The Great Balancing Act: Achieving Balance

Jenn Marie Maxwell

New Roles, Ideas, and Goals

What a WHIRLWIND the last couple of months have been!!! But I’m back, with a baby and a whole new set of goals and ideas to share! So let’s catch up, shall we?

August 2nd (after 3 days of labor…I have earned my labor patch for mommy-hood) we welcomed our beautiful baby girl to the world. Thinking about that day gives me instant goose bumps. It was truly amazing to finally get to hold my little girl.
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My husband was beyond amazing through the entire experience. Note: Anyone who is crafty out there and wants to make big bucks – There is a market for comfortable daddy “cots” in hospitals. Daddy’s also need comfort and rest in Labor & Delivery…Just Sayin’

Our little girl is quickly approaching 6 months old and every day just seems to get better and more exciting.

Things I didn’t realize until having a baby:

•Everyone tells you that you won’t sleep…Ummm…You Don’t. You don’t sleep and when you do sleep, it’s not very well or plentiful. It DOES get better though.

•Keeping your marriage alive is straight hard but worth it. Dates are important, even if it is to a quick dinner…Even if you bring baby to dinner…Talk about something other than what’s going on with the baby.

•You literally have to find yourself again – as a woman, employee, and spouse. Everything is different; body and mind. I’m still on this path but feeling more “complete” every single day.

•Your house will be messy, unorganized, and sometimes…A little gross. I won’t lie. I have woken up and realized I slept the entire night with a burp rag on my shoulder. That moment when you realize, this.is.real.

What are some things that you have experienced that you didn’t expect?

My degree is in full-swing now as I just began my last year of my undergraduate degree in Human Resource Management. I am already looking into what graduate programs I am interested in and am excited to begin my career! Look out world; I’m heading your way!

I have a whole new perspective on management and organization for the office and the home so stay tuned – We are in this Great Balancing Act together. I’m back and it’s going to be better than EVER.

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The Ultimate Organizational Project: Getting Ready for Baby

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Upon seeing the “two pink lines” and celebrating with my husband (after a brief hyperventilation moment of … this is REALLY happening) my mind was immediately swarmed with how to even begin planning for our new arrival. Looking at the calendar, I didn’t even know when to actually begin getting organized and prepared.

Being that this is my first baby, I had no clue where to begin. I had never thought about buying bottles, baby blankets, or waterproof pads for cribs. So that’s when I jumped on what I call, The Google. Gotta love Google! The first thing I found was astonishing and kind of scary. It was an article that told me that baby’s go through 10-12 diapers a day – Wait…What?!?! I then found a diaper buying guide for pregnancy in order to build up my diaper stock a little bit at a time throughout the months. Here’s the site that I used for this called, Stocking up on Diapers: How much to Buy & At What Price. It has a great guide to learning what to expect from common stores. Note, now’s the time to really look through all the coupon books that you get in the mail and even the ones you get from some doctor’s offices during your prenatal care. I kept these in my glove box so I would always have them when I was out and about.

Next thing to think about is baby essentials and what to register for. My husband and I downloaded a couple lists such as, this one.. We went through the list and our budget to decide what we would plan to buy and what we wanted to register for. It gave me a great perspective as to what to register for and was helpful to take with us while registering because it was broken down into categories. I will also say that Babies “R” Us gave us an awesome registering guide if you want something concrete from a store that you will be using. You can find lists of items about anything from what to pack in the hospital bag for yourself, dad, and baby to what to put in the diaper bag. I had my bag packed by my 8 month mark and I also now have a fully stocked diaper bag that includes hand sanitizer and even a cute little trash bag dispenser…I feel more prepared everyday!

Now…Where to put everything? Here’s a great blog post about this called, How to Organize for Baby. If it weren’t for this blog post, I probably would have neatly stored my bottles in the nursery. Silly, I know, but I seriously had no clue what to do! There are tons of great online resources to help you figure out not only what you need but where to put it all.

