She seemed… surprised (shocked?) that my whole wardrobe takes up about four horizontal feet.
“You don’t have a dresser?”
“Wait, where are all your socks?”
“This is all the shoes you own??”
I think I dress reasonably well. (We should really get my friend to confirm or discredit this claim…) And I actually enjoy getting dressed every morning. It’s a happy few moments of my day.
The reason, I think, is because what I own makes it easy for me. I don’t need more than a few minutes to put an outfit together, so I never have that frustrated clothes-all-over-the-bed feeling I remember having as a teenager. (Maybe that’s also because I’m not exactly 16 anymore…)
How to Get Dressed Every Day in 5 Minutes or Less
1. Own only what you really wear.
After my friend saw my closet, she texted me a few pictures from her own closet, asking what to do about this item or that. My answers were all really simple and consistent: “Do you actually wear it?”
She usually answered with some version of “no, but.”
“No, but it’s so cute! I really should!”
“No, but maybe after I lose the baby weight…”
“No, but maybe someday I’ll actually have a dressy occasion for it?”
“No, but” doesn’t cut it.
When decluttering your closet, one trick is turning the hanger around on any items you’re undecided about. If you haven’t worn it in a month, send it on its way.
2. Own only what you love.
Notice that #1 came first because you may LOVE it, but if you don’t wear it, it has to go. It feels amazing to step into a closet of pieces that make you feel good about yourself. Not the jeans you haven’t fit in a year… Not the top your mom gave you so you feel guilty parting with… Keep the items that make you feel good.
3. Only buy and keep what really, truly fits.
Fit is something I’ve come to appreciate as I’ve gotten older. I used to buy an item that fit close enough—but not quite perfectly—just because it was on sale. (Or because I’d ordered it online and was too lazy to return it by mail!) But if it fit isn’t spot on, I always fine that I wear it a lot less, and when I do wear it, I don’t feel great in it. Fit is KEY.
Oh and if you’re in the pregnancy / post-pregnancy / size-changing-all-the-time years, I suggest…
1. Go as minimal as possible on the things you store. Chances are you won’t still love it—or it won’t fit like you thought—when it’s finally time to pull it out.
2. Store those few items that you do want to save out of sight, to keep your day-to-day dressing as uncomplicated as possible.
4. Rotate out the out-of-season items.
If you have to overlook the hoodies because it’s the middle of summer, you’re wasting time and brain power.
5. Design your closet so you can see it all at a glance.
I use a hanging shoe organizer to hold my socks, underwear, and leggings… My bras and a few necklaces hang from a row of hooks… Everything is incredibly easy to see and grab. (Key for a mom who needs to get dressed QUICK, right?)
6. Every time something comes in, something must go out.
Train yourself to enjoy finding things you can pass on to a sister, friend or donation center. I think of it as a little game: When I find something I haven’t been wearing, I get an absurd sense of satisfaction.
7. Lip color is an accessory.
This is one I’ve always lived by. Lipstick is small and easy to store, and if you have a few well-selected colors, they can take any easy outfit to the next level.
Happy dressing, friends!
What’s the shape of your closet? Is yours more like mine… or my friend’s… or maybe somewhere in between?
I mean, I was physically exhausted, like all moms of young kids are, but I was living in a way that felt right for me as a person and for our family as a whole, and there’s peace and beauty in living a life that fits.
I enjoyed one hundred casual meet-ups at the park with my friends and their kids. I walked leisurely laps around our neighborhood, day after day, pushing a baby in a stroller while our toddler explored our little world by foot.
On rainy days, we played in the lobby of our building, just to get out of the apartment. We knew our mail carrier, pool guy, and UPS man by name (Fernado, Forest, and Ray, in case you’re wondering), and they knew ours.
We explored our greater world on the weekends, keeping sacred Saturdays free for family drives to the coast or hikes in the redwoods.
