The art of self care

Prioritize yourself, Mama; it will be good for everyone.

You know those women you see leaving their hot pilates class in the morning, dewy skinned & glowing – strutting toned derrières next-door to Starbucks, enjoying their lattes with other Lululemon clad supermodels? Yeah, I’m not one of them.

A few months ago, when I was a pregnant, working mom with a one year old in daycare, teaching barre classes in the evenings & fumbling with my domestic responsibilities, I vowed to become one of those women – a woman of leisure. I planned to have my second baby & put my career on hold, leaving plenty of time for long strolls with a baby carriage and peaceful mornings over a slowly-sipped cup of coffee.  I would be free from the morning rush, free from a corporate calendar, and free to do what I wanted, when I wanted.

Surely I could cart two tiny children to a yoga studio every morning without too much trouble. We’d hit a juice bar and get our groceries at Whole Foods while we were out. We’d return home tired, and they would nap while I dusted the furniture, then painted my toenails.

Hahaha!!!

First, understand that a single fitness class (in Silicon Valley) runs about $28; add $8 (x2) for childcare, and I’m looking at $44 for a drop in. Ugh, I’m sorry – I just quit my job – my income is zero dollars. And when I do make peace with hemorrhaging money on account of a workout, I’m usually waitlisted for the only class time that offers childcare – maximum occupancy: 6 kids. Really?

It’s worth mentioning that my 2 year old won’t sit in a stroller, so those long walks I longed for are out of the question, too.  And I’m just not able to power through a home workout with “Mom Mom Mom MOM….” happening.

Next, remember that I always have two kids in tow. We are calm & collected – never. Someone is always throwing a fit (not even I am above it). Try holding a screaming infant on your lap in the salon just once and you’ll understand why my hair is always pulled into a bun.  My nails, once polished to perfection, are now broken and bare. These new bags under my eyes could use some attention, but self care takes time – and a babysitter. 

The ironic thing about quitting a job and making zero dollars, is that I still have to spend dollars on childcare to get anything done. I’ve given up my income to care for our children – it’s a luxury I’m grateful for – but consequently, I’ve been insecure about asking for help. After all, staying home is my job.

But finally, last month, my husband returned home from a routine business trip to witness an epic temper tantrum – mine. Seventy-two lonely hours without his company, 3+ awakenings each night, no exercise & no break had left me completely depleted. 

So, that night, he sat me down to set 3 goals that would prioritize me. Maybe he did it because he cares so deeply about my happiness, or maybe it was because he’s tired of being my punching bag – the reason doesn’t really matter. The result was the following list of priorities – In this order:

1. Fit in fitness:

I need strength and energy to keep up with my kids, so this is a must.  Plus, I just bought one of those cheeky bikini bottoms that a mom probably has no business wearing – but darn it – I’m going to make it look good.

I [we] decided my physical & mental health is worth the financial investment. I found a place to workout that is only a few blocks from my daughter’s preschool.  Twice a week, I drop her off, then push the stroller on to my strength training class. I sign up for a childcare slot a week in advance to make sure we get in – and yay, I only have to pay for one child!

It takes some logistics & coordination, but twice a week (at least), I get to hit my reset button.

2. Establish regular date nights:

Again, this is a cost with great ROI. It’s no secret that quality time is important for a thriving relationship. And not to be a pessimist, but divorce costs a lot more than a few dinners out each month.

I was fortunate to find an amazing nanny who was looking for filler work; one half day of help per week allows me to squeeze in a few errands (maybe get a manicure?) before a weekly date with my husband. Not only do I get some much needed adult time, my kids are learning from a really neat woman (who’s not me). Double win!

3. Contribute something – beyond the walls of this house:

I need goals that are tangible to get me out of bed in the morning. Motherhood, on the other hand, is a long journey with no destination. While I do want to return to my career someday, I don’t want to sacrifice precious time with my girls right now. So, I write.  I write in hopes that my experiences, thoughts and feelings might resonate with someone who needs a laugh, some advice, or just to know that she’s not alone in this madness.  For now, honesty is my contribution.

