The Secret to Making Working Mom Life Work

The Secret to Making Working Mom Life Work

After a particularly long and stressful day a few weeks ago, I had an epiphany. It suddenly hit me that I am a working mom. Not a very timely epiphany as my first child is 9 and I worked before and after her birth. But an epiphany, nonetheless.

There are times when navigating a full-time career and managing a household feels incredibly overwhelming. In these dark moments, the questions in my mind arise.

“How can I possibly do everything that needs to be done in a day?”

“Is it selfish to take time for myself?”

“Am I taking anything away from my kids by also having a career?”

“Could I be a better mother if I devoted more time to it?”

“Why am I so hopelessly disorganized?”

These are the moments when I question everything. Maybe these questions have also arisen in your mind?

And although I do consider myself to have perfectionist tendencies, I am a terrible planner. I put very little thought or effort into thinking ahead about certain things. Life has a way of happening and I’ve always emphasized the big decisions while letting the smaller ones go.

But working mom life is tough! So tough that I wonder whether it is possible to excel in one’s career and at home. All while staying hydrated, getting enough sleep, excercising, socializing, and staying sane. Basically doing all the things.

How do you do all the things as a working mom? Are there other moms out there who feel the same way?

It begs the question of how I even got on this crazy path.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Past and Present

Whether or not I should work has never been the question. Even after having kids, I’ve always felt a strong pull to contribute to my family financially. Having been raised on a dairy farm, I learned very early on that work is simply a part of life.

The act of working in and of itself brings me a great deal of satisfaction. But my career path has taken twists and turns that I never expected.

If there’s anything I’ve learned thus far, it’s that life is unexpected and forces you to pivot.

After graduating with a fine arts degree in music, I found myself living in a tiny Wisconsin town. If you know anything about tiny Wisconsin towns, you know that they are basically comprised of bars and churches. Bleak job prospects for a newly graduated music major. And although I did take a position playing Sunday services for a couple of area churches, I didn’t make nearly enough to support myself.

You may also enjoy reading Stop Caring What “They” Think.

I needed a new plan.

Luckily, I had completed a certified nursing assistant (CNA) course in college and decided to apply for a position at a local nursing home. This one decision launched an entirely different type of career path than I had ever considered before.

A path which would eventually lead from CNA in a nursing home to nurse practitioner for people residing in a nursing home. Throw a marriage, a daughter, divorce, a second marriage, and two sons into the mix and here we are today.

But until recently, I had never sat down to think about HOW one goes about managing a career and family. What does this actually look like and can the two be meshed together in some type of cohesive way?

Career and Family

All great questions. My working mom epiphany was starting to lead me down a path of discovery. And so I did what I usually do whenever I have a curious thought which won’t go away. I looked for a book which could help me better understand this concept of working while raising a family.

The book I found was a collection of individual stories of women who work and also have children. Stories of women who climbed the corporate ladder and those who ultimately chose to adjust their careers around their home life. Women juggling PTO, sick days, vacation, and wardrobe malfunctions all in the name of excelling at work and at home.

An entire book all about the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a working mom.

And to be honest, the book was initially a letdown.

I didn’t need some book to tell me that mom guilt about being at work versus at my daughter’s school event is real. Or that a morning routine (or lack thereof) can make or break your day. I truly wasn’t looking for a story about another woman’s husband chipping in at home so she could work.

It was answers I was after. Answers about how to manage the overwhelming chaos of working mom life. Easy-to-follow checklists for taming the daily disarray. Hints about fitting self-care into a tumultuous schedule. Encouragement that yes, things will in fact get better.

Stories are nice but they aren’t answers.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m super happy that Susan’s husband vacuums and scrubs the toilets. But how did she get him to take on these tasks?

And congratulations to Lindsay on cutting back to part-time hours! But what about the options if your family’s economic stability depends upon your full-time hours?

It’s amazing that Cheryl was able to negotiate her employer into allowing her some time to work-from-home. But how is this story beneficial when your career is not amenable to working from home?

I was beginning to think that there simply were no answers to the questions I was asking.

More Questions Than Answers

Despite my initial disappointment in the book’s inability to answer my questions, I kept reading it. Mostly because I was 50 pages in at that point and already invested.

After all, it was possible that the answers I was looking for were in the very last chapter. Or in some type of bonus chapter. It was also entirely possible that the secret to managing my working mom life was in an exclusive online book resource.

I had to keep reading to make sure I wasn’t missing out on anything that all the other working moms somehow knew. Working mom life would be much easier if there was a secret to making it all balance. If not a secret, then maybe a magical fairy or elf.

Picture this. It’s been a long day at work, you’re tired, and your toddler screams all the way home from day care. And then continues screaming because you won’t let him lick the soap dispenser at home. His older brother, slighted because you asked how his day went, quickly joins in the screaming. Just to top it all off, their older sister starts yelling because she is annoyed at the screaming of the other two.

You’ve been there before too, right?

In this moment, wouldn’t it be great if you could tap into some deep well of knowledge? In fact, wouldn’t it be great if you could suddenly feel calm, cool, and collected about all areas of your working and home life? If you could simply let the stress of the work day melt away amidst the screaming tantrums of your kids.

Admit how great it would feel if you could drop the constant feelings of competition between work and home. The feeling that because you work, you’re somehow dropping the ball at home. Or the feeling that because you take time off to care for a sick child, you’re slacking off at work. And on and on and on.

Although I didn’t realize it at the time, I was looking for reassurance. Reassurance that I wasn’t the only one feeling the constant conflict between work and home life. I needed to hear that I wasn’t the only one with more questions than answers.

The Working Mom Secret

It wasn’t until I was almost through with the book that it suddenly hit me.

I wasn’t the only one questioning how to make it all work! There was no magical “one size fits all” answer for achieving balance in your working mom life.

And do you know what else I learned?

There are forces beyond my control influencing my thoughts, feelings, and responses to “balancing” working mom life. Forces contributing to my feelings of overwhelm and constant questioning.

These forces run deep. Some are rooted in society’s expectations about male and female roles both inside and outside the home. Others stem from the influences of social media and comparison. Still others are deeply personal and come from your own expectations of who you ARE versus who you SHOULD be.

And let’s not forget the expectations of your spouse, friends, family, and coworkers. The unsolicited advice about how to learn more, be more, and do more. Advice on how to make all the bits and pieces of your life come together into a pretty picture.

In short, working moms are struggling against a plethora of outside forces. This struggle only sets us up for more and more questions.

Unless we stop and consider what is truly driving our feelings, emotions, and actions, we will never come to a better understanding of the issue.

And how does one come to a better understanding of an issue?

By asking questions, seeking out information, and sifting through one’s deepest underlying thoughts and beliefs.

The secret to a better understanding of working mom life is to ask more questions.

I know this may not be the answer you were hoping for. Believe me, I completely understand your frustration in now having more questions than answers.

But at the end of the day, working moms all have completely different hopes, dreams, and goals.

We are all individuals. Each of us has a unique perspective to contribute.

What’s Your Perspective?

By this point, you’re probably asking yourself, “Ok, great. But now what? How can I apply this in my own life?”

You can start by ditching the concept of “balancing” home and work lives. The word “balance” means equilibrium. Equality between two separate entities.

In working mom life, there is NO. SUCH. THING. as balance.

Life is unexpected. You will constantly need to make tough choices. Choices which result in favoring one thing over another.

This is just the nature of life. Accept that there will be times when you need to choose family over work. And vice versa. It’s ok.

Know that all working moms wrestle with these questions. If not these same exact questions, then eerily similar ones.

None of us really knows what we’re doing. We’re all just doing the very best we can with what we have. Approach each new day with the faith that you are making progress. Forgive yourself.

Talk with other working moms who may be going through the same struggles as you. Working moms are a community of incredibly strong, resourceful, and resilient women. We absolutely need to avoid tearing each other down but rather stick together!

And stay curious. If you’re struggling, look for resources. In today’s world, there is an abundance of information out there. Don’t keep yourself in the darkness of overwhelm when all you need to do is simply reach out and turn on the light switch.

Keep asking questions until you find the answers you’re looking for! Or at least until you get to the questions which get you to the root of your hang-up.

