September 28, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Managing Your Time in the Juggle of Motherhood

Welcome back! It’s been a couple weeks since our last Motherhood at a Glance feature article, mostly because I needed a break and needed to focus on working on other things. But it feels so good to be back for the last couple articles of 2020!

Today’s writer is Audrey Stephens, a friend of mine from San Diego! Audrey has been married to her hubby, Josh, for five years and they have been blessed with two sweet babes under two! After struggling through many years of infertility, they had their first baby through IVF and conceived their second naturally. Audrey loves running, reading and baking! She is a rockstar of a mom and I’m so excited for her to share some her insights on the strength of planning that she has cultivated and nourished during her motherhood journey.

I have always been a planner. My friends know this about me and have helped me grow that into more of a strength. I’m the kind of person that gets excited every year to buy my new planner and gets totally picky about the layout of it. Call me a nerd... but I love it!

During school this came in handy when I had assignments due, lacrosse games, and work. While we were in our college student phase this came in handy when I was working 3 jobs and had to manage my schedule. Then I became a stay at home mom and there wasn’t anything to “pencil in” anymore. I felt kind of lost. Newborns make you so busy in a very different way. It was a hard transition for me! Now, having 2 kids under 2, planning is even more important for me.

I found myself not getting as much done in my days and weeks as I wanted to but at first, I just attributed that to being a new mom. One day it hit me that I was no longer planning ANYTHING out. I wasn’t planning or prioritizing.

I soon learned that I needed to have a game plan.

At this point I started coaching lacrosse in the evenings again so my days became just a little busier. A game plan was necessary. Coaching at night meant I needed to have my daily things done before I left for practice. Cleaning, organizing, preparing dinner, and doing what I could for the baby before I had to leave. How would I be able to do that without a plan? 

“Most of us spend too much time on what is urgent, and not enough time on what is important” -Steven R. Covey

Now came the fun part. Write. It. Down.

Steven R. Covey has said before that if he could give 1 piece of advice it would be “plan your week”. I needed somewhere to write it all down to keep my thoughts organized. Writing down the times of my games and practices was easy, especially since those rarely varied. What was more difficult for me was spreading out my duties at home in a way that didn’t make me go crazy yet helped me get it all done. 

I got into a habit every Sunday evening of going through the upcoming week with Josh. Letting him know when swim lessons were, any church activities, lacrosse, etc. I asked him if there is anything he needed/wanted me to do for him during the week. Then, I wrote down my game plan. It is also helpful for us to have a shared calendar on our phone where I put things like doctor appointments, swim lessons, or parties. Some things were a weekly task but even week also had its unique to-do list.

It is very easy to make myself overwhelmed with everything that I want to get done. To combat that, I would plan some more strenuous tasks with others that are quick and easy.

“Don’t be busy, be productive”

It is easy to do the things that come every week (like laundry and grocery shopping) but other things are so easy to push aside. I’ll admit, there have been times when I flip through my planner and see the same task 3 weeks in a row that has still not been crossed off… And that is okay! It is all about prioritizing. 

When things are written down in a way that is not intimidating it makes it so much easier to follow through. Everytime I get to cross something off my list I feel like super-mom, and you should too!

I could tell you exactly how I plan out my week to get everything done but that probably wouldn’t work for you. Everybody has different needs, to-do lists, and priorities. It took a little bit of time to find what worked best for me and my family and once I got in my groove I was able to add things to my week to help my family and even pencil in some self care.

That’s right… Schedule yourself some self care!! Put it on your to-do list or in your planner and make sure your partner knows that it’s there.

Through all of this I have learned to not be so hard on myself. As women, we are way too hard on ourselves for no reason at all! My one piece of advice is to figure out what your priority is (singular, not plural) and focus your time there. If your kids need you more today, give them that time. You can do the vacuum tomorrow.

