advice

The Busy Mom's Guide to Spring Cleaning

The Busy Mom's Guide to Spring Cleaning

This guide walks you through some of the major areas of spring cleaning the busy mom way.  It has been spring for a few days now, so its officially time to start opening the doors and windows and cleaning house.  But if you are like me, you don't suddenly have tons of time to devote to cleaning.  This post will break down how to get that deep down clean feeling in your flooring, windows, and curtains with simple steps and in less time!

A Bedtime Routine that Works

A Bedtime Routine that Works

Getting your kids to bed is hard.  They don't want to go to bed yet, they want these pjs not those, they need 10 bedtime stories, now they need water.... Getting the kids finally settled can be exhausting especially when you are already exhausted.  I'm usually on my own for bedtime since my husband mostly works nights.  Because of this, I have developed a process that gets both kids to sleep without fuss 6 out of 7 days a week.  

Happy Marriage Tip: Nagging Doesn't Work

Happy Marriage Tip: Nagging Doesn't Work

You may or may not have realized this, but men and women are built differently, and I don't just mean physically. By nature, we are innately wired to think and interpret situations differently. We react differently in a given situation and we prioritize differently. Today, in light of the never ending to do list that comes with the holiday season, I thought we'd discuss how the difference between men and women relates to nagging: i.e. repeatedly bring up what needs to be done and the fact that it hasn't been done yet.

Part 3: Tips for Working Moms 

Here we are at the final part of the series on tips for working moms. We have talked already about mindset, prioritizing, and removing distractions in part 1 which you can find here. In part 2, we discussed practical tasks that can make family time run more smoothly. You can find that article here. In this final post, we will discuss essential things that should be included in your schedule to make you a happy healthy mom. We will also talk about why they are so important. Sometimes as working moms we feel like we need to spend 100% of our time outside of work with our kids. We can feel like time out for ourselves or with our significant other will only decrease our quality time with our kids even more. The thing is, if we don't nurture our relationship with our spouses and ourselves, we may have increased time with our kids but far less quality.

If you spend more time with your kids but don't take anytime for yourself, your kids get a crankier, more exhausted you. It's better to take some time out so you can be your best self. The following tips are things that need to be included in your monthly calendar to be your happiest self.

1. Spend Time with Your Partner

This is important for so many reasons. Firstly, it's important to let your partner know that they are still an essential part of your life even though you have kids.  They need to feel important and wanted as well.  Spending quality time with your partner can help you relax.  Take a break from talking about kids and stresses and bills and just enjoy each other's company.  This helps you promote a healthy relationship between the two of you.  This is important not only for yourselves, but it is also important to model healthy relationships for your children.

Secondly, alone time with your partner helps you get on the same page as far as the kids.  Know what their current favorite thing is, or what they are having trouble with in school.  You want to discuss how you are handling different situations with your kids so can have consistent behavior.

Lastly, you need to have intimate time with your partner.  This is essential to a healthy, happy relationship.  Sometimes you might feel exhausted from your day and just not be in the mood.  Do it anyway.  You will get in the mood.  A lot of the time, it's one of those things where you can fake it til you make it.  It brings you closer to your partner and can reduce stress, the very thing that was preventing you from getting in the mood in the first place.

Try to plan at least a couple date nights during the month, have a few evenings to chat about family stuff, and be intimate as much as possible.

2. Fit in Some "Me Time"

The unhappiest, most depressed moms are the ones who feel like they are constantly giving.  They give to their job, their children, their spouses, their family, their community.  They lose themselves by taking on the happiness and well being of everyone else.  They put themselves last.

This is an absolutely terrible idea.  In order to be the best mom you can be, you should be happy and fulfilled.  People can tell when you are faking it, especially kids.  By fitting in a little me time, you can renew your whole energy. It doesn't have to be a weekend away at the spa to be effective.  It just has to be something that makes you feel happy and fulfilled.

I love dance; it is my passion.  When I am not pregnant I rehearse and perform with a dance company.  This is my time to do something just for me.  We rehearse one day a week, a few weeks a month and perform a few times a year.  This is something I need in my life to be my happiest self. Sometimes I feel bad leaving Tyler behind with grandma when I leave to rehearse, but I always feel reinvigorated after rehearsal.  I'm excited to see him and he's excited to see me.