If you’re looking for a starting point, check out the book which inspired today’s post here. This book triggered so much emotionally for me and inspired my belief that the answer to this issue is complex and actually lies in the questions.

If a podcast is more your style, check out one of my personal favs below!

  • Do It Scared with Ruth Soukup
  • The Confidence Podcast with Trish Blackwell
  • Rise Podcast with Rachel Hollis

And always remember that you’re not on this journey alone. Life with kids requires a complete transformation. You cannot live the same way you did before having kids. And my guess is that you wouldn’t want to. Kids add an element of fulfillment unmatched by anything else!

And now it’s your turn. What are your current challenges, questions, and stresses? Where do you find yourself constantly getting hung up? What are the forces beyond your control which are currently impacting you in a big way? I’d love to hear your thoughts on all of this and more below!

Rekindle the Romance in Your Marriage

Rekindle the Romance in Your Marriage

Christmas is done, the new year is upon us, and Valentine’s Day is right around the corner. My husband and I have been married for over 6 years now and take a very laid back approach to the day. Marriage comes with its own set of trials and tribulations and we’ve certainly had our fair share since we said “I do.” A mortgage payment, several job changes, graduate school, and three children all in 6 years is enough to exhaust anyone. The truth is that a healthy marriage requires effort and at a certain point, figuring out how to rekindle the romance becomes crucial.

Daily life is stressful and has a tendency to blur out memories of the person you initially fell in love with. I remember a time when I couldn’t wait to get a text or call from my husband. Flash forward to last week when feelings of intense annoyance bubbled to the surface after he called and asked me to stop at the gas station after work. The nerve! He might as well have asked for my left kidney. I would have rather given him an organ than stop anywhere after a long day at work.

And yet, there was a time when I had butterflies at the mere thought of him. A time before the accumulating daily stress of work and managing a household. That brief moment in time when we could do no wrong in the eyes of the other.

After 6 years of marriage, is it possible to get back to that place?

My belief is that love grows and evolves over time. You’re not the same person you were when you first met and fell in love. Your relationship has been strained and tested in 1,000 different ways and yet, your love remains. You’ve seen your spouse both at their best and at their worst. Through it all, you continue going to sleep and waking up next to them each day. Although it’s easy to lose sight of the beginning, those early days laid the foundation for where you are now.

Take advantage of the birthdays, anniversaries (even the cheesy Hallmark holidays!) to remember where you came from and where you are now. Strengthen the bond with your spouse and deepen the love you share for each other. It is in this spirit I give you ways to rekindle the romance with your spouse.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Conversation is Key

In my house, there are a bazillion barriers to having an actual adult conversation. Kids, sports, and a general sense of chaos unfortunately tend to distract from meaningful communication. Conversation where each person is totally invested in what the other person is saying. The type of conversation where you are looking each other in the eye.

Exactly the opposite of the conversation where you are simultaneously watching television and breaking up fights between kids.

In thinking back to the early days of our relationship, it is the 100% focused attention during conversation that I miss most.

I’m going to put this out there and you can decide whether or not you agree. Electronics and a constant sense of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) are at least partially to blame for the pathetic state of our conversational skills. Thanks to technology, we’re constantly plugged in to what’s happening online.

Gone are the days when it took 10+ minutes to boot up the ol’ Mac and wait for the internet dial-in to check Facebook or respond to email. I believe that if we still had to sit and listen to the modem dialing in each time we wouldn’t care as much about the online world. But alas, technology has sophisticated EVERYTHING and we’re now only a fingerprint and swipe away from the latest sports stat or profile update. We are at the beck and call of that tiny device we can’t imagine living our lives without.

So … what can we do to get back to 100% focused conversation?

Commit to setting aside time either on a daily or a weekly basis to spend in conversation with your spouse. Turn your phone off and keep the laptop shut. Spend some time truly focusing on what your spouse is saying. Get into their world. Channel yourself back to that time when your spouse was the most fascinating person in your world.

And if you find yourself struggling to focus, check out this book which changed my entire outlook on distraction. It’s a game-changer!

Focus on the Positive

After the excitement of the wedding and honeymoon wears off, real life can begin to take its toll. Regardless of whether you lived together before marriage, chances are good that your spouse will have aggravating habits. Maybe they constantly leave every light in the house on when they walk out the door in the morning. Or perhaps they leave their clothes on the floor, inches from the laundry basket. Maybe you’ve even found yourself hitched to the ultimate sports fan, watcher of every sport EVER.

Whatever it is … your spouse will get on your nerves at some point.

It’s so easy to give in to the negativity and fixate on their most irritating quirks. But focusing on the negative does nothing beyond driving a mental wedge between you. Negative thoughts when left unchecked can quickly spiral out of control. What starts out as a minor irritation can morph into darker and more destructive thoughts. Similar to a cloudy day, negative clouds begin to obscure the sunny aspects of your marriage.

Instead of dwelling on your spouse’s annoying habits, look for the positive in the situation. Any challenge can inspire personal growth when handled with a positive mindset. Use your energy to instead actively seek out the positive. In many cases, the flip side of the irritating trait may have been what attracted you to the person in the first place. Maybe their complete lack of awareness regarding home energy usage comes from a laid back personality. And maybe this personality perfectly complements your incredibly intense type A personality.

If you’re really challenged to find the positive, it’s time to step away from all the daily stress. Planning a weekend get-away or even a date night 100% without responsibility can do wonders to rekindle the romance! With Valentine’s Day right around the corner, you have a perfect excuse to plan a romantic getaway!

Give of Yourself

Marriage is full of ruts. Our brains love routine and settling down into daily life with someone else is full of them! Despite sharing a life with someone, there can be a tendency to get absorbed into your own world. This is especially true if there hasn’t been intention toward creating deeper intimacy through conversation, time together, and other activities (you fill in the blanks here!).

It’s easy to forget about the needs and desires of your spouse amidst the daily demands placed upon your time and energy.

Everyone feels love in slightly different ways. We may think that we are showing our spouse love by cooking their favorite meal or showering them with gifts. In actuality, they may simply need to hear those three little words.

What can you do to rekindle the romance through giving of yourself?

Read this book. Have a conversation with your spouse. Figure out how each of you feels the expression of love and be intentional with acting it out. It doesn’t need to be anything extravagant because even something small done with love can be powerful.

Another way this can be acted out is by simply asking your spouse how you can help them today. After hearing their response, go do that thing. Their answer may or may not surprise you but either way, you are filling their cup.

And if you need help getting out of your routine, check out this post for tips on ideas easily adapted for couples.

Fill Your Own Cup

Up until a few years ago, I was terrible at filling my own cup. I went through all the motions of home life and work but always felt something was missing. Anxiety and depression were constant companions. It was tough to give much of anything to anyone because of my constant internal struggle.

And then one day, I got mono. Getting mono in and of itself was not especially noteworthy. Mono is fairly common and most people get it at some point in their lives. The eye-opening part for me is that although mono is typically accompanied by bone-crushing fatigue, this symptom didn’t prompt my urgent care visit.

I was living in a such a state of constant fatigue that getting mono wasn’t even a blip on my radar. Did I really want this to be the state of my life?

The short answer is no.

And so I began to take a tough look at my daily habits. I had no sleep pattern, my diet was all over the place, and I was exercising excessively. My schedule was too full to pursue anything I was passionate about and my job was sucking any remaining life out of me.

It’s no wonder I was constantly fatigued, anxious, and depressed!

It’s true in marriage as it is in life itself that you must fill your cup first. You absolutely have to apply the oxygen mask before you help anyone else with theirs. If you don’t, there will be nothing to give. This is especially true if you also have children because there are even more demands placed upon your time and energy.

Although it may seem somewhat counterintuitive, you can’t rekindle the romance until you pay attention to your own self-care.

Curious about how I turned my sleep situation around? Check out How to Get Better Sleep Tonight.

Get Into Their World

Is there anything better than sharing an activity you love with someone? Whether it’s running, a concert, or cooking, the joy is always greater when the memory is shared. This is especially true when the person you’re sharing with is your spouse. And doubly so if you involve yourself in something they’re crazy about.

I have to confess that this is an area I’m not great at.

