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motherhood

Family

How I’m Finding Mom Balance in a Crazy Season

October 11, 2018

The last couple months have been really crazy for our family. I try not to allow our schedule to get too packed during the weeks and weekends – particularly trying to avoid back-to-back weekends when we are away from the kids or traveling for work, or any number of things. And yet somehow our fall ended up much more chaotic than I had hoped or planned.

It started with me traveling to Nantucket for work for five days, followed by a weekend trip up to Minneapolis for myself and Joe, my birthday weekend, and another trip up north for a wedding. Add in Joe’s busy schedule with work and football coaching, the beginning of my busy season with Beautycounter (holiday collections and events!), Ainsley starting preschool and dance, Collins starting music class and trying to have any semblance of a social life. Well, you get the idea. It’s been busy. And I don’t, in any way, like to glorify the pursuit of busy. Because I think our culture’s obsession with being busy is gross. But somehow we’ve found ourselves in a little bit of an unusually fast-paced schedule as we’ve navigated these new roles, responsibilities, and activities.

During the first 2 years I was with Beautycounter and running my freelance business, I didn’t have many reasons to travel outside of the home. My work could nearly all be done from the computer and comfort of my home office or kitchen. But as my team and business has grown, and other opportunities have come my way through blogging and freelancing, I’ve found there are more and more occasions calling me outside of the home and on the road.

I shared about the tension of work and mom life briefly on Instagram stories the other day, and so many of you expressed that you had similar feelings of push and pull, of loving your babies more than life itself and yet feeling called to embrace and pursue opportunities outside of the home, too. I’m SO thankful that my work is so flexible and allows me to be around for preschool drop-off and pick-up most days and putting dinner on the table at 5:30 most evenings for my crew, but I’m also stepping into different roles. The opportunities that sometimes mean I’m not at preschool drop-off and that take-out pizza is the most viable dinner option. Sometimes it means dad puts the girls to bed while I work or travel occasionally.

While I’m certainly still learning the balance for our family and figuring out how to make it all work, there are a few things that I’ve found which seem to ease the crazy seasons and travel for everyone in our family. Here’s what we’re finding works for our family:

  1. Make the Plan Clear
    Since Ainsley was really little she has always felt more secure knowing what the plan is for our day or days to come. We frequently talk about “the plan” for our days together, and it’s especially important when I’m going to be away for any period of time longer than usual. She always does SO well while I’m gone, but I want to make sure that I do my part to make my travels easier on her.

    We talk about who will drop her off and pick her up from preschool, who will be with her at night (dad!) and who will take care of her during the day. Joe usually tells Ainsley how many sleeps it will be until mommy gets back which also seems to help her get a feel for the length of a trip and when she can anticipate mom being gone.

  2. Anticipate Challenges
    It’s always hard for me to leave my crew! Although I’ve found it’s gotten a little easier with more practice and reminding myself why I’m doing what I’m doing. That said, it’s inevitable that there will be challenges, such as lots of tears from Ainsley or that feeling of guilt when I leave or ask Joe to take vacation time for me to be gone. I’m not the type of person who likes to burden others with my needs or ask for special schedules or allowances, so it’s hard for me when I have to do any of those things. But I’m thankful for those around me that push and encourage me when they know how hard it is for me to leave.
  3. Be Intentional
    This is something that I’ve been working on doing a better job of even when I’m not traveling. I’ve realized that it’s so easy to be “with” your kids without really being present, meaning that I’ve found plenty of times when I’m physically around my kids but mentally absent – thinking about my to-do list or checking my phone or just up in my own head. So especially when I have a crazy week or limited time with the girls, I’ve been laser focused on spending time with them in a very intentional and focused way. More play time together, a few extra books at bed, really looking at them and listening to what they are saying, doing less multi-tasking. It helps me to really focus on deep connection when I’m with them and not feel guilty when I’m away or even just off at a coffee shop to work.

This certainly isn’t a comprehensive list, just a few of the big things that come to mind. Of course, I should also add that PLANNING and COMMUNICATING as a family and as a couple is crucial. I’m not necessarily the most organized individual (ha!) but it’s an area I’m working on improving upon out of necessity.

That means very clearly noting who will have the kids when, putting out clothing for school and what Ainsley will bring to show-and-tell while I’m away, and making sure the house is stocked with easy meals, snacks, prepped lunches, etc. While Joe is an exceptionally (emphasis added) capable parent and navigates my absence with such grace, I try my best to make my leave as smooth as possible by being prepared and helping the day-to-day to run well while I’m gone.

Madison

Family

Breathing Room

August 2, 2018


Two weeks ago we put the finishing touches on our backyard patio. Our back yard has been, for lack of a better word, a hot hot mess for the last three years. The highlight was last summer when our already gross and muggy backyard got in-ground wasps that prevented us from going outside for a couple weeks. Yes, I said hot mess didn’t I? We dug it all up and put in a huge backyard patio this summer. Now that our girls are getting a bit more independent and our backyard is put back together, this has been the first season we have really been able to enjoy large chunks of time outside the way I’ve always imagined we would when we first purchased our house.

