WORK/LIFE BALANCE FROM A MOM AND NURSE PRACTITIONER

Finding balance as a mom

12/31/16

No matter who you are or what you do for a living, being a mom is tough. A common theme I see written about on blogs and talked about among women is "Can you have it all?" This is usually in reference to having a family, career, staying fit and fashionable. I devoted several blog posts on finding balance with a career and family, and have taken advice from many others in the medical field I follow on social media. This is an important topic to me, because as a new mom starting a new career, finding balance was a huge challenge for me. I know that I am not the only one facing this challenge, as I hear about this struggle from many other women in my life and on social media. I would like to share what I have found to be true in work-life balance.

1. Find Inspiration from others, but don't compare
I see some working moms on Instagram, etc. that seem to have it all figured out. Laura Scott the woman behind the blog A Little Bit of Lacquer is an immensely successful blogger, mom of two with one on the way, married to another successful doctor both in the competitive residencies, all while she manages to stay fashionable and positive. Her posts are wildly popular for the fact that she seems to have found a perfect balance. I find women of this caliber immensely inspirational, but I also know that everyone's situation including mine, is not hers. Everyone has their own threshold for stress and academic ability. Everyone has different levels of support systems. What has worked for her, may not work for every person. What I'm saying, is to not compare yourself to others, because all our situations are unique.

2. Find a mentor
I have heard this from several successful women , in particular Laura Devigan a plastic surgeon and mother of five. In her session on medtakovers on snapchat she explained the importance of mentor-ship, and how it's important to find someone in your field 5 years ahead of you on your projected career path. When I started the BSN program, we were assigned a seasoned registered nurse as a mentor. My mentor was an experienced PICU RN, that was in the process of applying to graduate nursing programs, and also newly married. She was very helpful in guiding me in the BSN program, but also in terms of answering questions about work-life balance. In my first year as a NP, I found another NP that I worked with, who not only helped me develop my skills, but also was especially helpful as someone I could talk about issues as a mom. It's important to have a mentor, whether it be formal or informal that you can relate to and seek advice from both professionally and personally.


3. Accept your limits
As I mentioned before, everyone has their own threshold for stress. I have found I don't always know mine until I have exceeded them, which has happened many times during my pregnancies and first years of being a new parent. It's also important to know that your threshold for stress can change at different times in our lives. I've also  had to lower my levels of stress due to pregnancy and becoming a parent. This was hard to accept at first that I had to scale back some responsibilities and other activities before I had a child, but does also not mean I was a failure. This also in big part was accepting what my support system was, which leads me to my next point.

4. Be aware of your level of support
As a working mother outside of the home, your support system is huge. This is not to say a mother who works at home does not rely on support systems, however when you work outside the home especially in fields with long hours, on-call hours, or variable shifts your support system is crucial to your ability to perform your job. In my honest opinion,  those whom succeed in demanding professions almost always have in-home help with their children, although we as women don't always talk about this. In her book Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes talks about how there is some stimga among working women about having in-home help. She writes "I don't think powerful, famous women hide the fact hat they have nannies or some kind of help at home because they are being unkind to other people. I mean, these women aren't at home laughing and laughing at how everyone in America is tring to do it all all and can't because they don't know that the secret is that NO ONE CAN DO IT ALL! HA! HA! We foolded you! SUCKA!. " She goes on to explain that women don't always disclose the help they get at home, because we have been shamed into thinking we have to be able to do it all at work AND at home. After my son was born I broke down and got a housekeeper once a month. I felt guilty about this at first, but what I paid for this service was equivalent to eating out a couple times a month, and saved me a great deal of stress trying to keep up with deep cleaning our house. What assistance you have a home is not only important, but it's also important to know the amount of support you have at work. Some employers have on-site child care, allow for flex time, long baby bonding times, and  breast-pumping stations. Having a "family friendly" employer can make all the difference in the world. I personally hate when people say "Don't be afraid to ask for help." as if women are these timid creatures that don't know how to do that. I have in my past years definitely asked for help, but realistically sometimes you have to accept you are not going to get 100% of the help you need. I had to make changes with my work schedule and even change employers after evaluating what resources I had to help me as a parent. Being realistic about your level of support is crucial, because trying to do it all without an adequate support system will leave you feeling burnt out and feeling like a failure.


