I often get looks of disbelief when I tell people some of the activities the kids do at daycare (good examples: Field Day 2015 and Pasta Play Day) or when people ask me what I do for a living. I respond “I’m a daycare provider and I also own and run a website and I write books and I’m producing a play!” This leaves people with their mouths open and suddenly they have no idea what to say to me. Usually the first words out of their mouths goes something like this:

“I…um…oh…but…ummm…wow. How do you do it?”

Well, I’m finally prepared to let people in on my little secret. How do I do it? By it, I’m assuming people mean my life. How do I parent, run a successful daycare, keep up on writing, find the time to write books, and how am I producing a play? I am busy. Like crazy busy. I decided to nix our summer vacation because I am drained. I’m opting for a staycation because it sounds way more relaxing and invigorating. I’ll admit, part of me is kicking myself for nixing the trip because…oh my gosh…it would have been such a fun blog post to write about. But my body is telling me to rest and I’m listening.

Things don’t always go smoothly. My pictures may be fun and everything may look amazing, but let me tell you, there are difficulties. During Field Day 2015 there were no less than half a dozen time outs during the three hours of activities. To get our semi-okay pictures before the Minions Movie, threats were made. I told my five year old that if he didn’t stop covering his eyes or grabbing his penis I would hand him off to the next person that walked by. Luckily it didn’t come to that so he didn’t have to call my bluff.

I have to plan. A lot. I have to plan meals, snacks, make sure we have enough hand soap, crafts, toys, which kids need more diapers, schedules for my family and the daycare families. I make lists of things to do. We have several To Do Lists going at once. Our fun to do list, our places to go list, our local restaurants to eat at list, our errand list, and my daily to do list.

I put one thing at the top of my list every day to complete. If I accomplish nothing else on the list, I make sure this one thing gets done. My one thing changes daily. Sometimes it’s as simple as getting an email sent to someone, getting an appointment made, getting pictures loaded onto the computer. Sometimes it’s household chores: I will finish laundry today, clean out the pantry, deep clean a bedroom. Sometimes it’s for my family: we will go swimming this evening, watch a movie together, have a game night. Sometimes it’s for my businesses: I will get receipts filed away, I’ll get everything entered into my spreadsheet. Sometimes it’s a goal: I will walk/run so many miles this evening, I will promote the website to xx amount of businesses when I’m out. Everything else on my To Do List is seemingly less important until my one thing is accomplished. This gives me perspective. It allows me to focus on every aspect of my life on different days.

Even with as much as I plan and try to keep things together, there are a lot of quirks, intense situations (like my three year old locking herself in a bathroom stall), pictures aren’t perfect, and there are so many unplanned events. At the end of the day it makes me smile and laugh and it gives me a good story to write about. It doesn’t matter how much I plan or how much doesn’t go according to plan. I’ve found with my little secret I can accomplish things easily.

“Do what you love and love what you do.”

I don’t do anything I don’t love or that doesn’t make me happy. I love being with my kids, even when they drive me crazy. I love getting creative and igniting creativity in children and teaching them. I love writing, so I write about my adventures as a parent and daycare provider. Because I love both of those things. I love getting out and doing things and exploring, so I do get out and do things with my kids. Then I write about it. Because all of those things make me happy. I love to try new things and take a chance, so I’m producing a play. Because it makes me happy and teaches me new things. That one thing at the top of my list every day is something that makes me happy and betters my life in some way.

I realize I’m lucky to have found my niche in life. To have a life that puts a smile on my face, even when I’m stressed. To have a life I get excited about and I’m passionate about. To have people around me that support me, even if they roll their eyes at me or gasp when they hear about all I do.

I may not do it all perfectly, but that’s okay. I’m not aiming for the perfect life. I’m aiming for the life that puts a smile on my face. I’m aiming to be the person that inspires others and shows others how to do what you love and love what you do.

This post was originally featured on Ashlen Sheaffer’s blog, The Kidsperts. Featured image via.

Most Americans are apparently a little too judgy for their own good…

Or are they?

According to recent research, a third of Americans and 22% of full-time working moms think that “the most ideal situation for young children is one in which their mother is not employed. Another 42 percent of all Americans think that a mom with a part-time job would be best for these children.” (via)

So, all in all, 75 percent of Americans feel that having a mother who does not work full-time would be best for her children when they’re young.

But, when asked about working fathers the same group of people responded quite differently. While 75% of respondents agreed that mothers should not work full time, 70% of those same respondents said fathers with young children should still work full-time.

While this sounds like a bit of an unfair double standard (admittedly we got a little heated after reading this far), the research shows a more in-depth look at where these feelings are coming from.

“It’s not the idea of working women but the actual experiences of having to juggle working and parenting that a lot of people do not always treasure.” (via)

Women have to work harder at balancing their work life and their home life, because for men it’s expected.

For more on the study, check out The Washington Post.

So you’re going back to work.

Maybe you’ve been on maternity leave.

