When you’re done having babies

Dear mama,

You are done having babies.

I know part of you is really sad about this.

The oldest two are hardly babies anymore, and your newborn is no longer a newborn. Time sure seems to speed up with each child, doesn’t it?

You’ve breathed in every moment with this precious last one and I know you’ll continue to cherish these early years.

I know part of you is really sad about this, but I also know that part of you is a little relieved.

Pregnancy was never very fun for you. It’s okay to feel a little excited even now that you can kiss the days of constant nausea goodbye.

In fact, you can say goodbye to those maternity clothes, too. Sure, they were comfy, but they just remind you of back pain, heartburn and hovering over the toilet.

So go on. Find an expecting first-time mom and just give them to her with a knowing smile. The same way they were passed down to you.

And it’s okay if you’re not quite ready to get rid of any baby clothes just quite yet. You hold on to them as long as you need to. I know there will be times when you ache for the days of snuggling up with a newborn.

Just don’t get any ideas, because you are done having babies.

It’s almost funny to think about how quickly this all happened.

From the moment you got married, people have been asking when you’d start having kids.

As soon as you birthed that first sweet baby, those same well-meaning folks were asking when she’d get a brother or sister.

And then the questions stopped.

But your baby itch did not.

Do you remember when you started telling people you were pregnant with number three? They start to look at you like you’re nuts!

Today, you are officially outnumbered and yet your hands feel as full as your heart does.

And it feels good.

You truly feel as though your family is complete.

But just remember, while you’re done having babies, you have a lot more parenting to do.

Stay strong, mama.

“I try to give equal parts of myself to all things that are important to me.”

traveling working mom

 

As I get back in the swing of things {in case you missed it, 2016 was a tad eventful}, I’m excited to bring back my #workingmomwednesday series.

Last year I interviewed over two dozen working moms. Many owned their own businesses, but all shared a particular passion for their families and careers.

Today I’m chatting with an old college friend, Megan Manguso. One thing that sets Megan apart from any of the interviews I’ve done before is that she travels…a lot. I couldn’t wait to find out her tricks and what was just plain tricky. Read on to become an expert in jet setting with a baby and a briefcase.


Self promo time. Tell me about yourself.

I currently live in central LA {just South of West Hollywood} with my husband Nick, my son Maddox {11mos}, and my FURst baby Oliver {terrier mix}, affectionately known as Ollie Bear. I am the Head of Strategic Partnerships for onefinestay – a start up company which provides upscale, serviced/managed short term rental accommodations in London, Paris, New York, LA, Rome and Miami {think airbnb and a boutique hotel had a baby}. I’ve always been in the travel industry so naturally travel is part of my job, and I love it.

So how often do you travel for work?

Pretty regularly… after my son was born last February, I went back to work starting mid May. Since then, I have been to Europe 3 times for work. But I travel domestically pretty regularly, too. Since June I have been to Miami, Paris, London, Rome, Las Vegas, Vancouver, New York, and the South of France.

How have you been able to balance being a new mom with such a demanding job?

When I had to go to London and Rome, I brought my son. I had my mom come with us and we rented apartments/houses. My husband joined us for the Italy leg and we had some vacation time, too. It has to be said that I couldn’t do this without him. I had to fly straight to Vegas after Italy and so he flew home to LA from DC {6 hours!} after nearly 24 hrs of traveling and the baby had probably had only a few hours of sleep. For Vancouver, we rented a home there, as well. I love the whole idea of “beliesure” {extending business travel for leisure travel}. I really want my son to experience the world and feel comfortable traveling from the moment he can remember. Plus, got to take advantage of free flights before he turns 2!

What is your best travel tip for moms?

Embrace the fact that you are going to have A LOT of stuff and get the gadgets you need. I am and have been a pretty regular traveler. I pack light. A carry on for 7 days is no problem for me. So when I had my son, I had to accept that there was no more carry on only. I did a lot of research {I’m big on mommy research} and found the best gadgets I could to make it easier. Stroller bags, bouncer chairs, travel toys, etc.

