How to Avoid Vacation Stress

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For working parents, in particular, vacations are precious. They use precious time from our PTO balances. They are a commitment of precious resources i.e. money. They are precious trips where we get to spend day after day with our kids and create memories that we’ll always remember. That last one right there is what got me into trouble at the start of our summer vacation. I could sum up my downfall in one word...expectations.

Because I used 5 days of PTO, budgeted carefully for our expenses, and knew that I wouldn’t get another chance to spend 8 consecutive days with my kids until the holidays, I had high expectations. Expectations of how much fun we would have, expectations of how everyone would behave, and expectations of myself in terms of how relaxed and carefree I would be. So when my youngest spiked a fever on the first day of our road trip, and continued to be cranky, clingy and not sleep for the first two days at the vacation house, I responded by being cranky, frustrated and generally negative about the outlook for the rest of our trip. 

My expectations had been squashed. I was angry at my daughter for getting sick, I was angry that my ability to relax and have fun had been ruined, and I was angry that I was so darn tired. The most frustrating part was, I knew I was being a Debbie Downer. And I knew it was in my control, and my control only, to snap out of it. But I just couldn’t.

Doing the Work

Coincidentally, that second afternoon while my daughter was taking a much-needed nap, I pulled out my self-coaching work for the week and the first exercise was one about my past. Not my childhood past or my adolescent past, but my past as in yesterday. I had to write all of the great things about yesterday. And as I put pen to paper, I was surprised by how much I had to write. After all, I was off work, disconnected for the most part, and with my family in a beautiful place with a beautiful view of the water (which in my opinion has the power to heal so much). 

The second part of the exercise was to write down the not-so-great things about yesterday. That was easy. My daughter was sick, I was grumpy, and I had made sure everyone knew how tired I was.

As I tried to see my yesterday as something that couldn’t be changed (only my thoughts about it can change), I tried to reframe it a bit. I realized how lucky I was to be able to be with my daughter while she wasn’t feeling well instead of having to leave her with the nanny and go to work. I realized how fortunate I was to be able to take it easy and even sneak a quick day-time nap because I was on vacation and with family who could help. And lastly, I realized that even a bad day isn’t such a bad day when you’re in a beautiful setting. 

That exercise was exactly what I needed. With 5 more days remaining on our vacation, I decided to drop expectations. To be present. To help my kids have a good time, while also finding minutes here and there for myself (like this one). To let go of what I thought I should be doing and forcing myself to see that week as truly a vacation. Vacation from to-lists, from schedules and routines, from perfection, and from expectations. 

I know some people are great at vacation. They thrive on the change in routine, the spontaneity. They don’t over-plan or over-pack or over-prepare; they just go and trust that they will figure it out. And they truly can detach from reality and know that the world won’t stop because they are gone for a week or two. 

But I wonder if some of you, like me, have to work a bit harder to enjoy vacation. And maybe for you, there is a happy medium somewhere where you can…

1. Lower your expectations.

  • Have a loose plan or guidelines for the week, but then leave plenty of room in the schedule for doing what fits with the day and your mood. 
  • Hope for good behavior, good weather, etc. but know that it’s no guarantee. And know that how much fun you have or how “great” your vacation is, doesn’t depend on either of those things.

2. Make vacation be about your kids AND about you

  • Plan some special surprises or outings that you know will excite your kids, but also know that you don’t have to go overboard. Being in a new place and a new environment is plenty exciting.
  • Make sure that there are some special things for you to look forward to also. After all, this vacation is just as much for you as it is for them.

3. Lose the routines, within reason

  • Give yourself permission to slack a bit on your routines with working out, journaling, eating healthy, or whatever other self-improvement plans you have going on. Or keep them up if they fit into your schedule while away. Whichever way you go, it’s exactly as it should be. Don’t dwell on either scenario and know that you’ll get back to it once you’re back home. Isn’t that partly what vacation is about? To help you come back to reality refreshed and re-energized to commit to the work that you are doing?