Life was small then, and it suited me to a T. As an introvert and—personality types aside—a total homebody, life near home base is where I’m comfortable.
Luckily, the lifestyle I’d picked for us was supported by current research and parenting vernacular, which pointed to the benefits kids gain from unstructured play, time to get bored, and open stretches of nature to engage with.
I was sold, hook, line, and sinker. I still am, actually.
All Good Things Come to an End
But lately I’ve been feeling the tides shifting for our family, and although I’ve been stubbornly (fine. vigorously) resisting, I’m starting to realize I need to follow the flow.
Our kids (our boys, in particular) are getting older… Most of their friends are active in sports and extracurriculars, which makes it hard for them to find friends and neighbors to play with after school.
They’re also not toddlers anymore; they’re less excitable now. Their eyes don’t light up with utter glee when we pull up to a park or when I pull out some construction paper and tape. A scooter ride around the neighborhood doesn’t quite have the appeal it once did. (I know. My heart’s breaking too!)
Plus, they’re expressing more interest in activities outside our home. A season of swim team is behind us, and a season of soccer is ahead of us. They’re joining band and scouts and talking about trying out for the school play.
Like I said, I can feel the tides shifting, and I know I need to follow the flow.
It’s time for me to start rallying. To start preparing myself mentally for a new stage of family life.
I know I’m not the only parent out there caught in the gentle tug of war between simple and busy, between life at home and life outside of home. As I make this transition, I’d love to hear your advice along the way. Until then, this is what I’ll be doing to help myself handle it with as few faceplants as possible.
Stages of Family Life: 4 Tips to Help You Transition to a New Pace
1. Accept. Accept. Accept.
This one might actually be hardest for me. And maybe for you? When you love a lifestyle as much as I’ve loved our low-key, home-based years, it’s hard to accept change. But until you do, you’ll just keep dragging your feet, making yourself miserable, and maybe even making your kids feel guilty for wanting a life beyond home.
Purposefully choosing to accept a new stage is essential; it’ll help you quiet the inner conflict.
2. Take it one step at a time, and protect pockets of white space.
I’ve always said I’d follow my kids’ cues and—when the time came—carefully balance their personal interests against the best interest of our whole family.
We don’t have to jump into a hundred activities all at once (or ever); we can take it slow and still protect pockets of free time. I know families who only do one activity per season or who opt out of Sunday games, keeping one day a week just for faith & family.
3. Ask for help.
So many of us are do-it-all-yourself moms. We know no one else is going to do it quite like we do, so we don’t ask. (Ahem, me.) Or we feel like we don’t have anyone to ask in the first place—no family in town, no supportive village.
My advice to myself and to you? Look closer.
Parenting wasn’t meant to be a solitary experience. We need each other.
Ask a fellow soccer mom if she’d like to start a carpool.
Ask your spouse to be in charge of all pickups that coincide with his drive home.
Ask your mom (or a friendly neighbor with a sewing machine!) to alter that dance uniform.
Yes, you won’t have the control you’re most comfortable with. Your kids’ll have to get used to riding in someone else’s car, and they might have to wait a few minutes after practice sometimes. It’s okay.
You don’t have to do it all alone.
4. Recognize the value of expanding your circle. For them and for you.
Recently, right before our son’s first band performance, I watched as he—a kid who usually leans shy—chatted happily with the other trumpet players on the back row. I met a couple of teachers from our school that I’d never met before and caught up with a fellow band-mom-turned-friend.
This is good for us, I thought. Both of us.
Then as the elementary band teacher stood and raised her hands for the first song, I saw our boy’s eyes darting around the audience instead of looking at his sheet music. I waved my hand and caught his attention. He smiled subtly—satisfied—and raised his instrument, turning his eyes to his music.
Yep, for the time being, this is where we’re meant to be. Both of us.
I asked on Instagram if any of you have gone through this transition, and it sounds like many of you have (or are!). You know I’d love to learn from you—
What helped you accept this new pace? And what are your tips for maintaining a degree of balance? Advice welcome! (And thank you!)
