Tough Decisions | Life As A Working Mom

I try my hardest not to see things so black and white and to realize that each choice is unique from the next. It is something I have to constantly be present about because my natural instinct is to prejudge situations based on previous experiences. To add fuel to this fire, motherhood and parenting has become increasingly difficult over the past year – probably because we have 3 young children who are all in the age of discovering what they like to do. Which means, too many activities to manage PLUS two full-time working parents. I think this has led me to have a heightened sensitivity about my current season of life as well as increased amount of “Mom Guilt”.

Geez – I could write a novel about “Mom Guilt”. About how it is unavoidable, unpreventable, and untreatable. But, I won’t. Because who likes to read negative ramblings anyway?

Recently, I started investigating alternatives for the twins daycare/schooling.  They are currently at the same school my older daughter attended for the first 6 years of her life. It is a great school that happens to be going through a bit of transition. Unfortunately, the transition hit hard for the twins’ age group. There have been a lot of teaching transitions, schedule transitions, etc. While I have been going through this, I felt like my world and the twins’ world was falling apart. I found myself thinking “how are they ever going to survive? They need stability in 3k”. Then the dreaded “Mom Guilt” kicked in… “This would have never happened if we were in a better place where I did not have to work.”

Y’all. I was considering turning our lives upside down to move them to a school that could not keep them for a full work day and hiring a sitter to pick up my 3 children and drop my 3 children EVERY DAY just because I wanted to protect my children from hardship. THEN I would come to work and complain to my boss about the millennial I have working under me – She is too entitled. She has too high of expectations – someone failed her along the way because they never let her experience anything tough.

So it didn’t hit me that I was a living hypocrite until I was driving to work this morning – sans kid drop offs because of a teacher in-service. I would have never thought I would be causing my children potential harm by trying to create the most perfect external environment possible.

SIDENOTE – – I need to work on my control issues.

I guess my purpose of this rambling is to provide some sort of “I’m going through this too” content instead of writing about the roses and glory moments that DO exist in my life. Parenting is tough. Choosing when to push and when to pull back is not black and white. And I don’t know everything. And my children will be fine – and WHEN they survive this transition it only means that they now have a solid life experience to help them with the next change that happens down the road. They have that experience because they overcame it on their own, while i sat on the sidelines prepared to hug them when it was at its toughest.

On a brighter note… we had a lovely time last night at their book fair. Both of my 3-year-olds sang and danced and smiled alongside their buddies. This great school that is going through a tough transition made my kids smile. And I am eternally grateful. Here are some snapshots of those smiles:

Humpday Thoughts

Four things occupying my headspace right now:

  1. What the heck is snapchat? And why does it matter? And why are businesses talking about this being the next big social sell network? Wasn’t it just yesterday that you were hoping your teenage daughter didn’t have this app downloaded on her smartphone?
  2. Simple Life: it makes my heart happy to hear so many people talking about getting a grasp on their lives and striving for more of a simple life. This leads me to start thinking about why businesses have not caught onto this yet. For so long, people believed that they were the only human being who was not capable of working 90-to-nothing during the work-week. Why have employers not caught onto this yet?
  3. Heat: It is so bloody hot in the South this time of year! Why do I pray for hot weather when it is cold and cold weather when it is hot? I probably belong on a tropical island somewhere where it is 75 degrees year-round. Or maybe I have control issues and I need to come to terms with these issues.
  4. Why does my 3 year old all of the sudden have a stutter? A friend of mine who works in the speech therapy industry tells me it is “developmental disfluency” and it is very common at her age. It drives me crazy though – I don’t know what to do when she does it. Do I try to correct it? Do I just allow it to happen and pray she self-corrects? It makes my heart hurt and my mind go wild wondering if there is something wrong. She did send me this article, which eased my mind slightly – knowing that it is typical for her age. Have you experienced this?

I feel better now. Thank you for allowing me to have a place to dump these thoughts so I can get through the rest of my week. Happy Humpday!

Back to the Basics | 30 Day Minimalism Challenge, Days 8-13

By the start of my second week I am starting to feel more aware of my surroundings and the effects this challenge is having on me and my daily choices. I find that I am putting more thought into each move I make rather than relying on my impulsive feelings and gut reactions. This is new to me. I am the reason that checkout lines in grocery stores are so profitable. I walk into a buying situation and I am immediately distracted by things that were not on my list but somehow they ended up coming home with me as a deemed “necessity”.

