How my husband became a short order cook {In his words}

With Father’s Day approaching, I was brainstorming ways that I could incorporate my husband into this blog. I already talk about him, so I asked him if he’d have any interest in contributing his thoughts on my blog. He agreed.

I thought he may write about what it’s like to be married to a working mom, but what he came up with is so much better. It shows the love he has for his children, and the selfless spirit with which he entered our marriage and still shows me today {almost 8 years later}. I rely heavily on him to help with the kids and the house so that I have the time to pursue my own career, too. We are a team and I literally could not do it without him. I loved seeing what “help” looks like through his eyes, and I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I did.

Happy Father’s Day to all of the amazing dads out there!


In relationships we’ve all had moments where we admit we need help. As a husband, sometimes getting off the couch for a beer during a football game seems insurmountable. Going hungry seems justified considering the effort it would take to rise, hunt, and capture the appropriate snack, if it even exists. I thank my wife for her vigilance during these times.

It’s ok to ask for help, we all need it. Sometimes the help is for big things, and sometimes it’s for small things (football snacks may fall under the latter). Relationships, especially marriage, rely on honesty and admitting when you need something.

It wasn’t until we bought our first house that Lauren and I really took notice of each other’s habits and rituals. (Enter cliche remark about my toilet water magically turning blue here.) Early in our careers, no time was more stressful than the morning routine: hitting snooze on the alarm, showering, grooming, coffee, news, and breakfast all while trying to get out of the door on time. So when my wife asked for help in the morning, after pointing out she took more time to get ready for work than I did, I decided to tackle breakfast. What started as a bowl of cereal here, a fried egg and toast there, became something much bigger.

After eight years, three houses, three cities, three kids, two cats and many burnt waffles later, I’ve become known around the house as “Chef”. It’s a title I’ve earned, and I hope it sticks around for a long, long time.

Making my family breakfast has become one of the greatest experiences I’ve had as a father. (And it all started with my wife asking for help!) What’s especially great is that I get to recreate  the experience every morning. It’s starting the day with one small accomplishment before I set out for the rest of a hectic day full of unknowns. Plus, there’s something selfishly satisfying about curing hunger in the morning.

I love making biscuits and gravy from scratch, with scrambled eggs, bacon and potatoes. The entire house fills with smells of breakfast and the family gathers around our kitchen island to share a meal, be silly and discuss our day. It’s thirty minutes of family time.

The Chef doesn’t always get to cook what he wants. (I’d pick grits and corn beef hash, a true Okie at heart. I just can’t help myself!) Lately pancakes have been at the top of the menu and I’m happy to oblige. Henry and Daphne love fried cinnamon apples on top, something my Mom used to make for me growing up. Lauren may want protein instead of carbs, so I’ll scramble some eggs. On a busy morning the kids may want cereal when I have oatmeal out. Hard boiled eggs go over better than fried, and omelets get me extra brownie points from the wife.

It’s the first meal of the day, why not let them have a say!

A simple rule in our kitchen: if you have the freedom of choice, it starts with a healthy one. Our kids have grown to love bell peppers, carrots, snap peas, apples, grapes and oranges. There’s always an exception to the rule, and ours sits adjacent to the coffee pot (a container holding mint chocolate chip cookies and, as of this writing, notably low. Something the family tends to be on edge about.)

Despite countless authors and celebrities advising parents not be short order cooks – I say do it. At least for breakfast.

With all the routines kids have these days offering them a little freedom in the morning can be refreshing. Eating habits shouldn’t be controlled, they should be influenced. I have a short menu of breakfast meals my wife and kids know they can order from. When they come into the kitchen for breakfast I’m not just a cook, I become a teacher, a counselor, a friend, and a father. (Life’s not perfect, sometimes I go full dictator. Like if yogurt starts flying like shrapnel in a Michael Bay film.)

There’s so much focus on family time at dinner, which is enjoyed in my home, as well. But there’s something special about breakfast. A new day, a fresh meal, and a time for me to connect with my family. My wife asked me for help, but she ended up giving me the best job I’ve ever had. Put that on your toast and eat it.

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!

Joining an MLM isn’t the easiest path to becoming a Work From Home Mom

I know a ton of women who would jump at the chance to be a work from home mom.

In fact, I have someone reaching out to me about once a week to pick my brain about how I’ve been able to do it over the last year and a half.

As someone who made the leap from working full time outside of the home, to part time from home for myself, and was able to supplement my previous income in less than a year, I totally get it!

I was there not long ago. Craving more time with my children during the day. Needing something that was just mine. Having to feed my desire to create and produce.

