finding balance

Print the Pictures

Last night I had a rare opportunity. I was home for the most part by myself. Girls were with Grandparents, Josh was out with some guys for work, so it was just me and Tacy. I had grand plans on what I was going to do with my night and I ended up spending it working on photos.Every year I say I want to get better at documenting our lives. It is an easy thing to SAY it’s much harder to do. Last year I was actually pretty good at getting photos. But in this digital day and age it’s way too easy for those photos to stay on my computer or phone. So last night I bit the bullet. I created and ordered a photo book with my favorite 200 photos of 2013. I also ordered all the photos I have taken in the month of January so I can try my hand a new scrapbook system. Lastly I sorted through all the printed photos I have and organized them chronologically. All in all it was a good night, though not at all easy. It wasn’t the time or money, though both of those were a bit frustrating. More than anything it was spending hours and hours looking at photos of myself. While it has been a wonderful year it has been a hard year and giving birth to a baby rarely does kind things to our bodies. So here I sit a month into the new year staring at pages and pages of photos of myself I would rather bury. It would be very easy to hit delete but I didn’t I hit print. In 12 years when my now six month old is struggling with her body image I want her to look back and see pictures of me… a little stocky, exhausted, wearing a bright pink shirt standing on Aztec ruins in Cozumel my belly growing with her in it. I want all my daughters to see that I lived a full life. I want them to see that I didn’t let my insecurities hold me back. And so I hit print. And I will continue to take silly faced selfies with my girls, and let my husband snap photos even when I am covered in baby spit up, and I will continue to hit print. And I encourage you to do the same. Take photos, hit print, put them in a book, stash them in a drawer, just do something with them. Your children think you are absolutely beautiful, leave being proof for them that they are right.

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Intentionality

At the start of each year, we often take time for self-reflection, starting new projects and making resolutions. Many of us begin the new year with hopes to improve ourselves. What a perfect time to feature a series of posts on gaining wisdom! Over the course of this month, we'll continue to post interviews with experienced mothers and feature stories written by women about what they've learned, and are continuing to learn, about motherhood. Thank you for starting the new year with us. We wish you all a very happy and inspired year of growth! ~TMC Intentional My goal was to write for this blog at least once per month. Yet, the last post I wrote was oh...in October. Are there reasons? Oh yes, there are lots of reasons: family visiting, sickness (as I write this I'm on day 4 of something awful...thank God for babysitters!), allergy and amino acids testing for our little man, Thanksgiving, Christmas, traveling, a death in the family. Yes, there are reasons. But I think the overarching reason? Lack of intentionality. Granted, all of those things are more important than writing  a blog post (sorry TMC), however, if I'm going to constantly give myself a guilt trip for not completing a blog post, or a craft project, or whatever it may be, then I think I need to do a little self-examination.

Our little one is full of energy, and I work 25+ hours each week outside of the home. Many days, when bedtime hits, I'm drained, and all I feel like doing is sitting on the couch, mindlessly surfing the internet (read: Facebook and/or Pinterest) or watching TV. And sometimes, that is OK, and needed. However, I then begin to rack up in my brain all of the things I haven't yet done: blog, paint that cabinet, organize the storage area, start running again, etc.; and I begin to feel guilty. Then, I feel overwhelmed because I don't know where to start on any of those things, so I turn to the fall-back and am right where I started.

What I'm realizing is that I can choose how to spend that downtime; I control it, it doesn't control me. (OK, some nights, it wins. Let's be honest) I need to own my decisions. If I am choosing to spend time online, fine. Then I must be happy with that. If I am not happy with that, then it is up to me to choose differently. Sitting by idly and wishing I'd spent my time differently does nothing to actually change the way I am spending that time, it only adds to my frustration and guilt.

Today, today I am sleeping, resting, blogging and possibly finishing up a few episodes of Downton Abbey with my husband (who is finally hooked, hooray!). Why? Because I am sick, and I need the rest. And those are the choices I am making. Tomorrow, whatever decisions we make with our time, let them be because we thoughtfully and intentionally chose to do those things, instead of passively letting our life live itself for us.

