The Working Mom’s Guide to Exercise – Yes You Do Have Time

Trust me, I know it is hard to make the time and you are going to have to change some things, but working out is something you deserve.  It will give you more energy, improve your mood, and you will get better quality sleep because you are working out.

Step 1: Make Time in Your Schedule (Stop laughing … I am going to help you with some ideas)

  • Does your child have an evening practice of some kind that you attend?  PERFECT (Take your workout clothes with you and WALK/RUN or take your bicycle and buy a stationary trainer for it and ride while your child is practicing) My son has soccer two nights a week,  I keep my Jogging Stroller and a bag with workout clothes and I walk/run with the baby while my son practices soccer.  I eat a banana on the way and the baby eats while we walk.  Guess what – now you have at least 2 – 30+ minute workout sessions a week.
  • For those of you that alternate nights for bath/bed time with your partner (Check out my post here), then guess what – that is 30+minutes that can be used for yoga or a walk
  • Get up 35 minutes earlier a few mornings a week (be realistic and start with 2 mornings then when you feel good about it add a 3rd). I also do this.  I have early meetings the other two mornings – so I just get up at the same time all 5 days and workout the mornings I can.
  • On the weekend, do something active as a family – if you go swimming, include some water aerobics with the kids (they will think it is AWESOME and FUNNY); go hiking, ride bikes, or just go for a walk (it doesn’t have to be hard – just MOVE).

Step 2: Do Something You Enjoy

  • I love to dance, so I do dance cardio (with a DVD) – I like Tracy Anderson because she doesn’t talk a lot and you can turn off her music and use your own tunes.
  • I have friends who love basketball and play on a league and they also found they like strength training DVDs that include a weighted ball (there are lots of choices – go find something you like)
  • If you like to run, run

Step 3: Find an Accountability Partner

  • This is the hardest thing on my list. Style is mine.  We don’t work out together, but we make it so the other one can work out and we give each other grief when we don’t work out.
  • We also have a competition. We set easy goals – sometimes they are weight based and sometimes they are just about meeting your workout commitment (The reward/punishment – can be having a mommy day or in our case – Mr. Style just painted our Dining Room)

Step 4: Set Realistic Goals/Rewards/Milestones

  • Post baby, my goal was to fit back in my old clothes and to not have to buy new clothes
  • Your goal can be to have more energy

The biggest mistake people make is missing a day or two and then quitting.  You DESERVE to work out for you, and life will get in the way (whether it is a late meeting or a sick baby) … but that doesn’t mean stop – it means you take a few days off and then START back.

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Confessions: Working Mom and Sick Kids

We had a summer virus make it’s way through our house last week, and it inspired my confession this week. Sick kids create stress and guilt both at home and work. Other moms and I talk about this and try to find ways to survive the sweeping sicknesses in our house. Here are some tips to help weather the storm of sickness:

Work Out a System with Your Spouse   – Mr. Southern and I do our best to take turns.  We established this on a date night (a night when we were both rested and relaxed to have an open dialogue without accusations of who was doing more).  We came up with the understanding that sometimes we have things at work we can’t miss regardless of whose turn it is.  In this case, it was actually my turn to take the first day – but I was in a meeting and couldn’t leave to pick up Little Southern, so he covered and I worked from home the next day.

Develop a Support System – Sometimes you have to ask for help.  We have a wonderful neighbor that if I am really in a pinch will come watch the baby while I do a conference call or run to the store.  We also have other working-parent friends whose children go to school with ours and are willing to pick up and drop off when we need the help.  Finally, our back-up plan is our very kind family who will make the trip in a pinch to help us out.

Communicate with Work – Mr. Southern and I are always up front with our leadership at work that we both have management jobs and that we have to pitch in when something like this happens. I find that setting this expectation makes it easier when it happens. However, if you tell them you are going to be working from home, give them tangible results. For instance, I always try to return to work with some tangible product or task completed, like actively participating in a conference call.