My biggest failure during my second week is that I was not as reflective as I would have liked to have been with the challenge. When I started this journey, my expectation was that I would review my notes each day and reflect on the items of the challenge to measure what I was doing and what I was not doing. I find that when I am not organized and focused, my life really does spin out of control. I know this is common sense, but my lack of self-discipline masks this from my logic on a daily basis. Its like I go through the motions and don’t even realize that I am defying common sense! So, I’d like to spend week three focusing on developing my self-discipline. I believe this challenge is actually challenging people to do just that – develop some dang self-discipline! My method to attack this madness – slowly! – is baby steps.

  • CHECK-IN 3x/day – how am I doing? Am I staying focused on my daily needs?
  • EVALUATE how I am feeling at each check-in to gauge my efforts and adjust.
  • MEDITATE. Start out small – with 5 minutes of quiet.

While my lack of organization in the project makes it seem like somewhat of a flop – I am comfortable by the small victories I have had with checking my internal voices. We are very close to finishing our kitchen renovation and the timing could not be more perfect – my oldest babe starts Kindergarten next week, and with it a new chapter of chaos.

So I want to know your tricks! If you have been living a more minimal lifestyle – how did you get over the transition hump? How did you stay focused and motivated? Thanks in advance for sharing!

Have You Heard? | #mothermanifesto

#mothermanifesto cissyromano.com

I was on the phone with a friend of mine from college this morning. Our sorority house is being demolished this weekend in order to make room for a larger and fancier house on campus. I don’t know the history of the house and how long it has stood – I should know, but my days of pledgeship are over, so just take my word that it is old. My friend mentioned that I will probably be the only sister not there this weekend, which makes me sad. Sad, because I know the reason I am saying no is because I’m having to make very tough choices these days in order to manage how stretched thin I am. I am sad because I know that I am missing out on yet another event with friends who were once a priority of mine. Sad. Sad. Sad. I miss them. And I miss that part of my life.

Motherhood is hard. Ok, you are thinking this is going to be a complaint post. No, not a complaint post. More like a PSA for all of you mothers that are living day-to-day right now. So I get to my point. A friend of mine from high school has co-created an initiative called the #mothermanifesto. She charges all women from all walks of life to band together in support of being a #mother. While I know that a simple pledge is not going to be life-altering or grant me more sleep at night, I do find encouragement in a band of sisters lifting each other up in support. Sometimes, you just need to reinforcement that you are not alone. There are other #mothers out there who have to flake out on their college buddies for important events. Because, you know, you have kids. And no babysitter to be found. And you are renovating your kitchen. And those weekend hours are spent at the library picking up site-word books for your kid that is starting school in the fall. Or making Costco runs and freezer meals for the upcoming week.

So, here I am – very transparent. Letting you know that I am riding this ride with you sweet mother. I feel your struggle and I know the way your brain is rationalizing decisions. I signed the manifesto because I want others to feel my digital embrace and to know that they are not along. If you feel the need to encourage, you can sign the manifesto here, and order the cool #mother shirt here.

Back To The Basics | Living Life With Less

Budda Quote_CissyRomano.comHave you ever seen those programs about tiny houses? The ones where the people live in spaces under 500 square feet? If you haven’t – check out this YouTube channel. Absolutely fascinating. While this lifestyle would never work for me right now, it got me thinking if one day I would be able to live with a minimal number of possessions – truly live with only what I need. I’ve been intrigued by this lifestyle for at least a handful of years. It was only recently that I started making changes in my own life to get closer to this minimal way of living.

Regardless of what you have going on in your life and the number of warm bodies (human and furry friends) you are responsible for, have you ever spent an entire Saturday or Sunday cleaning up your crap? I’ll take that as a resounding YES – even if you aren’t admitting to it now, we’ve all had to take time out of our valuable and precious weekends to sort our things out. Call it “spring cleaning” or whatever you want – it exists. And it stinks. It makes you realize real quick that you are an adult and that being an adult is just not fun sometimes.

So this whole minimalist movement is about solving that problem. What if you controlled your living space and possessions instead of these things controlling you? Admit it – its intriguing right? And completely counter-intuitive to our Western culture where more is more and less is less. What if less really was more?

As I mentioned before, my husband and I have already started making smallish changes in an effort to explore this new less-is-more lifestyle. It was easy to get him on board by merely talking about how much time we would save on our weekends and dedicated free time if we weren’t having to do mounds of laundry and spend hours picking up the explosion of toys that happens immediately after the previous pick-up session.

My first step happened in January of this year – I started in my closet. Clothes seemed to be the easiest starting place for me as I am not emotionally attached to clothing. My reason for having so many items of clothing was practical and rational for this point in my life. My body has endured so many changes over the past 6 years – I have grown and delivered three human beings, so of course my body shape has been all sorts of shapes and sizes during this time period. I was hanging onto clothing with plans in mind of not being as large or round in certain body areas forever. OK, so its taking longer than I would like for this to happen. I’ve accepted it and I have now parted with the variety of sized clothing in my closets. It is still not where I want to be – I need to shed some more – but it is better than it was when I started.