My husband is a sports fanatic. He knows every obscure sports stat there is to know about basketball, football, golf, and baseball. Whether it’s spring, summer, fall, or winter, he has some type of sport that he obsessively follows.

One of our running jokes is that despite his passion for all things sports, he couldn’t have married someone less interested in sports. The minute a game comes on, my brain checks out. I never played sports growing up and have zero interest in now watching others do so. I’ve actually walked out of multiple live sporting events having no clue who won.

But my husband has made it clear that he would love nothing more than for me to express some enthusiasm for his favorite teams. For him, the way to rekindle the romance is for me to cheer on the Timberwolves. It makes him incredibly happy when I sit down and watch with him. Even more so because he knows that I’m doing it for him.

There is an element of self-sacrifice when involving oneself in a spouse’s interest. It makes the act infinitely more meaningful and speaks volumes about your love.

Find the Humor

Life is no fun when taken too seriously. Marriage, work, kids, and running a household are stressful! Even in the best of circumstances, you will have days when you just want to sit down and cry. There can be a tendency to take the negative out on those around you instead of finding other ways to defuse.

Assuming your self-care is where it needs to be, laughter is a great way to boost your mood. As with most things, laughter is always better together!

So whether it’s a funny movie, recounting the humorous event which unfolded today at work, or a meme which had you laughing for days, share a laugh! You’ll never regret time spent laughing, joking, and having fun with your spouse. Look for ways to incorporate laughing and joy into your marriage to rekindle the romance.

It’s Your Turn to Rekindle the Romance

I hope this post has inspired you to look for ways to rekindle the romance with your spouse! Marriage is a marathon filled with hills and valleys. Always remember that your spouse is your partner; they’re on your team. Sometimes all it takes to rekindle the romance is shaking things up and getting out of your comfort zone. At other times, laughter is simply the best medicine. Whatever your marriage needs, take advantage of this upcoming Valentine’s Day to rekindle the romance!

Don’t forget to drop a comment below about how you plan to rekindle the romance with your spouse!

Get Better Sleep Tonight with These 17 Tips

Get Better Sleep Tonight with These 17 Tips

When was the last time you woke up feeling refreshed and ready for the day? If you’re a mom, I’m willing to bet it was probably sometime before your first pregnancy. My own struggles with sleep started during my first pregnancy 9 years ago. The constant daytime sleepiness actually progressed to a point a couple of years ago when I was convinced I had a sleep disorder. It was at this point when I started getting serious about how to get better sleep at night.

A sleep disorder seemed the only logical explanation for why I dozed off minutes after sitting or even a few times while standing. The sleepiness I experienced on a daily basis was excruciating. All I wanted to do in any given moment was lie down and take a nap.

Testing for the particular sleep disorder I was absolutely certain was to blame for my daytime sleepiness involves an overnight in a sleep lab. The test continues with a series of timed naps the following day. And then the waiting for test interpretation by neurology. It seemed to take forever to finally get the answer I was waiting for.

The call came in the middle of one of my graduate nursing classes one day. I quietly stepped out and listened as the nurse told me that I in fact did not have a sleep disorder. Everything was perfectly normal. Great news, right?

Wrong. I was devastated by the news. Although it sounds terrible, I desperately wanted something to blame for how awful I felt on a daily basis. I was looking for an easy, cut and dried solution to my sleep deprived existence and this was definitely not it!

The nurse asked whether I had any questions and fueled by the injustice and hopelessness of it all, I immediately demanded an appointment with the neurologist. Surely, there had been some type of mistake. An honest, human error perhaps. Or maybe my results were actually borderline. Either way, I would get to the bottom of this.

Finally the day of my appointment arrived. At that point in time, I was still honestly expecting some type of explanation or retraction of normal results from the neurologist. I desperately wanted to feel like a normal person again. Instead, I felt like some type of demented zombie, aimlessly wandering the earth looking for its next meal. In fact, “painfully tired” was the word I would use to describe my daily existence.

After what seemed like an eternity, the neurogist entered the room. He brought up my test interpretation and described the perfectly normal results. A fact that was tough to dispute in the face of graphs and pie charts. There was clearly nothing borderline here. Still desperate for some relief, I asked for his best advice on how to combat my constant fatigue.

We spent the next 15 minutes discussing a variety of contributors to my constant sleepiness. Below are a series of questions based upon this conversation. Take a few minutes to answer these questions for yourself and you will discover areas where you can improve to get better sleep at night.

Using Routine to Get Better Sleep

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

1) Do you stick to a regular sleep schedule even on the weekends? Going to bed and waking up at the same time each day sets up a strong routine. It sends a message to your body that this is either a time to sleep or a time to be awake. No more in between times of dozing off during the day or nighttime sleeplessness.

Setting up a regular sleep routine is also incredibly beneficial for your kids! Instilling these skills in them while they are young ensures better sleep habits as they grow older.

If you have an infant, establishing a sleep routine at this point in your parenting journey may not be a feasible option. If this is you, I can completely relate! None of my 3 children actually slept through an entire night until they were at least a year. I felt as if this stage would last forever! Try to be patient … your little one will be sleeping through the night before you know it!

2) Do you nap during the day? Napping disrupts your body’s natural rhythm and can actually make it tougher to sleep at night. It may seem counterintuitive but try to avoid daytime napping if possible.

Although it’s best to avoid napping altogether, there are two major rules to follow if you absolutely must take a nap. The first involves the amount of time you should spend napping. Limit the nap to between 15 and 20 minutes. It may not seem like enough time but it’s actually the perfect amount of time for a mid-day recharge.

The second rule is to get the short nap in before 2 in the afternoon. Any later than 2 and you risk not being sleepy enough when bedtime rolls around. If you are used to taking long weekend naps, it may take a bit to incorporate these rules. But I promise that if you follow through, it will allow you to get better sleep at night!

3) Are you getting regular aerobic exercise? Exercise triggers the release of adrenaline among other hormones which in turn promotes wakefulness. This means that although you should aim for at least 30 minutes of exercise on most days, aim for earlier in the day. When performed too close to bed, the hormones produced by exercise can interfere with your body’s ability to wind down and fall asleep.

Getting regular exercise has been a game-changer for me! I have found that I sleep much deeper on days when I get my run in. Although it can be tough to get up early enough to hit the gym, knowing that I’ll sleep better that night is often the only motivation required.

You may also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

4) Do you have a regular bedtime relaxation routine? Consider activities such as journaling with a gratitude practice, a warm bath, reading (an actual book, not a tablet), yoga, or gentle stretching. Meditation can also help to clear your mind of distraction.

Developing a regular bedtime routine with activities designed for relaxation sends a message to your brain that it’s time to wind down. Set a daily alarm on your phone to signal you that it’s time to shut down and get into bedtime mode. This tip is also extremely beneficial for kids. My weeknights go incredibly fast and I have found that if I don’t set an alarm, the night gets away from me. Before I know it, the clock hits 9:30 p.m. and the kids are still awake. Yikes … the perfect recipe for a cranky morning!

5) Are you getting outside during the day? Exposure to sunlight early in the day alerts your body that it’s time to wake up. If possible, go for a run or walk outside early in the day to easily incorporate both tips into your daily routine. Gradually decreasing your exposure to bright light, including artificial lighting, as the day progresses encourages your body’s natural sleep rhythms to activate. Incorporate this tip into your bedtime routine by dimming the lights in your house in the hour or so prior to bed.

Environmental Changes

6) Do you keep your bedroom temperature cool? Ideally, this temperature should be between 68-70 degrees to promote more restful sleep. Studies have shown that keeping a cooler temperature at night minimizes unnecessary awakenings due to being excessively warm.

7) Do you spend time on your phone or watching television right before bed? Screens from cell phones, televisions, and other electronics emit a blue light which interferes with your body’s natural sleep hormone production. The light interferes by sending a message to your body to wake up instead of to wind down.

Consider incorporating this tip into your bedtime routine to get better sleep at night. If possible, sleep in a completely different room than your phone to avoid being mindlessly pulled in to using it. Social media is designed to suck you right in and significantly contributes to anxiety, depression, and feelings of overwhelm. Even aside from the biological impact of the blue light on sleep hormones, the stress caused by social media in itself is enough to interfere with sleep. If you are interested in learning more about how to stop the mindless scrolling, check out this book.