It doesn’t always feel like there are a ton of options for working moms to have it all.

Luckily, many companies are finally starting to embrace the importance of family benefits, such as flexible schedules and better parental leave policies. The sense of balance it provides to employees, moms in particular, has kept more women in the workplace, which leads to more women in senior roles, which leads to more female decision makers, which leads to better family advocates…you see where I’m going.

Some women become mothers and their sense of fulfillment comes from staying at home. This is wonderful, and a privilege for those who are able to do so!

The truth is, more and more couples are relying on a dual income to support their families. Women often feel torn when they have to choose between staying home with their children and avoiding high childcare costs, or heading back to work and spending less time raising their kiddos.

If they’re at a job they don’t love with zero flexibility, they understandably would be seeking out other options.

Enter a flood of groups invitations and private messages and friend requests on your Facebook page.

Everyone from your best friend in 3rd grade to your husband’s coworker’s sister-in-law is probably trying to get you to buy leggings, jewelry, cookware, or fill-in-the-blank from them.

It’s no surprise that multi-level marketing companies have become incredibly popular.

A lot of the products are terrific! I have supported dozens of women in my community over the years and will continue to do so.

It’s also no wonder that when you’re Facebook “friend”sends you an offer to start your own business, and make money throwing parties with your girlfriends, your interest is peeked.

You can become your own boss, set your own hours and get away from the job that’s making you miserable.

Score, right?!

I know that’s how I felt when I was struggling to balance my career and my family and was asked to join an MLM. I quickly jumped at the opportunity! If I’m honest, I’m still signed up as a consultant so that I can take advantage of the discount myself. I stopped “working my business” years ago.

If you’re considering becoming a new business owner through an MLM, it’s important that you understand how it will actually work: you will be selling the company’s product on its behalf {they profit} and your recruiter will be earning a commission on your sales {she profits}.

That isn’t to say that you won’t profit.

But in my personal experience, they know they won’t get you to sign up if you understand just how small your margins will be.

They don’t explain that while you will get a great discount on products, you will need to buy a website, purchase supplies to help you sell, and possibly even invest in product up front {all from the same company you now work for}. Not to mention the “starter” fee and taxes.

Instead, they will hook you with every woman’s dream: to create a better life for your family financially, find fulfillment personally, and have a blast while doing it!

Who doesn’t want that?

Then, she reels you in with the success stories of the few and far between.

She isn’t doing it to be misleading. These success stories do exist. And it’s exactly what she wants for herself and her family. Maybe even for you, too! But she also knows she won’t become one of them without you on her team.

Just like other entrepreneurs, MLM business owners work hard for their accomplishments.

This post is in no way to diminish their efforts. However, none of them made a million dollars selling products for a company. They made a million dollars convincing you to sell them.

For you to be successful in a MLM business, you too will only be extremely profitable by pitching the dream to others. That’s literally how these businesses work!

It’s also the reason that 50% of women who join one of these companies leaves within the first year, and 90% have quit by year 5. I fall in the latter, myself.

Now, if you love the product and the idea of growing a team, by all means go for it! Or, if you’re after some extra spending money at the end of each month, you can accomplish that by selling product alone. You will likely have a costumer in me.

However, if you are looking to enrich your life and your bank account, I encourage you to explore other options before buying “a business in a box”.

Create your own work from home mom business!

Chances are you have a unique talent – a product or service – that you can market and sell on your own. There will still be business costs and taxes. There will also be a ton of hard work and some risk.

On the bright side, 80% of new businesses make it past their first year and 50% are still kicking after 5 years. I like my odds.

Have you ever started an MLM business? What was your experience? Tell me in the comments!

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.

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.

12 mompreneur tips for thriving {not just surviving} during the holidays

Holidays are such a special time to spend with family and friends. I love the lights, the traditions, the food, and the extra time at home with my loved ones. Yet, just because my kids get off from school, doesn’t mean my business stops – or even slows down.

So I took to the experts…fellow business owners and mamas who juggle their careers and their kiddos….to ask what tips they suggest for not just surviving, but thriving while working from home during the holidays. Keep reading to find out what I learned!
mompreneur tips

Plan ahead & stay organized.

 

Schedule out your days! While the holidays can often throw routine into chaos, take the time NOW to actually schedule out what needs to be done and by when; don’t just make a “to do” list and expect it’ll get done. Just because there’s only a few days left in the year doesn’t mean it’s time to slack off; get ready to rock 2017!