You might take some time out during the week for a group fitness class and enjoy the community of other women.  Maybe its a mani/pedi at the nail salon. Maybe a monthly brunch with your girlfriends.  Whatever it is that makes you happy and feel like yourself, make time for it.  It can only make you a better mom.  Your kids will thank you for it later!!

3. Plan Specific Family Time Activities

I know you love your kids.  I love mine too.  But sometimes after a long day, I cannot keep up with the sporadic switching from activity to activity and game to game.  I want to spend time with Tyler, but I'm tired.  Especially now at 38 weeks pregnant, going from puzzles to Legos to Mashems to puppets to everything else all in one evening just makes my head hurt thinking about it.

One or 2 nights a week plan specific family time activities.  Tell your kids ahead of time, so its something to look forward to.  for example you can have an Star Wars movie night.  Make popcorn and get them in their favorite Darth Vader jammies. Enjoy the movie together as a family. You get to spend time together and it feels like its an event for the kids.

You can plan a family game night.  Play Candy land and have the different candies from the game.  If you land on that area of the board you get the candy.  You can make or buy gingerbread men and decorate them together.  You might play Candy Land all the time, but this makes it a special event.

Little things you can do to make an ordinary event a little more special will be greatly appreciated by your kids.

I really hope you enjoyed this series of tips for working moms.  I know I enjoyed putting the articles together.  We can't be perfect all the time.  Some months things come up and we might miss a date night, or my me time might get short changed. We might let mom guilt slip in once in a while or we might accidentally double book a date.  But if we make an effort to work on these 9 tips, we will be happier, healthier, better, more loving moms.

In light of the upcoming birth of baby Hailey, on Friday, we will be talking about the transition from one to two kids.  Since I do not yet have experience with this, I have compiled interviews from a few bloggers and we will be hearing their advice on how to get through this change.  I will see you then.

Cheers,

Emily

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Part 2: Tips for Working Moms

It's time for part 2 of our 3 part series of tips for working moms. If you missed part one, you can find it here.  Last time we discussed tips relating to mindset. We lost the guilt, found jobs that fit our priorities, and minimized distractions. Our next three tips involve things you can do to maximize your enjoyment of your time with your family. These are not new ideas, but you may not have previously considered how these habits will help improve family time.

1. Prep for your family's day the night before

This can be a hard habit to get into. At the end of a long day of work and family time, you just want to relax. However, a little prep in the evening can make for a far more enjoyable morning.

If you are not a morning person, getting yourself ready in the morning can be a struggle. Add kids and it only gets more hectic and chaotic. You are on a time table and a lot of things need to happen before you head out the door. Many of these things can be done or at least prepped the night before.

For school aged kids, have them pack their backpack the night before immediately upon finishing their homework. There is no reason it needs to stay out and this means they can just grab and go in the morning. Have them also set out their clothes for the next day. This makes for less of a struggle the next morning when they have to get dressed. If you pack lunch for them, try to pack it the night before so again, it is something you can grab and go.

For kids in daycare, you can make sure their bag is packed and their clothes are laid out the night before. Also have your own bag packed and clothes laid out the night before. This makes mornings run far more smoothly. You can't completely avoid hiccups, but you can minimize them.

How does this maximize family time? It makes you less stressed in the morning. Your kids get to see you happier and relaxed when you start your day together. When you are away from the house for most of the day, you don't want the time you do spend  together to be rushed and stressed. This includes the morning. With all this prep work done the night before, you may even have time to sit and have breakfast together. What a great way to motivate you through your day after having already had some quality family time in the morning!

2. Create a Family Calendar

I won't go over the practical steps to actually create such a calendar as I already have a whole post about it here. Instead, I will talk about why it's so important for working moms and dads.

Having everyone on the same page is essential for busy families. Calendars should be updated immediately upon notification of new events. This helps prevent conflicts and over scheduling. Prioritize family activities, make sure your kids know that their activities are important to you.

