Celebrating Three Years of Motherhood

As of today, I have been a mother for three years. The time has flown by. I remember spending Mother’s Day 2014 very pregnant anticipating the birth of my daughter. Now I’ve had three years of experience and am very pregnant again!

Even though I’ve only experienced the newborn period through toddlerhood, I feel like I’ve learned a lot.

I’m sure that when my son arrives next month, I’ll learn even more about motherhood and parenting as I adjust to being a mother of two.

Here are some of the things I’ve learned in three years of motherhood.

Patience is the greatest virtue of all

Raising children requires a saint-like level of patience. Kids don’t understand time, they don’t care what you have to do and they aren’t bothered by something taking absolutely forever (as long as they are in control of it taking forever). You have to have a huge reserve of patience to get through the day with children.

I didn’t think of myself as an impatient person before I had children. I could stand waiting. I had some tolerance for uncertainty and I was able to keep it together when I got annoyed or aggravated with another adult.

I find that working on myself through meditation, journaling, and making time for self-care helps me have more patience and be a better parent. I also read articles and books about children’s brain development and the different stages they go through. It helps me to understand that my child’s behavior is normal and necessary and makes some of the struggles a bit easier to deal with.

You have to go with the flow

Trying to do too much or control too much is a recipe for disaster. You have to go with the flow and be comfortable changing your plans, canceling things or admitting that you can’t do it all. There are times when I forgo doing something because I want us to stay in our pajamas all day.

In the past, I might have felt guilty about this because other people would want us to do something else, but the longer I’m a mother, the less I care. If someone doesn’t understand that things change when you have kids then they either don’t have children yet or have forgotten what it was like.

You can’t do everything right

It’s not possible to do everything “right.” There are going to be times when you mess up. Sometimes you know you did something wrong, like lose your temper, and other times it’s a matter of opinion.

I am not a perfect parent. But I try really hard and have a good sense of self-awareness. I am open to criticism and commentary on what I’m doing. I don’t want to live in a bubble where I’m being told I’m “doing my best” if that’s not the case. I also don’t want to be critiqued for my choices when I believe they are in my child’s best interest. I’ve learned to graciously take the advice of my elders and other mothers, and use the bits that I like while ignoring the rest.

You can’t please everyone

Many people had children before you did. They have advice and opinions and want to share them with you. No matter how you choose to parent, someone will always be unhappy with what you choose. As a child’s parent, it’s up to you to decide what works for your child. That may be limited screen time, no sugar, using a ton of hand sanitizer or putting your child in daycare.

You have to find what makes you comfortable. I’m putting my daughter in preschool at three years old because I feel that’s best for her development and socialization. Other mothers feel they can offer the same benefits at home. Some mothers aren’t concerned about it at all. Everyone will make different choices and you won’t be able to make everyone happy. I choose to make my immediate family (husband, daughter, and myself) happy and not worry about the rest.

Be happy with your choices

When coming to a new stage, there are hundreds of resources you could use. There are people who think sleep training is evil while many moms let their child cry it out. There are others who sleep in a family bed until their children are teens. You find a method that works for you and go with it.

There’s always going to be another method that directly contradicts the method that you chose. This is pretty much true for everything – not just things in the parenting world. What matters is choosing something that feels right for your family. Although I am interested in writing about different methods and ways of doing things, I’m not that interested in talking about it in real life because I don’t want to sound judgmental or be judged. Whatever worked for you was the best choice for you and whatever worked for me was the best choice for me.

In the end, most kids seem to be roughly on the same developmental level by the time they are in school anyway.

Take time to enjoy your children

Raising children can be exhausting. It can feel like you’re not doing enough or that you’re doing too much. Make sure you take time to enjoy your children. Listen to them when they talk, engage in the things that interest them, and soak up the snuggles and cuddles.

I’ve made it a point to put down my computer, phone, book, laundry or whatever else I’m doing whenever my daughter wants my affection or attention. I know she won’t always want a snug or a smooch. These times are precious and I try my best to enjoy them as much as possible. I sing with her, dance with her, and try to make her day as special as I can. I encourage my husband to spend time alone with her when he gets home from work so that they can build their relationship. Everyone has told me that time flies and I know this is true, so I enjoy it as much as possible.

