A New Year, A New You?

It’s a brand new year, a clean slate, a fresh start and time for new year’s resolutions.  I have to be honest and say that I am not particularly fond of this ritual.  I feel that each January we think back on all of the negatives of the previous year, we focus on what we did wrong rather than right and we make a pact with ourselves that this year will be different.  I’m not denying that I make them, I do, I want to exercise more, eat better, spend more time with family, friends and my husband blah, blah, blah.  But rather than focus on how imperfect each year turned out to be, how about focusing on how to further maximize all of the positives of the previous year!  The traditional dropping of the glittery ball in Times Square signals the start of the new year, but for me sensing the need for change and really visualizing what that means for me, was what prepared me for the start of this new year.

I am a Mom to an almost 4 and almost 2 year old and I commute to Boston 3-4 days per week where I am away nearly 10-12 hours each day.  Needless to say, my focus has been survival for the last couple of years.  Now that the boys are getting older and I’m settling into my roll as a working mom, it feels like the right time to put the focus back on other areas of my life.  I feel ready and open to put more focus on me.  It feels like a new phase is developing and I’m accepting and excited to see it through.  Recognizing that need, going with it, letting it happen, that inspires me!

It’s difficult as working moms to think about putting anything ahead of our children, aren’t we already leaving each day and heading off to work, how could we think about adding even more to that already overfilled plate?  Because it’s necessary and healthy.  I am really excited for 2015. I will be celebrating a decade of marriage, turning 35, by making the finals to the Disney Parks Moms Panel last year, I have a Fastpass to Round 2 of the search this year, my grandmother turns 90 and I already have 2 amazing trips planned!  For some reason, this year doesn’t feel forced or overwhelming, it feels like a natural transition, and I’m loving it!

I encourage all my mama friends to do what feels right and what makes you happy in the new year.  I don’t think we always need to strive for life altering goals and aspirations, sometimes just to really live in the moment and let your life play out is an adventure too, at some point you have to stop and take a moment to enjoy where life has brought you.  Focus on your authentic self and what feels right for you and your family.  When unexpected twists arise on the road of life, I challenge you all to not be afraid to acknowledge them, embrace them and prepare to change the course.  Sometimes things not going the way we want is exactly what we need!  So wherever you are now, ready to start a new adventure or just taking an opportunity to really be where you are, I wish you happiness and love.  Have an amazing year!

~ Becky

 

2015/01/img_4339.png Photo courtesy if http://www.wdwinfo.com

Putting yourself first.

Why do we seem to continue to put each other down as mothers? Are we that insecure about our own approach that we need to find a weak spot elsewhere and pounce? What defines a “bad” mother or “good” mother? What is the definition of a selfish mother?

We don’t have a direct answer to these questions, but by the reaction to a recent statement by Giselle Bundchen, admitting you have needs and desires above and beyond your children became the poster child for selfish mothering. In a recent article by CNN.com, Kelly Wallace helps to point out that this label couldn’t be more wrong. Giselle was quoted as saying “put yourself first.” I suppose at face value, one might assume that a beautiful and successful supermodel might not be more concerned with her looks or financial gain over her children. WRONG! What she, and many of us working moms are saying, is it’s OK to still be you and be a mom, and in fact enhances the entire experience!

“You know how they say on the plane you have to put the oxygen mask on first and then put it on your child?” Bundchen told “The Sunday Times” in an interview about why she believes motherhood is her most important job. “So I think it is the same, as a mum, to take care of myself.”

She’s right! If you don’t take time for yourself, and nurture your needs, how can you be equipped to take care of someone else? I’m surprised by some of the reactions I saw, name calling and accusations of abandoning children. I personally do not feel my children need my undivided attention 24 hours a day. As they grow, I’m proud that I am fostering independence. I know I’ve done my job as a mom when my boys are laughing and playing and enjoying life. I agree with Wallace’s sentiment of “you go girl, Giselle.”

I let many things fall by the wayside and am now feeling like it’s time for me to put some focus back on me again. Is it selfish to want to get a haircut, go shopping alone, or meet a friend for coffee? If you continuously deprive yourself of some moments of peace and relaxation, is that healthy? I think we are putting way too much pressure on ourselves to be the perfect mother. Our goal at Blissfulmamas is to support one another and remind each other that you’re doing an amazing job and that you can balance family, career, and ME.

