Dreaded Daycare Drop-Off: 4 Tips for Success

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For most of the H’s first year of life, my husband handled daycare drop-off. I will admit, I didn’t realize quite how awesome this was until he got a new job and daycare drop-off become my job. Most of the time, I love being a working mom, but man, some days or most days, daycare drop-off is tough. There was something about saying goodbye to H at home while he was eating breakfast with his daddy that made going to work a little easier. Dropping him off in a room full of other sometimes crying children is not easy. But after several months of being solely responsible for drop-off, I have come up with a few tips to make the process so much easier and keep me from driving to work crying and dreading my day.

  1. Plan ahead and leave enough time to say hello to the teacher. I have made it a point to get to know his daycare teacher and ensure I leave at least a few minutes in the morning to check-in, say hi, and catch up. Sometimes we talk about daycare, but oftentimes we just talk about life or the mornings we have had. Our conversations are never long as I know she is responsible for watching the other children in the room, but I make it a point to do more than just drop and run. This has made leaving H there so much easier because I adore his teacher. She is excellent with her kiddos and loves them like her own. It allows me to leave some of the guilt about being a working mom at the door because she is teaching him sign language, Japanese, and all sorts of fine and gross motor skills I know nothing about. There is a long list of reasons why I work in corporate America and not in a classroom. I have major respect for teachers because I tried it one year and found out it was not for me. If your little one often cries when you leave, talk to the teacher about what happens after you leave. Often I bet your little one is perfectly fine by the time you are out of sight and this can be reassuring if you do have to leave them in tears.
  2. Reassure, reassure, reassure. Perhaps this is just as much for me as it is for H, but I make sure I give him a hug and kiss and tell him I will be back to get him. I encourage him to go read books with his buddies or find a toy he really likes. I make sure he is occupied and knows mama will be back. I try not to tell him I will miss him, but instead tell him I love him. According to Today, keeping your goodbyes upbeat (even if you are a little sad too) will help the child feel safe and secure. I want H to know it’s okay for him to be at daycare and that he is safe and taken care of even if I am a little sad to leave him there some days.
  3. Focus on the positives.  This has perhaps been the most helpful for me. You can find bemoaning working moms and stay-at-moms all over the internet. And it’s easier to look at the grass and assume its greener on the other side. But spending all your time focusing on what you wish were true about life won’t make the reality of life any different and will heap a lot of guilt and frustration on you. I remind myself how social H is, how much he is learning, and despite being at daycare, that I am still one of his favorite people. He is thriving and making friends. The other week we were in the middle of the grocery store when he yelled out hello to a friend from his daycare. My heart almost melted. I also feel very called to my work and know I am the best mom I can be when I am operating out of this calling. It is always easy-of course not, but I try to focus on all the good things instead of wishing I was in someone else’s yard.
  4. Create a routine.  I am big on routines. Perhaps because I love them, but also because I believe they really help kids. H and I have both evening and morning routines. We do almost the same thing Monday-Friday so he knows what to expect. I try really hard not to do things different or try new ideas during the week. This may get a little boring, but he doesn’t seem to mind eating the same thing for breakfast everyday and following the same schedule. It also helps me not be so frazzled and allows me an extra few minutes if he wants to read a book or watch the “quack-quacks” outside. Everyday as we leave, we say bye-bye to the dog and I always remind him we are going to see his teacher and friends. The routine also helps me leave enough time to have a few minutes at daycare to touch base with his teacher and say hello before heading to work.

What are your tips for doing daycare drop-off like a pro? How have you made the transition easier? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Independent. Multi-Tasker.

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This was the description of women summed up by an author in a book I was listening to the other day. She polled a bunch of women and the theme which emerged was independent, multi-tasker. In other words, women think they can do it all and they can do it all alone.

Talk about feeling hit by a ton of bricks. I could totally relate. I feel the exact same way. All.the.time. Although I might replace the word can with the word should. I should do it all and I should do it alone. Isn’t that the message our culture sends?  Be the perfect wife, mom, employee, church attendee etc. Have a Pinterest-worthy house at all times and host Pinterest worthy events on top of every other thing you sign up to do. Join a board, volunteer, build a resume, or stay home and educate, attend play-groups, take adorable Instagram worthy photos all.the.time.  Are you tired yet? Because I am. Just writing that paragraph made me want to take a nap. But then again, if I take a nap, something else on my ever-lengthening to-do list won’t get accomplished. The author’s description of women was followed by the point of the chapter-Brave enough women know their limits.

Do you know your limits? Do you know when you have blown past what you can handle? Or did you give up a long time ago on limits because it seemed society doesn’t seem to care? Sure, I could find 100 articles on self-care, but for each article on self-care, I could find another on building your brand or image or resume or how to ensure your child is successful or talented or sociable. I will be the first to admit a discussion on limits coming from me is laughable at best. Aside from a husband, 15 month old, and full-time job, I co-chair a board for a local young professional group, co-lead a working group for a different non-profit, and lead a 3rd non-profit I founded a couple of years ago.  Limits? What limits?