Thriving on a Low-Budget Christmas

Christmas stockings

Happy December, Readers! Too often this month can become a frantic checklist of holiday planning, last minute shopping (or crafting), readying the house for guests, packing for travel, stressful eating and general busyness. Let's be honest, that is not a recipe for a calm and happy parent. This month we asked our writers to share some of their holiday plans, their reflections on the past year and their thoughts and goals for 2013. As 2012 closes, we are so thankful for the wonderful things that have happened at The Motherhood Collective over the past months. We wish you all a very happy and fulfilling end to your year. ~TMC-- This has been a rather challenging year for our family financially and as Christmas neared, I realized with sadness that we would not be able to spend virtually any money on gifts. We’re not a particularly materialistic family, but there is joy in watching others open your gifts and seeing how happy you’ve made them. Fortunately, the children were the least of my concern as the oldest is just 2 and the youngest only 6 months, too young to correlate Christmas with gift giving. However, we had hoped to watch Osias, our 2 year old, open something from us. He is, after all, old enough to at least open the presents and get excited about them. So this year we have decided to re-define “Re-Gifting”.

For the kids: Avia, our 6 month old, will not be receiving anything from us this year. Fortunately for us, she wouldn’t know one way or another anyway and I feel confident she’ll forgive us when she’s older and finds out her stocking was empty this year. For Osias, we’re using an old trick. About a month before Christmas, we packed away a bunch of fun toys that he loves and we’ll fill his stocking with them. I can’t wait to watch him pull each thing out of his stocking and see that adorable look of excitement (and recognition) at finding toys he hasn’t played with in so long! Whatever won’t fit in his stocking will be wrapped and placed under the tree (okay, on the floor since we’re skipping the tree this year).

For our parents and siblings: I love Pinterest, don’t you? I stumbled upon a DIY pin that instructed you how to make…well, let’s just say it’s a simple but useful gender neutral item that I can easily afford the material for (just in case any of our family are reading this, let’s keep it a surprise). So, for almost no money and just a few hours of my time, we are able to give to our parents and siblings as well this year. Aren’t homemade gifts often the best kind? I sure hope so for their sakes!

For each other: The idea for the kids, in addition to an article I read in an old December issue of Real Simple magazine (Susan Dominus. “Honey, guess what I got you for Christmas?” Real Simple December 2009: 254-255.), helped pave the way for what my husband and I would be doing for each other for Christmas. This year, in place of gifts, we’ve decided to write each other “Gift Certificates” for tasks that we know each other would appreciate. Doing chores, give a massage, etc. How nice is it to think, “I’d love to get out of cooking dinner tonight” and then realize that you have a gift certificate for that very thing! In addition to the gift certificates, we will also be stuffing each other’s stockings with items already in our home. Sounds lame, right? Actually it has been quite the fun and exciting experience to wander our house and come across little lost or forgotten items that I know he enjoys, or would make him laugh, or even bring back a fond memory. We happen to move frequently (especially in the past few years) and so much of our belongings have remained in boxes that we keep storing away. Let me tell you, that has been a gold mine for gifts! So far, I have found the little black jewelry box from Zales that I gave him his 2nd wedding ring in (he lost his first in a waterfall of all places), a mini Maglite that has been missing for-ev-er, his old broken Blackberry that got lost in the move and still has all his photos on it, and some pictures I found of us from high school! Ha! I also plan to throw a piece of fruit in there along with one of my homemade sweet potato biscuits that he loves (wrapped of course). I feel confident that his stocking will be filled to the brim with thoughtfully selected gifts that will bring him laughter, gratitude, warm memories, and more. And all at no cost to our faltering budget.

To tell you the truth, I am really excited about how we will be spending (or not) Christmas this year! I expect these gifts to be just as fun if not more than in previous years! Who says you have to break the bank for Christmas?

Are You Mom Enough?

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  We all remember the Time Magazine article with this title that was discussing the “freakishness” of attachment parenting trends.  Well, I’m here to ask, “Are you mom enough?”  My question pertains to something totally different, though.  I want to know if you are mom enough to know when you need to take a break.

I find it very difficult to admit when I am in need of a break.  I feel like I go, go, go until burn-out is too quickly approaching.  I’m talking about all forms of burn-out, not just parenting burn-out.  This is a great fault of mine.  I think this is probably a commonly dormant trait for females that gets ignited sometime between conception and birth.

It is very easy to overextend ourselves in the less busy times of the year, but even more so in the holiday season.  With the holidays just around the corner, I highly recommend getting a plan in motion so that burn-out is less likely.