Our careers and friends in life gives us confidence to be a strong and happy mothers. Does this mean that I don’t feel my children are a priority? Absolutely not, most days, my kids do come first but there are days where I need to refuel. This is not an idea or privilege of the wealthy, it’s important for all moms. It doesn’t much matter how you spend your alone time, just that you give yourself a pat on the back and remind yourself that you are important too. On days when I can’t escape the house, I might go outside and walk around my yard while the kids nap. Sometimes I let the kids play alone, gasp, and catch up on a tv show on my laptop. I also have help, I have a wonderful childcare giver, a husband, and parents who pitch in. I can’t do it all on my own, and I am grateful for the moments like now, sitting on a train typing away. No matter our circumstances, we all deserve a break now and then to foster our own inner spirits and desires, this will only trickle down the line to our children and inspire them to do the same. If you truly feel that all needs are met in caring for your children, that’s great and this article probably isn’t speaking to you. We all need to do what makes us the best moms possible, we all have a different route and approach, I just happen to agree with Giselle. Rather than continue to promote more hate and shame, lets say thank you to another working mom who is finding a way to balance it all!

Featured Mama ~ Katie m. Berggren, Mother & Artist

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Please meet...Katie m. Berggren ~ I am a mother and artist, doing my best in both of my careers! I have been a self-represented artist for 12 years. Please check out http://kmberggren.com

My daily challenges as a working mother/woman are….Many! Finding time to work on my craft while keeping my children happy. Finding a way to balance meal prep, grocery shopping, exercise, house care, mothering and self care while still moving forward in my chosen career.

The most rewarding about being a working mother….Most definitely it has been being able to be home with my boys. Being able to make a living while still creating a lovely life with and for them. Being with them in the morning, making breakfast and lunch, walking them to school, volunteering at school, walking to meet them after school. Being there.

Essential must have for my career...Time and space to paint and strategize.

My family…I have two boys, 8 & 10. My 8 year old is busy and loves to run around and play outside. My 10 year old would rather code computer games, read, draw and write. They are very different (there are pieces of me in both of them) but we find a way to be happy together.

Family fun…We like to go for walks and bike rides, play at the park, go to Seattle and explore. We like to go swimming, have video game tournaments, and we love to read together, every night (Mama reads to the hubby and boys).

Must have for family…Time, space and peace together, with no responsibilities, errands or scheduled activities.

How I keep home life organized –lists, bills, groceries, etc….A time for everything, set aside in advance. I keep lists for groceries, and for tasks both personal and business related. I try to keep things a bit separate and I am almost always doing some sort of work. But I love both of my jobs, so I don’t mind. In regard to stuff: I do believe the saying “a place for everything and everything in its place”. Also, we keep our physical life very simple. Fewer possessions than most, fewer bits of furniture, fewer items on the schedule. Fewer meal choices 🙂

To stay organized…I have a PC and an iphone. I do not use any digital or computer calendars, I use only paper and pen. But my iphone helps me in many ways with posting photos to Facebook, editing photos, creating video, and keeping in touch with those I care about.

Me time…During the school year, I work in my studio while my boys are at school. That is my me time during the week. Every 6-8 weeks I go on a “date” with my sister. In the evenings, I sometimes like to paint and listen to music or a show, but am also trying to be sure and get to bed early enough to be healthy and balanced! Oh, man, balance. It’s tough, eh?

My favorite personal activities…Painting, walking, reading, visiting with a couple of my girlfriends. I wish I could find motivation to exercise more. blissfulmamas

I find inspiration… In the every day. In the sunlight sprinkling through the tree branches. In the mother walking past with her baby against her. In my boys sleepy stories and ideas as they drift off to sleep in my arms.

Essential must have for yourself?…Time and space to be alone.

Balance tips…Be willing to let go of perfection, both in the home and in the business. Realize that showing up is really important both in family and in business. When you feel like your list is overflowing with To-Dos, just write them down, then do ONE. Then do ANOTHER. Action leads to action. And when we have a sense of completion and pride, we tend to move ahead and complete something else.

Also, it is very important to not have things on your schedule that truly don’t matter. There are so many little items we add to the schedule that won’t even matter the next day. Be stingy with your time and your schedule and where you put your focus and energy.

Typical challenges in balancing it all…One big one is not feeling like I have done “enough” at the end of the day. Even though if I sat and wrote down everything I did (from playing catch with my son to folding two loads of laundry and communicating with 5 clients) I would see that I have done plenty. Sometimes I find myself wandering around at night feeling like I should accomplish ‘one more thing’, when what I really need to do is put myself into bed.

How do you implement successful strategies around “balancing it all”? I do not always succeed at this. I write down my great ideas and I try to implement right away. Often, my wonderful ideas get lost in my journal! That is a challenge for me. I write everything down and I try to be super-efficient. I do not manage to balance it all. I do my best day to day and I try not to beat myself up.

