How I discovered you can’t be a SAHM and working mom at the same time.

How I discovered you can’t be a SAHM and working mom at the same time.
Serenity now, Tina. Serenity now.

This past September was the start of a new phase of life for the Bailey household: Both my girls officially became grade schoolers. And that meant a huge change. For the first time ever, I had Monday – Friday, 8:30am – 2:30pm, all to myself.

FREEEEEEDOM! Right?

Well, sort of. I am a freelance copywriter and social media manager, so I still had clients to attend to and work to do. But I thought that at least work would be easier to manage this school year. No more crazy schedule of cramming in work during preschool and babysitter hours. I would have dedicated chunks of time to get stuff done. Thirty hours a week. Heaven.

And, oh, all the other things I could do with that time! I would be efficient! Effective! A kick-butt, part-time working mom, part-time SAHM! It’s that Holy Grail “balance” that so many moms wish they could have, and I was going to have it. (You can stop snickering. I’ll wait.)

I expected myself to have a successful career and a efficiently-run household.

But what I got was exactly the opposite.

In my delusional state — brought on by the extreme joy of my new freedom, I guess — I thought that each week I’d be able to take on more client work, volunteer at the kids’ schools, grocery shop, go to Target, do laundry, exercise, and prepare healthy dinners. And squeeze in some me-time, too. All before the kids came home from school. Then I’d help with homework, get the girls to activities, and get a healthy meal on the table.

I really thought it was possible.

What actually happened was this: I was so frazzled during the first part of the school year that I was an anxious, overwhelmed, ball of stress. Each day ended up being so carefully orchestrated that there was no room for error. When something went wrong or I didn’t get all the to-dos on the list done, I felt like a complete failure. Which was almost every day.

I got to a point where my coping strategy was this: Every Monday morning for two hours, I charted the week out on a weekly planner I printed out from some super-organized Pinteresty mom blog. I scheduled every moment of time down to the hour. I planned every dinner for each night. I planned out every work deadline, every errand, every household task, and every kid activity. Each item got assigned its own time slot. Everything. Was. Planned.

Shocker: This didn’t relieve my stress.

Of COURSE it made me more stressed. It made my kids more stressed. And it became clear that there was no managing this busy, hectic life I had created. It was just too much.

I had vastly overestimated how much more time I’d actually have with the kids in school and held myself to an impossibly high standard. I fell into the “I can get it all done” trap. And I told myself I could accomplish everything a SAHM would do and everything a working mom would do. HA. Maybe some women can do it, but I’m not one of them.

It took living through that craziness for a few months (and more than a few pretty terrible, anxiety-filled nights) to come to my senses.

Now we’re back from winter break and I’m giving myself a do-over.

How am I restoring my sanity?

– The biggest change I’m making is changing my view of myself. I am not a part-time SAHM mom and part-time working mom. I am a part-time working mom who happens to work out of the house. I’m considering the hours when the kids are at school to be work-only hours. No grocery shopping or errands. No laundry. Nothing but work.

My home office is an office, and now I treat it like one. It’s no longer the family dumping ground for stuff that has nowhere to go. I’ve cleaned it out and organized it (enough). Each morning I get up, shower, and get dressed like I’m going to the office. Because I am.

And I can’t even tell you the difference it’s made in just a week and a half.

Giving myself permission to forget household stuff and focus only on work has been so freeing. Yes, there is a lot of dirty laundry piling up. Yes, it’s a little hectic cramming a grocery store run in while my girls are at their dance classes. And yes, I have to go to Target on the weekend. But Hubs and I figured all this out when I worked full-time in an office. It worked then, so it can work again.

After I get more comfortable with my new work schedule, I expect I’ll do the occasional load of laundry here and there to lighten the burden on the weekends. I’ll probably throw a very simple dinner in the crockpot while I heat up my lunch every once in a while. But that’s it — I’m not doing more than that. Work time is work time. End of story.

– Another thing I’m doing is I’m ending work when the kids are done with school. I’m no longer trying to cram in more while they’re watching TV or doing homework. This is making me more efficient during work hours, and more present for them when they’re home with me. There will soon be a day when they don’t want to hang around with me after school, so I’m going to take advantage of this time that they do.

