Figuring out Productivity as a Stay-at-home Mom

I've never liked the word productivity. 

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It's sort of like "portion size", makes me cringe a little and immediately lose interest. If you also cringe when you hear productivity, I apologize in advance 'cause I'm about the say it like a million times. Whether I like the word or not, productivity is part of life both for both working and nonworking mamas.

The meaning of productivity has changed dramatically for me between when I was working and now. Productivity for working me: putting on pants, finishing a presentation, sitting in on calls, scheduling and attending meetings, leaving the office for lunch, sitting in traffic for 2 hours a day, oh yea, and making $$$. Productivity for stay-at-home me: A mystery. Started as keeping babies safe and fed, not completely trashing the house everyday, and maybe taking a shower and is currently morphing into writing blog posts at midnight. I haven't really figured it out yet.

I do know that newborn babies throw a total wrench in traditional views of productivity, obvs. They take a scheduled life and turn it upside down. This stage probably lasts a different amount of time for everyone. The first time for me it pretty much lasted the entire 12 weeks of maternity leave. Going back to work brought order and schedule back and by default, feelings of productivity. With my second baby, I decided that going back to work wasn't going to happen so the hard deadline ending the newborn stage never came. Where did that leave me? Incredibly happy and grateful to be home followed by feelings of "S&*t, I'm going to have to figure out how to feel organized and productive by myself this time."

I wanted to know what productivity means to other working-turned-SAHMs, so I asked a few.

Meet Laura (a different Laura, I swear).

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Amazing mom to almost 2 year old, Bodhi, and brand-spanking-newborn, Wilder. Corporate insurance broker: whip smart, put together AF, great hair. Spent her days in pencil skirts and seriously high heels. She knew during her pregnancy with Bodhi that she was going to stay home after his arrival. Laura and her boys travel for her husband's job, so she knows very few people in her current city and is about to move to a new one (yes, with a newborn and a toddler 😱).  

I can't really imagine Laura being unproductive, but I asked her about it anyway. Her response to my email was polished enough to be an article in some sort of boss mom magazine. To her new life at home with babes, productivity means leaving the house most days. Without those structured escapes she fears her and her toddler will get on each others nerves (#truth). She also tries to keep a schedule most days but isn't super strict about it (I'm gonna call her a soft scheduler), possibly a nod to her former life planning for deadlines months in advance. Laura takes advantage of conveniences like online grocery shopping and meal delivery services (like plated) Because next to staying at home all day, one of the things that makes her feel most unproductive is having an empty fridge.

Laura most missed the adult convos she used to have at the office. I imagine those convos were pretty badass and involved words such as integrative, expedite, and perhaps synergy? She also misses the clothes & shoes required by the corporate life. I totally relate to this. My office was much more casual than Laura's, but not so casual where I could show up in the PJ lookalikes I currently wear to work. 

Meet Anne.

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Hilarious, so so kind, cute as hell, and laid back, being a mom appears second nature to her. She went back to work after her first babe, David, and decided to call it quits when she was expecting her second little nug, Lucy. Anne is the first friend you text when you get pooped on by your child. Like Laura, she is raising her babes far from extended family while her husband finishes up his residency. 

Productivity to Anne as it relates to caring for babes means keeping an at least slightly organized house and tackling stuff that needs to get done, like meals and laundry. She's working on not beating herself up and letting messes happen (I feel you). She focuses on getting herself and the kids ready every morning (unlike me and my typically naked kids 🙈) with the goal of getting out and about during the day (park, zoo, errands). The part she most missed about working is seeing her work friends everyday. Luckily she still has them around to text with because work friends can seriously turn into the best friends sometimes.

Something Anne told me I'm her email totally struck a chord, and that was she feels less productive when her 2 year old watches too much TV. I 100% agree. It also makes me feel unproductive and also just like a bad parent when Ruthie watches too much Clifford (January and February right after Bobby was born = WAY more TV that id like to admit🙈. It was Thomas back then, I miss Thomas).

Things I've been doing in order to feel like I'm not just floating around between diaper changes all day:

1. Get up before babies - I've been failing at this most days because Bobby wakes up at 3 am lately, but days I get up early I have a slightly more laid-back attitude all day. Might be the extra coffee.

2. Listen to a podcast - I usually pick trending nutrition related stuff, or inspiring but short shows like How I Built This.

