Thrive, not just survive being a stay at home mom. Tips from the trenches.

Thrive, not just survive being a stay at home mom. Tips from the trenches.

The thought for this post came to me after I was struggling to put my screaming son into a cart at Costco. I haven’t always been a stay at home mom. Here’s my motherhood story in a nutshell. I had my oldest just 2 weeks before turning 21. A few years later, I was a divorced mom of 2 kids earning a degree in social work with no family support (they lived 8 hours away). Twelve years later and I was married with 2 more kids and I working full time as a social worker. I LOVED my job but like so many parents, I was finding less enjoyment in my career. My husband works between 50-65 hours a week and it was tough to be away. After a lot of discussion, we decided would stay at home. It’s been 3 years. Here is what I have learned (believe me, I am still learning and I do not claim to be an expert on this):

  1. Let go of any expectations. I had an idea in my head of how this would work. I would be put together, pristine house, happy children who adored their mother, warm meals, ample gym time, daily learning lessons for kids, outings, crafts and cooking. I am here to tell you, let it go girlfriend! Some days I am just surviving here, counting down the minutes until bed time and a glass of wine! It’s ok, it is. Some days I am in yoga pants, even pj’s until lunch. My kids fight, I am the “worst mommy ever” on occasion, meals are often leftovers or whatever can be scrounged up. Daily lessons… well that’s just not me, there’s preschool for that. That’s cool though, I know who I am and what I am good at. P.S. don’t stress over dust and various scattered toys……. let it go!
  2. Explore your weaknesses. I am the most unorganized person! I procrastinate and am usually struggling to find that permission slip wedged in some drawer somewhere. Be honest, figure out what areas you need to improve on and put strategies in place to help,Here are a few that help me. I make lists and use my planner on my phone. I have a small notebook I keep with me for random lists. I use my phone planner and it’s alerts for EVERYTHING! You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget an appointment when you are trying to get the laundry done, playing dress up, and refereeing sibling squabbles. Plus I find that often, my husband and I forget to communicate appointments and various events. I just add him to the planner events and he is alerted too.
  3. Talk to your significant other. Before taking the leap into stay at home parenting, sit down and have a discussion about what your expectations are. I honestly think my husband thought that the house would be close to spotless and he wouldn’t have to do much at home. It is very important, in order to avoid future fights or resentment, to honestly talk about what you both are expecting, and then revisit it after being home for a while once you have a chance to really experience this stay at home thing. You might think you can keep the house clean, make a from scratch meal nightly, play with your darlings, and get a workout in. However, once you are in the trenches, you might find that maybe you can’t do it all, or you are, but you are losing your mind in the process. I really believe that the working parent struggles most with the homemaking portion of having a significant other at home. So talk, be honest.
  4. Don’t lose yourself. I see so many at home parents lose sight of who they are. Continue to feed your brain, learn new things, explore hobbies.
  5. Take care of you! If you are going to take care of others, you need to be at your best. Do not feel guilty taking care of you! Workout, read ALONE (something non educational and maybe trashy), get a massage, whatever you need to stay in balance. When I am stressed, I have way less tolerance for my kids and husband.
  6. Find new friends. I found that my old work friends and I didn’t have much in common any more. They will always hold a special place in my heart, we were just in different worlds. I found some amazing friends while working out and running. I can text one when I am having a rough day and we can have an impromptu play date. We can visit each others houses and not have to explain the mess. Sometimes one or both of us are still in PJ’s!
  7. Date your spouse. Go on dates and have alone time with your spouse. Do not stay in the parent role all the time with your significant other. Get all gussied up and hit the town, find new hobbies to enjoy together (we might try tennis).
  8. You are important. This is a tough one. Especially if you left a career. I still find myself having to tell people that I’m not “just a stay at home mom”, that I have a degree an chose to leave my career. Whether you have a degree or not, what you do matters!
  9. Stay active. Do not just sit around all day and watch TV. I know that is a stereotype, but some people do. You are wasting your life by doing this. Being at home is not an excuse to be lazy. Be present in you child’s life, play, get out, workout. I say workout a lot, don’t I? It’s important to stay physically active to not only keep up with our little darlings, but to stay healthy. Get up and live the life that you chose!

BONUS: If you aren’t happy, go back to work! No one said this had to be permanent. Being at home isn’t for everyone and that’s ok.

Holidays done healthy

Holidays done healthy

As temperatures cool and we begin to cover ourselves with more layers, it gets more and more difficult to stay motivated to keep fit. As if that wasn’t difficult enough, we have holidays that revolve around food bring in this season. We gain an average of 5 pounds during the holiday season and that doesn’t even count Haloween! You might think that I am posting this a bit early considering the “true” holiday season begins in another month. However, I really feel that we not only need to plan ahead, but as it begins to get colder, we find more and more excuses to skip that workout. We start to eat more comfort foods and grab some extra holiday lattes. So here are my biggest tips to not become an unhealthy statistic.

