Mama, how do you do it?

The other day I was talking with a girl friend from back home. She is a first time mom and an amazing one at that!

After gushing over photos of our newest additions, we started talking about the final days of her maternity leave. I offered my support and unsolicited advice from returning to work after my first. She acted like I was some sort of super hero {the free mama would be a good super hero name…} and then said “You make it look easy. Plus, you didn’t even take a break from work after you had Audrey. How do you do it?”

I was flattered, but also a bit confused by the time we got off the phone.

That same day I got a text from another friend. She’s a mom of three, but has had very difficult pregnancies and some struggles breastfeeding.  I’m always happy to share my experiences, but frequently remind her that I’m hardly an expert and she may want to visit a lactation consultant. Then she texts back, “You’re an expert to me! I don’t know how you nursed each of your kids so long.”

I’ve been getting these types of comments a lot lately from other moms now that I’m toting around 3 kiddos and running a small business.

How do you do it?

I usually laugh it off.

I mean, as moms, we all just somehow – do. Right?

Seriously, think back to life before children for a moment. If you’re like me, it’s almost difficult to do! What did we do with all of our time and money back then?

When we become mothers, suddenly everything changes. We go from carefree to caretaker for a helpless, beautiful little being who depends on us for every teeny tiny thing.  What used to be a quick trip to Target now takes two hours, because heaven forbid you leave the house without every possible item your baby could need while you’re gone.

And yet, we get settle into the craziness of parenting. Some of us do so quicker than others, but in time we all adjust to our new normal by simply doing.

Our lives are forever changed.

We continue to parent – and do – the best way we know how both intuitively, and by learning from others.

So to my friend heading back from maternity leave, I have a question for you…

How do you do it? How do you slow down and cherish the moments with your first child so deeply and lovingly? And how do you shut out the busy world around you, the work that I’m sure is piling up on your desk back in your office, to enjoy these fleeting moments as a new mother without stress or worry inching in?

To my friend who is struggling, how do you do it? How do you stay so committed to something that is so challenging for you? How do you continue to work so hard so selflessly for your children when you yourself are still healing?

And to all of the other moms out there, how do you do it? Because I’d really like to know.

When you feel like you’re falling behind

Have you ever felt like everyone else is getting it right and you’re falling behind?

I know I have.

Sure, we can blame social media and its abundance of filtered depictions of “real life.” Don’t get me wrong, it certainly doesn’t squash these feelings of inadequacy.

The truth is, I’ve been comparing myself to others long before Facebook came about, and I bet you have, too.

One of my earliest memories of this was in elementary school.

The teacher was repeatedly complimenting another student’s completed artwork in class.

I loved art. I’d done art camp the summer before. I even wrote children’s books for fun at home and drew the pictures to go along with my stories. I wanted to be an illustrator when I grew up! And I thought I was really good at it.

I still remember how insecure it made me feel to hear the other student’s praise over my own. Maybe I wasn’t as good as I thought I was? Maybe my ideas were lacking? My color choices all wrong? And why wasn’t I finished with my artwork yet?

Clearly I was doing something wrong.

falling behind

So what did I do?

I started copying what she had done.

Yup, I abandoned my own vision to “catch up” to what I thought was a fast track to success – in this case, our teacher’s approval.

And do you think it worked?

Not so much.

For the first time I was introduced to the nickname “copycat”. The teacher, I assume on my behalf yet further endorsing my classmate, added, “copying is the highest form of flattery.”

I didn’t care for that too much. Besides, I didn’t really want my artwork to look like hers at all!

In the moment, I just wanted regard from our teacher – likely in the form of a good grade.

But I should have kept my focus on my end game – my passion for art and desire to have a career in it!

Instead, I became more insecure about my abilities as an artist. I stopped pursuing it, because I was {falsely} under the impression that someone else was doing it right, and I my skills were falling behind.

Who knows what I could have created if I would have stuck to my own vision! Maybe I would be an author/illustrator of children’s books today.

I do know one thing – I would have been a lot happier, and avoided some harsh elementary school criticism, if I’d just stayed true to myself.

And, since it was 2nd grade art, I likely would have gotten a good grade just for finishing.

What’s your end game in your business or your lifestyle?

Or, asked another way, how do you define success?

Maybe it’s a million dollars. Maybe it’s the ability to work from anywhere, or not work at all and stay home with your children full-time.

Just because there are other millionaires and stay at home moms out there, does not mean that you’re falling behind at all. They’ve just already finished their artwork.

I’m finally ready to give myself permission to take my time creating mine.

Without copying.

And, more importantly, without worrying about what grade I’ll get.

We all have our own artwork to paint. We didn’t all start painting at the same time and we inevitably won’t all choose the same colors and designs.

This is a good thing.

As long as you keep picking up the paint brush.

In other words, mama, you do you.

Podcast Prep – Can moms really have it all?

I’m super excited to share with you some exciting – and slightly terrifying – news.

I’ve been invited to speak on not just one, but two podcasts in the next month!

First up, the Extraordinary Moms Podcast.

I was invited to share my pursuit of a work life balance after being introduced to SoCal mom Jessica by a mutual friend. Not unlike my Working Mom Wednesday blog posts, Jessica celebrates motherhood by inviting moms onto her show to tell their stories.