Parent with your “big idea” in mind

Life is a series of small moments. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and realize that you aren’t making progress towards your goals or that you aren’t living your ideal life. The most important thing that I’ve done as a mother so far is parent with my “big idea” in mind.

My big idea is that I want my children to think the world is a wonderful place. I want them to feel safe, happy, and cared for. I want them to believe that they can achieve their goals and that their parents will always be their biggest fans. I want them to think that there’s some magic out there and people are kind. I try to speak with my daughter with this in mind. I don’t want to project my fears onto her or raise her to be anxious about her future.

As long as I keep that in the front of my mind every day, I think I’m doing a pretty good job. I have a long way to go, but I know this is the most important journey of my life. And it is my greatest honor to be the mother to my child (soon to be children!).

How to Handle Toddler Temper Tantrums

From 15 – 20 months old, my daughter was the sweetest little thing. She would follow basic commands without any complaint. She would happily go along with any plan. She didn’t mind sitting in the grocery cart for an hour or two and she didn’t need to be entertained. Car rides were painless and quiet.

Shortly after she turned two years old, I saw a shift in her behavior. Suddenly, she seemed to realize that she had opinions and wanted to share them. If she didn’t want to do something, I heard about it. She would yell, cry, and try to talk her way out of things.

If I don’t meet her requests in a timely manner aka immediately, she will have a meltdown. Sometimes she’ll cry or whine while other times she’ll have a full-blown temper tantrum.

Temper tantrums are very common and are a normal part of growing up. They usually appear between the ages of 1.5 and 4 years old. They can include crying, screaming, kicking, biting and rolling around on the floor. Even though temper tantrums are a normal part of development, it doesn’t make them easy to deal with.

Here are some ways I deal with my toddler’s temper tantrums.

1) Offer options or solutions

Sometimes temper tantrums are over something specific. She wants a certain snack, toy or book right now.

If I can’t or don’t want to give her the thing she requests, I offer another solution to her problem. I tell her what her options are and let her pick the one that sounds best to her.

For example, if she’s demanding a popsicle fifteen minutes before dinner, I tell her she can have two mini marshmallows or an apple slice. Sometimes she keeps crying, but most of the time she picks one of the choices.

Offering solutions or options doesn’t always work or isn’t possible in some situations. If I’m in public or stuck on a long car ride, I will give in to her demands on occasion.

2) Distract and redirect

If the tantrum has not reached full-blown levels, I try distracting her. “Oh, look at this thing” or “I think I have something for you in my purse” usually works. Most of the time the thing in my purse is random – one of her hairbows or a box of Tic Tacs for her to shake. Sometimes I offer my phone for a set amount of time – usually 10 minutes –  so she can look at photos of herself or play on the PBS Go app.

If we’re at home, I redirect her to another activity or location. If she’s having a meltdown over watching TV, I’ll tell her we’re going to go outside and draw on the driveway with chalk. If it’s cold or raining, I’ll take her down to the playroom in the basement and ask her if we can have a tea party. Sometimes changing location is enough to stop the tantrum.

3) Talk it out

Most of the time I talk to my daughter in my normal voice. When a tantrum starts, I go into a serious, deeper voice.

If we’re at a restaurant and she starts melting down, I will say “Listen to me. We’re at a restaurant, we don’t do this behavior here. If you keep doing this, we’re going to go to the car and not get our food/lemonade/toy.”

Most of the time, if I remind her that I expect good behavior when we are somewhere, she behaves. I’ve explained many times that good behavior means eating her food, not throwing anything, and using an indoor voice.

I also use language that shows I understand her feelings. I’ll say, “You’re very upset. You really wanted to dance on the booth, but mommy said no. That’s really frustrating.” Usually, she will respond by echoing that she’s upset. At that point, I’ll try to distract her or offer some options for things she can do.

4) Comfort and hug

A little love and affection can go a long way when a tantrum is starting. I usually stay silent when I hug and comfort her. If I say anything, I’ll repeat “It’s OK, it’s OK” in a soothing tone. I’ve been comforting her with that phrase since she was born and it seems to work.

