On Writing and Mothering

This guest post is by the talented and lovely Brittany Knott. Read more of her beautiful writing on her blog Knee Deep in Lovely.

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Nothing motivated me to finish the first draft of my book more than my due date.

Because, really, I could have kept dragging it out. I didn’t have a publisher giving me deadlines or demands (or a paycheck, darn it).

But I knew. I had people warn me that when I had kids my margin for things like writing novels would be non-existent. I knew mom life would be different and I couldn’t loiter over a macchiato in a coffee shop.

So I anticipated August 2nd with so much longing to be a mother and so much apprehension about not being able to write when it had taken me thirty years to shed some of my mounds of uncertainty and finally do it consistently.

They were right, you know. It wasn’t the same after she was born. I did put things on hold. In those early days, I could have done more. She slept a lot. But it was inconsistent and I felt I needed long stretches of time. Also, everything about being a mother consumed me whole. For better, for worse.

My sweet doorman would ask almost every day, “How’s the book coming?” And I would duck my messy head and blush and say, “No progress.”

Meanwhile, motherhood began to give me so many things to write about on my blog. I was being broken apart in a way I never saw coming, and it was beautiful. It is beautiful.

If God can use motherhood to refine me, He can absolutely use it to make me a better writer.

He can show me my surroundings, my relationships, my world through a new set of brown eyes. Having someone to care for can’t keep me from writing, but not observing, not breaking apart and not stirring certainly will.

Of course, on a practical level, it is a bit more complicated than before. She is one now and I can’t write when she’s awake.  I can’t wake up before she does and write because she wakes up too early.

She takes two glorious naps a day. I’m trying to force myself to do “chores” while she’s awake (even though she tries to eat the Swiffer and climb inside the dishwasher), so that I don’t feel the pressure to do those while she’s sleeping.

Sometimes I catch myself prepping breakfast food or whatever and I have to stop and say, “This can be done when she’s awake.” And then I’m brought back to the things that cannot be done while she is awake. (Unfortunately that includes watching Undercover Boss). This morning during her nap, I sat out on the terrace and wrote a blog post so I wouldn’t be tempted to fold the laundry (read: pin 100 pictures of clothes I will never own on Pinterest. Real life.)

I will never be the poster child for productivity. In life or in writing. Motivation is hard especially because I don’t actually earn money writing. I know the years ahead (God willing) include more child-rearing, more chaos and less alone time. I’m praying for the grace to still have writing be a part of my life, bending and twisting along with us.

brittany

Brittany Knott lives in Brooklyn with her husband and daughter. Her book, Viv: The Story of a Stray is in the crazy process of getting published. She hopes to use any profits to help fund an adoption.

 

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When Motherhood Doesn’t Feel Magical

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It’s bedtime and I am dreading it, but like everything in life I just have to deal with it and get it done. I didn’t always dread bedtime. My girl used to be the best sleeper. Every since Aurelia realized how easy it was to climb out of her crib and we decided to remove the railing and turn into a big girl bed, it’s not so easy.

I know, I know. It’s never easy. I know lots of you reading have newborns and multiple kids. Many of you are single moms, or may as well be. Many of you are just exhausted, emotionally done, anxious and depressed. Some of you fight to get up every morning because you want children so badly and you can’t have them. Some of you have gone through the unspeakable grief of losing a child. It’s easy to compare my situation and scold myself,

You shouldn’t feel this way. Count your blessings! 

On the flip side, I know sometimes I just need to stop filling my head with other people’s magical motherhood moments on social media. It’s too easy to think that’s real life and internalize it and somehow think I come up short.

I rub my fingers through her 2-year-old cherub-like blonde curls and feel a surge of intense love.

I don’t always FEEL that way. Lately, I am just numb. I have this beautiful, intense and intelligent child coming more and more alive to the word around her every day, and most days I am just getting by.  For that I also feel guilty and judge myself and the cycle continues.

