motherhood

Life Outside the Cubicle | What I Loved Then and What I Love Now

Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland_Work Life_SAHM Life

We have been living in Geneva for almost three months now. So hard to believe! It is amazing, I won’t lie, and despite mourning how convenient everything was back in the States (drive-thru Starbucks, fluent English speakers, abundant and free parking), living in Europe is proving to be a huge blessing. There isn’t one day we take it for granted. 

I won’t, however, over-glorify our lives. I was cautious of doing that before we even arrived as friends stared at us wide-eyed and giddy after hearing we were moving to Europe. We were very excited, too, but knew the transition to expat life would be a challenge. The danger with over-romanticizing things is that they can sometimes fall well below your expectations, causing you to become unhappy with a reality that doesn’t quite match what you think it should.

We’re living in Europe, not just vacationing here. (Although, wow, do we have some great vacay destinations to choose from.) Life is both beautiful and hard — no matter where you are!

The Switch From Career to Stay-at-Home 

Switzerland was a new beginning in many ways for all of us. I chose to leave my 12-year consulting career behind. When we move back to the States, or maybe even before, I will rejoin the 9 to 5 crowd. Are there things I miss about having a job outside of home? You bet! Are there things I love about staying home? Yes! It’s okay to love aspects about two different lifestyles.

This stay-at-home mom life has its challenges but as with any situation — it’s what you make of it. I’ve always been of the seemingly unpopular opinion that you have to carve out time for yourself to be happy so you can then be a happy parent. There are many messages out there that say in order to be a good mother, you must be a martyr to your children and sacrifice 100% of yourself. That is just not true and will cause more harm than good in the future. 

Instead of focusing on the good and bad of working vs. stay-at-home, here are a few things I loved about the cubicle life and reasons I’m loving the home life. 

Reasons I Loved Having a Career

1 // The paycheck

Oh, validation in the form of cash. I do miss you! Getting that monthly direct deposit in the bank account sure makes tolerating Bob from upper management much easier. Paying your own bills, being an equal contributor to your household income and having a little left over for a relaxing Target $1 bin aisle spree. No, money doesn’t make you happier but the feeling of independence that comes along with that paycheck is underrated! 

2 // Conversing with other adults about non-kid stuff

Life outside of milestone comparisons, what age you should start timeout, and Peppa Pig? This is one of the biggest things I miss about working. I never knew it before but it’s actually more exhausting to hold a conversation about how Susie isn’t pronouncing her words correctly and where you can find the best organic produce than sitting through a mind-numbing HR presentation. Thank God for the few mom friends I do have that can adult talk with me. Sanity savers, for sure! 

3 // Dressing up

I don’t care what you say about fashion, when you dress up a little, it boosts your confidence and gets you into a different headspace. Going from dressing professionally everyday to, well, mom-ing it up, has been an adjustment. My blazers just hang in my closet, taunting me. But the good thing about living in Europe is you don’t encounter many unkempt people. I might wear jeans a lot more but I certainly would never step out in yoga pants. It’s a good kind of motivation to not let yourself completely go. 

Reasons I Love Staying at Home

1 // Getting to know my son better

Of course every mother knows their child — more intimately than anyone else can. But there are certain nuances I missed while I was working. Like the fact that Mason has the best eyesight in the world and can spot a bird in a tree from a mile a way. That he loves working with his hands and can never have enough Play Dough. That his belly laughs are endless when I use my terrible French accent to tease him (sidenote: I cannot match the laughs he shares with my husband; those are the ones that really make my heart swell).

When you’re in a rush to get home from work after an hour commute, eat dinner and get everyone to bed so you can all do it again the next day, it doesn’t leave much time for the details. Weekends used to be overshadowed by errands, even though we always made time for playgrounds. And although Mason tests our limits with tantrums that rival well, I can’t even think of a comparison, it’s nice to have one-on-one time to really get to know his little quirks and what makes him tick.

2 // Free to choose what we do, where we go and who we hang out with 

Not being barraged by 20 different personalities, sharing cubicles and having to work on something important with them is a huge perk of staying home. If Mason is in a mood or it’s storming outside, guess what! We don’t have to go anywhere or see anyone. On the flip side, we can also make plans/play dates with friends we do want to see. And we get to enjoy living here more. Want to trot down to a park by Lake Geneva? Why not. The luxury of choosing who makes up your day and where you go is a freedom I haven’t experienced in a long time.

3 // Making peace with simple

In a world that’s always telling you that you should be doing more for your future, when did we miss that the present is all we have? Life has become much more simple now that I’m staying home. It doesn’t come naturally to me — I get bored easily — but it’s forced me to be more present with Mason and with life in general. It’s so nice to start tuning into the fact that busy isn’t better. A new concept for me.