For our family, I work days and my husband works nights and weekends. Therefore, on any evening my husband happens to be off, we try to maximize our time together. Sometimes this has to be time to get things done around the house, but we try to make sure we have family time as well. For his weekend days off, we try to ensure we do some family activity like a trip to the park or the zoo.

Try not to double book, if possible. If your kids have an event make a point of not scheduling something for yourself. One of the most important parts of being a working mom is making sure your kids know that they come first. Emergencies happen, but if you generally make it to their events, it's easier to accept the one or two times when that's not possible.

3. Stay Connected During the Day

It's hard to focus when we are preoccupied with other things.  If we are at work and thinking about what we are missing at home, we will be less efficient and less happy.  Missing the kids can be a major distraction.

Some days I can easily get through my work day and then I'm ready for family time when I get home.  Other days I miss my peanut during the day and wish I could just be home seeing what he is up to. If I dwell on that all day, I'll never get my work done. I am a big proponent of recharging your battery. One way to do it is a quick chat with the kids.

On the days where I miss the little guy, a quick FaceTime call can really turn the day around. A few minutes chat with T and hearing about his day can really fill my cup. It also helps him feel like he has seen me more during the day. If your kids are in school, get a quick update on how the school day was in the afternoon. These few minutes of break time can allow you to focus better and actually get more done during your day.

I hope you find these tips helpful. These are concrete things you can do to help ensure that family time is enjoyable. They are little practical tips that can reduce your stress when you are around your family. In the last part of the series, we will discuss ways to maintain good relationships with your family and yourself. You can look forward to seeing that post on Tuesday.

In the meantime, enjoy your weekend!!

Cheers,

Emily

P.S. You can find Part 3 of this series here.

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5 Tips to Enjoy Events with Kids

If you read my post earlier this week, you know we had a great experience at the Pez Factory Easter Egg Hunt this past weekend. In case you missed it, you can read that post here.  You can also read news coverage of the event here.  However, you would also be aware that there was utter chaos and unfortunate behavior at the event as well.  Mostly on the part of the parents. Thus, I've decided to compile a list of tips to ensure that you can enjoy your events with kids and make the most of your experience.  

1.Read the Instructions in Advance: Before you attend an event, you should know what you are getting into.  What is the setup?  Is there a cost?  What should you bring?  In the case of the egg hunt, the directions specifically stated that there were separate start times for each age group.  We also knew that the egg hunt was free but pictures with the Easter bunny required paying the admission fee to enter the visitor's center.

2. Pay Attention to the signs and Staff at the Event: As the parent, you should be paying attention to all the signs and staff members at the event.  This can be hard when you are also corralling your kids.  If possible have a second adult with you so that one can get all the information while the other keeps an eye on the kids.  At the egg hunt, there were signs specifying which area was for each age group.  Also, the staff members came around to everyone and explained that the turn out was far greater than expected and therefore, if anyone did not get an egg, staff would be giving out candy in front of the visitor's center.  Therefore, there was no reason for parents to take eggs from the other areas of the field. There was also no need to push and shove to get an egg.

3. Determine the Cost of the Event and Base Your Expectations on That:  Now I am not saying that free events are crappy and all good events are paid for.  What I am saying is if the event is free and you get anything to take home, you are already winning.  There is no need to be greedy or pushy.  As far as the Pez event, the egg hunt was free.  If you didn't get an egg from the hunt, you would still be walking away with free candy.  Especially in the 0-4 age group, I highly doubt that it was the kids pushing to have enough eggs to fill a big basket.  If you want your kid to have the experience of finding a ton of eggs and filling their basket, then you should host a hunt for them yourself.  This was a community event to get to be around other kids and get a few pieces of free candy.  If on the other hand you had paid for an Easter bunny buffet meal and there wasn't enough food, you might then have something to complain about.  Look at what you paid and look at what you are getting and determine if it is worth it.  If not, don't attend the event.

4. Assume that There Will be a Lot of People: Parents are always looking for fun activities for their kids.  Especially on weekends, especially around holidays.  They want their kids to get the full experience of the holiday.  You should go to these events knowing that will be the case.  Plan to have to wait on line.  Possibly bring snacks or activities to do while waiting.  If it's an outdoor event, dress for the occasion.  It is your job as a parent to help your kid enjoy the experience.  You shouldn't be complaining about the line or the cold.  You should be prepared.

