This week’s working mom spotlight features Jessica from A Modern Mom’s Life. She has two daughters, ages 6 & 9, and works as a Pharmacy Assistant. Jessica resides in Ontario, Canada and you can find her across social media @modernmomslife
We chat decluttering, activity overload, and her weight loss story! Read on for my great chat with Jessica and be sure to check her out on her blog. Remember, you can check out all the Working Mom Life Interviews in the series HERE! Each Wednesday I feature a new working mom.
You posted a few weeks ago about your mission to purge all of the toys and junk your daughters have accumulated. How’s that going so far?
My purge went well while the girls were away. Now that they are back I’m having a hard time keeping the tidiness going. I did get rid of a ton of stuff (organizational tools included – I found everyone was just throwing random stuff into bins and drawers without any sorting being done!) so there is a bit less to keep tidy, but we still have way too much stuff. I think this will be a work in progress for a long time yet.
Did you hit a breaking point one day that made you start tossing things out?
I try hard to keep things slightly sorted. I ask my girls to look after their own rooms, but Emma (my eldest at 9 years old) has resisted my gentle prodding for a long time now. When I finally asked her why she won’t clean up she said “I don’t know where to put anything!” That made me realize there was no organization in the kids rooms that really helped them stay tidy. All the drawers, bins, and shelving doesn’t help if there’s no clear idea of how to use them.
Do you have a good system working for you now? I find myself drowning in baby toys already, but I hate throwing away things!
You have to be ready to let go. My kids are actually better at deciding what to get rid of than I am. Though I’ve come a long way, it’s still hard for me to get rid of my old toys that I’ve kept for ages thinking my kids would love them too. I also get pretty sneaky and collect up things on the sly when the kids haven’t played with them in ages. I don’t really have a “system” – I just try to keep the kids on top of their own messes, and I keep an eye on what they’ve stopped playing with.
Switching gears a bit, I know you’re an avid reader. What kinds of books are you in to, and when do you find time to read along with your busy schedule?
After I had kids, my recreational reading practically stopped. I used to devour books but often I would read just before bed. Because my first baby co-slept (and only slept on or touching me) I just stopped reading at bedtime. After my second I was able to get back a bit of time to read, but still, it wasn’t as much as I’d like. (In fact, it’s still not as much as I’d like!) Now that I blog, I offer book reviews to indie authors. They ship me a book, I’ll read it and write a review. This makes it more like a task, or job, so I make more time to do it. Also, my youngest is 6 now, so I can make time now to read – especially before bed, though I often stay up too late doing “blog work”! As for favorites – I like fantasy and sci-fi, but I’ll read most anything, as long as it’s well written!
As we’re doing this interview, you’ve got a pretty busy schedule with your daughters (and even you!) in dance classes. How many activities are your daughters generally involved in? Where do you think the tipping point is for your sanity?
I just wrote a post about our schedule right now. (Click here to read about Jessica’s busy weekly schedule.) We go to the dance studio 4 nights a week, and with my husband and I both working full time it’s quite a messy pick up/drop off/bedtimes schedule. We are home Friday nights, and on the weekends. Just this term we aged out of the Saturday morning beginners ballet so it’s nice to have one day we don’t have to get up and get ready for anything! As for my tipping point – I haven’t hit it yet. As long as everyone is managing okay (parents included!) I can work on my blog on the nights I sit and wait for Emma to finish ballet class, or I can bring Rose home and do some housework (or blog work) after she goes to bed, before the older dancer gets home for bedtime. We also like to keep the girls in swimming lessons, but we didn’t register this term because we didn’t think we could fit it all in – we’ll try again after Christmas.
Among all of the activities you have going on, how do you make time for you? What are your hobbies?
I’ve actually incorporated most of my “hobbies” into our routines, and my blog. I take a dance class Monday nights, and I really enjoy reading and photography. Whenever we go anywhere, I take the camera in hopes of capturing some great photos or moments. Then if it works out I can blog about it, or just share the great photos on social media. I’d love to make some money from my photos and photography skills, but that hasn’t happened yet!
You’ve lost over 50 pounds since your daughter was born. (Is that the last 6 or 9 years?) That’s an amazing accomplishment! I’ve really struggled with weightloss, but you say the secret is little changes every day. What kinds of changes helped you?
Yes, I’ve lost about 50 lbs since my heaviest during my first pregnancy. I topped out at almost 200lbs before my first daughter was born. Looking back on the photos of me at that time, I don’t really believe it! Of course, I dropped 10lbs after her birth but I didn’t get much lower than that until I got pregnant with my second daughter 2.5 years later. Pregnancies for me are almost 9 months of “morning sickness” – which lasted all day. I didn’t gain any weight with my second baby, in fact, I lost 10 lbs at the beginning of that pregnancy. Then I stayed about the same throughout until right at the end when I maybe put 10 lbs back on. So after that birth, I was around 180, and I’ve lost 30 lbs since then. That’s 6.5 years ago now.
The first thing I did was to decide to literally eat less food. Put less on a plate, and go back if I need more. Have a few chips when my hubby opens a bag, then just stop eating them. (This is one much harder to do!) And walk more. I know these sound like ridiculously obvious things to do, but I had to make a conscious effort to do them. I park 8 blocks from my workplace and walk back and forth (about 10 mins each way) every day. On my lunch break twice a week I go outside for a 20-minute walk. And I try to sneak a bit of strength training into my days at home – though with our crazy schedule this term I’ve been slacking at this! So no real secrets here – just common sense ideas that I finally chose to start doing. Also more fruits and veggies in my lunches at work, and less granola bars and crackers.
What’s one thing that you struggle with as a working mom?
I’m sure every parent struggles with this but – I find it very hard to be engaged with my kids when THEY need me to be. I’m either driving, creating a meal, cleaning the house, cleaning myself, or trying to connect with my husband when they really want to talk. I have to make an effort to sit with them when they want me to. Often at bedtime we have good connecting time, so it is there, but they ask me to sit and watch tv with them. Sure, I CAN do that, but the laundry just buzzed and the dishwasher needs emptying and, and, and…
If you had one tip for a new mom, what would it be?
Try to relax and take care of yourself. Having a new baby (especially your first!) is exhausting, mentally wearing, and – at least for me – scary! I had no idea what I was doing and my anxiety was sky high. Years later I’m still anxious by times, but people have been raising children for many, many, many years. Babies are needy and helpless, but they also are strong and resilient. You don’t need to hold that baby every moment of the day; it’s okay to let them cry; make sure you ask for help; and the one that I never did and regretted – sleep when the baby sleeps! I know it seems like the best time to get things done, but really, sleep. No one is judging your untidy house or piles of laundry. Look after yourself so you can look after your baby (and everyone else!)