And guess what… Most days, I feel great!

I’m beginning to feel less guilty about taking time for myself; it truly makes me a happier, more patient mother & wife. I have a lot more affection to share when I’m thriving. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.

Happy Indulging!

xxx,

MamaFulch

Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

At least I’ll Always be “Mommy”

I turned 30 a couple of months ago, and decided it was time to start referring to myself as an “adult”.  To be honest, I’m still trying to figure out who and what I want to be when I grow up, but I’m one step closer to admitting that grown up is knocking on my door. 

I know, I’m married with two kids, we own a house, have careers; we do things like fertilize the lawn and pay property taxes, but only out of necessity.  At heart, I’m still an awkward kid playing house – trying to fake it till I make it – if you will.

God definitely doesn’t make mistakes, but I often think he must have a pretty good sense of humor, letting me raise two tiny humans. Doesn’t he know that I have no clue what I’m doing?  He must be getting a really good laugh up there, especially knowing that he gave me the smartest (read manipulative), most inquisitive (hello “why” phase) & assertive (seriously bossy) child ever. But despite my inexperience & the chaos that sometimes ensues, I’m so thankful to be her mama. She, and her insomnious baby sister, have completely rocked my world & hijacked my heart.

It doesn’t matter to them that the only child development class I took (of which I remember nothing) was in high school.  They don’t care that most of my answers to “why” are made up, or that they eat the same boxed macaroni and cheese and store bought baby food (gasp!) everyday because I’m not a very creative chef. They have no idea that potty training may be my kryptonite, or that I constantly worry about how I must be damaging them. Truth be told, I’m my own worst critic.

The craziest part? Not only do my kids not care about any of the things that worry me, they’ve never even noticed them.  They think that I can move mountains and kiss away any boo-boo. They think this home is their castle & that Daddy is their prince. In their eyes, I’m fearless & wise, nurturing yet stable, and that gives them confidence to face the world.

I’m not afraid to admit that staying home with my children is a lot harder than I expected it to be –  maybe because of the energy it requires, or maybe because I miss the accolades I used to get from colleagues and clients. But I can say with absolute certainty: the most rewarding things I’ve done have happened at home. It’s witnessing the pride on my daughter’s face when I give her praise.  It’s the excitement in her eyes when we have lunch picnics in the front yard or build princess castles out of play-dough. My attention tells her that she is worthy of my time, that she is a valuable person – and that is invaluable.

We share moments of laughter that bring us to tears. Each milestone they reach fills me with pride.  And so often, when I feel weary, my two year old throws her arms around me in an unsought embrace to say, “I love you, Mommy” – just because.  In those moments, my empty cup refills.

If I do nothing else with my grown up years, If I never win another account or design another building, I’ll have had the most important job there is – shepherding little hearts to become the best they can be. 

At the end of each day, when everyone is tucked in, and the home we’ve worked so hard to provide is quiet & dark, my heart is full.  We’ve made it; this is it. This home, full of crazy love, is exactly where I want to be when I finally grow up.

xxx,

MamaFulch

“Your greatest contribution to the Kingdom of God may not be something you do, but someone you raise” – Andy Stanley

Proverbs 22:6   Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.

The Science that Keeps my Marriage Strong

Disagreements are unavoidable, grace is indispensable.

I’ve never met anyone who married the person they wanted to fight with for the rest of their life. Contention, although rarely pleasant, is an inevitable part of even the most blissful unions. A gloomy outlook? Maybe. But when sharing the entirety of your life with someone, they are exposed to it all: the good, the bad and the ugly; chances are, they aren’t going to agree with your every opinion.

When choosing a spouse or partner, we tend to focus on similar interests, chivalry, physical attraction, core values, earning potential…  things that we think will help us avoid conflict. Perhaps we should focus more on how to disagree gracefully, with an emphasis on forgiveness.