– Lastly, Hubs and I are expecting the girls to entertain themselves more on the weekend so we can get stuff done. There’s no time for me to do projects during the week now, so this is just the way it has to be. But that doesn’t mean we’ll be ignoring the kids. Like this weekend, I’ll take the girls skiing. We’ll play a family game at some point and probably go out to brunch on Sunday. But I’ll also finish organizing my office, Hubs will do laundry, and the girls will keep themselves busy. Or — gasp — even help!

I still haven’t figured out how to fit fun time for me or exercise time in all this. What I’m doing is not a perfect plan. But what is? And I know this has to be better than the first semester of the school year. Anything would be.

I guess I’m getting back to my working-mom mentality. I was able to do it before. Lots of you are able to do it. And there’s no reason why I can’t figure this out.

Right? Right.

Are you going to achieve your goals this year? Or will you give up?

how to achieve your goals for the year

how to achieve your goals for the year

For someone who says she doesn’t make New Year’s resolutions, I sure do make a lot of them.

Two years ago, I resolved to do what it takes to be happy – easier said than done for me. Last year, I made a belated resolution to choose to think kindly of others. I’m still working on the “be happy” resolution, but making an active decision to think the best of people has been going pretty well – and feels pretty good, too.

This year I’ve decided that I’m not making “resolutions” as much as I’m making “goals” for the year. Goals sound more like things I can list out and cross off – a favorite hobby of mine. And I was thinking about how writing my past resolutions on my blog really held me accountable to them. Announcing resolutions to the world shames you into achieving them, I think. And don’t we all need a little more shaming in our lives? No? Okay then, maybe it’s … accountability that we need.

So I was thinking – What if I listed out my goals here, and you told me one or more of yours in the comments? By telling the world about your goals (well, the world of Honest Mom), maybe you’ll feel more bound to them. Then next week when you think, “Eh, maybe I could just play on Facebook tonight instead of writing a chapter of my book / going to the gym / starting to organize the basement,” you’ll think instead, “CRAP! I proclaimed my goals to the interwebz and I’ll feel dumb if I don’t work on them!”

See? Shaming! It works!

Of course, there’s a huge chance that no one will write anything in the comments and I’ll feel really dumb for proposing this. Lord knows Facebook isn’t helping matters by showing my posts to 400 of my 11,300 fans (which is why you should subscribe to Honest Mom blog posts, hint, hint). But those of you who do see this, I’d love if you’d tell me one or more of your goals. Early next month we can check in with each other in another blog post. Sound good?

Okay, here goes. My goals for 2015 include:

1. Start a new weekly series on Honest Mom that features you guys. I’ve asked before, and many of you said that you want to share your stories of parenting and mental health. Soon I’ll be officially asking for your essay submissions, with the goal of publishing one story each week!

2. Combine my copywriting career and my social media skills. I did one social media management project last year, and just found out that I landed another one that involves blogging, too! Wahoo! Also, this goal includes making Honest Mom part of my job and devoting work time to it, and not just trying to fit the blog in wherever and whenever I can.

3. Clean and organize my home office. It’s scary in here. Help! I’m being overtaken by disorganization!

4. Choose to be more patient and present with my kids. This will obviously be a continuous and ongoing goal, like last year’s. I already failed at this goal this morning. Sigh.

5. Exercise once a week. I know this sounds like so little, but I do almost nothing right now. I need to practice what I preach and eat well, sleep more, and exercise.

So there you go. My goals. Feel free to badger me about them. It’ll keep me honest.

Please tell me in the comments about one or more of your goals. What are you hoping to achieve this year? Let’s hold each other accountable so we don’t give up!

PS – Did you know that I have a private Facebook group for moms? It’s for parenting and mental health support. It’s not a place for serious therapy, but it IS a place for advice, commiseration, laughs, and kindness.

If you’re interested in joining, friend me and then message me, and I will add you. (We have to be FB friends for me to add you to a secret group. You can unfriend me after you’re in the group if you want. I totally understand if you like only having FB friends you know in real life, and won’t be offended at all!)