I can tell right away if she’s feeling upset and wants the comfort or if trying to hug her is going to make it worse. If she is not responsive to the hugs or pushes me away then I move on to the next option.

5) Let her cry

If I’ve offered a solution or option, tried to distract or redirect, talked it out, or offered comfort and she’s still throwing a fit, I let her cry. I tell her that it seems like she needs to cry it out and she can go ahead and do that for as long as she wants.

Obviously, this method is a little trickier in public, but ultimately I am not concerned with what people think about my parenting. They are only seeing one frame of the movie and that’s not enough to judge the whole thing.

As she’s gotten a bit older, she will say “I don’t want to cry it out” and get control of herself. We’ve also told her she can hug her “Sad Bunny” when she feels bad and the bunny will help her feel better.

The crying usually doesn’t last long especially if I act like I can’t hear it or it’s not happening. If the crying escalates then I try my last option.

6) Ignore her and walk away

**Note: I don’t do this in public. If the other options haven’t worked, we will leave or wait in the car until she’s calm.**

Finally, if the tantrum is epic, I ignore her and walk away. I start washing dishes, answer an email, or eat a snack. I go about my business as if I can’t hear the crying and screaming.

I only use this technique if all other options have failed. Sometimes she needs to work through her tantrum on her own. She has never cried, screamed or whined for more than 10 or 20 minutes while being ignored.

Toddler tantrums can be stressful for both child and parent. When your toddler throws a fit, work through these options. Keep in mind, the most important thing you can do is keep your cool and act in love. Adding your own crying or screaming to the tantrum won’t help. Your child needs help navigating his or her emotions. Guiding them in a loving way will set them up to better handle their feelings when they are adults.

How to handle toddler temper tantrums

The Importance of Father-Daughter Time

I am lucky and I know it. I married a man who was even more excited about becoming a parent than I was. When we found out we were having a girl, he laughed and said he was up for the challenge. I had been certain I was having a boy so my immediate reaction was full-blown panic. A girl?! I didn’t know how to raise a strong woman! My teenage years were dramatic and painful and my self-esteem was nonexistent. How could I guarantee that my daughter didn’t go down the same path? My husband reassured me that we’d do a great job raising our daughter and that he would play just as important of a role as I did in the process.

He was right. Father-daughter relationships, or relationships with a consistent father figure, are incredibly important for developing a young girl’s self-esteem.

Why Father-Daughter Time Is So Important

A strong relationship with a father figure improves a girl’s self-esteem and shows ther that parenting is not only a woman’s role.

“I am a man, and I’ve spent time around plenty of men in my life. I know that my daughter will encounter many of them in the world and they will expect her to be various things. As a father, I want to spend all the time that I can with her so that she comes to understand that none of those expectations means a damn thing, and that she has the power to determine the kind of woman she will be.” – Michael Sturm, my husband

Evenings in a Working Parent Household

My daughter spends all day with me. We have hours of bonding time as we run errands, read books, color, or do pretend diaper changes on 100 stuffed animals. Five days a week, my husband leaves for work at 5 am and comes home at 5:30 pm. That leaves us about two hours for family time before Norah goes to bed. Unless we make a conscious effort to have quality time together, the night is over before we know it. My stay/work-at-home mom responsibilities could easily bleed over into the evening, leaving no time for father-daughter bonding.

The Goodnight Routine is Daddy’s Job

Since Norah was four months old and sleeping in her own crib, Michael has been in charge of her nightly routine. He does bathtime, stories, teeth brushing complete with Elmo’s Brush Your Teeth song, kisses and hugs then finally tuck-in. As soon as her head hits the mattress (with few exceptions) she doesn’t make a peep. When there’s been a change in routine because of a business trip, Norah has demanded daddy and been very disappointed when only mommy was there.

A Much Needed Break

Not only is the nighttime routine a great time for Norah and Michael to bond, but it’s also a much needed break for me. I take care of my daughter all day, everyday, with no outside help. When Michael gets home from work, Norah runs to him and follows him around for the rest of the evening. This gives me a chance spend some time working in my office or exercising in our home gym.