4. Stop feeling behind

  • Speaking of returning to reality, know that there is no such thing as feeling behind. Only you can make yourself feel behind.
  • Try taking one thing at a time, one day at a time and do what needs to be done and only that. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you fall back into your routines and how soon you feel “back to normal”.

5. Everything is in your control

  • Well, everything except the weather and the logistical pieces of vacation. I should say, the important things are within your control. How you feel is within your control. If you need to jot things down to put it into perspective, take the time to do that.
  • Whether you’re planning, packing or stressing about getting everything “ready” or you’re actually on your vacation having your expectations severely challenged, like me, you have the power to reset your thoughts. To remind yourself of how many great things you have going for you. To see things as an adventure, as an opportunity. To smile, shrug, be curious and be relaxed. 

Maybe you are that person who is good at vacationing. You just haven’t stopped long enough to think of yourself that way.

Remember, no one else has any expectations of how your vacation should be. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone. Make it yours. Make it what you want.
 

Why Every Working Mom Needs a Life Coach

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As a life coach myself, you might already be thinking, “of course you would think every working mom needs a life coach. That’s who you work with.” It’s true. I am a life coach for new working moms. But before I was a life coach, I was a new working mom myself googling all sorts of coaching questions, searching for someone who would know what I was going through and who could help me get my life together. 

But even today as a life coach myself, I still have a life coach. We all have our own challenges and areas in which we want to grow. While I have the tools and could certainly coach myself through a lot of this, it’s so much faster and more effective to get help. To have someone who can look into my life from the outside, share a fresh perspective, and hold me accountable to the change I want to create. So yes, I work with a life coach now and I have worked with life coaches in the past, even before I became one myself. I like to think I bring the best of both perspectives to this bold statement.

If I had my way, every working mom would have a life coach, ESPECIALLY new working moms. We are even starting to see some progressive employers offer these services as a benefit to new working moms (amazing, right?). Do you know why? Because life coaching impacts every aspect of your life, including your work. It’s effective and it works. And the best part is, all you have to do is show up willing to share, be open to new ideas, and take action. 

That last one is huge. One of the biggest differences between coaching and counseling, in my opinion, and personal experience, is that coaching is about taking action. Sure, you talk and share, but at the end of the day, coaching is about figuring out what you want, what needs to change and then creating a plan for action so you can start making progress. If you have a good life coach, those next steps and that action plan will be doable for you, not something that is overwhelming.

So why do you need a life coach? Why can’t you just read self-help books, listen to podcasts, or vent to your friends or partner? Here’s why:
 

When You Pay, You Pay Attention

It’s true for most of us. When you have money on the line, you are more likely to follow through. It’s why goal tracking apps like SticK or 21habit work. You’re out money if you don’t follow through. It’s why paying for a gym membership or a class pass works to get you to consistently work out or why buying a book as opposed to checking it out from the library might make you more likely to finish it. You pay attention when you pay.

I have found the same thing to be true of coaching. When you try to DIY a life change by reading books or listening to podcasts or researching the topic online, you quickly lose momentum. First of all, it takes longer to find the right solution for you. Second, you never fully make a commitment. You'll “figure it out” when you have time or when it’s convenient and 3, 6, 9 months go by and you're in the same scenario as when you started thinking about making a change.

But when you commit to paying for life coaching, it’s a different scenario entirely. You schedule the calls in advance and rarely break them. You make sure that you have a clear schedule and childcare if needed. It’s no different than keeping a doctor’s appointment or a hair appointment. It’s your time. And because the recommendations, resources and action plans are specific to you, you get to where you want to be much faster. You don’t have to go searching for information, you can get your questions answered immediately, and you have a clear plan. You know what to do next. And the best part? You have accountability. In all of my coaching relationships, I have always had a follow-up with my coach to check-in on my progress. And no one wants to show up to those meetings having done nothing. So you always take at least a few steps toward your goal or you share any roadblocks you're facing so you can work through them...together.