It sounds like you have a great support system. Who helps you when you aren’t on the go?

We have an au pair. The au pair program is amazing for us, because it allows for flexibility. It’s also significantly more reasonable in price compared to a full time nanny. In Los Angeles, it ends up costing a little bit more that traditional day care, and since I work from home 30-50% of the time I get to see Maddox during the day which makes being a working mom much more bearable.

How do you stay focused when working from home?

Obviously, you need to have the space for it. We have a detached 1br/1ba studio and it works perfectly. Garage conversions are very popular in LA – so we bought the house with this intention.

What is your best piece of advice for working moms?

Balance, flexibility, and focus. Basically, when I am working, I try to be as efficient and effective as possible. It makes the day go by faster, and if I am going to be away from my son, I need to make it worth it. Also, then I have less pressure to stay connected to work when I am with my family.

At the same time, flexibility and balance keeps me going. I work from home a lot and my son is with his au pair in the house. So I will work for a few hours and then go out to see him for 15 or 20 minutes, or for lunch, and then go back to work refocused. I am a big believer that the 9-5 thing was built for the industrial, manufacturing age. I can’t sit still for 8 hours doing the same thing regardless of being a mom or not, so being able to break up my day and find a job/superior that allows me to do that has been key.

What keeps you sane?

Back to balance. I couldn’t be a full time mom. Not because I don’t think I have the capability, I think that I would be so over the top about it, and my type A personality would drive my family crazy! I am pretty sure I would turn my family into a business {Martha Stewart, Leave it to Beaver style}. So having something else to work on keeps me sane and the right balance between the two is the ultimate goal.

I embrace that I am type A and need to control things, so I plan everything out long before I need to start worrying about it. For example, I put my son on lists for school over year before most because I know the stress it can cause {especially in a place like LA} if you wait until just a few months before. I always have an action plan when it comes to parenting, marriage, and work.

I’m on a quest to having it all. Do you think you have it all?

Ahhh having it all! So, I actually believe you can’t have it all and that it’s OK. I am realist, and it’s simple math: you only have 1 of you to give. So I try to give equal parts of myself to all things that are important to me. I don’t believe my son, my job or my husband need the whole me, I think they need the best me, and the best me is balanced and present.


Want to be interviewed for #workingmomwednesday? Contact me to find out how.

2016: The Good, the Bad, and the Beautiful

Have you ever started doing something – you thought about it a ton….you planned and planned – only to find yourself somewhere very different than where you thought you were headed?

That’s exactly what happened to me in 2016.

In December 2015 I quit my 9-5 a little terrified and a lot optimistic and set out to build that thing that would give me the flexibility to work when and where I wanted.

My motivation? More family time. My ultimate goal? Find a way to help other mamas do the same thing.

The Free Mama was born!

I rang in the New Year with a lofty task at hand, and I felt capable and confident that blogger status was where I was headed.

Within 6 months I realized that this profitable blog thing might take longer than I had anticipated. Naturally, my attention turned towards my digital marketing freelancing jobs, something that was making money.

I didn’t abandon my vision for the blog, but my time invested definitely fluctuated as I shifted my focus to ensure I was producing an income for my family.

As each day’s work morphed into something quite different than what I had originally set out to do, my family quite literally landed somewhere different when we unexpectedly moved to Texas over the summer.

And who can forget the added news of a baby on the way?

With so much changing in my personal life, this blog that I started because I wanted to support working moms while supporting my family quickly turned into cathartic diary entries.

And as it turns out, you like that!

People connect with people, and lucky for me they also connect with imperfect people living an imperfect life.

The feedback I’ve gotten through comments, emails, texts, and visitor stats are telling me loud and clear that I didn’t need to “advise” in the first place. I just needed to share my own journey.

That I can do!

As for the freelancing, something that started with a few small clients, has grown into a workload that is all I can handle without bringing on additional help.

I’m incredibly proud to have more than supplemented my previous full-time income in less than a year, all on my own. When I left my job, my goal was to spend more time with family, and working from home has definitely allowed me to prioritize each day exactly as I see fit.

