Stepping Beyond The ‘Solo’ in Solopreneur This Past Weekend

I’m starting this week with a little pep in my step and much of it has to do with a lovely Saturday spent at the library. There was a lot wrapped up in this day: venturing out of my city (and all the way into downtown Vancouver), a backpack full of some of my favourite things (binder, paper, highlighters, post-its, pens, my planner), a full day dedicated to my business and best of all, the company of my friends Salma and Jamie who I’ve met through blogging.

As a mom, I juggle a lot of everyone else’s stuff in my daily grind. My own business is in there, somewhere, but brainstorming sessions also double as showers, writing time is known as the nap-time hustle, and I consult like 5 people’s schedules before committing to a meeting. But this past Saturday was 6 hours of me: the writer and entrepreneur.

As someone who works alone, the highlight of Saturday was sharing space and ideas with two other women whose work and friendship I truly value. As much as I love the fact that I do much of my work alone (barring anything too technical for which I gladly hand over the money – haha!), I also love sharing ideas and expertise with other women. And these women get me. They understand my vision and my roadblocks. They know what I’m faced with in trying to push my dreams out into the world and they also see beyond whatever small way I may be expressing myself, and remind me to get back to who I truly am.

We started the session by sharing our goals for 2016 and then with Jamie’s mantra Do Less, Focus More in mind we helped each other pare down those goals to set ourselves up for more productivity (and sanity). We also identified the time-suckers in our lives and came up with ways to kick them to the curb. The beauty of this process was that each of us is working on something totally different, but we could offer fresh perspective on how to move forward in our businesses.

By the end of the day we each had some concrete ‘next steps’ and now an accountability circle so we can support each other through the process. Some of these next steps go beyond the business and into self-care…because after all, without that, how can we thrive in any area of our lives?

If you’re a solopreneur, I encourage you to grab a couple friends who also work alone (even if you are all doing different things) and set up something like this. I mean, some of us aren’t even used to talking out loud during the day, let alone conversing with another adult who gets all the things we juggle. It really does help to talk things through, listen to suggestions you might not have thought about and know that you have a source of support for this ‘solo’ part of your life.

Once we were done, and I had mentioned food about 10 times, we sauntered down the street  ran in the rain to a restaurant on the next block, had a delicious dinner and caught up as friends. I feel really blessed that even though I choose to work alone, through it I have made some of my most kindred connections. When it’s soulful living you seek, it comes to you no matter what.

I’d love to hear your thoughts – have you done something like this regularly? Tried it once and it wasn’t for you? Please leave a comment! Thanks for reading!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

Your Best Is Enough. No, Really.

I’m not the first to blog about this and I won’t be the last. Feeling ‘ _____ enough’ is tricky for most of us, whether that’s smart enough, pretty enough, kind enough, patient enough, liked enough, ‘together’ enough, a good enough mom, a good enough dad…and the list goes on.

At the root of feeling ‘enough’ is self-love, one of the keywords that has people clicking over to my site daily. But what else can I share with you that will help you feel like who you are now, and how you are now, is perfectly divine?

How about something practical? Something tangible that you can get a grip on when it feels like things are slipping through your fingers.

This is from that part of me who happens to be a mom of 3 kids. Motherhood is, of course, a role I strongly identify with but it’s also the place where I am pitted against my greatest struggles and challenges. Those struggles and challenges are internal; they don’t stem from my children being typical children, but from me being built the way I am. That’s a whole ‘nother post but if you read my tips on coping as an introverted parent, you get the gist.

I’ve learned that it’s OK to let the age and stage of my kids dictate what life looks like. Understanding and accepting what is possible and what would just be a big freaking gong show followed by a massive headache has really helped. Find your happy medium – that place where you are nurturing yourself (physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually) and keeping things easy for yourself as you care for other human beings.

That happy medium will change in terms of what it looks like. Maybe nurturing yourself as a mom of an infant means colouring (in your new colouring book that you asked for this Christmas) for 20 minutes while the baby naps. Maybe it means taking a nap yourself. Maybe it means listening to music that soothes you so you can be your calm self for when the baby wakes up again. Nurturing yourself will look different as a mom of a toddler and again as the mom of a school-aged child and so on.

And then there are those moments when you can’t even think about doing anything except letting the tears fall into your cold coffee. That’s OK. If that’s the best you got in that moment, then give ‘er. You’re doing what you can given what you’ve got, in that moment. It’s OK. It’s totally enough, and so are you.

