What a Pig and Taylor Swift are Teaching Me About Self-Care

Have you seen the movie Sing? It's actually pretty cute. It's about a koala (all the characters in the movie are animals) who owns a failing theater. In a last ditch effort to save it, he puts on a singing competition. My kids are really into it, and since my husband and I enjoy it too it's been our go-to for family movie night.

Having seen this movie a few times now, I can't help relating a little bit to one of the characters. Her name is Rosita, and she is a stay-at-home piggy-mama of 25. That's right. 25. She does an awesome job juggling the many responsibilities of caring for her family, and she loves to sing. So when she happens upon a flier for the singing competition, she goes to audition, is selected, and finds a way to make it work, even while caring for her large family.

Now, maybe I've seen this movie a few too many times and am reading into things more than I should, but I think Rosita's experience in the singing competition teaches a lot of great lessons about the importance of self-care that her fellow stay-at-home mamas would to do well to learn from. 

Self-care is important. Being a mom amazing! But it's also hard, monotonous, and sometimes isolating. I do the same set of tasks day after day, often with a child in my arms or on my lap. It's meaningful work, but let's be honest, it also gets a little boring. If I don't get a little time to myself to pursue some sort of creative outlet, I start to go a little crazy.

I like to think Rosita feels the same way. She loves being a mom, but she is swamped with all the work that caring for a large family entails. She's probably feeling a little burned out. Rosita also loves to sing. Music helps her get through the day when the kids are crazy and the laundry is piling up. When she finds out about the singing competition she sees it as an opportunity to get out for some much needed Rosita-time, do something she loves, and maybe even win some cash for her family.

Don't feel guilty about doing something that is just for you. It's ok to want to take a break from child rearing. In fact, it's good for you to get out by yourself once in a while for some self-care.   

Sometimes you need to think outside the box to make it happen. One of the biggest obstacles for moms in pursuing some self-care or a hobby is that it's really hard to get away from the kids.  Rosita knows what that's like. Her husband isn't able to help with childcare because of the demands of his job. And she can't get a babysitter to commit because, hello, 25 children. So she gets creative. 

Now let me be clear, I'm not advocating for rigging up a system of gears and pulleys, powered by an electric toy train set to do your chores and take care of your children for you while you leave the house. Not a good idea!!

That being said, don't give up on making time for yourself just because the obvious solutions aren't available to you. If your baby is difficult in the evening, try getting out during the day. If you don't have family near by, or a reliable babysitter, ask a girlfriend with similarly aged children if she'd like to trade some babysitting once or twice a month. Or, if what you really need is just 30 minutes to read a book without being interrupted, get your kids a snack, set them up with an age appropriate movie, and don't feel guilty about it. It won't ruin them, I promise. 

No one else goes days on end without a little break from their jobs, and neither should you.

Don't give up if it doesn't seem to be working right away.  One day after a particularly frustrating rehearsal Rosita is ready to give up. "It's never going to happen," she sighs, "I should just be getting groceries." 

This has definitely happened to me before. I had carved out some time on a Saturday morning when my husband was home to go do some writing at a coffee shop. It had been so long since I had done something like that I wasn't even sure where I should go. I tried one cafe near our house, it was completely packed. So I went to the coffee shop down the street from there, and their WiFi wasn't working. By the time I got to a Starbucks and figured out how to get on their WiFi I had 10 minutes left to write before I needed to go home to put the baby down for her nap. It felt like a complete waste of time and I felt foolish for even attempting to do something on my own. When I got home I told my husband through hot tears that I would have been better off just staying home and cleaning the house.  

Lucky for me I have an understanding husband who said "no" and made me try it again the next weekend. And you know what? The second time around went so much better. 

Maybe you tried leaving your kids with a babysitter and it was a disaster, or maybe you tried going to a book club or exercise class and you hated it and felt like it was a waste if time. That's OK! Sometimes things don't go well. But don't let that stop you from trying again.

You do real work and you deserve real self-care. My favorite part of the movie Sing, the part that makes me cry every time, is at the end during the show, when Rosita gets her groove back. Her performance starts with her in a kitchen, wearing her mom uniform, and heaving a laundry basket full of clothes. She starts singing Shake If Off. That's right, the Taylor Swift song that we've all heard a thousand times. 