If your baby is 6 months or under, this is probably not the year to invite your 60-member family to your house to demonstrate your Martha Stewart-like cooking skills for Thanksgiving day.  This may be the year to opt out of your family's Black Friday 2am rat race tradition and choose the more peaceful Cyber Monday for Christmas shopping.  While these may be exaggerations, planning this year to be a more peaceful holiday season so that burn-out does not occur may be just what the doctor ordered for you and your family.

So ask yourself this, “Am I mom enough to take care of ME, so that I can take care of my family?”  Plan a little peaceful time during the peaceful season.  Take a walk by yourself.  Enjoy a chapter in a book, or even a whole book.  Drink a latte.  Go on a weekend getaway.

This is supposed to be the time of year that you cuddle everyone a little closer, create life-long memories, start establishing traditions and enjoy your family.  Taking that break and refusing to allow burn-out will only make that time even more precious.

The Most Wonderful(ly busy) Time of the Year

Last month our writers shared some of their holiday traditions and plans for the upcoming season. In November, we continue our conversation about holidays. How do we juggle visitors, travel with small children, eat well amidst all that delicious food and most importantly, take time to just BREATHE? This time of year can very quickly become stressful, so we hope our writers' words this month will give you a few moments to slow down, think about how you're spending your energy and encourage you during this busy, but wonderful time of year. ~TMC  As I write this, it's a Saturday night, 9 pm, and I've just finished changing the sheets on our bed, doing a quick-clean of the bathroom and have a load of laundry in the washer. I also still have a pile of ironing next to me, dishes in the kitchen and I can see the dust glowing smugly under the lamplight of my desk. And I know that next Saturday, the dust may be gone and the ironing will be caught up (OK, that's a flat out lie. I'm pretty sure it's been there for a month)...but there will be other things to do, things I feel should have been done already. It's a constant cycle for me - for any mom I think - and a hard one to win in my mind. 

I had a mini-silent-panic-attack today, as I realized that in 2 weeks, our son is turning one and the party I've planned, while so much fun, is a lot of work. Once that is over, the holiday season is in full swing, and I'm letting myself worry about how it's going to go. Last year, I had a newborn who had just been diagnosed with some seriously awful reflux, so while we tried to enjoy the holiday season, it's all a bit of a sleepless-nights/crazy hormonal blur. This year, while I still really have no clue what I'm doing, I'm at least comfortable having a baby (most days),  but have never had one during the 'normal' holiday season. What will be the same? What will change? Will I miss parts of it from before? Mostly - how in the world am I going to actually take time to enjoy it?

Working between 25 - 30 hours a week outside of the home, one of my biggest struggles as a mom is taking time to stop and enjoy the moment. There is always something that should be done, and the ever-lingering 'mommy guilt' (that I know is not from God) likes to lurk around in the shadows, trying to steal those moments because 'this one more thing' must get done. Often it feels like I'll never not feel like I'm running to catch up.

But tonight, while doing those quotidian tasks, I was thinking: what is it I remember about holidays growing up? What do I love even now, now that I've been 'on my own' for a good number of years? I love: cramming a bunch of family around a table and giving thanks and eating way too much; watching football in our sweats and eating leftover turkey for a week; going to the Christmas tree farm every year the first weekend after Thanksgiving; celebrating Advent by lighting the candles every evening and singing; going to stores and hearing Christmas music everywhere; taking time to wrap each gift carefully and place it 'just so' under the tree; pulling out the 'partridge in a pear tree' towel for the kitchen; watching movies like You've Got Mail and White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street; traveling and welcoming family; celebrating with friends into the wee hours to welcome the New Year.

You know what I don't remember? I don't remember if my laundry was done, or if everything was perfectly dusted, or if there were dishes piled in the sink. In fact, those dishes represented a house full of family, love and laughter. So, this year, while it may be new and a little bit different than before, those are the things I want to focus on. Things like the sound of my baby boy laughing with his daddy, things that 30 years from now, I'll still remember and cherish...while I do the ironing that most assuredly will still be there. 

