New Year’s Resolution: Return to Balance

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Categories Balance, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Lifestyle, Time ManagementTags , 3 Comments

Happy New Year to everyone in the HDYDI community! Have you made New Year resolutions?

(Please forgive this post being one day late for the new year. I was making lunch for my girls on New Year’s Eve while working from home. The knife slipped and I ended up needed some minor sutures. The Urgent Care doc banned me from manual tasks, including typing, for a couple of days. I’m glad to report that I’m altogether free of pain now, except for the pain of embarrassment.)

I don’t generally make New Year’s resolutions. My commitment to a two-week balance of my priorities has generally kept me in a place where I’m deeply joyful with the state of my life. I haven’t had a need to make a major life shift at my entry into the new year. Instead, I adjust as I go, regardless of the date on the calendar.

However, I started a new job in August, just as my daughters were starting fourth grade. My dear friend Jen offered to watch my girls after school. I took on the leadership of our Girl Scout troop and joined the leadership of our school district’s parent council for Gifted and Talented services. In the midst of all this change, I didn’t take the time to realign my priorities.

I finally get the point of New Year’s Resolutions. January 1 serves as a reminder to rethink the balance.

So now, here’s my newly ordered priority list. Each item on the list will need some time and focus, if not daily, at least every 2 weeks.

  1. The kids’ immediate well-being.
    • Safety.
    • Nutrition.
    • Intellectual stimulation.
    • Social stimulation.
    • Rest.
    • Play.
  2. The kids’ long-term well-being. Are they on a path to being healthy, happy, wholesome, productive adults?
    • Routine.
    • School performance and enjoyment.
    • Spiritual nourishment and church.
    • Maintaining positive relationships.
    • Socially appropriate interactions.
  3. Friends
  4. My job and my immediate co-workers and customers
  5. My mental and physical health (including getting sleep)
  6. Housekeeping and home maintenance
  7. Community leadership
    1. Girl Scouts
    2. How Do You Do It?
    3. Multiples of America
    4. Gifted and Talented council
  8. Community participation
    1. How Do You Do It?
    2. School
    3. Church
    4. Work
    5. Blogosphere
    6. Volunteering

I know this system works for me. Starting at the inception of 2016, I resolve to get back to it, with my priorities where they need to be at this moment in our family’s development. I’m going to return to balance.

What are you doing this year to reprioritize?

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Mommy Goes to School, Too!

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Categories Balance, Education, Guilt, How Do The Moms Do It, Making Time for Me, Parenting, WorkingTags Leave a comment

Last fall, when my kids were only 13 months old, I won the lottery by learning my work was going to support me in becoming a certified yoga teacher. I work as a therapist at an adolescent and family therapy program, and we wanted to begin incorporating yoga into our programming. (Think, “Yoga for anxiety,” and the like.)

On the one hand, I was completely thrilled. I’d practiced yoga regularly for over a decade and always played with the idea of becoming a certified yoga teacher. Now my work was in support of it. But, on the other hand, I felt stretched so thin already, as a working mother of 13 month old twins. How would I balance this, too? Yoga classes have long been my place for a little “me time,” a place to feel strong and connected to my body.  Would it still feel like sacred time once it was incorporated into my work?

Mommy guilt is ubiquitous, but especially present when we spend time on things other than our children.I quickly learned that this four month long training was no joke! Requirements included quite a bit of reading, two classes at our studio each week, a half hour of daily meditation, an hour of practice at home, and a full day at the studio each week. Right off the bat, I felt conflicted. I already had some mommy guilt over the time I spent away from my kids at work each week. But, this was a significant amount of additional time away from them… not to mention the added responsibilities this put onto my husband.

I found myself wishing this opportunity came a little later, when my kids were older, and I could focus on it a bit more. I was so incredibly jealous of those for whom this training was their sole focus: no kids to take care of, no job to juggle, and all the time in the world (it seemed to me on the outside) to devote to their yoga practice. In fact, I still feel a bit this way. Thankfully, I was provided the space to process these feelings with the other people in my training. The experience made me think a lot about mommy guilt: something I never really understood pre-kids. I would never give a friend grief about taking this time away from her kids, so why was I giving myself such a hard time?

When I think of other moms taking “me time”, I think, “Good for them!  They’re setting a great example for their kids. They’re showing their kids they’re more than just ‘Mom.’” Of course, my kids were too young to really understand why mommy was going to yoga school, or for me to set an example for them about taking care of myself.

Even though I still wish I could have gone through my training when I was stretched a little less thin, I know that there probably is not a time like this in the foreseeable future.