After my baby shower, I took note of everything that I received and crossed it off of my list so that I could see what else I still needed and since the shower I have been purchasing a couple items a week in order to alleviate spending too much money at one given time. We were so completely blessed that our list of remaining items was very short!

The way I see it, the more you can get organized during your pregnancy the more time you will have to connect with your beautiful bundle of joy when they arrive. The last thing you want to be thinking about is acquiring essential items at the moment you need them. There are so many available resources between the internet and the bookstore, stock up and get going because as I’ve learned, 9 months goes by VERY quickly!

If you know of any good tips or baby organizing ideas please comment below. Happy Organizing!

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Smart Mommy uses her Smart Phone

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My grandma used calendars and notebooks to keep track of her family, as did my mom. But me…I use my smartphone for everything, especially keeping track of my busy life and my family. It’s pretty common for most of us that our smartphones are typically within an arms reach at any moment – even on our nightstands while we sleep. I don’t know if you are like me but without my phone I feel as though I would be completely lost. It’s not just a great organizational tool but also a great balancing tool with what seems like limitless capabilities at my fingertips all.the.time. If you need something, there’s most likely an app for it.

Here’s what I have been using mine for a lot lately:

Cooking – When coming up with the current week’s meals I frequent apps like Pinterest, Better Homes and Gardens, and Allrecipes. Now, more than ever, you see people shopping at the store with their phones or tablets sitting in the front of their cart (I love seeing the kids in the seat looking at the phone and checking things off the grocery list – so cute!!!) I have even been at the store with cooking block – what the heck am I going to make tonight – and have found a recipe while standing in an aisle. I have also used my phone to bring up the recipe in the kitchen and refer to that instead of printing it. Do they make stands for these in the kitchen yet?

Banking & Budget – There are great apps for banking and paying bills. I frequently access our bank accounts using the apps, pay my bills, and keep my check register on an app. Keeping updated on how much money is coming in and going out is essential to balance. It’s fast and easy, who can complain about that?

Card Star – The app that forever changed my key chain. I hated…really hated having so many of those darn cards taking over my key chain. I even tried to keep a separate ring in my purse just for these things. But now I don’t have too! Card Star keeps all of your loyalty cards in one awesome place that ISN’T intrusive to the key ring. With the touch of a finger, you can access all of your loyalty cards. It also offers discounts and coupons to your favorite places. Awwww….Loyalty card relief!

Yelp – Looking for a new restaurant for date night? Or a family-friendly establishment? I use this app more and more everyday to find what I’m looking for. I have found car washes, stores, and have even perused the app to see what’s around me. It’s great to read reviews and see the menu before even stepping foot into a place.

These are just the apps that I am currently frequenting but if you search online there are lists upon lists of useful apps.
Here’s two great lists – Best Paid and Free iPhone Apps for Moms & 25 Best Apps for Working Moms .

Now that I’m about to have a baby I’m sure there will be even more apps that I will find and use. Know any good ones?

Leave me a comment and tell me how your smartphone has become integrated into your life as a mom?

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Mommy Management Skills

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As a Management student at the University of Nevada, Reno I was thinking today about what management and leadership skills that I might use at home. Then I realized, tons! Running a household is no easy task. There’s a lot to get done and not a lot of time to do it.

Here are some skills that moms use on a daily basis:

1. Time Management – I know there are many days where I am the first to rise and the last to go to sleep. I know when/where each member of my family has to be for the day and everything that needs to get done. Somehow and someway moms manage to fit all of the crazy schedules and tasks into each day. Moms prioritize their time, set schedules, and adhere to deadlines.

2. Project Management – School functions and family functions don’t just happen. They are intricate projects that require extensive planning and management. Moms have this amazing ability to look at the whole picture and break all of the aspects down into tasks. This week my family planned a last minute trip to beautiful Lake Tahoe for the 4th of July. I had to think about just as much for our trip as I do for a project at work! Making lists, planning shopping trips, mileage, packing efficiently, activities to do throughout the day…This was a project!

