May 25, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: Calming Your Inner Overachiever

 I want to start by saying: THANK YOU. Last week's launch for Motherhood at a Glance went so well and all the feedback I received was overwhelmingly positive. I am so grateful that so many of you have already been touched and inspired. Today, I decided to share something that has been on my heart for a few weeks now. I hope you feel understood and capable after you read this week's Motherhood at a Glance! 

Next week we will be having another feature writer, as promised and I am so excited for you all to read what she has prepare for you. But for now, here is my advice on how to calm your inner-overachiever.

Photo by To Bloom + Wander

I was a senior in high school when I experienced one of the first anxiety attacks that I can remember.  I had come home exhausted from a long week of tests, show choir practice, projects, theatre rehearsal, and performances. I was overworking myself, stretched thin and just plain-old-exhausted. At that point I didn't know how to identify what I was experiencing. Eight years ago, anxiety wasn't spoken about the same way it is now. All I knew was that if I continued to function this way, I would eventually crumble. In the same breath, I knew that if my plate was unloaded even just a little, emptiness and depression would take its place. And so, I entered the cycle of battling my inner overachiever.

Overachiever, perfectionist, go-getter - whatever you may call it, I believe most of us (especially mamas) identify with these characteristics. Now, hear me out! When I say "overachiever," I don't mean that person who does things for praise or recognition. Overworking themselves simply for the sake of it. I'm talking about that inner voice saying that you are not good enough. You become convinced that the way to be "good enough" is by doing more. Stretching yourself so thin that the inner voice is muffled. You feel better about it for a few days, clearing that never-ending to-do list (even the ones that you already completed, but wrote in just to check off). Then, like clock-work, you begin to hear that voice again. Only this time, she's convinced you that you can't do anything. You're too overwhelmed, so you might as well quit. No use in doing anything if you can't hold it all together! Have you heard that voice? I have. 

Photo by To Bloom + Wander

I've fallen into this cycle yet again as of late. My husband went out of town for work, leaving me to take care of our two girls, a two-and-a-half-year-old and 11-month-old, while building my new small business, running my blog, trying to serve others, and keeping myself and our home [mostly] clean. I finally broke down, after two full weeks of keeping it together so he wouldn't worry too much. Another thing added to my plate, subconsciously. The stress naturally took over and affected my patience with my kids and myself. Hanging on by a thread, the tiniest thing can send you down a spiral of self-doubt and despair.

I'm here to reassure you that it is possible to calm your inner overachiever without losing yourself completely. As you may have already gathered, I've struggled with this for the better part of my life. I'm living with it and battling against it daily, but have learned a few ways to calm that part of you that wants to do it all. I feel that this is so important and pertinent to motherhood. As you learn to calm that inner overachiever in you, I promise you will feel more capable as a mother, a partner, a friend and more adequate in your abilities. It is amazing the difference I feel when I become more mindful of my schedule, mental or physical. 

Before I lose you, let me remind you first that you are enough. You can do it all, in your own way. Let's just figure out a healthy way, together!
Photo by To Bloom + Wander

Recently during a broadcast for our church, a speaker, Joy D. Jones, said, "Women wear many hats but it is impossible and unnecessary to wear them all at once." If you take just one thing away from reading my blog, I hope it is the powerful simplicity found in that sentence. To calm your inner overachiever, we must decide what is most important to us and break it down daily. I have recently started my day by thinking about all the things I hope to get done. Creating a mini-mental to-do list. Then, I take a moment to determine what I want to focus on that day. 

I ask myself, "What is most important or even necessary that I get done today?" I center my attention and free-time on that one thing and put other things aside, for now. I have found that as I do this, I  have more flexibility in my day. Feelings of anxiousness are settled because my load is lighter. 

Let's say you have felt that you haven't been spending as much quality time with your children as you'd like to. Maybe life has piled up, you've gotten busy, and during the time you have spent with them, your mind has been elsewhere. Determine a day that you can have quality time as your focus and decide how you're going to do that. Maybe it means planning a fun morning together and playing 20-questions. Maybe it means putting your phone in "timeout" if you're easily distracted. However it may look for you, choose a day to focus on it. Doing this often and adjusting your mindset, whether it is on a mental or physical task, will encourage your inner overachiever to calm and focus on one task at a time. 