The yoga teacher training gave me one very incredible gift: it enriched my time at work.  Now that I am able to incorporate something that I love into my job (which I also love), it does make my time away from my kids feel more like “me time” and a little less like making a living. And when I do have the time to sneak away to a yoga class or practice at home when my kids are napping, my practice is also much deeper, leaving me a more relaxed mommy when they wake up.  Everyone wins.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Me Time in the Morning

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Categories Balance, Divorce, Feeling Overwhelmed, Making Time for Me, Mental Health, Perspective, Preschoolers, Routines, Single Parenting, Theme Week, Time ManagementLeave a comment

Yep, I’m one of those people. I love mornings. I love the calm anticipation that it often holds, and I love the feeling of getting a head start on my day before everyone else. I know that mornings have fallen out of favor with a lot of people recently, but I’m here to tell you about some of the reasons I get up early to have some time to myself every day.

Waking before your kids may be the way to find time for yourself.

First a little background: I’m a single mother with twin girls who are currently 3.5 years old. I am a full time music teacher in a public school and also run my own online business. I am also an introvert and a homebody. Because of all of these factors, having some quiet time for myself is essential to my ability to function with a positive attitude each day. There are 3 reasons why I think having some “me time” each morning makes a huge difference for me: 1) my brain has time to process everything from the previous day, 2) I can think through and prepare for the upcoming day’s responsibilities, and 3) I can start the day feeling more in control.

1. My brain has time to process

I have a lot of stress in my life. I work in a Title I school with a lot of behavior problems. Communication with the girls’ father is full of conflict. My girls are both 3 years old. Did I mention I have two 3 year old’s? Often when I try to deal with problems that come up during the day before going to sleep, I don’t respond well. When I give my body rest and my brain a chance to process everything, I usually find a much better perspective or solution the next morning. Getting up early for some time to myself, rather than staying up after the girls go to bed, allows me to deal with life’s ups and downs in a healthier way.

2. I can prepare for the day ahead

I know that, in theory, this can be done at night. And if you are a night owl rather than an early bird, it is probably completely effective for you to get ready for the next day the night before. But if I try to get ready the night before, I always miss something. My brain and body are shut down by the time I get the girls in bed- there is no organized or logical thinking happening! By getting up early enough, I have time to think through my responsibilities for the day and make sure I am ready before the girls wake up. For me at least, even when I am able to effectively prepare the night before, I find that I don’t remember everything I had set up by the next morning. Doing everything that morning gives me a better chance of remembering what I had planned the rest of the day.

3. I feel more in control

There’s something about setting an alarm, and waking up when it goes off, that makes me feel more successful. Maybe just that small success of getting out of bed while others are still sleeping is enough to make me feel like I am capable of following through on my decisions. Having time to sit with a cup of coffee, reflect on the previous day and the day ahead, and calmly prepare for the day helps me to feel like I am in control of my life and that I am equipped to deal with whatever challenges may come my way.

Are you a night owl or an early bird? Do you take time for yourself in the mornings? I really believe that taking that time, even when I would rather sleep in sometimes, makes a big difference in my ability to handle everything life throws my way. What do your mornings look like? Share your thoughts in the comments below.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Working from Home Full Time

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Categories Balance, Childcare, Divorce, Household and Family Management, How Do The Moms Do It, Making Time for Me, Routines, SAHM, Time Management, WorkingLeave a comment

Four years ago, we were preparing to send our children to kindergarten when my soldier husband received orders to move over 500 miles away. We had about 2 weeks to uproot and move, departing the day before the children were to have started school with the children in the neighbourhood. We even knew their assigned teachers’ names. This is fairly typical for military families, but not for us. In my 9 years as a US Army fiancée and wife, this was the only PCS (permanent change of station) I moved for. While my husband went on overseas tours (two to Iraq, one to Afghanistan, and one to Korea), I had stayed put.

I figured that my run as an enlisted wife with a career was over. I prepared to hand in my two week notice. Instead, my employer offered to keep me on as a full-time telecommuter indefinitely. I jumped at the chance to keep a job I loved while keeping my family intact. Instead of spending 45 hours a week in and around the office, I would be working from home, making myself available through email, join.me, Google Chat, instant messenger, and telephone. I took a couple of weeks of leave to pack and rent out our house, find a place to live, make the move, deal with an unrelated family crisis, and unpack.

I initially intended to put my daughters in an after-school care program so that I could work from as I had from the office, knowing that my children were well cared for. However, it turned out that El Paso childcare culture wasn’t one I could get on board with. The one after-school program I could find that met my hygiene requirements was untenable. The children ran mostly unsupervised and were fed candy and soda. I couldn’t bear to allow my children to continue there after the first few weeks brought no improvement. I made the previously unthinkable decision to work full time without childcare.