"I stay out too late, got nothing in my brain, That's what people say."

It's Taylor Swift, and it's ridiculous, but hearing those words come out the mouth of a stay-at-home mom completely changed the meaning of that song for me.

How many times have I heard other stay-at-home moms say that they feel like people think they stay home because they can't do anything else. That's it's not a "real job". How many times have I felt embarrassed when people ask me what I do and I all I have to say is that I stay home with my kids. Will they think I'm uneducated? Or that I don't have other experiences or interests besides that of playing with Play-doh and making macaroni and cheese? It's a good reminder that there is always more to a person than what meets the eye, and it's never fair to make assumptions. 

Then there is a dramatic set change, and Rosita bursts out of the refrigerator (you just have to see it) wearing a super fly costume, which, by the way, her child bearing hips look great in.

"I'm lightning on my feet, I never miss a beat, and that's what they don't see." 

Rosita may look like a quiet, boring, stay-at-home mom. But she is an amazing woman! She keeps herself, her husband, and their 25 children alive, doing all their cooking and cleaning and grocery shopping. She manages everyone's schedules and gets everyone to where they need to be. She is creative, hardworking and determined. The kindness and compassion that she has cultivated as a mother extends beyond her family members to the people she has met in the singing competition, and probably a lot of other people too. AND she can sing and dance!

Moms. Don't ever let anyone tell you that what you're doing isn't important. Every job requires talent and intellect and the job of raising children is no exception. What you're doing is important. What you're doing matters. Even if no one else sees it, and no one else knows exactly what you're doing through. 

Taking care of yourself benefits all your other relationships. It may sound obvious. But people like to be around people who are happy. When I am touched out, burned out, and tired out, I am not at my mothering best, and I'm probably not very pleasant to be around. But even just taking an hour to shut the door to our bedroom and do some knitting while listening to a podcast can do wonders for my mental well-being, enabling me to come back to my mothering duties with joy.

Being able spread her wings and shine a little bit made Rosita really happy, and it made her husband and children see a different side of her. It made them happy and exited to see her doing something she loves.

Now, a note on Rosita's husband, Norman. Norman is a pretty extreme example of a husband taking his wife for granted. (i.e. he doesn't even notice when his wife is gone and toy train has made breakfast and put the children to bed.) I think most husbands are a little more woke than Norman. But even the greatest husband isn't a mind reader. He may not be able to tell when you're in need of a break. It's ok to tell your husband you're feeling burned out, and that you need some time to do something on your own. I bet he will be more than happy to help you find a way to make it happen.  

Epilogue. I would like to think that after being in the singing competition Rosita went home refreshed and ready to care for her family again. I'd also like to think that she made it a priority to have some regular time for herself. Maybe she joined a choir, or started taking voice lessons. Whatever the activity may be, I'm sure she's learned the transformative power of a little self-care. And of course, she and Norbert now have a much healthier marriage, with good communication and plenty of date nights.

More Than One Way to Mom

I recently wrote about my decision to stop working and be a full time stay-at-home mom. While I liked my work, it was making family life really stressful. I felt like I was spread too thin, like everything was making me irritable, and that my family was just another item on my to-do list. I knew that quitting my job would help me be a better mom, and so I quit.

But my decision to quit my job has got me thinking about some things.

One is that I knew quitting my job would make me a better mom. That is, it would make me a better mom. Just me. Not everyone else.

I don’t think that all moms need to quit their jobs to be better moms. And I don’t think I am better than other moms for having quit my job. This is just what worked for me.

Some moms work, and it works for them. They love their jobs and getting to practice their professional skills. Working helps them feel balanced and that helps them be a better mom. I know that working moms don’t stop being moms when they drop their kids off at daycare in the morning. They’re still thinking about, worrying about, and loving their kids, even when they're not with them. They are in tune to the needs of their families and keep their households running, all while putting in a full days work outside of the home.

This was a balancing act I was not able to figure out, and my hat goes off to all the moms who do it every day.

