“F” is not for fun! 

Ever have one of those days where you think “Why can’t I just have fun with my kids?!” A simple task turns into an epic power struggle between mother and child – sometimes I catch myself saying  “all I wanted to do was have fun with you!”

I am the mother of two extremely strong willed girls – 12.5 months apart. My daughters’ endearing personality traits will help them be emotionally strong adults someday; but in the meantime “having fun” can be extremely overwhelming, and at times, disastrous.

Us moms scroll through our social media feeds and see pictures of our friends (and sometimes strangers) having perfect fun with their kids. We even say “Aw!” and wisely think to ourself, “I think we will try something different and fun!” like a normal family. After we convince ourselves (and sometimes our significant other) to go for it we ambitiously embark on our quest for fun.

For some moms these ventures go off without a hitch and a fun picture is subsequently posted.

For other moms, that brave idea of fun turns into a hurricane of children saying “no” or “I don’t want to!”. A mixture of toddler talk and preschool personalities seem to more often than not end in epic frustration. “F” is not for fun.

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Bedtime fun. Here’s a picture perfect moment at my house taken by my laughing husband.

The other day I decided to take my daughters for a fun trip to pick out Valentines. “It’s a girls trip! The boys are staying here!” I chanted with a jig. My 3-year-old responded “I don’t want the boys to stay here. I want a boys and girls trip.” Her scowl foreshadowed our evening. By the end of our fun time together I was ready to pull my hair out – and I didn’t even get a fun picture!

I was almost in tears. Why can’t I just have fun with my kids?! 

Our generation habitually posts successful parenting moments. When we see other moms’ shining moments, we subconsciously judge ourselves based upon our own lack of perfection. It’s a vicious cycle us moms put ourselves through.

My husband (an educator) put everything in perspective rather quickly – “F” the fun!”.

Life will be incredibly less stressful when we stop getting conned into having picture perfect moments. This means don’t worry so much about what we as parents want and  consider more about what our kids need. Do we want the kids on a schedule – heck yeah I want quiet time – but sometimes kids need extra time to eat; sometimes kids need extra time to play; and sometimes kids really need extra mommy time. Usually what I want and what my kids need are at opposite ends of the spectrum. While I’m pushing my version of fun, my kids don’t understand and need their version of “fun”.

So instead of thinking “Why can’t I have fun with my kids?!”, let’s shift our perspective during moments of frustration and ask our self “What do my kids need at this moment?”. I’m pretty sure if we go with the flow a little more (I’m not talking about crazy chaos!) and follow queues from our kids life will just happen and fun will follow. Then we can teach our children “F” is in fact for fun.

Let’s have it all?!

Men cannot have babies – just in case there’s any confusion (my husband promised he’d carry baby #2 and that did not happen).  Women obviously are physically meant to carry children and emotionally equipped to raise them. But somehow during feminism’s evolution, the line between family and ambition became blurred.

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My friend, Brooke, recently gave birth to a little girl. Her and her husband both have college degrees and notable work experiences.  Before the birth of their daughter, Brooke and her husband made the decision for Brooke to stay home after their baby was born.  After an extremely rough delivery and even more difficult recovery, Brooke was still trying to make peace with their decision.  She felt like she needed to work because of her education. During a visit Brooke’s aunt made a comment along the lines of “I just don’t know how people have any value if they aren’t making money?” Good job of putting guilt and stress on a woman who is a new mom trying to find her way through motherhood and hormones! Brooke’s aunt happens to be a big wig at a good sized company and never had kids. Maybe the comment was interpreted out of context, but regardless, what the hell does that mean?! And why do people think they can say whatever they want?! Brooke’s aunt actually doesn’t get an opinion about kids and working – she never lived through it.

Very few mothers are able to stay home in today’s modern world due to financials.  A 2012 Gallup Poll surveyed women to get an idea of how many women are staying home to raise their children (Follow the link if you want all the specifics – Gallup Poll for stay at home mom’s). The numbers are staggering compared to the 1950s.