-Amber,  Thrifty Guardian and Embracing Temerity

 

 

Plan ahead! Make a schedule of play and working blocks, and have a few activities in your back pocket to keep the kids busy while you stay on your grind. Don’t forget to give your clients the heads up, too – send out an email outlining your holiday availability, noting any alterations to your office hours and reminding them of your preferred contact method.

-Resa, Eye Heart Creative

 

I use Trello during the holidays (especially my holiday gift and card planning board which helps me to brainstorm gifts and makes sure I’m mailing presents out on time.) I also use Trello to keep track of what is happening with my business and household, including recipes and meal plans, which takes a lot of stress off of me. Trello gives me confidence and allows the holidays to be more fun this year, since I’m in it all the time for my business anyway. It’s easy and fun.

-Dana Malstaff, Boss Mom

 

Find the time{r} to work with your kids.

 

Working with kids in the home is challenging. The one tip that keeps me focused and productive – and this has worked from 3 years old to the teen years – has been a timer and working in time blocks. My young children were able to watch a timer and keep themselves busy for 20 minutes in the other room while I did a deep focus block. I worked the way up to 45 minute blocks as they got older. I have found that with 2-4 focus blocks a day, I can conquer most of the heavy lifting.

– Cecily, Cecily: Nutrition, Love and Transformation

 

I use a pomodoro timer. I set it for 20 minute increments and I can only work during that time. No checking email, no social media, no attending to house work. You would be amazed how much you get done when the time is ticking…literally!

-Kristin, Pond Photography

 

 

During school vacations, I move my work from the home office to the kitchen. This way, I am literally running a command center within reach of everyone and everything we need. If there is a stretch of time coming up when I know that I need to be engaged with work, I try to have a ‘favorite’ on hand for the girls. Homemade play-doh is a double whammy, because we make it together which takes about 10 minutes, but then they have an open ended activity that – after a good raid of the junk drawer – can literally last hours!

-Jenna, Rodan + Fields Independent Consultant

Set boundaries for yourself

The holidays are my busiest season and I have to be very intentional about setting boundaries. When it’s Family Cookie-Baking Night, I don’t worry about Christmas shopping or work. When I’m working, I’m don’t feel guilt over the millions of Pinterest holiday crafts I could be doing with my kids. Peace is attainable if we fully engage in the task at hand and look for joy in the process.

– Jillian, Jillian Jones Music

 

Without a clearly defined schedule, it’s easy to lose yourself in work and totally miss out on family time. After all, isn’t the ability to be more present with our loved ones a big reason many of us work from home? Mark your off times in a calendaring system (I use Acuity Scheduling’s free plan) for your clients, put your hours on your website and in your email signature, and send your clients a note letting them know your hours. Block off personal time and guard it with your life. I promise, this Spring you won’t look back and regret having spent a little less time on your business and a little more with your kids during the holiday season

-Becky, Becky Mollenkamp, LLC

 

Take some time out for you. It sounds like a near impossible task with everything going on during the holidays, with work, the kids, and holiday commitments. Find some time to allow yourself to check out from your business, even if for a night after the kiddos are in bed, to Netflix binge, take a relaxing bubble bath, or enjoy a glass of wine to let your mind take a holiday, too!

-Britt, Home Sweet Hyatt

 

And finally, don’t forget what the season is really about….

 

The key to thriving in the holiday season is maintaining a place of rest and refreshment in your home for you and your family. Simply put, it’s about less stuff. In our culture we live and breathe a constant flash of discounts, sales, and good deals. And because of that, our homes can easily be filled with all of those things. Keep the season focused on enjoying your loved ones and experiencing life with them, let the new year ring in with memories, not overload of things that were accumulated through the month of December.

-Amy, Simplified Home

 

I think the holiday season is all about giving grace and savoring the moments.  As working moms we need to really allow ourselves the opportunity to fully enjoy those memories we’re creating with loved ones, but it’s also a lucrative time for many of us professionally.  Doing our best with what is truly important and forgetting the rest {for me it’s Christmas cards this year} is what makes thriving this season possible.

-Gwen, The Makerista

 

The holidays are all about spending time with loved ones and making good memories. My tip for working mamas is to plan what you can & let go of the rest. Plan/schedule out your work times and your fun times – be realistic knowing that you will want to let your hair down a bit in this season. Also, know that not everything will go according to plan, and that’s okay too.

-Veronica, Radiant Life Consulting

 

 


What tips would you add to the list to up your efficiency while working from home during the holidays? Share them in the comments!

“I still wanted to do challenging, high level work”

Q&A with Charissa Fitch

I was recently introduced to a working mom rocking the start-up scene by our mutual friends at Werk.