Second, staying home full time with my kids is what I feel called to do, but that doesn’t mean that I love it all the time. My children are not little angelic beings and we don’t spend our days reading books under apples trees, or walking hand in hand in fields of flowers. My kids are naughty, they throw tantrums and make messes, and I yell a lot. Sometimes I wish I could go to work for a few hours each day - just to get a little break from them!

Being a stay-at-home mom is hard work, and it implies sacrifice. It can mean putting professional or academic goals on hold for the foreseeable future.  Or it can mean giving up a well loved job because the cost of childcare doesn’t make it worth it.

For me, the sacrifice is giving up the extra income my work brought in. It’s giving up some time each day that was something different from changing diapers and calming tantrums. It’s putting personal goals and dreams on the shelf because there’s just not enough time to pursue them right now. It’s giving up my body, in that I’m currently nursing a 20 month old who shows no sign of stopping. It’s giving up my privacy, as in, yup, there’s always someone with me in the bathroom. And it’s giving up control, because I can plan all I want, but those plans are usually thwarted by my beautiful babies.

Some days it's easy to make these sacrifices, and other days I need to remind myself that I chose this, it's what I feel called to. Every time that I slow down and take a deep breath I come to the same conclusion, I am honored to make these sacrifices, even though it's hard.

Finally, while it is a sacrifice to be a stay-at-home mom, I realize that choosing not to work is also a privilege. When I stopped working it meant giving up extra income. But it was just that, extra income. I’m not my family’s primary provider and we can get by without me working.

Some moms are their families’ primary providers, or significant contributors. They may wish they could stay home with their kids, but they can’t because their families’ depend on their income. They go to work day after day, maybe even to jobs they don't like. They do it because it's what their families needs them to do.

That is a type of sacrifice that I am not familiar with, but it’s one that I greatly admire. I may talk lightly about quitting my job, or even joke about being retired at age 30, but it is not lost on me that this is a privilege, one that I will try my hardest to live up to.

All of this was a very long way of saying there’s more than one way to mom.

It's ok if the way I mom looks different from the way you mom. Good moms come in all sorts of beautiful shapes and sizes. But at the heart of every variation there is a common thread; we are all showing up everyday, doing our best for our families.

Whether that’s packing lunches and doing school drop off, or clearing the breakfast dishes to make room for home-school lessons. Whether it’s punching in at work each morning, or keeping the home fires going with a baby strapped to our backs. We’re still the ones kissing foreheads and skinned knees, making dinner and giving baths, reading stories and tucking in. And then, with aching feet, or a sore back, or a fried brain, we’re getting ready to do it all over again tomorrow.

It’s a beautiful thing we do, and it’s beautiful, all the ways we do it.

Just a Mom

I recently quit my job.

And when I say I quit my job what I mean is that I stopped teaching piano lessons out of my home.

I've been teaching piano lessons for ten years. I was a piano major in college and started teaching a few students during my junior year. The first thing I did when Alex and I bought our house (10 days before our wedding) was get a piano so that I could start teaching from home, and I've been doing it ever since. I've always been proud of myself for actually using my less-than-practical degree. And I was especially proud of myself when I kept my studio going after I started having kids.  It was a creative outlet that I've really enjoyed and that has helped my life feel a little more balanced.

Until now.

I've been balancing my work-from-home job and being a mother for four years, and well, I'm losing my balance. No, I've lost my balance, and I'm spiraling out of control.

Coordinating babysitters, arranging who would pick up and drop off  Johnny at school, strategizing meals that I could make ahead of time and eat quickly between students, keeping our main living areas company-ready for half of the week, screwing up naps and bedtime because of lessons - all these things were making me crazy. All that combined with the regular chaos and sleep deprivation of life with small children, a husband in grad-school, and a child with medical needs that are far from being resolved, had me feeling like I was drowning and couldn't come up for air. To top it all off doing a very extroverted type of work - teaching kids - left my introverted self feeling completely drained at the end of the day, making me annoyed with my family and unpleasant to be around.

I want my family to come first - I want to give my very best for them. But instead of giving my best I found myself being half-present, always looking to the next thing, and treating my family like they just another item on my long to do list.

One night in January I was crying to Alex about how I couldn't go on like this. Something needed to change. He couldn't quit school, we couldn't get rid of our kids (not that we'd ever want to - that was a joke), we couldn't change our oldest child's medical needs. So that left teaching piano. That was something we could change.