 

 

Featured Mama ~ Marissa Ruffini Founder & Owner of Sonatina Music Therapy

 

Marissa Ruffini - Family Photo (1)Please meet…Our newest Featured Mama, Marissa Ruffini, Founder & Owner of Sonatina Music Therapy, www.sonatinamusictherapy.com

About me…I’m originally from the South Shore (Weymouth, MA). Currently, I’m living in Dover, NH with my fiance Greg, our two boys, Cameron (2 years old), Alexander (11 weeks old) and part-time with Greg’s son, my stepson William (8 years old). Our boys birthdays are all within 10 days of each other!

My career...I am a Board Certified Music Therapist and owner of a private practice, Sonatina Music Therapy, centrally located in Dover, NH but serving individuals and groups all over the state. I have a Master’s degree in Expressive Therapies: Music Therapy & Mental Health Counseling from Lesley University. This is my fourth year as a business owner and my fifth year as a music therapist! I LOVE my career! I specialize working in early childhood and with children and teens with special needs. I am 90% through with my birth doula certification and I have also completed an additional training to be a Music Therapy Assisted Childbirth Specialist; providing physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual support to mamas and their partners during pregnancy, childbirth and postpartum.  I’m really passionate about working with expecting moms, infants and young children and helping mamas and babies bond through music. I get to share so many unique musical experiences with some awesome families!

My biggest challenge has been learning to let go of feeling guilty! …Starting your own business has so many parallels to having and raising a baby! Before I had my children, my business was my baby. I worked hard to help it grow and develop! Sometimes I feel guilty that I’m not paying enough attention to my business and other days I feel guilty that I’m working too much and need more family time. I’m really learning how to let go of the guilt, do what I can and not dwell on what didn’t get done.

Being a mother… has really made me a better practitioner in my career. I’ve always had a love and passion for working with children. After having my own, I was awakened to this whole new kind of love. Now when I’m writing clinical notes and evaluations, I’m always keeping in mind “this is somebody’s baby,” I think as clinicians we all tend to get a bit too clinical sometimes. It’s important to remember we’re talking about a person, somebody’s baby!!

The best thing… about owning a private practice, especially as a mama, is the flexibility over my schedule! I feel lucky everyday that I get to have such control over my work schedule so that I can spend the time I want with my family.

I love having boys…there is so much I don’t know about raising a boy so it keeps me on my toes and I’m always learning from them as much as they’re learning from me. I’ve had to accept that the house will be loud, my  cabinets need to be stocked with band aids, things will get broken, and my fridge will be empty but I wouldn’t have it any other way!

We love being outdoors…the beach and hiking  are two activities we do most. We also love to just kick back and relax with family and friends. Sitting around the fire pit and grilling good food is how we spend most of our summer days when we’re both off together. In the colder months, we both love skiing but haven’t been able to find the time in the last two years with the boys so young. I’m hoping to get Cameron on some skis this winter!

I make lists for everything… There are always one or two lists floating around the house and I put everything in my planner. We also are constantly communicating about who needs to be where when. Communication is really important for staying organized as a family. I’ve been thinking about using Google calendar as an additional communication tool to stay organized &  maybe creating a family calendar.  At the moment though we just talk all the time and use the old school day planner.

Implementing successful strategies…I’m a stickler for lists, schedules, routines and “sticking to the plan” but one of the most important skills as a music therapist is being able to adapt what you are doing in the moment to meet the needs of your client. This is the same strategy I have to use for balancing my work and my family life. I try to implement a “no work during family time” rule but occasionally, I’ll get a call with something that needs immediate attention, or vice versa. I’m at work and my son needs to come home from day care because he’s sick, things happen and being able to adapt in the moment is really important.

I take me time when I need it… I go for a run or I take a hot bath with a glass of red wine and a Real Simple magazine in my hand, and there is always music on in the background. I absolutely love a good workout. I love to run and I especially love to run in races.  There’s something about the adrenaline that I get in a race that just makes me feel good all over! I also love Bikram Yoga. I’ve tried other types of Yoga and it’s just not the same! It feels good to release all the toxins in my body when you’re sweating that much!

My kids inspire me…to be more creative, to get up and move, to have fun,  to play, and they inspire my work. At home I try out new songs I’m writing for my early childhood classes on Cameron.  All the boys love music and moving to music so we do a lot of singing and dancing in our house!