 

 

Balancing Balance: Yet Another Mothering Irony

In September, the Motherhood Collective will feature posts on balance - having it or not! It's certainly a state most of us struggle to find. September is, for some, the calm before the storm. Our kids are back in school, fall activities have begun and we have a few precious weeks before we really have to start thinking about the holidays. What better time to take a few minutes to reflect on how we spend our time, juggle our lives and what we can do to achieve our own perfect balance! ~TMC Okay, I’ll be honest.  This was a crazy summer for our family.  We ran around like, well, my son after his birthday cake—eyes roving and all.  We have recently crashed and burned—and are taking this opportunity to re-evaluate.

Finding balance?  It’s hard.  Especially when you try to balance good things.  I feel like I have weeks in which I spend the perfect amount of time at home, taking care of Gabriel, cleaning, cooking, and resting.  Friday comes, and guilt overtakes me—I didn’t spend time with others, or serve anyone else in any way!

So I call up my friends—let’s book up the next week!  That Friday comes, and I feel like I’ve just lugged Gabriel around to whatever plans I made, without thinking of his needs.  Or my husband comes home from work, and I haven’t even started dinner.

Balance

Ugh!  The irony is that I feel like I don’t have time to figure out balance.  It takes too much work, too much strength, too much thought!  Sometimes I think I’m still figuring out my identity as a mother, let alone how I’m going to be the same wife, friend, daughter, and sister that everyone else knows me as.

Of course, it’s very easy for me to speak the language of failure.  I mean, my son is 12 months old.  Shouldn’t this whole mothering thing be figured out by now?  Ha, ha.  Funny you should ask.

Come to find out, this is a universal struggle.  I love reading proverbs of every kind—they have a way of putting the daily grind and the wisdom that solves it into one sentence.  One of my favorites is from the Bible, Proverbs 14:1, “The wisest of women builds her house, but folly with her own hands tears it down (ESV).”

Does this describe how I feel about all things homemaker at times?  Most definitely.  I spend the morning building a fortress of peace, instruction, sweet kisses, vacuumed floors, and homemade bread (just for good measure).  I then find myself in the afternoon—with a jackhammer between my hands, pointed at the foundation of all I built that morning, a crying baby in the carrier, a caffeine headache (because I just can’t get around to that cup of coffee), and a constant stream of “You’re doing this ALL wrong,” going through my head.

I have been taking some practical steps every week to help get me on the right track.  Even if every plan deviates from what I expected, I have assurance that next week is a new week.  I get to start all over again!  (And honestly, isn’t every day a new day?  I even feel like my child waking up from every nap is a new day.  We are given endless grace in this!).

  •  Weekly Planning Retreat:  I try to take time every Sunday to ponder the coming week.  I prefer to do this while Andy watches Gabriel, and whether I’m home or at Starbucks, I make a list of three things.
  1. What goals do I have for this week?  I write down the things I want to accomplish in housekeeping, errands, time with the Lord, Andy, Gabriel, and friends, and a fun project that I can look forward to (like that awesome new recipe, or my ever-beckoning sewing excursions J).
  2. What meals do I want to prepare this week?  I decide on those, make my grocery list, and gather my coupons.
  3. I space all these things out as evenly as possible through the days.  I’ll admit, I’m a “get it all done” kind of girl, so my Mondays and Tuesdays tend to be busier than my Thursdays and Fridays.

This may sound simple, and you may already be doing this (if so, keep it up!), but if you haven’t and you want to start—it’s not hard.  Ask your husband or friend to help you establish this routine.

  • Ask Yourself Good Questions:  When you’re young, all the “old” people ask you challenging questions that help get you on track.  When you’re a “big girl,” you’re expected to be able to do this for yourself now.  But it’s easy to forget!  Something I’m working on is asking myself a few simple questions every week (these are adapted from Lindsay Edmond’s blog “Passionate Homemaking” http://www.passionatehomemaking.com/2012/04/take-time-to-live-intentionally.html).
  1. If you follow a certain faith, ask yourself about your place spiritually.  What areas can you improve in?  What new character traits would you like to develop?
  2. If you’re married, ask yourself questions like these:  How can I bless my husband? How can I love him like he has never been or ever will be loved? What is one aspect of his character that I could thank him for? What is one thing I could say to cheer him up?
  3. What practical steps can I take to love my children? What is one creative activity we could do together? Think of a one-on-one activity to do with each child. How can I bring life to them through my words?
  4. What practical step can I take to serve others, express thankfulness and/or encouragement to a friend?
  5. What practical steps can I take to simplify my life - what is one area I need to simplify to provide more peace in our home? What steps will I take to accomplish this?  (This is a big one for me!)
  6. What is one step I can take towards completing long-term goals?
  •  Gratitude List:  So this doesn’t exactly plan my week for me, but I do find that it keeps my attitude in line!  I like to keep a pad of paper out, and periodically write down anything and everything that strikes me as beautiful.  Beautiful things become blessings.  Blessings produce thankfulness.  Thankfulness literally transforms us.  Of course, it’s great to remember the blessings of food, clothing, shelter, jobs, a husband, and children.  I like to also remember really small things.  Here’s an example:
  1. Kisses initiated by Gabriel
  2. Dairy-free chocolate chip cookies (since I’m allergic to dairy!)
  3. Sunlight streaming in on my plants—a reminder of the slow yet beautiful process of growth
  4. A new notebook
  5. Movie time with Andy
  6. Five senses to fully experience my son
  7. Breezes while walking
  8. Early morning bird songs