As soon as Alex suggested I stop teaching I felt a wave a relief. But I also felt some stubborn pride. I had worked so hard to build my studio over the last decade. I liked being able to contribute to our finances in some way. I liked having something to do that was separate from parenting. I liked that I wasn't just a mom.

But being a mom is the best thing I've ever done! Having my children and caring for them has been my greatest accomplishment - more than my degree, or any of the jobs I have had, or any travel I had done, or talents I have developed. Even if I end up doing amazing things later in my life, I feel certain that nothing will top this experience of having partnered with God in the miracle of creation. And if quitting my job can help me be a better mom, and better enjoy these long days and short years with my kids, then that's what I should do.

So I quit my job. Not all at once. I finished out the semester, gave my students time to find a new teacher, and held one last recital. And now I'm done.

Now I'm just a mom. There are still demands, but the demands are not pulling me in different directions. My days are still busy, but there is less going on, the pages on my calendar have become very blank. I don't need to shower and put on my make up first thing in the morning anymore, although I usually still do, because I like feeling put together. I don't need to plan or coordinate and strategize to get my family through the day. We can move at our own pace.

And you know what? If feels really good.

This Is A Job

I've got a new approach to this whole Stay-At-Home Mom thing this year. Just for a point of reference, my old approach was to try to relax as much as possible, stay in my pajamas as long as possible, and try to do as much knitting as possible. But this kind of parenting was actually causing some problems. Like, when I actually needed to be getting ready my kids were always really crabby. Leaving me putting on my makeup to the tune of two screaming babies, which is not a peaceful experience.  Or when I was doing my enjoyable hobby I had this constant lurking feeling that I should be doing something else (probably because I was ignoring piles of unfolded laundry and saving dinner prep for the witching hour), making it hard to enjoy my enjoyable hobby.

So here's my new approach. I'm treating being a Stay-At-Home Mom like it's a job.  Because it actually is a job.

I've never felt embarrassed by the fact that I'm a stay-at-home mom. I've known for some time that this is what I want to be doing. I also feel no judgment toward moms who want to or need to work outside the home. But I do often feel frustrated that I "got nothing done" all day. That is, I got nothing done beside cooking three meals, keeping my family in clean clothes, cleaning the kitchen, twice, changing a host of diapers, grocery shopping, staying on top of appointments, bills, and budgets and, oh yeah, teaching about ten hours of piano lessons out of my home each week which I don't really talk that much about on here, but that's a job, too. And at the of the day when I crawl into bed my body is tired and my feet are sore from the full day of work I put in. So why do I feel like I got nothing done? Why does my life feel insignificant?

It feels insignificant because I've been treating it as insignificant.

I don't know if it was some subliminal messaging from the society I live in, or my own misconceptions, but somewhere along the road I started feeling like the things I do all day don't matter as much as the things other people do all day. And because I wasn't valuing the things I was doing, they started to seem tedious to me.

But when I really stop and think about it, there's isn't anything else I'd rather be doing. Well, except for maybe professional wine tasting. Or unless you could pay me a lot of money to knit while I watch The Newsroom. But in all seriousness, I'm really happy as a Stay-At-Home Mom. And even though my work is hidden from world and I don't receive a paycheck for it, it is real work that contributes to the well being of my family. So I'm going to treat it that way.

And this is how:

Get up. I'm setting an alarm and getting up when it goes off even if the kids are still sleeping.

Get ready. I'm getting myself ready for the day before Alex leaves the house, and then I don't need to worry about doing it later when kids are melting down for their naps.

Eat breakfast. A cup of coffee and a cookie doesn't count. Everyone does better when mama has some protein in the morning.

Make hay while the sun shines. Or rather, when the babies are happy. I'm using the morning hours when everyone is happiest to get my most pressing chores done. This is usually making sure I have dinner planned and maybe even getting it into the crock pot or oven, and doing one or two cleaning chores, like vacuuming, or a load of laundry, or emptying the dishwasher.

When I'm on, I'm on. If I were at a "real job" I wouldn't be trying to sneak in an episode of 30 Rock, or knit under my desk. (At least I don't think so. . . .) Instead of escaping to my hobbies whenever I can, I am present with my children, building train tracks, stacking blocks, and lots of nursing.