Marissa and Alex 2Balance is essential…I’m not balanced all the time, nobody is. But I try to stay conscious of how the scale is tipping.  If I’ve been working like crazy on a big project, I try to spend extra time with my family the following week. I love my family like crazy but I’m a better mom and wife when I get me time and work time too. Try not to be too hard on yourself. It’s so easy to feel guilty about not doing enough of this or doing too much of that. When you’re feeling guilty about something, it’s okay to bring it to your awareness but then let it go. And if you can, make changes that meet your needs next time or don’t, but don’t dwell too long, you’re doing a great job!

Model the balance…. between working hard and play time for my boys. I consider myself a hard-working individual. I’ve had a job since I was of working age and I’ve never been unemployed for longer than a week. I value putting hard-work and effort into something that you love. I can already see this starting to develop in my toddler, Cameron. He loves to draw and color, he’ll do it for hours. Sometimes he tells me, “mama I’m working” and he’s very proud of himself! Other times he says, “mama wanna have some fun?” I hope that I can be a good role model for my boys. I want to instill my values for hard work on my children but I also want them to know how to balance work and play. We all need to play no matter what age we are, it’s important for our soul.

As for the key to staying balanced… being really aware of my work-family-me ratios, keeps me in check for not letting the scale tip to far in any one direction. Also being really present in what I’m doing. If I’m spending time with Cameron and Alex,  then I really try to invest my presence in that play with them,  if I’m working then making sure I’m really focused on being productive and not wasting time so I can get right back to quality time with my kids.  My family, my kids and myself all deserve quality attention so I make an effort to do that. I’ve definitely had my share of moments, and I get anxious easily when things aren’t going as planned and I get mad at myself from time to time if I zone out or have a day where we don’t get out of the house…but I’m learning to lighten up the guilt and I’ve come a long way in the last five years!! I’m learning to not get upset when we have to veer off the road and take a detour…. it will all be okay!

 

“All our dreams can come true, if we have the courage to pursue them”

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A favorite quote of mine from my favorite animator, innovator, and creator of all things magical!  Any guesses?  Who else, but Walt Disney himself!  I have been a fan of Walt, and the Walt Disney Company, for as long as I can remember.  I am a Disney enthusiast and former cast member. I participated in the WDW College Program in 1999 and have made several trips back since that time. This past April, I traveled with my family to the Walt Disney World Resort to celebrate our first trip as a family of four, and to celebrate our children’s first and third birthdays.  If I’m not planning a trip for myself, I am often offering advice to friends and family traveling themselves.  I keep up with what is new or upcoming in the parks and love to dream of what our future trips will consist of.  There isn’t a week that goes by that I don’t speak with someone who shares a special memory or story of their own vacation experience. Some think I am a little over the top or perhaps have a Disney addiction, but I believe that there is something unique and special about the Disney experience and I just love everything about it!

So with that being said, I am excited to announce that this year I will be applying for a spot on the Disney Mom’s Panel!  I have applied previously, but unfortunately did not make it to the next round.  After I submitted my application, I was told that if you did not advance, you would likely hear nothing.  I felt encouraged when I received a letter saying that I did not make it, but to keep trying and so this year, I am!  It is sure to be a very competitive and exciting experience and I cannot wait for the process to begin! This feels like a great opportunity to turn a hobby, into something that I can share with families who may feel the Disney love, but might need a little help turning fantasy into reality!  The applications open at 10am on September 2nd, and I am so excited to throw my EARS in the ring!  The difficult part will be waiting and keeping my fingers crossed for a chance at round two.  So, wish me luck and stay tuned!
“All it takes is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust”
Becky

Featured Mama ~ Becky Couture CoFounder Blissfulmamas

BeckyfamilyMy Story…I’m Becky Couture and I’m 33 years old, I love Disney, the ocean, and everything about Boston!  I have been married to my husband Chad for 9 years we have 2 little boys and 2 St Bernard’s!  We moved to the Boston area from VT about 2 ½ years ago and really enjoy Massachusetts.  I have worked in Ophthalmology as a technician/scribe/surgical assistant/ophthalmic photographer for about 11 years and absolutely love my work.  In the last 3 years I have moved twice, had 2 baby boys, and 3 jobs!  Needless to say, I have experienced more change than the average and have learned a lot about what I need as a mom to be successful in my career and at home.  Erin and I both hope that by sharing our stories and hearing from other moms, that we can all inspire one another to keep striving to achieve our dreams and goals all while minimizing the guilt and fear.