You may also enjoy reading Mom Guilt.

8) Is your bedroom a dark, quiet and peaceful atmosphere which invites you to fall gently asleep at night? Excessive light can cause you to wake frequently at night. Pets and kids should optimally be out of your bed to promote your best sleep. Although I am currently struggling with the kid situation, I do aspire to have all 3 children in their own room at some point.

Unfortunately after years of being a mom I sleep very lightly and easily awaken to even the quietest of noises. Psychologically I always feel the need to be alert to attend to the needs of my kids even though they are well past the stage where they can’t tell me what they need. I have found that periodically giving the responsibility of listening for the kids at night to my husband is helpful in releasing the psychological burden and getting better sleep at night. Sleeping in a completely different room is also helpful in achieving better sleep at night.

Food and Drink Modifications to Get Better Sleep

9) Are you consuming caffeine within a few hours of bedtime? If so, consider reducing or stopping intake altogether at least 4-6 hours before bedtime. Caffeine hides in a variety of foods and drinks but can seriously impair sleep quality. If you are struggling with either falling or staying asleep, carefully examine your afternoon and evening intakes for caffeine.

10) Do you generally eat supper right before bedtime? The work involved in digesting fatty or spicy foods is enough to keep you wide awake at night. Not to mention the risk you run of acid reflux if you lie down too soon after eating. I have found that eating heavy meals right before bed also results in crazy dreams!

If possible, try to have your evening meal in the late afternoon. If you find that you need a snack before bed, focus on lighter foods. Eating foods with dairy and protein can help promote a restful night of sleep. Examples include yogurt, cheese or half a turkey sandwich on whole wheat bread. Avoid foods with lots of sugar because when your body’s blood sugar level drops later on in the night, your sleep will be interrupted.

11) Is your sleep interrupted by getting up to use the bathroom at night? You may consider stopping fluid intake a couple of hours prior to bed to reduce the need to interrupt your sleep at night. Although alcohol can initially make you sleepy, it interferes with your ability to stay asleep all night long. When you want to get better sleep at night, avoid alcohol altogether before bedtime.

Positioning Matters

12) Do you generally wake up with back and/or neck pain? After my third pregnancy, I began noticing that I was consistently waking up with lower back pain. It was also at that time when I began attending physical therapy to get my abdominal muscles back. My therapist recommended that I sleep with a pillow between my legs to provide better low back support. I have slept with a pillow between my legs since that time and have not once woken up with lower back pain. It’s an incredibly easy fix which gets your day off to a much better start!

13) When was the last time you replaced your pillow or even your mattress? If you are consistently waking up with headaches or generalized discomfort, your pillows and/or mattress may be to blame. These items are not designed to last forever and do wear out with time. Although a new matress is a financial investment, the return will be improved alertness and productivity during the day.

Still Can’t Sleep? Try This.

14) What is your next move when you don’t fall asleep within 5-10 minutes of lying down? Do you continue to lie in bed, thinking about how late it is and how tired you will be the next day? Or do you turn to your phone or late night television? Hopefully you don’t do either of the last two options after reading #7 above! Your best bet is to actually get up and do a quiet activity until you feel sleepy once again. You may consider keeping a notebook and pen next to your bed for those times when your mind is racing. The act of transforming your thoughts to black and white on the page can be extremely liberating.

Another option is to read a book. Lastly, consider meditation or an app designed to help you fall asleep. Although I have not personally tried the app option, I have had several people tell me that listening to a monotonous voice reading a dull description of landscape is quite soothing. I will have to keep you posted on this option the next time I am looking for assistance on getting to sleep!

15) Do you take any type of medication to help you sleep at night? Even certain types of over-the-counter medications can have a rebound effect and actually make it more difficult to sleep after a period of time. Sleep medications can also be extremely habit-forming and may create issues for you down the road. Consult your primary care provider for advice on using medication for sleep as they are able to provide a treatment plan individualized for you.

Time to See a Professional

16) Have you considered counseling for management of underlying anxiety and/or depression? The stress of being a mom is real regardless of your individual situation. If stress continues to run rampant in your life, your sleep will be negatively impacted. In many cases, anxiety or depression left unmanaged significantly contributes to poor sleep, zaps your energy, and leaves you feeling fatigued during the day. Either one can make falling or staying asleep challenging. Counselors can help you sort out your feelings by providing non-biased perspective on your individual situation. If you find your racing thoughts and negative feelings are keeping you awake, please seek assistance in this area!

17) Have you tried all of the above and are still waking up exhausted? Then it’s time to see your primary care provider. This is especially true if you’ve been told that you snore or have trouble staying awake during the day despite adequate sleep at night. You may have a sleep disorder and left untreated, sleep disorders can contribute to high blood pressure, depression, and other significant health concerns. But with treatment, sleep disorders can be managed and you can start to feel more rested and productive during the day.

I sincerely hope you have found helpful advice within this post! Discovering how to get better sleep at night is an invaluable part of your overall health and wellbeing. Each of the above tips has contributed to my own journey toward feeling more rested during the day. Although there are areas that I continue to work on, my sleep quality has dramatically improved.

Now it’s your turn! Please let me know which of the above tips were most helpful for you in the comment section below. Are there areas which are particularly challenging for you? Also, does anyone know how to get a 3-year-old to sleep in their own room??? Any helpful advice on this topic would be greatly appreciated!

Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

Mom guilt has haunted me since I first became a mom 9 years ago.  My daughter made her appearance mid-semester of an intense nursing program.  I had been nervous about the impending birth since the positive pregnancy test.  It wasn’t necessarily the birth itself I feared, it was not graduating from the program.  Nursing programs have strict attendance policies (for good reason!) and I was terrified that I would miss time and be forced to drop out.  To make matters worse, I lived an hour away from the school I was attending.  This meant two hours tacked onto each class or clinical day.  Two hours of essentially non-productive time spent away from my daughter.

Mom guilt, fueled by a lack of sleep, school stress, and the pressures of adjusting to being a mom, elevated daily.  I had been driven to build this career long before her birth but it now seemed a selfish use of my time.  Wouldn’t she be better off with me constantly tending to her every need?  How many moments with her would I miss while learning to care for complete strangers?  What was the point of putting myself through the torture of the commute, school, and clinicals?  Would it really pay off in the end?

Mom guilt is real and crippling.  It is an insidious negativity which clouds your thinking and steals your joy.  For many moms, guilt is at the root of anxiety, feelings of overwhelm, and depression.  Even worse, feelings of guilt can drive behaviors such as addiction and perfectionism in an attempt to relieve the discomfort they cause.  But what causes mom guilt?  And more importantly, what can you do about it?  This post explores both topics and gives you actionable steps to take in healing from mom guilt.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Cause #1: Role Juggling

Wife, mom, employee, chief cook, home organizer, family coordinator and the list goes on.  And on and on and on … indefinitely.  Moms today juggle SO MANY ROLES.  Each role comes with its own set of responsibilities and challenges.  There’s simply no way to give your all within each individual role without impacting the others.  Conflict between the roles is inevitable. 

And then there are the expectations.  Everyone has an opinion about expectations related to the various roles you hold.  Your employer expects you to produce quality work.  Maybe your husband expects you to cook supper every night.  And your children expect help with their homework every night. 

You might also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

You also have expectations of yourself.  Expectations which hold your performance in all these roles to a certain standard.  The expectations you have for yourself can be heavily impacted by the expectations of others.  And in many cases, all these expectations are not rooted in reality and are completely unattainable.  The gap between expectation and reality is only worsened by the next cause, social media.

Cause #2: Social Media

Take a minute to look through your favorite social media feed.  Chances are, you will see flawless selfies, free of blemishes or wardrobe malfunctions.  Smiling kids and laughing babies.  Married couples smiling as they enjoy yet another date night free from conflict and petty arguments.  In short, you will see perfection.

But social media is not reality.  Behind those photos are filters, fighting kids, and the same expectation conflict you face on a daily basis.  We are all waging the same war between who we are and who we think we should be.  It’s just that this side of ourselves is often conflicted and not as pretty as any of our other sides.  This side never gets posted.