Instead of listening to my inner soul and perhaps even the wise counsel of those around me, I am one who tends to keep pushing, keep going, and keep saying yes. That is until recently, I ran smack into a wall.  Not a literal wall, but a wall nonetheless. A wall forcing me to pause. To get help. To start to figure out what limits look like in my own life. I felt God asking me to place all my life in His hands and trust when it was all said and done, I would be okay. The things He was asking of me were not supposed to be so burdensome. They were not meant to destroy my health and marriage and relationship with those around me. But the expectations I had of myself, they were beginning to do those very things.

Matthew 11:28 says “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Friend, are you weary today? Are you burdened? Perhaps for all of us, the bravest thing we can do in these moments is come to Jesus. To let Him take our burdens, societal expectations, families, and relationships. To give Him our future and stop acting like if we don’t do it, the world will fall apart. Jesus called us to love Him first and love those around us second. He didn’t call us to resumes, jobs, groups, or volunteer activities. Those things are not wrong, but they must come after we seek Him.

So today, let’s lay our burdens at His feet and just rest. Take a deep breath and trust in His hands it will all be okay.

 

My Do-Not-Do List

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If you missed my obsession with Hoopla, check here for more details. And download it stat. It might change your life.

My current audio book loves are all of Shauna Niequist’s books. I probably should stop listening to them because they make me cry. Ugly tears sometimes. But I love her. and her writing. and she narrates them. Currently, I am in the middle of Bittersweet and she has a chapter in there on her “Do-Not-Do” List. At one point she was overwhelmed and trying to do it all (hello all my millennial mom friends) and received some wise advice which lead her to creating a list of things she doesn’t do. Things on the list are free from guilt and shame because by not doing those things, she has time to do the things she loves. This was what I needed to hear. After a month of fighting and losing the battle with a nasty cold and generally just feeling overwhelmed, stressed out, and on the verge of a meltdown, this was the breath of fresh air I needed.

The world of social media makes mom-guilt a lot worse I think and I was struggling big time. So I enter for your enjoyment (and accountability or free pass) my personal Do-Not-Do (“DND”) list.  It’s a work in progress and subject to change. But the things on this list today are things which I refuse to have any guilt over. None. Nada. Because the things on this list mean I can do other things I love and enjoy and bring life and wholeness to me and my family.

Amanda’s DND LIST

1. Fold socks-sorry folks, mama ain’t got time to match all your socks. In our family, we go through a lot of socks in a given week. They will be placed in your sock drawer and it’s up to you to find a matching pair. Or don’t because I hear mis-matched socks are all the rage.

2. Halloween Costumes- This is timely as this week was Halloween. I made my list prior to the 31st and since this was on the list, I refused to let any guilt seep into the day. I have a full plate and making a costume was not a reality. And I refuse to spend money on something to be worn once. On top of that, I never celebrated Halloween as a kid and am undecided on what we will do as a family, but for now, it’s a no go.

3. Decorate for any holiday aside from Christmas- I LOVE Christmas. So much I won’t even deny I may become the person with a tree in every room. I love Christmas music, Christmas trees, Christmas decorations, Christmas cards. I think you get it. But only Christmas gets a free pass. Sorry to all the other noble holidays, my house will not reflect your presence. It’s just one more thing I have to clean up.

4. Grocery Shop at multiple stores- I know it would be more budget friendly, but time is money. And in my limited spare time, spending it driving to multiple stores to save a little money just loses out. So sorry Aldi, I will miss you so. But today I will enjoy my one-stop shopping trip that takes less than an hour.

5. Go to the gym- I hesitated to put this one on my list. At different points in my life, I have spent a lot of time at the gym. Early mornings, Saturdays, late nights-you name it. But right now, I have an active one-year old who demands all my attention and a gym membership and gym classes just don’t fit on the calendar or in the budget. They will again someday I am sure, but for now, this is on the list so I can stop feeling guilty about the fact that instead of going to the gym over my lunch I actually ate a meal sitting down without a toddler screaming at me.

That’s my short DND list. I am sure there are other things, but the things I put on the list have, over the past several months, caused me the most guilt so they went on the list. Life is too short and there are too many beautiful and lovely things to do so just know, if you ask me to a Halloween party there will be no costumes. 🙂

What’s on your DND list? Don’t have one? What are you feeling guilty about that might need to go on the list? Being a momma is hard and there just isn’t time for everything.