3. Turn Netflix off - Especially difficult lately because I've started watching Gilmore Girls again (it makes me feel fallish?!).

4. Limit social media - Somebody please help me with this.

5. Cut the ties between productivity and a clean house - I read somewhere that cleaning a house with a toddler is like brushing your teeth while eating oreo's. For someone who isn't very cleaning motivated to begin with, basing productivity on keeping the kitchen clean is a terrible idea.

What do you guys do to feel productive at work or at home?

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Baby Raisin' Essentials: Gear That Will Get Used Everyday

I am probably the last person you want to see a baby gear list from. 

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I've mentioned before that I tend to be a little unorganized. I'm also not really a "gear" person meaning I don't usually have the latest and greatest of things. I just got an iPhone 6. I tend to show up to things like camping trips grossly under prepared. I took my laptop to the apple store for repair and they referred to it as a "vintage machine". But when it comes to baby stuff, I do my research. Planning for Ruthie's arrival 2 years ago in a giddily excited haze, I pieced together a pretty cohesive registry.

This is a list of the things that I have used every. single. day. for the last 2.5 years. I haven't gotten bored with them, frustrated with them, annoyed to the point of throwing them out the upstairs window (unlike my husband and his short lived romp with an electric toothbrush), and they also haven't worn out on me despite everyday use through two babies.

These are the items I didn't know that I would fall in love with, therefore could not have recommended until recently. Some of the items I'm still using with 2 year old Ruthie and 8 month old Bobby simultaneously. THESE ARE GOOD THINGS.  

1. Ergo Classic. My number one, all time fave, will-recommend-it-until-I-die piece of equipment is the Ergo. This piece of gear is built. to. last. I use it every day, multiple times a day around the house. I nurse in it, feed myself, literally run with Ruthie, cook and photograph food, rock babes to sleep, take them to the store. One of Ruthie's first words was Ergo. Anytime I leave the house, it's with me. It was originally grey but is now has a sort of beige haze of spit up and food stains. Somehow a crayon melted inside of it. It isn't pretty anymore but structurally, it is still as perfect as the day I bought it.

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I got really into different carriers after having Ruthie and tried out a ton of varieties (ring sling, stretch wrap, mei tai, Tula soft structured carrier, and Ergo). I loved the ring sling and stretchy wraps with Ruthie, but Bobby has been too heavy for both since he was about 3 months old. A few things I look for in a carrier: a wide base that enables legs to be "frogged", a flap to help hold head in place after baby inevitably passes out, and cushiony straps. 

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END OF LIST. 

 

Jk I have a few more faves. 

2. Phil and Ted Lobster Claw Seat. This little diddy has been through some gross stuff. It gets a thick coating of food almost everyday and you KNOW I'm not wiping that bad boy down after each meal. The removable canvas seat usually gets hit with the hose and hung to dry but I have also put it in the washing machine (not recommended by manufacturer) and it is still as sturdy as day one. The metal frame is pretty bulky so I wouldn't exactly call this portable, but it is perfect as an everyday seat. Clamps right to the counter or sturdy tabletop allowing you to sweep right underneath after feeding babe (or you know, 5 hours later 🤷‍♀️). 

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3. Charlie Banana cloth diapers + wipes. One thing I researched a ton, like spent WAY too much time on, was cloth diapers. I drove to an adorable little cloth diaper store to take a CLASS in cloth diapers. The women of yore are rolling their eyes so hard at me. There are so many different varieties of diapers and I found it super confusing. There is a lingo and a community and a million hashtags and it was a lot of info. I ended up investing my diaper money 70% into Charlie banana and 30% into another brand and the Charlie bananas are the ones I always reach for first. It's not only the cute prints, the same exact diapers somehow fit really well from birth all the way to a 2 years old. I use the same diapers now with Bobby that I did with Ruthie (again, not being super careful and following all the manufacturers directions), and most of them still look pretty new. We use cloth when we're home and disposables overnight and when we're out and about.  

I also love the wipes. They are super soft, I just run a few under water before going in for a dipe change and then toss them into a wetbag. Even if you don't cloth dipe, these are very handy to have around! Ruthie has a special pack just for bathing Hank, her inflatable hippo.

