Who Gets the Best Version of Me?

A little voice crept into my head a few days back asking this question. I had given my all at work that day, put in extra hours, and was not being as kind or patient with my husband or daughters as I would like to be. I was drained. Who gets the best version of me? That day it certainly wasn’t the three people I love most in the world.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

We can’t be “on” all the time. Well, at least I can’t. I get tired. I get impatient. I feel pulled in too many directions. I feel guilty.

Something has to give. I have found that I frequently use up every ounce of positive energy I can muster at work or on other tasks that do not include being a loving and kind wife and mother. My husband and daughters didn’t tell me this. They’re not complaining. Still, I can tell I’m not giving them my all. They’re not getting the best me.

Guess what? My endless work email list will still be there if I take a full hour lunch break to recharge. No one will be any worse off if I fully engage in playing ballerinas with my daughters instead of mentally making a grocery list or worrying about the next week’s work priorities.

Who are the people who really matter in your life? Do you dwell on an unpleasant exchange with a person you rarely see or don’t even know instead of nurturing the loving relationships close to you? I know I am guilty of this.

I am not proposing we slack off at work or start being rude to the strangers we encounter, but sometimes I’m a lot friendlier to the cashier at the grocery store than I am to my own husband. Who gets the best version of me? By asking myself this question regularly, rather than beat myself up for being a sub-par wife and mother, I hope to be more aware, take care of myself better, and save some energy and positivity at the end of the day for those who matter most.

The Bellagio at Christmas Time

A trip to Las Vegas is never complete without a visit to The Bellagio Conservatory. I had never been there during the Christmas season and it was just magical.

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My best friend and I met up in Las Vegas for a quick girls’ trip. She lives several states away from me now, but we are committed to getting together at least annually. It was a magical weekend of long meals and great conversations.

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We aren’t gamblers so for us Vegas is all about the food. And being able to walk into Sephora with a beer, but I digress.

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I’ll post more about our out-of-this-world dining experiences later, but for now, enjoy these polar bears made of carnations. I dare you to try not feeling festive when you look at them.

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Merry Christmas!

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Momming Jessie Spano Style

Do you ever feel that when Jessie Spano had her epic meltdown on Saved by the Bell, she might have been speaking to how her viewers would feel years later when they became parents of small children?

“No time! Never any time! I don’t have time to study. I’ll never get into Stanford!”

I feel that way sometimes (well, except I’m not really worried about getting into Stanford) when all the tasks of work and parenthood seem like too much. If you remember the episode, Type A Jessie overwhelms herself by trying to be perfect at everything. She can’t accept earning a B instead of an A. Then, her caffeine pill addiction spirals out of control until A.C. Slater, pleated acid wash jeans and all, intervenes with the help of Zack Morris.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

Sometimes I feel like I really have it together. I mailed Christmas cards early. My children are fed and have clean clothes. I cook legit dinners a few times a week. I make it to work on time.

But there are many, many moments when any semblance of perfection flies right out the window. I wiped my baby’s nose with my bare hand in front of her daycare provider last week, then proceeded to analyze my action over the next hour. Does this woman think I’m the most disgusting person ever? For the record, I did wash my hands thoroughly a few minutes later.

If there is one thing we can learn from Jessie Spano is to cut ourselves some slack. Perfection cannot be the goal for everything. Something has to give!

Sometimes I need to park my kids in front of cartoons so my house isn’t completely filthy. Sometimes I need to say no to a volunteering opportunity to just stay home for a couple of hours. Sometimes my baby uses a pacifier so we can sleep at night and I bribe my three-year-old with candy to clean up her toys. Sometimes I have a baby bottle in one hand and a glass of wine in the other.

We have to prioritize, be kind to ourselves, stop judging others, and be willing to say no without feeling tremendous guilty. I am working on all of these things as I try to remind myself daily that doing my very best is enough. And if all else fails, let’s launch into our best version of “I’m So Excited” and wait for Zack Morris and his huge cell phone show up before we pop that second caffeine pill.

The Perks of Being a Working Mom

Any mother who has left a baby in daycare to return to work after maternity leave knows that dagger-to-the-heart feeling. I felt it with both my daughters, too, and occasionally still do, but now nearly four months have passed since I have been back to work and I’m hitting my groove. I’m also reflecting positively on being a working mom. There are days when I definitely feel guilt, exhaustion, and the desire to clone myself a few times just to get everything done, but the reality is there are good and bad elements of everything. Today, I’m focusing on the good.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

I firmly believe that we, as mothers, make our decisions with our children’s best interest in mind, and not something we take lightly. Choosing to be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom, or something in-between, can be one of the most difficult, guilt-inducing dilemmas we face. Sometimes circumstances make the decision for us. Further, none of it is necessarily set in stone.

