Week In Review


b It’s been a busy week all around. After I wrote about coming to peace with blogging this past weekend, I’ve been more focused on propelling forward than I have been in a very, very long time. I’ve thought about the social media trap for quite some time, and it hit my like a lightning bolt the other day that for every minute I spend complaining or feeling negativity towards another writer/blogger online, that’s one less minute I spend on myself and my work. Bottom line, it’s just not worth it. My time is too valuable, and so is yours. So just stop.

I’ve accomplished a ton this week in terms of list making, idea making, brainstorming and networking. I’m super excited to bring you some new content, especially style and exercise related, in the coming weeks. I hope you enjoy what I have in the works.

I posted a photo on Instagram last night (I’m @fourlfights), of 1 of 2 of our babysitters. For the past few months I have enlisted a lot of help. Since I’ve pretty much always worked in some capacity since I’ve become a mother, I’ve had hired help, particularly just one girl, who is actually a woman now(!), and she’s been with us for the past 6 years. We trust her and the kids love her. She comes to the house 1 day a week for 5-6 hours. Once a month she comes one other day for 3 hours to just help me play catch up around the house. This past Tuesday, while I helped the big kids with homework, she helped me out by washing my windows. She’s flexible all around and we usually play tag team with the kids. If I’m nursing Hayden, she may be folding laundry while she oversees a rowdy game of Parcheesi with the big kids. Friday mornings when she comes, and the big kids are at school, I pay her the same amount as if she was watching all 3, and while Hayden naps she helps around the house. I go to the gym, and do some work. If I feel a pull to be with Hayden, I’ll even ask her to get dinner started so I can spend some time with him. She is a sitter but way more than that as well. After 6 years, she has come to be a part of our family.

About 2 months ago I felt like I was drowning. Between the house, the kids and homework, volunteering at the school, and my blogging commitments, I felt stressed and panicked on a daily basis. Hayden was and is still not sleeping through the night, and so I was exhausted on top of it, functioning off of 4 hours of sleep most days. Besides having Marin already on regular rotation, my mom helps out for a few hours on Mondays and my mother in law helps out for a few hours on Wednesdays. They are both retired and it’s a way of seeing the grandkids on a regular basis. Yes, you read that right, I at this point already had help 3 days a week. But it still didn’t seem like enough. So I brought Clarie on board to help out for 3 hours Thursday afternoon. She is a senior in high school and doesn’t have a ton of babysitting experience, but we’ve known her for a few years and trust her immensely. She is a very smart girl with a good head on her shoulders. I sometimes leave her with the kids for a little bit but most of the time she’s just here to help me run interference. She watches Hayden while I help the big kids with homework or take them to an activity, or I lock myself in the office to get stuff done.

So wow, why on earth do I need so much help, and how do we afford a sitter for a few hours each week? Well, there are numerous reasons and ways.

First, my husband is a small business owner. Which means he works a ton and isn’t usually home until well past 6, most days 7 or 8. Because he works so much, it is a huge, exhausting feat to get kids to activities, dinner made, homework completed, baby fed, and all 3 kids bathed and in bed at a decent time all on my own.  I collapse after bedtime on the nights he’s working late and I have no extra hands.  We do alright financially; we are not rolling in dough, but we don’t have a fixed, set income either, therefore our budget has some flexibility. We have both decided and agreed that for this season in our life, the extra expense is worth it for our family’s sanity and happiness. Once Hayden turns a year though we plan to scale back accordingly. The arrangement of having the two sitters come for a few hours 2 days a week is something new just in the past few months.

Second, my writing commitments for Disney are exactly that, a commitment and in fact a real job. My dad never realized this until he met my editor and boss Andrea Zimmerman last week. I have monthly traffic and post goals that I must meet, and to meet those goals the posts require a lot of time. I have to produce 13-14 posts per month, which is about 3 per week (on top of my own blog), and I am expected to promote them to help with those traffic goals. I love the work even though it is a lot of work, and I feel I am well compensated for what I am doing, which means I’d like to hold onto this gig for as long as I can. Before we brought Claire on, I seriously considered giving the job up, but having just 3 extra hours of help each week has helped out immensely. There’s also that side business I’m trying to start as well.

Third, Art and I are very involved in the kid’s school and activities.  This takes up a huge amount of our free time.  Art coaches Syd’s baseball team. I work in each of their classrooms almost every week, and I’m on the Yearbook staff as well. Extracurricular activities are not out of control, but each kid is in swimming and Taylor has dance once a week, and Syd has a game and practice once a week. If you’re a parent of older kids, you know this all too well. 2 activities for each kid doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up. Oh, and during the week we have a no media policy, so putting on the TV for the kids to watch while I crank out a post isn’t part of our plan. It sucks, believe me, to not have that option to fall back on, but my kids become monsters with daily screen time and we all end up miserable.

Lastly, then there’s just life. Homework everyday, in addition to Syd’s speech therapy, takes time and energy, as you know. Cooking, paying bills, keeping a house clean, and trying to just enjoy life, it all adds up. For years we felt it was all very manageable, but since Hayden arrived, even with as easy as he is, it literally flipped us on our asses, much more than we even realized until after we had been doing it for a few months. We were on a treadmill at full speed, then we just got tired and fell down, face first.