5. Let go of the guilt
As a mother, someone is always trying to make you feel guilty, whether it be your kids, your parents, your employer, your spouse, your child's daycare, or your friends and peers.  There will never be enough of you to go around, and someone will always have something to say about how you parent. You will fail some people at some times, but that doesn't mean you are a failure, and you are not a bad person. Feeling guilty will do nothing to help you, so you have to put it aside. It's also extremely important not to feel guilty about setting aside time for yourself. It's unrealistic to say that you will ever be able to have the same leisure time as you had before children, but not taking any time for yourself is a hazard not only to your own health, but that of your ability to be functional as a mother, partner, and employee. I have a fraction of the free time I used to, but I do make a point to make time to work out at least three times a week, an occasional monthly date with my husband, and time to read or blog by myself a couple times a week. Furthermore, let go of feeling guilty of not having it all together all the time.

6. Let go of negativity
This one is hard for me. I frequently throw myself pity parties when I feel overwhelmed. In the past year I have worked hard to keep a positive attitude and mindset. I try to vent out my feelings in healthy ways. I make time to work out, which really helps me stay positive. My family started attending church, which I find gives me a more positive outlook throughout the week. I have trimmed down a lot of contact with negative people, and incorporated more contact from those that inspire me. I also am guilty of holding on to negative thoughts and interactions. I have had to learn to try to deal with a conflict or negative emotion head on and then let it go, or realize it's not worth it to deal with it, and move forward. Letting these emotions fester only takes away from your ability to be present for your family, job, and self. Instead, I try to focus on what a privilege it is to have both the family and career I do have. There are so many little joys I experience on a daily basis, and I try to make these more significant impacts on my mood than the set-backs.

In conclusion, no one can "have it all", but you can find a balance. Everyone's balance is unique to who they may be, and their is no perfect formula. I am continuing my journey on finding this balance in 2017 and with the arrival of our new baby! Stay tuned!

Winter Maternity Wardrobe

12/28/16
During my last pregnancy I got away with hardly buying any actual maternity clothes, due the fact that my work uniforms were scrubs, and I was pregnant during the summer so I could wear stretchy cotton dresses. This time around it's a little more tricky due to the fact that I work in an office setting, and during the winter months. Although I want to maintain a sense of fashion as my bump grows, I also want to be realistic about budget and buying clothes that are transitional and functional after pregnancy. Here are my suggestions on shopping for a winter maternity wardrobe.
Do:
Buy dark solid-colored pieces (they are more slimming and will go with more).
Shop on bargain sites (zullily is the best I've found, and haven't spent more than $30.00 on any maternity item. The shipping takes forever, so don't buy anything you need immediately).
Buy button up or zip down shirts, cardigans, or jackets a size up from your pre-pregnancy size that will accommodate a growing belly and breastfeeding.
Invest in a pair of black maternity jeans (can be worn casually and dressed up).
Get a couple dark and light solid colored maternity tops that can be worn under blouses or cardigans
Invest in nursing bras and tanks a size up from your pre-pregnancy size.
Invest in sweat pants or yoga pants a size up from your pre-pregnancy size, they don't have to be "maternity" that can be worn during the post-partum months.
Invest in a couple stretchy jersey dresses or pencil skirts (can be worn after you are pregnant too).
Accessorize your basic dark colored pieces with colorful statement necklaces, scarves, blazers,  or shoes that make your wardrobe seem larger than it is.

Don't
Don't pay full price on any maternity item you don't plan on wearing after you are pregnant.
Avoid lighter colors, prints, horizontal stripes if possible (I bought a tribal print maternity dress, which looked horrific).
Avoid buying a lot of pieces that will only work while you are pregnant.