“Women wear many hats, but it is impossible, and unnecessary to wear them all at once. The Spirit helps us determine which work to focus on today.” Joy B Jones

Thank you so much to Audrey for this great take on managing your time as a mama. I know I struggle with this big time, so I’m going to be putting this into action this week! As a recap, her suggestions are:

Write. It. Down. Put your week in writing so you can make the most use of your time

Follow through and find what way works best for you

August 31, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Cultivating More Patience

Today's Motherhood at a Glance feature writer is my sweet friend, Lauren! It's always funny having friends with the same name as you - you're always addressing yourself! ;) 

Lauren grew up in AZ but has since lived all over the country! She is an amazing mama to two sweet kids, her son who is three-and-a-half and their daughter who is one-and-a-half! Lauren met her husband in college and have now been married for five year. She graduated with a degree in visual communication and is currently a stay-at-home-mama while her husband is in graduate school to get his PhD! Lauren loves all things creative, like baking yummy things (that she says don't always look Pinterest-worthy, but sure do taste good!). She communicates in TV and movie quotes, which I love! Lauren is genuinely just such a sweet soul and amazing example as a mama.  

I'm so excited for us to learn from Lauren today as she shares a little bit about how she has cultivated the all-too-relatable attribute that everyone struggles with when raising little humans: patience! As we apply her three simple steps to becoming more patient in parenting, I am sure we will all have a less stressful week ahead!

Doesn’t that poem just make your eyes well up?? I need daily... okay... hourly reminders to be patient. Unfortunately, it’s so easy (and normal!) to get frustrated with your kids. I was not born a patient person. In fact, I’m not so sure that I can even classify myself as a patient person at all, BUT it is something that I am constantly striving to be. Here are three key things that have been actually life-changing for me as I do my best to navigate motherhood with patience.

If you’ve seen Daniel Tiger’s neighborhood, you know how much of a saint Daniel’s mom is. She is literally THE mom I aspire to be. (Besides my own mom. Duh.) Honestly, this first tip should really be: “Watch Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood.” If nothing else, at least watch this little clip of Mom Tiger really quick and take notes! Then come right back to the blog post because I’m just getting started! ;)

Is the show trying to teach children how to control their emotions? Yes. Have I learned more about controlling my emotions than my kids have? Absolutely yes. My sweet son has caught on and always tells me, “good job, mom!” after I take my deep breaths. (Thanks little buddy! I always need the encouragement.) Breathe and then respond. It will do wonders. 

It drives me nuts when people sarcastically say to children: “Oh, your life must be SO hard!” Okay... hold up. At some phases in childhood, there is literally no way for children to communicate besides crying. So yes, it’s frustrating when you can’t figure out why your baby is crying, but it has got to be frustrating for THEM to not be able to tell you what’s wrong.  When children do start to talk, there are constant misunderstandings because, you know, they’re trying to learn a whole new language! If you ever took a foreign language class in high school, then you got a little glimpse of this. (Three years of Spanish over here and all I’ve got to show for it is: ¿Dónde está la biblioteca?) It’s no joke to learn a new language! 

Let’s not forget that children have such limited freedom. “You want to stay at the park for two more hours? Well shoot—instead you have to drive around in the car with me for an hour while I run errands. Sorry!” It’s not all that easy, so let’s cut our children some slack. 

Ralphie from Simply on Purpose shared this tip on her Instagram stories one time and I was MIND. BLOWN. I literally don’t know why I hadn’t thought of this myself but it has helped our little family so much.  My son has a lot of energy. Like... a lot. LOL. For so long, I would just expect him to always cooperate and listen to me. *Facepalm.* When he wouldn’t, I would get so frustrated and lose it. News flash to me: I shouldn’t expect my 3- year-old to sit perfectly still and quietly as I grocery shopped for a whole hour. I shouldn’t expect my 1-year-old to not start sucking on our Apple TV remote when I left it on the coffee table that’s literally right in front of her. The list goes on. I had been setting myself up for frustration with such unrealistic expectations! Children are going to act their age. 

Now, to avoid getting overly-frustrated with my son at the grocery store, I either go by myself, make my trips with him especially short, or do grocery pickup. (*Insert the praying hands emoji because we are truly blessed to live in a time where grocery pickup exists.*) As for my little girl sucking on our remote, I have learned to keep things I really don’t want to be sucked on out of reach… but I have also just accepted that she just is going to put our things in her mouth. Haha! Let them be little. “When little people are overwhelmed by big emotions, it’s our job to share our calm, not join their chaos.”