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I have more to say on the whole “stay at home vs. work outside the home” topic but thought this was a good place to start. Do you agree with the highlights I listed? What are the things you love about what you do? I’m always happy to see comments so leave something below!

Mom in Manolos, Washington D.C.

Mom in Manolos | What’s In a Blog’s Name?

Mom in Manolos_Geneva Switzerland_Blog Name

Naming a blog is not something you take lightly. What will it say about me? What do I want to project? Will my future audience identify with it? And most importantly — is the URL available?

Having majored in marketing, I wanted something quippy that included alliteration. Having become a mother, I wanted something with sass, something with a little style, something different from the mom-in-yoga-pants-with-wine-in-hand trend (although that’s what I am on most Saturday nights). Something that felt like me.

Mom in Manolos was born.

It was the perfect moniker to join the D.C. blog scene and it spanned two groups of women — those who didn’t have kids and those who did. But I quickly learned what people expected from me after a fellow blogger asked to see my shoes at an event “because you’re Mom in Manolos, right?!” This was not what I intended. I enjoy fashion to an extent, but I have never been nor have wanted to be the classic fashion blogger. Don’t get me wrong, I adore heels and a well put-together outfit. But there’s a deeper meaning behind why I chose my blog’s name.

A deep meaning behind a pair of pumps?? Yes, bear with me. 

Mom in Manolos (noun)
1. your job, your role, or what you give most of your heart to
and
2. your own personal style; your passion; what makes you “you” 

When I became a mother, I quickly understood how important it was to hold onto a piece of yourself. If you give 110% of yourself to your children, there won’t be anything left to give. “You can’t pour from an empty cup…” is probably the most true statement I’ve ever heard. 

Ironically, I credit my son with forcing me to this realization and leading me to the epiphany that I need creativity in my daily life. He has proved to be my best teacher. 

Starting a blog fulfilled a creative part of my soul that I could not find in my 9 – 5. It also gave me a sense of control that every mother desperately needs during the very out-of-control baby stage. I lit up when I thought about blog posts to write and lit up even more when I connected with other bloggers. This blog also led me to what will now be a lifelong passion — photography. 

They say you find yourself during your 20s. But I think you find yourself when you are brave enough to live your passion. 

I’m not wearing heels as often these days here in Switzerland but I’m still tucking away a little space for myself, thanks to a very supportive husband. I find I have more to give to my family when I visit that space. The guilt about having a passion in addition to my roles as mother and wife has finally started to subside. Now I understand why they tell you to put the oxygen mask on first. 

Remember you’re still a person, a Mom in Manolos (or Nikes, flats, Louboutins, flip flops…), no matter what roles you take on in life. 

Mom in Manolos, Washington D.C.

“It Goes By So Fast” and Other Things I Won’t Say to New Parents

When you become a parent, you are inundated with advice. Some solicited but mostly unsolicited advice about things that never crossed your mind. My baby is 5 days old and I’m supposed to establish a bedtime routine? The best way to cure jaundice is a light lamp, like the one you find at a buffet?? If I don’t start tummy time now, he could be a three year-old that can’t hold up his own head??? 

Everything is overwhelming and it becomes even more so when you couple a crying newborn with sleep deprivation and the realization that it is now your responsibility to keep this sweet little perfect life alive for the rest of your life.

Here are a few things I refuse to say to new parents. Most of these phrases are well-intended. But to a new parent, some of these can provide unnecessary guilt that they are already failing as a mother or father. 

It’s understandable that a new baby sends everyone down memory lane. But give new parents some breathing space! Their hearts and fears have likely tripled in size — and so have their Starbucks orders.

“Enjoy this time — it goes by so fast!”

How many hours of continuous sleep did you get last night? I’m sorry, did you say 7? A new parent is lucky if they can squeeze in an hour between cries. Two or more hours of continuous sleep and the parent wakes up in a complete panic that they’ve failed at monitoring their baby’s every breath and now something horrible has happened.

This time does not go by fast when you’re in it.

Every hour is laden with questions – is the baby hungry? Gassy? Wet diaper? Happy? Am I doing this right? Can you die from sleep deprivation? The last thing a parent needs to hear is that they’re not enjoying this enough and that enjoying this is something they need to do ASAP because hurry, time is slip, slip, slipping away!

If anyone fails to remember this sweet but arduous time, offer to babysit for a day, or better yet, a night. And, please, don’t forget to enjoy it! 

“Have you tried a white noise machine? Crying it out? Blackout curtains? A sleepsack? Dream feeding? Working on the feng shui of the room?”