Women’s rights have evolved immensely in the past century.  Bra’s have been burnt, girls have been beaten, and women have been killed in an effort to gain the same rights as men. But have all these efforts, sacrifices, and breakthroughs resulted in serious unintended consequences?

A woman’s traditional role is wife and mother – the family caregiver.  The traditional female role has made an earth-shattering evolution that has reshaped morals and altered family values.  In this always progressing digital world women are now expected to have it all; get an education; have a full time career; maybe get married; maybe have kids; maintain a perfect physique; have a perfect house; homemade dinner on the table; etc, etc, etc! The list is so lengthy it’s impossible and exhausting to even attempt to complete!

Feminism has given women the right to choose to – participate in sports; achieve a higher education; to excel in the workplace; have children; get married; buy a house; wear what we want. We are no longer just baby factories. Hallelujah!!

However, the evolution of a woman’s role has changed society’s perspective on women who want to be a Stay At Home Mom (SAHM as many call it).  “I’m just a mom” is not good enough for society, everyone wants more. But woman again, should have the right to proudly choose. A woman can have a college degree, follow a career path, then choose to stay home and raise her children. Being a SAHM, let alone a career woman, is a full time job with no sick days or vacation days. And guess what, we can even choose to go back to work after our children are in school or stay home!

No matter what kind of pressure society, or in most cases, family members put on us – choosing to work or stay home is our choice. Raising children is truly the most valuable thing a woman can do, even if we don’t make a cent in the process. The return on investment is priceless.

The most important thing is to make peace with whatever you or your family decide is best for you and your children. This means – WE CAN HAVE IT ALL!  But be ready, whether you decide to work or stay at home – it’s going to be an exhausting ride!

“In The Trenches”

We have all been there – that moment where nothing seems to be going right or as planned. That moment you are running out the door and everything happens at once – one child poops their pants; one kid pours everything out of the diaper bag; the dogs run into the yard because one kid opened the door; you lose your keys in the midst of repacking the diaper bag (only to find you actually put them in the diaper bag); you get everyone loaded into the car; you run back into the house to grab a sippy cup and the favorite toy of the week; you finally get the dogs back inside; a child unlocks their carseat; you get everyone re-strapped into their seats; you start the vehicle and realize … I’M ALREADY EXHAUSTED AND I HAVEN’T LEFT THE DRIVEWAY?!

Throughout life as a mom, there are challenging phases with children – I like to refer to these as “in the trenches”. Most moms and parents can appreciate this comparison and being “in the trenches” can sometimes feel like a lonely, never-ending phase.

Like when your little one is a baby – you are running on zero sleep and can’t remember the last time you took a real shower or slept for longer than 3 hours at a time. Or when your toddler is screaming at the top of their lungs because they can’t communicate and you clearly didn’t give them the right dinner. How about those Pre-K years when all the kids do is bicker over who gets to play with Elsa or they scream when you refuse to buy them strategically placed candy in the checkout aisle. Or the dreaded teenage years where there’s a 90% chance your child will hate you at some point if not all the time.

IN THE TRENCHES!

Ever been to the grocery store with 3 small children? I tend to wear workout clothes because I know taking my small army of strong willed children to the store does not usually teeter in my favor. One usually begs for that princess cup in the breakfast aisle; another is trying to climb out of the cart; while the other isn’t able to comprehend you have to buy the food before you eat it. By the end of the shopping trip (after the epic battle to get out of the driveway), I usually look slightly disheveled and understandably frazzled. Occasionally another shopper will smile and say “you have your hands full.” But there are also moments when moms gently smile and say something like “Oh honey, you’re going to make it. It’s just tough right now but I promise you will get through this. You’re doing a great job!”

Those women get it; they’ve been in the trenches at one time or another, raising babies, surviving the chaos and sleeplessness that is the very definition of motherhood. I am so thankful for these no judgment women, who even though are strangers, can relate to public survival with children.