3. Communication Skills – Moms can go from talking to a 2 year-old and without skipping a beat jump into a complex conversation with an adult. They know the value of clear instructions and utilize various forms of communication every single day – writing an email about an event you are planning, texting with the husband about dinner, jumping on Skype with the grandparents, and calling around town to schedule an appointment…And all of this in one day!

4. Training – I’m very familiar with this right now as my older children are learning more skills within the home regarding cleaning and home maintenance. I have trained them, provided check-lists of items that need to be done, and do a little quality assurance inspection at the end of the day. Everyday moms provide instructions, guidance, and teaching to their families. I can’t wait to teach my daughter how to swim, only because I remember my mom with me in the pool for what seemed like hours to teach me. Her patience, clear instructions, and guidance are something that I use when training employees and even my family.

5. Problem Solving – Let’s face it, things happen and almost always unexpected. The washer quit working, a child sprains an ankle, new brakes are needed on the car, or the kids are fighting. Moms are always there to solve whatever problems or issues that arise. They don’t skip a beat and just jump right on in!

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So pat yourself on the back moms! You have some amazing skills that you use every single day and may not even notice it. You maintain households, plan events, keep the peace in the home, and maintain all types of relationships! Here’s even more skills that you use everyday as a “Mompreneur.”

What other skills do you use as a mom that could be used professionally?

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Tick-Tock – Running Late Again?

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Everyone has a different perception of time and we become known for it accordingly. We all have friends, family, and co-workers who are either chronically late or early and then a few stragglers who are in the middle of that. It can be frustrating either way. You go to meet a friend for lunch and they show up 30 minutes early asking where you are or you show up on time and your friend is 30 minutes late; usually without even sending a courtesy text or calling.

If you are someone who, or someone you know is chronically late the first step to recovery is admitting that it is a problem. Not only does it cause other’s stress but I can almost guarantee that it causes you even more stress. Being late for personal events is one thing, being late for work consistently is a whole other ballpark. You might think that people don’t notice…They do. Someone always notices when you’re slipping in through the office doors, probably because they have walked by your cubicle or office a couple times that morning already – depending on how late you actually are. In an article titled, 5 Reasons Why You’re Always Late … And Why You Won’t Be Anymore it reports that being excessively tardy is the most irritating of work habits to have. This is a great article because it covers why people tend to run late. Their reasons are:
1. Being too wrapped up in the present & spacing out other commitments.
2. Miscalculating how much time is actually needed for tasks or getting somewhere.
3. Failing to plan. Waking up late and/or not giving yourself enough time to get ready.
4. Overbooking. Saying yes to every meeting or every event and then struggling to maintain all your commitments.
5. Being addicted to the rush. You adrenaline junkie, you.

Understanding why you are consistently late is key to recovery. It could be one of the previously stated items or it could be all of them. Regardless of how many, it is important to address and overcome them. Most people who are consistently tardy are not very proud of it. It’s embarrassing and stressful. Have you ever told yourself, “I’m not going to let this happen again…Tomorrow will be different” and then the next day you’re late for work?…Again? It can happen to the best of us. But hey, don’t get down on yourself – get better! Lucky for you there are some great resources out there to help with your recovery.

In an article titled, How to stop being late and start being on time some great tips to be on time are given.
Two great ones are:
1. Take actual measurements of how long things take you.
In my case, I know that it takes me 40 minutes to get ready for work, 20 minutes to eat breakfast and watch a little news, and 40 minutes to drive to work (on a good day). I also know that I am a snooze button pusher so I give myself another 20 minute buffer to roll outta bed.
2. Set an alarm. Not just to get up in the morning but for other tasks.
Some people just need constant reminders of what’s coming up in their day. Smart phones can be a great help with this as you can have as many as alarms and reminders that you want. The iPhone can even set reminders for locations. Many times I have set a reminder for when I leave work to remind me to get items for dinner or to pay a bill.