*find a motivator to keep you in check that doesn’t involving a bathing suit.
*remember how you feel when you eat crap and write it down. Put it some place you will see it. (Too much sugar gives me a headache, I feel bloated, sluggish, mad, etc)
*in the same fashion, write down how you feel after eating right and working out. Put this list right on your fridge.
*find a buddy who wants to stay on track, not someone that you always have to motivate.
*try a new class and make friends. You’ll be surprised how accountable you become when others notice when you missed a class.
*if you LOVE holiday baking but have no willpower, bake and take your treats to a nursing home, a favorite local store you frequent, donate to a homeless shelter.
*find healthy treat alternatives. There are plenty of healthy dessert type recipes out there.
*start a new tradition, find an alternative to baking, make holiday crafts instead.
*start your holiday morning with a workout but don’t use it as an excuse to eat more.
*eat a LITTLE bit of everything. I am that girl who will have a tiny sliver of each pie!
*find workouts you can do at home with little or no equipment.
*don’t give up, if you have a set back get right back on the wagon.
*develop a workout plan and write it down. (Ie Monday is upper body, Tues lower body, Wed is Zumba, Thur and Fri rest, Sat run…) whatever works for you
*find HEALTHY motivational people to follow on social media. Just make sure they keep you motivated and give you ideas, not make you feel bad.
*DO NOT MAKE UP FOR MISTAKES BY STARVING YOURSELF. That’s right, I shouted! Do not gorge yourself on Halloween candy and then starve yourself for the rest of the day and following day. Your body needs nutrients and enough calories to function. Eating a measly 1000 calories or less will only mess up your metabolism. DON’T DO IT, just don’t, please.
*find you community. Use apps or social media to challenge yourself. Many apps have you “compete” with its users. I love my Nike+.

So hopefully that gives you some ideas or sparks some of your own. How do you stay motivated when all you want to do is curl up under a blanket and drink a latte?

Easy ways to fit in fitness

Easy ways to fit in fitness

You’re busy, I get it. I totally feel you. After work (even if you are a stay at home parent), school, kids, friends, errands, what have you, the last thing you have time or energy for is to workout. Not just that, but if you are like most parents, there is a large amount of guilt that goes with taking time away from your kids to workout. So here’s a little list I threw together to maybe spark some ideas and help you out!

  • take the stairs not the elevator or escalator.
  • do squats, lunges, toe raises, standing crunches, while you cook and or do dishes.
  • fit in fitness during kids bath time. Put the kids in the tub and do what you can right there in the bathroom or hallway. You can even work in some cardio (jump squats, jump lunges, just Google HIIT for ideas).
  • Just like above, fit it in at work. Take a few minutes several times a day to bust out some moves.
  • Walk for your lunch.
  • scale the stairs- have a stairwell at work? Throw on some earbuds and walk, run, lunge, side step up and down those bad boys.
  • Take the kids to the playground and get creative with the equipment. You can do tons of TRX type stuff with the swings. Pull-ups on a bar. Run around the playset.
  • Get up early and workout. My kids are up before the sun, so I was never a fan of this, but maybe this plan works better for you.
  • create a plan that you can do at home after the kids go to sleep.
  • Park WAY out in the parking lot when you go shopping.
  • Make it a family affair. Involve the kids. Make an obstacle course in your backyard. Go for a walk or bike ride.
  • Throw the kids in the stroller and walk with a friend, or alone, whatever.
  • Make it a playdate. Grab some friends and get creative in the backyard. I have a friend that comes over in the summer. We give the kids a bunch of outside stuff to do and we make stations to rotate. We use the wagon (with sides removed) for step ups, sprint the yard, push-ups, get creative with it.
  • Get over the guilt. Taking a little time for you a few times a week is important. We need to take care of ourselves in order to take care of others. Plus it’s a great example for our loved ones!

You can do this, Just remember taking the time to get fit and active will also give you more energy to do the things you want to do. Give yourself permission to focus on you a bit.

What do you do to get moving and fit fitness in?

Thanks for reading!

The loss of my first baby

The loss of my first baby

October is dedicated to those who have miscarried. This is a topic that I had never considered writing about before. Miscarriage is a very personal and heartbreaking experience. There seems to be a value of how much a person is allowed to or expected to hurt based on the amount of time the baby was carried. It’s a private hurt that is hard for others that haven’t experienced it to understand. I’ll share my story of loss in hopes that it reaches another and maybe helps just a bit.

Twenty years ago I was a young expectant mother, 19 when I got pregnant. I was married to the father and we were excited for our first ultrasound. The ultrasound took a long time. We didn’t know it was taking more time than usual because we had nothing to base it on. We were shown our beautiful baby’s hands and her profile. I felt such an utter sense of joy. We were then asked to wait in the waiting room to speak with the doctor. Again, we had no idea that this was not a usual occurrence. We waited for a very long time. Finally we were called back and the doctor had earth shattering news. Our baby girl had a condition called hydrops. She had fluid filling around her organs and had a sac of fluid around her head. The prognosis was not good but he wanted us to get an amniocentesis done to determine the cause. At that moment I heard ringing in my ears and he sounded a bit like the teacher in Snoopy. Then it clicked and I began clinging on to every word he said. I needed to know, needed to understand what was wrong with my baby and what I could do to save her. Was it my fault? Did I so something to her? I wouldn’t even eat chocolate for fear of the caffeine.