Nap time is me time. That sacred hour, that respite for the weary. When the babies are sleeping I bust out the chocolate and my knitting, or blogging, or whatever else I want to do. And because I've been on top of my chores earlier in the day, I can enjoy my break 100% guilt free.

Get out of the house. Alone. And grocery shopping doesn't count. Being a mom is 24/7 job. I'm always on the clock. But if I can get out of the house by myself once or twice a week, it's enough of a break to refresh and energize me. We're not very good at implementing this one yet. Ideally we'd have a set day and time each week that I would leave, but the craziness of Alex's school makes that a little difficult right now. But I'm trying to get out, and when I do, I really notice the difference it makes.

We're three weeks in and so far my new approach has been working really well. I feel good about the amount of stuff I get done each day. I feel like I am getting some breaks. I'm losing my temper less with my children. Some days are still hard, I don't always wake up as early as I should, or people don't always nap as long as I'd like. But at the end of the day when my body is tired and my feet are sore I take it as a sign that I put in a good day of sanctifying work. Because this is a job, a calling, a vocation. And it's making me a holier person.

Summer Rest

There's not a lot going on right now. For the first time in 7 years I am not teaching summer piano lessons. (Except when I took maternity leave the summer Johnny was born.) I had 17 students this year, which only worked out to about 10 hours a week of active teaching, but it felt like more.  On days that I teach I need to keep the first floor of my house tidy, which is almost a losing battle with Johnny around. I also need to have dinner ready early those days, because I teach right up to, and after the dinner hour. That means I need to make a strategic meal plan for the week of things I can put in the crock-pot, or assemble in the morning and then put in the oven while I'm teaching. It doesn't sound like much, but considering how easily an hour can get swallowed up by just breastfeeding and then changing a couple of diapers, staying organized enough to keep my studio running consumed a pretty large amount of time and head space each week.

This past year has been stressful. Alex's school has been very stressful for him, and for me. His successes and failures are my successes and failures.  If he does well on a test that means I've done my job of running our home and giving him the space and time he needs to learn his material well. Conversely, if he does poorly I feel like it's my fault for distracting him too much. Alex is the one who goes to class each day, but really, we're both in grad school. 

Getting used to having two kids has been stressful. Johnny and I had worked out  pretty good groove before Trixie was born, and when she came we had to start over. She is delightful, but it's still been an adjustment. Although not nearly as hard of an adjustment as when Johnny was born.

Everything that happened with Johnny's hearing this winter became very stressful very quickly. Johnny's hearing and speech development had never been of much concern to me when he was a baby. His GI stuff was much scarier. I always kind of felt like the hearing thing would just work itself out. Then for the first time this winter he seemed behind, like he was falling through the cracks, and we weren't doing enough for him. To realize he had not been hearing was scary, and I felt like we had failed him.

All these things, combined with the sleep deprivation that comes with having a baby, and all the other little things that come up in life were piling up in my brain and I was beginning to feel serious burn out. I knew something needed to go, and it couldn't be my kids, or PA school. The only thing left to go was piano lessons. So they went. (In case any of my student's parents are reading, don't worry, I'm still planning on teaching again in the fall.)

It was definitely the right thing to do. My days aren't really more peaceful. We still manage to somehow be really busy. But there isn't anything hanging over my head. Sometimes I get the feeling like I should be doing something, cleaning a bathroom, or answering an email, but when I stop and search my brain there's really nothing I need to be doing outside of caring for my family. And now that that's the only thing I need to do, doing it is a lot more enjoyable.

I have some things I'd like to do this summer. I'd like to stay on top of the weeds in the garden this year. I'd like to work on my sewing and add some things to my etsy shop. There's a couple rooms in our house that I'd like to paint. But if I don't get to any of those things, it won't matter at all.

This is a picture of my kids literally destroying my to-do lists. I love being productive and having to show something for my time, so this is kind of a powerful image for me. No to-do lists. Just family, and space, and rest. And  a messier living room.

Adventures with Strollers

Thanks to my mother-in-law we now have a double stroller at our disposal. And it has opened up all sorts of new possibilities for us.