My second step was our kitchen – again out of rational thinking – we are about to undergo a much-needed kitchen reno next month, and therefore we need to have all the crap that we don’t use out of the way so its easier to work around the reno and store our belongings. I have 4 of the same-sized pyrex! How does that happen? I also shed our old plates we received from our wedding. We had more than we needed and the majority of them were chipped anyway. We upgraded to stark white plates, which I am obsessed with and they bring joy to me every time we sit down to eat.

After the kitchen purge, I watched a review of a book that seemed to be taking over people’s conversations (in the social/web community I take part in): The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. Her book basically summed up everything that I was reading and watching that was inspiring me to make these changes. I picked the book up in hopes that it would help me organize my plan of attack for this new exploration of mine. I’m about half-way through the book and it is amazing. And life-changing. And magic. I highly recommend it.

This past weekend we purged toys. It was amazing. It was joyful. My house smiled when we finished. My children did not even notice. Again, I feel we could purge even more, but this was an awesome starting point. My next attack will be my closet again. I plan on documenting my process now that my house is not as embarrassing. Had you only seen where I started.

I can tell you that so much peace has already come upon me and my family. After three months of slowing chipping away at the over-abundance of STUFF that was taking over our lives, I have never felt so at-ease walking into my home. It is slowly but surely becoming a place I enjoy spending my time.

Have you been intrigued by this minimalist movement? Have you tried changes in your own life? Please share with me any successes or failures you have experienced. I hope at the end of the day the promise of minimalism comes true, and I hope you enjoy our journey.

I feel a “Namaste” is an appropriate exit of this post. So, namaste.

Cissy

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How to Survive a Beach Trip With Babies

emma backYes, a beach trip with babies and toddlers is completely doable. When my parents approached me a year ago about my thoughts on “spending a week at the beach” next summer, my only response (in thought of course) was “Are you flipping crazy?”.

Here is why:

1. I only get ONE PAID WEEK of vacation a year – and you want me to spend it all at one time?

2. Three kids ages 4 and under?

3. No pool?

4. A FULL WEEK? What will happen to my desk at work? It will take me 3 weeks to recover!

Ok. Ok. Once the automatic “No.” was decided upon, my husband sat me down and made me think about it. How often will we get the opportunity to spend the week at the beach? AND paid for?

So… we decided to go. And because it was not last minute (nothing with my family is unplanned), we had the chance to prepare the Dave Ramsey way. We saved a little each week for a year so that we wouldn’t have to worry about spending money while we were down there.

We are notorious for believing we are millionaires while on vacation.

So, my point here is to show those scared mothers and fathers that a beach trip is totally doable. AND, with proper planning, it should not break your piggy bank either.

SOME TIPS:
  • Plan to cook your meals at the beach. Not only is this a piggy bank saver, but a trip saver. We turned into so-called “beachbums” that week. We woke up bright and early for those inspiring sunrises (and because we usually had a kid screaming), ate our breakfast, then headed to the beach. We did not leave the sand until it was time to head in for supper. Cooking our meals allowed us to savor each moment in the beach breeze.
  • Don’t stay at a place with a pool. I was downright frightened about this lack ofbeachbums amenity. Our daughter has been on sand before (not during the summer) but we had never spent anytime at the beach in our 4-year parenthood journey. I have always heard horror stories about kids hating the sand / afraid of the ocean / stung by a jellyfish… what was I going to do with three young kids at the beach for an entire week if they hated the ocean and sand? So – my answer to this is to not give them the option to hate it! My oldest now looks like she is of a south-of-the-border ethnicity (I guess she already is a 1/4 Italian though) and could be a certified beachbum for the rest of her life.
  • Don’t overpack. Wow – you should have seen our van. I am now regretting not having a photo to hang in my house to remind me never to overpack again! Because I didn’t realize my family would turn into beachbums, we had enough clothing and toiletries to dad and twinslast us at least a month in our normal lives in Birmingham. If we were not in swimsuits, we were in swimsuits with coverups. The fancy outfits I brought to clothe my children in for the quintessential beach photo opps remained in our Vera Bradley bags for the entire week. I only remembered I packed them when I was repacking everyone on the last day. Geez. I can be very silly sometimes. I guess the saying down at the beach is true, “No shoes. No shirt. No problem.”.In that same vein – you don’t need $100 worth of toys and beach accessories to keep the kids happy. My four-year-old literally spent an entire day sitting on the edge of the water while scooping and pouring sand over her legs. The buckets and nets and frisbees and kites and sand tools all remained under our ez up with the adults and babes.
  • Don’t overplan. I know. I know. I just finished saying how important “proper planning” was… What I mean here is that you don’t have to have a slue of activities planned to occupy your crew. I mean, it costs a small fortune to head to the coast anyway. Jet-skiing, parasailing, deep sea fishing, etc. will not make the trip any better if you are hopping from one activity to another. My best takeaway from our trip is that my brain went to Jell-O for 7 days. Thank you Jesus for such a great blessing!
  • Swimsuits not required! haha… no, I am not an aspiring nudist. BUT, my babies – thetwins real babies (14 months) – did not, I repeat, did not need the 5 sets of swimsuits I bought and brought with me for this trip. They also did not, I repeat, did not need the swim diapers. They wore regular old Pampers for the duration of the trip. I did put them in a t-shirt at bedtime, but they were semi-nudist for a week. And they loved it. And the pictures are adorable because of it.