Over the last 8 years I’ve stopped and started, I’ve changed direction, I’ve put my pedal to the metal, and I’ve turned on the cruise control depending on what was happening in my life. There were times when I resented having to put projects on hold or felt held back in some of my pursuits because the kids were too young or I had a tough pregnancy and couldn’t ‘handle’ anything more (because growing a human being is like sitting around and doing absolutely nothing). I’ve had days of crying and feeling super unproductive, like my life wasn’t going anywhere. In fact, I probably would have scoffed at the title of this blog post in those moments. I’m so much better than this, I can do and be so much more. 

Well, here’s the thing: when I look back over the last 8 years of my life I can’t believe how much I actually did accomplish. I think, though, that if, in those crying into my cold tea moments, I just accepted that my best was enough, I probably would have saved myself some grief.

Because I’m a goal-setter, I’ve learned a lot about hustle. I think there is a misconception about what hustle is. We think it means go-go-go every minute of the day, depriving ourselves of sleep, and living on caffeine. That’s not what hustle is! Hustle is simply doing the best we can and always moving in a forward motion. We can zip through a goal or inch our way toward it; in either case there is movement forward. Even in those head in our hands moments, what we might feel are huge pits of wasted time, we can still move forward if we accept them and love ourselves through them. Because then we know that in the next moment, we can make another small step in returning to a higher form of ourselves. And if it’s not the very next moment, it could be the next one, or the next one. Keep moving forward because as I said earlier, every age and stage will bring with it new opportunities.

Never let that light go out because that light is you. It’s all the joy you can bring to the world. Keep the flame fanned with people who truly care about you, someone to help you out with the kids and give you that break, the pursuit of your interests and passions in whatever capacity that means in this moment, and these words: Your best is enough.

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

How I Stay Motivated And Do ‘All These Things’

Sometimes people – mostly moms – ask me how I stay motivated to keep ‘on top of’ my interests and do ‘all these things.’ And my response is quite profound. It’s usually a blank stare. Then a stutter. And often ends in a shrug.

I figure that’s not very helpful, so I am going to attempt to answer those questions here. Because they are really important questions. It doesn’t matter if we know that pursuing our interests leads to a healthier, happier life. It doesn’t matter if we know what we are passionate about. If we don’t act on these things, then we simply can’t benefit.

So, here’s my more (hopefully) eloquent response:

I’m interested in many things. In fact, I once made a list of things I am interested in and came up with 67 items. That was more than 12 years ago so I am assuming that list has changed and probably grown. I don’t pursue all those things.

Writing is more than an interest – it’s a vehicle for me to show up in this world. Like my own personal stretch limo. It’s my microphone in which I speak about issues that are important to me. It’s my stage on which I stand and scream words like ‘creativity, authenticity and kindness.’ It’s been a part of me for so long that I wouldn’t be able to separate myself from it without feeling like I lost my shadow. In fact, here’s the clincher, when I did put writing aside for a little over a year when my first baby was born, I was direction-less, resentful, sad and disconnected.

So, I don’t stay on top of my writing any more than one stays on top of their eating. I’m not trying to be dramatic and be like, I am nothing without my art. But truly, without my art, a huge chunk of me would be missing. And if you ask my family, they’ll tell you that that huge chunk of me is really some of my best parts.

Yes, it’s also my work in terms of how I earn money so that’s motivating – gives me one more reason to pitch places for paying gigs, stay on top of my workbook sales and keep creating. But I write for more reasons than that.

The ‘all these things’ part kind of confuses me. We all do many things. And we all have a choice in what we do, even when it feels like we don’t. How I do ‘all these things’ is I make choices, every single day. Like, if I want to read for pleasure then I have to choose: Should I fool around on my phone for the last 30 minutes of the day, or should I get in bed with my novel? Or if I want to create another page in my art journal, I have to choose: Should I watch a show or should I sit my butt down in my studio and play with my art supplies? Or if I get invited to an event, I have to decide: Is this something I am really interested in? What is my motive for attending? If it’s a valid reason (which includes pure fun), I go. If it’s not a valid reason (like ‘fear of missing out’) I don’t go.

I don’t always make the best choices but I try not to beat myself up about it either. I can’t get to everything in a day, and some nights I do just want to let my mind go to mush (enter: The Young and the Restless or Hawaii Five-O) but if at the end of the week I feel like I did some of the things I really wanted to do, I’m happy.

I’m an introvert by nature. This means I recharge by being alone. But I do love me some social time with people I feel most myself around. And when I can combine my love of art with comaraderie, it adds to the motivation factor.