I snapped a picture of myself, sitting on our outdoor couch and READING A BOOK while my girls played in the playhouse because I wanted – no needed – to document that this day had come. I’ve waited 15 months for our girls to be able to truly play together like this and it’s finally happening. Sure, I’m breaking up fights and squabbles and re-distributing toys every five minutes but there are true, uninterrupted pockets of time that the girls are enjoying the benefit of a sibling relationship and I can catch a minute or two for myself in the course of the day.

The last couple months I fee as if we have finally entered into a new, easier, more enjoyable stage with the girls. Prior to that, I felt like we were in a really difficult stage because Collins wasn’t walking well yet, but was into all the things, crawling everywhere, frustrated she couldn’t walk like Ainsley. I felt as if we continued to try doing fun things only to leave the park or the zoo or the outing totally frustrated by the fact that in theory we were supposed to be having fun but I was feeling frustrated more than anything. And, as with every stage with kids, I reminded myself that if you’re feeling stuck in a not particularly fun stage, just hang around long enough and that, too, will change in the blink of an eye.

The last 15 months have been absolutely crazy with two girls, a rapidly growing business, social and personal commitments and more. I’ll be the first to admit that I probably pushed myself too hard this last year. Thinking back to those days with a two-week-old baby in the Rock and Play next to me while I worked in my office? Well, I don’t regret that one bit, but I also look back and can practically remember how TIRED I felt for months on end. About six months into life with two kids we started to find a rhythm that was more enjoyable and manageable than it had been before; we started to see the sun shining a little more with the flexibility and adaptability that a slightly older baby and older toddler provide.

But it wasn’t until a couple weeks ago that I really felt my body take a big sigh of relief, letting go of tension and exhaustion that I didn’t even know I was carrying with me. As I watched my girls play and giggle in that playhouse, as I let the sun shine on my face and relax while they played, I realized how very tiring the first year with two was for me and how much happier I am to be in this stage right now with these two little girls.

Now that Collins is 15 months old I’ve gotten a good handful of questions about whether/if we plan to have more kids. And I always give the same answer: We hope to some day, but for now I’m just enjoying this stage, this phase, where life feels easier, and more manageable and I have a little bit more breathing room to soak up this stage we are in.

Madison

Family

I’m Thankful for the Hard Weeks

March 21, 2017

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Last week Monday Joe and I had just returned from our trip out to California and I was looking forward to digging into a new week. Fresh off our trip, I had so many good ideas I planned to translate into work and great food finds I wanted to blog about. In my new schedule Mondays are always my at-home days with Ainsley. We go to music class, grab coffee, and do things like run errands, laundry, etc. But Monday morning it became very clear to me that what I thought was a toddler who missed momma was quickly becoming a toddler that was getting really sick really fast.

A day full of cuddles and Curious George gave way to a high fever, irritability and very restless sleep for six days and nights. Of course, we didn’t know that it would last so long at the time, so one day at home with Ainsley for me turned into an entire week, canceled weekend plans and a very tired, emotional and behind on work momma come Saturday. Was it the hardest of the hard? Absolutely not. Was it a really challenging and difficult week? Yes, indeed!

While I’m not eager to have a repeat of last week any time soon, as I found myself reflecting on the week we just had I realized how hard days, weeks and even months give way to such a season of gratitude in my heart. I can, like most people, become easily dissatisfied with the here and how. Sometimes I find myself trudging through a workout or not wanting to do that email follow-up that’s been on my to-do list for a number of days. Or maybe it’s the freelance bookkeeping – admittedly my least favorite part about my job – that I need to reconcile at the end of the month. Sometimes I bring a really crappy attitude to it all when I lose perspective of the gift of work and motherhood and finding a balance between the two.

But this week, with last week still very clear in my mind, I found myself SO eager, thankful and excited to do all the tasks that might otherwise seem mundane. Suddenly doing laundry, making toddler lunch, cleaning up subsequent toddler mess, working through emails and making the bed had an added layer of sparkle. Heck, I was just glad we weren’t watching the same 10 episodes of Curious George over and over! But most of all I was very thankful to have my bright, expressive and even strong-willed toddler back. Seeing her listless and sick for days on end without her usual spark was so incredibly sad; even though I don’t relish the meltdowns and battles of the will that come with this age, I found myself thankful that she was feeling good enough to show off that spunk.

For me, I think one of the best and most difficult parts about motherhood has been that it teaches reliance on God by stripping you of the things you think you need the most. Basic needs like sleep become a rarity and personal space, which for an introvert like me is crucial, can be stripped in an instant. And while it’s important to find rest in the margins of motherhood, God’s grace and sufficiency becomes clear when we don’t have the things we “need” to lean on. (Side note: God’s grace is also very evident in the form of moms who come and spend the weekend with you, organizing your house and doing your laundry…)

I have a feeling that in eight weeks or so, with baby girl is here, I’ll be coming back to read this post and preach to myself as I learn to navigate life with two little ones. 🙂

Madison

Family

seeking, seeing and affirming the best

December 14, 2016

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Let me brag on my husband for a quick second, will you? On Monday I returned from five days away with my mom in NYC. My mom took me as her plus one on a fun work-related trip, so our schedule was predetermined, and I was a little nervous about leaving for five whole days. I’ve gone on weekends away, even four days, but five days away from Ainsley (and five days of solo parenting duty for Joe) was a first.

