both sides every session.

4. EXTRA ATTENTION: On the side that seems to have less milk, pump first on that side. When the milk stops flowing, switch to the dominate side until emptied, and then return to the side you began on (even if the milk doesn’t come). That being said, both breasts, every time.

5. DONT STOP WITH THE LAST DROP: Pump longer after the milk stops flowing. Sometimes continue pumping up to 5 minutes after — this tells your body that more is needed and eventually your supply will grow. If you stop pumping before the last drop falls, you tell your body that what’s left is not needed, therefore your supply will decrease.

6. CHEST COMPRESSION: Use your hand to squeeze and manipulate your breast while pumping. Often you can stimulate a gland that hasn’t been emptied. (But this shouldn’t be painful!!) Chest compression also can increase the fat content in your milk.

7. SUPPLEMENTS: I love using Gaia Lactation Support or More Milk by Motherlove. These lactation supports pills contain herbs that help you keep and increase your supply. You can also try lactation cookies, lactation teas, as well as specific foods such as oats. Always read the label before taking a supplement!

8. VISUALS, SOUNDS, AND RELAXATION: A mother’s letdown reflex can be triggered simply by a crying baby in a store! Although this can be inconvenient, it’s actually a plus for pumping moms that you can use to your advantage! Different visualizations, sounds, and relaxation techniques can help trigger this reflex. Think about baby nursing on you when pumping — envision it! Look at a picture. Listen to a recording of their coos. Or train that reflex to respond to other stimuli. Do the same activity right before pumping, consistently, to stimulate let down. Drink tea, then pump. Or, drink water, then pump. Do squats, then pump. Stretch, then pump…. something of the like. It’s your way of preparing your body by saying “I’m about to pump!”

9. BREASTFEED, BREASTFEED, BREASTFEED: Breastfeed as much as possible!! On weekends, before work, at lunch, after work, during the night…. (And don’t be discouraged by your baby waking up at night hungry. Breastmilk is digested faster than formula and your baby will need to nurse more often than formula-fed babies, especially during growth spurts!) Learn to love these sleepy night feedings. You will miss them someday! Those moments are sweet and few.

10. BE HEALTHY: Get plenty of food, rest, and keep hydrated! Take care of yourself too, mama.

11. EXTRA PUMP PARTS AND GOOD STORAGE: Buy extra pump parts so you don’t spend a lot of time at work cleaning the parts. If you have a Medela pump, you can buy extra parts straight off their website. Remember to pay attention to how long your milk is good for. Thawed (from completely frozen) milk should be used within 24 hours when kept in the fridge, while refrigerated milk (never frozen) is good for three (ideal) to eight (acceptable) days. Frozen milk however, can stay frozen up to three (ideal) to twelve (acceptable) months. Make sure to use appropriate sterile breastmilk bags for storage and squeeze out as much air as you can from the bag before freezing to keep it fresh. (Lay bag flat to freeze for optimal storage space.) (Check out more guidelines from the La Leche League here: http://www.llli.org/faq/milkstorage.html)

In the end, you may not be able to keep up with baby’s need. But, this is okay!!! Don’t be discouraged!!! ANY breastmilk is better than none — even if you only have time to pump every 4 hours or even only once a day — stick to it.

*Please contact a lactation consultant or perhaps the La Leche League if you have questions or concerns with your supply or breastfeeding. Contact your pediatrician if you’re concerned about your baby’s feeding/nursing habits or health.*

Good luck! And happy breastfeeding! 

That “Crazy” Mom Without a Hobby

Tali,

You’re almost one! And this momma is in tears. I’m crazy about you. For nine months, I rebuilt my life to prepare for yours while you were in my tummy. Mommy and daddy moved twice, changed jobs once, and finally settled in a place we knew you’d be safe. I felt your first wiggles, your first hiccups, and heard your heartbeat. I watched you put on a show for mommy and daddy the first time we saw you on the ultrasound. I wrote about you, dreamed about you, talked about you, and celebrated your new life. You took your time in my belly, pushing me into 42 weeks and I gained over half my original body weight. Baby girl, I couldn’t even roll over in bed then! I was too big! The day you were born I labored for 23 hours. I had the epidural put in twice, was put on oxygen, and had numerous other unexpected complications along the way. I cried when I learned I wouldn’t be able to continue, and we were rushed into surgery for a C section. My body was wrecked, but my love was overflowing. I don’t remember seeing you for the first time; mommy wishes she could remember, but I had so many drugs in my body and was so exhausted my memory didn’t hold on. But I remember holding you in the hospital, I remember your perfect nose, lips, fingers, wiggly toes. I’ve never seen so much beauty in my life. During maternity leave, I couldn’t walk. My body was having a hard time healing. Daddy would get up and bring you to me. I would nurse you and pray over you. Pray over your safety, your happiness, your future, your faith. We went on our first walk a few days after being home. I only made it a block before I doubled over in pain, but we finally made it out of the house together. I loved being home with you. I loved holding you while you slept on my chest. We couldn’t go anywhere or see anyone because you were a little fussy, but I gladly gave up seeing my friends to hold on to you. When I went back to work four weeks later, I cried. I had the smell of you on my shirt, a picture of you in my agenda, and a pump to try to continue to give you nourishment. Every three hours I went to a room at work and pumped because I knew that this was the best way to nourish your body and keep you healthy. For many weeks, I also cried in these moments. I felt like I abandoned you. It felt so wrong to be away from you. I missed you so much. I wanted you with me. You got the flu a few months into your life. I was so scared. Your tiny little helpless body. I didn’t know what hurt, I just tried to hold you, and comfort you as you squirmed and cried, and then cried because you couldn’t breathe because your nose was stuffy. Mommy cried too. Mommy and daddy got the flu too. You kept mommy and daddy up all night and it was hard to function with the flu and no sleep, but we did it together. We saw your first smile, heard your first laugh, saw you roll over, heard your first babbles, saw you first play with toys, saw you first sit up on your own, and held your hand for your first steps. Mommy took so many pictures of you… probably too many. Mommy couldn’t stop telling everyone about your accomplishments. You celebrated your accomplishments too — you would wrinkle your nose, grin, and clap your hands looking from mom to dad for approval. You’re still working on walking though; you’re a little wobbly and you kind of look like you just got off a Merry Go Round, but you’re almost there. Don’t worry, I have plenty of film to show your friends someday. I always thought that my grades, my career, my volunteering were what made me alive, what made me significant, but I never knew this type of love, this type of happiness. YOU are my biggest accomplishment and being a mom my greatest blessing. I don’t want more. In fact, I want less—and more time with you. Of course I posted pictures of you almost everyday! I couldn’t think of greater beauty in the world, and I wanted to share it.

Tali someday you won’t understand why I want to know every detail of your day, why I pray for you every moment I get, why I will cry when someone hurts you, why I will jump with joy for your accomplishments, why you will catch me staring at you when you get all dressed up with bouncy curls, why I will want pictures of you with every new step in your life’s journey, but it’s because although you were born on an early morning in September, you will always be a part of me, you will always be with me. You will always be my better half. My life was perfectly adjusted to fit you in it, and God picked you for me and me for you. Someday, you might know this love too, but in the meantime, I guess I’ll just be a “crazy” mom “without a hobby.” That’s okay though. I’m okay with that. Someday you’ll understand. Until then, I’ll keep taking my photos, writing in the memory book, celebrating with you, weeping with you, and teaching you all I know about life. I love you Tali bug.