See if you can Bring Them With You – I have a private office, and it is okay if I bring the oldest one with me for a few hours to make a meeting.  I give him a tablet with a movie and headphones or I bring crayons and coloring books, and snacks.  This is great for those 24 hours windows where they are almost fever free but can not go back to school until the time has expired. This is also super for those times when they are actually better after a good night’s rest or if they have been sick most of the week and you hate to ruin it by taking them back on a Friday.

Work When You are Under the Weather – This is the one area as a manager that I appreciate.  If I am going to miss work for my kids, I am going to avoid calling out for myself.  Essentially, if I can get up and get dressed and won’t infect my team, I am going in to the office. I may not make it all day, but I make the effort.  I assure you leadership appreciates the fact that I minimize my time out as much as possible.

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Ask Southern: Busy Working Mom Dinners

I have received several requests for ideas for weeknight dinners and what we do.  So – here you go.  Also, all of these and more are on my Pinterest page.

  1. Sunday Night Prep Chicken – While I am cooking Sunday dinner I take 2 lbs of chicken (breasts, tenders, whatever floats your boat) and I put them in my 9×13 Pyrex dish that came with a lid and I either add some chicken stock to the bottom with some seasoning or I dump whatever salad dressing floats my boat on it and I bake them at 350 for 20 to 45 minutes depending on thickness. I then let them cool while we eat and put the lid on and Voila – chicken for Monday, Wednesday and maybe Thursday
    1. Boxed mixed Green Salad – I add fruit nuts and some cheese with the chicken
    2. Roast vegetables – our current favorite is roasting halved grape tomatoes with broccoli, then add feta and a dash of Italian vinaigrette
    3. Leftover sweet potatoes mashed and warmed with a drizzle of maple syrup
  2. Rotisserie chicken (I do this for the Sundays I didn’t have time to cook) – this makes great wraps
    1. I chop and mix with black beans,corn, rotel – you can use the mixture in tortillas on salads or on chips
    2. I also do the fruit lettuce wraps.
  3. Southwestern Turkey Burgers on the stove top. I add diced jalapeno and a dash of Worcestershire for some kick and cook with the lid on and serve on whole wheat buns with avocado and pepper jack cheese.
    1. I buy Alexia sweet potato fries and bake while I am prepping and cooking
  4. Ground turkey Asian Lettuce Wraps are also a huge hit. I double the recipe so we can have it twice and have lunch leftovers for Mr. Style.
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How Does a Working Mom Stop Rushing Her Children in the Morning?

First, since this is in confessions …. I am a Type A mom who happens to have a demanding job and I struggle with rushing my children.

So here are my tips on how I try to reduce the morning push / pull in my house.

  1. Sleep is Key. This means be realistic about bedtime.
    1. Kids: For the baby this is 11 hours before I need her to get up. For my son this is a ½ hour less.  Nap time for both of them effects this time as well.  For my son (if he took a nap, he can stay up a little later).  I know this is hard, because you feel so limited in your evening time with them.
    2. Me: This also means for you. I shoot for 7 hours, and know that I will probably get 6, and yes that means one more load of laundry doesn’t get done and that the baseboards in my house are just going to be dusty and I didn’t really want clean windows.  And sometimes it means that
  2. Wake Up Time Should Include Some Me Time for Everyone
    1. Kids: Both my children want time to wake up slowly and they both want time to run and be silly for about 5 to 10 minutes before they eat breakfast. I wake them up 45 minutes before we have to leave.   While they are waking up, I put away their laundry that I did after they went to bed.
    2. Me: I find that I do best if I have time to work out. It helps me wake up and puts me in the right mind-set.  I do chores for the day while I cool down before showering. (Putting the cold lunch stuff in the coolers, and add to the backpacks, I load my car, and I put away dishes that washed the night before)  This is my protected time.  Style will take care of any kid issues during this time.
  3. Give Yourself Time for the Unexpected. For example, they day the baby has a blowout when you are putting her in the car seat and you have to go back in and change her and set clothing to soak.  (Confession: That was this morning, and I found myself being angry with the baby, but it wasn’t her fault … it was my fault, I hadn’t allowed enough time.  As soon as that thought hit me, she stopped crying and we had fun as we laughed about her need for new clothes and “stinky, stinky pants” which she seems to find incredibly funny as she waves her hand in front of her nose.)
  4. Prepare the Night/Weekend Before
    1. Weekend: On the weekends, I make my mason jar salads and overnight oats for the week. I start the bento boxes for the kids for the week – the meat and cheese can be packed early.  The fruit and veggies are the night before items.  I also pack up for the baby’s sitter for the week. I plan everyone’s outfits for the week (including mine)
    2. Night: I finish the bento boxes for the kids by adding the fruit and veggies, Backpacks are laid out by the door with shoes and coats, Clothes are laid out (which is easy – since I planned at the beginning of the week)
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Confessions: Finding Money for Extras with Two Little Ones