It’s why I host a monthly writing group – I get to write and be with people who love writing. It’s the same reason why, when I was trying to get out of my funk 7 years ago by getting back to writing, I sought a group of other writers and found that in Pandora’s Collective. Group creativity can be motivating.

My friend, Angie, guest posted right here and talked about the very same thing. She and her best friend have a weekly sewing night, complete with wine and conversation. There is something to be said about having to show up. If you need a push to pursue the things that truly make you happy, try doing it with someone else.

I guess we can boil it down to this:

If you want to ‘stay on top of’ your interests and do ‘all these things’:

  1. Choose how you spend your time. Even 15 minutes a day doing the thing you love can be rejuvenating. If you’re a mom wondering how you’re going to find that time, I know how you feel. It can be really easy to say that you’ll get back to your interests when your kids get older. And yes, in many ways it is easier to carve out time for yourself when your kids are more independent. I have an 8 year old, 5 year old and a pretty-much-2-year-old, and I know how much easier it is to do things for myself with just the older two around. (Or how lovely it is when they are playing at their friends’ homes). My 2 year old is still with me most of the time. But I also know how I am when I don’t have my ME time. It’s not pretty. And it’s no good for anybody. Do what you can with what you have, and always find ways to make the time. Sometimes this is where creativity comes in, or simply a new way of spending the minutes in your day.
  2. Join a group, start a group, or partner up with someone else. Committing to something on a regular basis can be easier when we’re accountable to someone else. And, depending on how we’re built, the social aspect of it alone can be enough to have us follow-through. If something doesn’t already exist that suits your needs, create it. This goes for book clubs, painting parties, social activist get-togethers (what would those be called?), or anything your heart desires.

I hope this has been more helpful than a blank stare, stutter and shrug! And if you have any comments or questions, I’d love to hear them! You can comment on the post or contact me privately.

Have a beautiful Tuesday!

taslim jaffer, let me out creative

 

 

This Whole ‘Balance’ Thing

So I told you we put our youngest in daycare twice a week, right? This was to open up some time for me personally and professionally. Personally, this would give me a chance to catch up on (and maintain) some self-care, get to the gym, meet friends for tea or lunch or whatever people do when they hang out during the day – in real life. Also, it would give me a chance to get in my creative practices like piano, handlettering, and reading novels. Blogging is a whole lot easier in a quiet space so that gets added to my daycare days. Oh wait, there’s also the housework which of course is always easier without having to meet anybody else’s needs every 5 minutes.

Um, so you can kind of see how two days can be filled quite quickly, especially because mid-afternoon the school-aged kids take over my space. But that was also the point. I get two afternoons a week with just the two big kids which means I can have conversations with them, focus on actually watching their activities (instead of chasing a toddler around) and even get some 1:1 time with one while the other is in a lesson. Having this time with them has been awesome – and even though we keep feeling like someone is missing, I know they are enjoying having so much more of my attention.

Today I even met my husband for lunch; he popped the question – “Want to meet for lunch?” –  in the middle of the morning madness of getting everyone out the door, and I almost heard the angels singing. Such lovely words.

I now also have some time to run errands without an entourage. Not really a necessity, per se. But definitely a nicety. I wasn’t really excited at the thought of taking everyone to the music store just to pick up a couple piano books for my daughter – all the instruments and equipment and sheet music…too tempting for curious folk. So today I took the opportunity to make the trip solo, and actually had enough time and brain space to browse the music for pieces I’d like to learn.

music, alicia keys, sarah mclachlan, balanced life, creative life, artful living, musician, piano, sheet music, let me out creative, taslim jaffer

You may not be surprised then that my sink is full of dishes as I type this up at 10 pm. Or that I have 3 loads of laundry to fold and 2 more to wash and dry. (Seriously, how does that happen??)

So, that’s got me thinking about this whole balance thing. I mean, what is it, really? How do you know when you’re balanced? What does that look like?

Long story short (because like I said it’s 10 pm and I need my sleep before another crazy morning), balance to me is kind of spread out over a longer term. It’s not about what I’m doing in a day; it’s more like what does my week look like. And sometimes even, what does the month look like.

If I look at a big chunk of time and I say, yup, I’m keeping the wheels turning in the housework department so that people are still being fed and clothed and dusted around, that’s awesome. If I say, yup, I’m blogging as much as I’d like to and doing all the other things that go along with building my blog – over this big chunk of time – then that’s fabulous. If I say, yup, I’m getting in some adult conversations with people I enjoy connecting with then, seriously, hallelujah! You get the picture.