—L.R. Knost

You’re never going to be able to be patient 100% of the time. Patience is something that needs to be worked on constantly. It’s a bummer but it’s the truth. Set realistic expectations for yourself and remember to give yourself some grace. Start with one tiny thing you can do to keep from getting overly frustrated and go from there. This week, I’m going to really focus on taking deep breaths when I get worked up. Let’s learn patience. Let’s learn it for our kids and be the best moms we can be. You’ve got this, mama!

Thank you so much to Lauren for this insightful and tangible article on how to cultivate more patience! She makes it much more manageable and less overwhelming with her three takeaways:

Take a step back and breathe before we react or respond to our children

See life through our children's eyes and cut them some slack

Set realistic expectations and recognize your child's age to avoid frustration

August 24, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Redefining Beauty and Strengthening Self-Identity

Welcome to week fourteen in the Motherhood at a Glance feature segment! I'm so happy to introduce you to today's writer, Stephanie Barillas Mortensen!

Stephanie was born and raised in Southern California and is the daughter of Guatemalan Immigrants. She currently lives in Salt Lake City, UT with her husband, Kyle, and their sweet baby boy, Oliver! Stephanie works for a nonprofit that provides services to refugees, immigrants and survivors of persons in trafficking. She enjoys spending her free time outdoors with her family, traveling with her husband, trying new restaurants and going to brunch with girlfriends!

Stephanie is truly an amazing woman and I'm so grateful to know her and learn from her! I know what she has written today is going to resonate with so many of you and I hope you find the power in her words, as I did. Enjoy!

Self-Identity is something I have been working through for quite some time. This journey of self-searching started a few years ago. Beginning this process was important for me before I became a mama. I knew I had work to do, from accepting my culture and traditions, to loving my body and skin color. Growing up as the daughter of immigrants, I felt like I was living two different lives. At school I spoke English and at home we strictly spoke Spanish. We celebrated holiday traditions in a different way than most of my friends. We celebrated Christmas on December 24th at midnight, while my friends woke up early in the morning of the 25th to open gifts. Throughout my teenage years I always wanted to fit in. I had friends that were different from me. They were thin and white and seemed to have a desirable look, as far I could see.  

I watched these girls get asked to dance at school or church dances. I remember wishing that I looked more like them. I would often watch how much time I spent in the sun because I didn’t want to look too tan. Now, as an adult, I am learning to unlearn the meaning of beauty that society taught me.

While I was pregnant and anxiously awaited the arrival of my son Oliver, I dug deep in podcasts, books, blogs, parenting classes, and really anything I could research on parenting and motherhood. I came across Brené Brown’s “The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto”. As I read the words, “Above all else, I want you to know that you are loved and lovable. You will learn this from my words and actions - the lessons on love are in how I treat you and how I TREAT MYSELF.” These words hit me like a ton of bricks. 

As a mother, I hope and dream for my son a beautiful and authentic life where he feels free to love and be loved. Free to feel pain. Free to make mistakes. Free to succeed. Free to be unapologetically himself. If I have learned anything from parenting it is that Oliver needs to see my vulnerability. He needs to see me embrace myself and not hold back. I can no longer be ashamed of the skin that I am in. I can no longer suppress my thoughts and feelings. He will learn to live an authentic life by watching me live mine.  

I remember being pregnant and some of the advice I got was to go on as many dates with Kyle as I could and to cherish our time together. To watch all the movies or shows we wanted now because once the baby came, things would be different. It was as if I was going to lose all of my freedom to this little human. In reality, Oliver has set me free in a way I never Imagined. I feel encouraged to be more loving of myself, to feel more, to stand up for myself, to be quicker to apologize and to recognize my mistakes. I can allow myself to love at a whole new level. I am free to be me and, in turn, I truly believe that he is getting the best version of his mama that anyone has ever seen! What is that one thing that is a part of you that you have always wanted to dig deeper but are afraid to discover? For me it was learning more about my Guatemalan heritage. I had held back for many years fully embracing that side of myself for lots of reasons. 