I know that many parents work full time from home with children underfoot. For me, the nature of my work, my parenting priorities, and my own nature wouldn’t have been able to make it successful if the children weren’t in school for a good part of the day. However, with kindergarten in the mix, the schedule worked out.

6:45 am: Put the children on the school bus for an unnecessarily circuitous but serendipitously long bus ride.
7:00 am: Get online and start work. Thanks to being just over the time zone boundary, this is 8 am at work.
1:45 or 2:30 pm: Take a late “lunch” to drive to school and retrieve the children. This got a little squirrely while the kids were in different grades and got out of school at different times, but we made it work.
3:15 pm: Get the children set up with a snack and craft.
3:20 pm: Get back to work.
4:00 pm or 4:45 pm: Sign off for the day. Snuggle with the girls and thank them for being so mature.
5:30 pm: Prepare dinner.
6:00 pm: Family time.
8:00 pm: Send the children to bed and prep a crafting project for the following day. Take care of housework and try to prop up my failing marriage.

I lucked out, between my incredibly supportive coworkers, the time difference, public kindergarten, the long bus ride, and my daughters’ maturity. I was especially grateful to have kept my job when, 7 months after our move, my husband left me. Thanks to working from home, I had a career, salary, and community to fall back on. I will be ever grateful to my team’s faith in my creative scheduling and commitment to my job.


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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TV is a Tool

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, How Do The Moms Do It, It Gets Different, Making Time for Me, Parenting, Perspective, Preschoolers, SAHM, School-Age, ToddlersTags Leave a comment

I learned a long time ago that I was a much better parent before I actually had kids. I thought picky eaters were the result of indulgent parents. (Guess what! I introduced my duo to the same foods at the same time off the same spoon and one only eats things that are beige and crunchy. He came like that, I didn’t do that to him.) I also thought my kids wouldn’t watch a lot of TV. That one makes me laugh now!

While we are at it, I also sort of thought I would have ONE baby at a time and well, that didn’t happen either.

I am not ashamed to admit thatI use TV as a tool to give myself a break and distract my kids from mayhem. I have been home with them since they were one, and with no family nearby and no babysitters to speak of, I rarely had any time for a break. Not long before my boys turned three I started trying to work from home. I had a small Etsy shop and did custom sewing. I enjoyed the quiet time while they slept and the creative outlet helped me refresh. I was able to use the 2-3 hours they would nap to work on projects and promote my business online.

In contrast, while these two were awake, there was rarely a quiet moment. Here’s a small snapshot of the chaos my duo managed from a very young age. I didn’t include any of the photos where there was blood — and there was blood, more than once. Nor did I include any naked shenanigans, which was also incredibly common. You’re welcome.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me Teamwork: Trying to remove outlet covers with a pretend screwdriver, escaping through the dog door onto the concrete patio, trashing a closet, using an entire box of tissues to decorate their room, working together to escape their play area and unrolling all the toilet paper.

Remember when I said my kids weren’t going to watch a lot of TV? That didn’t last. They were nearly two before we ever turned on the TV for one single half-hour of something with educational merit each day. But then guess what? They turned 3 and all bets were off. Three, in our house at least, was the worst. Ever.

But before that, when my boys were not even two, they figured out and verbalized to me, “There is one of you and two of us and we want to do this!” when I was home alone with them. Most of every day they worked together to outsmart and out-maneuver anything I did. They overcome any childproofing efforts we made and they were giving up naps.

They gave up their nap long before I gave up their nap.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
HDYDI.com Making Time for Me The dresser was moved into the closet, which also had a lock, which did not dissuade them from pulling every stitch of clothing out. They also raided the fridge and the pantry, took a Sharpie to the carpet, and flushed things that should not be flushed.

When they were awake, which quickly became all the time, they were in constant seek-and-destroy mode. BUT, when the TV was on they sat, quietly and slack-jawed and provided me a brief respite. They weren’t trashing toy bins or flooding the bathroom. They weren’t trying to escape baby gates or scale cabinets. They just sat. And it was quiet.

In the beginning, we stuck mostly to educational stuff. They were picking up songs and letters, colors and numbers. And more importantly, they were giving me the break I needed to do crazy indulgent things like shower and cook meals.

At age 5, they still watch mostly stuff with educational merit, but there are more and more mindless shows thrown in there too. By age 4 they could each name 100 superheroes (give or take) and they knew all sorts of crazy phrases and giant words they probably wouldn’t have learned otherwise. They have picked up all sorts of cultural references and they incorporate storylines and theme music into their play.