Charissa is an attorney turned inventor and entrepreneur. Like many of today’s working moms, she left a job that no longer worked for her in pursuit of building a company that would provide the solutions to her own career concerns: her desire to give her kids the time they deserved with their mom, while also putting her smarts and skills to good use in a professional setting.

And she’s on her way to doing just that! Charissa envisions a company where highly ambitious women {and men} can experience flexible schedules and benefits, while working for a dynamic, fulfilling business. She’s on a mission to support parents with great experience that may have “stepped back” from work for various reasons and are now hoping to re-enter the workforce on their own terms.

Now that’s a company I can get behind!

Self-promo time. Tell me about your business.

WileyRoo is a parent products company. Our mission is to create innovative products that make parenting and caregiving easier. Our first product offering, bababutler, is a solution to the hassle and chaos created by pumping and breast milk storage. bababutler is a flexible band that fits on most bottles, bags, and containers. It has a timer and thermometer that track the usable time and temperature of breast milk {or the content of the container}. bababutler is smart enabled and communicates with your smart phone or device via an application.

For example, once you put a bababutler band on a collection bottle you can set the time for 8 hours {for room temperature breast milk} and the alarm will sound once that time has expired. At the end of 8 hours if you haven’t used the milk you can leave the band in place and reset it to 120hrs {5 days} and put it in the refrigerator. bababutler is also great for anything you need to remember: medication, supplements, birth control, time sensitive food. Because the alarm is on the item it’s a terrific way to ensure that you, your nanny, daycare, or school remembers to administer medication or supplements to children. bababutler remembers for you!

And you’ve got big plans for growth, too.

My goal for 2017 is to continue to build a dynamic team and to surpass our first-year sales goals.

The idea for bababutler came from necessity. Any tips for pumping/nursing moms?

I had a hard time nursing my daughter. Not only did we have problems latching, but I also struggled with my milk supply. I found fenugreek and oatmeal to be very helpful with supply. Also, as much as I loved the handsfree nursing bra, I found that messaging my breasts while pumping increased my production. The most frustrating part for me was milk storage, which is why I invented the bababutler. My hope is that bababutler eliminates the chaos that surrounds breast milk storage and helps moms to pump and breastfeed as long as they want. New moms could use one less thing to stress about!

Before WileyRoo, you were an attorney. Why’d you step back out of the corporate scene?

Practicing law wasn’t working for me anymore. My husband’s company relocated us three times in six years and during that time we had two babies 17 months apart. I wanted to be home with my kids as much as possible, but “reduced hours” attorney positions can be difficult to find. So, I decided not to practice after our last move 18 months ago. I still wanted to do challenging, high level work, but I didn’t want to put in the {inflexible} hours that litigation can require.

What has been the best part about being an entrepreneur?

Being an entrepreneur has been amazing! I work when I want to and that allows me to spend more time with my family. Running a start-up is crazy, hard work, but it feels awesome to create something and see where it goes. I think my favorite part is learning so many new things. Running a company is very different than practicing law, so it has required me to learn many, many new skills. For example, I’ve learned how to use Adobe Illustrator. I’m definitely not an expert, but after fumbling around over and over I can use it if necessary; that is much more than I could have said a year ago.

Have there been any surprises along the way?

There are constant surprises! I’m surprised at how long everything takes. I’m surprised at the wonderful response we’ve received so far. I am surprised when our nanny quits, out of the blue, a couple of weeks before I leave for a 5-day work trip. The surprises keep rolling in.

wileyroo

What do you hope your children take away from all of your hard work?

If nothing else, I hope my kids learn that you are responsible for your own happiness in life. I wasn’t happy with a traditional career path, so I’m trying my best to create a company that will give people {myself included} the flexibility they need. I think many women {and men} probably feel this way once they have a family. Also I hope my daughter sees that you can be a mommy and a supportive wife and still be a badass boss lady, because they are not mutually exclusive. It just takes creativity.

What’s your best piece of advice for working moms?

My advice is… you’re doing fine. We are all too hard on ourselves. If you’re worried about how you are doing as a mom, then you’re probably doing a great job. Useful advice: hire help. If you can afford to pay someone to do something you hate {ie: laundry, cooking, etc.}, then do it!

What keeps you sane?

My faith and my family. I’m very “high strung” so I tend to stress easily. Fortunately, I have always had a close relationship with Jesus that helps me through many hard times. Prayer keeps me at peace with what is going on around me. My husband is also a big help; he can talk me down most of the time.