The constant exposure to everyone else’s “perfection” adds to the already unrealistic expectations you hold for yourself.  If left unresolved, all this pressure eventually leads to guilt.  It seems as if everywhere you look, moms are crushing it.  They’re packing organic lunches, volunteering for field trips, and taking strong positions against screen time for their kids.  Their home-based businesses are thriving and they’re vacationing multiple times a year.  Meanwhile, you’re left trying to remember whether you washed your hair this morning and arriving late to work.  AGAIN.  Social media leads directly into the next cause, comparison.

Cause #3: Comparison

Seeing perfection wherever you turn naturally leads you to stop and examine your own life. And let’s face it … being a mom is hard! It’s not as if we are magically handed parenting instructions at the birth of our babies. I had never even changed a diaper prior to the birth of my daughter. There were so many aspects of being a new mom that I felt completely unprepared to face. Not to mention the fact that all of those personal struggles you feel which are totally separate from being a mom are still there. You’ve now just added more uncertainty to the existing pile.

You might also enjoy reading 4 Steps to Ditching the Comparison Mindset.

Uncertainty piles on top of uncertainty and you soon find it difficult to be sure of anything anymore. Influenced by the expectations, opinions, and false perfection of all the other moms out there, you begin to question EVERYTHING. Your choice to continue working, how your kids spend their free time, your relationship with your spouse, and even your ability to take time for yourself.

Given the influences of social media and the comparison factor, it’s no wonder mom guilt is such a pervasive issue today. But what can you do about it?

Mom Guilt Solution #1: Self-Care

The first step in kicking mom guilt to the curb is self-care. You NEED to make time for yourself. I know what you’re thinking. Your schedule is packed as it is. If you’re anything like me, your plate is already brimming with tasks from the break of dawn through well after dark. How can you possibly add something else to the mix?

I get it. Your gigantic “to-do” list seems way more pressing than taking an hour out of your day to workout. Work was crazy busy today and you’re exhausted. The kids need help with homework and dinner is in an hour. Taking time for you feels selfish in the face of all that needs to be done. Will taking time out for you really make a difference?

Absolutely! Taking time out for yourself on a daily basis will change your outlook. It will boost your mood, give you confidence, and improve your ability to deal with stress. Taking the time you need reminds you of the person you are deep down inside. It revives the woman you were before anyone called you “mom.”

Although the concepts are the same, self-care looks a little bit different for everyone. We all benefit from a relatively balanced diet, regular exercise, and adequate sleep at night. But the piece that really sparks life and meaning for me is following my passions. Remembering to include time for activities which are meaningful to me makes me a better mom. When I have time to pursue these pastimes, I am calmer, more self-assured, and can face the stress of the day. In fact, identifying meaning in what you do is so important that it’s the next solution for combatting mom guilt.

Mom Guilt Solution #2: Find the Meaning

Our tendency to juggle so much as moms leads us to hone in on only those aspects of a situation which need to be fixed. If we focused on every single detail of every situation, our minds would explode. Although our brains like the automation, focusing on the negative naturally tends to block out the positive. After awhile, this can impact your entire mindset.

But there are simple ways to flip the guilt into useful energy. The first is by becoming aware of your thoughts. Often mom guilt manifests itself as intensely vague feelings disguised as anxiety, fatigue, feelings of overwhelm, and depressed mood. It’s only when you take the time to clearly identify and work through these feelings that you can begin to heal.

Journaling can be incredibly helpful in getting the vague thoughts and negative feelings out of your head. The act of writing them on paper and seeing them in black and white adds a dose of reality that attempting to process in your head simply can’t. Incorporating a daily practice of journaling either right away in the morning or before bed allows your brain to release the negativity.

Journaling can also help you to begin identifying negative thought patterns, themes, and triggers. After seeing your thoughts on the page, look for the influences of comparison and unrealistic expectations. At this point, ask yourself whether there is any truth behind the source of guilt. Once you’ve identified the answer, flip it to the positive. Here’s an example illustrating the technique.

After my daughter was born, I struggled with the decision to continue the pursuit of nursing. It felt selfish and caused intensely negative feelings which clouded all my thoughts and significantly impacted my joy. I fixated on the amount of time I was away from my daughter as a negative and refused to acknowledge any possible benefits.

The truth of the situation is that although I was required to spend time away from her, I was also pursing a meaningful career. It’s simply not realistic to think that you can spend every waking moment from now through eternity with your child. Role modeling the importance of pursuing goals, making a contribution to society, and the value of an income are incredibly important. In this situation, focusing on the meaning of what I was doing eventually helped me overcome the vague mom guilt which tried to creep in.

You might also enjoy reading Find Your Why.

I love journaling because it’s an individualized activity. It’s time for you to work through the core of whatever is triggering mom guilt for you. Keep in mind that mom guilt triggers are incredibly variable from mom to mom. An incredibly strong trigger for one mom might not even phase another. This is because moms and families in general are unique. This brings us to the next solution.

Mom Guilt Solution #3: Do You

No one else in this world has had the experiences you’ve had. There isn’t a mom on this earth who has the child(ren) you do. Is it then realistic to think that what works for one mom is reasonable or acceptable for you?

There are obviously many common themes to parenting and the ability to check in with other moms who have had similar experiences. But at the end of the day, you have the ability to take in the information and make the best possible decision given what’s in front of you. What works for one mom may not work for you.

Let go of comparison. Stop the social media scrolling. Remember all those unique things which make you and your family special. Revel in those. Don’t worry about what anyone else is doing. Make the best possible decisions you can make and don’t worry about the rest. Always look for ways to be better but give yourself grace in the process. Know that you are doing your best and simply let go of the rest!

Goodbye Mom Guilt!

As long as there have been moms, mom guilt has been a very real thing. We have been given a huge gift in our children but this comes with responsibility. It’s not something to be taken lightly. But we must also remember to enjoy the gift. Laugh, love, and find the joy. Stop fixating on the negatives. Although all moms experience some degree of mom guilt, it is possible to not only overcome it, but turn it into something useful. Besides journaling and becoming mindful of your thoughts, here are a few more actionable tips in transforming your thinking.

  • Find other moms you can relate to. It’s really important to have support in your journey. Parenting is so hard! Chances are, there are moms out there who are just like you who can provide encouragement, laughter, and boost your mood.
  • Find a counselor you feel comfortable talking with. Counseling is incredibly helpful because it provides an outside perspective on your inner world. Sometimes we get too tied up in our own thinking and are unable to see the other side. Family and friends often have their own perspectives and expectations of you. They generally mean well but are therefore unable to provide unbiased opinions on your inner world. A counselor can help you sort through your mom guilt in ways other people can’t. If you are struggling with anxiety and depression rooted in mom guilt, please reach out to someone. You don’t have to struggle alone!
  • Journal about your feelings on a regular basis. It’s important to get your negative feelings out but it’s equally helpful to look for what’s going well. Where are the areas you are excelling? What are you proud of? Where are you growing? Keep these positive thoughts at the forefront so you have a bank to draw from when your thoughts trend toward the negative.
  • Take time to pursue activities which are meaningful for you. If you’re not sure what that is, try something new. Sign up for a class. Read a book. Get into a Facebook group about a topic which interests you. Life is about getting out there and trying new things. Becoming a mom doesn’t take away your right to continue growing as a woman!
  • Stop the mindless social media scrolling! Social media can add value to your life but only if you’re mindful about how you’re using it and the impact it has on your outlook.

If you’re looking for even more advice on how to overcome negativities in your mindset and outlook, check out this book. It’s full of motivation and inspiration encouraging you to overcome whatever is holding you back! There simply aren’t enough words to describe the impact this book had on my own life and my ability to re-frame mom guilt. It’s a life changer!

I hope you’ve found this post helpful on your journey toward leaving mom guilt in the past. The truth is that all moms struggle with guilt at certain points but what matters is what you do with the struggle. You can let it overwhelm you or you can reach out and get help. There are ways to turn it around but you have to make the choice.

