Q&A: Transitioning From Working to Staying Home // Finances + Career

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How did you make it work financially to go from a two-income household to a one-income household?

There were tons of questions on finances that were all a bit different, but the gist is just that I think people want to know how we managed to kiss my paycheck goodbye and still survive life. I wonder this same thing some days (haha…)

I think first it’s worth mentioning our financial setup prior to me staying home: All of our finances were combined. I know that’s not the case for everyone and if your finances are currently separate and you’re considering staying home and forgoing your income, things might feel a little harder and/or trickier. Unfortunately I’m not much help with that since that’s not the situation we came from…

Moving on… Finances were definitely the biggest thing holding us back from me staying home. Even pulling both kids out of daycare put us at a pretty large monthly deficit (a blessing and a curse to being successful in your career!). The good news, and simultaneously somewhat shameful news, was that prior to considering me quitting my job we were on no budget whatsoever (face slap). We basically bought what we wanted when we wanted it.  It’s not like we were rich or anything, but we made enough money that we didn’t really have to question everyday purchases like clothes, vacations, dates, etc. We weren’t in any credit card debt, but did have a house payment, car payment and student loan payments that were of utmost importance.

The first thing we did was just to try to make a best guess on where all of our money was going — we tried to list out literally everything, from the big house and car payments to smaller things like buying makeup, shampoo, cleaning supplies, gas, etc etc. I was shocked to find how much money we had going to things we weren’t actually using – like memberships we weren’t utilizing or doubling up on things like iCloud storage and Dropbox storage (but only actually using one of them). We “found” money in all sorts of places when we took a critical eye on our finances. I used to do dumb things like shop online then forget to return things that didn’t fit or I didn’t like. I have boxes of stuff at my house of brand new things that just never went back – so wasteful!! We were frivolous with our money because we didn’t have to be strict with our budget,  and because we felt we didn’t have the time or energy to pay close attention. In hindsight I see how absolutely terrible that is. I am actually so, so grateful we made this decision for me to quit my job because it has taught me so much about money management and I keep a much closer eye on everything.

What this meant exactly was that instead of having the mentality that we could pretty much have anything we wanted, we flipped the switch to think that unless we truly needed it, we weren’t buying it. Need = mortgage, car payments, student loans, diapers, food, clothes for the kids, gas, personal hygiene products, etc — you get the idea. Want = Clothes for us, home decor, vacations, etc. Now, we weren’t totally unrealistic and left room in the budget for things we knew we needed for our own sanity — like date nights and take out food and a very small clothing budget (that I mostly need to save and lump together to get anything worthwhile hah!).

Possibly the trickiest part about this was we were totally going off of our best guesses and were in a situation where we didn’t have much time to make this decision, so we made a leap of faith hoping our estimates were close to right and we could work within this new budget. Our first month on the new budget we had our lowest credit card bill ever — by half. And it honestly didn’t even feel that hard!… The hardest part came months in when it just felt like depriving ourselves of anything extra couldn’t possibly be realistic longterm. My photography has helped supplement our income as well as this blog (a tiny bit), but otherwise we are solely living off only Corey’s income.

One of the hardest decisions to make was coming to terms with the fact that during this period of me staying home we just wouldn’t be saving any significant amount of money — I talk more in the next question about some ways we are investing/saving our money, but it’s definitely not to the extent when we were a two-income household.

Tell me more about the 401k situation:

Right now, we contribute the max to Corey’s 401k with a company match, but aside from that and contributing to college savings for the kids each month, as well as utilizing Corey’s company’s employee stock purchase plan, we aren’t saving any extra money. While this is a tough pill to swallow sometimes, I know there are seasons in life where you can save more and some where you save less. Right now we’re in one where we’re saving less, but also not dipping into the savings we have built up so far, and I’m okay with that.

Do you use a program or app to manage your budget?

Yes, we use the Mint app. It’s not perfect, but it is good enough for us. We set our budget targets right within the app so it pings you if you are going over or close to going over on something, which I really like.

How do you handle buying gifts for each other or if you want to go shopping? 

So as far as shopping, we both have a set shopping budget so that makes it easy. In terms of gifts, we aren’t really a material gift-giving couple, so we actually don’t gift each other things that often — we usually go on trips together or go out to dinner to celebrate occasions. For Father’s Day, though, I did get Corey a few small things and basically just told him not to look at the credit card charges for a week or so before 🙂

Were you 100% on board when you made the decision to stay home?