Like going to Crate & Barrel to shop my sister's wedding registry.

But let me back up. Crate & Barrel was not our maiden voyage with the double. We used it at Trader Joe's on Tuesday after speech therapy. Trader Joe's seemed like a good place to try something new. We're used to them and I think they're pretty used to us, or at least people like us. 

I don't know if you've noticed this but the shopping carts at TJ's are just a little too small to accommodate the infant car seat. It's too precarious in the front, and yes, it fits in the basket of the cart, but then there is zero room for groceries. I also still need to strap Johnny into something, he's not trust worthy enough to walk around in the store. I could put Trixie in the sling and Johnny in the cart, but it's winter and I'd have to take my coat off to put the sling on, and the Trader Joe's by speech therapy doesn't have underground parking like the one by my house, so I'd have to be outside without a coat and I'm pretty wimpy about the cold. And yes, the agonizing details of how we are going to go to the grocery store are what I lay awake thinking about at night. (That and new knitting projects.)

So anyway, the cart was out, the double stroller was in, and it worked great. Johnny was tickled by the idea of Trixie riding next to him, and Trixie liked being able to see the sights. I took a basket and stuck on top of the stroller and while we probably looked a little out of place ambling through Trader Joe's with that giant stroller, just using the basket prevented me from making too many impulse buys and the children remained quite happy. Win, win. 

Crate & Barrel was a much more serious endeavor. I normally would not have even bothered with carting my children across town to a fancy home furnishings store like that, because what is internet shopping for if not too keep us moms from having to take our kids out in public. But my procrastination in getting a shower gift paired with Alex's dire need for quiet study drove me to this desperate measure. 

It went pretty well, aside from the handicapped entrance being out of order, leaving me to fumble my way through the door. And then when chatting with the sales person I referred to us as the "elephant in the china shop", then realized on the drive home that I confused my expressions. It's "a BULL in a china shop." But I think my sentiment still got across. 

We made it through rows and rows of stemware and dinner plates without anything bad happening. I crammed the double stroller, 2 kids, and 4 Crate & Barrel boxes into my Honda Civic (I'm already seeing the appeal of a minivan) nursed Trixie in the passenger seat, and we headed home. Alex met us in the garage to help carry in all the things. Then I poured myself a nice glass of ice water. Because it's lent. 

All in all, a success. 

You probably didn't expect you'd hear that much about using that double stroller. But you did. Those who stuck with me to the end, I hope it was worth it. 

7 tips for solo-parenting

Our weekend was glorious. Alex does not have a test this week and so he was able to take not one, but two evenings off of studying. He did bath time and bedtime. We watched movies and ate ice cream. It was just like the good old days (all of 5 weeks ago). (Seems like a lifetime ago.)

And now it's Monday and we are back to the class schedule and the hours of studying and after a night of almost zero sleep due to 97% humidity (heart you MN summers) and me being too stubborn to turn on the AC, I'm realizing that I need more in my solo parenting arsenal than over-priced cookies from Wholefoods.

It's only been 5 short/long weeks so I can't claim to be an expert here, check back with me in two years and I'm sure I'll have a lot more to say. But so far here is what I've found to be helpful if you find yourself doing a lot of solo parenting.

1. Keep Expectations Low

This is one I have to remind myself of daily. I love to be productive and get stuff done and see the fruit of my labor. But some days you just can't do anything. And that's ok.  The house is still standing and everyone got fed. That's all and that's ok.  Really, it's ok.

2. Get A Mother's Helper

Here's my mother's helper. My 11 year old niece.

Can I just say that this has been the most AMAZING experience. My more seasoned mom friends have told of the glories of a mother's helper but I never knew just how wonderful it was to have one until, well, I had one.

A mother's helper is someone in that magical age group where they really truly love playing with babies/toddlers.  They're not yet old enough to be home alone with them.  I don't make mine change diapers or get snacks and meals ready. But the trade off is that you don't pay them as much as your high school or college-aged sitter who can be alone with the kids and do all those things.

Every Monday afternoon my niece comes over to play with Johnny. And I can do Whatever. I. Want.