We've all heard this advice at least once in our lives, especially those of us who struggle with people pleasing! It is hard to say "no" - at first. Inevitably it will leave you feeling a little guilty and unsure but with time and practice, you will learn to advocate for your needs and recognize when you need to pull back. I've learned that saying "no" can oftentimes go beyond having a full schedule on paper. Meaning your mental load can be just as heavy or full as your physical to-do list.

Think of a time you committed to something just to cancel at the last minute. We’ve all done it, so no shame! Often, society - or even people in our lives - convince us that this is wrong. I’m not encouraging you to cancel a necessary appointment just because you’d rather be on your couch eating ice cream (even though I feel that!). I’m simply suggesting that sometimes it’s appropriate to say no, even if that means you’re doing it last minute. You should never, ever feel bad about nurturing your mental health. 

Nothing that I’ve shared today is going to come naturally to you and that is okay. It may take some hard conversations with yourself to truly determine what areas of your life leave you feeling anxious or overwhelmed. There will be times you fail, because becoming more mindful of your needs is a process. What’s crucial is that you give yourself grace in that moment. Talk to yourself like you would your sister, your mother, or your friend. Pick yourself back up, eat some chocolate, and try again. You are capable of “doing it all” without doing it all in one day, a week, or even a year. As you learn to calm your inner overachiever, you will feel more strength in your abilities and relationships. You’ve got this, mama! 

Photo by To Bloom + Wander

I want to reiterate that you are capable. What that looks like for you is unique, so remember to avoid comparing your victories or downfalls, to others. You are valuable and your mental health is vital for you to be the best person and mom you can be. You are wonderful, needed and important. I am here, cheering you on!

I hope you’ve found something that resonates with you from this quick read today! As a recap, here are the three ways you can calm your inner-overachiever:

Determine your focus every day and break it down to avoid feeling overwhelmed.

Learn to say no in order to nurture and for advocate your own needs.

Offer yourself grace, just as you would a friend.

May 18, 2020

Motherhood at a Glance: How To Cultivate a Healthy Relationship with Yourself

I am thrilled to introduce our very first Motherhood at a Glance feature writer! I have had the pleasure of knowing Kasee Bailey for about a year now and she has become an inspiration to me ever since meeting her. She is a vibrant 27-year-old living here in Texas with her husband and four children (Nathaniel and Tobias, 3, Norah and Wyatt, 1). Kasee is a freelance writer and small business owner of Longhand Pencils. She is a multi-passionate creative and loves diving into new projects. Kasee enjoys reading, writing, napping, making and eating chocolate chip cookies when she isn't busy chasing down her two sets of twins! 

When I read what she had written to share today, I was floored. Her words are inspiring and her message is powerful. I'm excited for you to learn a little bit from this wonderful mother and friend.

It’s totally cringey to look back on my adolescent journals. Collaged in torn-out pictures from teen magazines and stuffed with newspaper clippings and ticket stubs, they were filled with meandering thoughts (like the embarrassing chronicles of the boys I crushed on) and passionate dreams for my future. That imagined future included a life of writing: a job at a magazine in New York, days filled with art and culture, and a strong-willed, independent identity. 

I followed those dreams as I grew older, earning a degree in journalism and working at magazines in big cities. But my life also grew to include (wonderful, miraculous) things I hadn’t anticipated — a husband, and in the course of four years, two sets of twins.

Nearly in the blink of an eye, I sharply pivoted from deadlines and city streets to diapers and late-night feedings. It was jarring. I didn’t realize it until much much later, but once I had kids and focused on family life, I lost an important part of me. 

Now, let me be clear: I love being a mom. It is the most important and rewarding role I could ever have. It’s stretching and challenging and miraculous, and I wouldn’t ever trade it for anything — even the dream I thought I wanted as a teenager. But the change started out for me as an either-or. I could either be a mom OR a writer. There were no ampersands. 

It has taken me years to figure this out (and it’s still a learning process, as my therapist would attest), but as wives, mothers, and women, we have to embrace the ampersands in our life —the ands. Becoming mothers — in whatever capacity — doesn’t have to mean we lose ourselves. We can be mothers and dreamers and makers and creators. It’s not either-or. 

It was hard for me to leave the corporate world once my first twins were born. I struggled to find complete fulfillment in the day-to-day minutiae of raising two demanding beings. But slowly, as I brought myself back into my life, I felt fully whole. I started writing again (in a new, adapted way), I started a small business, and I continually make time for creating, developing my unique gifts, and exploring my own personal identity. 

