How to build confidence as a working mom

Last weekend my family went to San Antonio. My husband had to go for work, so we all decided to pile in the car and tag along.

The trip itself could be several blog posts, covering everything from how to survive in a theme park by yourself with 3 kids {what was I thinking?} to what to pack for a road trip.

But one thing that stood out to me during this whirlwind vacation was how much I’ve changed over the last few years.

When I first became a mom, I was terrified to nurse in public. I was one of the lucky ones who never struggled with breastfeeding. Yet, whenever I left the house I would typically excuse myself to go somewhere private to nurse. Because of my insecurity, I fed my baby anywhere from a parked car to a public restroom and many places in between.

By the time number two came along, my confidence improved. While I still preferred privacy, if I absolutely had to I would get out a cover and work through it with a wiggling baby.

Fast forward to baby number three, and I’m nursing on the park bench at Sea World San Antonio without thinking twice.

So what’s changed? Well for one thing, I’ve learned how to build confidence as a working mom.

I have also decided not to let what other people think affect my choices.

We were on the go all weekend, and while I still prefer to be modest, and use a cover {when she’ll let me} I feed her wherever and whenever it’s time. I no longer let the potential discomfort of onlookers get in the way of me feeding my child.

The truth is, most of them could probably care less what I’m doing or how I’m doing it anyway. I have no doubt that much of my insecurity was just that – mine!

Sure, there’s always going to be a critic, but I’ve grown to realize they are the exception and not the rule. And I’m definitely not going to let these guys get in the way of me feeding my baby… or anything else for that matter.

As a blogger, many of the same insecurities pop up. Will anyone care what I have to say? What will people think? Will they disapprove? Or will I be accepted?

These are the mental roadblocks we will all encounter at some point in our lives. It’s up to us to decide if we will drive through them, or turn back.

Would you make the same choices if no one else was around to judge you?

In other words, how much are you allowing what other people think about you impact your life as a working mom?

Now, I’m not saying that our choices don’t affect other people. In fact, I actually think it is important to consider other people in our decision making. But when it comes down to it, no one knows what’s best for you than YOU!

Maybe you’re considering heading back to work after staying home with your kiddos, and you’re worried you’ll get criticized for putting them in childcare.

Perhaps you have a fabulous new job opportunity, but you feel nervous to tell your current boss whom you love.

Whatever the situation, here’s how you to get what you want and build confidence as a working mom.

Stop trying to please others.

You really want to start working from home to ditch the long commute, but you can’t stop thinking about what your co-workers will think about the arrangement. It’s human nature to care what others think about us, but it also holds us back, which isn’t great for our happiness. {Or in my case, the happiness of my hungry baby!} It’s likely that you’re overestimating how much they’ll actually care in the first place. But if they really are upset, you can address their concerns by clarifying the details around your new flex position or encouraging them to request the same. In the end, however, we have to let go of the expectation that we can make everyone happy.

Take control of your life.

It’s time to get into the driver seat, mama. Just as much as you cannot control what other people think, you cannot expect great things to happen in your life if you aren’t willing to go after them. Do you think you deserve a raise, but aren’t sure if your company will go for it? You need to do your research, build your argument and get your tush into your boss’s office ASAP. Start by identifying what it is you want and the first step towards making it a reality. You’ll improve your confidence by being assertive and following through. Plus, that confidence and prepared argument may be just the thing that gets your boss to say yes!

Celebrate your accomplishments with others.

Women in particular tend to have a difficult time celebrating our wins. No one wants to be labeled a bragger… Well, toot toot! While not everyone will be happy for you, you cannot reach big goals without celebrating small wins. By celebrating your accomplishments with a support system that wants you to succeed, you gain momentum and positive energy to tackle whatever’s next for you. Be sure to return the favor to your friends who are killin’ it, and watch your confidence soar!

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.

Bouncing back: 5 tips for climbing out of a rut

climbing out of a rut

Y’all. I’ve been in Texas almost a month and I’ve realized two things. The first, I say y’all now. The second is that I am in a big time rut.