So there’s the truth: My kids watch too much TV. Way more than they should, for sure. But it helps me get things done and it keeps them from clobbering one another or trashing our house. Judge if you want, but TV in our house keeps the peace. Now that they know how to turn on the TV and navigate around, my work is done and I can retire from Mommyhood.

HDYDI.com Making Time for Me
Look how sweet and well-behaved!

Allow me to share some things I have learned since becoming a Mom who uses TV for distraction to get a little time to myself. (It’s OK, I give you permission* to use TV as a tool to entertain your kids.)

  • Streaming is awesome. Get yourself Netflix or Amazon Prime or something on-demand. My kids have only ever watched on-demand shows either from Netflix or from our own personal video library, which we stream to our TV via AppleTV. They also have channels on the AppleTV you can stream if you do have cable. (We don’t. We canceled it when I was pregnant to cut our monthly bills.) Plus there is a PBS channel my kids love too.
  • Paying for a streaming service means my kids don’t watch commercials, ever. They never have to flip through channels, hoping there is something decent on. They just pick something and watch it. We stayed in a hotel recently and they were so flummoxed not being able to control what was on, but subsequently asked for every single thing each commercial endorsed. That was only about an hour’s worth. I can’t imagine living with that every day. Netflix is less than $10 a month, a fraction of the cost of cable and without the commercials.
  • Making them agree on a show and take turns picking has helped them understand sometimes you do what someone else wants. Is it always peaceful? Nope. But then, neither are kids sometimes.
  • Netflix streaming truly is unlimited. Believe me, we’ve tested it. More than once I have thought, “Gee I am glad we don’t get a monthly usage report showing we watched the same episode of Octonauts 437 times so far.”
  • Use parental controls. I mean, if you are going to plop your kids in front of a neglect-o-magic, at least be a little parental. My kids have their own profile and they are locked into ratings for 8 and under. They can’t accidentally watch Orange is the New Black.
  • Be careful trying to replace paid streaming content with YouTube. It’s crazy easy for kids to click on the next thing YouTube thinks is related and find something you’d really rather not have them seeing.
  • Not everything on TV is terrible. My kids are actually pretty smart and know a lot of things because of TV than they would be otherwise. Sometimes they will start talking about some creature they learned about and will tell me 32 facts about it and I am blown away they retained so much. They also smash things like Hulk so there’s that.
  • Try to quiz them after they’ve watching something to make sure they are actually learning. Tell me something about [whatever] that you didn’t know. It makes them recall what they learned and it creates a dialogue. Even the mindless stuff has morals sometimes. How do you think he felt when that happened? What would you do if that happened? Especially great for kids who might struggle with emotions.
  • When they were in preschool in the afternoons, we had a no-TV-before-school rule, because sometimes it is hard to turn off without a fit. We made the rule and stuck to it. It was disputed the first week or so then they accepted it. Now with them starting Kindergarten we’ve made a no-TV-on-school-days rule so they can stay focused on their schoolwork and activities. They know it’s the rule and it’s non-negotiable. (Exceptions made for sick days.)
  • We do a LOT of stuff that isn’t watching TV, I promise. They are exposed to lots of things in real life too. We try to get out of the house every day and we’ve filled the past 5 years with tons of educational and mind-broadening activities. And a lot of TV.

I know the recommendations of nearly everyone who recommends such things say kids should limit screen time, and TV is not a babysitter and it’s bad for developing brains. All of which is probably true. But in our house, my kids watching TV is essential to MY mental health.

* Permission granted in this instance has zero actual authority and is offered without guarantee or responsibility.

 


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook,Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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SAHM vs Working Mom Me Time

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Categories Balance, Older Children, Parenting, SAHM, School-Age, Working3 Comments

On Monday I wrote about how I (re)imagined “me time” in the midst of twin toddlerhood.  Being a full-time SAHM, I needed that time.  I needed time away from the responsibility of the day-to-day, minute-to-minute needs of my girls.  I needed that time to do something just for me.

Fast-forward a few years, and my girls are 6 1/2.  They’re in school, and I’ve been back to work full-time for about a year now.  They love school (and I [mostly] love my work).  Hubby and I have a great set-up.  I drop them off at school, and he — a high school teacher — picks them up in the afternoons.  He takes them for the occasional ice cream cone or hot chocolate, and homework is usually done by the time I get home at suppertime.

Everything works out great…but I desperately miss spending time with my baby girls.