Much like any big life decision I think 100% is unrealistic haha! I would say I was 80%. Staying home was something I always sort of had in the back of my mind since the moment I went back to work after having Elodie, but not something I actually thought I would ever do. Once we made the decision, I was mostly excited, but also worried about if I’d be able to be home with two kids all day without going nuts. Worried about the money situation and worried about if/how things would change between Corey and me. So I wast mostly on board, but had my hesitations.

Do you ever regret your decision?

Never.  Not once. Truly. Of course I have moments of missing working for various reasons, but I have never thought “Why did I do this, this was a mistake. I regret this decision”. Not even close!

Why didn’t you do it sooner?

With a decision like this I really do believe timing is everything. There’s part of me that sort of regrets not being home when Elodie was a baby (aside from maternity leave), because I see how much more of my attention and love James is getting every day than Elodie did being in daycare from 5 months to almost 3 years. But the truth is, I wasn’t ready to take that leap after I went back to work with just Elodie. It still made a lot of financial sense to have me home and I was still finding my way in terms of what I wanted to prioritize and how we could do it. I truly believe everything happens for a reason and had I gone back to Nike after having James (and not the smaller start up company), I truly believe I would still be there. But something pulled me to this new opportunity, and this new opportunity ended up feeling really incompatible with our lives due to its inflexibility. It sort of forced us to take a harder look at things and make this tough decision. And I’m so glad it did.

I have always been a creative person with skills I thought could work well for a freelance lifestyle, and in my mind I always wondered how our lives would work logistically once our kids were both in school and we were both working corporate 8-5 jobs. It would be hard. And I know a lot of people do it, but I always wondered if I could take the leap and build the foundation so that when our kids are in school I’m working a job that gave me the flexibility to drop the kids off and pick them up and work in-between. I’m clearly not there yet, but this is a step in the right direction, and the fact that I get to be home making these special memories with the kids while I figure out what’s next is so worth it to me.

Do you miss working?

Yes and no. Some days I miss going into the office and chatting with coworkers, working on projects and talking about things other than Elmo and playdoh. I miss “leisurely” lunches (between meetings) and making good money (haha just being honest!), but most days I am so grateful I don’t have to miss the kids all day and squeeze in all our quality time during evenings and weekends, I’m so happy I am not hustling to get them dressed and out the door in the morning and feel so lucky I get to spend my days doing fun things with them. This little piece is so good and explains exactly what I feel knowing both sides of the coin.

How do you feel when people ask you what you do? Meeting someone on a plane, at a party, etc. 

Staying home is still so fresh for me that right now my response is something like “I was at Nike working in e-commerce and digital marketing for 8 years, but recently left my career to stay home with my two kids who are 3 and 1.” — give or take depending on the audience. I 100% feel awkward about answering this question and it will probably take me a really long time before I’m comfortable answering it, and frankly I’ll probably be on to another career or job or lifestyle by the time I get comfortable. It makes me sad that there is shame in my answer, but I just want to be honest that this is something I struggle with. I’m open to any advice anyone has 😉

Are you worried if you ever go back to work you’ll be behind in your field/industry and won’t be relevant?

I have definitely worried about this at times, especially the industry I’m in (digital marketing/e-commerce), it moves really fast and there is probably a lot that can/will change before I’m back in the workforce. BUT that being said, it’s also the reason I do as much as I can to keep up with the industry and stay a part of it through my personal endeavors like blogging and social media. I am also confident that I could pick things up quickly if/when I ever went back.

Do you know if you want to go back to work and if so, what would you want to do? / Will you go back to work when the kids are older?

I honestly have no idea if I will go back to work. I do think about it a lot, mostly because I’m a Type A planner, but so far nothing definitive has been decided. I think it would be really hard for me to go back to a full-time corporate environment. What I really crave is more freedom with my schedule so I can be there for the kids when they need us — I don’t want to feel extreme guilt when someone is sick or has an appointment, I want to be able to drop them off and pick them up from school most days, etc. So I guess in my ideal world I would either work part-time 2-3 days a week in some capacity or be fully freelance whether that be photography, blogging or something else. Only time will tell! (more on this in the last question’s answer!)