I no longer feel like I’m compromising my kids for a career or vice versa.

And THAT is exactly why I started The Free Mama in the first place.

Maybe I didn’t land so far away from what I’d set out to do in 2016 after all.

The Good

2016 seemed to throw our family quite a few curveballs. But I’ve learned that with change, comes growth. And our family has definitely grown closer.

Change isn’t always easy, and we don’t always like it, but at the end of the day it’s like I tell my kids, “you have to wake up and choose to be happy. No one is going to do it for you.”

With that being said, there were a lot of pregnancy-hormone-filled days where I cried after our move. But as soon as I stopped feeling sorry for myself, I was able to focus on what was best for my family.

And what was best for the family was a sane mother.

First, I prioritized finding a support system and joined a mom’s group. Typically that wouldn’t be “my thing,” but friends weren’t just going to show up at my door step. I put myself out there and have formed friendships with women I already cannot imagine not having in my life.

It was also important for me to put some renewed energy into my business. Again, I had to put myself out there. I participated in networking events to meet some amazing professionals in the area, and found new partners and clients.

Trust me when I say it would have been much easier to stay home and keep crying, but it also would have been pretty miserable for everyone.

Not unlike their mom, our kids had to transition to a new place last year, too. But unlike their mom, they did so gracefully. Both are well adjusted, thriving in school and extracurriculars, and loving the warmer climate filled with park playdates with friends.

Justin is loving the flexibility and variety of his job. Although he travels occasionally, our family has spent more time together than we ever did back in Kansas City and I don’t take it for granted for a second.

We spent half of 2016 in Houston and now I can say it’d be hard to imagine our family anywhere else.

The Bad

Getting to Houston, on the other hand, nearly killed me. Buying and selling a home, packing and moving cross country to the hottest place on the planet in the middle of summer is stressful enough, but doing it while throwing up several times a day is downright awful.

But, if I had to sum up 2016 in one word, it would be “bills.”

Not only is moving pretty pricey, but the adjustment to being self-employed brought about health insurance premiums neither my husband nor I quite expected.

I love our sweet new baby to pieces, but she turned out to be a costly little thing. Emergency room visits. Anti-nausea medicine. Pre-term labor followed by two months of bedrest. Between the new state and the new year, we met multiple deductibles just to get her here!

That many bills aren’t just costly, they’re incredibly stressful.

While it may around the same time we pay off the hospital, I’m sure I’ll forgive her.

Eventually.

The Beautiful

There was plenty of ugly in 2016 that I could have written about, but I’d rather share with you something beautiful that I saw throughout the entire year, over and over again.

Motherhood.

Starting with this blog last January, I asked working moms to share their stories with me, to share with all of you.

Friends, acquaintances and even strangers generously donating their time to compose honest and meaningful contributions to my #workingmomwednesday features.

The peak of my morning sickness coincided with my husband’s move to Houston about a month before the rest of us. I was left to finalize things in Kansas City while caring for two busy toddlers.

I relied heavily on the generosity of the moms in our neighborhood to help me get through it. From watching kids so that I could pack, to picking me up orange juice, no favor was too big or too small for these thoughtful women.

When we finally reunited in Houston, I was exhausted and lonely. I joined a moms’ group to meet new people. These mothers have brought me treats when I was feeling down, visited me while I was on bedrest, and continue to deliver meals now that Audrey is here. I feel incredibly blessed for each of these friendships.

Without a doubt, however, the most maternal gesture of 2016 came from my own mother. When I was placed on bedrest at 32 weeks pregnant, she hopped on a plane to help my husband with the big kids. She put her life on hold for nearly two months to cater to our family’s needs without hesitation or complaint. I am forever in debt, and yet, as a mom myself I know I’d do the exact same thing.

It’s what moms do.

Motherhood is such a special thing, and it truly got me through the year in more ways than one. Not only do mothers take care of our own families, but we look out for one another with the same selfless spirit, as well.