My positive feelings are greatly because I enjoy (usually) my current job and love the daycare/preschool our daughters attend. Would I reassess things if that wasn’t the case? Absolutely. But we can also choose to be thankful for the path we are on and the blessings that come with it.

Here are a few of the great things I have experienced because I am a working mom.

My children meet and make friends. Watching my oldest daughter develop friendships at daycare over the past couple of years has been so heart-warming. I love that she’s only three, yet has already experienced many close friendships.

I, too, meet and make friends. Just last weekend my husband, daughters, and I spent a fun afternoon with a great family we met through our daughters’ daycare center.

Unapologetic quality time. Not seeing my daughters as much as I would like during the week means I allow myself to make at least one day each weekend all about fun. Whether we take in a fall festival or just watch princess movies and make cookies, intentional effort is made to engage in quality time, laundry pile be darned.

Using a variety of skills. I will probably always be better at analyzing a budget than at singing a lullaby. And that’s OK, but I get to do both and how cool is that?

Feeling valued. Moms, you (we) should all feel valued and appreciated all the time, but that’s not necessarily reality. Sometimes our coworkers are better at expressing appreciation than Toddle

The satisfaction of completing a task. Sometimes just cleaning the bathroom with my daughters around seems like it takes 17 times longer than it should. At work (on a good day) I can crank through a to-do list and at least have a few legitimately completed tasks by the end of the business day.

The end-of-day pick-up. You guys, there is absolutely no better feeling than how happy my girls are to see me when I pick them up at daycare at the end of the day. It never gets old.

Mommy Needs Alone Time (But Only 10 Minutes)

I fantasized about my kid-free weekend for a month. I would read, enjoy a quiet anniversary dinner with my husband, and maybe even find time for a manicure. There would be no diaper changes, no Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, and, perhaps most enticing, I would sleep past 6 a.m!

But guess what, as soon as I dropped my daughters off at my parents’ house and pulled out of the driveway, I missed them. Like immediately. I felt like a little piece of me was left behind in my parents’ living room. How could I miss them instantly when all I had wanted for weeks was some alone time?

“Any update on the girls?” My husband asked me as we sat down for our quiet, romantic dinner. Apparently, he, too, was missing our little ladies. My mom texted us a couple of photos of them for us to swoon over.

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(Photo by Alyssa Crawford Photography)

For parents with young children, it is a tremendous help to have people we trust to care for them overnight or even for a short evening out. These relationships and encounters benefit the parents, the care-takers, and, most importantly, the children. Despite missing our daughters, we had a couple of great child-free days catching up on yard work, enjoying quiet meals, and sleeping in (until 7 a.m.)

I think it is healthy for parents to want (and take) some alone time now and then. It’s also healthy for us to miss them while we do that. We love them.

Parenthood is a mixed bag of emotions. We are stressed, blessed, annoyed, amused, elated, and exhausted all at the same time. That’s OK. So take a little alone time, even if you spend most of it looking at pictures of your kids on your phone.

 

To the Guy Who Might Not Read This

Reading blogs isn’t really your thing, but tomorrow we will celebrate four years of marriage and I just want you to know I still think you are awesome. We haven’t had much time for each other lately with work demands and raising the girls, but my love for you is stronger than ever. Whether it is an exciting adventure or a random weeknight doing laundry and changing diapers, I love every day with you.

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(Photo by Mist and Moonlight Photography)

I often write about spouses appreciating spouses and the importance of making time for one another, but I have been horrible at those things lately. You bear with me, and roll with the drama the three of us girls are capable of producing. You are tender, kind, and a wonderful example to our daughters.

I love that you get excited about college football and pheasant hunting while also applauding our daughter’s “beautiful princess” dances and helping dress Barbie dolls. Thank you for being the steady, patient presence in our little family. Happy anniversary!

Soaking It All In

Like a lot of parents, my husband and I spend a good share of the work week away from our children. This definitely leads to some feelings of guilt, but the silver lining is it also gives us the excuse to spend an entire Saturday at least once a month doing fun activities with the girls. The laundry can wait. The yard can wait. It’s all about family on those glorious days.

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Last Saturday this involved breakfast at a nearby restaurant, a trip to a pumpkin patch, and various other activities.

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On these amazing, care-free Saturdays, I focus on soaking in every moment with these three.

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It’s so cliché, but the little ones truly do grow so fast. I love being a mom, but I also find value in my work outside the home. One major perk is learning to make true quality time on the days the four of us can be together. I love those days. P.S. Isn’t fall the best?