I, by no means, have perfected any of these practices.  I certainly find them helpful, though!  The Motherhood Mountain is a journey, and it’s not just about “making it” to the top.  Our kids are following close behind.  Let’s find small victories in jumping over streams, and working together to scale boulders—dirty diapers, sticky fingers, and all!

Another Mother's Balancing Act

In September, the Motherhood Collective will feature posts on balance - having it or not! It's certainly a state most of us struggle to find. September is, for some, the calm before the storm. Our kids are back in school, fall activities have begun and we have a few precious weeks before we really have to start thinking about the holidays. What better time to take a few minutes to reflect on how we spend our time, juggle our lives and what we can do to achieve our own perfect balance! ~TMC If you want to make a mom laugh, ask her how she "balances" her life.

My response to that question?  Snort.

The truth is: balance is really hard...and ever changing...and REALLY hard.

Balance

I mean, some days it's easy.

You know, the days when: - the baby's slept well and you've slept well. - everyone's had a good breakfast. - you went for a walk - or even to the gym. *GASP* - you talked to a grown up for more than 5 minutes. - your husband had a great day at work. - you can share an interesting story - because you actually know one. - your "made from scratch" dinner was delicious. - and you all went to bed on time, so that everyone could sleep well again!

And then there are THOSE days.  The days where pretty much the opposite of everything above happens.  And those days stink.  Real bad.

Those are the days that people think of when you ask about balance.  The days where you're exhausted and there is no food in the house, all the laundry is dirty, the baby won't nap, everyone in the entire world is cranky, it's raining and blah, blah, blah...

Yeah, those days are a real downer.

 

But as to how to find balance - hmmm.  Personally, I just take it one day at a time.  Oh, and deep breathing helps.

But seriously, these are the things that are always on my mental "to do" list.

I try to go to bed on time. And yes, "on time" is relative. I try to get up, shower and be dressed before noon.  Stop laughing...goals are important. I try to plan for and complete chores and errands before my husband notices the lack of bananas or clean socks. I try to eat well and feed my family well. I try to keep my house "together"...as in, someone could show up unannounced and I wouldn't be mortified.  (P.S. - If you happen to stop by, please don't ever ask to see my basement.)

Those are the easy ones.  Then there are the harder ones.

I try to be a thoughtful wife. I try to be a kind mother. I try to be generous and thankful. I try to maintain good relationships. I try to learn constantly and be creative And mostly...I try not to take myself too seriously.

Of course, I don't do all these things everyday.  Usually, if something starts to get neglected, I'm reminded (by my grouchy husband, the overflowing hamper, the tumbleweeds of dog fur, the towering stack of unread and possibly overdue library books or the to-do list that takes up more than a page) that something needs to change.

"The key to keeping your balance is knowing when you've lost it." - said somebody smart, but anonymously, on the internet.

Everyone has their own balance and you do know when you don't have it.  The important thing is to identify the imbalance and try to right it.  And usually, something's gotta give.  (At least for me, it's usually the amount of time I spend on Facebook. Strangely enough, the amount of time I spend cleaning is never the thing that needs to be reigned in.)

So, was this helpful?  Maybe not, but that's because balance is so personal.  If anything, rest assured that most of us struggle with balance in our lives.  Even if you think someone else has it all together, they probably don't...at least not all the time.  As with most things motherhood-related, your situation is never exactly the same as someone else's.