For months I tried working during Hayden’s morning naps, but then if I only worked on my writing assignments during nap, bills didn’t get paid (our water was actually shut off one month!), or the house was a wreck and I wasn’t prepared when the kids got home from school. It sucked, plain and simple, to feel like I was on a timer the second I put him down for a nap. I always felt like I was rushing our mornings to get him down for his nap so I could work. And after weeks, then months of sleep deprivation, I became useless at night after bedtime, when I usually did a lot of my writing. I am toast by 8:30 and am usually fast asleep by 9:30/10 pm.

Some months I get frustrated and even embarrassed, that I seem to need so much help. Some months I feel like most of what I make goes towards sitters. But I know this is only for a short season, and once life settles down (in huge part that will be when Hayden starts sleeping better), we can cut back and holding onto this side work will have been worth it. So why continue to work at all? Well, I love what I do, and of course the extra income is a blessing to our family. Do I ever feel like someone else is raising my kids? Of course not! Having worked outside of the house for many years, this is the most I’ve ever been with my kids. Because the people that come in and help are family, or feel like family, we all sort of meld together and tag team. I’m always around and the kids know that. I come in and out of the office to nurse Hayden or help with a homework question. I’m here even though someone else is here too.

So that pretty much sums it all up in a nutshell. If I have ever given the impression that I am wonder woman, I apologize. I am anything but, and I get by with a lot of help from friends and family.  And if any other bloggers try to mask that they have help (if they in fact do), it’s bullshit.  We need to be honest and open about how much work blogging and writing takes, and the time commitments it requires.  You cannot do it all, all on your own.  There is usually a very big support system behind every successful and even semi-successful blogger, as is the case with anyone that works.  We do not have magic wands that can just magically get all this shit done while effortlessly raising beautiful, well groomed, happy kids, and while also baking, crafting, cooking, homeschooling, and looking fabulous and stylish while doing it.  I am in particular speaking of bloggers with kids at home (like my Hayden).  I got a whole hell of a lot done when I just had the two kids in school all morning, obviously, and it was indeed feasible to get the majority of it done with no help.  Having a 3rd kid at home though was a game changer.

So I’m curious how the rest of you do it? Please share!

Now that you’re sick of hearing about me and my babysitting schedule, here’s what else is going on around the web. Lots of good links this week worth checking out.

– latest target collaboration with 3.1 Phillip Lim

3rd grade is the most crucial year in a child’s school career

Thank you, Mom

– I fit back into my pre-pregnancy jeans at 9 months postpartum. Here’s how I did it.

10 things I would love to do on Mother’s Day if I was gifted the valuable treasure of time.

– lots of talk about women in the workplace this week. love this post by Anne Bogel

– and speaking of women in the workplace, here are 5 women in business you should add to your radar (in case you’re sick of Marissa Meyer, Oprah, and Sheryl Sandberg)

– furthermore about work, I’ve worked full time or part time most of the time I’ve been a mother, and each job has involved some travel. Here are some practical “big picture” tips of how I keep the family happy when away from home.

– pretty photo taken by one of our very talented babysitters

Andrea is the founder of For The Love Of, a lifestyle blog dedicated to approachable, modern living. She writes about style, her love of DIY, and living a healthier life through wholesome, nutritious cooking. She is also a regular contributor at Babble. Get in touch: Facebook, Twitter You can find Andrea on Instagram @andreavhowe and @gwynethmademedoit

  • Susie says:

    Thank you for your honesty! Because sometimes I do look at bloggers, feel bad, & think how do they do it? I also have 3, work PT, have help, & still feel like I don’t have enough time to get all I want done. We have a sitter 3 days a week for 22 hrs and I go into the office only once a week. Like you, we tagteam between the kids and house chores.

  • Jules says:

    2 activities per child is HUGE. A friend of mine with older children once said–when her kids where in elementary school and my two were babies–that the older they get the busier and harder it was. I couldn’t imagine it could be any harder, but she was so right. Both are hard, but older kids are a different sort of hard. And both are worth the effort, of course.

  • jasi says:

    i’ve seen this kind of post more often lately and i feel really badly also. but mostly for bloggers. it’s a shame we’ve come to a place where people who write about part of their life are placed on a pedestal and shot down for “having it too good”. i have dozens of mommy friends with lovely homes, like mine, with crafting abilities, well behaved children, like mine. i don’t ask for an apology or create anti-fancliques when their flan comes out perfect or their kid’s birthday parties are awesome. the internet is absurd. your post is lovely and candid, but i really wish you didn’t have to explain this part of your life, that you could keep something to yourself.

  • Janssen says:

    Andrea, this is such a great post. You are wonderful to be so open and honest! And I think your work at DB is STELLAR.

  • alison says:

    Seriously, I appreciate all your post but this one tops it! So clear and so honest. The blogging world has become the next facade of media. Thank you for staying true!

  • Anne says:

    I love hearing how other women do it. 🙂

    We have 4, and we homeschool, and I write, and head to an office for my part-time day job, and we couldn’t do it without help. (Obviously, right?)

    My mom has spent 6 hours each week with the kids for a couple of years now, and it’s been WONDERFUL for everyone involved. And only recently did I add a mother’s helper two days a week to do my laundry and help with the homeschooling. That’s been terrific–I wish I’d thought to do it years ago.

    And seriously, two activities per kid is huge. We do one each and it’s pretty killer with just that!

    It took me YEARS to overcome my frugal impulses to pay for more help, but it’s turned out to be money well spent on every level. And don’t discount the value of spending some money to buy some sanity. 🙂

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