I am a part-time working mom, but I struggle with deciding if I want to work more and advance my career or if I should just stay with my part time super easy schedule. I have a daughter about the same age as yours. I feel like I want my daughter to see her mother following her passion, and see an example of an independent working woman, but I know doing so will be at the cost of family time. Do you ever struggle with wanting to model being a working mom for your daughter?

Oh my gosh I could just hug you and yes yes yes yes yes. This was another HUGE reason I questioned if I should stay home with the kids. My mom was a single working mom who owned her own business. She worked her butt off my entire life (and still does) and I know having her as a role model is one of the reasons I am such a hard worker myself, so independent and feel that I can achieve anything I put my mind to. BUT she also couldn’t be around for a lot of my childhood. She never came to my dance performances, had to work weekends and just missed out on a lot. I just don’t think there is a “right” answer on this one – there are going to be tough compromises on both accounts. I think even working part-time your daughter will see a hard working woman who is staying connected to her passion. I don’t think you need to be the best in your field sacrificing tons of time with your family to be that role model. But if you don’t feel fulfilled in the current part-time working situation and your career is super important to you, maybe you do work on advancing it now? From what I hear from more seasoned moms, the time to work is (surprisingly) when your kids are little. Once they’re in school their school schedule isn’t as conducive with work schedules which means before-school and after-school care and their needs aren’t just physical like they (mostly) are now, they are mental and emotional and generally just heavier. So if you are feeling a pull to give career advancement a go – maybe now is the time to do it and then you can reassess again when your kids are in school? Good luck mama, I know this is something we all question and struggle with!

What are your plans/goals/dreams for your blog and photography business? Fun hobby or something you’d like to grow into a work from home gig? 

This is such a great question, and one that has definitely been on my mind a lot lately! I think ultimately I would love to be able to grow my blogging/photography/social media freelance work to something that can be more “full-time” once both the kids are in school, but for now I love having something I can do on the side that is fun for me, fulfills me and also brings in a little (and I mean little 😉 money. I recently took on a freelance blogging gig for a mama + baby brand that is right up my alley and I’m really excited about! But unless I get more childcare help for the kids I am maxed out on time … So we’ll see what happens 🙂

If you got this far and have read both Q&A posts.. Thank you! Thank you for thinking my opinions and experiences are valuable and for asking me so many thought provoking questions! I value this community so much and love the dialogue posts like this open up. I think I got to most every question that was asked, but if you still have a burning one, or would like clarity on something, feel free to comment below or if you feel more comfortable — email me at liz {dot} denfeld {at} gmail {dot} com.

Q&A: Transitioning From Working to Staying Home // Home + Marriage

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Are you responsible for all house-related chores or does your husband help out as well? Do you feel guilty if you’re not on top of things around the house?

I am definitely not responsible for all house-related chores. Corey and I are both of the belief that my job is taking care of our kids, aside from that he has zero expectations as to what else gets done while he’s at work. Having said that, I of course try to keep the house tidy and at least have it as clean as it was when he left in the morning and my goal is always to have dinner at least started if not nearly done by the time he gets home, but like I said, that’s all “extra” in both his mind and mine. And honestly, the fact that he doesn’t put the weight of those chores/responsibilities on my shoulders makes me want to do them even more!

I most definitely do more housework than Corey because I’m the one who is home and can do it more easily, and when he gets home from work he takes over the kids while I finish cooking dinner, then clean up the kitchen, etc. But that being said, Corey absolutely helps around the house whenever he can, like on the weekends.

As far as feeling guilty if I’m not on top of things around the house, no, not at all. We have the luxury of knowing what our lives were like when we were both working. We were basically just trying to survive Monday-Friday, doing only the bare minimum around the house then using weekends to catch up on chores, go grocery shopping, etc. Now with me home I have alleviated a huge amount of that work and stress as a lot of things we could only do on the weekends before I can get done during the week (like grocery shopping or doing loads of laundry). I’m not going to sugar coat it – Corey’s working life got a heck of a lot easier when I started staying home, so if he comes home sometimes and things aren’t in order I’m not going to feel bad about it, and neither should you 😉

Do you get any help from grandparents? Cleaning lady? How do you get “stuff” done with kids around? (I ask as a working mom who has a cleaning lady and uses working from home to get things done. Sometimes I wonder if I’d like staying home)

Oh man, such a great question!! When Corey and I were both working, I had visions of how much better it would be if I stayed home because then we could stay on top of laundry, grocery shopping, buying birthday gifts for the 57 kids birthdays we attend a month, mopping the floors, doctors appointment, etc etc. As it was, with both of us at work so much of the day and then doing the dinner/bath/bed hustle in the evening, there really wasn’t much time left for anything at the end of the day. We were hardly ever in the house so we were perpetually behind on chores and too exhausted to run errands or do anything meaningful once the kids were down. Now that I’m home we’re definitely less behind on most of these things, but I’d be lying if I said it was as good as I thought it was going to be.