I want to have this magical feeling of being in love with my kid 24/7. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? To feel overwhelmed with joy and rapture constantly. Some days I feel like I don’t even deserve her and I take her for granted. Some days I am not even sure if I can handle another child even though I want one so badly. Most days I just feel inexperienced and unprepared.

“You’re a good mom,” a friend will tell me.

But it’s hard to accept it sometimes. It feels a little like being in junior high and a boy told me I am pretty for the first time. I am not sure I believe it, because I don’t believe in myself enough.

Most days I wonder if I got too frustrated, if I was too strict, not fun enough. I feel my patience running out so much. I honestly didn’t think it would be like this. I used to be so care-free, so patient and laid-back. (Or so I thought.)

She’s sleeping finally. I am sitting on her floor next to her big girl bed because that’s what I do now. Her baby sixth-sense will know the second I get up to leave and she will bolt out of her bed to bang on her locked door. The only way to prevent this is by making sure she is in a deep sleep, like REM, and that’s not as easy as it used to be for her.

My back aches from the position I am in and I still have to take care of the dog and make dinner and do laundry. I know I am selfish. I’ve always done what I wanted when I wanted. I’ve always treasured being alone, having quiet time with my thoughts time to write.

I feel like that’s how I survive and lately I am just barely getting by.

Lately, there is a constant feeble, half-whispered prayer in the back of my throat.

I know, it worth it. I know, it’s over so fast. I know, the grass is always greener.

I stroke her hair again, whisper the words I’ve been telling her since she was born:

“Never forget. You are beautiful, brilliant and brave. Mama and daddy love you more than there are stars in the universe. Jesus has amazing things in store for your life.”

I take a moment and let my own words be real, not just a repeated phrase.

I get to be her mom.

It’s the best and hardest thing I’ve ever done. It’s a privilege to care for this amazing human being. I know it’s probably never going to get easier, but that’s what grace is for.

I know many days will feel too hard, many will feel mundane, speckled with a few patches of joy and magic.

As a super sensitive person, I have to constantly remind myself life isn’t about feelings either. They are too fickle.

There is a Truth beyond what I feel or don’t feel, and when I purposefully put my eyes there, true peace will follow.

I start another lullaby, and feel the words.

I sing over my daughter and the room became sacred.

I almost hear God echoing the song, singing over me.

When you walk through the river, I will be with you

When you pass through the waters, the waves they will not overtake you

When you walk through the fire, the flames they will not touch you, 

You are mine. You are mine.

A Day in the Life of a Busy Graphic Design Mom

This week’s Stay-At-Home-Something Story comes from my old friend Angie Pope. Angie and I attended bible college together way back in the day. She is a super-talented designer and the mom of two gorgeous kids. Angie shares some great tips on how to balance life/work load at home. 


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I founded my business, LaLuna Designs in 2012. After graduating from the Art Institute, I realized design jobs were hard to fin, but I did still have the pesky chore of repaying my student loans. That same year, I also got pregnant and I knew I wanted to stay home full-time with my son.

I was fiddling around with designing my own baby shower invitations, and figured, why not do this for other people? And so LLD was born. It started out with just a few orders trickling in every week, and then once I was able to really dedicate more time to adding to my design inventory and getting my work ‘seen’, it turned into a full-time job.

My business has given me the opportunity to do what I love and make an income for my family, all while having a fairly flexible work schedule. When I say flexible, I mean, scramble to get a few emails in and a teensy bit of design work managed while the kids tear the house apart!

My daughter was born this past September, and adding a second child to the mix has provided challenging, to say the least! The ‘to-do’ list is never (ever, ever) complete.

Every time I read a blog post or  article on ‘working moms’ and ‘stay-at-home moms,’ I never really know where I fit it, because I kind of do both.