In a few weeks I’ll be sharing my spin on the whole “mommy blog” thing on The Blog Chronicles with Matthew Loomis. Fun fact: I set up this blog using Matthew’s easy to follow steps!

moms have it all

Once I got past the initial “what the heck am I going to talk about” nerves, I realized how pumped I was about sharing my mompreneur journey.

After all, I shouldn’t run out of topics about my life, right? We are all experts in our own experiences!

What makes me a tiny bit terrified; however, is finally sharing my beliefs on the controversial “having it all” debate.

Can moms have it all? Or can’t we?

After a year of pursuing it, I’ve come to my own conclusion and I’ll be diving into what I think on these podcasts!

Have you done anything recently that terrifies you? Let me know how it turned out!

P.S. I’ll be sure to share the links on my Facebook page when each interview is published!

The non-maternity leave

It’s been 12 weeks since Audrey was born.

This is the same week five years ago when I kissed my oldest daughter Daphne goodbye before my husband loaded her up in her carseat to take her to daycare for the first time. The days leading up to the end of my maternity leave were flooded with tears.

With Henry I only took 11 weeks.

Neither were paid.

But the last 3 months have been an entirely different experience.

For starters, I have two other kiddos to keep up with. The seemingly long days of watching daytime television while cluster feeding a newborn in my pajamas are behind me.

It’s also because I didn’t take any time off from work. Yup, this solorpreneur was shooting off emails from the recovery room.

And yet, if you’ve asked me how things were going since Audrey was born, I’ve likely told you it’s been the easiest transition of the three.

My neighbor said it best: You’re nervous with your first child, because everything is new and you have no idea what to expect. You’re overwhelmed with your second child, because you do know what to expect. By the time number three comes, there are much fewer surprises and it’s relatively smooth sailing.

I can’t guarantee it will happen this way for everyone, but it’s definitely been the case for our family.

Daphne is a tremendous help with Audrey, and does a great job of playing with Henry – who isn’t taking to sharing his mama with the baby quite as well.

Plus, this last pregnancy was so rough, including 8 weeks on bedrest, that I actually have substantially more energy now than I did before the baby was born. I’m even sleeping better now, too!

But it hasn’t all been easy. There have definitely been days where I yearned for nursing on the couch in my pajamas. And some of the time, that’s just what I did.

Other days I just wasn’t able to because of the client projects I was working on.

I also took my first ever work trip when Audrey was just 7 weeks old. I was a little bit hesitant about whether or not to go, but I learned a lot and it was totally worth it in the long run.

Now, it’s not really my personality to slow down too much for too long, but the truth is that I needed to keep working. I needed the income. I didn’t want to risk losing my clients. And it turns out the bills only get bigger once you have a baby, so that unpaid maternity leave thing just wasn’t going to fly again – and this time I was able to do something about it.

I knew this was going to be my reality before we had the baby, so I was able to prepare myself for what I wanted my non-maternity leave to look like. Fortunately, this time around I feel wiser as a mother, more focused as a business owner, and I’m finally doing something I’m passionate about.

Whether you’re approaching your maternity leave, or find yourself running a small business while growing your family, here’s what you need to know:

Have a plan

This seems obvious enough, but you need to have a plan with your spouse and your work. Be transparent about what help you’ll need from your partner and if you’ll need to increase childcare for other kiddos to allow more time for you and baby. Ask your company about their leave policy in advance and make sure you understand your benefits or lack thereof. If your leave will not be paid, are you prepared for that financially? Will you possibly need to return sooner? Are these policies negotiable?

I was definitely moving a bit slower for the first two weeks after I gave birth, so I was sure to set boundaries with my clients about when I would be working and when it’s family time. Luckily, because of the nature of my work, there were many things that I was able to schedule out before the baby came. The key with any plan is to be flexible, realistic and communicative. Do not over promise if you won’t be able to perform.

Outsource

Don’t try to be a hero – you just birthed a baby! I’m not sure when moms first started feeling the need to do everything all by themselves. I assure you it’s not possible. Maybe you need to hire a cleaning company for a few months. Maybe your spouse can start doing morning carpool. Do not be afraid to ask for help, and perhaps more importantly, when people offer, accept it. If someone offers to bring your family a meal, graciously thank them and check dinner off of your to do list for that night. Voila! You’ll definitely be able to – and should – return the favor someday.

If you’re a business owner, you may even be able to outsource some of your work tasks without losing revenue. Maybe you have an employee who can step in, or maybe you know about freelancer who can trade projects with you. While that didn’t necessarily work for me, I became much more strategic with how my time was being used on things other than work. I realized free shipping services {hello Amazon Prime} and even grocery shopping services with small fees were totally worth the hour I would have spent doing it myself. This gave me some time back to focus on my clients.

Schedule bonding time

Speaking of time, this one is super important for any new mom. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed with things like laundry {which has suddenly doubled in volume with the addition of one tiny human} and on-demand feeding and diaper changes. Add in a job? Mind overload. Whatever you’re doing, don’t let the days slip by without scheduling a special time to just stare at your baby. Take a mental picture. Heck, take a real picture. Or a hundred! Audrey reminds me just how much a newborn changes each and everyday. I’m thrilled to continue working with clients I enjoy while profiting. I’m even happier to do it knowing I’m mindful not to sacrifice these precious moments.

If you’re pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, check out or review your company’s maternity leave policy at listyourleave.com. Be sure to read my interview with the founders.