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4. Jessica Simpson nursing bras. NURSING BRAS ARE TERRIBLE. I've been wearing one since 2015 (even when I didn't have to wear one 🤔) and can tell you so many of them are just not what I was looking for. Whyyyy are they so flimsy? At a time when you most need NON flimsy? IDGI. I found some solace in j.simps. She makes nursing bras with convertible straps that can be worn under racerback tanks. This style offers sturdy support without those weird, perfectly circular removable cups. Some of the reviews claim that the cups are too stiff and don't fold down easily enough for nursing. The cups are firmer than normal nursing bras, but I find that to be a good thing and don't have any problems with it. Oh and all of her bras are under $50!

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5. Halo Bassinest Swivel Sleeper. I've only had this one for about a year so only Bobby has tried it out, but this is the co-sleeper I had been searching for since Ruthie was born. I borrowed and tried out an Arm's Reach Co-sleeper and a snuggle nest (similar to dock a tot but less $$): the Arm's Reach was too low compared to the height of our bed, and the snuggle nest took up too much room. The Swivel Sleeper extends to the exact height of our bed or even swivels over the top of the mattress, so night time feeding is super easy. By the time Bobby was about 3 months old, he could simultaneously touch all sides, so he had to move out. But I still felt like we got great use out of it. They are a little pricey (and super sturdy, the base weighs a ton), but well worth it if you're looking to co-sleep but already have a bed full of toddlers and husbands. I found mine second hand through a Facebook mom's group for $100!

 

This post contains affiliate links. This means if you decide to make a purchase through one of the links, I will make a small commission. 

 

What are your everyday baby faves? Leave your recs in the comments! 🙏🙏

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Half a Year as a SAHM

It has been 7 entire months since Bobby joined the world.

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Time is seriously wacky after having kids. I can't really say anything that hasn't already been said, but how does it possibly go this fast? It feels like slow motion while it's happening, and then overnight these tiny newborn babies become little kids.

You know how you hear on the radio or read an article online about what age people agree is best age of their life? It's usually an age that is sort of surprising and specific like 36 or 53, but I can't imagine a time in life where I will I feel more myself than riiiiight now. Every single day is something I look forward to. I look forward to seeing Bobby grow and big belly laugh and kick his chubby feet. I look forward to watching Ruthie learn and hearing what quirky thing she has to say and seeing what she will find outside (she recently learned about shrimp and calls them SHRAMPS and looks for them everywhere).


But it is really difficult too. Being at home with these guys is 100 million things at once. It's hilarious and fun, so so so messy, lighthearted and singsongy, complicated and uncomfortable, repetitive, really testing, strange and foreign and incredibly familiar. I go from feeling like a super clever genius to omg will I ever do anything right again. I feel really lost some days and right at home others. I worry too much about what's "normal" which leads to interesting google searches (like, "2 year old kissed white moth...poison??" Side note, that's really the format I use to type things into google).


Morning time is the time when I feel the differences from my working life the most. I no longer alarm and shower and blow dry and straighten and tuck in and match and makeup and drive. It sometimes seems impossible to me that I used to leave the house before 7 everyday and I'm sort of impressed with my past self (and every other working mom out there).

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Some days I feel the pressure to contribute and have a mild panic attack about money, but then I think calming thoughts like "well, I'll just sell my car". Despite those anxieties, I'm not ready to leave. I miss feeling the stability I felt before, but it feels so so so worth it. It's selfish to say that, because the college accounts have been put on hold and a whole lot of pressure has been put on Austin, at the same time I can't help hearing that cliche in my head "you won't get this time back". I can spend the rest of my life working to make up for the years off (right?! Looking for reassurance here). I couldn't even handle thinking about the financial instability of not returning to work after my first maternity leave with Ruthie, even though I so desperately wanted to be home with her. Something felt different after having Bobby, 401k and expense reports are totally important, but they no longer feel like benefits that I cannot live without.


I know staying at home with babes is not at all the goal for many parents. I had not even an inkling that it was my goal until I was right in the middle of it all. There are few things I feel confident enough to give advice on, but I have absolutely no regrets in this decision. If you are going through something similar and struggling with the decision, I hope my experience might help.

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And if I do have to act on my calming thought of selling my car for $$, don't worry, I'll write a post on it.

I'm Not Going Back: Making the Decision to Stay Home with Babes

This would have been my first week back to work after a little over two months home with my second babe. Just like everyone says, the time absolutely flew by. But it felt all kinds of different from my first maternity leave 'Cause I'm not goin' back.