Now my husband, friends, isn’t one to complain. In fact I would be hard-pressed to think of a time when he did gripe or complain about much of anything. He’s my better half in so many ways. Patient, even-keeled, steadfast, adaptable. Being the parent with the flexible job, I spend quite a bit more time with Ainsley during the weekdays, so I made every effort to prepare for three different drop-offs, pick-ups and meals while I was away. Oh, and did I mention that while I was away Ainsley decided that 5:30 is her new favorite time to wake up for the day.

All things considered, I fully expected to walk into a house Monday night that looked a little messy, maybe a little out of place. My baby was happy and things had gone well while I was away, so that was my primary concern. But the house, you guys, the house! It was spotless. Ainsley was in bed. Laundry had been done and, knowing my need for a bath the second I get home from a trip, the tub had been scrubbed and thoroughly cleaned.

Such a long story, right? But the next day I found myself walking around thinking, mediating on how amazing my husband is. How selfless, skilled and thoughtful he is. How well he parents and how easy he makes it look while I’m away. And I started to realize that more often than I would like to admit, I get stuck in a pattern of picking out the bad, rather than the good, about my spouse. I think we all do, right? Little minor annoyances and things that are done differently than I would have them done. But small thing after small thing becomes what I mediate on, leaving me dissatisfied and hard to please. Not really something I hope to be known for by my husband.

Spending my day thinking about all the things my husband does well we so refreshing. Not that I walk around every day thinking about the things he doesn’t do well, but I felt a shift in thought process. Seeking and seeing the good rather than walking through my day with a perspective of correction and criticism.

This attitude and frame of thinking has so many other applications, of course. Meditating on God and His goodness. Our children and their shining qualities rather than their shortcomings. Difficult relationships in our life. Our relationship with ourselves. I’m sure it will take a little bit of practice on my part, but I hope to become a more affirming and less critical person over time, affirming the good in those around me rather than picking out their shortcomings.

Family

Donut Wednesday

September 10, 2016

AinsleyDonut

This summer Ainsley and I started a tradition called Donut Wednesday. If you follow me over on IG, chances are you’ve seen a few photos of our weekly donut dates, where I take my coffee along with me to the bakery (because the bakery has such bad coffee) and Ainsley orders a sprinkle donut and proceeds to eat all the sprinkles off the top of the donut.

I’m convinced she is my child because she loves sweets just like her momma and has taken to waking at ridiculously early hours, just like her mom.

As Ainsley has gotten older, I’ve been working on being more intentional in my parenting. Slowing down, pointing out the little things, letting Ainsley walk down the street ridiculously slow while she points at every little rock and crack in the ground.

And it’s not the most natural thing in the world to me – doing the same puzzle fifteen times or going to the park for the third time of the day or looking at rocks in the landscaping. Sometimes it feels dull. Sometimes, when Ainsley is having a day and seems dissatisfied with everything, including me, I can let that little voice in my head tell me that I’m just not very good at this motherhood thing.

When I’m at work I consistently feel good at what I’m doing. Sure, I have days where I question things, but figuring out the right words for a freelance article feels easier than negotiating with a toddler who isn’t sure what she wants.

I’ve been thinking a lot about slowing down in all areas of life, working hard at things that don’t come naturally and giving myself grace when it doesn’t come right away. I’ve been reading Present Over Perfect, which came at the perfect time in this season of slowing down.

In the past I’ll be the first to admit that I’ve lacked discipline. I’m a procrastinator by nature, pushing off the hard for what’s fun, easy, and provides instant gratification. But motherhood isn’t about instant gratification. It’s a season of watering the ground, again and again, waiting for the seed to come up. Believing that all the watering, day after day, will eventually yield the fruit you dreamed about when you planted the seed.

And it shows, very little by little. A “thank you” or a random show of affection. When Ainsley puts her toys away on her own or shares a toy with a friend. The glimpses are fleeting at this age, hard to come by for sure. But I’m waiting, being patient and believing that the fruit will come if I continue to water the seed, day after day.

In recent months I’ve been inspired by women who are modeling  intentionality in their posting, their motherhood, how they interact with social media and others. If you’re looking for resources yourself, I’ve listed a few of my favorites below!

Laura Wifler // How Intentional Mornings are Changing My Life 
Shauna Niequist // Present Over Perfect 
Risen Motherhood // Ep. 27 Intentional Motherhood: It’s the Little Things
Design for Mankind // Well Done (every mom needs to read this!)
Food Loves Writing // An Essay on Parenthood, One Year In 

Madison