Some people find a soulmate with an opposing personality: one confrontational party, one a bit more passive.  The calmer of the two might be a voice of reason or simply a pushover, bringing calm to disagreements. I, on the other hand, was lucky enough to find a man just as stubborn as I am. If you know us, I’m sure you’re stunned by this news (kidding). Twelve years in, we both still have to have the last word. Neither of us really ever thinks we are wrong, and if we are, it’s not something we admit easily. You know how these things escalate… with tiny jabs that start to chisel away at the soul of the person you love most in the world. But why?

It’s science – apparently – at least that’s how our pastor explained it during a sermon a few years back. He said that the term bird brain isn’t just an insult to be cast in the heat of a moment. There’s an actual, physiological change that happens in our brains when we feel threatened or angry, triggering a fight or flight response. In essence, the rational part of our brain (prefrontal cortex, which has evolved with humans over time) shuts down, leaving us only with a heightened sense of emotion and intense memories of events. As birds are generally thought to have inferior brain function to humans, we too become inferior versions of ourselves when we are angry. Our ability to reason is overtaken by our desire to win.  Any selflessness we typically feel dissolves into bitterness.  And sometimes, we just leave. (By the way, men, chase her. She’s always wanted to be chased.)

Understanding this principle has brought grace to our household.  We don’t always avoid conflict, and we’re definitely not exempt from casting hurtful looks or comments on occasion, but with the simple declaration, “bird brain!” – yes, we actually say it to each other – a level of mutual understanding can be reached.  We appreciate that the perpetrator, right or wrong, isn’t acting in a way that’s true to who they are, or to the love that they have in their heart.  We can rest assured in the knowledge that this too shall pass, and forgive each other for what is said when we quite literally aren’t ourselves

If you can reconcile a conflict, you can survive anything (so long irreconcilable differences). Conflict resolution is arguably the most critical skill in keeping a marriage together. Challenges are inevitable. Marriage is hard. None of us are perfect. At one point or another, we will all do and say things that hurt the people we care about – it’s rotten, but it’s true. Don’t cry over split milk. Don’t throw away something great over hurt feelings. Forgive yourself. Forgive others, and let love back in.

xxx,

MamaFulch

“Faith hope and love are some good things he gave us, but the greatest is love” – Alan Jackson & The Bible 😉

1 Corinthians 13:13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Ephesians 4:31-32 31 Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. 32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

Doing It All, or Doing Nothing At All?

Reflections of a Former Working Mom; and Confessions about Staying Home

I’ve been a stay at home parent for all of five months, but I can tell you: It’s not for wussies.  I adore my kids, and am grateful to be in a position to stay home with them, but I’d be lying if I said it was easy – physically or emotionally.

I spend my days chasing a goal that is unattainable. A clean & organized house where everything is functioning properly, kids that are bathed, dressed and fed, clean laundry that’s folded & put away. Why can’t dinner make itself, and dishes magically disappear? I daydream about a moment in time when my chores are complete, I put the kids down for a nap, and spend just thirty minutes of quiet time with a glass of sweet tea (okay, a bottle of Sauvignon Blanc). Day in and day out I work towards this goal, but it keeps getting further from my reality. Everyday, I complete the same tasks over & over again. No tangible progress, & certainly, no thank you.

The hardest part?  I don’t clock out at 5:00, and my kids don’t leave town on Friday afternoon.  No, my work days continue right on through the night and into the weekend. 2:00 am nightmare; I’m there. 4:00 am feeding; I’m on it.  Then tomorrow, I’ll sleep walk my way through the exact same to-do list. Sometimes I wonder, what is the point?

Over the years, my view on stay at home parenting has changed dramatically. As a child, with a stay-at-home mom of my own, I naively believed that a woman only worked if her family depended on her financially. As a young professional, I quite ignorantly believed that the only reason a woman would choose to stay home, was if she were lazy, or incompetent in the workplace. In other words, I viewed staying home with kids as a cop-out. Hah!

Now, I’ve tried it all: Full-time working mother, part-time working mother (still nearly full time – without the health benefits – insert eye roll), and finally, an unemployed SAHM. My only conclusion; I’ve yet to find an assignment that lives up to all its glory.