I’d love to hear about your experience with mom guilt! Do you have helpful tips and tricks on reversing the negativity? Comment below with your thoughts on this post. Now go out there and be the awesome woman and mom I know you are!

Break Out of Your Routine with These 70 Ideas

Break Out of Your Routine with These 70 Ideas

“Do one thing every day that scares you.” This timeless quote by Eleanor Roosevelt dares you to embrace adventure! Adventure is great if you’re Captain Jack Sparrow but what if you’re a mom just trying to make it through the day? Is there any benefit in embracing this mantra? And if so, how do you break out of your routine enough to enact it in your everyday life?

This post may contain affiliate links, which means we may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see our full disclosure for further information.

Mom Life is a Circus

If my roles as a wife and busy mom who works full-time have taught me anything, it’s that life is crazy! On most days, keeping up feels completely impossible. It’s almost as if I’m juggling 7 balls while trying to hula-hoop and jump rope simultaneously.

Needless to say, the circus act which is my life often transforms itself into anxiety and feeling overwhelmed. When these feelings take over, my natural tendency is to attempt balancing the anxiety of the chaos with routine. Routine feels safe. It adds an element of predictability which is otherwise difficult to find amidst the chaos of life.

Routine is my antidote to anxiety.

You may also enjoy reading Mom Guilt: What It Is & How You Can Beat It!

I often find myself equating something new or different with bad and scary simply because the outcome is unknown. Routine on the other hand tends to involve the same elements. Mixing the same elements time after time equals the same (or similar) outcomes. Routine = predictability.

Or at least that’s how it theoretically works in my mind. Logically, I know that life is unpredictable. We can never plan for all the possible unexpectedness we’re hit with on any given day. Nonetheless, routine continues to be my response to the constant change inevitable to life.

Consistency, Routines, & Success

Although there are drawbacks to being a routine-oriented person, there are also definite benefits. The biggest actually involves success. The truth is that success always requires effort. True success doesn’t happen overnight and has nothing to do with luck or chance. Consistent effort performed over time transforms itself into routine. Success is then built on the routines constructed from consistent effort. See how that works?

Consistency in small actions snowballs into bigger routines and eventually, huge successes.

Here’s an example of the consistency, routine, success cascade in action. Let’s say you want to get back into shape again after a long gym hiatus. You set a start date for your new goal. You’re committed to break out of your routine of skipping the gym. Obviously new running shoes and workout clothes are a necessity! As is the renewal of your long expired gym membership. Your schedule is crazy busy already but you decide that your gym time will be at 5 a.m.

You may also enjoy reading How to Find More Time in Your Day.

Your start date finally arrives and you roll out of bed at 5, tired but excited about your fitness goals. You get dressed and head out the door. The drive to the gym is a short one and after parking, you select the latest episode of your favorite podcast and walk inside.

As it’s been awhile since you last worked out, you’re hesitant at first. You soon hit your stride and motivated by your podcast, have a great workout. You’re feeling slightly more energized than before and feel proud that you were able to break out of your routine.

Although day one went well, you know that the journey doesn’t end here. Unfortunately, it will take more than one day to return to being able to easily run 3 miles or lift without feeling completely spent the next day.

When you initially begin chasing this goal, you will need to make the conscious choice to wake up and sweat. After a period of time however your conscious choice simply becomes something you do. Hitting the gym in the morning will start to feel automatic. It builds into a routine which eventually transforms your health.

If you are that person who thrives on routine, it can be much easier to transform an activity into another piece of your routine. But if you happen to be that person who tires easily of doing the same things day after day, you need to be much more creative in figuring out how to consistently incorporate something new.

Same Old, Same Old

Routines are such a theme for me that my day even begins with eating the same exact breakfast. To be honest, part of the reason why I eat the same thing is because then I don’t have to try to come up with something different. I go through periods where I struggle with meal planning for my family and my kids have eaten way more happy meals than I care to admit. As my kids generally prefer to eat breakfast at school, I definitely do not want to put the time and energy into planning something new for myself. After all, I have gradually adapted my breakfast over the years into the ultimate ratio of protein and carbs to keep me full until lunch. Why mess with something that works?

But could there actually be a benefit in figuring out how to break out of your routine?

Research suggests that our brains are wired to form routines because forming pathways of familiar behavior frees up space for processing other types of information. 

When considering it from this angle, it probably is a good thing that I eat the same exact breakfast because I have plenty of extraneous questions and information to process thrown at me by my kids prior to 7 a.m. every morning. 

“Mom!  Where are my library books?  More milk!  I don’t want to wear that!  Is it going to be warm enough to wear shorts?  But I don’t want to wear pants!  Did you sign my folder?  Can I have candy for breakfast?  My tablet isn’t working!  More milk! Fix my tablet!  I can’t find my library books!  But I don’t want to wear underwear!  More milk!”  All this in the span of about 15 seconds from all 3 of them simultaneously. 

My brain has clearly decided that in order to survive and get myself as well as 3 children out the door every morning, a certain amount of automation is necessary.

Break out of Your Routine to Avoid Feeling Stuck

Stubbornly clinging to routine is not always protective though, especially when it blocks us from growing and changing into new and better versions of ourselves. Routine can keep us stuck where we are and prevent us from growing and changing into new and better versions of ourselves. It can keep us stuck where we are and prevent us from meeting new people, exploring different interests, and leading awesomely fulfilling lives.

Routine feels safe and gives a false sense of control over our lives. I once read a statistic that most car accidents don’t occur on unfamiliar roadways but rather those that are only within a few mile radius of one’s house most likely because we let our guard down due to this false sense of security in the familiar.

Breaking out of routines helps prepare us for the unexpected in a way that the “same old same old” never will. Another bonus of leaving the familiar behind is that trying new things becomes easier and easier. I can tell you that since I’ve started actively looking for new experiences, especially those that scare me, it has become less and less scary to say yes.

Stepping outside routines also improves creativity because it challenges us to think in new and different ways. So how does one go about breaking away from their deeply ingrained routines and comfort zone? Surprisingly, it can start with only a few very small changes. You never know how the incredible ripple effect of trying something different may impact your outlook and life until you give it a try.

So go ahead and give something a try! There are 70 ideas below to spark your creativity. Some are big while others are small. A few can easily be incorporated into your daily routine while others are perfect for weekends. Most can also easily be accommodated adapted for kids. There are also plenty of ideas if you’re looking for fulfilling self care practices. Check it out now!

70 Ideas to Break Out of Your Routine

  1. Drive to work by a different route.
  2. Ask a friend you haven’t talked to in awhile to meet up for coffee or dinner.
  3. Take an art class.
  4. Read a book. If you’re looking for recommendations, here is a suspenseful read from one of my favorite authors. Here’s another one which has a completely unexpected twist at the end. And if you’re looking for a series, I wholeheartedly recommend this one. I had a seriously hard time putting it down!
  5. Start a blog.
  6. Try a restaurant you’ve never tried before.
  7. Spend an afternoon in the park.
  8. Go for a run in an area of town you’ve never been before.
  9. Get a group of friends together and sign up to play a sport you enjoy.
  10. Strike up a conversation with a neighbor you haven’t met before.
  11. Learn to play an instrument.
  12. Actually get your kids together for a play date with someone you’ve always talked about doing it with.
  13. Get involved in a small group at your church.
  14. Volunteer somewhere.
  15. Go for a bike ride.
  16. Make a quilt.
  17. Start a scrapbook.
  18. Bake cookies for your neighbors.
  19. Cook something completely different for dinner.
  20. Go to a concert.
  21. Try out for a play.
  22. Involve your kids in an activity you enjoyed as a kid.
  23. Make a smoothie.
  24. Take a yoga class.
  25. Plant a garden.
  26. Take your kids to a movie.
  27. Take a week-long break from Facebook and connect with your friends in person instead.
  28. Spend a day in a city you’ve never been to before.
  29. Start looking into your family history.
  30. Take a family trip to a county fair.
  31. Listen to a personal development podcast.
  32. Go for a train ride.
  33. Commit to shutting off all electronics and spending quality time with your family each day.
  34. Start a home-based business.
  35. Find a coach.
  36. Tell your family how much you love them.
  37. Pay for a stranger’s coffee.
  38. Support a friend’s home-based business.
  39. Plan, shop for, and cook a dinner with your family.
  40. Go for a jog with a friend.
  41. Hire a babysitter and have a date night with your spouse.
  42. Plan a vacation.
  43. Get a massage.
  44. Have a family game night.
  45. Call a family member you haven’t talked to in awhile.
  46. Take your family bowling.
  47. Go for a trail ride.
  48. Re-create your favorite coffee drink or restaurant meal at home.
  49. Take a nap.
  50. Find a personal trainer.
  51. Visit a museum.
  52. Go to a play.
  53. Start keeping a journal.
  54. Start your day by listing 3 things you’re thankful for.
  55. See a movie in theaters.
  56. Take a class about a topic or hobby that interests you.
  57. Try meditation.
  58. Find a new workout routine.
  59. Join a club.
  60. Make a craft with your kids.
  61. Do a puzzle.
  62. Drive around and look at Christmas lights.
  63. Come up with a family (or personal) mission statement.
  64. Paint that room in your house which has been begging for an up-do.
  65. Transform your hair with a completely new cut and/or color.
  66. Have your make-up professionally done for date night.
  67. Go through your closets and donate anything you haven’t worn in the past year.
  68. Plan out and cook a 3-course meal for your family.
  69. Look for opportunities to use your talents in a meaningful way.  Check out Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig.
  70. Sit down and color with your kids.

