Health Home Personal Strategies

A Small Tweak Can Make All the Difference

After a little more than a year of being a stay at home mom, I was feeling worn down and terrible about myself. Like any mother of a toddler and breastfeeding infant, I was tired. More than anything, I felt like I was maybe not cut out to be a stay at home wife. Sure I was getting better at cooking, I love being there for my children, I did not miss the conflict between work and home that I felt as a working mother, but I was feeling like Cinderella all the time and tired of being a maid in my own house. I was frustrated that I was always cleaning and things keep piling up again sometimes even sooner than I can clean up. I was getting increasingly frustrated at my husband for not picking up his clothes off the floor and into the laundry basket and having to do everything. At least Cinderella had a fairy godmother; my fairy godmother was never going to come. I had to rescue my damn self.

I don’t usually make New Year resolutions but I decided that this year I need to change something permanently. I still have only 24 hours in a day, a son, a daughter, a husband to take care of, but I needed to give more to ME this year. So starting in January, I told my husband that I was going to spend less time on cleaning and start a fitness habit. I gained quite a bit of weight with the two pregnancies and while I didn’t know how I was going to find the time to take care of myself when something as basic as going to the bathroom and taking a shower seems to be a challenge sometimes. Around the end of January I started on my new routine.

Now a little less than two months into this I can tell you that the difference I feel is tremendous. I feel like one of the luckiest women in the world just about everyday. I have a lot more calm and energy at the same time. I don’t have a perfect regime but I remind myself that it is a new lifestyle that I am trying to establish and no lifestyle is perfect. Exercise is the ultimate ME time!

What is it that you would change about your day-to-day routine to make it better for you?


Home Strategies Work

Prioritizing and Doing What’s Important

“If everything is important, nothing is important.”

Important vs. Urgent

Eisenhower once said, “What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.” 

  • Important activities have an outcome that leads to the achievement of your goals.
  • Urgent activities demand immediate attention, and are not necessarily leading to the achievement of your goals.

Urgent activities are often the ones we concentrate on at the cost of focusing on the important. These are the “squeaky wheels that get the grease.” They demand attention because the consequences of not dealing with them are immediate. Urgent is not exactly evil but it can cost you what is important.

When I was working in the corporate world, my job had a lot to do with managing resources and productivity. Even a large company with greater resources cannot manage to accomplish every idea that comes up — to do so would create a lot of pissed off, frustrated, and burned out, and crazy people. Setting priorities help you manage your time, your resources, and more importantly, your focus. Time and resources are always finite and limited, and there is no way you can do everything. In setting priorities for managing the home, you have much more control over it because you are the executive (or co-executive) of the home whereas in a corporate setting you might not have as much determination over company values, culture, and priorities.

What your priorities are will depend on your goals and your values. What you want to get accomplish depends on you and your family. Every family has a different context, and each family value different things and have different cultures. For example, once I became a homemaker, I wanted to learn how to be the best homemaker possible for my family. However, being a homemaker can encompass many things: parenting, cooking, cleaning, decorating, laundry, sewing, gardening, home repair, homeschooling, raising and farming your own food, storing, pest control, plumbing, furniture making, etc… There is no way I can or even really want to learn everything that would make me the super perfect homemaker who can do it all. That person doesn’t exist – I don’t think even Martha Stewart does it all. There are a whole lot of things that I don’t do, probably more than what I actually do. You have to pick the parts that matter to you and either forget about or outsource the rest.


Groundhog Day is Stay-At-Home Mom Day

For a stay-at-home mom, everyday is like Groundhog Day to some degree. There is always laundry, cooking, cleaning, managing the home, and taking care of children, husband, and family. It’s the job that no job can prepare you for. Working moms may think that life would be easier as a Stay-At-Home mother, but there is no way that you can know until you are living it. The days are really long, but the months and years go by quickly. Children grow very quickly, master new skills and achieve new milestones. While some routines are helpful in making the day go by easier, the truth is some routines can be bad habits. When I was working I  often see processes that are not working but are at liberty to change. At home, however, we have more power to change what needs to be changed. In fact, change is all around us. As the chief executive of the home, it is our responsibility to examine what works and doesn’t work to make sure we are doing what is optimal… and what’s optimal also changes as our family grows and changes. According to Punxsatawney Phil, winter will last another 6 weeks, but from where I sit, it is a brand new season.

