Wednesday, January 3, 2018

Balancing Work/Motherhood

I get asked pretty frequently on Instagram random questions about balancing work and being a mama. I thought I would try to answer some of the most common questions that I get from people. I definitely do not claim to be a perfect working mom but we have put in place a lot of routines and rhythms in our family that certainly make the balance much easier! My friend Ashley and I were talking about this topic and she summed it up perfectly: "Set boundaries and outsource all the things!" These two things are the only way I survive!! & having a pretty amazing husband who is SUPER helpful doesn't hurt ;)

Before I begin though, a little back info on my story as a working mom. I graduated college in May of 2013 with a Bachelor's degree in Early Childhood Education. Adam and I got married in June, and then I began working in August. In January I began grad school online through Liberty University. At the end of my first year teaching we found out we were pregnant with Bennett! I started my second year teaching in August of 2014 and had Bennett in December. At the end of that school year I left and moved to a new school. A few months after starting at my new school I graduated with my Master's degree in Elementary education and we found out we were pregnant with Shep. I had Shep at the beginning of the next school year. Now this year, my fifth year teaching, I am at another new school teaching 3rd grade. So long story short... I started grad school and found out I was pregnant my first year teaching, had my first baby while in grad school during my second year teaching, moved schools, finished grad school and found out I was pregnant during my third year teaching, had my second son during my fourth year teaching, moved schools again, and now I am not planning on doing ANY of those things during my fifth year teaching ; )

I'm just going to list out some of the questions I received and my answers to go with them. I don't think there's really any "short" way to do this so bare with me if I get wordy... : )

1. Do you meal plan? How/when do you grocery shop?
This is one of the areas that we have worked really hard to make as simple as possible. Every Saturday we sit down and meal plan for the following week (I have also in the past planned for the whole month. I like that better, but Adam prefers weekly planning). We usually come up with 4-5 meals to cook at home. We eat at home on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, Friday or Saturday, and Sunday. We have small group on Tuesdays where the couple hosting will cook dinner, we usually eat left overs one night, and then we'll go out to eat either Friday or Saturday. We choose meals that are simple, low ingredient list, and things that we know will make great leftovers. Once we have our meals I create a ClickList order for Kroger. It takes maybe 10 minutes to create the list and I usually do it in the car or while the boys are napping. ClickList has been the BIGGEST timesaver for us. I submit our order on Saturdays and pick it up Sunday on our way home from church. We go to church together as a family and then Adam stays for second service to lead a high school group while the boys and I pick up groceries. I unload them when we get home while they're eating lunch and then they go down for a nap. While they're napping I usually prep any food for the week like fruit or whatever and put that in containers in the fridge. Having things cut and ready for easy grabbing makes things much easier throughout the week.

2. What is your diet + exercise routine like?
To be perfectly honest this isn't really an area that I focus much on. I don't stick to a specific diet and definitely don't have a set workout routine. I try to choose foods that are relatively good for me and I like to play outside with the boys when the weather is warm but beyond that I don't do much. I have in the past been really into Tone it Up and saw amazing results from it after having Bennett, but right now in this season of life this is the area that has, unfortunately, been put to the chopping block. However, if it is something you are passionate about/enjoy then you should 100% find time to do it. For me, it's just not something I really care about.

3. Do your kids go to daycare?
Our boys go to daycare 3 days a week and have family come over and watch them on the other two days. We have been super fortunate to have the boys at an amazing preschool a few days a week. We love that they get to spend time with their friends and are learning so much!!