Watching both kids is a full time job. As I see it in any given day I can: Play with the kids giving them my undivided attention, get them out of the house to socialize and/or learn something, do laundry, vacuum, mop, prep/make dinner, work on my side hustles (blog/photography/etc), the list goes  onnnn and onnn and guess what? There is not enough time in every day for everything.  Period. If Corey comes home to a spotless house and dinner on the stove he knows the kids probably watched more TV than usual. If he comes home and the house is a mess and I’m barely getting started on dinner he knows I was probably out with the kids most of the day at the zoo or the children’s museum or the park. Or I actually worked on my blog or edited photos for a session I have due back to a client.

In terms of help from grandparents/babysitting help: My mom tries to come over once a week for at least a few hours to help me out, but during this time I’m usually taking Elodie to dance class or taking one of the kids to an appointment. It’s a rare occasion that I leave her with both kids. My MIL is also local and has two days a week off, so if I have another engagement I definitely lean on her for help sometimes too! And even with that help I still fall behind on a lot 🙂

Are you worried if you ever go back to work you’ll still feel responsible for all your SAHM responsibilities? 

Hmmm I guess I’ve never thought about it, which probably means no? Corey and I have always just had a really great “team” mentality between us. We try really hard not to keep score and realize that we’re both working hard for the same goal – our family and our beautiful life. Yeah, I know that sounds cheesy, but it’s true! I know that if and when this current situation changes we’ll learn to readjust and figure out our new normal and the new balance of responsibilities.

Does Corey travel for work and how do you manage several days alone with the kids if so?

Right now, no, Corey hardly travels for work. In fact, he hasn’t been on one work trip since I started staying home. I’ve been really lucky. We have talked about this a lot though, because I know this won’t be the situation forever, and we know that we’ll probably have to lean on family and maybe even hired help if/when he travels in the future. Obviously the hope is if he were in a job that required a ton of travel that he would be getting paid enough that we could afford to pay for help. If not, that job just wouldn’t be worth it to us (in my opinion). Being brutally honest, if I had a husband that had to travel for work a lot I would not be a SAHM. I just know myself and I couldn’t do it, I would not be happy and I would be way too bitter and exhausted.

How has the dynamic in your marriage shifted (if at all) or how do you work together differently now?

This is something that was at the top of my list of worries or reasons I might not want to make the leap to SAHM. I am so prideful of my career and just being a strong woman in general, and if I’m being brutally honest I think before staying home I did subconsciously  think SAHMs just kind of bowed down to their husbands … And I wondered what our dynamic would be like if/when I did leave my job. While it has definitely taken some adjustment, I see now my worries were all for not. Corey respects me, still comes homes and talks work with me because he values my insight and my career experience. He truly doesn’t treat me any differently and I can tell he doesn’t think of me differently, either. I think maybe this has a lot to do with the fact that he has seen both sides – me as a working mom and me as a stay-at-home mom and I think he respects and values both of those people in different ways for different reasons. It also is easier for him to be a heck of a lot more grateful for everything I do as a SAHM because he knows darn well what his life looked like when we were both working. My suspicion is maybe if you go straight into staying home there’s the possibility your husband could completely miss how much you are actually holding the household and the family together by staying home — and truly understanding what a big sacrifice it is for the family that you are home. We just don’t have those issues because Corey knows how valuable my job at home is!

As far as how we work together differently… It feels like the needs for each of us is just more clear now. When we were both working all the responsibilities meshed toghether — when we got home from work the same things needed to be done: dinner cooked, kids bathed, kids put to bed, house cleaned/tidied, but we both had been missing the kids all day so we both wanted the task that involved more time with them and we were both equally exhausted after work to clean, etc.

