I ran in to my mentor, coach and last employer a couple weeks ago. Both of our lives have changed pretty significantly in the last 3 years and we had lots to catch up on. As we were standing there chatting she gave me a huge compliment. She commented that I looked great (always nice to hear but that wasn’t the compliment) and that I didn’t have that over tired/stressed out mom look most moms with babies and young kids have. She then proceeded to say ” You did that, you have made choices to make sure that you are not too stressed or over tired. It is not luck but your choices.”
It totally stuck with me as I sometimes feel mom guilt or compare myself to others without meaning to and then feel bad that I am not your typical mom! However I feel like people see me or us out as a family and say how “Lucky” we are for many different reasons. I don’t think its luck, I think its hard work, compromise and prioritizing. Most times people mean well by the comment but it doesn’t seem quite right as we work hard to have the lifestyle and life that we have.
These pictures below are such an example. I love them but they were done on a super cold day at 6pm, because I had a conference all day and that was the time we could make work. Fraser had worked a graveyard shift only to come home to watch the kids (I had already left for the day so he took over from my sister). When I got home we frantically tried to dress our kids (hence why Rowen isn’t wearing a jacket, he actually wanted no pants or socks. We compromised). And sweet Grace had just gotten up from a nap. The pictures most definitely don’t tell the whole story, but they captured each of us perfectly IMO and I love them. That being said I wish other people knew when they looked at them these pictures were 15 minutes of a crazy day and don’t depict our full story.
Here’s the thing, we intentionally had three kids under the age of three and we knew it was a bit crazy and going to change lots. However, we both knew we still wanted to be individuals, to have time together and with friends to socialize as adults (we started as just the two of us, and we will end up just the two of us again so we want to keep the love alive, and we actually enjoy each other’s company and like spending time together).
I like working, or I at least like being a part of a team of people working towards something (not necessarily work in the traditional sense). However we both decided with the age of our kids and the hours we would both end up working it didn’t make financial or emotional sense for me to go back to my old job. That being said it wasn’t that I could never go back to work just need to get the kids into school. Just another trade off, I love my life and we both made the choice to stay home but I do not have my own income and people don’t look at a mom and see how hard she works, instead they see a lucky kept lady getting to stay home, sleep in, cuddle a baby and shop without paying for it. Trade offs. I do get to do all those things but I also rarely have breakfast (or at least fresh/hot breakfast), often don’t shower until 3 (and over half the time its with a child), have been puked on more times than I care to count, don’t remember the last time I slept without at least one child in my bed or the last time I peed alone and have you ever tried to shop with three kids under three (best budgeting tool ever)?
Here is us on Market Day, we had a babysitter but figured to make it easier on her and better for Eleanor we would bring her for at least part of the day, this was just what was best for the greater good! I loved planning and preparing for the market, Fraser loved getting to create a bit in his workshop and loved seeing me happy and my kids love being at the farm and “helping” on the days before and after the market. It is not easy, but it is rewarding and fun and was such a great day!
I miss the responsibility and independence and accomplishments that come with having a job outside of the home. Obviously this is always an area that will have pros and cons and I love the decision we made for our family but I definitely think it is a hard decision for every family and again it comes at a cost. I do look at a lot of my working friends in envy and with so much pride for what they are doing. The really cool thing for me is I think as a collective group of friends we are able to get the best of all worlds. I am around if anyone needs any help, etc and my friends are around for me to get to jump in on occasion (like at the farm, getting to work and do the market).
I have managed to find things that I can do part time or on contract and still get the feeling of some independence from the family but not have it negatively impact them. Instead all these things I do make me a better me and a better mom! This idea of self care isn’t new to me, it’s something I have always struggled with (I am an all or nothing type of girl but I am totally working on balance). I decided to start this blog, sell doTerra Oils, help train and teach the girls at The Urban Rack (my last job) and even take on some projects/ events like the Christmas Market at the Farm and my girlfriends long table dinner. These things are not making me rich, to be completely honest most of these things end up costing more than they ever make. But money isn’t the only measurement of success and what these things bring to our family in terms of socialization, feeling of community and happiness and fulfilment out weigh any paycheque they are missing.