Friends Are Great, But,,,

I have some pretty amazing, badass friends in my life. Career women, moms, working moms at all stages, and they have some truly amazing insight and ideas. They’re who I go to when I need a recommendation for a new car seat, or when I’m struggling with a new-to-me sleep regression or behavior issue with my toddler, and they are who I go to when I’m having a tough week, an argument with my husband or feel like I’m losing my shit. They listen, they commiserate and they offer advice. But they’re not necessarily who I go to when I feel like I can do more with my life. That there is a happier version of me out there that I want to find. 

It’s not that I’m embarrassed to share that or that they couldn’t relate. They probably could. But I need something more than commiserating. I need ideas, I need a challenge, I need someone who knows how to bring out the best in me. And when it comes to accountability, my friends have busy lives of their own. Many of them are chasing their own dreams, their own kids and feeling just as tired and overwhelmed as I am. 

A life coach isn’t trying to be your best friend. A life coach wants to see you succeed more than anything else. And if that means providing some tough love, some big goals, and a customized plan for how to get there, then that’s what they do. And then when you're ready to celebrate the amazing progress you’ve made, you can go to your friends because no one else will be as excited for you.
 

Take Self-Care To A Whole New Level

You've likely felt the push to prioritize self-care. To do something for you each day so that you have the energy to take care of everyone else. You’re told that self-care doesn’t have to be anything huge, it can be taking a walk, reading a book or drinking a glass of water. But you also know that it’s harder to prioritize those little things than it is to keep a big commitment like getting a massage, for example (remember that thing I said about paying?). 

So if you’re going to take the time for something like a massage, while that is an amazing way to take care of yourself, don’t get me wrong, the effects only last so long. And for the same amount of time in many cases, you could work on your life, your mental health, your spirit. You could make changes that will impact your work, your relationships, your overall happiness. 

That’s what life coaching has done for me. When my mind and my outlook are in great shape, everything else improves as a byproduct. When I work with a life coach, I feel in control of my life and I feel like I am making progress on creating a life that I love every day. That, to me, is self-care to the nth degree.

Is It Frivolous?

Maybe you think that having a life coach is frivolous or extravagant. But I bet you know more people than you think who have a life coach. It's exciting to see this shift toward seeking help, prioritizing our mental well-being and taking ownership of how we feel about our lives. Isn't that more important than a lot of other "frivolous" things on which we spend our money?

If I could gift one thing to all new working moms, it would without a doubt be the gift of a life coach. Figuring out how to manage schedules, find energy, be productive at work and at home, and enjoy your life as much as, if not more than you manage it, those are big tasks. Wouldn't it be amazing to share those challenges with someone who can help you take action and make progress? From personal experience, it is pretty amazing.

If you'd like to learn more about coaching with me, click here or email me at katelyn@themothernurture.com.

Inspiration for Working Moms

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If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I love to share quotes, mantras and ideas that inspire and encourage working moms. I also like to post things that challenge you to think about some deep-rooted habits or thought patterns that you might have. 

I actually use some of my favorite and most popular posts in other areas of my coaching practice as well. For example, on the back of every single business card that I hand out, is a quote or mantra about working motherhood and the topics that I coach on. 

Additionally, for many of my clients, we select a mantra or a new thought pattern to implement in their daily lives that will help to slowly change or eliminate an old thought pattern. Sometimes these are phrases that my client comes up with, or that we collaboratively create, but sometimes we use a great mantra that’s already out there that resonates with the work we are doing. 

Regardless of how you come up with the phrase, I’m a big believer in keeping that thought front and center in your daily life. So if it’s a new thought pattern that you are wanting to make a habit, you need to constantly be reminded of it. I encourage all of my clients to write it in obvious places - places like on a family calendar, on a post-it note that lives on your mirror or on your laptop, on a card that sits in your wallet, or my favorite, as a computer or phone wallpaper image. 