It’s Your Turn!

I hope this list has inspired you to try something new and break out of your routine!  Even small changes can have huge impacts on your outlook!  I am an introvert by nature and reaching out for new experiences has also encouraged me to open up and get to know others in ways that I have never done before.  As humans, we need the support and encouragement of others but cannot just sit around and wait for this to magically happen.  We need to take action toward building our own supportive tribe and growing as individuals otherwise we will forever remain where we currently are in life.  Now go out there, break out of your routine, and let me know how this article has impacted your life in the comments section below!

How To Find More Time in Your Day

How To Find More Time in Your Day

Do you ever wish there was an extra hour in the day? Think about all the amazing stuff you could accomplish in that extra time! What if I told you that the extra hour is real and that it’s actually possible to find even more time in your day?

I know what you’re thinking. Your gigantic daily “to-do” list is running through your head, reminding you that school pictures are today, your kindergartener is on the hook for snacks, and you have a dentist appointment at 4. I get it and I’m right there with you. Life is hectic! But if we don’t take the time to be intentional and do the things which bring the spark into our lives, what’s even the point?

Finding more time is a topic I have obsessed over basically since I first became a mom eight years ago but this preoccupation has intensified over the past three years, courtesy of the graduate nursing program I recently completed. Graduate school coursework on top of maintaining my role as a wife, being a mom to three littles, working, and trying to keep some shred of self-care was no small feat.

Despite the insanity, I learned to make each and every second of my day count. Sometimes finding more time is simply a matter of carefully evaluating whether time is effectively being used. A great place to begin is with time spent in the car. We do a fair amount of driving on the weekends and since my husband generally drives anyway, I began bringing my reading assignments with wherever we went. I was amazed at how much material I was able to cover this way.

And for those times when I was the driver? Podcasts and audible books nicely maximized my study time during those solo drives. I tried listening with my kids in the car but they loudly objected to hearing about the cardiac system and effective managment of heart failure. I can’t say that I really blame them.

Taking a closer look at my daily schedule also revealed chunks of time which were not being used effectively. I was shocked to realize just how much time was spent surfing social media once I began paying attention to how my time was being used. Opening the rabbit hole of Facebook or Pinterest only resulted in possibly hours of truly unproductive time which was no help when it came to finishing papers or preparing for exams so my time was better served staying off social media altogether.

I also began finding ways to make necessary household tasks both faster and easier. At times, a mindset shift was all that was needed. If I approached the task with an expectation that it would only take 2 minutes to do, it was much easier to actually accomplish it within that time frame than if I told myself it would take forever. There are so many times when I talk myself out of doing something because I tell myself that it will take FOREVER but if I approach it from the angle that it will ONLY take 5 minutes, it’s much easier to dive right in.

Shifting your mindset is incredibly helpful when you know there’s a task which needs to get done but you are procrastinating doing said task. I use this trick of telling myself that I only need to work for 15 minutes on the task but will put forth all my focus and energy into it for a brief period of time. Once 15 minutes goes by, I am always surprised at how much progress I have actually made. This trick sometimes works in sucking me into the task and on many occasions, I have finished the task in that one session. Shorter tasks can obviously be accomplished in less than 15 minutes but sometimes bigger projects are also completed sooner than expected with this technique.

And speaking of saving time … I recently tried the WalMart grocery pick-up app and it truly is a life saver! That store is such a time and energy suck for me so I truly appreciate the ability to simply choose my groceries on the app and they are ready to be picked up when it’s convenient for me. My only regret is that I didn’t try it sooner. It is an incredibly exhilerating feeling to know that I never have to step foot inside the store again!

An obvious place to find more time in one’s day is by getting up earlier. This one was a struggle for me when I started graduate school because I also had a 3 month old preemie who only slept about 3 hours at a stretch. He had a three week NICU stay and we never perfected breastfeeding so I was frantically trying to keep up an intense pumping schedule on top of everything else. Sleep was incredibly precious and elusive in those days!

Needless to say, getting up earlier than I absolutely had to was not an option at that time in my life. I definitely would not recommend trying to find more time by impacting your sleep cycle if you have an infant. You need sleep to survive. It’s one of those basic necessities. Get all the sleep you can and find other ways to prioritize your time if you are at that stage in your life.

Once my youngest started sleeping and I stopped pumping, I realized that I had a treasure trove of time in the hour before my kids awoke in the morning. I generally used this time to hit the gym because it actually gave me more energy for the day and I found that I slept better at night. Listening to motivational and inspirational podcasts during this time changed my mindset from negativity to one of positivity and personal accomplishment. I suddenly felt as if I had even more time to accomplish my personal goals and self-care tasks.

Regardless of the stage of motherhood you are in, I hope you found these suggestions helpful. Even despite these tactics and mindset shifts, I still have days where the hours tick by so quickly that it’s unbelievable and at the end of the day, I’m not even sure what I accomplished. Life is messy, chaotic, and hectic and on those days all you can do is be thankful for the time you’re given and do the best that you can do with what you have. I’m always looking for ways to be more mindful of my time and would love to hear your thoughts on how you manage the insanity that is life so please feel free to leave a comment below!

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Top 3 Reasons Why You Need a Creative Side Gig

Side gigs have always intrigued me. They represent another side of you, a side which may not be immediately apparent to others. An opportunity to break away from the person you are for 40+ hours each week.

Don’t get me wrong. My 9 to 5 is great (most of the time anyway!) but it does not completely fulfill my desire to contribute. Sometimes we have a tendency to be so completely wrapped up into our identity at work that we forget we are actually so much more. I believe that everyone has been given a creative gift of some sort and whether that is painting, crafting, or singing, there are opportunities everywhere to turn your creativity into a side gig. Although there are arguably dozens of reasons why you need to pursue a creative side gig, this post outlines my top 3.

1. Creative side hustles make you a more well-rounded person. Sure. You may be great at accounting, being a nurse, or writing contracts. But what about that tiny voice inside reminding you that you used to be really great at ____ (you fill in the blank here with whatever creative activity applies to you)? Remember the feeling you got when you pursued that activity? And how about the extra skills which came along with it? Wouldn’t it be great to hone in those skills again? Along with creativity comes a host of important aptitudes such as ingenuity, problem-solving, and perseverance which may actually benefit you during your work day.

Despite my current day job as a nurse practitioner, my first course of study was actually a liberal arts degree in music. People often give me funny looks when I tell them my background because it seems worlds apart from where I am today however I have always valued the lessons taken from my first degree. Music taught me to never give up on something you think about every day because it adds purpose and value to your life.

Through the course of this degree, I also learned that you get out of life what you put into it. If you work dilligently and with focus, you will see positive results. Lastly, when gauging progress, you can only make comparisons to yourself. Everyone has been given completely different skills sets but only you can sift through to figure out how to optimize your individual gifts. Comparison to others is useless and only serves to discourage you from your individual progress. These are incredibly valuable lessons which are beneficial regardless of the path I ultimately chose.