This confession comes after owing just a little bit to Uncle Sam and our state last week.  First, Mr. Style and I are very blessed to make enough to cover our mortgage, bills, childcare for 2, contribute to our 401k’s, and be able each year to have a little more in savings than we did the year before and do a few extras.  Here is what works for us.

  1. Daycare – We chose to do a trade-off.  We put our oldest is in a more expensive preschool with extended hours when he turned 3 to ensure a strong foundation for kindergarten.  When the baby came, we found a stay at home mom who was willing to take a reduced rate since she cares for her two children and mine.  This saves us about $400 a month from what the preschool would have charged for a baby.  I also only pay for the days we use her. (This gives us extra money during trips and holidays)  The other positive for us, is that she will watch mine if she isn’t well, and if she is on vacation she has another SAH mom who will fill in.  I found her off of care.com
  2. Date Night – We have friends who we alternate watching each other’s kids so we can have a date night. This is one of my favorite money-saving ideas.  Plus, I don’t have to worry about if the sitter is equipped to handle an emergency.  We save money by using sites like Group On to buy reduced rates for eating out, and we do things that are reasonably priced.  During February, we actually just cooked at home to avoid the Valentine crowd and prices.
  3. TV/Internet – We moved this past summer and we dropped our cable company. Style has to have ACC football – so we did a bare bones satellite package with a DSL internet company.  We saved almost $50 a month just by reducing this.  We used our first two months savings to buy an Amazon FireTV so that we could access kids programming through our Prime account.
  4. Clothing
    1. Consigning – I love ThredUP! They send me a bag – I fill it full of gently used clothing from my closet and the kids and then I get money deposited via PayPal.  This is great for the nicer clothes that your kids don’t wear very much.  It was also great for the maternity and post baby clothes in that size you couldn’t wait to get out of.  This money helps to buy the kids next season of clothing.
    2. Saving Money – I have brands I like that I mark at Zulily and they e-mail me when they have them. com is a great place to find discounted shoes (I got Mr. Style a pair of steel toed Keen boots for ½ price).  Shop sales and stock up.  J Crew Factory, GAP and Old Navy will run a 40% sale each season and I wait and stock up for the kids.  I also use my credit card rewards to buy gift certificates that I use during these stock up sales.
  5. College Fund – Mr. Style and I agreed that we would wait until the first one starts public school next fall and put the difference of our daycare budget into a college fund. That way it is money we are already used to not having and makes up for the years we haven’t contributed.
  6. Eating Out – We take our lunch 3-4 days a week. We also do not eat out dinner more than once a week.  I post my favorite Brown Bag Lunches and Dinners on Pinterest.
  7. Gym – We gave up the gym when we had babies. I do have some fun videos and a mat and we do have some free weights – but walking and running are free.
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A Wedding Toast: Have You Recognized Your Spouse Lately?

I recently had the distinct pleasure of serving as Matron of Honor for one of my dearest friends.  And with this honor, came the request for a toast.  As I was cleaning up some files on my desktop, I ran across this and I thought I would share. So here is a little bit of marriage advice from the SSS home.