If you’re looking for inspiration, a reminder, or a gentle nudge that it’s time to change that thought that isn’t serving you, I hope that one of these will resonate. Over the years, these quotes and mantras have stayed at the top of the list in terms of the favorites of the Mother Nurture community:
 

The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.
— Stephen Covey
Worry is like a rocking chair, it will give you something to do, but it won’t get you anywhere.
— Vance Havner
It’s okay to grow slow.
— @laracasey
I want to be an example of what is possible because of motherhood, not in spite of it.
— Katelyn Denning
The habits you created to survive will no longer serve you when it’s time to thrive. Get out of survival mode. New habits, new life.
— @exalt_her
Spend your free time the way you like, not the way you think you’re supposed to.
— Susan Cain
Sometimes your joy is the source of your smile, but sometimes your smile can be the source of your joy.
— Thich Nhat Hanh
Gratitude and attitude are not challenges; they are choices.
— Robert Braathe
In the end, I am the only one who can give my children a happy mother who loves life.
— unknown
Give yourself permission to feel the messy and conflicting thoughts that come with being away from your baby.
— Katelyn Denning

I would encourage you to choose one of these, or create your own new thought that will help move you closer to the way you want to feel every day, and post it somewhere where you can be constantly reminded of the change you are seeking. 

And if you come up with something that is working well for you, please share it either by emailing me at katelyn@themothernurture.com or tagging @lovemothernurture in your post on IG. If it's helping you, it could surely help someone else too. 

You Are Allowed To Change Your Mind

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You receive the call you’ve been waiting for. It’s the daycare center where your name has been on the waitlist for the last 6 months while you've kept your fingers crossed for one of the coveted infant spots to open up. Meanwhile, you have paid countless other waitlist deposits for other facilities, looked into at-home daycare providers all across town, and even interviewed a few nannies as a possible backup plan. You don’t even want to think about the amount of time (and money) you have invested into the process of researching childcare options. 

So when that call comes in, you’re surprised that you feel nervous and anxious at committing. You assumed all you would feel would be relief. But suddenly, what you thought would be an easy decision, feels like something you still need to “think about”. 

What about all those other options that you researched in the meantime? What if this daycare isn’t as great as you thought it was when you first toured it 6 months ago? This is a BIG decision!

We’ve all been there, whether it’s about childcare, or something else, when it comes to a decision that impacts our kids, the final choice feels HUGE.

You could face the same feelings with choosing to breastfeed or formula feed, to co-sleep or not, to use disposable diapers or cloth diapers, or to work full-time, part-time or not at all. There’s the decision cycle of making gut reactions to the options, researching the crap out of everything, then polling your friends for their advice, and finally, sitting in indecision until you are forced to make a decision and you either own it or second-guess yourself the entire way.

Decisions Feel Final

I think one of the biggest reasons we sit in indecision (which is actually a choice, by the way), is that we are afraid that whatever we choose we’re going to have to live with forever. We feel like we are making this choice for our kid that will be the same for the rest of his or her life. So, for as long as childcare is needed, he will stay at this facility. For as long as she is in diapers, she will be in cloth. For as long as he is little, I will be working full-time.

It’s easy to forget that hardly any of these decisions are actually final. They feel final, but are they really? 

Last time I checked, you are in charge of your life and your baby’s, and therefore, you are allowed to change your mind. 

I’ll say it again, you are allowed to change your mind.

How does that make the pending decision feel? Not so big anymore, right? If you knew that enrolling in that daycare facility was only going to be for the next year, at which point you would have the option of hiring a nanny or moving to an in-home sitter, would it matter quite so much? 

Because that’s the truth. You can change your mind, and life can change its mind too. Nothing has to be permanent.

The Cost of Change

But what about the cost to make a change, or the fact that sometimes available options change? Those are valid concerns. But just like you are researching the options available to you today, you will have the opportunity to do the same thing in the future too.

And as far as costs go, can you place a cost on happiness, or ease of mind, or minimizing stress? If that’s what could be gained from changing your mind, it’s worth considering that.

Do you have a big decision weighing on your mind right now? Or are you feeling trapped in a decision you’ve already made? Maybe it’s directly about your little one, but maybe it’s about you too (your job status, maybe?). 