So, the last few days have been about self-care and getting chatty again on the blog and social media which means my Friday is all.about.housework. That suits me just fine. I’m actually looking forward to turning on some music and making the kitchen sparkle, and then tackling all the clothes in the basement. Everything gets a chance to be on the frontburner while the other things simmer on the back.

I can see how fueling all these fires is going to take some constant check-ins and possible recalibrations. Like if we completely run out of clean underwear then I need to check what’s on the frontburner and probably switch things up a bit.

What does ‘balanced’ look like to you? I’d love to hear in the comments! Thanks for reading!

A Tender Moment With A Lasting Impression

“Mama! Come, come! I just found the mossiest tree! You will love it – you LOVE mossy trees!”

I followed my 5 year old son to the edge of the forest, he on his too-small bike with his Spiderman helmet leading the way. Already I could feel myself filling with emotion. I do love mossy trees. I love their coats of green life upon life, identifying the trees as perfect homes. I love the warm look, the springy, soft feel. I also love them in a way I can’t describe in words. Sometimes there’s no reason why the soul is drawn to what it is. Nothing we understand. That’s how I feel about mossy trees.

I guess my kids have caught on to that.

At the edge of the forest, my son jumped off his bike and grabbed my hand. “It’s up here,” he murmured as he kept his eye on his footing, making his way up the slight incline. Surrounded now by cloaked giants, amusement set in. Which one was the mossiest? Which one had jerked my son’s thoughts away from his play and to his mom?

Unsuccessfully navigating around spiderwebs, I held my breath and pulled silk from my arms, praying that the inhabitants hadn’t accidentally found their way down the back of my shirt. We ventured onward, stepping over roots, and ended up on the mulchy trail.

“Here it is, Mom! See! I told you it’s mossy!”

My reaction was perhaps a little over-done as I gasped and clapped my hands and smiled up to my eyes. It was indeed mossy, just like the dozens of other trees, several spiderwebs back. But this moment deserved a bit of fanfare. It wasn’t just the sight of the tree that was awesome; my son had been immersed in play with other young boys, pretending to be guardians of this sacred space, building forts for the ‘good guys’ but something whispered to him his mama’s name when he came across this beauty.

hold hands, mossy trees, sons and moms, let me out creative, a tender moment with a lasting impression

The countless times I gushed about these twisted trunks and carried on about loving these beasts, my son was absorbing bits and pieces of my sparkly soul. These bits and pieces made their way into his heart and all over this forest. And these bits and pieces will outlive me. This, I know.

There’s a fancy word for this and it’s ‘legacy.’ My legacy – a part of it anyway – will live in moss-covered trees. And I am so good with that. I may never make a huge impact on the local or global community. But my kids know the things that are important to me. And as we grow together, I will keep sharing those parts of me.

Mamas and Papas! As you get to know your children for who they are, make sure they know who you are too. Among the directives and schedules and responsible things, add some soul. Marvel out loud. Share your hopes. Spill your dreams. And do. Do the things that make you happy – little silly things, big bold things.

Sprinkle the bits and pieces of your sparkly soul over everything.

Remembering This One Thing Helps Me Be A Better Parent

I don’t like to do anything wrong. I’m the first born daughter in an Asian family so the worst thing I can do is anything wrong. I have high expectations of myself in many areas, but none surpass what I believe I ‘must do’ as a mom.

My dad tells me my problem is I over-analyze things. He says I think too much about the consequences of my actions or inactions towards my kids. As much as it kills me to admit this, he may be right. I tend to get lost among the trees and forget I’m in a beautiful forest. I forget that I am actually a PART of something and not the thing upon which EVERYTHING rests.

I always fall back upon the words of Khalil Gibran in his epic poem, The Prophet, that actually lifts that burden for me:

                      On Children

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.

I mean, isn’t that just awesome? I am not responsible for every. single. thing.

I have a job to do, yes. But it’s really not unreasonable. It’s challenging and rewarding and surprising and amazing. But I don’t need superhero powers to get through this. The big take-home message for me in this poem is that there’s only so much of their path that I intersect. Only so much I have control over. And whew – that is a bit of a relief, I must say.

I will do my best, but sometimes my best is just giving it up to God. And probably teaching my kids to do that, by example, is a tool I can give them for when they leave my bow.

Yesterday, things got a bit much for me. So many changes this week and everything’s kind of happening at once. My son is now joining his big sister at elementary school, and my littlest has started daycare part time. Again, I imagined the weight of every decision on my shoulders. I imagined my kids years from now in fabricated scenarios based on decisions I could make at this moment. In other words, I forgot about the Archer.