2. Doing something completely different pushes you outside your comfort zone and inspires growth. When was the last time you said “goodbye” to your comfort zone? Was it last week when you took a cooking class? Last summer when you signed up to run your first half marathon? Or maybe it was ten years ago when you took a yoga class?

You will never make progress or grow as a person by continuing to do the same old thing day in and day out. Growth requires challenge of some sort. You have to be vulnerable, put yourself out there, and possibly even experience failure to become a new and better version of yourself. Even if you didn’t feel exhilerated or even moderately intrigued by the activity, at least you tried it and perhaps realized that it actually wasn’t your jam. Congratulations … You are now that much closer to finding your actual creative outlet!

3. Who doesn’t love extra income? There are opportunities everywhere to collect a paycheck for everything from knitting cute baby outfits to being the bassist in a band and playing local bars every Friday night. Maybe you’re an amazing violinist and also excel at teaching others. Check into offering violin lessons to others who want to learn. People out there are looking for your specific type of creativity and are willing to shell out for it. Don’t keep them in suspense any longer!

I hope this post has gotten you thinking about the possibilities out there. Maybe you already have a creative pursuit in mind or maybe you still have no idea what that would even entail. Either way, take a few moments to clarify what your next action step toward pursuing creativity would involve. Granted, my time is valuable as it is divided among being a wife, mom of three, and working full-time, however freelancing as a pianist and organist makes it so much more fulfilling and meaningful. It’s truly the icing on top of the cake!

Do you have a creative side gig? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments below!

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

Living with Intention: The Busy Mom Version

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Have you ever been initially intrigued with an idea only to find out that it actually didn’t fit into your life as advertised? One example from my own life is the Bacon Express. I dislike cooking bacon and therefore never make it but my husband is obsessed with it. To clarify … he is obsessed with the eating part, not the cooking part.

This past summer we were walking through a store when my husband spotted the Bacon Express, a device which advertised the cooking of bacon as mere child’s play. Since it was on clearance, we took the plunge and brought it home. We used the Bacon Express a couple of times before we became disenchanted with this product advertised to make our lives easier.

Our first issue was how long it took to cook an entire package of bacon. The device was so small that you could only fit about 5 pieces on at a time, a highly inefficient feature when trying to cook for a family of 5. Our second issue related to its cleaning. One had to practically dissemble the entire device to clean it, which wasn’t necessarily the issue. The challenge arose when I realized that I clearly lacked the engineering degree required to re-assemble this thing. Highly disappointing.

A similar experience occurred when I became interested in living with intention. The idea is that you essentially take a long, hard look at your life, figure out your values, and re-align your activities based upon those values. Intentional living captivated me because it facilitates an alternative goal setting method and I’m a sucker for anything and everything related to goals. Once I became aware of the concept, I set out to uncover how I might incorporate living with intention into my own life.

Although some of the advice I found was helpful, some of it was clearly not adapted for a busy working mom of three kiddos. Ideally, I would love all the time in the world to sit and brainstorm about my values and how to adapt my activities to reflect said values. But let’s be real. I work 40+ hours a week and have primary responsibility of the housework. Quiet reflection time is almost non-existent in my world.

Becoming a mom comes with a whole package of things no one really wants to do but nonetheless, must be done anyway. Who really wants months of sleepless nights, loads upon loads of more dirty laundry than a small army could ever produce, or hours of whining and crying from a small being with so many of your own best and worst traits? No one wants that.

And yet, we endure these unpleasantries because any negatives are vastly outweighed by the gift of caring for and raising our babies. It’s true that we sacrifice so much but they also give abuntantly in return. This is the struggle in balancing all that comes with motherhood with pursuing your own goals and this is the spirit in which I present my advice to other busy moms looking to live with intention.

I know you also have goals. Whether they are personal, relational, or professional, goals inspire growth and come in all shapes and sizes. Spend actual quality time with your kids. Plan weekly date nights with your husband. Drink water. Read a book instead of watching Netflix. Get more sleep at night. Take up a new hobby. Try a cycling class. Cook dinner instead of eating out. Any one of these activities has the potential to improve your life but if you’re anything like me, the days fly by and keeping up with everything you’re already doing feels impossible. How can you possibly add one more goal, no matter how small, to your already packed schedule?

1) Take a careful look at what you’re already doing right now. If you are currently raising little ones, making sudden, sweeping changes to your lifestyle is most likely not feasible. But you can find tiny pockets of time here and there to spark larger change. Is there anything on your daily schedule which isn’t serving you? Although you may not be thrilled with your job right now, what small steps can you take to make an alternate one a reality? Or maybe you find yourself with more screen time than you care to admit. Do you feel energized and engaged after spending all that time interacting on social media? Or could you find a more productive use for your time?

Some parts of your daily routine may not necessarily be your first choice in how your time is spent but are important to the stage of life you are in. This is one of the ones I struggle with because I have all these goals and a constant feeling that there is never enough time in the day. Meanwhile, my time is sucked up by housework, driving kids to and from various activities, and grocery shopping. Hardly inspirational.

But then I remind myself that this is a season of life. Seasons don’t last forever and although they are very necessary aspects of raising kids, there are always ways to free up time here and there. Remember … you’re looking for tiny pockets of time and not hours upon hours. Grocery pick-up apps are everywhere now and are a complete timesaver! There are cleaning services out there which will come and clean your house while you’re at work. Consider carpooling with other trusted parents to and from sports and other activities.

2) Plan ahead and budget your free time carefully. You may only get a few minutes of quiet time here and there but plan this out in advance so you know exactly what you should be doing with that time. In my own life, I have found that a paper planner is the best way to stay on track with my goals. I searched high and low to find the planner that I currently have and absolutely love it because it provides space for monthly goal planning including the ability to highlight my top priority for that month. Each day of the week has space to write a daily goal as well and I use this to come up with daily motivational messages for myself.

Intention always precedes accomplishment. Think about it. When was the last time you accidentally cleaned the bathroom? Or ran 3 miles? What about that time you just kinda sorta earned a degree. Or how about the time you unintentionally ended up at the movies with your hubby on a Saturday afternoon? Ok, maybe that one could actually be unintentional but the desire to strengthen your relationship through quality time together is most definitely intentional. Accomplishing a goal, no matter how small, must always start with the intention to do so and putting it down in black and white makes prioritization much easier. Click the picture below to check out the planner which smoothly incorporates intention into your already crazy schedule!

3) Seek accountability in becoming more intentional about your goal. About a year ago, I decided that I wanted to become better about learning new piano repertoire. My practice habits in the past were terrible and I had never been great about consistent practice. It was always hours of sporadic practice here and there which never amounted to true progress.

I knew that if I wanted to improve, I would need accountability so I began searching for ways to make myself accountable. It was then that I stumbled upon an app which logged your practice time and counted up consecutive days of practice for you. This app changed my practice habits and I became obsessed with daily practice because I loved seeing the consecutive day count go up. Even if I only had 5 minutes a day, it didn’t matter because it still counted.

Find accountability for yourself in accomplishing your goal. Accountability will keep you honest and will inspire you to take action even on those long days when the work never seems to end and everybody wants more from you than you have to give. It may be a tracking app, a friend, or your spouse but find whatever makes the most sense for what motivates you and get moving on putting this into place

I get it. Change, even if it’s the best possible change, is hard. But what about that nagging voice inside reminding you of your goal to run the half marathon this fall? Or the one reminding you about how accomplished you feel after making a homemade meal for your family? What about that stack of personal development books you ordered last fall but never got around to reading? And the memories of those date nights in your pre-kid days? Wouldn’t it be amazing to bring that magic back again?

Living with intention is a powerful technique to hone into what matters to you and then going after it with everything you have inside. Without intention, a goal is simply a wish. A pipe dream which will never come to fruition. It is a road map for previously uncharted territory. When you lack intention, you are dragged in a million different directions and are unsure whether any of them are what you actually want. I sincerely hope that these 3 actionable tips for incorporating intention into your daily living are helpful and inspire you to chase after your goals even as you chase after your babies!