Since the birth of my first daughter, I’ve struggled with the guilt and insecurities that come with trying to decide how to balance my time as an individual, contributing spouse, and a mother.

As a working mom, I couldn’t stand that I had to drop my child off each morning to be cared for by someone else. I spent those first few months back at work fighting back tears at the most inopportune times. The evenings and weekends were spent catching up on the housework and errands, rather than on quality time with my family. I almost never made dinner (like I thought a respectable wife should), instead, take out became the norm.  I was drowning in responsibilities, yet felt astonishingly inadequate.

Then, I cut my hours at work, but many of the same problems remained. Less hours in the office didn’t exactly equate to “less work”, but it did mean less pay. There was guilt around accepting less money for my family. There was guilt when I left the office before the rest of my team – the looks, the comments:  “well, you’re not in tomorrow, so…”.  The one day each week I was home with my daughter was spent fielding emails and doing laundry while she was parked in front of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse – enter, mom guilt.

And finally, here I am, a SAHM, with almost nothing to show for a day’s work. There is always a room that needs picking up, laundry that needs washing, dishes that need cleaning, someone that needs feeding or a bum that needs wiping. The only time I sit down is to nurse the baby, and still, my husband comes home to a messy house (despite the fact that I’ve cleaned it top to bottom – twice), and a disheveled wife.

Ironically, I had more free time as a working mom with my daughter in someone else’s care, than I do now that my days are unscheduled. Oh how I miss that quiet cup of coffee as I scroll through my emails. I do manage to make dinner now, thanks to a company that leaves recipes and fresh ingredients on my doorstep once weekly. And I’m eternally grateful to services like Amazon Prime & Disney Junior on Demand, without which I would probably self-destruct. 

So, let’s stop judging ourselves and others for how hard we work, or don’t. It’s important to remember that we are all doing the best we can with what we have. I know, you’ll inevitably continue your social media posts of freshly baked cookies, flower-adorned infants and clean family rooms, but unless you’re a SAHM with a full time nanny (or you have just one, amazingly well behaved kid), I’m calling your bluff.

xxx,

MamaFulch

Matthew 6:34:  So do not worry about tomorrow; for tomorrow will care for itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Dear Daughter…

Sweetheart,

From the moment I first set eyes on you, I’ve wanted to protect you.  Protect your tiny body from physical harm. Keep that precious heart from ever breaking. And prevent your vivacious soul from ever being stifled by the words of others. Having you has been like watching my own heart walk around outside of my body – I care so deeply, yet I have so little control. 

This world is beautiful. This world is messy. It’s cruel and unfair but that’s okay, because it’s also spectacular.

With each passing day my heart breaks a little bit, as I watch the baby slip away. Still, with every new milestone you reach, I beam with pride at the little girl you’re becoming. Bold, daring, brilliant, compassionate and full of empathy – you are more than I ever dreamed a little person could be.

Yes, I want to protect those qualities with every inch of my being, but I know that I can’t – that I shouldn’t. Every broken bone and heartache will heal, and you’ll be stronger for them. And so, I will be a spectator to your life, trying hard not to intervene, although I’ll want to.

As you travel your path, know that there will always be someone richer than you, but that true treasures are of the heart.

Know that there may always be someone more beautiful than you, but beauty is subjective.  Your daddy and I look at you and see the most lovely little girl in the whole world.

Know that there will always be someone out there who’s smarter than you, but so long as you follow your conscience, you will be unstoppable.

No matter where life takes you, you will be loved by your family and by God; to us, you are perfect – created in His image to be nothing short of amazing. But most importantly, I hope that you love yourself – unconditionally – despite any bumps along your road. You deserve nothing less.

When life gets hard, turn to the Lord. When it’s easy, stay humble & open your heart to others.

You, my darling, are going to do amazing things in this world.

You are my reason for being. My pride. My joy. My LOVE.

xxx,

Mama

The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; His mercies never come to an end; They are new every morning; Great is your faithfulness. – Lamentations 3:22–23

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