So my three bits of balancing advice: 1. Identify the things that are most important to you. 2. Check in on those things from time to time and adjust your time and energy accordingly. 3. Forgive yourself when things get out of whack and try to do better tomorrow.

So simple, right?  You're welcome, Internet.  Next month I'll tackle the debt crisis.

 

Photo courtesy of www.old-picture.com

Balancing the Stacks: How Books Have Drawn Me Closer To (And Away From) My Kids

bookstack

In September, the Motherhood Collective will feature posts on balance - having it or not! It's certainly a state most of us struggle to find. September is, for some, the calm before the storm. Our kids are back in school, fall activities have begun and we have a few precious weeks before we really have to start thinking about the holidays. What better time to take a few minutes to reflect on how we spend our time, juggle our lives and what we can do to achieve our own perfect balance! ~TMC

Last month, I shared with you my dirty little secret: I don't read to my baby.  At this stage in his life, he's more interested in chewing on the books than listening to them.  We talk, we sing, we explore (taste) our collection of board books, but that baby-on-the-lap-before bed traditional storytime is just not part of our bedtime routine.

At least not for my 9 month old.

I also have a daughter who is almost 3.5 (how did that happen?!?) and for her, our bedtime story is sacred.  We really began incorporating books into our bedtime routine when she transitioned to a toddler bed around 20 months.  It was a way of calming her at night, trying to make her drowsy enough that she wouldn't fight bedtime and would stay in her bed after we left the room. I was always the one who read the story, but it was family time, with all three of us--my daughter, my husband, and myself--huddled together on the floor.

And then last December my son was born.  From the day I returned home from the hospital, that bedtime story became "Our Special Time".  With a new baby in the house, one who turned out to be a horrible refluxer and needed even more mama attention than usual, carving time out for my daughter was both a necessity and a challenge.  But we made that storytime a priority.

One night we read a book about a brother and sister who were constantly getting into messes throughout the day.  Hands, feet, and noses always sticky.  For some reason, she latched on to the "sticky noses" phrase and now it's part of the way we say goodnight, a sign of affection, to rub "sticky" noses.  How awesome is that?  That something so simple as a bedtime story could become something so important as a way of saying "I love you"?

Precious, isn't it?

But let's forget about the kiddos for a minute.

Reading is also how I find my own balance and space.  After the kids are in bed, I can be found with my laptop and a pile of library books.  While my husband edits his latest batch of photos, I catch up on the latest in children's literature.  When I was in the classroom, I book-talked with my students constantly.  Literacy is a passion, something I want to share.  It's why I went back to school for my graduate degree in library science.

And then I had kids.  And now instead of being in the classroom, I'm teaching my own little ones at home.

The most challenging part of being a stay-at-home parent?  The lack of adult interaction (can I get an "Amen!"?).  You have to create opportunities, otherwise it is entirely possible to go an entire day  speaking to nobody over three feet tall.  Even with those opportunities, my poor husband still braces himself for an avalanche of stored up conversation the moment he walks in the door.

So I turned to blogging. And blogging led to networking.  And networking allowed me to turn Once Upon A Story into a site where I can share my passion for children's literature, where I can share what I'm reading, where I can get suggestions and chat with other teachers, librarians, and parents.

Mother.  Wife. Teacher.  Librarian. Blogger.

Balance.

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

Back to School After Baby

August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective. Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent. Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you. ~TMC ---

For many adults, choosing to go back to school is a big decision. It means a commitment in time, energy, effort and resources. This is especially true for a woman deciding to go back to school after having a baby. Unlike the single years where a student can schedule large blocks of time without interruption, pull all-nighters when necessary and hang out at the coffee shop all day, the college-bound mommy has to juggle her daily responsibilities on top of her school work. The good news is it’s not impossible to manage both- it just takes a little more planning and effort!Camera

When I decided to pursue a Masters of Fine Art degree in Photography after our first-born son was just four months old, many people flatly told me I was crazy. After a while, I began to wonder if they were right. Could I actually manage to spend quality time with my son and husband, cook, clean, exercise and study? The answer is yes. Sure, there were crazy times and a few late nights (try 3 a.m.), but after two semesters of trial and error, I feel that I finally found the mommy/student balance that works for me. For all of you lovely ladies considering a return to school after starting a family, let me offer you some advice that can save you a little time and perhaps gives you the encouragement you need:

Be Realistic. Let’s face it, being a mom means that your study sessions will be interrupted…a lot. Have realistic goals of what you can and want to accomplish each day. If you expect too much, you may be disappointed when half of your school related “to do” list remains undone. Aim for a balanced day, where no one aspect dominates your time and attention (unless it is your baby that needs you, of course). Keep this in mind when you schedule your week: “How much can I realistically get done?” Know that this will most likely change- up to several times a day- and that’s okay.