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

I struggle with trying to have it all. For me it means being happy with my marriage, being happy with how I’m mothering, and being happy with where I am in my career and personal ambitions. Those things never happen at the same time for more than 10 minutes! If I’m snuggling with my two-year-old on a rainy afternoon, then I’m neglecting something that needs to be done for WileyRoo. If I’m going on a date with my husband on Saturday night, my kids are sad that I’m not saying their “night nights.” You can’t have “it all” because you can’t “do it all”- not at the same time. I think I have more than I deserve and more than I ever imagined!


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

Growing my Business through Peaks and Valleys

Growing my Business through Peaks and Valleys

It’s been several weeks {okay, over a month…}, but today I’m writing to you from a mountain.

Okay, I’m not literally sitting on top of a mountain with my computer plugging away on this blog post. It’s more like a “Cloud 9” kind of mountain. I’m in a good place. A great place, actually.

My business is finally rocking and rolling down here in Houston. I’ve actually had to turn a few opportunities down. This solopreneur is even considering hiring someone part time!

How did I get here?!

Climbing this mountain took a while. Longer than I was expecting actually, and with a lot more setbacks. After months of transition and not feeling so great, I thought I was ready to go after some new business. The problem is I went about it all wrong. I was going after what I needed {cash money} instead of what I wanted {partnerships with companies that excite me}.

I knew I was making desperate choices instead of smart ones. Our move drained our savings more than either my husband or I had anticipated. The cost of living adjustment was also out of line with our Google research before the move. Add some blown out tires, a broken water heater, and a dead refrigerator to the list {have I mentioned those baby doctor bills?} and we found ourselves in a valley.

The pressure – whether real or imagined – was on me to guide our family out of the valley and begin climbing our mini-financial mountain of debt.

We already use coupons, don’t eat out and follow a pretty scaled back budget. So if I didn’t grow my business, and soon, I might as well set up camp down here in the valley and get comfortable. I could easily take my kids out of preschool and save a ton of cash. It’s our {like most working families} second largest monthly expense after our mortgage. Surely I could manage my current workload during naps and after hours like a lot of other work-from-home mamas do. It was an option.

The other option was to increase our income. My income. I had always intended to grow my business once we got settled, but for some reason {ahem, morning sickness} it just hadn’t been a priority until it became a necessity.

Since I work at my computer all day, I started online. I joined several freelancer websites, built out my digital marketer profiles online, and I found projects quite quickly. The problem was that, for me, the work was both temporary and uninspiring. And frankly, I wasn’t going to be paid what I was worth since many of these jobs could have just as easily been outsourced overseas.

I have no doubt that eventually I could have climbed a mountain like this, but it would have been the equivalent of circling the mountain at a very low incline. Around and around I would have gone slowly accumulating height along the way, but I would have been exhausted. No, I know the quickest route from point A to point B is a straight line.

It was time to reevaluate my approach to how exactly I planned to grow my business.

I took to cold calling on local companies. After a lot of research online of companies that I would want to collaborate with, I picked my favorites and approached them with how I could improve their online presence. I actually got a handful of responses this way and even a face to face meeting. Unfortunately, budget became an issue and the longterm potential for us to partner together seemed unlikely.

I felt stuck as I looked up at this mountain I so badly wanted to climb.

grow my business

Do I start walking around the base of the mountain? People have made much worse sacrifices to help support their families than working for less than they’re worth.

Do I acquiesce to a life in the valley? Pulling my kids out of school would take a huge line item off of our expenses every month.

I seriously considered it, but ultimately I knew that this mountain mama and her adventurous kiddos probably wouldn’t be happy down there for long.

And so I decided I was going to lean on the small but mighty network I had developed since moving to Houston.

I told my new mom friends bluntly what I was capable of and that I was looking to grow my business. I actively solicited referrals at my monthly FemCity events. Within just two weeks I had 6 prospects, and three of those turned into clients.

It’s been a a few weeks and I’m still adjusting to the air up here out of the valley. It’s been a whirlwind of success, and I’m excited that my door keeps getting knocks!

The truth is, we always have choices. But when you’re down in a valley looking up at that mountain it doesn’t always feel that way. I’m proud to be in a position where I’ve been strategically climbing towards that peak and am now blessed with different routes for how to get there.

My current view tells me this mountain range is quite long with many peaks to climb and a vast valley down below. As a business owner, I will always be growing my business through peaks and valleys. I will constantly be faced with new opportunities and new challenges, and some of those will be unavoidable.

I think it’s important during our highs and our lows to remember that it’s only temporary, something I wish I had told myself earlier when camped out in the valley.

For my business and my family, it seems the hike has just begun.