My business has been steady enough that I have work tasks every day that I absolutely HAVE to get done. Client deadlines, emails, website maintenance, bookkeeping, etc., and then as any stay-at-home mom knows, days are rarely predictable with young kiddos at home, but I’ll talk about what a typical day is for us. It’s always changing, and my ‘ideal’ day really doesn’t happen very often, but when you’ve got kids, you learn that you just have to go with the flow and BE FLEXIBLE!

A Typical Day 

Here’s our situation: My son is nearly 4 and he did a bit of daycare for a while, but he’s currently home full-time. My daughter is 9 months old (at home full-time as well,) My husband works a full-time job, with often times crazy, 12 hour shifts, and his days off change every week. We don’t live anywhere near family, so having grandparents, aunts, etc., watch the kids isn’t an option right now.

My typical ‘work from home’ day goes something like this:
I like to have some type of structure / routine, for all of our sanity— so we eat breakfast at the table together most days (Just the kids and myself, hubby is usually working).

After breakfast, we head to the gym. I get 2 free hours of childcare a day, per child, so the gym is my saving grace! Now, please don’t get the impression that I’m all into fitness or something. Did you read the part about the childcare? 2 blissful, kid-free hours are often the only motivation I have to drag myself into the gym!

I try to get in an hour workout, aka, ride the stationary bike or elliptical while I watch Netflix, and then I shower at the gym. This has been a lifesaver, as my daughter is extremely clingy, and on days I miss the gym, it’s hard to even be able to put her down long enough to get out of PJs. Truly, my time at the gym is good for my morale and really starts my day off ‘right’. I do feel better once I’ve gotten some exercise, and any SAHM will tell ya the wonders a shower and some makeup will do for your mood!

I try to get my daughter down for a morning nap after the gym. If I’m *super duper lucky* she’ll sleep for about an hour. My son is fairly good at independent play, so he’ll either play solo or watch some iPad for a bit while I try to start answering some emails, and getting any other pressing business taken care of. If my gal doesn’t nap.. as often she doesn’t, I just try my best to spend 30 min to an hour getting done what I need to get done. Many times, I hold her in my lap while I work on my computer. It’s not the easiest, but it gets the job done!

At least a couple of days a week, I try to get the kids out of the house to do something. Story time at the library, the splash pad or beach, just something for an hour or two. Helps keep us all from going insane.

Next comes lunch. If we’re out, I’ll grab drive-thru. Otherwise, I try to sit down with the kids and eat lunch with them— sometimes I bring my laptop to the table and get some work done if I’m really behind. In the afternoons, my son goes into his room for rest time even if he doesn’t nap, he has to play quietly and calmly for at least an hour. Again, if I’m super lucky, my daughter will nap at the same time, and I can get another hour or so of work in.

My husband’s work schedule is a bit odd— sometimes, he’ll have weekdays off, and when he does, he will take the kiddos out of the house for me for a few hours. When that happens, it’s AMAZING, because I can get so much done. I can scramble and get the bulk of my work done for a few days in a row, so that I don’t have to stress and don’t feel stretched so thin.

Evenings are insane and always seem a bit chaotic, with dinner, baths, etc. so any other work I need to get done, I’ve usually got to do after the kiddos are in bed. My daughter goes to bed at 6:30 and my son around 8, so for that hour and a half, I do some housework, clean up from dinner, spend some time with him, and sometimes get a couple of work orders / emails crammed in.

After he’s down, I spend typically about an hour on work— more if I need to. It’s important to me to have some ‘me’ time at the end of the night, so ideally I like to have at least an hour to read or watch a TV show— something to relax.

Weekends, I’m OFF work. It’s my goal not to even open my computer or my email on my phone. We all need a break! We live in such a work-minded culture, I think it’s very important to show my kids that taking a break and having down time are necessary. I like to take at least 2 days completely off from work.

Here are some of my biggest tip to other work-from-home mammas:

1.Have a routine, but be flexible!

It’s all about balance, a happy medium, if you will; kids need structure, and I’ve learned from experience that we all have a better day if we know what to expect. However, unexpected things do happen— kids get sick, friends need favors, the dog pukes on your rug, etc., and you’ve just got to roll with the punches.

