Balancing Act

When I was pregnant with Ava, there was nothing I wanted more than to be a stay at home mom. I looked at my sister and sister in law’s lives and thought they had it made. While I was tearing myself out of bed at 5:30am to get showered and out the door, they were surely sleeping. While I was sitting in an hour and a half of rush hour traffic, they were surely sipping their coffee while their little ones happily played. While I was rushing to hit deadlines and attend meetings, they were surely preparing enriching activities for their kids or doing yoga. When I was sitting in the drive through Taco Bell line after two hours of evening traffic, they were surely cooking a healthy meal for their family. And at the end of the night, when I was doing dishes and laundry, they must be in bed because they were able to keep up on their chores and shows throughout the day.

After Ava was born, my husband worked incredibly hard to make my dream come true and  was able to quit my job and be a stay at home mom. But I quickly realized my perception of life as a stay at home mom was far from my reality.

In reality, I was awake and nursing my baby at 5:30am. I was indeed chugging sipping coffee rather than sitting in traffic but it was my means of surviving another day of sleep deprivation. Instead of meetings and deadlines I was nursing, changing, rocking, bouncing, swinging, “shhh-ing” my colicky baby and binge watching Teen Mom to remind myself that if they could survive, so could I. Quite frankly the Taco Bell thing didn’t really change because we quickly realized that eating while we took turns driving was the only way we could consume food during witching hour. And when Ava finally went down for her long stretch of sleep (4 hours on a good night), I was showering, doing dishes, catching up on laundry and pumping.

Getting over the expectations vs reality of a day in the life of a stay at home mom was hard. But the hardest part of becoming a stay at home mom was losing my identity.

As soon as I quit my job, I realized that most defining features of my identity as an adult had been my job.What’s the first thing you usually ask someone when you meet them? What do you do? What’s the first thing you ask when you catch up with a friend? How’s work? Where’s the easiest place to make friends as an adult? At work.  Work was where I socialized, spent most of my waking hours, achieved my personal goals, made money, and felt a sense of accomplishment. When all of those things were gone in a flash, I was left feeling unfulfilled.

I spent a lot of time feeling guilty about that. I had the most beautiful baby in my arms and she needed me, how could this not be enough? Dustin had worked so hard to make this happen for me, how could I not love it?

As fate would have it, I wound up taking a job interview where I met an amazing person who told me that as long ago as the 1950’s, house wives/stay at home moms have historically been heavily medicated and depressed. I did a little bit of my own research and found that to be true, at least to recent standards. A survey done by Gallup showed that stay at home moms report higher feelings of anger, sadness and depression than working moms. In fact, working moms reported feeling much closer to employed women without children in terms of overall happiness and depression. But worst off were low income stay at home moms. Seeing this information helped me to realize it was ok for me to want some balance in my life. I don’t have to be all mom all the time, I can still be me too.

But taking this time away from work did have a silver lining in that I was able to reevaluate who I am. I now feel like I have a better sense of myself. I’ve learned a lot about hobbies I enjoy and dropped some that I don’t. I’ve learned where my priorities fall and how to live life with less junk.  I’ve learned that I didn’t love the career I had been building. I’ve learned that along this journey it’s ok to try new things and decide you don’t like them and it’s also ok to fail. I’ve learned that providing my daughter with a loving home means loving her daddy and making our marriage a priority. Most importantly, I’ve learned that teaching my daughter to be a confident woman means that I have to love myself first.

Everything & Nothing

Ever feel like there’s nothing going on in your life and everything all at once? That’s where I’ve been these last few weeks; busy and bored, just kind of in a state of numbness.

A few weeks ago, I watched a Ted Talk on vulnerability. I didn’t realize how close to home the message would hit, but as a first time mom going back to work and starting a new career in a totally different field, I don’t think I could be in a more vulnerable place in my life. One thing she mentions is our tendency to find a state of numbness rather than embrace vulnerability. I realized that’s what I’ve been doing, especially in terms of blogging.

So in order to clear my mind and rid the numbness, today’s post is going to be sort of random, kind of a recap of these last few weeks; the good the bad and the  ugly. (including the part where I’m writing this at 12:40 am.)

One of my first posts was about minimalism and how we had made a decision this year to cut back on “stuff” and learn to prioritize what brings us value and focus on those areas. I think we’ve been doing pretty well with this. We haven’t kept our house as completely decluttered and clean as I’d like but picking up and cleaning has been MUCH easier. I honestly can’t say I’m disappointed that it has gotten messy. I mean with me starting to have three dedicated work days per week and trying to eat at home more, it was bound to happen. However, tonight, Dustin and I each put about 45 minutes into cleaning and our house is in great shape. Before we decluttered, it would have taken us all day to get our house put back together.

Speaking of work, Real Estate is going great. I have so much I want to get done soon and it seems like there’s never enough hours in the day. I’ve really been enjoying my home office. I feel like I get more work done there because there are fewer distractions, but that’s also where the importance of minimalism and decluttering comes into play. I’ve noticed that on days where our house feels messy, my mind is messy and it’s hard to focus with my To Do list staring me in the face. I’m excited to have a clean slate this week.