Our time in the mornings before school and in the evenings after supper is always jam-packed.  On the weekends, I just want to hang out with the girls…but that doesn’t stop me from wanting some “me time”.  I’ve just had to re-imagine “me time” again, this time as a working mom.

working_mom

I take at least one day a week to do something frivolous on my lunch hour.  It might be an errand…a run to Target, perhaps…but I’ll make time to peruse the stationery and take a spin through the Star.bucks drive-thru on the way back to the office.  I might go to the craft store and walk up and down each aisle…alone!  Or I might treat myself to a chocolate chip cookie from the local bakery.

I also get out at night from time to time, after the girlies are in bed.  I recently discovered the nail salon is open until 8pm.  It feels a little rushed…but I can keep up my monthly pedicure without taking time away from the girls.

And on occasion, I still leave the girls at home with Daddy to do something by myself.  It’s hard not to feel guilty…to feel like I’m missing precious time with them…but I think it’s important for them to see me pursue my own interests from time to time.

In some ways, it feels harder to justify “me time” these days…but I know it’s still important.  It’s important for me AND — now that they’re old enough to understand — for my girls, too.

How has your “me time” evolved over the different life stages of your kiddos???

MandyE is mom to 6 1/2-year old fraternal twin girls.  She blogs about their adventures, and her journey through motherhood, at Twin Trials and Triumphs.

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Make Time for Mom: A Theme Week Kickoff

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Categories Balance, Making Time for Me, Mommy Issues, Perspective, Theme WeekLeave a comment

Welcome to Making Time for Me Theme Week 2015!

This week of posts has been a long time coming. The HDYDI MoMs have been talking about getting it underway for over a year. Other priorities were more pressing and I couldn’t quite find the time to pull the pieces together.

That’s exactly what this week is about. As mothers, everyone and everything else comes first: our children, our spouses, our careers, our communities. Many of us remember to nurture everyone but ourselves. We all know that balance and mental health require us to include ourselves on the list, but it’s easy to let ourselves—our non-mommy selves—fall to the wayside.

This week, the exceptional How Do You Do It? writers are going to share our thoughts on the time we devote to being something other than mom. We’re going to talk about what we do during those fleeting moments. We’ll discuss the sacrifices we make to find time for ourselves and the sacrifices we make when don’t. You’re going to read a variety of perspectives because we’re all different and me time means something utterly different to each of us.

How Do You Do It? is, above all, a community, and we welcome your voice too. Share your thoughts with us here in the blog comments, or on our social media in response to our posts. If you’re inspired to write about your own thoughts and experiences making time for yourself, or have an older post that fits the discussion, please link it to our theme week linkup. Tell your friends!


Making Time for Me - a series on mothers finding time for themselves in the middle of the insanity of parenting and lifeFrom August 31 to September 4, 2015, How Do You Do It? is running a series on “me time” for mothers: why we need it, how we make it, what we do with it. Find the full list of posts on the theme week page.

Have you blogged about mommy time on your own blog before? Are you inspired to do so now? Link your posts at our theme week link up! We’ll do our best to share them on Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter with the hashtag #metime.

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Twinfant Tuesday: What Do You Prioritize During Infancy?

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Categories Balance, Feeling Overwhelmed, Household and Family Management, Mommy Issues, Twinfant TuesdayLeave a comment

I thought I could do it all.

Even though so many books, articles and blogs for new parents told me to prioritize, I really thought that didn’t apply to me. For one, I have never cared about having a spotless home—something that has been an issue for my husband! For me, “doing it all” didn’t mean having a clean home, clean laundry, and dinner ready for the husband, all on top of having healthy and happy kids. That’s not what I strived for.

In my mind, I was already prioritizing.

I wanted to breastfeed my twins, play with them, bond with them, tend to their elimination needs. Yes, we tried Elimination Communication for several months. Of course, I wanted to eat every now and then. Before having babies (and again now that they are toddlers), I enjoyed cooking, but gourmet meals were beyond my grasp for the first year. And certainly, I wanted to sleep. But attachment parenting—breastfeeding on demand and co-sleeping—were higher on my priority list.

And I thought I could do it all. I even blogged about it for a while.

But now that my twins are nearly three, I realize how close I was to crashing and burning. In reality, it was more like I was flying a plane with a severe, smoking malfunction that led to an abrupt landing with screeching, slow-burning wheels.

My question to my new parent self is: What took me so long to see that?

Would it have been such a blow to my pride if I had hired a babysitter once a week while I took a nap or even just a shower?

Yes, we call the first couple of years with multiples “survival mode”. If you are in the thick of it right now, you know it is aptly named. But now when I think of surviving, I think of getting through some difficult challenges. I don’t think it means you get out of it barely alive.