Fast forward to now … It’s just really obvious when Corey walks in the door I need a break from the kids (just being honest!) and he is so happy to take them off my hands and play with them while I finish cooking dinner. We don’t bathe the kids every night, but the nights that we do I am almost always sticking behind downstairs to clean up after dinner while Corey is giving the kids baths (tonight he actually gave James a bath and I helped Elodie with a shower) and then he always puts James down (since I did it for 13 months while nursing and he truly wants to!) and it is totally all over the place who puts Elodie down (she usually likes to choose). So the way we work together hasn’t necessarily changed. The weekends are pretty much exactly the same as they always were — we split everything from parenting responsibilities to household chores 50/50 (or as close to that as we can).

One thing about Corey that really makes a big impact on me is he never ever expects to walk in the door to a clean house and dinner on the stove and happy kids. He is truly in awe of me being home with the kids all day and staying sane (and more than that, feeling happy). The fact that I can feel that genuine respect and admiration from him goes a REALLY REALLY long way. I’d be lying if I said I still didn’t have times I felt inadequate next to my working mom friends or when we run into a colleague of Corey’s and his wife and they ask me what I do and I “just stay home” and the colleague’s wife is some powerhouse career woman. But there are two sides to every coin and I’ve seen the working mom side and I know it’s advantages and disadvantages. I’m just feeling grateful we were able to make this work so I could give being home a try.

How do you make time for yourself to work out or meet with friends, etc?

Wellllll I haven’t exactly made working out a priority the last few years, but lately I’ve been doing research for places that have child care so I can get a work out in while I’m home with the kids. That would probably be the only way I could fit it in right now because I am not a morning person so that kills the plan for a morning workout and I am wayyyyy too tired once the kids are in bed and we are doing dinner right when Corey gets home from work, so yeah.

As far as going out with friends, I am a bit of a social butterfly, so I just make plans with my girlfriends for after James goes down since he’s going to bed at 6:30 and Corey covers getting Elodie down for bed so I can go out! I probably do this 2-4 times a month and Corey is really great and encourages me to do it – he knows it makes me a happier wife and mom and it’s no skin off his back since he wants the extra quality time with the kids anyway!

I’d be interested to hear about how you’ve adjusted socially! I’m so overly dependent on work friendships that I’m anxious I’m going to struggle if/when I leave. 

I have to admit I worried about this too because the vast majority of my friends are working moms, and more importantly, friends I made while working at Nike for eight years! Would things be different? Would they lose respect for me? Would they just forget I existed? I see now all those fears were for not. I still get invited to baby showers and happy hours and I still keep in touch and see my old coworkers, with and without our kids. If they are truly your friends, you will stay friends!

9 Diaper Bag Backpacks for the Modern Mama

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one // two // three // four // five // six // seven // eight // nine

One thing that saves my sanity on my daily adventures with Elodie and James is my diaper bag backpack. I had a Petunia Picklebottom diaper bag I absolutely loved before James came along, but after he was born I realized a backpack would be so much more comfortable and easier to carry around. Any opportunity to keep my hands free, especially with two kids, is a huge win. Carrying around a backpack has proven to be so easy, I now wonder why I ever carried anything but a backpack! I’ve rounded up nine amazing diaper bag backpacks, including the one I carry around daily, which is less than $50!

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{Photos © Liz Denfeld Photography}

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10 Tips for Surviving the Fourth Trimester

WilliamDay3 (5 of 20)My little sister gave birth to her first baby last week (!!!) and it is taking me back to those magical, hard, painful, beautiful first weeks and months of parenthood. Giving birth to your first baby is such an indescribable experience. It is most certainly full of heart-bursting moments and happy tears, but it’s also really, really hard. Parenthood is a whole new world — feeding, (not) sleep, swaddling, burping, soothing … it’s new territory and it can be tough to navigate. A couple years ago I wrote a guest post on my friend Lydia’s blog with my personal tips for surviving the fourth trimester and I thought now would be the perfect time to re-share it as my sister embarks on this journey of motherhood.

I’d love to hear if you agree with any of these tips and if you have any of your own to add to the list!