Fraser is a longshoremen and he works nightshifts by choice (specifically graveyards). This is one of those choices that we make to provide us with our “lucky” life. The trade off for him working at night is a better paycheque (amazing shift differential), more family time, flexibility in taking time off (when you make more at work you can work less!). With these benefits come costs and the cost to us is nighttime’s alone for mom with 3 very young and not great sleepers, sleep deprivation for both of us (especially for Fraser who doesn’t get many hours a day of sleep), early nights (no more wild nights out TIL 2 am, home before the clock strikes 12… especially when you work at 1am). We feel the benefits out weigh the costs and we try to balance it all, so when we find it taking its toll on us Fraser might take some time off, or we just have some lazy home PJ days.
We were able to do a renovation last year and this year we are able to take a month off to go to Maui, some might consider us “lucky” for having such an extended vacation but I look at it as well deserved time to rest. Fraser has many weeks were he works 7 days a week, and on top of his paying night job he is a full time dad, and a part time handy man for our household as well as for all my wild ideas (like setting up a table at our first Christmas Market). There is also all the things you don’t see, like our less than extravagant vehicles that are far from our dream ride (but we have no car payments!), or the fact that I haven’t bought new bras in I’m embarrassed to admit how long or that Fraser’s gum boots have holes in them! I mean we aren’t poor and hard done by but we also make choices and go without a lot of things.
Its funny though both Fraser and I struggle with taking time for ourselves. It’s hard to leave the other parent with three kiddos and not feel a bit of guilt for it. We are good at getting a babysitter. I never feel guilty paying someone to come and be with the kids but leaving the other parent (who willingly signed up for this parenting gig), and doesn’t get paid, is much harder to do. Just because it is hard to do though, doesn’t mean we both shouldn’t still try. Fraser has a much harder time than I do with just popping out and doing something with the guys or just for himself. This will definitely be something we will continue to work on as we both think its important and something I believe will come easier as the kids get a bit older. It does mean our weekends or even days on a motorcycle are few and far between, or drinks with friends or days spent doing nothing by ours selves are not really a reality right now. But the odd time we do get to do some of these the more we appreciate and enjoy it.
I think the reminder in all of this and the lesson is that we make our own luck. Life is life and making it great is up to us. We really do have the power to make life what we want. We wanted chaotic and crazy and knew what we were getting into. The good so outweighs the hard (because it is never bad, its hard). In my opinion anything worthwhile is hard, so stick it out and the benefits are usually way bigger than you can ever imagine. Check in with yourself often and evaluate.
When we are overwhelmed we look at how we can simplify and what is important. We hire our amazing babysitter and take time out just the two of us. Or we try to see when we need a break and encourage each other, sometimes its me needing a nap after a rough night with the kids or Fraser needing to go out to his shop and do whatever it is he does out there:)
I have a large family who has been there when we need them and are always offering help but we certainly don’t have financial or childcare support that we know a lot of young families have. What we do have is creative help, my sister is always offering to take some of the kids or we trade off preschool pick ups which is huge. My mom is always dropping off meals, coming by to hold Eleanor just so I can get a bit done or even taking our laundry and returning it the next day cleaned and folded. These things are HUGE and I am learning to accept the help that is offered. We also recently hired a house cleaner, and I am learning that is a huge help! It took a bit of work (cleaning the house for the cleaners) and then being out of the house for them was a chore with three kids. However coming home to a clean house is always a good feeling for everyone.
I think another thing I am learning since having kids and more life experience is everyone’s life looks great but we see is just the good stuff not the compromises or things they have given up to get the good! It’s easy to envy or to think grass is greener but instead of doing that make a life you love and you will have no reason to feel that way.
What choices have your family made that were difficult? Do you consider yourself “lucky”? Would love to hear from you…