As many moms do, I had a rough time going back to work after my first, Ruthie, was born. A few days after bringing her home from the hospital, I started to feel the annoying weight of the 12 week maternity leave clock. After my 6 week postpartum checkup? Full-on anxiety over the weeks, days, minutes we had left together. I felt guilty doing the dishes because I should have spent that time with Ruthie. I wore her endlessly to try to make every second count. I slept with her right next to me so I wouldn't waste the hours overnight. I didn't like to put her in the car because I couldn't hold her while she was in her car seat (geezus, I might be insane). Suddenly time was up and I had to force myself away from her side and into my car...alone. I cried for days, made myself feel horribly guilty, and tried to ignore the nagging feeling that I was making the wrong choice (for me, I totally understand this isn't the experience of every mother or father). In the hours outside of those spent in the office, I was obsessed with time and never left Ruthie's side. 

Heading back to work when Ruthie was about 3 months old (and only 10 lbs!!)

Heading back to work when Ruthie was about 3 months old (and only 10 lbs!!)

When I found out we had another on the way, the thought of heading back to a typical workweek with a two hour daily commute felt flat-out impossible. I was spending more time at work than at home, and I definitely wasn't passionate enough about my job to justify the time away. And with TWO babies?? My stomach tightened every time I thought about it. At the same time, the thought of not working absolutely terrifies me. Not only the financial aspect (although that is a HUGE part), but what if I fall behind the competition? What if I can't find a job when I decide I'm ready to (or finances decide that I need to) go back? What about the example I was setting for Ruthie by working AND momming?

Life: Ruthie is a blur and Bobby is just chillin'.

Life: Ruthie is a blur and Bobby is just chillin'.

Two and a half months into this leave, I feel none of the insane pressure I put on myself before. I am 99% sure that is because I'm not hyper aware of the invisible hourglass reminding me how little time I have left to witness the teeny babe stage in all it's glory. I might find down the road that I don't love staying home as much as I thought I would, or that we can't afford it, or maybe Ruthie will say "dude, go back to work I see you way too much", but I'm so excited and wierdly proud to be giving myself the chance to find out.

Thanks to Austin for agreeing to try and make it work <3.

 

Grateful to see Bobby grow all day, err day.

Grateful to see Bobby grow all day, err day.

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72 Thoughts I had on my Wedding Day

The big day has come and gone. How that is possible...I do not know. Many thoughts were had on October 8th, some of them were even remembered. I've compiled them into this list. 

1. omg.
2. Ruthie, it's 5:30 AM...let's hang out for a little longer.
3. How is Austin still sleeping? 

4. Oh! Amanda's here! I'm going to go grind coffee beans until she wakes up.
5. Yessss she brought good coffee beans!!
6. Why is there so much dew all over everything? Should I blow-dry the tables?
7. Oh god, the tablecloths are sticking.
8. Maybe I should wait until the sun comes up to start setting tables. 
9. DAN quit jumping on the bar. 
10. THANK GOD Amanda's awake. 
11. Should I be doing something super important right now?
12. QUICHE!
13. I'm positive the florist forgot to put together my arrangements.
14. Ruthie looks so cute in tiny sweatpants.
15. I feel fairly normal today.
16. OMG HAIR AND MAKEUP ARE HERE, THIS IS HAPPENING.  
17. I wish I had more time to just hang out with my bmaids today.
18. There are 15 crates of freshly baked rolls in the living room. 
19. Monkey bread AND cinnamon rolls, this truly is the best day. 
20. Is everyone noticing how long my (fake) eyelashes are?

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21. I can't believe how many people came to help us set up!
22. Have I felt the baby move today?
23. WHERE IS RUTHIE?
24. So grateful for grandmas <3
25. WHO IS IN CHARGE OF THE CHEESE PLATE?
26. Having a photographer here is awkward (should I be doing something super inspiring to photograph rn?)
27. I wish I could have a photographer here to document every day.
28. Damn Andrea is good at doing hair.
29. It's time to put the dress on already.
30. I should probably wait until 5 minutes before the ceremony to put Ruthie's dress on.


31. People are here already!? What time is it?!
32. Can't really bend my arms, holding Ruthie like a robot for the rest of the day is fine.
33. First look is going to feel so awkward (I just saw Austin like 30 minutes ago). 
34. First look is a magical thing and I want to do it again at least monthly.