  1. It’s true what they say – you won’t be sleeping much those first few weeks. My advice is to forget the concept of “morning” and “night”. Just think of time as continuous, and then you won’t be as depressed when you’re going to bed (aka taking a 3 hour nap) at 7PM and up nursing at 3AM (instead of getting home from the bars…). This too shall pass.
  2. Shower and “get ready” every day (okay, most days). This will make you feel human and a whole lot happier.
  3. Take it easy for the first few weeks. There’s a lot of pressure for new mothers to be up and at ‘em not long after giving birth. Don’t give in to those pressures! Seriously. Lay in bed, cuddle your baby, RELAX. There will be plenty of time for getting out and about after the first month. Let people dote on you, bring you food, clean your house…
  4. Speaking of food. Don’t let anyone in your house without bringing a meal with them. Seriously.
  5. Before baby is born, go out to Trader Joe’s or New Seasons and stock up on your favorite snacks. Anything you can eat with one hand that isn’t just total junk. You’ll be so glad to have these healthy snacks around once dad goes back to work and you’re doing everything one-handed.
  6. Okay, this tip is going to sound a bit extravagant, but for me it was vital to my survival. Invest in a good coffee machine. For us, it was the Nespresso Vertuoline. Being able to whip myself up a latte whenever I wanted was not only necessary, but felt indulgent, too. I looked forward to it every morning (noon, and night…).
  7. Let your partner help. This wasn’t a big issue for me, but maybe it’s because I heard this piece of advice several times before Elodie was born. Let them change diapers, burp the baby, rock them to sleep, bathe them… The list goes on. It’s tough for some moms to let go and let their significant others do it their way, but your sanity depends on it. You can’t (and shouldn’t) do it all!
  8. Be kind to yourself. Of course I knew I wouldn’t be back in my pre-pregnancy jeans a week after E was born, but I will say that it was a lot harder for me to accept my post-partum body than I thought it would be. Things are squishy for a while, and it takes a bit for everything to move back into its place. Your clothes will fit different and that can make you feel weird (and maybe a little desperate). Just be patient and forgiving with yourself. It doesn’t happen overnight, but things will go back to normal!
  9. You really don’t realize just how fast an hour or two goes by until you have a newborn baby and they’re eating that often. You can easily come to the end of a day and feel like you’ve done nothing but feed your baby! That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but for me it was really important to find time at least once a day to do something for myself – take a bath, sit in a quiet room alone and read a few pages of a book or magazine, shop online, eat a cookie, whatever.
  10. Forget all the “rules” — the first three months (also known as the 4th Trimester) are all about survival mode. Hold your baby for every nap if you need (or want!) to, nurse him or her to sleep, give them a pacifier day one (or day two, like us). As a first time parent you are bombarded with advice and rules and you’re constantly questioning if you’re doing everything “right”. I’m here to tell you there is no right way to parent. Every baby is different, every situation is different. Trust your instincts (they will be there – you will hear them loud and clear) and don’t worry about anyone or anything else.

Most of all, just try to enjoy the tough but magical first weeks with your little one. I thought people were totally nuts when they looked at my two-week-old and said they missed the sleepless nights and newborn cries. Now I get it. It really is such a short period of time that passes quickly. Before you know it your little one will be eight months old, crawling all over the place, laughing and smiling! Life will be different, but it will be so very sweet.

If you missed it, check out my must-have baby items here!

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Deep Thoughts on Stay-at-Home-Motherhood

I’m coming up on six months since I quit my job to stay home with Elodie and James. Like so many important life moments, it feels both longer and shorter than that. I’ve done so much thinking and soul-searching these last six months trying to figure out how I really feel about this new title — Stay-At-Home-Mom. There are some days I love it. I wear it with pride. And then there are days I can’t shake the feeling of shame and disappointment. There have been more times than I care to admit that when someone asks what I “do” — I bashfully say “I’m just home with the kids”.

I’m going to tell you something I’ve never actually said out loud, and it’s a hard truth to admit to. When I was a working mom there was a small part of me that judged stay-at-home-moms. While I preached, and still do preach, that everyone is just doing the best they can for their families, and that looks different for everyone, I’d secretly say to myself, “But I could never stay at home. I don’t know how they do that. I couldn’t sacrifice my career, my time, my money, to be home.” There was this tiny sliver that sort of looked down on SAHMs. Like I was a little better because I had a career. I was going to work. I was doing something. I know these thoughts were a defense mechanism. I felt huge guilt leaving my children 8+ hours a day to go to work. But I also felt really proud of my career, of my worth-ethic, of my paycheck. I simultaneously loved and hated dropping my kids off at daycare, because I hated saying goodbye to them, but I also loved having some time for myself — to do something I was good at and earn a living.