If I could do it over again, I would ask for help. I would prioritize… by putting myself up a little higher on the list.

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House Monkey: Meet Mike, Entrepreneur and Dad of Twins Plus Two

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Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, Meet the MoM, WorkingTags 4 Comments

My wife Donna and I are parents of twins plus two. In her first blog she mentioned we have full time jobs and we are building a business together to introduce our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. I might be one of a few males here in the HDYDI community, but I hope you find my side of the journey equally interesting.

Learn how Mike, a dad of four, is working with his wife to turn an idea into a business.

How House Monkey Emerged — Mike’s perspective

Even before we had children we were busy. We both had demanding careers. We were getting married and we had just moved into our home. As you know, the home has a life of its own. Things have to get done. Things have to be fixed and Donna’s favorite, things have to be put away. Translated: the pool has algae; the gate looks like crap; the shovels and hose need to be put away. Besides these recurring fire alarms are the scheduled priorities: vacuum the pool; change the air filter in the heater; shut off the water to the hoses outside. Once we had the children, the “simple” list became a book. Now with twin girls that can walk & talk, volumes!

We needed a tool to:

  • Keep track of things to be done,
  • Get help getting them done,
  • Make sure they were done,
  • Reward the “team players” on allowance day.

Multiple calendars, project planning software, and bingo markers weren’t keeping up as life moved away from our front door. We knew we needed something, but “something” was a black hole of thoughts.

One day the aha moment came. It was a simple thought. We’ve all had it: the “I wish I had that when I was growing up” moment. (Cup holders in the back of the car!) Luckily technology was advanced enough to help get it to where we need it to be. House Monkey became less of a concept and more of a “something”.

House Monkey Today

The last two weeks have been very busy as we have been working diligently towards a summer deliverable for this resource. Donna does the front end part of the business. It’s only appropriate my beautiful wife builds the components (the screens and the way you move around the app) which everyone will see. I work on the back end portions of the business, the stuff no one sees!

Over the last two weeks we have taken delivery of upgrades to our technology, specifically for House Monkey software to organize our development efforts, a server to build a test environment which will be the sandbox in which House Monkey will take shape.

Being so busy, and staying up so late on top of “everything else” has been a challenge recently. Sleep and sanity have definitely been traded in for long hours.

On top of taking delivery for all these technical components, the spring sports season is ramping up. My one daughter had her first horse show. I was very proud of her as she took second place in her first time riding without a spotter. The spring lacrosse season is also starting. My son, the weed, needs all new equipment. Not only a drain on time, as the only lacrosse store is 45 minutes away, but also a large drain on the wallet. With spring comes the beginning of the golf season with outdoor lessons, driving range time and (ugh) tee times.

The only sport winding down is my daughter’s swim season. She swims all year, but her last meet for the winter season was this past weekend. We still need to take her to the pool 3 times a week, but at least the weekends have been freed from long meets in HOT indoor pools. (Don’t tell her I said that, I try to be the dad that smiles… and silently sweats!)

Late winter and early spring have also introduced us to the mid-year slide with school work not getting the proper attention. Donna and I called a “family meeting” recently. We sat them down and explained that this is not ok. It’s their only job. (I think we went on and on a little about how we grew up and what we didn’t have blah blah.)

The hardest part about this time of year is motivating each one. One responds to straightforward discipline (take away TV and the iPad), another could care less about those usual tactics, and we have to take away activities. I find this more challenging because we also believe that when you make a commitment to a team, you need to be there. The third is easy: sit him down and have a “talking to” which will be followed by a “come to Jesus” discussion. The fourth… Oh boy the fourth, nothing seems to work! This is a parenting challenge. We think all of these things could work, but it just takes longer with the 4th. He’s definitely on his own schedule. The apathetic attitude is just frustrating.

The fun part of the last two weeks was St. Patrick’s Day. This is a national holiday in my book and we celebrate it. Irish pub songs start the day on the stereo for wake-up and breakfast. Donna gets the corned beef (60+ pounds this year) in the oven early and it cooks all day filling the house with the scent of St. Paddy’s Day. Friends start coming by around 5:00 pm even though we don’t serve until 6:00 pm…until people stop eating.

Of course there are several hops-based beverages available. The house runs like a diner with people coming and going all night. This year we had nearly 60 people come by with about 30 kids. Needless to say, St. Patrick’s Day is a lot of work but it is worth it because it has become a family tradition. It honors the memory of my father and all he stood for (beyond his Irish heritage). My dad placed a lot of value on family and friendships. He was always the last one to leave an event. We hope to pass down this appreciation of friends and family to our children.