4. How do you do every day stuff like pay bills, clean, do laundry, etc.?
I feel like this topic could be a blog post in and of itself because I have SO much to say on this. I'm going to save the paying bills part for another question further down and stick to cleaning and laundry for this one. Keeping a clean and tidy house is SUPER important to us. We both enjoy an organized, clean space. However, we are fully aware that we live with two toddlers who don't always share that same passion. Over the last 3ish years Adam and I have worked very hard to create a simple, functional home. We don't have a ton of stuff, definitely don't have clutter, and overall just have a lot of organization going on. This helps so much because there isn't a lot to clean. Some of the most practical things we do to keep this house tidy are to pick up the house every single night before we go to sleep. We put any stray toys in the playroom, make sure the counters are cleared off, blankets are folded and put away off the couch, etc. We run the dishwasher every night and do a load of laundry on speed cycle (EMILY LEY TIP!). This little trick seems so silly but truly makes our days so much easier. There is never a moment where laundry is piling up. We also have a robotic vacuum we run at least once, sometimes twice, a day. One random rule that I heard somewhere forever ago, but has stuck with me, is that when I don't feel like putting something away I tell myself that if it's something that will take less than a minute to do then to just do it right then. 9 times out of 10 whatever it is will literally take less than a minute but will save me so much time in the end. By doing this I never have a million things to clean up at night because I've already done most of it.

5. How do you fit in time to study your bible?
For me, this is something that is not an optional part of my day. There are certain things, like exercising, that I truly can live without. This however, is vital to the success of my day. It doesn't matter if you are a working mom, a stay-at-home-mom, whatever, your biggest job as a mom is to pass on the gospel to your children. You can't possibly be a good steward of God's word if you are not consistently in it. Make it a priority! It doesn't have to be at the same time every single day, it doesn't have to look the same every single day, but it needs to happen. Most of my quiet times are actually pretty far from quiet, but they happen and that's the important part. Typically for me I like to read before bed so I will usually spend that time riding the Bible and journaling. My biggest resources that I use during my quiet time is obviously the Bible and my Give me Jesus journal. I also really like the Write the Word journal. I have recently had a huge learning shift in the way I approach my quiet time. I love devotionals but I have really spent a lot of time just truly reading the Bible at its word, studying, and learning more about who God is in the context of the Bible. Check out Nicole's latest blog post if you're looking for some encouragement or accountability in this area.

6. How do you not feel guilty about wanting to be a working mom?
I LOVE THIS QUESTION. I feel like, especially in the Christian community, a lot of emphasis is put on motherhood and how to be a "good" mom. For the first year or so I spent as a working mom I was constantly making myself believe that I shouldn't want to work. If I was a good mom I would want to be home. While I love any moment I'm with my boys, I truly love my career too. I spent a good part of Bennett's first year of life trying to find ways to stay home when really that's never what I actually wanted, it's just what I thought I was supposed to want. For me to feel guilty about what the Lord so evidently wants me to be doing shows that I show little trust in Him. If you struggle in your career and aren't happy find ways to change your circumstances but if you are happy with your job and find joy in it like I do then there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting to be a working mom. The biggest struggle I think working moms face is setting boundaries. Especially as a teacher it's hard to find time in the day to get everything done (I have kids in my room all day long and I am actively teaching so there's not a lot of desk time to lesson plan, prep, make copies, etc.) but I made a decision a long time ago that I was not going to stay at work past a certain time. No matter what. If my work is done early, I leave early. If it hits 4:00 and my work isn't done, oh well it will get done tomorrow. I do not take stuff home to grade, I rarely work on things at home, when I leave the school building I am in full on mama mode. I know that's not practical for every single working mom but for me it is vital.

I had a good bit of questions about finances, budgeting, bill paying, etc. so I'm going to try to address that here as well.

About a year ago Adam and I got very serious about our financial situation. Up until this point we hadn't really spent a lot of time talking about budgeting, saving money, etc. We started studying Dave Ramsey and were both immediately hooked. We made some long term financial goals, met with a financial advisor, and really started seeking a more budget friendly life. Our church teaches us to live by the Give First, Save Second, Live Off the Rest moto and that has been the heartbeat behind the way we budget. The biggest thing for us was creating a budget and sticking to it. We use the Every Dollar app and it has transformed the way we approach spending. I need a lot of accountability in this area and that app did that for me. When the money in certain categories runs out that's it, no more spending. We have become much better about anticipating future large purchases and planning ahead for things. We have paid off debt, stuck to the no credit card rule, and have really learned to live below our means. There are many things we sacrifice on in order to create a financially secure environment for our family. If this is something you struggle with I would 100% recommend finding a church near you that teaches Financial Peace University or look into doing it with just your spouse or a group of friends.