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!

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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.

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.

Perfect Parenting

Remember those months before becoming a mom … well besides the sickness and endless trips to the bathroom … those months you thought about what kind of parent you would be.

My husband always said I would be the easy parent – always giving in to my children’s demands, a “softie”. He thought he would be the “tough dad”. I envisioned myself making homemade meals every night, doing activities with my kids, our house being organized, and working out just like I used to – I would be the “perfect parent”.

As soon as my first baby was born, my daydream of “perfect parenting” flew right out the window.

Like all new moms, I was hormonal, exhausted, and overwhelmed – not a good recipe for “perfect parenting”. Then I started second guessing every decision I made and every action I took for our new baby. As our kids get older the decisions get harder and I wonder; am I disciplining them correct? Am I saying the right things? Do I play with them enough? Am I teaching them what they need to know?

As moms we constantly feel at war with ourselves. In our own minds we can never do enough for our children. But what is “perfect parenting”?

Some people think “perfect parenting” is – staying home with your babies; pulling yourself together with full faced makeup before the kids get up; having all laundry done at all times; keeping a clean house; planning and executing specific activities with your children; having homemade meals and premade snacks; reading stories and learning all day long; getting the kids into bed without a fight; going to bed to get 8 hours of sleep.

Other people think “perfect parenting” is – working full time to provide; having a nanny or babysitter; Chapstick is the only makeup a mom needs; doing laundry once or twice a week works; making sure the kids eat something; a mom sacrificing all her needs.

Here’s the reality – there is no such thing as “perfect parenting”. “Perfect parenting” is a myth and does not exist. Even if you have the perfect day planned, there’s a really good chance your child will throw an epic tantrum or attempt to eat something they’re not supposed to. Most days motherhood is about surviving, let alone perfection. Every family has a unique situation – It’s okay for moms to work and it’s okay for moms to stay home. Only you know what is best for you and your family.

We are our biggest critics and anyone who says being a parent is a breeze and their kids are perfect is lying. Society’s unobtainable expectations are overwhelming enough, then we have veteran moms judging our every move – keep in mind anyone who expects you to be their version of “perfect parenting” needs to wake up and smell a diaper. There will be days pizza is the best you can do and moments you literally want to pull your hair out – good days and bad.

We sometimes think – I should be doing more. But the majority of the time we physically, emotionally, and mentally have already given motherhood our all – we’re already doing a stellar job. And for anyone who is bold enough to think our best isn’t good enough, is the furthest thing from “perfect parenting”.

My secret to fast growing, strong, long hair … vinegar rinses!

After having babies, many women have the same complaint (besides our bodies never looking the same) – MY HAIR IS AWFUL!  When I got pregnant with my first baby, my hair started falling out – I don’t have much hair to begin with so it was a huge problem! Thankfully it started growing back during my pregnancy but after labor and delivery, it started falling out AGAIN.  My mane had short, stick straight regrowth mixed with patchy spots and other normal long hair.  Throw that in with post-baby body issues and pale anemic skin – I was desperate for something to make me feel and look better!

Refusing to let a patchy mullet be my fashion destiny, I again went on the hunt to fix my hair and course friendly to my Mogul Mom budget. 

Pinterest became my best friend during pumping sessions and I discovered natural remedies to make your hair grow faster. Skeptical as usual, I opted for one of the easiest remedies that incorporated one ingredient I could find in my cabinet – VINEGAR.
The Recipe:

  • Mix 1 part vinegar (apple cider vinegar is the best but white vinegar works great too) and 2 parts water.
  • Pour on your scalp and let fall onto your hair during the “final rinse” in the shower. Be careful to not get the vinegar rinse in your eyes and/or in your mouth for obvious reasons.
  • Let the vinegar sit for a couple minutes then briefly rinse again. Done!
  • Note: I also keep a spray bottle of white vinegar in my cabinet and spray it on my hair when I get out of the shower. It helps to dissolve iron and residue left over from our extremely hard water. This was recommended to me by a professional and its my go to!
Don’t worry the smell will go away and you won’t smell like a salad for too long! And no – your hair will not dry out!
 