Why this Christian doesn’t want to put the “Christ” back in “Christmas”

Why this Christian doesn't want to put the Christ back in Christmas

You know those people in your Facebook feed? The ones who are yelping that Christmas is too commercial now and that no one remembers that “Jesus is the reason for the season”? The ones who are crusading to “put the Christ back in Christmas”?

Those people drive me nuts.

I think they are missing a huge point: Christmas has evolved to be a holiday for everyone who wants to celebrate it – whether they are Bible-loving Christians or not.

I feel perfectly comfortable saying this, and I’m a Christian – Catholic, to be exact. I know the original, religious meaning of Christmas, and my family and I celebrate it. We’ve got the Nativity scene and the advent wreath. We (try to) go to church. I even started reading a daily advent devotional this year.

But I don’t claim Christmas as only mine.

I’m more than okay with Christmas being everyone’s holiday. I love that Christmas has become a celebration of all that’s good in society: Peace. Hope. Joy. Love. Happiness. None of those things is specific to a religion. They’re specific to humanity.

Yes, Christmas absolutely has its roots in Christianity. It is a religious holiday for many people. Whether some people like it or not, though, Christmas doesn’t HAVE to be about religion for everyone.

So many things about Christmas have nothing to do with baby Jesus being born. Actually, ancient pagan practices are what drive a lot of the things we love about Christmas. Santa is secular (he has Christian roots, sure, but he’s totally secular now). Christmas trees, twinkling lights, festive wreaths, gingerbread houses…these are all fun Christmas things that aren’t religious, and as a Christian I’m totally okay with that.

By the way, we live in America, my friends. Not everyone is Christian, and many people have no reason or desire to celebrate Christmas, due to religious or other beliefs. We need to keep this in mind. I struggle with the fact that, even though I love it, Christmas permeates every aspect of American life in December. That’s difficult even if you view Christmas as a secular holiday, but still don’t celebrate it. But as we all know, Christmas isn’t going anywhere. Ever. It will always be a thing in America. Christianity has always been a part of our social fabric and probably always will be, for better or for worse. Faced with that fact, I like the idea of making this time of year as inclusive as possible, while not shoving Christmas in the faces of those who don’t want it.

I think a lot about my friends who are not Christian and feel overwhelmed by all the Christmas stuff for six weeks a year. I cringe when I’m at the grocery store and the Christmas music is blaring to an obviously culturally-diverse crowd. There’s not a whole lot that I can do to ease the onslaught of Christmas on my non-Christian friends, but I do what I can. I send out a holiday card instead of a Christmas card. I educate my kids about different cultural beliefs (and thankfully, their schools do an excellent job of this, too). And when I see a friend who I know is celebrating a different tradition, I ask about her celebrations and how things are going. Isn’t that the most Christian – and just plain kind and caring – thing to do?

As for the people who rage that commercialism has ruined Christmas? Whatever. It’s only ruined Christmas if you’ve let it. Christmas is about giving! What’s better than that? It’s all about spreading joy through holiday cards and reconnecting with friends at parties. Baking, cooking, making merry – all to celebrate the things that make life wonderful, like friends, family, and community. Many, many people spend much of this season donating time, money, and gifts to those less fortunate. Between my church, my girls’ schools, and my girls’ Girl Scout troops, we are giving left and right – and it’s awesome.

So if you’re Christian, sure – don’t forget the reason for the season. Celebrate Jesus’ birth and all the joy that goes with it.  But please don’t begrudge non-Christians their Christmas, too. You don’t have to be religious to celebrate the meaning of Christmas – which I’d argue is love. And love belongs to everyone.

What are your thoughts on Christmas and religion?

PS: If you want more thoughts on Christmas beliefs, check out this post on the day a little girl made a big announcement about Santa to my kindergartener’s class. Uh-oh.

PPS: And if you want some holiday funny, here’s how NOT to get a great holiday card photo of your kids, and my (fictional) humble brag Christmas card letter I wrote for Jen at People I Want to Punch in the Throat. Plus you can read about why my Elf on the Shelf is defective. And naughty. Happy holidays!

{homepage photo credit: jacilluch via photopin cc}