Later in the evening, just before bedtime, the kids and I sat on the living room floor. All 3 of them were literally dog-piling me and just lovin’ on me. It was totally what I needed – and I am sure they did too. No matter how much we all crave routine, the 5 of us are cut from the same cloth. We’d rather be doing nothing with each other, and yesterday’s back to school endeavour felt like an intrusion on that.

At one point, my youngest was on my lap, my son was in front of me to my left, and my daughter was in front of me to my right. Kind of like a circle. I reached for their hands and almost instantly they both closed their eyes. I took their lead. I let a few deep breaths go by before I asked them to help me create a bubble of white light around us. I talked them through it while explaining to them what the light was and how it would always protect us and make us feel loved. No matter where we are, no matter who we are with. We are a part of this light and so is everyone else we meet. We are connected to each other and most importantly, to this light. It was just a few minutes of grounding but by the time we opened our eyes, the room felt different.

I felt different.

I remembered sitting down in the prayer hall with my kids, just the night before, to help us kick-start the school year like I did as a child with my own parents. In my heart I asked for guidance and strength to help me be the mom they needed for this new season in all of our lives. I remembered the feeling I received after asking – it was as though I was being assured that simply by being this mom, the one that I am, I am enough.

In just a few minutes, the entire weight of the day slid off my shoulders and dissolved somewhere behind me, in a moment that was now the past. And in front of me were calm, content faces.

This is a picture we took yesterday morning, before the craziness of the day set in. And we closed the day surrounded by each other like this, too. That is not lost on me. That is the magical forest in which I live.

let me out creative, taslim jaffer, remembering this one thing helps me be a better parent, motherhood, parenting, khalil gibran, on children, parenting, kindergarten, daycare

Whatever beliefs you have about Something Else, something that goes beyond the physical, let it help you with the burdens you carry. Remembering we are a part of something instead of the one and only entity on which everything else rests can really help with the mental noise. It can help with the emotions you harbour in the cells of your body. It can just help.

And it is a beautiful thing to remember.

 

 

 

5 Simple Ways To Keep Your Kids Creative & Connected This Summer – And Why You Should

Creative and connected kids (and adults!) are happier, healthier and – can I say – more fun to be around! That’s because when our creative muscle is strong we can find solutions where others might only see problems. It helps us turn obstacles into challenges we are inspired to tackle. When our ability to think outside the box is maximized the world is more like a playground rather than a series of issues we have no idea now to handle. For kids (and adults!), this means easier social interactions and greater self-confidence.

But what does ‘being connected’ mean? Simply put, being connected is knowing what feels right to you and what doesn’t. It’s being tuned in to that wise part of you that helps you make decisions that jive with who you are and what you believe in. It’s never too early to start talking about this with your kids; adjust your language to suit their needs and the beliefs of your family. For example, in my home we call it ‘the God part’ that we each have inside us. Another idea would be to call it ‘the smart part.’ It’s amazing how quickly kids pick up on the fact that they have an internal instrument that can guide them!

The relationship between creativity and connectedness is reciprocal: the more creative you are, the more connected you are and vice versa.

As I’ve said before, creativity isn’t simply about the fine arts, but the fine arts certainly exercise this muscle. So whether you identify as an artist or not, you have endless opportunities to create in your daily life and I strongly suggest you take some of them!

Here are 5 suggestions for helping your kids stay creative and connected this summer. And of course, if you join in, you’ll be making life-long personal and family habits that will benefit you for years to come.

1. Get them outside – preferably in a natural setting.

A playground is great. A forest, beach or park is better. Hanging out in Nature (unplugged) instills an appreciation and wonder for the natural world. This in turn creates more caretakers for Mama Earth! Aside from that, there is so much more space to run around, find imaginative ways to play and feel the freedom we all crave. Some ideas include: swimming in a lake, playing on a sandy beach, walking through old growth forests and playing in treed parks.

trees, treehuggers, kids, playing outside, summer fun, play outside, hug a tree

2. Write in a daily journal for at least 5 minutes.

The act of journaling forces us to be still for a few minutes and connect with our thoughts. It encourages a quiet, inner relationship that can end up being an amazing friendship during the years ahead (think: adolescence!). If your child isn’t used to journaling, help them out by prompting then to recount the day’s events and ask them to write down the feelings that they associate with the day. Speaking of which, if it’s difficult to tack this on to the bedtime routine, then try starting the day this way or reserve it as a quiet activity for the afternoon. Is your child too young to write? Get them drawing! If they are willing to tell you about their drawing, you can write their thoughts for them.