So long, 2016

I may be a month behind on bidding the year adieu, but 2016 truly was one for the books. I launched a business, I turned 30, I moved cross country, and our family grew {well, my belly grew. Audrey missed 2016 by 7 days.}

And for the record, if 2017 could be a little less eventful, that would be okay by me.

Welcoming my last baby

last baby

Unless you are personal friends with me on Facebook, you may be wondering where in the world I’ve been these last few months.

You know I was expecting and that my business was taking off. But to be gone for so long, because of a baby and some new clients?

I’ll have plenty to say on all of that later this week…

Today I just want to share with you all the feels over welcoming the newest addition to our family, our rainbow baby, and our last baby, Audrey Mae.

last baby

Yesterday this sweet little girl turned one month old.

And I cried all of the tears.

Such a milestone might not seem like that big of a deal, but for this mom of three, it’s huge.

When our oldest, Daphne, was one month old I was barely coming out of the new motherhood fog. Luckily, she was an easy baby, so most of our adjustments didn’t come with a side of sleep deprivation. Every day with this baby with new and exciting, because everything we experienced with her was a first.

After Henry arrived, the first few weeks were a bit chaotic, but the days of midnight diaper changes and on-demanding feeding with his sister weren’t so far behind us so it was a bit like relearning to ride a bike. This middle-child-to-be had plenty of firsts, too. It turns out, boys and girls are very different. By one month, we were finally starting to hit our stride with juggling two.

But with Audrey, things are different.

Because with my last baby, I won’t just be celebrating her firsts.

I’m also mourning the lasts.

Yesterday was the last time a baby of mine will turn one month old!

last baby

It’s so hard to believe, because I remember her being born like it was yesterday.

She decided she was ready in the early hours of the morning and woke me up. After a shower {clean!} and a quick bite to eat {fuel!}, we made it to the hospital.

We didn’t actually know that she was a she at the time. For our final love bug, my husband and I decided that since we were already equipped with the clothing and gear for a boy or a girl, we elected to keep this one a surprise {which ended up being much easier than this planner had anticipated, and totally worth the wait}.

I had a hunch this little nugget would be exactly what big sister wanted, another girl. For starters, I was extra sick this pregnancy which landed me in the emergency room, just like with big sister. The final icing on the cake was once we were admitted to the hospital, our L&D nurse’s name was Jacqueline, which was my front-running girl name going into the hospital. If that wasn’t a sign!

Dad refused to commit to a gender guess. {I think he just didn’t want to be wrong…}

I had already labored to the finish line by the time I was able to get an epidural, so within 15 minutes the doctor and nurses had flooded into the room for the big finish.

With the pain relief kicking in, I can truly say I enjoyed the delivery. It cracks me up now, but I was holding conversations with the people in the room between the three rounds of pushes until we finally got to meet our – surprise! – girl.

You know how when you get married everyone tells you to try to slow down and enjoy the moment, because it will go by so quickly? That is exactly what I did when my last baby was born. I noticed who was in the room and watched my husband as he gazed down at our newborn. I looked the doctors and nurses in the eyes and thanked them silently. Then I finally held my tiny creation, this amazing miracle I had grown and delivered into the world, and breathed in every ounce of my new daughter. And I cried.

After looking at our precious baby, we felt she was already our Audrey, as if she had named herself! Her middle name didn’t come quite as quickly. In fact, if it weren’t for birth certificate paperwork we may still be deciding!

Big sister’s middle name is her Godmother’s middle name, and big brother’s middle name is his grandfather’s name. Not wanting to stray from the family ties, we settled on Mae….my mother’s grandmother’s name and a true Matriarch.

last baby siblings

In most mommy circles, “baby brain” is a real deal thing. And the more kids we have, the worse it seems to get!

I know I won’t always be so observant, so present to take it all in.

And unlike the firsts that seem to be so obvious, it’s easy to forget to slow down and cherish the lasts.

Happy one month to my sweet girl, my last baby!

{All images courtesy of Haven Photography}