One day, I decided that I felt beautiful in my brown skin and that I no longer wanted to be ignorant, but to be full of wisdom of the traditions of my ancestors. I wanted to know and love the land my mother and grandmother grew up in. In October of 2017, my husband and I made the big move to Guatemala and decided to live there for six months. It was a beautiful and healing experience to live my truth. I now understand more about my mother, and more about myself. We made sacred memories and I am excited to share them with my children.

Another major thing that has helped me cultivate these strengths is loving my body. I’m sure some of you can relate with this but I have been so harsh on my postpartum body. I caught myself mourning my old body, feeling frustrated with not being able to jump back into my old jeans and being super embarrassed of the extra weight and stretch marks. This was hard for me. I felt insecure not only about the way that I looked but also about my relationship with my husband. I would think to myself what if he no longer finds me attractive? He probably doesn’t think I’m beautiful. He probably misses my old body. I am now practicing using kind words when referring to my body and have addressed these insecurities by having open and honest conversations with my loving and supportive husband. I have also come up with three positive truths about my body. When I start to feel or have negative thoughts, I go back to these three truths:

1. My body helped me grow a beautiful and healthy baby boy for 39 whole weeks! 

2. My body shown me that I am capable of doing hard things. ( morning sickness/ labor) 

3. My body has helped me nourish this boy for the last seven months, and that’s so magical!

Lastly, I truly believe that empowered women empower women. Seek those who will allow you to create your own definition of what a good mother is and will support you through it. I feel absolutely lucky to have found women who love me and support me in this way. On the hard days, they keep me going. 

Also, I make it a point to not only receive, but also to give. I love giving a compliment whenever I can to my fellow mamas. Sometimes I have even messaged complete strangers on Instagram because I read how they had “one of those days”. I have been there, and I understand what that’s like and sometimes it’s just nice to hear that you are doing a great job! Also, I encourage you to be vulnerable and as organic as you can as you engage in these relationships. I know it’s scary - I was scared when Lauren reached out to me about this. Self-doubt quickly rolled in but here I am practicing vulnerability and sharing my truth with you all. I dare you to try it. It’s truly liberating.

Going back to my roots, loving and embracing my new postpartum body, and women empowerment has helped me in my journey to living a more authentic and unapologetic life. This might look different for you and that’s okay. I’m here for it. I’m here for our differences because those are things that make us who we are. I hope that through your journey of Motherhood you are able to be your true self. That one day your children will know that they are worthy of love and being loved because they watched you fiercely do so. 

“I will not teach or love or show you anything perfectly, but I will let you see me, and I will always hold sacred the gift of seeing you. Truly deeply seeing you.” -Brené Brown (The Wholehearted Parenting Manifesto).

Thank you so much to Stephanie for sharing a truly insightful look into how to redefine beauty and strengthening your self-identity. These takeaways will help to build that foundation of motherhood that helps us to thrive, not just survive. As a recap, these are Stephanie's three steps:

Immerse yourself in your culture and allow it to strengthen your identity

Love and accept your body by recognizing it's blessings and strengths

Build an empowering community of women to give and receive love and support

August 17, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Loving Yourself Through Thick and Thin

I'm so happy to introduce you to my friend, Sara! She is still on her journey to becoming a mother and I'm so grateful she was willing to share her insights from her experiences!

Sara Speedy is a newly wed to Adam, her sweetheart! She is a junior-high art teacher which means you can typically find her in paint-covered clothes, inside and out of the classroom! Sara is a rice crispy connoisseur and plant-lady. She loves bringing home a new plant-baby almost every week! Today, she is sharing with us how she has learned to love herself through thick and thin and how you can too! 

Growing up in a house with four other girls had its ups and downs. Quite literally, a lot of emotional ups and downs. We all were a little crazy sometimes, my poor dad. I grew up in a loving home, it was a safe place for my sisters and me. We were cared for and our dreams were nurtured. Being little is such a breeze, and some days I really miss it. You don’t have a care in the world and you are just always happy. Can you imagine? That sounds pretty amazing. And some days I do feel that childlike love for myself, but nowhere near as often as I probably should. I want you to take a second and reflect and remember what it was like when you were little. How did you feel about yourself? How did you see yourself? What were your dreams? 