Some time later (it was so long ago I am not sure on the time) we went for our test. I was terrified. I hate needles and having a very large needle stuck into my belly was the last thing I wanted to do. I honestly don’t remember much of that, just that we discovered she had Turner’s Syndrome. She only had one chromosome and the type she had meant she only had a .1% chance of making it to birth. My ex husband cried, I remember that. I went numb. I asked questions. What could I do? How did this happen? No, I would not get a DNC, I needed to try to save her. That night I went to see my parents, to tell them. I remember my mom walking out of the kitchen. I had not cried, not for a second. I had to be strong. Then I screamed. I let out the worst sound that had ever escaped my lips. That’s all I could do, scream and sob and be held by my mother. Mom, if you are reading this, I know you are crying with me right now. I love you and that moment will always be a memory of how amazing you are. I don’t know how long that went on, but I pulled it together and got every book I could find on Turner’s Syndrome. At that time there was no internet. We relied on books. I gathered as much information as I could about what was doing this to my baby.

We continued to have prenatal visits and I began to hope. I made my daughters bassinet up at the end of our bed as a sort of hope. The months went by and I became annoyed that the doctors were not telling me what we were going to do if she made it. I was almost 6 months at this point, I was feeling her move. I finally got frustrated and got an appointment at a high risk office. At our first visit the doctor listened for her heartbeat. It wasn’t there. My stomach lurched. He took me to the next room and got me prepped for an ultrasound. His words will be with me forever, To say he had no bedside manner would be an understatement. “Yeah, she’s dead”. I was a 19 year old child who’s world had just been shattered and that’s it? “Yeah she’s dead”!!! Then I was told they would have to induce labor because I wasn’t going into it naturally. Having a dead fetus inside was very hazardous for me. He asked if I wanted to go home and come back tomorrow to start the process. I just wanted her out. I don’t know how else to put it. I needed to do this and do it now.

They wheeled me into a private room and started the process of inducing my labor. I was able to have morphine for the pain, but I had no idea about what to expect. I hadn’t researched labor or knew anything about the stages of labor. I was in and out of it. I remember people, family, coming in and out of the room for my ex husband and I. They played cards, talked in the hall, hugged me, cried. I just sort of laid there, in pain and numb to it all. Finally I remember calling to the nurse that I had to go to the bathroom. She assured me that I didn’t, it was time to push. I am not sure how long I pushed, I don’t think it was long. I was still numb. I was out of it, and my husband told the nurse no, I didn’t need to see the baby. She put her in a sort or connected room in case I changed my mind. I slept. I never did see her, a drugged decision I regret to this day. The wonderful nurses took a picture for me and included it in a care package. I think we left the next day. You forget stuff like that, little details. A nurse hugged me, she said she was so sorry and had a tears in her eyes. They took me down the back so I wouldn’t have to go past the nursery. I am thankful for that.

The following weeks I was numb, sad, angry. I watched a lot of old movies. My ex husband dealt with it by working all the time. I was alone a lot. I remember my mom came over once and started making me dinner. she and my dad had plans with friends. I could hear her in the next room telling my dad over the phone that no she couldn’t come and “yeah, not good”. My dad showed up and they told me to get dressed and they took me out to dinner.

I hated seeing people for the first time after that. They meant well, all had “good advice” to ease my pain. I was young, I could have more. This was Gods way of telling me something. She was in heaven now. She’s an angel. I felt like I was spending my energy making others feel comfortable around me. Well guess what, fuck you,, I wanted my baby. That baby! I actually appreciated the men. They don’t know what to say, so they say nothing. I am thankful for that. Women seemed to have to say something. I know they meant well, but I was just so angry.

I needed to get pregnant as soon as I could after that, and we did. I have since had 4 amazing children with no problems. I have been anxious for every pregnancy though and was adamant that I have my last before I was 35 when risk factors went up.I would like to say that my pain, carrying her until 6 months made it more of a loss for me than someone who carried to 6 weeks. There is no way to measure the sense of loss we have. While time does heal, I can talk about it without crying (except for this post, this was tearful). Losing her left an impression that formed part of who I am. I don’t think my ex husband and I ever recovered from that, relationship wise. While I was finally feeling the loss and grieving, he had already mourned while I was pregnant. To deal with it, he worked and was gone a lot, leaving me alone. I felt abandoned and alone in my grief.

So that is my story, my 20 year old story. I don’t need “I’m sorry’s” at this point. I only hope that this touches someone. To let you know that you are not alone in this pain.