Now, I know. This all sounds counterintuitive. Focusing more on yourself is a strength in motherhood? YES. Yes, yes, yes. A hundred times yes. You know what happened when I started re-discovering myself after having children? I became a better mother.

Prioritizing time to develop and pursue my dreams outside of my motherhood role has made me a happier, stronger, and more capable mom. When we care for and nurture ourselves, we can better care for and nurture others. What’s more, through our actions, our children see the worth of their own individual identities, dreams, and goals. They develop confidence. They recognize the importance of working hard and the value in creating. Those are essential lessons. 

The past four years, I have a seen a drastic change in myself as I’ve re-discovered myself. As I’ve valued myself enough to cultivate my own identity, I have strengthened every aspect of my life — including my work as a mother. My children and I have thrived more together.

This is hard, I know. We get so immersed in the trenches of motherhood, and often without even noticing, we lose more and more of ourselves. Being the best mother we can be is important. We need to nurture our children in a loving way, provide for their needs, and strive to better ourselves in this role. But nurturing yourself is a big part of that. Here’s a few ideas for honoring your incredibly valuable self. 

Believe me, I am all too familiar with Mom Guilt. Like, intimately familiar. It’s been my obnoxiously-omnipresent companion since that day in 2016 when a nurse rubbed goo on my stomach and declared, “Oh my gosh! There are two!” 

You have to actively fight against the inner voices telling you that you shouldn’t take time for yourself. This takes practice. But time for yourself matters. It’s important for physical, mental, and emotional health — and for your own identity. 

And I know in the past few years, we’ve heard “self-care” thrown around like confetti (or the cheerios that you will be finding in the crevices of your car forever). But I think in that frequent conversation, “self-care” has become trite. It’s not about taking a bubble bath after a long day, or “treating yo’ self” (although, that can totally be part of it, Tom- and Donna-style). It’s about understanding — deeply— that you are not just a lean, mean, diaper-changing-machine (‘cause that is what I feel like a lot), but a person, and giving yourself the permission to cultivate yourself. You’re a human being with worth outside of motherhood. #micdrop. You're a person with gifts, talents, passions — and a calling that matters. 

Start by carving out a specific time each day or each week for yourself, whether that be an hour or two while your kids nap (or have “quiet time”), after they go to bed, or while your husband takes over on Saturdays. Whenever it is, mark it and honor that appointment with unwavering commitment. Talk to your partner or support system and communicate the importance of this time. And when your kids scream as you leave or stick their fingers underneath your door as you engage in YOU-time, remind yourself that you’re doing it for you — and for them

Okay, it’s time to get philosophical. Who are you? Take some time — yes, do it now— and think: what are your interests? Your dreams? Your passions, goals, gifts? What activities or practices make you feel like you? These are the things you should spend time investing in. If you’re unsure or have forgotten what makes you you, find joy in exploring. Take classes on new topics, visit museums or walk in nature, or work on developing a new skill. Find those activities that provide personal fulfillment and prioritize them. 

Whoa, whoa, I know. Balance. It’s a buzzword and that ultimate end-goal we moms strive for when working to juggle all our roles and responsibilities as wives, mothers, and women. But right now, you just need to ditch the idea of balance. Balance is a scale with even weights. And that’s not reality. 

You will experience different phases and seasons of life, and how you manage time and the division of yourself during those different periods will look different — and vary for each family. Try instead to think of harmony. 

Imagine one of those setups for recording music, the ones with a thousand buttons and dials, like producers use, (or the makeshift one your brother had in your basement when he had his own band….or was that just my family?) At times, you need to increase the volume in one area of your life, and turn it down in others. It’s not forever, just needed to create harmony in that phase. Adjust and edit sound settings (or routines, habits, or time) based on the needs of your family and the demands of the period you’re in. 

Maybe you have newborns and you don’t have a two hours to take a painting class, but you can still devote small pockets of time for writing in your journal, or sewing a few stitches. You can still create that important time for yourself, even when it’s not perfectly divided time- or energy-wise with your other responsibilities. Maybe your kids are in school, and you have more time on your hands for yourself. Different phases, different volumes. It won’t be balanced, but balance isn’t what we’re striving for. We want harmony. You will adjust throughout your life. Accepting that can help you nurture yourself and keep Mom Guilt where it belongs — far the hell away from you. 