Maybe your young charges hired you as Stay-At-Home-With-Me-Mom for the past few years, but when you found out that your toddlers didn’t provide a 401k, you needed to return to a work environment with richer benefits.

Either way, the workplace is now calling, and you’re about to strap on those boots or high heels or sneakers and get yourself a paycheck.

But you feel guilty.

Because you’re a mom, and how can you not? Like maybe you’re thinking this:

“How can I justify calling myself a ‘mom’ if I drop off my child at daycare at 8, pick her up at 6 and she goes to sleep at 7?”

Or this:

“How can I say I’m raising my kids if a nanny feeds and transports and puts them down for naps ¾ of the time?”

I returned to work a couple of months ago after a year at home with our daughter, and these questions often crossed my mind. So having traversed the terrain of the stay-at-home-turned-working-mom myself, here are some insights I can offer:

1. Consider the Extra Love: When I returned to work, I worried a lot about whether I still “counted” as Annie’s mom if I wasn’t around as much. Then I thought of a friend of mine who had fertility issues and had to turn to an egg donor and surrogate to help her start a family. She once told me, “You know, I could feel threatened by these women, but all it really means is that my child will have two more people who care deeply for him. So why wouldn’t you want as many people to love your child as you can get?” I held onto that piece of wisdom when I dropped my daughter off at “school” for the first day. At her super-early-education-program-for-young-toddlers, she was going to meet other kids and teachers who would look after her and care about her and comfort her if she scraped a knee. That wasn’t a threat to me or my identity. It was reinforcement. It was another set of people who had her back, and that was a good thing.

2. Flex Your Kid’s Hours: Radio host Sheri Lynch wrote a fabulous book for new moms awhile back and she talked about parents who never got to see their young children because of their work hours. The solution: the parents moved the child’s bedtime a little later. Sure, parenting books say to put your kid to bed by 7, but if your kid will go to bed at 8 or (gasp) 9 and you can make it work the next morning and get some extra time with them, then do it! Or it may be that you want to switch your child’s bedtime to be a little earlier so you get some extra morning time. Either way, the point is this: think about ways you can make your child’s sleep work for them and for you. It might make like you’re able to be more involved in their lives that way.

3. Identify What You Can Flex: Changing your child’s bedtime is a great example of thinking in a flexible way that can transform the quality of your family life. Now where’s the flexibility in your day? What can you switch that will be the equivalent of shifting your kid’s bedtime? One option might be to ask your employer about alternate work hours. It certainly doesn’t hurt, and your boss might say yes. Maybe you could work 4 days a week for 10 hours or come in on the weekends or work from home one day. This way, you could get more time with your child while still getting your full workload in. Alternatively, maybe you want to think about small changes like cooking less and stocking up on prepared foods more (or at least cooking in bulk and freezing) so that you can spend more time playing make believe and less chopping vegetables. In short: Analyze your day. See what you can switch or let go of. Then make those changes work for you and your family.

4. Consider Big Changes: Big changes are hard, but once they’re made, they can transform your life.   Like in our case, we asked my mother-in-law to move in for the year, and it has been amazing! A-Maz-Ing. She moved halfway across the country (her husband stayed in Iowa), and it’s made all the difference. Not only is my daughter building a super special relationship with her grandma, but we’re getting some help with everything from our laundry to cleaning the floor after our daughter drops rice all over it at dinner. And that gives us extra time to chase after our little Annie to give her more hugs.

The transition back to work is a challenging one, but what I’ve learned is that it’s also a huge opportunity to take control of your life and make changes that will help you in the long run.

So what changes are you planning on making? Or if you’ve already gone back to work, what advice do you have for moms returning to work?

Photo via

I read an article recently by a mom who was addressing the “missed chunk on her resume” — meaning, a blackout period between her last “official” job and her next one. She was talking about the period of time she took time off to have, and raise her children. Ultimately, the author concluded that we should “not stress about this.”

I have to say, she’s absolutely right. As a corporate director and working parent, I love to hire moms. Here’s why:

1. – Moms can multi-task: Men generally think about, and do, one thing at a time. It’s probably done well, and it’s probably done on time, but it’s just the one thing. Moms, on the other hand, can take a conference call, find the missing receipts for an expense report and plan lunch simultaneously. Throw a breast pump in there and you’ve got yourself one hard worker. Which brings me to my next point…

2. – Moms work their a$$es off: Being a full-time parent is hard; running a house takes work which is what you were doing in that blackout period. Most moms anticipate that they will have to work hard, wherever they are, and this is a huge benefit. They generally want to prove themselves, particularly if they are just back from some sort of leave. You may think “Moms have too many priorities” or “Moms already have too much to do,” but hear me when I say it: as an employer, this totally works in my favor. Corporate work pays bills. It also provides an excuse to get out of work around the house, “Oh no, honey, I really need to finish these charts before tomorrow. Will you get the kids in the tub and I’ll be up to tuck them in?” YESSSSSS.