I have never been one for giving advice. Even if someone asks me for advice, I’ll preface it with, “well, here’s what I’ve done…”. The thing is, every baby is an individual. What works for one will not work for another. Everything is trial and error. And allow me to let you in on a little secret – new parents aren’t really looking for advice. They’re looking for empathy.

I once had another mother at work preach to me about how I needed to use the cry-it-out method to get Mason to sleep because that’s the only thing that worked with her kids. She coldly listed out step-by-step what I needed to do and if I didn’t, my child would never learn to sleep on his own. As I sat there staring at her with droopy eyelids, fighting the urge to give her a good slap in the face (yep, I said it), I thought to myself, I will never do this to someone else.

All I really wanted was a big hug, a fellow parent to tell me it was going to be alright and that there was light at the end of the tunnel. That’s it. I didn’t need advice and to be told that sorry, those black-out curtains, the white noise machine, the perfectly set room temperature, the sleepsack, and our bathtime routine were all for not. 

Don’t rattle off the recipe that worked for you or the one product that changed your family’s life. Only share if the parent specifically asks you. Then look into their eyes, which have probably been open the past 48 hours or more, and give them a hug.

“But aren’t you worried that [insert catastrophic situation here]?”

This one. Out of everything you could say to a parent, this one is the worst. Questioning the way another parent is doing things then twisting the knife and laying out the potential consequences of said decision.

I’ve only experienced this a handful of times (to my face!) and could not believe these kind of people exist in the world. 

This phrase is rooted in insecurity and applies to more life situations than parenthood. The person is threatened somehow by your way of doing things because it’s different than the way they do things. Let’s be honest — they’re also afraid this way of doing things might be easier or more successful than their way. 

Newsflash: parenting isn’t a competition. No one gets a medal at the end of this lifelong run. No one stands on a podium and declares, “I won because I fed Jimmy organic and gluten-free meals his entire life!” 

We are in this together. Look at your fellow parents as teammates. We all go through ups and downs, times we want to squeeze our children forever because we love them so much, and times we ponder just how dangerous hitchhiking could really be.

Don’t question other parents! They’re doing what works for them and you’re doing what works for you. At the end of the day, we all have crumbs in our car seats. 

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Mom in Manolos_Smiling BabyNew parents, if you’re reading this, I got your back. I’m not saying I won’t tell you there are precious moments to be had with your newborn, because there are, but I will tell you that you’re doing a phenomenal job, you’re going through all the emotions and motions every new parent goes through, and welcome to this crazy beautiful club! 

Mom in Manolos, Washington D.C.

Pausing in the Bubbles | Where I Find Presence Under the Weight of Parenthood

It was a rainy Saturday afternoon. My husband was getting some alone time in at the Switzerland equivalent of Home Depot. Mason woke up from his nap — God love the kid, he still naps — and wanted to play with bubbles outside. Bubbles and rain don’t mix but there wasn’t much else to do so we put on our raincoats. As I sat watching him gleefully pop each and every soapy bubble I blew his way, something struck me. We were both present. Present in the moment — and enjoying it.

I wasn’t monitoring his every move, making sure he didn’t slip off a step or leap off a swing. I wasn’t exasperated trying to explain to him that chocolate ice cream wasn’t on the menu at 8:15 a.m. I wasn’t wrestling him to win the “put on your shoes before you go outside” battle. I wasn’t on my last thread pleading him to hold my hand as he screamed “no!” while we crossed a busy street.

Bubbles surrounded us as we smiled and laughed. And like the bubbles, I knew this moment would be fleeting.

 

Soon would be dinnertime, which he would promptly reject before asking to eat half an hour later. After that would be the drawn out bedtime routine, not knowing whether getting him out of the bath would result in compliance or a meltdown worthy of an exorcism. Then brushing teeth which is usually the last battle of the day.

And of course, there was the quiet laying beside him after we said our prayers and read “The Little Blue Truck” for the hundredth time.

Where the day melts away and all those things I stacked up in my head to do after were merely a pipe dream. Because sleep wins out over alone adult time nearly every night. 

A Balance Between Survival and Enjoyment

So much of parenting is about survival. I have no room, time or really the energy to care about the way other parents parent. My only goal everyday is to ensure my child is alive, safe, and relatively happy (although I’m quickly learning that doesn’t always have anything to do with me).

But there are those bubble-filled moments where the weight of being a parent lifts and you can just be. Be with your child and remember the innocent enjoyment in the little things. Small moments that aren’t laden with the gigantic responsibility of keeping a human alive and safe. 

We all need those moments to remind us that things are okay, everything will be okay, and even if you don’t hear it, you’re doing a good job.

Find the space to just breathe.

The space is there. In between the bubbles. 

Mom in Manolos, Washington D.C.

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