All in all, the trip was better than I could have ever imagined it. For a woman who works full-time, I was slightly frightened at how my system would react to being around all three of my kids 24/7. I did MUCH better than how I imagined myself – not that I don’t believe myself to be a good Mom, but I am definitely not accustomed to hearing my name five million times in a day. 😉

sandcastlessand hillemma sandcastle

So, if you are on the fence about a beach vacation with your youngin’s, I am here to witness that a parent can survive and make memories. Best of luck to all of you parents, grandparents and guardians out there. Summer of 2015: I am looking at you with eyes wide open. You better be ready for the Romano crew!

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Tips From A Professional, Pumping, Working Mother of Three

Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 10.43.24 AMJust like any other professional, pumping, working mother – I have an interesting relationship with my Medela pump. You see, I’ve spent the 21 months of my life attached to my pump. I love this machine because it allows me to provide nourishment for my children, while also earning a living to help provide for the best opportunities for said children.

I guess I should have started first with the details of why I need to work. Put aside the obvious financial reasons why a good number of households are dual-income. I work to keep the Romano house at peace. I wish I had the patience of the Ree Drummond, where I could spend 24/7 with my three lovelies. I wish I had the creativity to provide unending entertainment for my children so we wouldn’t constantly find ourselves gravitating towards the T.V. and Disney Junior.

So, my husband and I work incredibly hard – full-time – and our children attend a Catholic daycare here in Birmingham with some of the finest women teaching and leading our children. We are blessed – beyond measure – to have the resources available to provide our children with this opportunity. My three-year-old counted out 10 straws at breakfast the other morning and shocked and impressed all present with her mad skills.

photoAlright, onto the focus of this post – the joy of pumping. So, if you were to ask anyone close to me why I pump they may roll their eyes. I don’t step up on my soapbox often (often enough at least ;)), but in my opinion, I don’t understand why women would not milk if they are capable. I’m sure that previous sentence will stir up quite a discussion – as it has before. You can read a plethora of literature regarding the health benefits of breastfeeding, so I will not attempt at preaching on that subject matter in this post. If you are interested, kellymom.com is an awesome resource to research and read up on anything breast-feeding related.

Lemme tell you that kids are expensive – super-expensive. Breastmilk is cheap – super-cheap. And, thanks to Obamacare (no matter your thoughts on the man or the plan), mamas in the U-S-of-A can get a complimentary breast pump (or a relatively cheap one – I had to pay a $40 copay). If you are pregnant or a mom of a new-born, call your insurance provider – NOW – and ask them how to get a breast pump through your insurance policy.

If you are pregnant and you are debating the breastfeeding feature of motherhood, just do it. Its the most selfless thing I have ever done in my entire life – and I tend to be naturally selfish (I’m working on that flaw). I am proud of my accomplishment. It also helped with the guilt when I returned to work after each of my deliveries.

So, I pump exclusively for my 9-month-old twin girls right now. That totals up to about 60 ounces a day with about 6-7 pumps day and night. I would consider myself a professional-pumper. And I were looking for tips and advice on this subject, I would totally take a mother like myself seriously. Not much else I can speak on with such assurance, but pumping is definitely something I am very familiar with.

Here are my tips to help a mother thinking of pumping, starting to pump, or already knee-deep in pumping.