Last book Review of 2016, Born a Crime

12/12/16

My last book review was of the memoir of comedian and Daily Show Host, Trevor Noah,Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood. I love a good memoir, and this was no exception. I would even go so far as to pronounce this my favorite book of 2016. For the past year as Trevor Noah has taken over the role of host on the Daily Show, my husband and I have watched the show almost religiously. From the show and his stand-up specials, I was familiarized with bits and pieces of his upbringing in South Africa, however this book went in much greater depth and detail on his earlier years. During my family's road trip up to the Bay Area, I downloaded a couple books on audible to pass the time. We started listening to Girl on the Train, actually we listened to it for a full 5 hours, before my husband and I both decided this book was not going anywhere and started listening to Born a Crime instead. Trevor Noah narrates the audible version, and being the performer he is, really brought the stories to life. This book has everything of a good memoir; suspense, comedy, tragedy, and a bit of a history lesson. The relationship between Trevor and his mother, was perhaps my favorite part of the book. I highly recommend this book on your 2017 reading list.

Since I have been reviewing a book nearly monthly for the past year, I want to start a "book of the month" series on my blog. I have not yet decided if I should stick with a theme or genre of literature, or just whatever I happen to pick up that month. Reading is something I truly love, and while I was in school I never had the time, so I love having the time to read and share my favorites. Stay posted for more reviews on 2017!

Wrapping up the end of pregnancy, holidays, and 2016

12/5/16
As I enter the last trimester nearing the end of my pregnancy, and as the holidays and 2016 draw near to an end, I have been doing a lot of looking back, and looking forward.



I'm now in the third trimester, and exhaustion is starting to sink in. My energy levels, and patience levels have dropped from half of where they started at the beginning of my pregnancy. I can barely stay awake past 9:00 pm most nights. If I don't bundle all of my tasks to do early in the day, there is no way I will have the energy to complete them. I have no patience for arguments or nonproductive banter that takes up time, with anyone for any reason. I still am doing walking as much as I can and Tracy Anderson pregnancy workouts three times a week, which have been my saving grace. I feel so much more fit than last pregnancy, which I'm hoping will help with my labor and delivery as well as post-partum recovery. Over the Thanksgiving Holiday I had an unexpected long weekend, so we drove up to the Bay Area and spent it with my husband's extended family. We drove around the city, and even did a hike in Muir Woods, which I actually had enough stamina to complete. I am happy our family had a chance to do a road trip together as a family of three while I still had the energy. However, a six hour drive while 7 months pregnant and having an energetic two year old, was still exhausting. Because my energy levels have really dropped, my enthusiasm and holiday preparation have been almost nonexistent as well. We have put up our tree, however the remainder of our house has no decorations, and I have only bought one present. However, I am okay with having more simple holidays which are less stress and allow for more quality time with my family. We have had the chance to go on a few family outings over the weekends, and even had my son meet Santa.
This leads me to reflect on  2016, and looking forward to 2017. 2016 has been challenging for me for many reasons. If nothing else 2016 has taught me to prioritize and make time for what I value. This year I turned 33, and I wrote some about the differences between my twenties and my thirties. Like many millennials, I put off getting married, buying a house, and having kids until the beginning of my thirties. In my twenties, without an established relationship, career or home, I really had no accountability to anyone but myself. My leisure time was bountiful and how I spent it was my decision. Although I didn't have a lot of money, it was all my own to spend. I could take a day and drive to the beach myself, I could go on a spontaneous vacation, and any poor decision I made would be my own and only my own to deal with. This year in particular my career has launched off, my family is growing, and in general my responsibilities have grown exponentially. What I have found most challenging, and I anticipate as a greater challenge in 2017, is prioritizing my time. Time has never been so valuable as it has been this year, and now I will be splitting my time even further between two little people. In contrast to my twenties where I lived by some respects "self-indulgently", in my thirties I feel I have to be selfish in order to maintain my mental health, be there for my family, and be successful in my career. I mean selfish in the fact that I have to minimize interactions and activities that do not serve mine or my family's best interests in order to prioritize what I do value. This hasn't been easy, especially with starting a work schedule that is five days a week instead of my previous three. This leaves me with only two days a week to catch up on errands, cleaning, quality family time and a few minutes to myself. In the coming year I will have 12 weeks of maternity leave, and I plan on staying home and taking as much quality time with my son and daughter as possible. After my son was born, I spent much of my maternity leave finishing clinical hours, finishing my master's thesis, studying for the NP board exams, and hunting for new jobs. This time I want to relish and enjoy this time for myself and my kids, because that is ultimately that is what is most valuable to me. I'm wishing everyone a beautiful holiday season, and a hopeful new year!