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Workin’ It: Tips for Working at Home

I decided to write this post because I have many conversations with women who are looking for work at home opportunities or say that they could never do it because of this or that. My husband and I both work at home, and I am sharing a few tips on how I do it as a mom managing 3 kids, 2 of which are still in diapers.

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Other than my family, my biggest passion is being a momtrepreneur. I caught the entrepreneur bug early in my oldest son’s toddler years. Back then, the internet was nothing like it is today. Message boards, websites, and making crafts were how I first got a glimpse of what working at home could be.

I was super inspired by a few bloggers (now turned authors and more) and love seeing how all of those moms have evolved and their children have grown, and how their media platforms have changed.

I’m glad that I found the path I am on and love when my brain is ticking and I can create from whatever medium I’m experimenting with at the moment. The other thing I love is collaborating and working with other women who have similar passions. In my early motherhood years, finding good friends was difficult for me and I didn’t trust partnerships or collaborations. I am relieved that those ideas are gone and I have rich friendships and a circle of women who support and uplift each other. That is how the world gets better and I am grateful that my daughter will grow up with those ideas and we can dispel the idea of “mean girls”. I wrote a previous post on the importance of a mom tribe.

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Tips for Managing a Family and a Business

  1. Remove Mental Obstacles: The first thing that is the MOST important thing for me as a momtrepreneur is to get out of my own way. The dialog I have going in my head can make or break my success. There are so many things I can say are obstacles– not enough time, I don’t know how to do something, I don’t feel comfortable doing this or that. You get the idea. I work to stay positive and keep sight on a goal (for myself or for the future of our family). Ways I stay positive are nurturing my relationships with positive and supportive friends, listen to positive or uplifting music, podcasts, etc and do something each day that I enjoy.
  2. Schedule and Prioritize: This is VITAL for my success. I have a plan of action for the month, then I break it down weekly, daily and even down to when I can work and exactly what to do. An example is that I know I have 2 hours during naptime to get things done, including my lunch. So each day I make a plan for the next. I generally work during nap and an hour after the kids go to bed. In our family, we have a family whiteboard/calendar where our days are scheduled, meals are planned and I keep a personal planner for my actual work activities. When days don’t exactly go as planned, I may spend a few hours working one-handed with an infant on my boob. So again, organization and knowing your system is vital.
  3. Be Realistic with Goals and Achievements: One of my biggest flaws is that I’ll reach for the moon in my mind and will beat myself up when I can’t make it happen. So setting realistic goals and deadlines are extremely important for me to feel accomplished.
  4. Utilize Your Support TeamThe first person I go to for help is my spouse. If I have a large list or a deadline to meet, I will communicate with him what I need to make it happen. If I can delegate some of the work out to him, I will do that or will give him 100% kid duty for a while so that I am not distracted or hold any guilt. If you have friends or family close-by, ask for help. And when your business starts earning some money, use some of your earnings to pay for childcare. This took a long time for me to learn, I had a martyr complex and felt that I needed to “do it all myself”, but have since realized paying for a sitter for a few hours of silence is perfectly fine, and so much can be accomplished in a short focused time-frame. A coffee shop is my best friend. Getting away from the chaos of home, sipping on a good cup of coffee and working without a self-imposed distraction is one of my best success tools.

Having a plan and setting aside work hours are two of the first steps to success. Also, having the ability to rebound when things do not go as planned is powerful. It takes a lot of strength to be both a mom and a business owner, and it is very rewarding and can provide so much for yourself and your family. 3 kids, a husband, and a business is sometimes overwhelming. However, I have found methods within the madness to keep my business and my family healthy and happy.

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Finding Your Mom Tribe

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Over my 13 years of motherhood, I have truly realized how significant having a tribe of friends truly is. When I first started my journey into motherhood, I was isolated. My then-husband did not support my friendships.  Most of my socialization for the first several years of motherhood was either online or with my grandma. My self-esteem was low, I felt intimidated by most humans, and chalked it all up to being “shy”.

When my oldest son was 5, I started yoga teacher training. During those 200 hours, I started to crack open my social shell and I got a glimpse of what a “tribe” could be. Over the next few years, my tribe was definitely formed in my hometown. I learned how great it is to have women who are uplifting and positive, leaving the drama and judgment behind. When I went through my divorce and move, I had a lot of support to push me forward toward my goals. I always think about that with sincere gratitude.

I left the comfortable nest of my hometown and moved to Florida. In that time, I remarried, had a baby and settled into my new home and surroundings. After having Ezra, I started feeling postpartum anxiety and after getting my health in check, I had the realization that the one thing that kept me feeling down was my lack of female friendships. I set a goal to make that piece of life feel full again and started taking action toward it.

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Social Isolation

There are a lot of reasons we become isolated as adults. Our lives become monotonous. When we have babies the cycle starts of feeding, changing, chasing kids, picking up, dropping off, cooking, cleaning, catching up on sleep. And, oh yeah… making money. All of these are reasons why we often isolate ourselves. The other pieces to the puzzle are working around scheduling conflicts, the effort it can take to leave the house, having a shy disposition, or feeling intimidated by others in the group.

In this day and age, the internet is a wonderful resource for networking. There are many ways to connect with people of similar interests and form relationships. Online is a great way to make those connectins, and can be a great icebreaker. Although, there is nothing quite like human contact. Humans are actually pack animals, and according to Maslow, humans are motivated by Survival, Safety, Social, Esteem, and Fulfilment.