Tardiness is something that anyone can overcome with admittance, understanding, and effort to recover.

So I ask, Has anyone overcome the tardiness bug? If so, how did you do it?

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Multitasking. Is it Worth it?

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I have always prided myself in being an effective “multi-tasker.” I even have it on my résumé to impress anyone out there with my mad multitasking skills. Here’s the definition of multi-tasking. Basically, the performance of many tasks at one time. I have seen on job boards their desire for multitaskers and I have tried so very hard to make this a prime skill of mine.
At work, I can handle many tasks – I can answer the phone while doing a budget report and I can talk to co-workers about a topic or question while emailing a client.

But personally – being a mother, wife, and student I believe I have taken it too far and it has ended up hurting me more than helping me. I can’t do homework AND spend time with my step-kids, nor can I cook dinner while figuring out the next week’s schedule. Sometimes we just have to buckle down and do one task at a time (at work and in our personal lives).

New research actually shows that multitaskers might be doing more tasks at one time but also getting less done at the same time. A great article on Forbes called, How Multitasking Hurts Your Brain (and Your Effectiveness at Work) talks about how it has been scientifically proven that our brains cannot efficiently switch between tasks.

What?!? But I thought I was so darn good at this…In light of this I have attempted to do some “light” multitasking. Answering emails and phones at work while working on tasks that don’t require a lot of effort but not trying to do my homework and spend time with my family. I have vowed to myself that I will work harder on eliminating my multitasking ways, especially in the home. I’m going to prioritize and get my personal things done before I try to do other thing. How nice it will be to watch a movie with my husband without having to do homework at the same time! I’m seeing better quality time ahead, as well as more productive time. If I just buckle down to get things done I’m sure they will be completed faster and at higher quality. I read a blog titled, 6 Reasons Why Mom Shouldn’t Multi-task. It just further proves my complete inability to multitask in the home…
The ultimate conclusion to it all is that it is purely unhealthy and creates additional stress which I believe. Maybe that’s why I’m stressed all the time. I’m putting too much on my plate at one time – and for what? To prove what an amazing and incredibly stressed out multitasker I am?

Now, more than ever I believe that achieving balance is done by focussing on what’s important; prioritizing our time and not trying to be these amazing and frizzy-haired multitaskers. There’s a reason we can’t put eyeliner and mascara on at the same time – it’s dangerous!

So I ask you, what do you really think of multitasking? Do you think it hurts you more than it helps you?

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Striving for Good Enough

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The modern woman today typically plays many roles in their lives. Many of us are educated professionals, wives, and mothers…And this is just the main and tip of the iceberg ones. There are so many more and so much more that we, as modern women handle on a daily basis.

I currently work full-time, attend Business school full-time, am a wife, step-mother of 2, and preparing to have my first baby in a matter of weeks. I literally have 8 calendars on my iPhone and 1 that I carry around for my personal appointments and homework. I’m busy and I know that. I also know that I cannot be perfect. In my quest for perfection a frizzy-haired, stressed out, exhausted me finally admitted that it’s not possible – as much as I would like it to be. I cannot be there for everyone all the time. I cannot maintain a meticulous home and cook gourmet meals every night…Heck, I can’t even fold all my clothes all of the time. So why was I trying so hard to be perfect? I’m a Christian. I should know better; I’m human – even as a wife and mother.

I remember the first time I made my mom cry. Gosh, I felt horrrriible. I had done it, made my mother cry. The woman who I thought was unaffected by the world or even having feelings. Moms have feelings? WHAT?! She cried and when I asked her what was wrong she said, “Jenny, you hurt my feelings. I am a human being and I have feelings. I’m not a superhero, I am just a mom trying to do her very best everyday.” Wow. Consider my 6-year old mind blown!

I stopped trying to be perfect because the only person it was hurting was me. There’s a great article that I read recently titled, 5 Reasons Moms Should Stop Trying to be Perfect. The one that struck me that hardest was that recognizing that perfection is a myth. It cannot be our standard of for success in any of our roles.