Looking back in my own life I remember how badly I wanted to be a veterinarian. I was obsessed with animals and was convinced that one day I would be just like the Crocodile Hunter. That was my focus, I wanted to rescue and help all of the animals that I could. As the years passed, hurtful things were said by others or by myself, and my dream shifted. While watching a movie or scrolling through instagram, I have noticed myself daydreaming about how I will make my body work for that swimsuit, or how to make myself a lot smaller than I am. Why is this now my dream? What happened? Well, a lot has happened. But I am here to tell you (and am still learning myself) that life can still be great even if those jeans you wore in high school don’t fit. 

When I was about 22 years old I was battling some demons. And not just your everyday I’m-in-college-and-am-so-stressed-out-and-haven’t-been-on-a-date-since-I-moved-here-demons. It was something that I couldn’t understand and it was ruining my life. I had constant mood swings, I had mental breakdowns almost every other day, and these dark thoughts were always hovering over me. I was eating like crazy and was constantly hungry and still losing weight (sounds great, right?) And for a while it was. Despite the fact that I was miserable, I loved that I was “getting skinny.” Little did I know, my body was actually destroying itself. 

After suffering for two years I was finally diagnosed with Graves Disease. Graves is an autoimmune disease that stems from your thyroid. My thyroid was producing too much hormone which was causing my severe depression and anxiety, making my body starve for nutrients, drop a lot of weight, and did I mention it was making my hair fall out? It was one of the darkest and hardest times of my life. I wanted it to end, but I also didn’t because I could finally go to Target and buy a size small. 

Soon after receiving treatment and adjusting to the prescribed daily medication, I noticed that my body started to change. It felt like I was a teenager again and couldn't figure out what the heck was going on. And worse of all, I couldn't fit in that cute shirt I bought at Target anymore. I was devastated. 

But why? I was feeling sane again, and those awful thoughts were finally subsiding. Why was I so upset? I was finally getting better, but I didn’t see it like that. 

As women, our bodies change, whether it’s a reflection of our choices or a condition out of our control. We think our bodies are never perfect. But what if they actually are? Our bodies do so many  amazing things. Our bodies allow us to get up every morning and go out into the world and make someone smile. Our bodies allow us to be together with family around the holidays. And our bodies allow us to find our own happily ever after. Our bodies do a lot, we just have to take a moment to recognize all that our bodies do for us. Having a positive appearance of yourself doesn’t take pain away. Oh how I wish that it did. 

And even if we have reached being an expert on loving ourselves, tragic things still do happen. 

What I am getting at is that I think we all (including myself) need to still love our bodies even if they don’t look how we think they need to look or if they don’t work like they normally should. 

There is also another dream that I had as a little girl. I didn’t only want to save the animals, but I wanted to be a mother. And even though that might not happen for me because of my disease, it doesn’t mean that I still can’t be. 

After I was diagnosed and on my road to recovery I noticed that a lot of really great things started happening to me. I was doing my student teaching at the time and was offered a position as a Junior High Art teacher. I was so excited! To some that may sound like being forced to do jury duty for the rest of your life, but for me it was the happiest day ever! 

My students mean the world to me, they call me their “Art Mom” which is one my favorite things in the whole world. But see? My body isn’t perfect, but I can still perfectly try to reach my dreams. And we all can do that if we love ourselves like we did when we were little. Let’s all be grateful for what we have and cheer others on even when we are hurting. Let's make it a goal to smile and help those around us. Let's all help each other reach our dreams, because even though we are all little girls, we can all still dream big. 

Thank you so much to Sara for being so open and vulnerable as she shared a little bit of her journey so far. She is such an inspiration to me and I know she is touching so many by sharing what she did today! As a recap, Sara suggests: 

See yourself through your inner-child's eyes and give yourself grace

Love your body and forget about what you think you should look like