How it works to grow hair faster: The vinegar naturally balance the pH of your scalp and gets rid of any residue build up from product or life in general. This gives your scalp the best environment and surface to grow and regrow hair. Vinegar also works to seal your cuticles making your hair stronger while removing excess crud in your locks.  
 
With a little patience this will give anyone great results! I noticed my hair was better immediately (and grew faster eventually). I use Meijer brand because its better on my budget, but there are other brands of all natural vinegars. We have horribly hard water and vinegar rinses has been the best way to prevent buildup and has kept my blonde hair blonde!  My family and friends have also noticed a difference in the thickness of my hair and the extra shine since starting this simple treatment. My hair is the longest and healthiest its ever been and I give all the credit to vinegar rinses … and Pinterest. 

How to have a successful garage sale

Our family’s first garage sale! Fabulous idea or epic failure?

My husband and I have been together for 8 years – That includes 5 years of marriage, 4 moves, and 2 babies.  Not to mention our generous families are always gifting us with secondhand treasures and other great nuggets to add to our home. All of this adds up to an accumulation of STUFF.

We literally had STUFF spilling out of our house and it was time – time for a garage sale.

My first order of business was to set a timeframe for when this event would happen, then a date.  Having a set date for our garage sale gave my husband and I (most importantly my husband) a deadline for when our STUFF had to be out of our house and priced to sell.

As soon as I realized a garage sale was inevitable, I set out a couple totes/boxes labeled “garage sale”.  This made de-cluttering areas of the house a breeze, even though my husband constantly complained about my “tote problem”.  I was able to gradually go through things and put them into a controlled garage sale environment.  Of course my husband didn’t go through his stuff until the day before – better late than never.  Then all he had to do was bring the boxes and totes outside!

Pricing my garage sale items was tricky. How much for clothes? What about big ticket items? When pricing STUFF for your garage sale, keep in mind people are looking for deals and there’s a really good chance you will not make thousands of dollars selling your STUFF.  If you want something gone – price it to go.  If you’re on the fence price it a little higher.  I had a red wall clock, brand new, I loved it but hadn’t used in five years.  Normally I would’ve priced it at $3, but since I wasn’t sure $10.50 it was! Someone else loved it too and they paid my asking price! Guess it wasn’t meant to be in my house anymore.

When having a garage sale, location usually correlates to foot traffic.  One way to help get people to come to your garage sale is to include other families! My grandmother, brother, sister-in-law, and mother-in-law all put some of their STUFF into the garage sale.  I listed it on Craigslist and on our signs as a “5 Family Garage Sale”.  Even though our location wasn’t the best, we had steady foot traffic our first day! We also set most of our big items (strollers, tables, lawn furniture, etc.) out front to attract people driving by.

A family garage sale can be tricky.  What if a family member wants something you are selling? Do you just give it to them or discount it even more? What if you see something you’re interested in?  Garage sale etiquette – if something is under $5 just give it to a family/friend. If its a big ticket item, tell them how much you want for it and discount it a little bit (your family shouldn’t expect something you could sell for substantial money for free).  If you’re the one looking to purchase, always offer to pay full garage sale price and don’t be offended if they accept; some people really need the money and the last thing you want to do is embarrass family by price negotiating.

Some of garage sale goers like to haggle prices. “You have this priced for $2, would you take $.50?” Or the persistent bundler “I’ll give you $3 for all this STUFF.” My husband came to the conclusion I have zero backbone for hagglers. “Okay ummm sure.” (Its amazing I was successful during my brief stint in sales). When a garage sale shopper is blatantly attempting to take advantage of me, I tend to hold my ground better – “You know, my grandma is pretty firm with her prices.” Be prepared for people to try to negotiate your already low prices! Approach each customer differently – some people just love the rush of haggling prices while others truly do not have the $ and need something. Trust your intuition and decide how low you really want your prices to go!