I really love the Groundhog Day (the movie starring Bill Murray), and it has many parallels to the life of a SAHM. When you get up every morning, it is easy to feel like you are living the same day day in and day out. It is the same old grind and drudgery and you are constantly doing things over. The laundry is never done, and the kitchen is never clean. That’s how I felt for quite a while. I was determined to learn how to do things better, but to some degree I missed the old life I used to have. I had a career that I really loved and miss still and I never realized that working was like taking a vacation compared to the hard labor of being a stay at home mother and wife. However, just like Phil Connors (Bill Murray’s character) in the Groundhog Day movie, after many negative attempts, decides to improve himself instead of seeing his predicament as a curse. He learns to play the piano, ice sculpt, learn French, and become a new man so he can live the perfect day. Ultimately, the movie is about self improvement.

English: A media event! Andie MacDowell with N...
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While I have always believed that having the option to be a SAHM to my young children is a privilege, it took me some time to make it fun. I had to develop skills that I lacked and improve some others. I also had to learn what I need to let go and what I need to do for myself. In the movie, Phil Connors is able to live without consequence; however, what we do everyday has consequences in ourselves and everyone around us. How we live affects our partner and children.

Since I was laid off and started to stay at home, I learned not only to not be bitter about  the circumstances that got me here, but to see it as a true blessing. I have learned how to cook nutritious and healthy (and decadent) foods for my family. I have learned to let certain things go. I have learned to be more patient and kind to everyone, including myself. I have learned to appreciate my life in ways that I didn’t think I ever would a decade ago. I hope to learn even more this year and take better care of myself so that I can be a better mother to my children, as well as a better partner to my husband.


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Miscellaneous Personal

Happy Chinese New Year (of the Dragon)

This year, my Chinese New Year did not get off to a very good start. It is tradition to do some serious and thorough cleaning of the house for Chinese New Year, and I did not do a very good job this year of cleaning and washing everything. We had planned to go out to a Chinese restaurant to eat but on account of the rain and 49ers game, the family ended up staying home and I cooked up a nice meal (albeit non-Chinese) instead. My first lesson this year will be one of flexibility and letting some things go!

Last year I obsessed about being the best housewife I can be, and in trying to do as much as possible, I was freaking tired all the time and feeling like a servant in my own house. As a result, I have determined this year to get some balance and put some energy back into myself instead of housekeeping. I am going to keep working on being a good mom and making home cooked foods, but the one thing I am going to let slide a bit is the cleaning. Letting that go will hopefully allow me to rest a little more, enjoy myself a little more, and put a little more back into me. I am determined to lose my baby weight (the baby is almost 8 months old now after all) and feel better about myself.

In addition to self improvement, I will also be focusing on managing my marriage. I have kick started the new year with reading some books on marriage. Having a happy marriage is important to me, and I have to admit that having two children is succession has made couple time a scarcity. Since the birth of our son 2009, my husband and I had 3-4 date nights per year. It is not easy to find time to have uninterrupted and focused conversations, especially since we have to rely on babysitter as we have no families living nearby.

Even as I work on improving my life I am still very thankful for what I have. I am a very lucky woman and I will make a point to remember that everyday!

Children Family Personal Relationships Strategies

Holiday Travel with Children

I just came back from a holiday trip to visit my husband’s family out in Naples, Florida for Christmas and I am proud of my family and I have learned a lot on this trip! Frankly, during my research and planning there are so many articles that added to my fear of flying with children. I had been planning and dreading this trip since August and am glad to report that the travel was a successful one. Here’s what I have learned:

Buy a seat for your child(ren).
Do not be like this family when travelling for the holidays. We could have travelled with our baby as a lap child but it was better for everyone involved to purchase a seat for both our toddler and our infant. We have four seats and I used to help me pick out a good seating arrangement. I looked for seat row near the wing (where engine noise would be helpful for kids’ sleep) and my children and I took up the row of three seats (baby sat in the carseat at the window seat, toddler sat in the aisle seat, I sat in between the two children), while my husband sat across the aisle from my toddler. He was also able to grab things out of the bag and grab snacks when needed more easily than I can. My baby slept much better in the carseat than she could on my lap!