35. There are so many people here.   
36. I don't think we're going to start at 4:30.
37. I'm OK with starting late. 
38. Is everyone going to notice we are starting late?
39. Hope Lou doesn't mind strumming a few extra Sister Marilyn chords. 
40. What if there isn't enough food? What if there isn't any food because the caterer forgot? 
41. Can I go outside and say hi to everyone?
42. Reading books in the kitchen with Ruthie like everything is normal and there aren't 20 shuttles worth of family and friends outside.

43. What if Ruthie gets bored during the ceremony? 
44. Oh man, God bless Amy. She is literally sprinting around outside right now. 
45. Can anyone see me through this window
46. *Someone waves to me through window and I immediately drop to floor*
47. That was a strange reaction.
48. Time to go!
49. Was I supposed to wear a veil?
50. When did I put gum in my mouth?
51. *Frantically throws gum with excessive force, it goes 2 feet and sticks to a chair*
52. I have the greatest friends.
53. Should I remind Dad right now of the time he wore a furry suit to Andrea's wedding that one of the cats had slept on the night before?
54. I bet Ruthie is overwhelmed by the amount of people at our house.
55. Really time to go.

56. It is absolutely amazing to have most everyone I love in one place right now. 
57. I wonder if I look as excited as I actually am right now.
58. Oh, Austin. 
59. And Brian! Hi Brian!
60. Ruthie is crying! Poor buddy, she is probably so overwhelmed. (Thank you Renee for saving the day!)
61. Aw Austin...you're crying already!

62. Do we hold hands? One hand or both hands?
63. *Austin whispers to me "Do we have to read our vows? I already can't stop crying"*
64. UGH this is one of the absolute best and sweetest moments of my life. 
65. Ah which hand does it go on?! 
66. Just now noticing that I am standing in front of a whole buncha folks. 
67. Feeling some intense relief. 


68. I hope this olden time vehicle starts.
69. Ruthie would love this, we should have brought her for a ride with us!
70. I think I'm sitting on the actual gas tank, I'm glad Ruthie isn't on here with us. 
71. I'm starving. 
72. This is the.best.day.

Many more thoughts were had and lost as the evening became pretty much a blur. Some highlights included listening to the speeches (especially Mary's *crying-so-hard face*), eating some really good food, finally getting to eat the cake (that my mom made for anyone who did not know that!!), and best of all, hanging out with pretty much everyone I know and love. Thank you isn't enough to express my gratitude to all of those who were a part of the day. Let's do it again real soon.

Ruthie is 1

Ruthie's first birthday was last Friday, April 22nd and I still cannot believe she's one! When I was pregnant, I hated hearing how fast pregnancy would go. When Ruthie was born, like the day she was born, so many people told me to cherish it because it would go by SO fast and I hated hearing that too. Now that she is one, I hate that everyone was SO right because it DID go by that fast. CRYING FACE EMOJO.

Ruthie was born on Earth Day which is an amazing reflection of her tree-loving daddy. We had an Earth Day themed party on a beautiful Saturday afternoon. It was perfect, thanks so much to everyone who wished her a happy day. And I think I've calmed down a little bit in case anyone is in the mood to tell me how Ruthie will be 21 before I know it.

Engagement Sesh

Looking for a unique location for your engagement photos? Send us a message and get out here! No charge, just a really beautiful option for couples seeking an authentic, rustic & nature inspired backdrop.

Photos taken by my sister, Mary Morton, in October.

Pergola Build

If you had asked me what a pergola was a few years ago, there is a slight chance I would have had no idea what you were talking about. The same goes for names of various plant life. "That tree? That's an oak, right?" Wrong. There are like a million types of trees other than oak. What?!

I'm learning all kinds of new things about landscaping including what it takes to build a massive pergola made to stand the test of time. Austin and his dad put up the rafters and beams in one day. Each bracket was handmade by Austin (all 120 of them) in order to achieve the rustic, industrial look he was going for. The poplar rafters and sugar maple beams were cut especially for us by Lohrberg Lumber in Hecker, Illinois for that rough-hewn look. The support posts are reclaimed, sturdy-as-hell utility poles. The posts will be rooted in concrete and enveloped in brick pavers. Each post has a different type of vine planted at the base, and I'm proud to say I know the name of each one.