Try this:

  1. Remind yourself that nothing is permanent.
  2. Ask yourself - Is this working? Or do I feel good about my choice, given the information that I have today?
  3. What would it look like if you were to change my mind? What would it take? What are the steps involved?
  4. What could you gain if you made a change?
  5. What could you lose (money, time, etc.)?
  6. What’s the worst that could happen?

I encourage you to really write out your answers to these questions, especially if you’ve been stuck and have been undecided for some time, or if you’re second-guessing a decision you’ve already made.

Seeing the worst case scenario, or the steps that it would take to make a change can often remind you of how not-a-big-deal something is. We so often create these insurmountable hurdles in our heads because we haven’t truly thought through what it would take to change. It’s easier to tell ourselves that it’s not possible. And our brains especially like that because it’s the same thought pattern we’ve always had. Change is what is scary.

Think about it. How much has your life changed in the last 10 years, 5 years or even 1 year? How many decisions that you thought were permanent ended up changing somewhere along the way? 

You have the proof. Now you just need to remind yourself.

You Are In Control

So the next time you’re facing a decision about what to do, where to go, or whether to take that job. Sure, do your research and weigh your pros and cons, but remember that you can always change your mind. You are in control. 

I’d love to hear what decision you’ve labored over only to find yourself changing course at a later point. Email me at katelyn@themothernurture.com.

When Life Feels Like a Chore, Try These 7 Tricks

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I don’t know if it’s the hot and slow days of summer, the stage of life that my kids are in, or what, but lately life has been feeling kind of lazy and, I cringe to even say this out loud, kind of like a chore

I’m choosing not to feel embarrassed because I’m sure you’ve experienced it too at some point. The days blend together because they follow the same routine - morning rituals (dictated by you or your little one), work, evening routine, chores, vegging, and sleep. And even if you schedule fun activities like an afternoon at the pool, a trip to a new playground, or a date night, it’s never enough to jolt you out of that feeling... 

That feeling that you’re just moving through your days instead of living them.

That feeling of guilt that you’re not enjoying life to its fullest (as so many Instagram photos encourage you to do).

That feeling that you’re not creating memories that your kids will look back on and ask to repeat as soon as possible.

Sometimes days, weeks, or even an entire month goes by without you noticing that this is happening. And the hardest part is when you get so used to feeling this way, even when you know that something should change, it's a struggle to figure out what should change, or how

Logically we know that really, this funk that we're in is caused by what we're thinking. You've heard me talk about this before. But even the best of us struggle with changing thoughts that have quickly become a habit. 

Sometimes, one of the best things we can do to jumpstart that process is to take ACTION. Trying something new and seeing things from a different perspective can be just what we need to make life feel more fun, and less like a chore.

If you're ready to take action and to reclaim your days, try one of these ideas to shake things up a bit.
 

1. Get Off Social Media

As much as we say it helps us keep in touch or “zone out” when we need it, when you’re in a funk, social media is doing you no favors. Just seeing others out taking adventures and exclaiming how amazing life is can be enough to make you feel even worse, whether you realize it or not. 

One of my favorite instagrammers posted recently about how she takes mini-breaks from Instagram by deleting the app off her phone for a few days to a week at a time. She never fully deletes her account, she just realizes when it’s time for a break. 

So maybe you try that approach rather than going cold turkey. See what it does for your outlook and your productivity. What new perspective does it provide?
 

2. Change Up Your Schedule

Pick a part of your day that is so routine you don’t even think about it. Maybe it’s your drive to work, your breakfast choice, your dinnertime routine, whatever. Now think about how you could change it just a little bit.

  • Can you take an alternate route to work, or make a pit stop for a special coffee treat?
  • Can you try a new breakfast recipe? Instead of the usual oatmeal or hard-boiled egg, try overnight oats or a smoothie.
  • If you always eat dinner together at the dining table, can you eat outside on a picnic blanket, or have an impromptu pizza party with neighbors?

Make a break from routine. Give yourself something different to look forward to. Practice being spontaneous. Not all the time, just this one time (or more if you love it!).
 