Inevitably I am told moms do survive what I can only describe with a war term. During life in the trenches with our children we create those memories we will “laugh at someday” – but in the moment you just aren’t sure if you will make it. Someday you will be able to get out of the driveway without feeling like you are competing in an Olympic decathlon. Better yet, you will be able to go to the grocery store without having to explain to your child why you aren’t buying all the boxes of princess gummies. And when you do feel alone, trust me, you never will be – other moms are fighting the good fight right next to you. We are all muddy wishing for a long, uninterrupted shower!

The New Version of the Old Me

Life before becoming a mom is mostly about you. You choose what sounds good to eat; you decide where to work; you use your free time for you; you go to bed when you want – basically your choices to the core are about you and decided based on your benefit.

Before I had babies (“BB” as I like to time stamp it), there was a very specific version of me. Looking back I like that version of me – career woman; workout guru; organization freak – you name it, I was able to live up to my own perfectionist standards. I repeat, I like that version of me.

5 years and three babies later, like most moms, I constantly battle to find the new version of the old me.

In modern society, women have an even bigger responsibly than our predecessors – get an education, find a job, make that money, marry some guy, birth some babies, raise the kids … The list goes on and on. Why are women so torn between being a mom and being a career woman? Why does society praise women who work full time and tsk at those who are “just a mom”? Every mom knows the double edged sword I’m referring to; When you are at work, you feel guilty and think about your kids – when you are at home, you feel worthless and think about working. The majority of women know this internal battle all too well. In order to feel comfortable in our new skin, us moms can help each other by recognizing no matter what our job title, we are and can be enough in whatever role we decide.

Most people have some kind of hobby; mine vainly enough was working out. A hobby for anyone is a way to escape normal life while diving into a personal passion. Before becoming pregnant, my hobby helped me cope with the everyday stresses of work and life. But after becoming a mom, there tends to be a confusing, heart tugging dilemma that makes a mom feel guilty while doing anything for herself. How do we incorporate our old hobbies with the new challenges of motherhood?

Before babies came along my house was very clean and I was organized to the nines. Most days now I put the blinders on and try to keep my own head above water while constantly attending to my children’s needs. My husband recently inquired as to the whereabouts of his once organized wife. For some moms, the opposite holds true – motherhood has blessed you with a keen ability to never forget the diaper bag and properly place toys in appropriate designated bins – Bravo! But how do the rest of us cope with the clutter conundrums children bring to create organized order?

The real mystery to the big picture is: How do we create the new version of the old us?

If I had a firm answer this is where I would put it. But the encouraging thought is a mom (and parent) can decide who they want to be at any time!

A mom’s employment status is an individual family decision and every mom ultimately chooses to work or stay home; the good news, lots of moms work and raise functioning children; the great news, most moms struggle with career decisions whether they decide to work or stay home. Us moms are all in the same boat, trying to do what is best for our children while battling our own swords to conquer inner voices that chatter “you aren’t good enough”. Guess what – we are great enough!

You can wake up tomorrow and decide to plunge back into your hobby that previously left you inspired. You can choose! But be ready … When that little voice tries to convince you moms don’t deserve a few minutes for themselves, push back because Lord knows us moms especially need it!

Most days I have that moment where I miss the old me. I was a professional, fitness, OCD woman. I like to think I had it all together. But the old version of me was always chasing something, running after accomplishments to fill a weird, at the time, unexplainable void. I’ve recently realized why I can’t be the exact old me (minus the fact I have three small humans who need me) – I am no longer chasing an invisible goal. My children unexpectedly became the missing piece to my life puzzle, a goal I never realized I had.

Like most moms, I have constantly strived to become the new version of the old me. Motherhood can be confusing and gut wrenching most days, and us Moms are constantly battling ourselves to find common ground through puke, tantrums, and giggles.

I like the old version of me, but I’ve grown to love this new version. Becoming a mom unexpectedly gave me a richer life with a full heart that constantly beats for my children and doesn’t feel like I have to chase invisible dreams. My children have become the only inspiration the new version of the old me needs.

DIY Nursing Bra

(Disclaimer … You don’t have to breast feed to be a good mom!)

My biggest fear before giving birth to my first child was breast feeding – how the heck was I going to do it? Would I make enough? What if I hated it? I didn’t realize how completely exhausting and physically uncomfortable I would be 24 hours a day.