These last couple weeks I’ve also been starting over with my BBG workouts. I’d taken some time off to focus on healing my diastasis recti with the mutu program but I constantly struggled with staying committed because I was bored. I’ve been modifying the BBG workouts though and replacing ab exercises with mutu core exercises and will probably get back to doing the core exercises daily. I wish I had known about mutu right after I had Ava because it would have been such a better gradual start for me. I remember trying to lunges right after my 6 week postpartum check up and falling over side to side because of my lack of core strength. But now I realize that I love my physical and mental challenge of a more intense exercise program so mutu just doesn’t feel fulfilling.

Ever since starting back in with work, I’ve been struggling to get in a good routine for meal planning and cooking. Actually, if we are being honest, I’ve never been good at this, but lately, I’ve really been feeling the difference in healthy foods vs junk foods on my body and am realizing I can’t afford to eat junk anymore. When I eat fast foods, or processed foods, I find that it affects my mood, my patience with Ava, my energy level, etc. I went through a phase for a while where I was obsessed with sheet pan dinners. I still think they are amazing, but it started feeling monotonous. Then I tried emeals and it was super convenient but we just didn’t like any of the recipes we ate. Finally, this week, I just decided to go the old fashioned way and find individual recipes and make a plan. It kills me, how long it takes me to do it each time, but if we actually eat all the food I buy this way, I’ll continue to oblige.

I do plan to do a little bit of food prep this time around. I don’t mind cooking nice meals on week nights but it kills me, how much prep time some things make. I bought  food chopper at Bed Bath and Beyond last week so I want to chop all my veggies before had this time around. I also am going to prep us some lunch bowls. I’m doing Greek Chicken lunch bowls and Turkey Taco bowls this week. Another thing we really struggle with is healthy snacks, I always intend for us to eat fruits and veggies or nuts for snacks but then when they aren’t easily available and ready to go, we lean towards chips and fruit snacks so this week, I also plan to pre cut some fruit and steam or roast some veggies and make some energy bites.

Miss Yay-va has been a hoot lately. I think I always feel that way about her though. She’s obsessed with all the words we say and is forever copying what we way. One of her favorite things to do right now is throw her hands up in the air and exclaim “Yay!!!” for no reason. She’s also just cut her top few teeth and keeps grinding her top and bottom teeth together. It’s driving me crazy and the only solution I can come up with is the paci. Before this, we were really only allowing it at bedtime and in the car so hopefully she doesn’t become super addicted to it now.

We took her to Cherry Creek mall Friday night to play on the indoor play ground there. She had a blast chasing the other kids, crawling under tunnels, and saying “hi” to everyone. We timed it perfectly too because we got there just as they were finishing their 6:00pm sanitation. I think this will probably become a frequent activity for us. She loves being around other kids and finding things to do in winter that don’t cost money can be hard but this worked perfectly.

Congrats if you stuck around to the end haha! This turned out to be quite a bit longer than I anticipated but I’ve had a lot on my mind (and somehow nothing important) all at once.

Ava’s First Year

This last week, our little baby turned one!

I’m still in denial but slowly coming around to the idea. When she was really little, I struggled with feeling overwhelmed by how much she needed me but these last couple months I’ve struggled with feeling like she doesn’t need me enough anymore. I swear, motherhood makes me crazy haha!

I’ve been reminiscing a lot on how wildly hectic her first few months were. Seriously, this girl did not ease us into parenthood. During the first 6 months, I truly learned that comparison is the thief of joy.  Although her medical challenges were difficult at the time, I’m so grateful God gave us the strength and determination to fight through them and has blessed us with such a sweet, happy, and smart girl in return.

These days, Ava is thriving and such a little character. She is definitely a strong willed little lady and while that makes parenting feel difficult sometimes, I try to remind myself that her strong convictions will benefit her in the future. She is extremely friendly and loves other kids. She also loves music. We can dance and sing for hours on end every day. She says so many words; mom, dad, nana, papa, dog dog, kitty, meow, hiss, baba, hi, bye. She went through quite a strong Frozen kick but lately has taken a liking to Trolls. She’s not much for reading books with me, she prefers to do it independently. She’s been walking with assistance since 7 months but just can’t find the courage to let go and take independent steps. But on the bright side she’s become quite the assisted runner!

I’ve been really struggling with her food intolerances lately. At this age, she’s no longer satisfied with baby foods, or even with table foods that I make for her. She wants to eat exactly what Dustin and I eat all the time. At her one year appointment, we got the green light to start trying some fermented dairy products. So far, she’s done great with baked dairy and cheese, now we are starting to try cheese. I will be so happy when we can be done with her $90/week formula!

I think there’s no better way to end this post than with a gallery of some of my favorite pictures of her first year!