3. Make Something With Your Hands

I know not everyone is crafty. I have even gotten away from my days of knitting and DIY projects, because...time. But there is something so satisfying about working with your hands. It takes you out of your thoughts and gives you something to focus on that you can see through to completion, unlike work days filled with never-ending inboxes and projects that last for forever. 

So what could you make? Could it be an art project with your kiddo or a play-doh creation just for fun? Could it be an adult coloring book or a quick painting project around the house (I know I have a million little things I would love to spray paint for added color!)? If you’ve got supplies lying around, go crazy. If not, what you can do that you already have? I would love to watch youtube videos on hand-lettering and just doodle for an evening.
 

4. Take a Day Trip

There is a reason people go on vacation, and many argue that travel is the best source of inspiration. We need something to look forward to and we need a change of scenery.

Can you try letting go of the weekend chores and prepping for next week? Say no to over-commitment of activities and anything else, and pick somewhere new you’ve never been.

  • Try taking a short drive to a new restaurant you’ve never eaten at before.
  • Find a summer festival in your town or neighboring one for something different.
  • Visit a museum, a park or anywhere else nearby that you haven’t seen before.

Remember, it can be about you and your kids can just be along for the “adventure”. Our trips don’t always have to center around a place being “kid-friendly”. I know I can get stuck on this a lot, but when I challenge my kids to find something cool about where we are going, they always enjoy it even if it’s not necessarily geared toward them.

5. Buy (or make) a Fun Card

I’m a big fan of snail mail. Always have been, always will be. With so many amazing options for cute, funny and touching cards, I have no excuse but to be sending mail to those I think about.

Just last week I couldn’t resist a card from Trader Joe’s (and they’re only $1) so I bought it on a whim and put it in the mail to a friend. I shared a sentiment that easily could have been shared over text, but why not change things up a bit?

Is there someone who has been on your mind lately to check-in with? Could you send a funny card, just because, instead?

Thinking about others takes the focus off of us. And when you’re in a funk and feeling like life is mundane, I say it’s the perfect time to do just that.

6. Set a Silly Goal

What’s something you’ve always wanted to do, but never felt it was “necessary” or “worth the time”? For me, don’t laugh, I’ve always wanted to go through and watch the entire filmography for Diane Keaton. I love her as an actor and I know I would enjoy creating a list of all her films and slowly making my way through it. But it always seems frivolous and most evenings I can’t justify giving up on chores or work to sit in front of the TV devouring movies.

But if it could change up my life enough, give me something interesting and crazy to talk about, what’s the harm? Chores will be there for the rest of my life. This silly goal? It would be fun.

So what’s something that you could do this summer, to set for yourself as a silly goal?

  • Is it baking a certain number of recipes from your favorite food blogger’s website?
  • Is it listening to all the albums from a decade’s top 20 list?
  • Is it taste-testing every dairy bar in town?

Do something crazy, frivolous, and downright silly!
 

7. Write Down What You Are Grateful For

You’ve heard it a million times, and for good reason. There is science behind the claim that keeping a gratitude journal and writing down what you are thankful for really does start to rewire the brain.

I admit this has been a habit I struggle to maintain. When I think about getting out my Five Minute Journal, and actually writing it down, it feels like a project. There are so many things I have to do, how will I have time? Plus, what if I end up writing the same things every day? That will get boring.

Well, the reality is that it takes me less than 2 minutes to complete my list of 3 things and who cares if I write the same thing every day? No one is reading my work or judging my list.

Try it for a week. Set a timer if you're worried it will take too long. See how you feel at the end of that week. Maybe you'll notice something great about life that you had completely forgotten about.

We Need the Low's, to Love the High's

We all go through different seasons and stages. I believe that life can't be fun 100% of the time. We need the sad days, the boring days, the frustrating days to make the good ones that much sweeter. But if you're feeling that those not-so-fun days are sticking around a bit too long, it could be a sign that you need to try something new.

Don't overthink it. Pick one of these ideas that stands out to you, and take action. Shake up your routine, and shake up your thinking. Hopefully, you'll see that there is more to your life than just chores and routines. You just need to take a minute to enjoy it.