Touch it every day. Sure, you may not be able to dedicate large blocks of time to school every day. You can still accomplish more than you expect and avoid cramming when deadlines approach by doing a little bit each day. Aim to work on tasks (reading, writing, etc.) in small chunks of time. Have 30 minutes? Try to get through one chapter. If you do this throughout the day, you can quickly read the week’s reading assignments. Do this every day, it will add up throughout the week.

Work Around Their Schedule. Try to have a general schedule with your baby in mind that you work around every day. For instance, if your baby takes a longer morning nap, dedicate that time to working on school. Once he or she awakes, close the books. If you know that a portion of your day is dedicated to your studies (no matter how small), you will feel comfortable leaving it undone, knowing that you will return to it later that day or tomorrow.

Stay Flexible. Let’s face it- babies are unpredictable…and that’s okay. If there’s a day (or two) that schoolwork goes untouched, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t be afraid to close the books and devote your attention to your baby. Just return to your normal routine when life allows. Ultimately, your family is more important than a paper, but be proud of the fact that you are still making an effort to improve yourself too.

Tag Team. If you are fortunate to have the support of a husband, family members or friends, let them help you by taking the baby out to run errands, for a trip to the park, or to their house for a nap. Even 30 minutes can make a huge difference- giving you the opportunity to plan, start writing a paper or catch up on reading.

Remember What You’re Doing: You’re Learning! Having a baby and going back to school are similar: it’s a learning process. The key word here is process. Don’t get discouraged if everything does not click into place within the first few weeks or the first semester for that matter. It will take time to find what works for you! Be patient, remember why you decided to go to school, and see this as an opportunity to learn more about yourself- what you are capable of, how you work best, and what is most important to you. Constantly evaluate how you are doing, celebrate the successes no matter how small, and make adjustments when needed. The point is, you are learning and growing!

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!

I Don't Read to My Baby

learning

August is "Back to School" Month at The Motherhood Collective. Over the next few weeks, our writers will be sharing their teaching moments, the ways they encourage learning, their thoughts on education or the things THEY are learning as a parent. Even if your child isn't heading back to the classroom in a few weeks, we hope that our thoughts on learning will inspire you. ~TMC ---

Not too long ago, I took Baby to his 6 month medical appointment.  At our doctor's office, we leave the appointment with a printout of anything discussed/diagnosed, a list of potential milestones between now and the next appointment, and tips to promote physical and emotional development at this age.

I actually like this because it helps jog my memory on things like when I need to ask for the baby gates back from the couple who borrowed them  so that we can start childproofing our home (Answer:  Sooner than I'm prepared for!).

One of the items listed on my most recent sheet was, "Read to infant for 20 minutes each day."

I confess:

I don't read to Baby 20 minutes every day.

At least, not officially.  I have two degrees, one in elementary education, one in library science.  I wholeheartedly support and believe in all the evidence that supports reading to children at an early age.  What I don't have is time set aside, or a baby who is interested in anything other than chewing his toes for more than 10 seconds at a time.

But here's what DOES happen at our house.  Constant, constant conversation.  One-on-one interaction.  Singing along to toddler tunes played from the computer, or in the car.  Weekly visits to the library.  Afternoons outside in good weather.

With each of these experiences, he's exposed to language.  And this is in addition to the times he's sitting nearby, or even on my lap, while I read to his sister.  And for now?  I think that that is more than adequate. The books will most definitely come.  In this household, it's a given.  But in the meantime, if he's not sitting on my lap looking at a book for 20 minutes throughout the day (even if it's not 20 consecutive minutes) he's still listening and learning and growing.

My advice is to take this particular directive with a grain of salt.  Broaden your definition of literacy.  I bet you'll find you're doing more than you know.

--- The Motherhood Collective is on Facebook. Like us, then comment on our giveaway post for a chance to win a family photo shoot from Adam Barnes Photography. Our contest ends when we hit 500 Likes!