Encouraging Your Husband to Build a Strong Relationship

I know there are many women, and men, who are doing this parenting thing entirely on their own. I have the utmost respect for them, it is truly the hardest job anyone can do. If you’re like me and you have a husband who you’d like to have a strong bond with his daughter (or son), here are some ways you can help facilitate the relationship:

1) Make something his and let him do it his way

I probably wouldn’t do the bedtime routine the exact same way my husband does, but I’ve learned that too much input makes him feel inept. Bedtime is “his” time and he expects that he’s going to do the routine how he sees fit. He’s told me many times that he enjoys the quiet time at the end of the day with his daughter. Let go of a little bit of control and show appreciation for the thing being done. Even if it’s not exactly the way you’d do it.

2) Leave the baby with him and get out of the house

It was almost impossible to get me out of the house for the first year of Norah’s life. I felt like I  needed to be there at all times and didn’t want to run an errand without bringing the entire family along. To get comfortable with letting go of control, I started out with small errands, like running to the store for milk, during the time that Norah would be happy and playing. After doing that a few times, it became easier to leave. The more alone time that your husband spends with his children, the more comfortable everyone will be. There may be some bumps along the road, but if you feel that your partner is responsible and trustworthy then you have to give them the space to make mistakes and learn.

3) Talk to him about your relationship with your father/father figure

Every woman has had some degree of a relationship with a father or father figure. If your past with your father isn’t good, tell your husband about it. My father was physically present, but had very little interest in his kids. This had a negative effect on my self-esteem, especially as a teenager, and on my ability to choose friends and boyfriends. I’ve been candid about this with my husband and expressed my desire that my daughter have a better relationship with her father than I have with mine. On the other hand, if your relationship with your father/grandfather/ uncle/stepfather is good, then tell your husband about what a positive impact that has had on your other relationships and self-esteem.

It’s every parent’s hope that their child will have it better than they did. It’s my hope that my daughter will have the confidence to pursue her dreams because she knows her parents unconditionally love and support her. And because her dad told her she could do anything.

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Why Freelancing was Made for Women

As freelancing gains momentum, a new category of women in the workplace is forming. These women, like myself, are creating the career paths they desire. Freelancing gives you the freedom to set your own hours, take on as much or as little work as you want, use your greatest talents while avoiding the areas where you don’t shine, and exponentially increase your salary.

Women make up more than half of the freelancers working in the US. It’s not surprising because there is a still a huge amount of disparity between the male and female work experience. Freelancing has numerous benefits for women that the traditional workplace doesn’t.

No Glass Ceilings

For as long as women have been working, glass ceilings have slowed or stopped their career progress. Instead of expending energy trying to become one of the only 24 women CEOs in Fortune 500 companies, why not create your own business and give yourself the title you want? As a freelancer, your success is based on how hard (and smart) you work instead of outdated hierarchical systems, boy’s clubs, or gender-biased career tracking.

Better Work / Life Balance

Women are still responsible for most of the household duties even when they hold traditional 9-5 jobs. To complicate matters, the bulk of childcare also falls on the female’s shoulders. Freelancing gives women more time in the home and more flexibility with their schedules. Often a job with “flexible hours” isn’t very flexible. You may deal with inefficient in-person meetings or outdated office cultures praising time spent at the desk over quality of completed work.

Women may need to take the kids to school, pick up groceries, and keep the household in order during the day. This could lead to hours looking something like this:

6-8 am : Working
8-11 am : Errands and child care
11-4 pm : Working
4-7 pm : Family time
7-9 pm : Working

Even if this schedule was approved, there would undoubtedly be pressure from coworkers to maintain a more standard schedule. Ask a Manager often receives emails complaining about coworker’s flexible schedules. What’s worse, even when you’ve earned vacation time, you may feel too pressured to take it. Many companies that offer unlimited vacation find that their employees end up using less time than those with traditional Paid Time Off allowances. Until the antiquated culture of “butts in chairs = hard work” dies, it’s going to be a struggle to have a truly flexible schedule.

With freelancing, you have much more control of not only when you work, but how much work you take on. If you need to balance your household, you can do so. If you want to spend 60 hours a week growing your business, it’s your choice. Ideally, no single client will own enough of your time to demand that you maintain traditional working hours. Seek out clients who are understanding of the changing work landscape. I’ve found my best clients are often other freelancers, entrepreneurs, and people working in small startups.