What I have done is work towards focusing on what is in front of me at the moment. If I’m at work, I’m going to concentrate on rocking work for the day. School, okay put that student hat on (so I can get that graduation cap), then at home I’m a wife and mom and that’s my focus. I can’t be all of them at once nor be perfect at them all the time. IT’S JUST NOT POSSIBLE. What is possible though, is being good enough. My husband will still love me if the laundry isn’t all folded. My boss will still value me if my make-up isn’t perfect for work. So let the make-up routine and laundry take a little hit – I’m going to enjoy my life the fullest everyday regardless of my “imperfection.” I’m just going to get through it all – step by step, day by day.

And let me say, once I stopped trying to be so darn perfect all the time – my happiness increased and my stress significantly decreased. Whew! I’m human. It’s okay!

There’s an amazing blog to read called, The New Perfect. I’m addicted to it because my new perfect is being good enough.

This is just another step towards achieving the balance that I seek.

Tell me about your moment of clarity when you realized striving for perfect is not worth it?

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Clear the Clutter.Clear your Mind – Part III

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For the final part of this mini-series about organization, I would like to talk about one of the biggest and most effective keys to getting and staying organized. Teamwork. Yup, not fancy boxes or brand-new shelving but teamwork – working together to get through your action plan and keeping it up together.

Getting unorganized in a family home is not done purely by one person; it is done by the family (even though we might have some very messy little culprits) it is done by everyone. It took a village to get unorganized so what makes you think it will take less than that to get back on track and to maintain it?

You now know what organization means to you and have a plan of action, now it’s time to sit down with your family to work out the details together. Get the kids involved, teach them the value of donating items and of creating a space that works better for them. “Look how easy your toys are to find and to put away!” Jump into the plan as a family and you can achieve leaps and bounds more than doing it yourself.

Once everything is set-up the way you like you can maintain it by starting chore charts and offer rewards for helping around the house. Here’s an extra bonus, the more you work together the more free time you can have to cuddle with your sweetie! That’s the bonus that I look forward to!

In order to achieve ultimate balance, you must be in it together – the parents as a team including the kids to be a part of the entire mission. Clearing the clutter as a family and clearing everyone’s mind; especially yours! You will have less stress, more order, and definitely more time to do things together. I recently read this article about working together as a team and what it can do for your marriage. My marriage has grown exponentially by being on the same page regarding what needs to be done and when. I have the love and support of my husband and we share a vision of what organization and function within our home is. It doesn’t, and shouldn’t have to fall on one person’s shoulders, especially if you have a team ready and willing to jump in!

My step-kids are older and take a lot of pride in learning how to maintain a home and to be part of the daily tasks that need to be done. They do their chores and love logging them as complete. They take part in grocery shopping and meal preparation – Man, oh man does this help us out and it has shown me that they are fully capable of more than I had ever thought! We have some great, hard-working, and talented kids in our home! We are more bonded as a family because we work together to maintain a healthy and functional home – together.

Here’s a great resource to pick age-appropriate tasks for your kids. For the adults, let each other’s strengths shine when contributing. For example, my husband is not as good at laundry as I am but I am absolutely horrible when it comes to washing and maintaining cars. He is great at vacuuming, I am better at dusting.

There are more benefits to working together as a team than just getting the organization steps done; it will improve the overall happiness of everyone in your newly organized and functional home!

So go on, have a family meeting and develop a plan that involves everyone in your household!

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Clear the Clutter.Clear your Mind – Part II

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So now that we have talked about organizing resources and knowing what you really have, need, and want in your house we can move onto what’s really important  – Understanding what organizing means to each of us individually and developing a plan of action to get to that point…Your point of organizational bliss that only belongs to you.

What does organization mean to you?  Does it mean that things are put away and easy to find?  Maybe it means that everything is in organized piles? Or does it mean that you have routines that you can count on?  Whatever it is, define it for you and what your needs are.