Picking a good itinerary and try to get a 1.5 to 2 hour layover where possible.
The trend in domestic air travel is to squeeze out many services and amenities so having a longer layover in between connecting flights so that you can grab a bite to eat, change a diaper, or walk around a bit can make a big difference. Our first flight was changed to leave later than previously booked, which gave us a 45 minute layover. I was not able to change the itinerary as the options are few so we kept our fingers crossed. Our flight was pretty much on time but we still barely made our connecting flight at Dallas Fort Worth Airport because we were given the wrong gate number on top of having to run to a different terminal to catch the connecting flight. The flight did not have any snacks other than crackers for sale (not even a sandwich!) so we were not able to eat a dinner. Skipping a meal is hard on a breastfeeding mom as is and combine that with air travel and it is just plain unpleasant.

Pack the necessities and carry-ons wisely.
Most airlines now charge for every checked luggage, and if you go over on the weight you will pay hefty fees. We travelled with two large wheeled luggage, one wheeled carry-on,two diaper bags, a backpack, a purse, and an Ergo baby carrier. We used an umbrella stroller (our Uppababy G-Luxe with a stroller bag). The stroller bag became our extra checked luggage on our return trip as we became laden with Christmas presents for the children. We had more flexibility when it comes to carry-ons due to the fact that we purchased seats for our children and the airlines tend to be nice about diaper bags, but still when you are traveling with two young children (and carrying an infant carseat) it is best to carry as few as possible. We elected to purchase a CARES harness instead of carrying an additional convertible carseat for the toddler and purchased a convertible carseat sent to the grandparents. It was a lot easier to use the harness than deal with the hassle of the additional larger carseat and gave us flexibility in seating arrangements. On one flight, we had the toddler and Dad sit in the next row behind myself and the baby, with the toddler also sitting at a window seat. Most of the flights had the toddler sitting next to mom, though. Having his teddy bear, a few choice snacks, a book he enjoys, a portable DVD player, and a small collection of good DVDs really helped my toddler behave exceptionally well on these flights. He didn’t even kick any seats!

Focus on your children’s safety and comfort; ignore “other people.”
My children behaved well, better than I expected, and for that I am very proud. That said, there are always people who might roll their eyes or complain even if you have not done anything wrong. I was focused on my children so I really hardly noticed other people’s attitudes, except for the lady who complained to the flight attendant. The lady who sat in front of my daughter on the flight complained to the flight attendant that she could not recline her seat because of my rear-facing infant car seat being in the way and wanted the carseat moved as my baby was sleeping in it. I explained that the seat had to be used rear-facing and per airline regulations it has to be at the window seat. Ultimately, the flight attendant asked another passenger who sat on the aisle seat in front of my son if they could switch seats so that she can recline her seat.

There are also other families and other friendly folks on the plane.
Before embarking on the trip, I did a lot of research and there are plenty of articles and comments that will intensify the fear of flying with children. For every person who hates you for bringing your children, there are more that are nice, helpful, or neutral. I want to go on record to say that there are plenty of people who are nice and helpful to me while on this trip. One lady made my day when she told me that she thinks I am doing an awesome job with my children. Two men on the parking shuttle helped me move my stroller with toddler off the bus. A few other people even asked if they could help me out carrying something, or encouragingly told me I was doing OK as I walked down the airplane aisle trying to not hit anyone with my diaper bag or my baby.

I learned a lot about my children, myself, and my partner on this trip. The experience brought us closer. I am very proud of my children and even a little proud of myself and my husband too.


Good Resources:

Flying with Babies, Toddlers, and Kids

Jet With Kids

Have Baby Will Travel