2.Have small, realistic goals.

I always have a long ‘to-do’ list. Always. Things are constantly getting put on the back burner… but when I’m overwhelmed, I think of one thing I can accomplish for the day. One attainable goal. Maybe it’s returning an email I’ve been putting off. Maybe it’s finally making that Doctor’s appointment. Maybe it’s putting away the laundry from last week. Getting one thing checked off the list always makes me feel better!

3. TAKE A BREAK!

Don’t work your life away. I am a firm believer that taking a break from the busy-ness of life is just as important…err scratch that, MORE important, than the work itself. If you don’t take a break, you will quickly and easily feel overwhelmed, overworked, and potentially even begin to resent the work that you do.


angieI’m Angie, owner of LaLuna Designs, LLC, an online creative stationery boutique. I specialize in event invitations, largely for showers and birthdays, but I have fun doing stationery items of all sorts.  I’m originally from Colorado, but I married into the military, so I’ve journeyed from CO to Hawaii, to North Carolina, and now reside in sunny Florida. I’m a total beach bum, and one of my absolute favorite things to do is paddle board.

My Life as a Work-At-Home Mommy

This guest post is from my friend Bethany, mom of 2 adorable kids and fellow blogger. Check out her blog to see the latest and greatest kitchen gear, recipes, kitchen tips and more! 

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6:15am, I open my eyes. Both sets of those big blue eyes are right in front of me. My daughter wants to know where we are going today. We are going to a dollar movie this morning, but before we go that blog post needs another read-through before publishing. Breakfast needs cooking, teeth need brushing and my son needs help getting dressed.

But I don’t need to look good, right?

It’s a huge blessing to be able to take the kids to a weekday movie, (or whatever we have planned on any given day) and still get to work on earning money from home.

In the past I have earned money by working outside the home. Dropping the kids off at a daycare or mother’s day out, fitting in as many massage clients as I can in those few short hours. Working all day Saturday while my husband and kids go to weekend get-togethers without me.

This work at home thing gives more freedom, but it’s new for all of us.

Balance, discipline, and focus. Have I mastered these traits? Hardly! I still end up on time-sucking social media and have gone a weekend without even looking at my site.

Do I sit and watch a show with my husband some nights instead of writing about the next small appliance? Absolutely! This is definitely a learning process and the above traits are something I need work on. God is helping me, and I want my children to see in me the drive to work, to learn, to focus on what interests them and make that their career. That drive can be invaluable!

So, when I have worked till 1:00am to finish a post I will enjoy the feeling of accomplishment as I fall asleep. I will have a grateful heart when I wake to see those big eyes bright and ready for a new day. I will enjoy the time working next to my husband in the study after the kids have gone to bed while he gets ready for his next test. Even though we are busy, we can be busy together.

This is a new way of life for all of us. It is a great new life, giving way to more freedom and flexibility and hopefully, in time, a decent second income. Cheers to doing something that I enjoy from anywhere, getting out of debt, a REAL vacation, or a new (to us) car someday!

To all the other work at home moms, power on and love on those sweet babies as much as possible!

bethany

I am a Fort Worth, TX  work-at-home mom of two fun-loving and very busy kiddos. I am a wife to a loving, driven man that works full time while in school for his masters. I love kitchen gadgets, appliances, and great food and love sharing about them in my blog, The Kitchen Host.  In another life I practiced massage and still do for a few lucky clients!  -Bethany Chance

Saying No to a Full-Time Job

It’s only Tuesday and I am already tired.  Mostly from a billion thoughts I can’t get out of my head. I am a little scatter-brained right now.

As much as I love writing freelance, sometimes it’s hard for me to keep track of what is what. Technically, I am working contract for 5 different companies, possibly a 6th soon. Plus I have 2 blogs I am trying to run, as well as projects for my church.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it, but I’ll be the first to admit I am not the most organized person. Sometimes I look at the whole thing and it’s overwhelming.