3. – Moms are generally optimistic: Moms are programmed to be optimistic; it’s necessary to get through the day. The other morning, my toddler woke up at 5am pitching a fit and punched me in the face. I put him in the shower with me because it usually helps calm him down, and he laid a big old crap in there while I had shampoo in my hair. In the middle of that, my daughter woke up with a nightmare, and when we finally went to leave, my right front tire was almost flat. Within those 90 minutes, I used every cuss word I know at least 40 times, but when it was over I actually thought,well, the day can’t get anything but better. Optimism at its finest, or perhaps desperation… either way, it’s proof. Moms can find the bright side.

4. – Moms have guilt: At any given point in the day something is going to fall off the to-do list. Maybe, at the last minute you realize you need a cake for the school fundraiser; perhaps you forgot to dry the laundry and now the kids need underwear and socks RIGHT NOW; maybe you came home from play group and realized the dog hasn’t eaten since last night… what do you do? You get that pang in your stomach, and you do whatever it takes to make it right. That “make it right” thing is what runs 85% of my staff, and I freaking love it. I don’t care if you have to work from home because someone is sick, or change your schedule to do XYZ. I actually support that; partly because it gives you guilt – which it shouldn’t, by the way (I’m not saying guilt is good, it’s just a built-in motivator) – and then you work your a$$ off to make it up. (Ref. item 2.)

5. – Moms depend on each other: In the corporate world, it’s easy to be spontaneous – in a bad way. Change is constant and someone is almost always screwing with your plan. Where others may knee-jerk and dash off a shitty email or pick up the phone and raise hell, moms usually turn to their work BFF and vent – TO EACH OTHER – which is not career-limiting. Once that’s done, a mom feels better, calms down, figures out how to move forward, and gets on with it.

Perfection.

This post was originally featured on Mamapedia. Photo via

I recently took a full-time job outside of the home. Our family decided to continue home schooling, although neither my husband nor I would be home during the day.

Our previous arrangement was ideal for home schooling. I was a stay-at-home mom and my husband worked third shift making it possible for us to be with our children all day. When we realized that our life was less than ideal in other ways, we made the changes necessary to improve our quality of life overall. Those changes included my return to the workforce and my husband’s switch from a 3rd-shift-seven-days-per-week indentured servitude job to a healthier 8-6, M-F gig.

Going in to this new normal, we assured ourselves and our children that we could both work full-time and still home school. Frankly, though, I simply wasn’t sure how it was all going to work out. It’s been nearly three months since we created our new lifestyle and working full-time and home schooling are well-married in our home.

I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t admit that we have some help. Our youngest son, who is seven and working at a first grade level, has a wonderful care provider who, herself, was home schooled. She has four sons that are his age and younger (I know! She is supermom!), and the older two are in school. She understands our desire to continue home schooling and is willing to help us by working with my son every day on his school work.

My older two sons are eleven and nine and are able to work more independently. They stay home while we work. (We are fortunate to live between a stay-at-home-mom and a retired lady who are there if an emergency should arise and we are considering hiring an older home schooled student to take them to various activities throughout the week.)

In addition to the people in our lives who make it possible for us to work full-time and home school, we have a few tools that help. For language arts and math we are using Time4Learning, which is an internet-based curriculum. Time4Learning both teaches and provides learning activities, quizzes and tests. It allows me to see which areas they sail through and which need a little more work. I don’t usually test my children, and my state doesn’t require it, but I use the Time4Learning tests to gauge their understanding of various subjects.

Another wonderful tool we use to make home schooling and working full-time possible is technology such as Netflix and podcasts. We unschool science and it is one of the most important subjects my children learn. We have a strong science-focus in our home. This year we are learning about astronomy (a child-led interest that we all happen to share) and we’ve found several good documentaries on Netflix to back up the reading that we do on the weekends. My husband found a few podcasts that teach various sciences, as well. When we are at work the boys hook their iPod to a speaker and listen to the lectures while doodling or taking notes.

I’ve already mentioned the fact that we unschool some subjects, but I want to stress that our approach to home schooling is more about learning at home and not really at all about schooling at home. Because our focus is giving our children the freedom to learn and fostering a life-long love of learning, we realize that it is more important that they be exposed to new information and less important to recreate a traditional school environment in our home. This open-mindedness concerning our children’s education has allowed us to be more relaxed about some things that might worry other home schooling parents. For instance, we know that it is not necessary for an authority figure to be present in order for a child to learn. In addition, people often better retain information they find out for themselves rather than information that is forced upon them.

Overall, our experience of working full-time and home schooling has been a positive one. Before we began this journey, I wasn’t sure that it was even an option. I’ve never met any home schooling families where the mother worked full-time outside of the home. I haven’t found any stories on the internet either. I don’t imagine that we are the only family who lives this lifestyle, however.

Originally featured on Allison’s blog, Our Small Hours. Photo via