Joy = Profit

It was the Tuesday after Christmas and I was feeling blue about settling back into reality after all the excitement of our first Christmas with Ava. My mother in law had taken Ava that day for me so I could get some things done but I just couldn’t focus on anything. I wanted to work on Real Estate. I also had a ginormous heap of laundry to work on. But everywhere I looked, my house was a mess of clutter and trash. It literally drained me. So instead of working on anything I needed to do, I spent the day resting and watching Netflix.

Luckily, that day, I stumbled upon a documentary called Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things The documentary helped me realize that this feeling of overwhelming stress, drowning out my ability to even get started on a never ending to-do list had a solution: Get rid of the excess stuff.

Now, Dustin and I aren’t ready to call ourselves Minimalists yet but this movie definitely inspired us to make a drastic life change. At first Dustin was hesitant; he wasn’t sure he wanted to get rid of a bunch of our stuff, especially after Christmas when we spent a boatload of money buying more stuff. But after discussing how this clutter was making me feel, he agreed to start but wanted to ease into it. But by day 2, he was texting me from work, telling me what area he wanted to tackle that night.

It’s now been 3 weeks since we started. We filled up around 40 trash bags and made 2 carloads of donations to Good Will. Our house is cleaner than it’s ever been and we are happier than we’ve ever been. We have less stuff, but we aren’t missing anything.

However, more than just cleaning, this journey has been a time of self reflection and has had me trying to figure out why. Why does having less clutter make me feel so much happier? Why does our society keep trying to force us to feel like we need more, newer, better, material items all the time? How did we get duped into thinking that acquiring new objects would make us feel better when time and experiences are so much more valuable over the course of our lives?

And being business minded, this is what I came up with:

Joy = Profit

In business, profit is the ultimate goal. There’s two ways to fix an unprofitable business. Increase sales or cut costs. Increasing sales less painful but uncontrollable; you can’t force someone to buy and more often than not, it costs money to make money. However, cutting costs is less expensive and in your control but it requires sacrificing so it isn’t as fun or glamorous.

Profit is to business what joy is to life. Ultimately, my goal in life is to enjoy it but there are a lot of people that think that money will bring them joy. I fell prey to this for a long time. I cursed my small house for my clutter; I swore that if we could just make more money and get a bigger house, we’d feel happier. But the problem was, earning more money wasn’t easy and we were in a bad habit of buying more stuff when we did have extra money. On the other hand, to find more joy, you can get rid of the excess stuff, live a little smaller, a little simpler and you will find more time to relax, to think, and to enjoy life. And maybe, just maybe, if you break that addiction to stuff, you might find yourself with more money anyway.

What I’m realizing is that living this way is a journey, not a destination. I am challenging myself to question if an item adds value to my life before I purchase anything. Although Dustin is an expert at what I call “Tetrus organizing,” I refuse to let our amount of stuff we own get to a point where things are difficult to put away again. I will spend time cleaning each day to keep the mess at a manageable level. Most of all, I want to live on the profitable side of joy every day.


Fresh Starts

Giving birth to Ava last year was such an exciting, beautiful, and terrifying moment of my life. Of course, I had 9 months to prepare for life’s changes that were coming my way, but I think most moms would agree that there is truly no way to prepare for the complete life overhaul that comes along with being welcomed into motherhood.

In one moment I transformed from Melissa to Mama. I went from a person capable of taking care of her own basic needs to a milk machine obsessing over my little creatures basic needs. I went from spending 50+ hours a week working and commuting to unemployed. I went from a social person to an isolated stay at home mom. I went from having a sense of independence to the heartbeat of my little family, everyone depended on me.

Throughout 2016 I struggled with trying to balance caring for my fragile baby and finding personal fulfillment in this new role. If I’m being frank, I spent most of the year feeling lost. I’ve always been a person who associated who I am with the work I do and my professional development has always been a big part of my identity. To suddenly find myself isolated at home everyday and knowing I couldn’t just pick my career back up where I left it, even if I wanted to, was unnerving. As a result, I tried a lot of different things, wore many different hats. Most weren’t a good fit, but I’m thankful for the support from my family, friends, and most of all my husband for supporting me as I rediscover who I am.

“You will never have to force anything that’s truly meant to be.” This is a lesson I’ve really focused on through my self discovery. I’m not typically the kind of person who has an easy time throwing in the towel and accepting a venture or goal as a lost cause, however, learning to take a step back when something begins to feel forced has helped me to realize I was off track from the path God has planned for me. I truly believe the opposite is true as well, that when you are on the right track, things will fall into place right before your eyes.

As fate would have it, this is what began to happen right as the new year came and has set me up for some big goals for 2017. I’ve finished my classes, passed my exam and am ready to start a new career in Real Estate. We’ve completely decluttered our house and are determined to maintain a more minimalistic lifestyle. The joy that I get out of our house being clean is enormous; I had no idea how much stress this was causing me. I’m also trying to cook more meals and get our lives on a healthier track. But more than anything, I want to focus on figuring out who I am as a person, mom, wife, and professionally. So here’s to 2017 and the excitement a fresh start has to offer!