3. Have them create something with their hands on a daily basis (or at least a few times a week!)

The idea of a mess every day isn’t appealing to me, either…but some messes are easier to clean than others so choose your media according to your tolerance for that day! Pens, pencils, crayons, chalk (for the sidewalk or a chalkboard), pastels, paints, clay, origami paper, Lego…there are so many ways to use our hands and imaginations to make something. You can visit Pinterest or simply Google ideas, but I prefer providing the materials and having the kids come up with ideas. The whole point is to get them using their imaginations and develop their own creative process. The end result is really not important. Encourage and appreciate their willingness to be brave with their art.

Lego, building Lego, Lego maniac, creative kids, creative play, build with your hands,

4. Nurture a current interest.

I know – some kids change interests every day while others hold strong to their favourites. One day your 8 year old daughter could wake up with a sudden infatuation with dinosaurs. So, what can you do once you’ve given her all the (5) facts you know about them? Well, if by day 3 she is still asking you to tell her more, go down to the library and have her find books on the topic. Encourage her to find them on her own, using her problem solving skills to do so. This could tie in to the idea above and she can come up with her own art project involving dinosaurs. The point is to validate and nurture their curiosity. Curiosity is what feeds creativity!

dinosaurs, dinosaur books, research, kids reading, bookworm, reading books, summer reading, creative interests

5. Come up with a creative way to support a charity of their choice.

What does kindness have to do with being connected to one’s Self? Everything. Because our true Self is kind and loving. Being engaged with that part of us further enhances our creativity. And the more we exercise our creative muscle, the more ideas we can dream up to solve the problems facing our communities. It’s so intricately tied together – creativity, authenticity and kindness – and living at the intersection of these 3 things is such a sweet place to be! So, based on their interests, present them with a number of local charities so that they can pick one to support. Together, find out what kinds of donations the charity would appreciate and then brainstorm ways to help out. This is a fun, family-bonding activity and it is by no means limited to the summer time.

Here’s to a creative and connected summer for your kids and you!

 

Summer And Sanity: A Work-At-Home Mom’s Balancing Act

Many of us parents are a mixed bag of emotions right now as our kids complete another school year. For me, there’s a strong desire to bottle up their ‘little-ness’ because I see it dissolving right before my eyes. I also feel the relief of being able to put the words, “Come on, hurry up! You’re going to be LATE!” to rest for a little while. Sure, there’ll be places to go, but I’m staying away from anywhere that hands out late slips. Of course, there’s the comfort of knowing that the 5 of us will be spending a lot of time together. No, I didn’t say ‘apprehension’ – I said comfort. I would rather have my kids with me than not. And when my husband is around (which he is a lot in the summer – thank God!) everything is so much more fun and easy!

But…I do know that my sanity is a loose and wispy thing that can break away from me if I’m not careful. And I also know that the combination of a work-from-home scenario plus 3 kids in my full-time care can threaten said sanity.

There are many things I can do with or around the kids. Like housework. Everyone has their jobs around the house and that includes playing with the toddler when I need to get certain things done.

Also, errands; my kids have come with me to run personal or business errands since they were babies so I’m not worried about getting out to do those things. In fact, my son, with his long dark eyelashes, often seals the deal for me when I’m meeting with potential vendors. And if I need to be child-free for an appointment or meeting, I do have neighbours/friends/my sister-in-law who I can call on for help.

But there’s the issue of actually working on my business that needs to continue to happen daily over the summer. During the school year, I do this when the kids are at school and the toddler is napping, plus in the evenings after they go to bed (or I should say, after they go back to bed for the 4th time).

I told them the other day that we were going to have a GREAT summer – as long as they don’t drive me crazy! When I came across Clare De Boer (of The Gift of Writing)’s Facebook status with her scheduled summer day outlined on a poster paper, I realized I had to be a little more specific about how this was all going to go down.

So I created my own.

summer, sanity, momlife, moms, kids, motherhood, staying sane this summer, work at home mom, home-based business, work from home

My prime work time during the day is the toddler’s naptime. (The older kids do a much better job of entertaining themselves than she does! Plus I can let them go outside to play without watching them like a hawk.) There is room for a variety of activities at that time; I will make a separate ‘chart’ with options they can choose from.

I’m all about letting them use their imagination to come up with their own play, but if a kid is going to knock on my studio door and say, “I don’t know what to do” I want a list of choices to point to without having to lift my eyes from my computer screen.