I asked my husband the other day if he would rather give birth or breast feed a baby – he quickly responded, “Birth. I would definitely give birth.” Keep in mind he has been there every step of the way with each of our three babies, one of which was delivered without pain meds (due to labor being only 40 minutes). A man who has seen it all, chose birth over breastfeeding!

Nonetheless, I made a whole hearted effort to breastfeed/pump with each of baby. And by the third go around, I absolutely despised my nursing bras and tanktops!! They were so uncomfortable and looked ridiculous under all my clothes. I could never seem to find anything that cooperated with the expanding and “deflating” joys of breastfeeding; and I was not about to spend $50 on a bra I wouldn’t make a staple in my future wardrobe.

So I set off on a mission to make my own perfect nursing bra and here’s how I did it.

First, I decided sports bras are the most comfortable thing in the world (for me) because of their elasticity and ability to hold the cannons in place while they get bigger and then suddenly smaller. If you are making your own nursing bra, decide what kind of “regular” bra you like best before you go and buy! I then went to my favorite place on Earth, TJ MAXX, and found a great deal on an amazing sports bra. (The pads in it were removable!)

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The reason I liked this one so much is because of the clips!

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The next thing I did was rip the seam out of the bra where the front clip was attached. I do not own a seam ripper (sewing might be my next Everest) so I used the itty-bitty scissors from my manicure set.

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I then took one of my old nursing bras I hated (and wore once) and used my trusty manicure scissors again to remove the nursing bra snap clip.

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I attached the nursing snap clip onto my new “nursing bra”

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Even though I’m not a sewing pro, I used some heavy duty thread and of course a needle to attach the snap-clip in the very same spot where I removed the sports bra’s original clip. I even trimmed the original rough looking seam a tad.

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Here’s my finished DIY nursing bra!

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Don’t be intimidated if you can’t sew! This DIY nursing bra is so easy (coming from a non sewer) not to mention it is super affordable, durable, and COMFORTABLE!!

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You can also use this method with regular bras and tanktops.
**I recommend getting fitted for nursing bras when you are around 8 months pregnant!**

Baby’s ready for food!

My son eats like a champion – a heavy weight, sumo wrestler champion. I was lucky (and diligent enough) to give him breast milk, but at five months old he suddenly reverted to his newborn habits – waking up numerous times a night and eating more than a growth spurt stricken teenage boy. He intently watched me eat, grabbing for whatever I was attempting scarf down.

IT WAS TIME – Time to start food!

With my first two babies we did a majority of packaged baby food -mostly because I was working/pregnant and didn’t have the time or energy for showers, let alone homemade baby food.

((Disclosure – parenting skills are not based on if you breastfeed, bath your baby daily, or buy packaged baby food.))

Instead if making my 5-month-old get a job to pay for his daily Thanksgiving feast, I made a decision I was going to make all his food this time around. A lot had changed since my first child needed spoon fed – I wasn’t working full time, I wasn’t pregnant, and I had a little “parenting” experience under my belt.

Making baby food seemed like an impossible and extremely overwhelming task at first. The very thought of making baby food was daunting and for some reason I had to muster up courage in order to make this DIY attempt! But here I am now – a self proclaimed baby food maker.

Numerous friends asked me about how I make all of my sumo wrestler’s food so here are my simple go to baby grub directions:

1. Purchase as fresh of fruit/veggies as you can! I tried to hit up farmers’ markets as much as possible. Most of the time I go to the local grocery store and buy regular produce. Some of my friends go to while foods/organic stores and others with more kids use a food delivery service (I would have food delivered if it was available in my area!). However sometimes what I want/need is not available fresh so I but frozen bags and that works just fine! Make sure you are feeding your baby food they are ready for. Here’s a link to a baby’s food introduction schedule

2. This batch is obviously peaches. I spent about $9 on these, but had to throw 2 out because they weren’t was fresh as I wanted after I cut them open.

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When I went to make my next batch, the store was out of fresh peaches so I bought a frozen bag and let it thaw (you can do the same with other fruits and veggies).