Organization to me means having things put away and easy to find.  My organizational bliss is not having stuff lying around my house. I like a place for everything and need to be able to find things without digging or stressing out.

Once you figure out what organization means to you, it is time to develop a plan of action.  One of the biggest aspects to the plan is time.  How to find the time to organize and how long each task is going to take.  It doesn’t take much time all at once, unless you want to just knock all of it out in a day or two.  Start with the whole picture.  Make a list of all of the big items that you want to accomplish and then break those larger items into smaller tasks.

One of mine is to set-up and organize the baby’s room.  That’s the big part.  I don’t have much time to knock it all out in one session so I have broken the larger list item into smaller parts. One of the smaller parts of this is getting everything sorted and washed.  Here’s how I have been tackling this –

1.) Sort baby clothes into sizes and then type (outfits or sleepers). 2.) Do a load of baby clothes (by size/type) wash, fold, and put away.  3.) Wash baby blankets. 4.) Wash, fold, put away baby bath stuff (towels/washrags). 5. Wash, fold, and put away bedding sheets.

Just doing the sorting, washing, and putting away has taken me weeks but it gets done little by little and eventually I will get there and be able to move onto the next big item.

Start small and work common areas first.  Maybe it’s your drawers that have gotten out of hand.  Go through a drawer a night, or heck, even a drawer a week.  It has to work with your life or you won’t get it done.  Baby steps! That’s how I’m reaching my idea of organization.

If you are looking for some printables to help you organize your plan of action, here are two great blogs with awesome ones:

10 Great Organizing Printables

Project Organize Your ENTIRE Life: Mega Cleaning Action Plan.

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Clear the Clutter.Clear Your Mind – Part I

I don’t know about you but clutter literally messes with my mind.  It prevents me from thinking straight, and as my husband can attest…makes me not very much fun to be around.  I’m not a “neat freak”… not certified anyways… but a little order in the home keeps me balanced.

This is how clutter makes me feel….

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For Part I of this series, let’s talk about resources and the first step to de-cluttering your home.

Resources:

The biggest source currently (especially for me) is Pinterest.  It’s absolutely amazing.  Did I mention how amazing it is? So what is this new amazing tool? Their website says, “Pinterest is a tool for collecting and organizing the things that you love.” Basically you can create a board of something you love. One of mine is called, “Organization Makes Jenn Happy.” You can follow other people and their boards and then search for things to “Pin” to your boards. Usually, you can find something that is attached to someone’s blog – everything on Pinterest is driven by an image. When you log-in, you will see pins from the people you follow and can re-pin them to your own boards.

It’s a great tool that can lead you to some awesome blogs or other organizational resources. One of the best projects that I have done from Pinterest was changing the way I fold my clothes in my dresser drawers. Seriously, this is amazing! Here’s my pin and Here’s the blog it came from.  I would have NEVER thought of this without Pinterest!  I can actually see everything in my drawer and have tons more room.  I taught both my step-kids this trick too and they love it!  This is just one example of what a great organizational resource Pinterest is.

Don’t let clutter take over your home.  Use the awesome resources online to help you find a system that works for you.  I don’t go nuts with buckets and expensive organizing tools.  Here’s a great blog about getting organized in 40 days (without getting overwhelmed).  Note: I found this blog through pinning!

Here’s the first thing to do on your de-cluttering journey:

Step One: Know what you have.  Open all the drawers, closets, and look underneath all of the beds.  Years can go by without us really knowing what is piling up and then before we know it we are standing in a room scratching our heads and thinking, “where did all this crap come from?”  Well…It comes from not knowing what is actually in your home.  Go through everything and ask yourself the last time you looked at, wore, used, or even thought about the current item.  Often, I can’t even remember the last time I used or wore something and that is when I put it in a pile of donate/throw-away/give-away.  Doing this will leave you with only what you really want or need.  Let me know what interesting things you find & what you did with them.

…To be Continued in Part II

 

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