Sometimes I wonder if I made the right career choice.

About a month ago, I applied for a full-time job. I have applied for many jobs, so I was surprised when I got a call back right away. I knew it was in an office, but my husband encouraged me to go interview anyways. I was kind of hoping they would be more flexible with the schedule, maybe allow me to do some of the work at home.

It was a big deal for me to face my fear. The morning of the interview, I woke up feeling sick with anxiety. I don’t do well with these kind of things. I like to hide behind my computer. But somehow I found something “professional” to wear, and got out the door. (It’s been a long time. My attire consists of uncomfortable jeans I don’t wear and yoga pants.)

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Gosh I miss this show.

I guess I did well, because they pretty much told me I had the job on the spot. 45 hours a week in an office. No possibility of remote work. It was a cool office building, I’ll give it that. Everyone looked young and hipster and I felt out of place. My interviewer looked just like Jim from The Office. The content I’d be writing was pretty boring, but the pay was decent,  and it was consistent. It was a tough call.

The day I had to make my decision, I met with 2 other SAHMs and we got to talking why we love to be with our kids and how we couldn’t imagine life any other way.

I knew what I had to do.

I said no because for the millionth time in my life I was reminded I don’t want to throw away my dreams for security.

Because I believe God has something better.

Because  I know that right before the real thing comes, we are tested with a fake thing that may be tempting, but it’s not the best.

It’s such a hard lesson to learn, but so necessary. (Don’t. Ever. Settle.)

I said no because the 9-5 life makes me a little crazy inside.

I love interrupting my day with a trip to the park. I love going to the gym or the grocery store in the morning, working during nap time and after my daughter goes to bed. I love that I can space out my day, work for a bit then play dress-up or go puddle stomping. I don’t just love it, but I think I work better that way.

I want to be there for my daughter. I can’t imagine missing the little moments in her day.

I know that I need to pour my heart into this blog and that’s what I am going to do.

Since I said no, I’ve had a few more opportunities come up. I am currently studying to take a test for a great work-at-home company that pays well and hoping that will work out.

I am trusting God for more. I am trusting Him for favor for myself and for my husband. For provision.

Please don’t think I am putting down moms who work outside the home. Ya’ll are incredible, and I know God gives people the grace for wherever they are.  Everyone has a different path. I just know it’s not for me, for this season.

Even though I’ve had moments of doubt, I believe deep down I made the right decision. I don’t regret pursuing it or doing the interview. It was also kind of a wake-up call. I am a writer. I can can actually do what I love and get paid.

I determine my success and my worth.

I can succeed. I can take a breath and tackle one thing at a time.

My toddler has been screaming in nap avoidance for over an hour and she is finally quiet.

I sit. I breathe. I write.

Peace and Creativity,

The Stay-at-Home Something

How I make $24 an Hour Photographing Houses

As a freelance writer and WAHM, I am always looking for extra gigs, especially easy, creative ones that allow me to take my kiddo with me.

I recently found this ad on Craigslist looking for people to take real estate photos. I am not a photographer, but they said no experience was needed. I did some research to make sure it was a legit company, and it checked out

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No Experience Required 

Velocity REO’s is a company that contracts people to take photos for BPO’s (Broker Price Opinions) to find out the worth of a house. Most of the jobs are exterior only and don’t require any special permission because you take them from the street which is public property.

The application process was super easy. You basically just have to prove you can follow simple directions and take a “set” of photos of any house. I picked a house close by that was already vacant and took the set of 7 pictures with my iPhone. The upload process was quick and easy. Soon I was accepted and they started sending me work.

The work can be slow, depending on your area. According to their website, some people can make up to $980 a week, but I can’t imagine it being that busy. So far I have done about 6 house at $8 each. I know that doesn’t seem like a lot, but I’ll tell you how easy it is.