I’m sure many work-at-home parents unveil the ‘perfect’ day to their children at the beginning of summer with a mixture of faith and fear. “Ok, kids, this is how it’s going to be! And we’ll all be cheerful and cooperative!” I’ve learned the tough lesson of needing to be flexible though. (And I did it while kicking and screaming, all the way).  I could try this and it might not work every day. Then again, there will be plenty of days when I can grab time from other parts of the day. Like I do now, I just have to see the opportunity and seize it.

Many of my friends are in the same boat with home-based businesses and kids off for a couple months. We are each being creative in how we can maintain our work time but still enjoy this beautiful time with our kids. After all, many of us are doing this gig just so we can have that kind of balance.

This summer I’m going to focus on my blessings and this well of gratitude inside me. It’s so much easier to be less frustrated when I see my kids not as a block to my productivity, but as the reason I even made this journey back to my Self and my creativity. Yes, they’ll annoy me. They’ll fight with each other and throw other curve balls at me when all I really want is some quiet to hear myself think!

But the bottom line is, I owe these kids a lot. My eldest daughter reminded me that I am so much bigger than I was being. She was my catalyst to authentic living. My son gave me the guts to make a big leap right on to a path that is more fulfilling. And my baby girl…taught me that dreams do come true, and to just trust that the Universe has me wrapped up in its loving plan.

The work will get done and the memories will be made. That is my intention for this summer.

What’s yours?

I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

 

 

Celebrating Vancouver’s Top Mom Bloggers

I don’t know if I’d still be blogging if I hadn’t been nominated one of Vancouver’s Top Mom Bloggers in 2012. I’d like to think I still would be, but I also know the blogosphere is a big world. There is so much to learn that even if someone did this gig full-time they wouldn’t know all there is to know, to be heard in this vast space. And because I do this so very part-time, I feel like I’m always walking these long corridors, wide-eyed at the paintings on the wall, peering around corners, cautiously going forth at times, unceremoniously bounding into open rooms at other times. Never totally sure what’s around the bend.

But being part of a community of bloggers who are also walking these halls, testing theories to determine best Facebook practices, developing skills in related areas, branching off into other creative endeavours, and working their butts off to bring their readers the best of themselves…it certainly helps to feel less alone in this journey.

Writing is a solitary business, anyway. It exists, largely, in one’s head. You may never know it by simply observing, but a writer is constantly researching. A scientist of sorts: taking mental notes, filing away ideas, remembering smells, tastes, sounds, listening to people’s speech – not just the words, but the tone, the colour, the idiosyncrasies. We get blog ideas by paying attention to what people are saying, what they are asking. We get blog ideas by listening to voices in our head!

And then there’s the actual writing. We type it all up, publish it. Send it out to our readers. Hope we answer the questions that are being asked. Hope we inspire people. Hope that somehow that piece of us lands safely in someone else’s hands.

So, to be able to ask other bloggers about the tricks of the trade, or for a little help getting my messages out, is such a blessing! To be able to have a virtual watercooler station with colleagues joining in from all parts of the Lower Mainland is awesome.

There are 30 nominees each year (selected from a much larger pool of names sent in by readers), so of course, it’s not possible to get to know each woman intimately. But I am lucky that a handful of these inspiring, hardworking, dedicated mamas have become my friends – in real life! And although we share our blogging journeys with all their ups and downs (and sideways-es), we also share our families and heartaches and exciting news.

I feel incredibly proud of my fellow mom bloggers who have started their own businesses as a result of their nomination. From event planners to digital marketers to authors, every celebration of theirs is like a celebration of mine. That’s what it means to be part of a community, and this is a group of women who certainly believes in the power of community.

I am also blown away each year by the new nominees. So many important and beautiful voices who deserve to be heard. Have you checked them out yet?

Would you believe, though, that I have NEVER attended an annual celebration of Vancouver’s Top Mom Bloggers? Not even the year I was nominated? I have either been out of town or pregnant (and sick) these past 3 years but I am THRILLED to say that I will be NEITHER for this year’s celebration!

On Wednesday June 17, I will be hanging out with my mom blogger friends and this year’s new nominees at the new Nicole Bridger location in Gastown (which is fabulous because I have been wanting to check out this Canadian fashion designer for a long time – there’s even going to be a fashion show!). It would be really great to see you there, too! You don’t have to be a blogger to attend…but I can’t promise you won’t turn into one by the end of the night!

Early bird tickets are limited and on sale until June 3. Click over to buy your tickets!

I’m an ambassador for the event this year because I am truly thankful for everything that has come out of my experience. The opportunities have been exciting, and the friendships…invaluable.