  1. TAKE YOUR PUMP TO THE HOSPITAL. If you are a mother who’s child latched right away and was a pro-nurser right off the bat – GO YOU! Those first moments of nursing can be so trying. The mother is learning to nurse – the baby is learning to suck and eat… so many variables can affect those first nursing sessions. I did not have pro-nursers. I had one child in the NICU for the first 48 hours of life. I had c-section births. I had GINORMOUS breasts and nipples for my teeny-tiny babies. SO – you have no clue how you will do or how your children will do. So bring your pump to the hospital and expect to start using it as soon as you are able. I started using mine soon after the first nursing session with each of my children. I pumped for 10 minutes after each session. NOTE: you will not get anything out of these pumping sessions. You are simply triggering stimulation. Do not do more than 10 minutes, or else you will cause an over-supply.
  2. DO NOT ALLOW VISITORS FOR AT LEAST A HALF OF A DAY.  I’m the pot calling the kettle black here. I had my family and my husband’s family visit as soon as possible after each of my deliveries. I was excited for everyone to meet the newest little additions to our family. Its a great thought at first, but it causes so much added stress and anxiety during those initial eating and learning hours. Go ahead and let others know that you are excited for them to meet the new additions, but it will probably be awhile after birth. Get your partner on board so that when you are feeling elated and you start to have a weak moment to invite everyone in, they can step in and put a stop to it. They have an entire lifetime to bond with these little ones – they can wait a few more hours.
  3. BUY A BIG WATER VESSEL.  I recommend the Nalgene Water bottle. I like itnalgene bottle because it has a wide mouth and measurements on the side. And it comes in pretty color choices – always a bonus. You will need to hydrate CONSTANTLY. If you think you have a ton of water, you probably need to drink more. Drinking water helps with your supply, keeps your energy levels up and helps keep feeling you 100% when you should be feeling 60%. Your friends, family and coworkers will start to think your water bottle is new appendage you’ve grown.
  4. DON’T BUY FANCY NURSING TOPS.  Its tempting, I know. But, in my opinion, those nursing tops are not necessary. I mean, you are covered up anyway… what good is a quadruple layered tank top that allows your nipple to pop out going to do for you? All you need for nursing is a good nursing cover and 2-3 nursing bras. There are a ton of brands on the market for both of these items. I recommend the Bravado Bliss Nursing Bra if you have GINORMOUS breasts. It took a lot of searching to find a supportive nursing bra that did not have underwire. The Bravado is “bliss”ful ;). Do not go cheap here people. You will spend long days/nights with these two items – invest wisely. Save the money you would spend on a nursing wardrobe.
  5. BUY A HANDSFREE PUMPING BRA.  I feel this is pretty self-explanatory. Who wants to hold pump parts to their boobs for 15-20 minutes several times a day. I have a strange relationship with my pump bras too. I’m weird. And I pump a lot. Also – you need more than one. TMI ALERT – your pump bras will become crunchy if you don’t have a few to rotate through. No matter how careful you are, you will get milk on your bra. I have two pump bras that I rotate through. Pumpease makes the ones I use. Again, I’ve tried several of these. The pumpease bras are my favorite. Plus, they come in super-fun colors.
  6. BUY AT LEAST ONE ADDITIONAL SET OF PUMP PARTS. Your partner will thank you. You will thank yourself. Washing pump parts get super-old super-fast. That is all – just have at least two sets. I have three sets.
  7. BUY THE MEDELA STEAMBAGS.  I use the Medela steambags to clean my pump parts at work. This also allows me to leave the parts there during the week so I don’t have to tote them home every day.
  8. BUY A CAR CONVERTER FOR PUMPING ON THE GO.  You will find yourself tied to your pump for the next year or so. Being able to pump on the go is so liberating.
  9. SUPPLY ISSUES?  There are so many home-remedies for supply issues. Screen Shot 2014-03-30 at 11.58.12 AMDifferent things work for different people. Some of the things that have helped me through supply issues are: lemon-lime gatorade (full-sugar stuff people), homemade oatmeal cookies, steel-cut oatmeal, Newcastle beer, a lot of water, mothers milk supplement. Really, at the end of the day, a consistent pump schedule, a well-rounded diet and lots-o-water are KEY to maintaining a milk supply.

There are my tips. This is what I would say to any new mother – whether they wanted to know or not – ha! This is something I believe in 100%. There are some women out there that really have a lot working against them when it comes to trying to nurse/breastfeed. I understand that – I do. Being a mom is tough in general. And adding the long hours and hard work that goes into breastfeeding your child can add so much unnecessary stress to a woman. But, for those that can and want to, breastfeeding is something you will never regret and it is such a worthwhile investment of your time and resources. I do hope this helps.

If you are nursing/pumping mama and you have more questions, please feel free to reach out! You can email me at cissyromano@gmail.com or just comment below!

Best of luck to you and your partners!

xo, Cissy