How It Works

I input my zip code and the local areas I want to work in. They suggest only working within 10 miles, but I went out a little further to some areas I already go to a lot.

When an order comes in via text or email, I get to accept or reject it. If I accept, it I have 30 hours to complete it. I go about my day, running errands etc, and stop by the house while I am out. It takes about 2 minutes to take the pictures from the street. I can leave my daughter in the car with it running while I step out and take pic with my phone right next to the car.

I upload the pictures, which I can do from my phone. It takes about 2 minutes. They approve it,  and I get paid weekly through paypal. Simple, and I don’t have to deal with people which my introvert self loves. 😉

Great Side Job for a Stay-at-Home Mama! 

All in all, the most 1 house takes is 15 minutes. On a good day, I had 3 in a row, so I spent about an hour total including driving time and got paid $24. Not bad!

Obviously, being a contract job there is no guarantee of anything. But, like mystery shopping it is a nice side gig. I can do it while I am already out, and best of all my toddler can come with me!

I know they service places all over the US, so hopefully this will help some mama out there make a little extra cash.

Peace and Creativity,

The Stay at Home Something

I’m Not Famous and That’s Ok

Today I am 31.

It’s a place I’ve never been before, obviously. I’ve mostly stopped having all these high expectations about where my life will be at a certain age, but a few of them I still cling on to.

Like, I honestly thought I would be a successful writer by now.

What is successful? Is it rich and famous? Is it having a loyal fan base? Is it being able to do what I love without working another job? Is it waking up every morning feeling like I am still in love with this whole writing thing? I guess 2 out of 4 isn’t bad.

I am grateful every time I get paid for something I’ve written. I never want to take that for granted. I am grateful every time someone likes a post on WordPress or Facebook. I am thrilled by every comment. I know we are all busy and the fact you are taking time out of your day to read this means a lot. So, thank you.

I think I have given up on the whole fame thing. It’s honestly exhausting even thinking about it. Especially when it means people arguing with you, leaving terrible reviews and saying nasty things in the comments. I know I shouldn’t care about that but I do. It makes me sick to think about. I think my personality just can’t handle it. I got crushed once by an editor and it sucked. I know I just need to get over that.

So yeah, I am 31. I’ve had the same blog for 8 years now. I just started this one hoping to make more traction, more connection.

I am a mom, and I am somehow managing to not screw that up too bad, although there are days when I am not so sure.

It’s beautiful, confusing, heart-breaking, exhausting and wonderful all rolled into one.

My birthday morning started with my 2-year-old putting a tiny plastic ball in her mouth like it was candy. I yelled “No!” and she burst into tears and started crying so hard she couldn’t catch her breath and started gagging. She’s only done this a few times and every time it was because my husband our I raised our voice at her. I felt so bad. I couldn’t console her. She didn’t want to hug me and ended up spitting up all over my shirt.

The only thing that finally calmed her down was a Cookie Monster video on my phone. The day got better, and delicious birthday cinnamon rolls helped.

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Sometimes that stuff doesn’t phase me, sometimes it does.

Sometimes I think I am doing a great job at mom-ing and sometimes I know I have no clue what I am doing.

Sometimes I just want to sit in a field of flowers alone and write poetry.

Motherhood is messy and unpredictable. But so is writing.

You never know what’s gonna happen next, and I guess that’s part of the excitement.

It’s vulnerable. You’re always on display.

You have to let your heart break, and that always hurts.

So, I will continue to do what I love. I will keep writing, whether I get any recognition or not.

I will love my daughter patiently, day after day, watching her grow and watching my heart expand.

I won’t give up on my dreams, but I will let them take time.

I will let my influence unfold naturally, as God gives me favor,

Not by manipulating people into clicking on my blogs or trying to force fame.

I will stop giving my life deadlines and be prepared to be surprised. 

So bring it, 30’s. Because I am only gonna get better with age. 😉

Peace and Creativity,

The Stay-at-Home Something