I always make a list of a few things I need to do that are really hard to do with Johnny around, like emptying the compost bucket, or changing sheets, stuff like that.  But I always allocate some time for something enjoyable, like writing a blog post, or working in the garden, or knitting. And that right there is all my hobbies.

I also try to make something good for dinner on Mondays because I have a mother's helper, and I can.

3. Get Out Of The House.

Leaving the house with small children is not easy. I know this. But staying in the house all day long with small children is a recipe for disaster. Sometimes a change of scene does wonders. Go for a walk, hang out in the back yard, go to Trader Joe's. GO SOMEWHERE! Whatever you do, just please, don't stay inside all day.

4. Plan A Play Date

I wrote a while back about my need for community.  It's still there. I need to see other human beings' faces during the day.  And it's a plus if they are friends and not the Target checkout guy. And it's another plus if they have little ones for my little one to run around with.

It is true that the play dates don't plan themselves and sometimes it seems like it would just be easier to stay home, but once I get down to planning one, I'm always glad that I did.

5. Make Time For Rest

Nap time is sacred around here.  If I don't want to do something with you between the hours of 12:00 and 2:30 please don't feel bad. It's because that is the nap time window and if we miss that window Johnny and I are both a hot mess for the rest of the day. He needs his sleep, he's only two. And I need the break. I need that quiet 60-90 minutes to recharge, either by sleeping myself, or doing something refreshing, like reading, or knitting, or just sitting and enjoying the stillness and an iced coffee.

Yeah. We like naps.

6. Don't Be Afraid To Ask For/Accept Help

Some of us stay-at-home-moms are very independent and we like to be able to manage on our own. But we aren't meant to manage on our own. We need support and we need community. When a friend asks "can I do anything?"  or "can I bring a meal over?" take them up on it! Reach out to family in the area. Grandparents for the win!

Don't forget to ask your partner for help! My husband needs to spend A LOT of time studying, but surely he is not too busy to take 45 minutes and do bedtime with Johnny so that I can catch a little break!  I have to remind myself that my husband can't read my mind and doesn't always know when I'm headed for a meltdown. I need to ask him for help before said meltdown has a chance to happened. And he is always happy to step in.

This is usually what happens when Alex takes study breaks with Johnny.

7. Make What Family Time You Have REAL Family Time

For us this is dinner time and Sunday afternoons and evenings. We eat together at the table without screens and electronic devices. We ask about each other's days, we have meaningful conversation. We try to do something fun, like walk to DQ, or go to the park even though it's kind of close to bedtime. We just enjoy each others company and enjoy being a family.


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Dream Come True?

We are having my cousin, his wife, and their kids stay with us this weekend. My cousin-in-law, Bethany, writes so many beautiful and reflective words over at Child of the Church. I was getting all caught up on her blog before they arrive (because I am a terrible blog reader), and I came across this post. And I said, yes, yes, yes. This is what I have been feeling.

When I think back to my college-aged self I can chuckle a little at some of my dreams, to be a performer, classical, or play in a rock band. If that didn't pan out maybe be married to a rock star and be the woman behind the man. Or maybe move to India and be a missionary.

But honestly, I never put much stock in those dreams.  I never even really put much stock in a career. (Can you say, piano performance major?) Because I think I've always known that my dream was to marry a great guy (check), have kids (check), and raise my own little family on my own little piece of land. (check, check).

I'm one of those really lucky people who get live their dream!

But if this is my dream come true, why does it feel so hard? And why am I crabby most days?

I love my husband. I love my baby. I love where we live and the house we live in. I love that we have another baby on the way. My husband did start grad school, and that's been kind of hard. But I love that he's doing something he's excited about and that has great job prospects! We're enjoying good health. It's summer time! Things are good!

But things are still hard. Johnny is still a toddler who sticks his hands in the toilet when I'm trying to put my make-up on. I still don't get to see my husband that much because he has to study all the time. I'm still only one (pregnant) person who can't get done all the knitting projects, house work, yard work, and other things that I would like to get done each day.

Sometimes I feel like my life is stuck on a repeat of meals, diaper changes, bath times and bedtimes. Sometimes I feel like I'd rather be doing something else. That's how I feel. But in my heart of hearts I know that I am living my dream.

It's just kind of a hard dream.