I wish I could say that six months at home has resolved these conflicting feelings, but if I’m honest, it’s only amplified them. I see things from the “other” side. I secretly always knew staying home would be hard… But it’s so much harder than I could’ve imagined. It’s physically, emotionally and mentally draining. I feel an immense amount of pressure to be present, to make healthy meals, to keep the house clean, to keep the kids socialized, to teach the kids about everything from numbers, colors and letters to empathy, kindness and hard work.

When Corey and I both worked full-time outside of the home it truly felt like we were barely making it through each day. We weren’t enjoying life and parenthood Monday through Friday, we were just trying to survive it. I so badly wanted me staying home to fix that feeling. And while yes, having me home has alleviated much of the burden that fell on our shoulders as two working parents, most of that burden has just shifted from both of us to me. Now I’m the one who is home all day and can keep up on the laundry and the rest of the cleaning. I’m the one who’s home during rush hour so I’m the logical person to get dinner started, I’m the one who’s always available to take kids to doctors appointments, or be home for a repair man when our dryer breaks or our internet isn’t working. Corey has no expectations of me — he doesn’t walk in the door and expect happy kids, a clean house and dinner to be made, but I expect that of myself. And if he walks in and we have crying children, a messy house and no idea what’s for dinner, we’re just in the exact same spot we’d be at every night when we were both working.

It has taken time to work through our new normal. My morning routine honestly helps me so much, but there are still times I feel twinges of resentment that Corey’s life has seemingly gotten so much easier while mine feels a lot harder. But then I remember that I got to be home with our kids all day. I got to see James take his first steps, I got to read them books, take them to the park, bake cookies together, have dance parties, I got to be there to kiss there owies and snuggle them while we watched a movie. It doesn’t feel like all rainbows and sunshine on a day-to-day basis, but the exhaustion I feel at the end of the day is rewarding in a way being in the office never could be.

I know I’ll continue to ponder both working-mom-life and stay-at-home-mom-life. There will always be pros and cons for each. I imagine I’ll go back-and-forth between the two many times for many different reasons. For now I’m just grateful I’m getting the chance to see it all from another perspective, to really live it. And now more than ever I really do believe there is no perfect way, no better way — working, staying home, working from home, it’s all so freakin’ hard. And I have so much respect for every single mother out there, no matter what they do or where they do it.

 

Nine Books You & Your Toddler Will Both Love

Screen Shot 2017-06-19 at 1.51.32 PM.pngI have a confession. I hide my daughter’s books. Not all of them, of course… Just the ones I find annoying, way too long or just plain strange. Please tell me I’m not the only one who does this? It’s getting a little harder now that she’s three and she has a crazy good memory, but I’ll still try the ‘ol hide the book trick if I really have to. So from one parent to another, here’s a list of some legitimately awesome books you and your toddler will both love equally.

One: Gaston // It’s no surprise I love this book, since we have a Frenchie/Boston mix ourselves. But this has become one of Elodie’s favorites. The illustrations are so cute I want to frame them and the story is so sweet!

Two & Three: Ada Twist, Scientist and Rosie Revere Engineer // I’m grouping these two books together because they are by the same author/illustrator and both share the same concept —  these books are …”the perfect tool to remind both young girls and women that they have the intelligence and perseverance to achieve their dreams.” Does it get much better than that? Love the message, love the stories and love the illustrations — win all around in our book (pun intended hehe)

Four: Knuffle Bunny // This book was gifted to me before Elodie was born by a very dear friend who lives in the Netherlands. Knuffel means hug in dutch, so she couldn’t resist this book and I’m so glad she gave it to us. It’s an adorable story of a dad and his daughter who go run and errand when the baby’s adored bunny gets left behind. Elodie now loves asking Corey if he’ll take her on an errand – adorbs!

Five: Mix It Up // I don’t know how we went so long without an Herve Tullet book in our house, but this was gifted to us by Corey’s aunt (who happens to be a talented calligrapher) and I was obsessed from the very first time we “read” it. This is a really fun interactive and creative book that teaches kids about colors and mixing colors. Elodie now sits and reads this one to herself all the time. I love that it’s educational while being fun! Now I’m on a mission to get a few more Tullet books in this house!