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Joining a Pack

As a mom who has all of the pressures of raising kids and family sometimes finding a new group of friends can seem daunting. As I mentioned before, Facebook is a great place to start. See if there are any local moms groups, or just activities that interest you and make it a point to attend.

Local library story times are a wonderful avenue for meeting other moms, MOPS groups, exercise classes– for yourself or mommy & me type classes. If you live in a smaller area or a rural location and can not find what you are looking for, take some initiative and create it. If you are searching for it, there are others looking for the same thing and ah-ha, you have a connection!

After the birth of my second child, taking the steps to get out of the house and create a new social life was my sanity saver. It was refreshing to talk to other moms, make plans and schedule coffee and playdates. Since that first venture out, my world has expanded quite a bit and I am watching my relationships blossom and grow over that first step out of the house.

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Excuses or Expansion?

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Wowza! I have not blogged in over a month. Time to bust out of this writer’s block. Time management and balance are two things that I will have to work on forever!  Having a family often interferes with the rigid structure I would like to have planned for myself. My to-do list may have 10 items on it and sometimes accomplishing 3 is a stretch! Things like injuries, ear infections, and teething toddlers dictate how a day will be spent. Yesterday was one of those days. The teething toddler has been up every 2 hours for several days. My normally patient, easy going guy was accident prone, whiney, inconsolable, and exhausting to the parental units. By 6:30pm I was in my own sort of meltdown mode. So much so, that I had to have a cry at the beach.

Tears always make me feel weak. I have never liked to cry or been much of a crier. My husband is a softy who will tear up at the slightest thing, so I have been working to take on some of his softness. Tears are not a weakness, they are a release. Learning to have compassion for myself, loving myself, and nurturing myself are things that are at the forefront of my inner work. The beach is a good place for me to have these moments.

Moving to Florida and having an ocean at my discretion was something I never quite planned for, however, it was a wonderful change for our family. The ocean represents expansiveness, constant change, ebb and flow. As you can see, there are many metaphors linked to the ocean.  As soon as my feet hit the sand, I can breathe deeply. Occasionally, I will take that deep inhale and realize that my breath has been constricted most of the day. I will look out at the horizon and my eyes will soften to take in the view. Tension also often resides in our eyes. Eyes will bulge forward in their sockets, preventing us from living in a relaxed mental state. For me, the ocean is a quick fix to facilitate a deeper state of relaxation, and often release.

I have learned that crying is not a sign of weakness, and allowing tears to flow is less damaging than bottling up the emotions and creating all sorts of tension patterns in the body that can lead to pain; both physical and emotional. My tears flow less than 5 minutes and can have a lasting healing effect for weeks or even months! A quote I have held close to my heart is  “you can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf” by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Surfing our emotional waves and working to maintain balance is a huge key to life and one that I am reminded of on those days when I make time to visit the ocean.

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Living Simply

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The older I get, the more I am strive for simplicity. Since 2015, we have moved several times, and each time we have shed a lot of “things”, however it seems that as quickly as we shed possessions we accumulate something to replace the space. I recently read an article and saved the quote “The interiors of our homes reflect the mind’s interior. They tell our story and reveal who we are.”

Beyond the interior of my home, I am becoming more streamlined in running my business, parenting, meal-prepping, and even self-care. Keeping things simple reduces stress and maintains a sense of fun and light-heartedness. I have overwhelmed myself many times by “cluttering” my minds interior. Over-thinking what to eat, what to blog, what to wear, what to do with my business, how to parent. Seriously, I could overwhelm you in a paragraph by showing you how I can clog my mind, lol.

Keeping it simple in family life has been the top priority. At the end of 2017, our family “hit rock bottom” so to speak, we were feeling very unsuccessful as parents, our diets were a wreck, and our business was stuck. We had to wake up and take inventory of what was going on that kept us in this loop. Two self-employed people dancing circles around each other with little productivity was NOT working!

I have found having a daily rhythm and structure are what keeps our family most harmonious and afloat. Both of my kids, a teen and a toddler, thrive with predictability. As a family, we are working on identifying what we value, and what the vision is for our family life. Some things we have identified as values are time for focused work, time outdoors, positive communication, and healthy meals. So, then we take these values and note if our actions line up with what we’ve identified. Were we practicing what we were preaching?

With these values in mind, we have a large white board where we plan our lives in 2 week intervals. We  create an outline for our days, our required activities, our food plans, etc. The structure is loose on some days, and others, of course, busier. I am also becoming more structured with including time for self-care, journaling, and reflective time. This is our way of intentional living. We have found that structuring our days and weeks creates effective productivity, and allows more space and time for what we consider fun, all the while keeping our eyes on the ball.

The other benefit of having structure is that there is less time and space in my mind for negativity. It is amazing to me how well my kids have responded. The toddler is structured with naps and meals, the teen has an outline of how the day looks and knows our expectations for pulling his weight, and I spend less time diffusing problems and wasting time and energy on things that are not in alignment with our ultimate vision and value set. I have two books I have referenced for inspiration, Steady Days by Jamie C. Martin and Living Simply with Children by Marie Sherlock. Both of which have helped with some strategies for keeping our lives intentional.