 

P.S. I’ll be sharing more about another sponsor, Happy Baby Cheeks, later this week! If you are a mom of little baby cheeks, stay tuned!

I Was Giving My Daughter The Wrong Message – And Not Paying Attention To Hers

My husband and I were growing curious about our daughter’s ‘sudden disinterest’ in playing soccer with her friends. Inaya played in a league for two seasons and never once complained about going to practice or a game. In fact, quite the opposite: she always anticipated games with excitement and came back from practices, flushed and happy. We’ve gone down to the park as a family and with neighbours and have always popped up the soccer nets and played friendly games. She’s never one to sit them out. But lately I’ve noticed that when given a choice at recess and lunch she will most often choose solitary play (playground equipment) or will play with 1 or 2 other girls, and less often she’ll join her friends in a game of soccer.

After school, when there’s an opportunity for her to play soccer with her friends, she’ll instead choose to have a playdate or to come home and read, or play with her siblings.

A few days ago, my husband and I questioned her about this:

Do you not like soccer anymore?

Is there someone who plays that you aren’t comfortable being around?

Are you invited to play?

Do you invite yourself to play?

What’s wrong?

Basically, I went into Mom mode (a.k.a. detective mode) and tried to find a ‘problem’. The more questions I asked the more confused she looked and the less she wanted to talk. A couple days later, another mom observed that Inaya doesn’t join in with the other kids, who are all her friends, when everyone is playing soccer. I felt something familiar makes it way through my body and I realized that I was going about this whole thing the wrong way.

When we got home from school, I asked Inaya if she’d like to play a game with me. I was kind of winging it, but also drawing on a mini self-discovery book I had made for a workshop for pre-teens.

On a piece of paper, I had her list everything she was good at. She filled the entire page and I actually had to ask her if we could move on to the next question (I was feeling impatient – I was still trying to figure something out…). She was satisfied when I said she could go back to that question and keep writing everything she was good at. (By the way, when I’ve done this with adults, it’s been a quick exercise! Kids are often so much better at knowing their awesomeness).

On another page I asked her to list all the things she thinks are fun. Playing with friends was on there. So was soccer.

But the most telling exercise was when I asked her to divide a circle that represented ‘play time’ into: How much time do I like to spend alone or with 1 friend, and how much time do I like to spend in a group of friends. She coloured 3/4 of the circle blue, which signified the former. The remaining 1/4 was orange – the amount of time she liked to be in a group setting.

So, really, Inaya choosing other activities had more to do with her knowing what she wanted and being true to herself.

Being authentic.

Six hours of being in school can be energetically-taxing on an introvert, especially when classes often do a lot of ‘pair-shares’, working in partners or even have desks set up as groups. She was just chilling when she needed to, and is happy as a clam doing it.

Ha – even though I think/write/speak about authenticity a lot, when I went into Mom mode I occupied a space of ingrained beliefs that I thought I had shed for myself. I guess when it came to my kids, I was still holding on to the beliefs that they had to be like the other kids, or be liked by them, or be perceived by the other parents as well-adjusted and happy…according to someone else’s definition.

On her 4th birthday, Inaya fell in love with this skirt and I fell more in love with her.
On her 4th birthday, Inaya fell in love with this skirt and I fell more in love with her.

The message I was initially giving Inaya by suggesting she choose soccer more than she normally would was, “Sometimes you have to do what the other kids are doing, just to be social.”

Um…that could really turn around and bite me in the butt, couldn’t it? Like at a party in her teen years? Oh my gosh, let’s not talk about that yet.

By the end of the game, which she loved doing, she said to me, “That was really fun. It helped me say things that I didn’t know how to say.” (In particular about how she would like to divide her play time).

We have a lot to learn from these kids – let’s help them express their messages, and most importantly, let’s pay attention to the ways they are already doing that!

She can get lost in activities like this one - designing outfits and choosing accessories.
She can get lost in activities like this one – designing outfits and choosing accessories.

Inaya and I are working on a little something for you – a self-discovery game that you can work through with your kids so that you can learn what makes them tick. Her name is definitely going on it as co-creator because, as she put it, “I’m doing a lot of the work here.” I’ll let you know when it’s ready!

In the meantime, though, please give the above exercises a try, and don’t forget to do the exercises yourself – drop me a line if you have questions. I also would love to hear any stories or examples from your own experiences, either in the comments or privately.

For an adult version of a self-discovery ‘game’, take a look at my workbook What If?: 52 Questions Designed for an Entire Year of Self-DiscoveryKnowing who you are and how you feel about things…really connecting with your Self…allows you to make choices that create a happier, healthier life. Your way.