For starters, I’m coming off of one of the most stressful experiences of my life. Buying and selling a home doesn’t always bring out the best in a person. Moving cross country is a total mental, physical and emotional drain. Uprooting toddlers and finding new friends, new things to do and a new school isn’t my idea of a walk in the park. Plus, I’ve had to pull all this off before climbing into bed at 9 p.m. each day because baby Golden is zapping all of my energy for him {or her!} self.

So it’s no secret why I’m in a rut. The boxes are unpacked, the kids are settling into their new school and yet finding a way to climb out of this uninspired, unproductive hole still seems impossible.

If you’re normally quite constructive like me but have found yourself in a rut from time to time, read on!

Cut yourself some slack

As women we tend to be so hard on ourselves. Yet when I give myself a hard time about something, it tends to make me feel way worse. But who hasn’t been in a career or life rut? It happens to the best of us! Over the last few months I’ve chosen to be generous with myself when it comes to how much television I’ve let my kids watch or how little I’ve contributed to this blog. I was doing my best given my situation, all of which was temporary after all.

Start small

You’ll never get out of your rut if you acknowledge you’re in one and decide to to try to climb out. I recommend starting with something small. A big, overwhelming undertaking could send you right back into rut-mode, but taking on a manageable task and finishing it with ease may give you the encouraging boost to move on to the next to-do. Momentum gained!

Find inspiration

If you’re having trouble even getting started, you need to find a bit of inspiration. Maybe it’s going for a walk outside {I always bring my phone on walks because A. music and B. note taking for when those big ideas pop into my head}. Or listening to music. Or visiting an art exhibit. Whatever activity clears your head will help you forget your rut and fill your mind with motivation.  If that nature hike doesn’t shake your rut strut, spend some time with your children, husband or best friend. These people we love {who don’t judge us!} tend to remind us of what we’re capable of.

Do your best

If you’re like me, you are used to giving everything 110%. But vying for perfection could leave you drained or disappointed. For climbing out of a rut you need to abandon your usually high standards and find satisfaction in getting the job done. There’s plenty of time to improve when you’re rut-less.

Keep climbing

You did it! You’ve done something. It may not be your best work. It may not even contribute to your goals at all. But it was something. Anything. And now you can – and will – move forward, gradually introducing a renewed focus and quality. You’ve got this, mama!

Do you ever feel like you’re just winging it?

winging-it

It’s March! While Kansas City may be susceptible to a later-than-desired snow, spring is definitely in the air. {My tulips are already popping up!}

This is my absolute favorite season of the year.

Maybe it’s because the flowers and trees come back to life with beautiful colors and smells that are so welcomed after feeling cooped up indoors all winter.

Maybe it’s because both of my springtime babies {who are no longer babies} are celebrating birthdays in the next few weeks.

Or maybe it’s because after two months of my new work-from-home life I’ve finally settled into a bit of a routine and am ready to start expanding my business.

Whatever the reason, I’ve decided to dedicate this month to all things growth.

Last week I had the pleasure of sipping green juice with the owner of Hello Big Idea. Ashley is one of the newest local small business owners to join up with Femfessionals Kansas City and I was excited to get to know her better.

As we shared our personal and professional journeys with one another, what kept weaving in and out of our conversation was doubt.

I told her about my insecurities with my new solopreneur gig, my fear that no one was going to read this blog that I cared so much about, and my frustrations for not having everything perfectly figured out already.

I don’t know if she meant it or was just trying to make me feel better, but she said something that really resonated with me.

She said that we’re all just winging it.

Sure, we can plan. We strategize and make goals. And then we look at what someone else is doing and think they’ve got it all figured out and then question our own actions.

The problem with that is that we’re comparing our insides {our fears and doubts} to other people’s outsides {their well edited final product}.

But the more I thought about what Ashley said, the more I started to take a closer look at some of the businesses, blogs and people I admire and realized she was totally right.