My Career… I have worked in ophthalmology for about 11 years and have had many different responsibilities involving care of patients.  When we moved from VT, I left a long-term job in a very family friendly private practice and needless to say, it’s been tough to replicate.  The first job I took in Boston was not accommodating to my family needs.  I had a manager leak my pregnancy to my entire department before I was even out of my first trimester.  I fought hard to get time off for my doctor’s appointments and only found out a week before I delivered that I would be granted part time, if I moved to a new department.  I was grateful for the effort of one really fabulous supervisor, but in the end, it just didn’t seem worth the commute and  time away from the boys for something I didn’t believe in.   Luckily, an amazing opportunity came up, one that I had actually turned down the year before.  Not only were they willing to work with my schedule, but they also provided a place for me to pump while at work and offered some flexibility.  It’s been a dream come true and I am loving my career/work balance.

Proudest Mama Moment...I feel that by working and doing something I love, I am providing a great example of work ethic for my boys and giving them an opportunity to socialize and become independent.  My proudest moment, was when my 3 year old jumped on the train at the playground and proudly stated that he was heading to work in Boston like mommy!

Career Must Have…my smartphone and a supportive husband!

My Family…Chad and I keep busy raising our 2 boys, Finn 3 and Kieran 16 months.  Both boys are very active and have large personalities.  Finn is a very helpful big brother and adores his little buddy.  Kieran is always smiling and loves his big brother and big dog Duke!  Having two boys so close in age, has had its challenges but also so many rewards.  The boys are very close and very often playing in Finn’s bedroom giggling and getting into trouble.  My husband and I share household duties although he is much more talented in the kitchen!  I currently work 3 days a week and on those days, he is solely responsible for getting the boys up, fed, dressed, and off to daycare.  Most days, he is also picking up and making them dinner.  I literally could not do what I do, without a supportive partner and a flexible schedule.  We have laundry on the couch, unmade beds, and dishes in the sink most days during the week.  Most evenings, I pack the kids lunch and any items they may need for daycare as well as pick out the boys outfits for the morning.  This has worked well for my husband who has to get 3 people out the door in the am.  Our schedule does vary from week to week, but our boys are happy and loved and it works for us. beckyfamily

Family Fun Time…When we’re not working, we love going to the beach, outings in Boston, the Aquarium, playgrounds, our back yard or traveling to see family out of state.  It’s rare that you’ll find us hanging around our house.  We love to keep busy and do fun things with our boys as much as possible.  This past year, we traveled to Walt Disney World for our first trip as a family and it was just a dream come true.  We’ve also spend time in NH, VT, and Martha’s Vineyard.  It has always been a dream of mine to travel with the kids as much as possible.  In the future, my hope is to be able to continue in country travel as well as trips abroad including France and Ireland.  We’ll see what the future holds!

To Keep Organized…We basically manage our time with lists, texting, and my iPhone calendar.   Because we spend so much time running around, we typically discuss schedules and plans while driving around in the car.  I have found that discussions during that time, allows us to maximize our time at the beach or playing in the backyard. I am a procrastinator by nature and tend to be fairly disorganized. I have yet to find a method to keep everything straight on a consistent basis.  The funny thing is, I sort of thrive in that chaos and love the problem solving.  It keeps my mind sharp, but of course a little less craziness probably wouldn’t be a bad thing!

Me Time… is typically my commute to and from the city.  I head into work pretty early, which affords me the time to walk from the train station to my office.  I try to walk each day that I work, averaging about 4.5 miles per week.  I always feel inspired on my morning city walk, Boston has an infectious energy and I love dog watching in the Public Garden.  I also find inspiration in my kids, my friends, and the amazing patients I help care for everyday.  I deal with the sensitive topic of visual impairment and often in the elderly population.  I consider the time I spend with them to be a privilege and feel honored that I am a part of their care.  I use my train time to read, catch up on emails, or even sleep!  It also gives me a chance to catch my breath before heading home to my family.  I would love to make more time for outings with girlfriends, especially times where we leave the kids at home and just get a chance to unwind and talk.  It’s certainly a goal to try and work toward this year!

Finding Balance…I think the most important thing to remember is that we are all different.  We are all doing it right and to the best of our ability.  There is more than one way to raise a family and by sharing our stories with one another, we can truly see that there are many different ways to manage home and career.  I think it’s amazing and we are just so lucky to have so many opportunities for success and fulfillment.  I love the idea of a place where we can celebrate our successes and failures and laugh and enjoy those moments.  As our family grows together, I know that our needs will continue to evolve and I welcome the challenge and the change.  That’s what life is all about, and I am so grateful for the experience.