3. I cut the peaches into small chunks (skin and all) so they would blend smoother and faster. When I am preparing vegetables I boil them first until they are soft, then cut them into smaller pieces. (I’m sure someone will suggest a more earthy way, but this way works for me).

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4. Put a small scoop of your pieces in a blender. (I used a smoothie blender because I wasn’t about to go spend more money). Try to blend the chunks together. If they do not blend well add some breastmilk/formula until you can easily create a smoothie like consistency. Then keep adding scoops of chunks, blending inbetween scoops,
until everything is in your blender. I used 3.5-4.5 oz of breastmilk in this batch. The goal is to blend whatever you are making similar to the consistency of baby food – a little thicker is okay too! With the frozen foods they should be soft enough after thawing that they will not need to be cut.

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5. Get some ice cube trays! I got mine at the dollar store for obvious money savings reasons. I bought a bunch so I could make big batches at a time! That’s the easiest way to do it! Take a spoon and put your freshly blended baby food into the ice cube trays. They will slightly expand so fill accordingly.

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6. Place your repurposed ice cube trays in the freezer overnight. (I don’t cover mine).

7. The next day I grab a big Ziploc bag, write what I made, and twist all my perfectly portioned baby food cubes into the bag.

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8. All the bags can store flat. When it comes time for my son to eat, I grab however many cubes he wants, put them in a bowl, and microwave them until they are thawed. Make sure to stir the food well and make sure there are no hotspots! (If the food is runny I add a little baby rice). Occasionally, I put the frozen cubes in the refrigerator the night before so they are closer to thawed (this rarely happens as my goal every day is just to survive).

9. You can mix different fruits and veggies! Or you can make a bunch or individual fruits/veggies and then mix them when you heat them up for your baby!

**My little guy is hungry all the time and I started adding meat to his baby food. I boil a couple chicken breasts and add chunks while blending up veggies. You can also roast a whole chicken or a small turkey and do the same thing. Just add to your baby food while you blend!**

Not only is this a healthier option for your baby but in the end it’s better financially! And it doesn’t take that much time to make a huge batch. No … I’m not one of those weird granola moms, we’ve given him some pre made baby food. This just works for us for many different reasons! Physical and financial health for the baby and the family! Besides, I think there are laws preventing a heavy eating, sumo wrestler, 5 month old from working – even if they are eating you out of house and home!

Motherhood does not come with sick days.

Back in my crazy career days (working nonstop) taking a sick day was next to impossible. There have only been a few times I’ve needed to call off – thank God for those legislated sick days! But on those much needed days, I slept off whatever illness hit me and was able to take a break from reality to recoup.

But there’s one thing your doctor forgets to tell you about having a baby – motherhood does not come with sick days.

Maybe that’s why the first trimester of pregnancy is full of exhaustion? Nature knows you are going to need every second of sleep to accommodate for a life of no more sick days?

Wouldn’t it be nice for once just to say “I can’t make it to motherhood today. I’m just really sick. Please figure it out.”

For the past couple weeks I genuinely wanted to call in sick to motherhood.  And why is it when our significant other is under the weather they seemingly get to take a sick day? My only guess – the mommy gene: the inability to ever get sleep or fully relax again due to having children.

No matter how high your fever is or how many times you’ve visited your porcelain friend, the kids are still going to expect dinner and their favorite bedtime story. “Mommy, I want bites I’m hungry!” “Mommy, I want books!”. Sweet children don’t understand that standing up to get them a snack will literally take every ounce of energy out of your body and just might kill you.

But we do it.

Even when we feel like getting our kids out of bed is going to do us in, we still do it. Even when we can’t feed ourselves, we make sure the kids get more than enough. Because that’s what us moms do – CEO’s of the family never get sick days! It’s a full time job and then some to keep the house running smoothly.

It’s hard enough to take a sick day when working a full time career, but when you’re a mom, kids allow ZERO sick days (especially if they’re really little).  At least the office gives us a set number of sick days (even though we aren’t always allowed to take them). Whether you’re a working mom or a stay at home mom we all have one thing in common – motherhood does not come with sick days.