First, laugh – a lot.  Laugh at yourself – and with each other.  Nothing is perfect and when things go wrong, laugh.  Like, when you try to make chocolate pie to impress your mother in-law and end up with chocolate soup instead.  Laugh.  D- I bet he will still tell you it is the best chocolate soup with crust he has ever eaten.  (Yes, true story.)  And later, when you can laugh at it – he will help you as you work through conquering the recipe (that may or may not have taken ½ a decade to perfect)

Second, talk – a lot. This is your new best friend.  Also, don’t just tell other people why you are lucky to have the other one – tell each other.  It means a lot when you are covered in spit up and you are pretty sure that you will never get to sleep in (that is also when you call Aunt Southern)

Third, forget – a lot.  Keeping score is for sports not for marriage.  And making up is so much better when you aren’t keeping score. J

Finally, I will let you in on the secret that only those of us who are married know.  You think that you love each other more than you could ever possibly love anyone right now.  But that isn’t true, each anniversary, you will look back and go wow- I love you even more now.

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How Do 2 Working Parents Manage their Mornings and Evenings with Little Ones?

shutterstock_176259971This is a frequent topic that comes up when I get together with my girlfriends.  We have a four year old and a one year old at our house.  My husband and I are both managers with challenging schedule needs and our family is not close by.  Here is what works for us:

  1. Meals can be Good and Simple –
    • Dinner
      • Sunday with Tuesday Leftovers – I always cook enough on Sunday so that I have leftovers on Tuesday night. This doesn’t have to be much.  I like to cook, but this week we were busy so I made Turkey spaghetti.  I store the extra noodles with the sauce, so it is easy reheat on Tuesday night.
      • Monday with Wednesday Leftovers –  I use my crockpot.  I use a 10 minute rule (no more than 10 minutes prep and no more than 10 minutes after I get home). This was Vegetable Soup last night.  It is 5 minutes prep and just spooning out when we get home.
      • Thursday is Non-Cooking. I keep things for salads and wraps.  So, we usually pick up a Rotisserie chicken and use it to make a salad or a hummus wrap with veggies and chicken.
      • Fridays is Pizza night. I pick up Trader Joe’s whole wheat dough, sauce, mozzarella, and toppings. (Cheating Tip: I go once a month and stock them in my freezer)  I hide spinach under the cheese to ensure the kids get their greens.
    • Snacks: Keep snacks in your car to take the edge off “hangry” kids on the ride home. I keep packs of pretzels and squeeze fruit because neither are too filling, but they take the edge off until we get home.  I also keep bottles of water if they get thirsty.
    • Breakfast:  I love yogurt, and I like that it is easy. So my kids eat a lot of yogurt for breakfast as do my husband and I.  We add granola to it to make it a little heartier.  However, we also do overnight oatmeal in the fridge and on the mornings we just can’t get it together – we have Kids Cliff bars for my son and Kind Bars for us to eat in the car.  (Cheating Tip: I leave these in the bag in my car with the afternoon snacks.)  The baby gets a non-spill cup of cheerios and a yogurt squeeze pouch.
  2. Alternating Nights – We found pretty early on that it is better for us if we each have a hectic night and then get a night off. In our home on your night you are responsible for bath time for both and bed time for our oldest.  The person who is “off” but is still at home– gives the baby her last bottle and puts her to bed.  So in our home, Mr. Style takes Sunday, Tuesday, and Thursday nights and I take Monday, Wednesday, and Friday nights.  Saturdays we “share”.   We also alternate who gets up with the baby on that night.  I wear ear plugs on “his” night.
  3. Agreeing that a Successful Morning is getting BOTH of you to work on time – This was huge for us. I realized that we both were feeling frustrated when the morning didn’t work out for us individually and changing the definition of success helped us refocus our mornings.
    • Each Sunday, we sit down for about 5 minutes and discuss our week. If Mr. Style needs to leave a little earlier, I adjust my morning to get him out the door earlier and vice-versa if I need to leave earlier he does the same.
    • Have a routine – He feeds the baby and makes sure our son has something to eat. I make sure the kids are up and dressed.
    • Be prepared – I lay everyone’s clothes out the night before to ensure zero drama. I make sure bags are packed and coats are at the back door after my morning workout.  I make this my “cool down”.
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