Greater Earning Potential

On average, women are making $.78 for every $1 a man makes. Freelancing can close the gap. Women can demand the pay they deserve for the work they do. In a traditional position, you have some control over your initial salary agreement and whether you receive yearly increases, bonuses or promotions. Sadly, women tend to leave money on the table in negotiations more often than men. As a freelancer, you’re able to set your own rate, adjust it per task or client, and raise rates as you gain skills instead of waiting for a yearly review to plead your case.

In an area with a low cost-of-living, such as my hometown, it’s difficult to find a high-paying job, especially in a creative field. The options are limited and there’s a lot of competition. Many people commute into the suburbs or Chicago to earn higher paychecks and work in their preferred industry. Freelancing allows people in rural areas to earn “big city” wages.

Until traditional career paths become an equal playing field for both genders, freelancing is a great option to pursue the career you’ve imagined for yourself. Whether you are currently in college, working a 9-5 job, or are a stay-at-home mom, you can start freelancing by building up a side hustle of one-off projects and part-time jobs. Once you’ve had a taste of the freelancing life, you won’t want to go back to the status quo.

How I Became a Freelancing Mama

After my daughter was born in June 2014, I took a flying leap into the unknown – not only the unknown of being responsible for raising a good person who would someday positively contribute to society, but also the unknown of finding a new job that allowed me to be home with my daughter.

For the first 15 years of my career, I worked for someone else.

My first job was working in a fast-food restaurant for a man who told me I laughed too much. While attending college, I worked as an assistant manager of a clothing store and an entertainment writer at the college newspaper. At that time, I was the trendiest I have ever been or ever will be again. After I graduated with a degree in English, I landed my first job with real benefits! I worked in a biotechnology company’s corporate library. I had always loved the library, but this wasn’t a safe haven of delicious-smelling old books, it was a cubicle farm where I compiled market research reports and purchased digital copies of scientific papers.

Over the next six years, I climbed my way from the lowest position in the department to one of the highest while completing an evening MBA program. Then I heard the unmistakable sound of my biological clock ticking so my husband and I decided it was time to start our family.

Newborn, mother, baby

After my daughter was born in June 2014, I took a flying leap into the unknown –  the unknown of being responsible for raising a good person who would someday positively contribute to society and the unknown of finding a new job that allowed me to be home with my daughter.

I could not imagine leaving my daughter with anyone. I surprised myself and my husband by not wanting to go back to my previous position. I was very ambitious and had enjoyed my job, but maternity leave had given me hours to assess my career trajectory. The prognosis was grim: my department had a flat management structure; I wasn’t using my true skills (writing, strategizing, and marketing) nearly enough; and, worst of all, I wasn’t happy. Looking at the tiny person in my arms, I realized that I didn’t need to make a change for me, I needed to make it for her. I needed to show her that you could enjoy your work and have a passion for what you do.

I wanted to give her the best possible version of myself. I discovered that version works from home.

After some scrambling, I found a job as a virtual assistant. The job was a blessing because it allowed me to see that I could manage my time while working from home, maintain a productive routine, and fulfill work priorities and personal goals. The job also satiated my love of learning because I worked with clients from all different backgrounds in a variety of industries. However, I didn’t want my earning potential or scope of work to be decided by someone else. So, I slowly built up enough clients to transition to full-time freelancing in March 2015. Then in June 2015, I set up The Sturm Agency and became an official business owner.

Since then, I’ve worked hard. I’ve gained and lost clients. I’ve learned some helpful time management tips. I’ve found tools that increase my productivity and rituals that help me get it all done.

Sometimes I feel like Superwoman, sometimes I feel like a hot mess, but I am always grateful. I get to do what I love while seeing my daughter grow up. I feel that I am truly getting the best of both worlds – motherhood and a career.

Ultimately my goal is to help other women who want to stay home with their children make a living wage working as freelancers. I want to share my knowledge and experiences in hopes that something I write can inspire or assist someone. I’ve been successfully working remotely since 2014 and full-time freelancing since 2015. I plan to do this as long as the universe allows me.

Thank you for visiting! I hope you leave here with a bit of knowledge you didn’t have before you found me.

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