The last two weeks (or years — whichever) have left Donna and I very little time to connect. It was bad, but lately it just seems harder. When the kids were younger and not so involved in everything, it seemed easier. We would book “dates” once a month, even if it were just something very simple when money was tight.

Now, it’s so much harder. Every weekend is filled with something. Swim meets, horse events, lacrosse games, golf games, football games, musical concerts, talent shows…. The list goes on, right? So we made a decision for something big. We booked a 6 day getaway for our 15 year anniversary.

We asked my in-laws to help out and that was it. We booked it!

So, leaving right after House Monkey launches this summer is something we will look forward to. It may take as much planning as the Normandy Invasion, but by God we need some time together that doesn’t include talking about work or the kids!

Can anyone relate?

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The Twinkle Diaries
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House Monkey: How Parents of Twins Plus Two Are Helping Families Get Organized

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Categories Balance, Entrepreneurship, House Monkey, How Do The Moms Do It5 Comments

My husband Mike and I are parents of twins plus two. We both have a full-time jobs as co-owners and division heads of a thriving scientific agency (where we service pharmaceutical clients). That might make it sound like our plates are full, but we’re also building up a business together to market our organizing solution (called “House Monkey”) to busy families. We were asked to join the HDYDI community to share the process of developing House Monkey as it happens. As a mom of 4 children aged 11, 10, 7, & 7, every day seems like an uphill battle (but we moms of multiples know that rewards on the top of that hill are sweeter).

Amazing story! Donna and Mike were inspired by their busy family to put their professional skills to work to create a fun app to help everyone in the family stay on top of household responsibilities.

Here is our story…

Our family (and the House Monkey idea) grew, starting in 2007

I have a dual BS in Biology and Chemistry and a Masters degree in Microbiology.  I worked in Pharmaceuticals from career inception and moved up through the ranks quickly.  Then I had my first child. When I held that little baby in my hands, I knew I couldn’t go back to my career life, which had me on a plane 3-4 times a week.  Instead, I started a consulting business.

I had another kid and my consulting business started growing. Then I got pregnant… with twins. We were about to have GIRL twins to add to our 2 boys.  I was nervous because I had issues with my previous pregnancies: I was diabetic with my first and second pregnancy involved 3 months of bed-rest for near pre-eclampsia.

This is the point where my story usually sounds different that that of other Moms of Multiples. I had my strongest and easiest pregnancy with the twins!  I “ran”, or rather jogged then down to a power walk, up through the last day.  At 40 weeks and 1 day, I delivered set of twins weighing in at a 7 and a 7.5 pound.

I breastfed my first 2 children for 12 months. I was gung ho that I could do that with twins… until I tried. It was a nightmare. Now I was managing a small business, had 2 toddlers (the 4 kids were born within 4 years), and was trying to breastfeed!  Both my husband and I were deeply sleep deprived.  I had to give in and ask him to feed with bottles in middle of the night.  I managed the day feeding for only 6 months.  I finally gave into the daily logistical difficulties and justified this to myself with “Donna Math” 6 months x 2 twins = 12 months!

Then all the house craziness happened. The dryer broke, and we couldn’t find the warranty, even though we knew it was under warranty. We had bought it right before the twins were born. Then the air conditioner broke!  It was one house-related nightmare after another… with twin baby girls and two toddlers.

That was 6 years ago!  We knew back then there had to be a better way, but didn’t have time or resources to even begin to think about a solution.  The first few years with the twins were all about survival!

The House Monkey idea lingered through 2011

When the twins were 4, life issues happened.  My husband was laid off.  He worked in technology (and had been running the IT for my business on the side).  It was at this point that the boys were starting to become active at school and sports.  Homework needed to be attended to, rides to practices… and the girls were still home needing attention.

So we made a huge decision: to put all our eggs in one basket and have him join my business so that we could better manage our kids.

It was a hard decision because our lifestyle was definitely going to change.  We had one thing in our lives that we would not even consider: selling our house.  Mike and I had built it from the ground up and loved it, but more importantly staying in our town was critical.  Our first son has a life-threatening airborne allergy to peanuts.  His allergy was so severe that one day went into a full anaphylaxis walking past a garbage can that had a bag of peanuts in it.  We had just finished establishing guidelines in our town to have him attend school in a safe manner. Leaving our town was non-negotiable.

Mike joined the business and played (and still plays) an extremely active role as a parent.  We struggled the first year to bring the technology (Mike’s area of expertise) to the pharma consulting work I was doing, but we had a couple of good ideas that helped the business grow marginally.  How our marriage survived that first year is amazing.  Admittedly there was much “loud talking” during that “work-life” merge.  I chalked marital survival up to a shared mutual dedication to our vows!