The Art of Saying No

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saying_no_frenchbydesign_jobs_wmYou learn a lot of things as a new mom. I mean a lot (these I will continue to elaborate on). But when you are a new mom and a working mom, one thing you have to learn quickly is the art of saying no. This is something I have NEVER been good at nor ever thought I would need to be good at saying. I was just always the person who kept all the balls in the air and came through in a pinch. And then, H came along. All of a sudden, I was doing well to just figure out this whole mom thing. Forget trying to manage everything else. I had a tiny newborn who relied on me for literally everything. So over the past almost 10 months, I have learned how to say no gracefully. It’s still a slow work in progress, but here are my few thoughts on maintaining balance with a new baby.

It starts with laser focus. If what you are asking me to do is not related to my family or helping me pursue my dreams, right now I just cannot help out.  Before I came back to work, I spent some time praying and thinking about what I wanted with my life. I also attended a weekend workshop to help refine career goals. I know what I want to do and I know my time with H is precious. So I am very careful about what I commit to, especially if it means any after work or weekend time.

Realize this is a phase. H won’t always need me like he does right now. At some point, I will stop being his primary food source and he will become enamored with all the cool stuff dad lets him do. I am pretty sure he will always be a mama’s boy, but I know there will come a time when an after work meeting won’t be a huge deal. When rushing home at 5:00 won’t be necessary. But right now it is. Right now an after work meeting means less time I have before he goes to bed and missing out on the joys of dinner time and evening laughs.

Life is not about you. This is something I am slowly learning. If I say no, it won’t be the end of the world. The event will still happen, the meeting will go on, someone else will step up. By saying no, I am allowing other people to step in and I am giving myself a chance to step back. Honestly, it’s also a little bit of a relief. Carrying the burdens of keeping things going on your shoulders is a lot. Spread the wealth of things to do and realize if something does slip up, it’s ok.

Relish the moments, not the to-do list. I love to make lists and say “yes” so learning to say no has been a journey. Along the way, I have realized the moments matter. Sure, I can go to one more event or accomplish one more task, but then I risk missing out on H learning to crawl or finally saying “mama” (we are still working on that one!). The more I do, the more I realize it is not about what you do. It is about the relationships and the people you accomplish things with and helping them to succeed.  As I enjoy the moments, I find my yes becoming more about saying yes to coffee or yes to a friend who asks for help and less about yes for the sake of appearing busy.

Saying no is an art and takes practice. If you are anything like me, it won’t come easy and 10 months later, you will find yourself still struggling to say no even when you know you should. In those moments, I stop and breathe and remind myself of H and of the laser focused dream I am pursuing. If the potential yes does not apply to either of those areas, my answer is no.

What do you need to say no to? How have you found it easier to say no? Let me know in the comments!

Working Mom Essential: A Meal Plan

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Long before I got pregnant, I worked really hard at cleaning up our diet.  I started researching food chains, ingredients, products, and healthy eating. I doubled my grocery shopping time because I started reading each and every label.  It’s been a slow process. And we are still by no means perfect.  (if you open my freezer, you will find two pints of Ben and Jerry’s because sometimes you just need ice cream)  After I made it through the first trimester and actually started to feel like eating again, I was meticulous about what I ate because what I ate, the baby ate.  But for all the planning and preparing, cooking with a newborn is a whole different game. Add cooking with a newborn after you work all day and it makes me tired just thinking about it.

So after one too many frozen pizzas, I decided we needed a plan.  Eating healthy is not always easy or convenient, but it is a high priority in my life so a meal plan is essential. I have started printing off a blank calendar near the end of the month and meal planning for the entire month. I have done it weekly as well, but it takes about as much time to do it weekly as it does to do it for the whole month. I usually tweak my weeks throughout the month, but at least I have a general idea of what I am going to make each day. If you haven’t done much meal planning, I have included a few of my favorite resources to help you get started.

Pinterest

What did we do before Pinterest?  I use it for quite a few things, but overall my favorite way to use it is for meal planning.  We get our meat from a local farmer and so once I have figured out what type of meat we have for the month, I spend time looking for healthy recipes using what we have. Pinterest is great for searching for something specific like “healthy desserts with strawberries” or “crock pot meal using hamburger”.  There is also a huge variety of healthy options. You can find my Pinterest boards here and follow along if you want!

Gathered Table

I have used this website off and on for a little while. I love the fact they curate a variety of different types of recipes to accommodate different healthy eating styles and different schedules. Do you need a quick meal, crock pot, or something more elaborate? They are all pretty easy to find. You have to sign up for a subscription to use all of their features such as already-prepared weekly plans and grocery lists, but if your pretty savvy you can just clip the recipes and create your own plans.

Healthy Family Meal Plans

One of my favorite things about this service is the recipes are seasonal. This means you can prepare healthy meals and lower your grocery bills by capitalizing on the in season produce.  This is a subscription service so there are plenty of other free ways to meal plan, however, so far I have been really impressed with the taste and ease of the recipes I have made.  One caveat, I tend to adjust the meals to use meat I have on hand to save costs. I also sub ingredients if there is something I know we won’t eat.

 CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Shares

Purchasing a CSA Share is another way to incorporate healthy eating into your diet at a slightly lower cost (as compared to buying equal quality items at a grocery store). We signed up for a vegetable share for this growing season with a local farm and I am so excited. First off, I LOVE knowing exactly where the food I am eating is coming from and second, the service you get with a local producer/grower is second to none. We are also have a meat share we purchase from a different local farmer. This past weekend, he hand delivered our meat to our house- talk about excellent service!!  Living in Southern Indiana means fewer options for Farmer’s Markets and local produce, but a movement is growing locally and I love being part of it. I am also looking forward to challenging myself to try new recipes with the veggies I get in my crop share.

Odds and Ends

A few other things you need are a crock pot, a willingness to try new things, and a detailed grocery list. The worst thing in the world is getting to Thursday night to prepare a meal only to find you forgot a key ingredient. I have done this one too many times so now my grocery lists are laid out by department.  I am a huge fan of meal planning and will try to highlight some other resources I have used in the future. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below and I will try to answer them!

 

 

The Faint Line

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To catch you up to my current life, I have to go back a little. It all began with one faint line. Ok, well, it began before that, but this is not a lesson in human biology. After one faint line, I went and bought a pregnancy test that declared you pregnant or not pregnant just to be sure.

Yep. Pregnant.

In your late 20s, this is an acceptable thing. Especially if you are married.  And especially if you live in southern Indiana. In fact, I was late to the baby game. Several of my friends were on number 3 or 4. But the faint line was not my plan. Fast forward 10.5 months (because H as I will call him did not want to come into this world), and I was holding my handsome little man. (also, pregnancy is actually 10 months, not 9..)

After a rocky first week, we started to get into a routine and by week 7 of my maternity leave, I actually started venturing out of the house with H. This was nerve-wracking and I realized very quickly how horrible everyone else drives. (and also got honked at several times for going to slow-PRECIOUS CARGO PEOPLE!) I had the great luxury to take a full 12 weeks off work. I cherish those 12 weeks and have become an increasingly strong advocate for paid maternity leave (which I am sure will come up later). H and I got into a routine, figured out breastfeeding, and bonded in some incredible ways. And while those 12 weeks we by way too fast, when it was finally time to head back to work, I felt ready.  I wasn’t sure what I was ready for, but I also did not feel the depression and agony most people described I would or should have.

And so I spent a final weekend snuggling with my little man and preparing everything we needed for Monday. I packed diaper bags and work bags and lunches and bottles. I doubled checked the car seat and laid out my clothes and his. I avoided talking about it and even avoided church because I could not deal with one more person asking me about the impending Monday.

 

..stay tuned for The First Day.

Adventures of a Working Mom: The Intro

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The other day I was driving and lamenting to myself about something..I honestly can’t remember what it was at this point and in the grand scheme of life, I am sure it was petty.  In the course of my internal wrestling, I realized how much I missed writing. Becoming a mom certainly changed my entire life (more on that to come..) and I realized I missed this little corner of my world. I abandoned it for a while because I felt I had nothing to say. My former adventurous, traveling the world life has been replaced with a job in corporate America and I often found myself struggling to find any purpose or sense it in all. Mostly though,I was struggling with hitting the publish button because I while I have countless blogs written, I would get to the end and think to myself, no one wants to read this and so it would be put on the shelf and another few months would go by. Near the end of my drive, I decided I was going to stop lamenting and take up writing again. But I was going to shift my focus to write about the adventures and joys and struggles of being a working mom.  I landed on this because here in little southern Indiana, I feel like somewhat of an anomaly and because it is something I do every single day.

According to a statistic from Bureau of Labor Statistics, the percentage of women (with spouses) working with children in the house under 18 is 67.8%  . There are a lot of us moms who work out there. And yet, there is still this stigma attached to it which somehow seems to translate being a working mom into a task we grudgingly do while we spend our days wishing we could all stay at home.  I do not say this to start any mommy wars, because come on, being a mom is hard enough, we should all just stop with the drama and pettiness. I say all this to give you a point of reference. Because.. deep breath..most days, I love being a working mom.

Ok, now pick your jaw up off the floor and stay tuned.  I promise to write about the highs and the lows, I promise to not to impose my decision on you, and I promise to keep it real (also to write more than every 6 months). Because let’s be honest, one of my daily thoughts is, “I hope I don’t leak milk all over my shirt during my meeting.” And now I want to ask you for something. The next time you encounter a working mom, don’t pity her or ask her about staying home. Don’t add any guilt on her lap (trust me, she has enough of that). Just invite her for lunch or dinner or coffee because I promise you, she wants that more than anything and if you are fellow mom, you have plenty in common aside from your working vs. not working status to talk for hours.