You can call it trial and error. Or fake it ’til ya make it. But the truth is the same; we’re all totally winging it until we make something stick.

But if you’re an off-the-charts Type A personality like me, how can you take control of your doubt and make sure that “winging it” still leads to growth?

Surround yourself with people you trust

Since I started working from home I’ve realized that I miss those moments where you can easily bounce ideas off of one another like in an office environment. I knew I’d need to establish {and cultivate} relationships with people whom I trusted and had the knowledge to help me grow.

I have a mentor who gives me great, honest feedback. He doesn’t always tell me what I want to hear, but I trust his advice and it plays an important role in how I make decisions about my business.

My husband is my biggest fan. I can have a complete breakdown about anything and he is there to talk me through it. There isn’t any judgement, just support.

The thing that my husband and my mentor have in common is that they both really want me to succeed. So when you wing it, don’t ever fly solo and make sure your people want the same things for you as you want for yourself.

Know where you want to go

While winging it may imply that you have no idea what you’re doing, you should at least know where you’re headed. You may deviate along the way or maybe the route you chose will land you in a totally different place altogether {maybe one you didn’t even know existed}.

Having a child, changing careers, starting a business all involve venturing out into the unknown. This is why we start to doubt ourselves. If you know where you want to go – raise a family, work for a non-profit, be an entrepreneur –  then even if you’re just winging it, at least you’ve decided to take action!

Get out of your own way

Sometimes the only person holding you back is you. It may be fear. It may be intimidation. But sometimes getting started is the hardest part. If you’ve got your people and your roadmap, then it’s time to let go of the doubt and quit getting in your own way. You have really big plans for yourself. I can’t wait to watch you grow!

5 ways to actually achieve your goals this year

tips for accomplishing your goals

Monday is February 1st, which marks one month since you blissfully resolved to make this the best year yet. How are you doing on your resolutions or goals thus far?

I recently read that by Super Bowl weekend only 20% of goal-setters are still on track. And by Christmas? Only 5% will waive a victory flag.

But I’m here to tell you that I believe you’re a five percenter. The thing about goals is, if you do them right they can be an amazingly powerful tool to inspire and guide you! Plus, you’re in control of your own success {or failure}. We’ve already 1/12th of the way there, so let’s not waste anymore time.

1. Set smarter goals

We’ve all heard of SMART goals, but thanks to a fashion blog I follow I’m not making my goals SMARTER. If you know me personally, you know I’m probably not following it for the style tips {I live in yoga pants} but for their incredible business savvy. They put the “er” in “smarter” and I think it adds an extra dose of motivation. Who doesn’t want to be excited by their goals and rewarded for reaching them?!

Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Realistic, Timely, Exciting, Rewarded

Example: By December 31, 2016 (T), we will have 100 (M, R) new business members (S) join Femfessionals Kansas City (A). This goal excites me, because I’m passionate about growing a community of working women (E). When I achieve this goal, I’m going to throw a free event for all of our members (R)!

2. Look at it

A goal you can see is massively more powerful than a goal you keep hidden like a secret. Are you the creative type? Try making a vision board using magazine clippings. Now that you can literally see your goals, it’s time to tell someone else about them. Making yourself accountable to your friends and family is one of the best ways to stay on track.

3. Break it up

Many people abandon goals because they’re just too dang big. If you’ve done this to yourself, stop now. Change your game plan.
Select mini-milestones that all work toward your main goal. Let’s say your goal is to gain 100 new clients this year. That sounds a bit intimidating, doesn’t it? But if you break it into a monthly goal of 8-10 clients per month or about 2 a week, it becomes a more manageable goal. Split your big goals into bite size chunks and conquer it one sweet victory at a time.

4. Commit to yourself

There’s only one person in this goal-setting process that matters. You. Commit to yourself now and be prepared to recommit over and over again. The thing about achieving goals is that it’s a bit like riding a horse. You’re bound to get thrown off a few times. Commit to yourself so that you’ll climb right back on that saddle.