The big “C” hit in 2012

2012 came in with a bang.  I was diagnosed with thyroid cancer.  I felt very blessed to find it so early.

I had started “dabbling” in triathlons.  Yes it sounds counter-intuitive when one is so busy, but honestly having a “reason” to go to the gym when the kids went down at night was a saving grace for me both mentally and physically after working and managing 4 kids all day long.

The last month of training before a race, I was working out 6 days a week and eating properly but put on 30 pounds!  Sparing you the intricate details, let me tell you: be your own healthcare advocate.  My blood levels were all normal, and doctors wanted me to wait.  I insisted on a biopsy for this lump in my throat which, it turned, was indeed cancerous.  I did well, but had to stay in the hospital for a week for a non-planned visit due to post-surgery side effects.

Most of my clients did not know I was sick so the business had to keep running.  The kids were upset.  We were very upfront and matter of fact with them.  My chances of full survival and healing were well over 90% (thyroid cancer is tiny pimple of the cancer world- highly curable) but still we weren’t having them visit me in a head and neck cancer floor.  It was too traumatic, my poor roommate didn’t have an eyeball!

Here was Mike running back and forth to a hospital 1.5 hours away to care for me and to go over the day-to-day tasks of the business.

The kids??? Well let’s just say I thank God for my parents. They stayed at my house during the week while the children went to school. The kids bounced from place to place on the weekends with my two besties LC and JD.  I can’t neglect my mother-in-law, who picked me up at discharge because my husband and parents had caught colds.

What do you think got de-prioritized in 2012? Yes, the house!  Upkeep and maintenance was non-existent again.

Building one idea in 2013

While House Monkey was still less a concept and more an idea that “someone should build something for house organization”, we remained focused on our existing business. The technology and science finally merged together into a beautiful product.  It was a rough year building our concept from the ground up.

On the family side, the kids were becoming really, really active.  The twins were 6 and in school full time. The boys were just into everything.  Between the business and the growing needs of the family, with little personalities jetting out from everywhere, our house was one big stress ball. This led to an extreme lack of organization for our house, always the lowest priority!

How House Monkey finally came to fruition in Fall 2014

While I was focused on our technology-based product for our pharma clients, Mike had decided to revisit the house disorganization problem we identified when the twins were born and had progressively become worse over the years.  He approached me with an idea to build this app, thinking it could be a way to manage an active house busy and full of life. I added on the organizational piece.

It became our night time job, filled with many white board sketches before the full concept of “House Monkey” was born!  We decided to put the House Monkey idea on Kickstarter and see what happened.  Not only was this a great way to fundraise to build House Monkey, but interest in Kickstarter would also show us if other busy houses needed something better too.

Don’t let anyone tell you running a crowd-funding campaign is easy!  It was tons of work and involved lots of follow up with people both online and offline.

In essence we were working full time with pharma clients during the day (a job I love with great clients!), caring for the kids when they got home from school until bedtime, and going back to idea stream and plan out House Monkey at night.

We are pleased to say we received a wonderful Christmas gift on December 24th, 2014: House Monkey was financed on Kickstarter!

How do we do it? Where do we find the time?

All this is no small challenge. My husband and I each have two full time jobs, all while balancing our 4 very active children. Their sports range from golf to football and they have several sports and activities in between. Did I mention that Mike is the president of the EMS squad in our town and rides on the ambulance 2-3 nights a week? I was a founder and now sit on the executive committee for the women’s group at our church.

So when a blog named How Do You Do It? contacted me and asked “how are you going to do it?” my answer was “I have no idea how I’m going to do it”! The flood gates are wide open for both our pharma-based business and the House Monkey idea all at once. Plus, we are committed to not letting the businesses get in the way of our family time!

Over the next few months, Mike and I will be sharing our progress and challenges in building this organizational solution for busy families.  We will be focused on 5 key topics:

  • House Monkey App Development: What are the updates, key challenges, and wins in building this resource
  • Parenting: Managing 4 kids with 4 different sets of priorities and interests
  • Marriage: Making it work at work, at home, and as a couple
  • Trade-offs: What stays and what goes at both work and home
  • “What the kids say”: How does running two separate businesses impact the kids?

Our intention is that progress will be reported once a month from each of us….. once from Mike’s perspective as a dad, husband, and business owner and once a month from my perspective as a mom, wife, and business owner.  We hope our intention comes to fruition, but if not, we hope you understand why!

We look forward to reporting on this journey and hope that as we try and find our way, you find some “golden nuggets” that apply to your journey and help you find a “way to do it” as well!

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