Zack and I went ice skating last month in Los Angeles. I was about 5 months pregnant, and as Zack laced up my skates it was right then we realized this was our very first time ice skating together! Of all the years we’ve lived in cold weather states, of all the adventures and dates we’ve been on, we’d never gone ice skating together. I couldn’t believe it, and it was a sweet moment for me. A “first”, in our 11 years of dating.
As we were walking to the rink, a woman sitting nearby commented about my baby bump. And of course it felt only natural to blurt out, YES, AND THIS IS BABY NUMBER THREE! I love saying we are expecting our third baby :) We stopped to talk about Maxwell and Natalie (and their ages), which quickly transitioned into how fast the seasons of motherhood change and how we mamas have to work even harder to keep up! We talked for a few more minutes before she left me with this compliment, “Motherhood must come really natural for you, because you make it sound so easy.”
And honest to goodness, in that exact moment all I could think about was my “mama toolbox”, and the different things I’ve been taught (or have learned) over the last few years.
These tools have helped me in extraordinary ways, here are some of my favorites:
+ READ A BOOK: I have so much to share on how important it is to be reading! :) Last year I started a book club. I LOVED having something to read with a group of friends! Every six weeks we met to discuss the book, and oftentimes we shared book titles to read outside of book club, which encouraged me to read a little more frequently. Some of my favorite books can be found HERE, but one of my truly all time favorites is The Fringe Hours (also my inspiration for starting a book club). Jessica openly shares it’s not a book about doing more, but rather on empowering women to do more for themselves so they can be more: creative, fulfilled, and alive. Jessica recently released a book called My Fringe Hours which serves as a workbook companion to her previous book. And, The Fringe Hours is available for just $1.99 this week via Amazon Kindle! Something else to consider: reading opens up a world of inspiration for you to float on. That may be my favorite part of why I read.
+ PLAN NUTRITIOUS MEALS: When the meals are planned and there is nutritious food in the fridge, I feel like I can conquer the world! Seriously. Mothering is so much easier for me when everyone (including mama) is well-fed :) Knowing what we’re going to eat for breakfast, lunch and dinner each day/week — including snacks, has never steered me wrong.
+ TAKE A NAP: Daily. And never apologize for taking your daily nap :) Sometimes I lay down and 20 minutes later I wake up feeling totally refreshed. Other times, and most often, I sleep for at least an hour. Each time I nap I’m amazed at how much better — happier, even, I feel about the rest of the day. When do I find time to take a nap? When the kids are sleeping, of course! When Natalie was a newborn, this took some time to establish, but being consistent with our naptime routine has helped me in big ways. Do you work outside the home full time? Perhaps you could take 20 minutes immediately upon arriving home to refresh, either through a nap or by taking a quiet bath.
+ KEEP A LIST OF “FUN”: Oftentimes making a little list of fun things to do is just the encouragement I need to make it through when I’m knee deep in the chaos. Here are some of my favorite fun things: paint my nails, learn something new, go for a run, plan a trip to the fabric store, meet a friend for coffee, color, watch a movie with homemade popcorn, take a hot shower, make myself a cup of tea, meet with my girlfriends, invest in my marriage (go on a date, cook a special meal at home, watch a movie, set goals for your future, plan a vacation, going to bed early).
+ KEEP A LIST OF “GOALS”: Ask yourself: What am I looking forward to (outside of my role as a mama)? What do I want to accomplish? What is on my wish list? Then ask yourself, How can I get started? Keeping a list of achievable goals will help you see what you’re working towards during your fringe hours, especially when you work in 20 minute increments. And, like I mentioned above, consider goals that are just for you (taking care of yourself now as an individual will help you thrive later as a mother). Do you need a little help finding time to work on your goals? Here’s a downloadable time tracker to find, plan, and maximize your fringe hours.
+ KEEP A LIST OF “TO DOs”: When the kids are playing well together, and I suddenly I find myself with some extra time, I’ve found it’s so helpful to have a list of important “to do” tasks ready to go. Knowing exactly what I need to work on when I finally have a little bit of time on my hands, like call my doctor, research moving companies, or write a thank you note, has helped me get through my to do list without delay. Also, hello helping our family move from California to Michigan!
+ SHARE WHAT YOU LEARN: I’ve been so encouraged by friends who have shared with me what they’ve learned as a mama themselves! I clearly remember feeling overwhelmed last year over how I’d get newborn Natalie, toddler Maxwell, and our dog Bauer down a flight of stairs (our apartment was on the second floor) with a double stroller in tow. I honestly remember feeling overwhelmed over how to figure out a solution. One of my dear friends gave me a few suggestions, and her advice saved me from those continued feelings. The advice of another dear mama is so important — often invaluable!
+ SAY “NO” UNAPOLOGETICALLY: If something doesn’t work for your schedule, if you simply have no interest, if you aren’t excited about the task, if, if, if. If you are at all hesitant, listen to your soul and respond accordingly. I’d also like to add, consider how saying “yes” would make you feel. If you’re going to feel overwhelmed, even if it’s a task you want to do, you must say no unapologetically… for the sake of yourself. (Here’s an encouraging post by Myquillyn Smith.)
When I pair these tips with what I know to be true about me, how our family works best, and our family goals, these eight tips are my lifelines to being able to mother at my best. None of the creative activities I find time for would happen without preserving my fringe hours (or knowing how to find them). A favorite “fringe hours project”? Making a quilt for Maxwell.
When I reached the point in life where I stopped considering how others would feel about me, before considering how I would feel about myself, is when I felt I was really thriving as a mama. Almost all of the time, the choices I make regarding our schedule, how I use my personal time, and how I parent our children, do not affect others. And, this has released a lot of unnecessary guilt for me.
My fringe hours, they are so important to me. And not just for one person (me), but for my entire family. Do you protect your fringe hours? Or, do you need a little more encouragement in this area? Leave a comment below sharing with me where you’re at and I’ll pick a winner to receive a copy of The Fringe Hours and My Fringe Hours, both by Jessica N. Turner, a little gift package from me :)
UPDATE: the giveaway is closed!
A winner will be picked on Sunday night (1/17) and will be notified via email. Good luck, and thanks for entering! (Giveaway open to US residents only.)