Mama, you are important. Do you realize that? Prioritizing yourself
and your goals isn’t selfish or shameful — it’s essential for you to find fulfillment, self-confidence, and physical, emotional, and mental well-being. It’s not about diminishing your focus on motherhood or ignoring that role. Far from it. Valuing who are you enough to nurture your own personal identity is a key for being the best mother you can be everyday. Fearlessly and passionately embrace your ANDs. You need it, and your kids need it.

(Uhm, also. A final note: laying in your bed and eating the chocolate you hid from your children totally counts as YOU-time, okay? Okay.)

Thank you so much to Kasee for sharing her heart with us today. I hope you learned from her and feel more confident in your ability to cultivate a healthy relationship with yourself and your motherhood. Just to recap, the three ways you can apply this into your own life are: 

Value your time and honor appointments with yourself  

Introspect: Find joy in exploring what makes you, you

Ditch balance and instead, find a realistic harmony for your life

You can find Kasee over on her website

May 12, 2020

Toddler Activity: Bottle Cap Matching

Using materials around the house to make these activities has proven to be more difficult that I originally thought! It pushes my creativity and resourcefulness, which I guess is a good thing. We don't love using disposable water bottles but they end up in our house from time to time. So, I figure I might as well reuse and recycle them to the best of my abilities! 

Piece of Cardboard

Ten Bottle Tops + Caps

Hot Glue

Sharpies or Paint

Glass or Other Round object

Start by cutting your cardboard into desired shape and size. I decided to do a simple rectangle that measures about 30" x 18". Then, cut your bottles just at the tip of the cap where the screw-on piece starts. You can use any shape or type of bottle caps. I ended up using the same kind for the whole board.

Use your glass or round object to trace ten circles on your cardboard. Color those in with whatever colors you prefer. I just used what I had in Sharpie colors but you can also use paint if you have that. As you can see, I wrote the names of the colors above the circles.

Write numbers one through ten on each circle, bold and same diameter as your bottle tops. Once your hot glue gun is nice and hot, attach the bottle tops to the center of each circle, being sure the align it so that your number is in the middle and visible when the cap is off.

Write the matching number on each bottle cap and screw them back on just in time for play! 

There are two main ways you can introduce this activity. One being, you can start with the caps off. Thus, having to match the cap number to the number inside the bottle top. The second way being, with the caps on and encouraging them to take each one off then proceeding to match up again!

This activity is great for fine-motor skills since they have to use those hand and finger muscles to unscrew the caps! It's also obviously great for matching and learning numbers. I recommend sitting down with them if they are younger to make sure they don't put caps in their mouths. Have fun!

May 7, 2020

Introducing: Motherhood At A Glance

I am so thrilled to introduce a brand new section of my blog: Motherhood at a Glance! This is going to be a feature post segment where mothers of all walks of life, will be sharing insights on different strengths or areas they thrive in their motherhood. They will be sharing what has worked for them to cultivate that particular strength. I hope for this to be a way to share uplifting and encouraging content to mothers of all walks of life!

To start this out, I wanted to take some time to elaborate my thoughts I shared this morning over on my Instagram page. I'm going to share a couple takeaways that have helped me to be a better mom. So, I will start with that and take it from there! 

I often think back to the day this picture was taken. My best friend and I were nearing the end of our first pregnancies and while I was visiting her here in Texas (we were living in California at the time), we decided to visit Waco. What's memorable about that day wasn't the actual walk around Magnolia, but the drive home. 

We talked about what kind of mothers we hoped to be, the expectations we had and what we thought motherhood would be like. I remember feeling like I had a good grasp on what having a child of my own would be like. Ohhh, was I na├»ve! Unfortunately, having these unrealistic expectations for myself caused me a lot of pain and self-doubt during those first several months after having my first baby. 

Thankfully, I've since learned how to be the mother that I am, instead of the one I think I'm supposed to be. I have come to realize that I will be a source of joy and a source of disappointment for myself or my children throughout my life and that's okay. We hear it all the time, but motherhood truly is a journey. I'm still learning everyday what my personal motherhood looks like, but I'm so grateful to be able to look back and see just how far I've come. 

This is why I'm so passionate about this new section of my blog. I've taken this time off to really contemplate exactly how I wanted to have it all structured so that it really can be a quick, inspiring read for mothers or mothers-to-be, at all stages. I have found so much encouragement from podcasts and blogs that focus on motherhood and I feel that I have a lot to offer because of it! More importantly, I'm really blessed to know so many wonderful, inspiring mothers who I really feel we could all learn from. 

I'm really excited about this new opportunity to provide encouraging, uplifting content and I hope you will join along!