5. Remember that it is for the Kids: Remember that the event is for the kids.  If they are perfectly content with their one green egg, you don't have to go around picking up more eggs yourself so that they can fill their basket.  If the event is not a competition, don't make it one.  My son had his eyes set on one green egg and when he got it he stopped looking.  I asked him if he would let me hold it so he could get more and he decided to let that happen.  However, if he had said no and just wanted that one egg, then that's what he would have gotten.  A kids event is no time for parents to act on their desires.  If you want to go on an egg hunt, ask someone to set it up for you.  Otherwise, the important thing is that your kid is happy and satisfied.

My comments on these 5 tips obviously revolve around our recent experience at the egg hunt.  However, they can also be applied to a kids event/party.  Know what you are getting into and know the rules.  If its not for you, then just don't go.  Always keep in mind that the end goal is that your kids have fun, and not at the expense of other kids.

Hope you enjoy your next event!!

Cheers,

Emily

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Tips for Enjoying a Day at the Zoo

Yesterday, Our family enjoyed a trip to the Bronx Zoo.  My office happens to be closed for St Patrick's Day, so it was the perfect day to enjoy with family.  The weather was perfect, not too hot and not too cold.  Based on this and our many other trips to the zoo, I thought I'd compile a list of tips to get the most out of your day at the zoo.

  1. Get a Membership: If possible, having a membership to the zoo is a wonderful thing to do.  If you plan on going several times during the year, it is definitely worth the money.  It also takes a lot of pressure off any individual visit.  If you just spent a ton of money on admission, you want to see you money's worth of animals and activities.  If on the other hand, you know you can come back as many times as you want at no additional cost, you can relax and really enjoy your visit.  You also have the peace of mind knowing that if it rains or your child has an unprovoked meltdown, you can always come back.
  2. Pack a lunch and snacks: While zoo memberships generally provide a discount for food purchases, it can still be pretty expensive to eat there.  Packing a lunch greatly reduces the cost of your trip.  Additionally, you have your food with you wherever you are in the zoo.  This means you can provide instant gratification when your child(ren) gets hungry.  This can totally prevent a meltdown or a shortened trip.  It is also important to have snacks and water.  You will be doing a lot of walking around so having snacks and water available is important for both you and the kids.
  3. Let your kid(s) lead: You have had many years to explore the zoo and see the animals you want to see.  Now, it's your kids turn.  Other than preventing them from going into restricted areas, let your kids take the lead or tell you what animals they want to see.  This trip after all is for them.  They will be happier and will relish the opportunity to be in charge.  Their happiness is your happiness, isn't it?!
  4. Encourage interaction with the exhibits: At just a few weeks past his 3rd birthday, my son is definitely not reading the signs associated with each exhibit.  He is also not excited by sleeping animals.  Try to help your kid interact with the exhibits.  If the sea lion is "talking", see if your kid can make the same sound.  Can he squawk like the birds? Can she make the face the gorilla is making?  Can he stretch his neck like the giraffe? Can he spot the red bird?  How about the green one? Especially for little ones, the exhibits are only as fun and exciting as you make them.  So have fun.  Start hopping like a kangaroo and practicing your lions roar!
  5. Arrive early and/or go on an off day: By arriving early, you can avoid a lot of hassles that come with outings to popular locations.  You can hope to avoid at least some of the crowds.  Your kid will have the most energy at the beginning of the day.  You can avoid the constant questioning of, "When are we going to see the animals?" You can avoid lines at your favorite exhibit.  Another good idea is to go on a random weekday.   Our trip yesterday was perfect since schools were in session.  We didn't have to worry about a lot of other kids running around and it allowed us to give T more freedom walking around.  He also didn't have to fight for a spot to see the animals.

Here are some pictures from our visit.

I hope these tips are helpful for your next trip to the zoo.  They really make our zoo trips a ton more enjoyable.  Do you have any zoo advice?  Leave it in the comments!

Cheers,

Emily

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