Six: Little Kids First Big Book of Animals // Elodie is a huge animal lover (birds included), so I wanted to find her a book that was appropriate for her age and could teach her more  about some of her favorite animals and also learn about some new ones. This book delivers on both accounts! She loves learning about lions, zebras, giraffes, penguins and polar bears and has been known to recite some of her favorite facts to Corey and me (did you know there are 17 species of penguins and zebras sleep standing up?).

Seven: The Bear and the Piano // Most of our favorite books have been gifted to us. I think this means I’m pretty lousy at picking good ones myself! I just think this is a really cute story about a bear who learns to play the piano and gets “discovered”, makes it to the big city and then returns to his friends in the forest. The illustrations are also beautiful, which is such a bonus!

Eight: The Night Gardener // I think Amazon does a better job of explaining this story and why I love it than I ever could… “In the spirit of Goodnight Moon and The Curious Garden comes a stunning debut picture book filled with whimsy and creativity from brothers Terry and Eric Fan.” This is a beautiful book that lights up the imagination, an easy favorite for both Elodie and me.

Nine: Last Stop on Market Street // This is a new book in our rotation and I truly couldn’t love it more. Elodie is really starting to notice the world and people around her and this book has helped introduce the concepts of volunteering, thankfulness, urban life and more. It’s a story about a young boy, CJ, and his grandmother who take a bus ride after church to volunteer at a soup kitchen. It’s about the sights and sounds they experience on their journey. Such a wonderful book with lasting lessons to take away from it.

We are always on the hunt for new books around our house — what are a few of your favorites?

 

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The Morning Routine That Saves My Sanity

Rangeley-5There’s no pretty way to put it, I’m just not a morning person. I find myself walking around all day saying “I’m sooooo tiredddd” and then come evening time, I have a ton of energy and could stay up until 1AM. Unfortunately, that schedule doesn’t work well with young kids… Especially a certain one-year-old who has been known to wake up at 5AM.

On top of the fact that mornings aren’t really my jam, I’m also an introverted extrovert, which basically means that I recharge alone. When you stay home with two kids three and under (who are on opposite nap schedules), alone time is hard to come by, but I’ve found a morning routine that helps set me up for a great day and has me feeling ready to take on the responsibilities of stay-at-home-momhood.

So here’s how our morning goes. James is always the first one up — he gets up between 5:30 and 6:30. Corey gets up early, showers and gets mostly ready for the day before James is awake. He always unloads the dishwasher, takes out the trash and starts a pot of coffee. Around 6:30, he comes and wakes me up with a hot cup of coffee in hand. I know, he is a good, good man. He knows coffee is my love language 😉

From 6:30 – 7:30 I have my quiet time. My intention is always to use this time to get ready for the day, so after taking 5-10 minutes to drag myself out of bed I’ll usually take my cup of coffee into our bathroom, turn on a podcast and do my makeup.

This invigorates me for so many reasons. For one, I’m alone, which is how I recharge. Two, I listen to podcasts that either teach me something (This American Life / TED Radio Hour), inspire me (How I Built This), make me feel like I’m not alone in the trenches of motherhood (Coffee + Crumbs and The Longest Shortest Time) and make me think and feel (Dear Sugar).  I go into the day having spent at least a small amount of time feeding my brain with something other than toddler talk and baby care. I also love having this time because as soon as I have my makeup on I feel more awake and ready for whatever our day’s activity might be. And if I don’t get ready during this time, it’s inevitably harder for me to get us all out of the house for the day because somehow I need to get myself ready along with two stubborn kids (love them! ha!).

The best part of this whole routine is that it’s really a win-win for the whole family. When we were both working

the mornings were the worst. We were always scrambling to get the whole family out the door on time to jobs and daycare. It was stressful for everyone. Now Corey has an hour of true quality time with the kids, which he absolutely loves, and they obviously love it too! Our evenings are still a bit of a hustle with dinnertime and bedtime, but the mornings are slow and wonderful for all of us.

I know this routine definitely can’t work for everyone — I’m really lucky Corey works a pretty standard 8-5 schedule most days and doesn’t travel much. It took some time for me to figure out this was what I needed, but once I realized it I was really upfront and honest with Corey about what I needed to be set up for a good day at home. I think a lot of times it’s easy to think your partner can read your mind or will know what you need to make you happy, but I always find it’s best to over-communicate and be really explicit with your needs. He’s been so great about giving me this space in the morning and it has made a world of a difference in how I approach the day!

What’s your morning routine? Do you love it? Does it need a change? I’d love to hear!