5. Start now

You know the saying, “Never put off for tomorrow, what you can do today.” They weren’t talking about folding your laundry {but don’t procrastinate there either or your clothes will be all wrinkled}. When it comes to going after what you want, you have to start now. So if you haven’t figured out what you want to accomplish this year, this month or this week, it’s time to go for it.

Big growth is just around the corner. What is your number one goal for this year?

5 New Year’s resolutions for a successful 2016

New Year Oprah

It’s hard to believe 2016 is a day away. When I was a kid it sounded so obnoxious to hear older people talk about how time seems to speed up each year, but now that I’m a parent I am starting to see some truth to it. With a one and three-year-old the days can seem {painfully} long at times, but I seem to have blinked and here I am at another year. With an almost four-year-old. Which can’t be right since I was practically just in college. Until I realize that it’s almost 2016 and I graduated nearly eight years ago. How did that happen?

While a new year makes me feel a bit sad that my kids are growing up so quickly, it’s also a great time to do some self reflection. My husband and I are big into setting goals, making resolutions and adding things to our bucket lists. We actually sit down once a year and write each of these into a Google Doc that we share so we can check in from time to time. This process has been a great road map for our life together. In fact, both this blog and my husband’s business were dreamed up in goal-setting sessions and become our reality!

We aren’t getting any younger, which means {if the old people are right} that time isn’t getting any slower either. With time passing so quickly, you may miss the chance to get what you want out of your life if you don’t take time to figure out {and write down} what those things are.

Here’s my list for 2016. Do you share any of the same resolutions? Tell me about yours in the comments.

1. Say yes more

When you have young kids, it is so easy to become a total home-body. A night out with friends or lunch with an old classmate seems like so much work when you have to align a baby sitter or just muster up the energy to change out of your yoga pants and take a shower. The problem with acting like a recluse is that you may actually start to lose touch with some of those friends when they stop inviting you out when you always stay in. 2016 will be a year of yes as long as you aren’t asking me to stay out too late {some of us still have to get up at 6 a.m. with the toddlers, k?}.

2. Put down the cell phone

I hope my husband adds this one to his list, but I’m not exactly proud of the hours I’ve clocked tuned into technology during family-time either. It’s so tempting to get look at your cell phone each time you hear an email arrive in your inbox. This year I hope to stay true to my time blocked working hours and save the social scrolling until after the kiddos are in bed so I never have to hear my daughter say, “mommy, please get off your phone” again.

3. Build my girl squad

As the president of our Kansas City chapter of Femfessionals, I have huge goals for our new community to flourish in 2016. Selfishly, one of these goals is to build my own power network, as well. I’m entering 2016 as a first-time, full-fledged business owner and I see the women in this group as a wealth of support and information. But like most things in life, you only get out what you put in. I can’t wait to get to know the women in this network better.

4. Quit comparing

Women spend an enormous amount of time comparing themselves to others. I have two thoughts on this. First, sometimes what you see isn’t even reality. Think about it, do you put your really embarrassing or sad or angry self on social media? Probably not. Neither does she. So when her life looks perfect, just remember everyone is going through something. Second, we aren’t all looking for the same things on this journey through life and that’s okay. Sometimes I see pictures of my stay-at-home-mom friends with their children throughout the day and I wonder what the heck I’m doing in the office. But then I remember I chose to do this work that I love and my children are thriving in their preschool. In 2016, I’m going to stop wasting my time worrying about how your life compares to mine and make sure I’m doing my personal best instead.

5. Get political

In case you’ve been living under a rock, 2016 is an election year and things are bound to be interesting. Sometimes it’s easy to sit back and coast on your political affiliations or stay out of it altogether, but as someone less than impressed with all of our presidential candidates, I really want to take the initiative to learn more on the national and local level this year and maybe even get involved. {Heck, even my husband joined our local HOA Board for 2016.} It really does matter, so I hope you’ll get inspired and join me.