Here’s my advice to having a successful garage sale:

  1. DO NOT ACCUMULATE a bunch of stuff – then you don’t have to have a garage sale.
  2. Plan ahead. Get some totes/boxes and label them “garage sale”. Gradually go through rooms and closets in your house. We started a couple months before and knew exactly what we were planning on selling. Garage sale totes/boxes alleviated most of the work and organizing!
  3. If you can, plan ahead and set a date for your garage sale. This will give you a deadline to get all your garage sale STUFF organized. We did ours Friday from 8am-5pm and Saturday 8am-noon.  
  4. Use masking tape for pricing. If you have more than one family involved put their initials on their price tag. Use a piece of paper and keep track of who sells how much. 
  5. Price stuff to sell (unless you’re on the fence!) or its a big ticket item (ex: furniture).
  6. Set stuff up the day before if you can! This includes garage sale posters. 
  7. Make sure you have change ($) before your garage sale. People usually expect to get change if they give you $. 
  8. If you don’t sell big ticket items, take pictures while they’re set up and try to sell them on Craiglist or Ebay.  I refused to negotiate my asking price for big ticket items, I knew I could get my asking price elsewhere.  
  9. Donate low priced knick-knacks to Goodwill or other locations that benefit low income families. Home good items can be donated to a Habitat for Humanity’s Restore location. 
  10. Try to get it all out and don’t bring anything back into your house! The goal is to declutter – not reclutter!
If anyone else has tips for having a successful garage sale, please feel free to post!! 

Working Out vs. Survival

Before having babies I was a fitness queen – working out 6 days a week which included workout classes, walking/running, and yoga.  My free time was filled with time for vanity.  Staying active and working out has always been my coping mechanism for life’s stresses and a way to keep myself sane (and of course the endless effort to fit into a bathing suit).

When you find out you’re having baby, fitness focus quickly shifts to survival strategies. Most new moms to be are now concerned about getting through the day without an embarrassing barfing episode or hoping coworkers don’t think they have narcolepsy.  Many mornings during my first  trimester I begged God to give me energy to get out of bed and then prayed I could pick myself off the floor to make it to work.  I chewed gum and sucked on candies frantically hoping my nausea wouldn’t spit out during an important meeting, or worse, all over a client.  By the time I survived a long day at work, I could barely think about dinner, let alone put on shoes to workout.  During those first weeks of pregnancy all moms at one point think – “If I can just survive today…”

Some lucky women get energy back during pregnancy – Now what?  Should I attempt to stay fit? How much activity is too much?  Will I hurt my baby?  As a mom to be this will be one of our first experiences second guessing if we are doing the right thing for our child (unfortunately this insecurity only gets worse!).  My pregnancy workout advice – do research, talk to your doctor, and whenever you feel uncomfortable or in pain – STOP! With my first two pregnancies going to work was enough of a workout and stretching sufficed as a stress reducer.

After pregnancy knocked me off my fitness throne, I was inundated with a baby.  This little person genuinely needed me (and my boobs) 24/7, not to mention there is no tired like new “Mommy tired”. Once I was cleared to workout I suddenly had this overwhelming sense of guilt every time I even thought about working out – Am I just being vain? I have baby now and I should have to sacrifice everything right?  It took me a good year to realize – NO.  My post baby body wasn’t the same (I have the bladder of a 90-year-old) and now the one time fearless fitness queen was absolutely terrified to workout.

Last night I finally bit the fitness bullet and went to my first post baby workout class in almost three years (thank you Groupon for the awesome deal!).  On the way there I called my husband and told him how oddly nervous and scared I felt – he sweetly reassured me.  Much to my surprise, I survived a kettle-ball class and for the first time in awhile felt an immediate sense of accomplishment. And guess what, I leaped over the first hurdle – the first workout – the hardest one of all.

After having two kids I may not be able to jump rope without fear of peeing my pants and I might be able to do only 1.25 pushups – but I have finally worked up the courage to workout!  Even if its only once a week, us Moms deserve it and our kids deserve a healthy mom.  In the midst of surviving, we have to remember that sometimes we have to put a mask on ourselves first in order to help others.

Even though pregnancy may temporarily knock us off our fitness thrones, after surviving the fall and with a little bravery, we can fight our way back to take our rightful seat … even if its one day a week.