PS. If you’re interested in building a stronger family, check out my ebook on just that:
When my mom died, I was devastated. She was my safe space—the one person in the whole world with whom I felt completely safe and known. Her death woke me up and sparked in me a fiery determination to ensure that my own children received this same gift.
My mom saw me for the fullness of who I was and liked me. She didn’t try to change me or mold me into her image. She listened well and delighted in me. She was my best friend.
I was hurting and angry when she left 15 years ago. I still needed her. But the only thing I could control was my decision to pass along her legacy to the next generation. I had a lot to learn.
Parenting can feel like incredibly hard work at times, but it can help to remember that the parenting journey is not primarily about our comfort. It’s about learning to love, about helping our children identify the gifts they are meant to bring to the world, and about doing our own growing up along the way.
Here are 5 lessons I’ve learned over the past 15 years that can help us settle into the discomfort of parenting and enjoy the messy but beautiful ride:
1. Get Curious
Our children tell us who they are from a young age if we pay attention. We can listen to their dreams, support them in their interests, and remember we are each a messy tangle of strength and weakness. The Love Languages, The Four Tendencies, figuring out their primary learning style, the Enneagram or Myers Briggs are all imperfect yet useful tools we can use to become students of our children as they grow. Gathering knowledge and doing our best to honor each child’s wiring can go a long way to helping everyone feel respected, healthy and happy.
I’ve learned along the way the importance of allowing others to support us—it takes a village to raise a mom, after all. This is not a judgment on our abilities as moms but a strength when we can remember that we don’t have to do it all alone. Outside observers can sometimes see what we don’t see—and the help we most need might come in the form of a speech pathologist, a teacher, a grandparent who babysits while we sleep, a medical professional, or a teary coffee date with a compassionate friend. And if all else fails, put the kids to bed, climb into your jammies, and curl up with a good book.
When we capture our children’s hearts from a young age, even as teens they’ll know we are a safe-place. We need time to connect and have fun together; the rewards are great. We shouldn’t pour out until we run dry, but I do believe we need to enter into their world (even when it feels hard) instead of expecting them to just adapt to ours. Our kids need to know that we like who they are and that they matter. It was hard but essential in my parenting to learn to hold space for an upset child yet not allow them to push my buttons or dictate my behavior. And one of the healthiest shifts I made as a mom was to get clear on how I wanted these people to feel in our home—and then to very purposefully align my behavior and lifestyle decisions to this goal.
As physically tired as we may feel during some stretches of parenthood, it is the emotional challenges that can take us out of the running. Developing a healthy stress mindset, and learning to be the boss of our own thoughts instead of letting them run the show, is likely one of the greatest superpowers we can develop. We will be stretched. We need to let go of perfectionism and comparison with some imaginary mom ideal and choose to enjoy the messy process. But also, on a more literal note, making peace with actual physical mess will serve us well too.
We are often learning to do the work of growing up ourselves as we learn to parent. When we decide to be fully present for life, for the joy and all the painful bits without running or numbing… When we deepen self-awareness and self-compassion, this spills over into our relationships and allows us to show up with less judgment and more delight. We are the primary role models for our kids—this means demonstrating what it looks like to say sorry and forgive, to do hard things and rise above. It means modeling self-care and offering ourselves the very same kindness we wish for our children. Developing a mindfulness practice that reminds us to pull our thoughts back from yesterday and tomorrow so we can be all in today, is a helpful mom tool.
Our kids are amazing gifts, interesting humans hand-picked to help us grow. They delight us and change us in ways that we would never have imagined or chosen for ourselves.
Embracing the messiness and challenges—all of the discomfort along with the joy—inherent in parenting helps infuse our relationships with humor and compassion so that we enjoy this journey of growing up alongside our kids and so that they grow up knowing that they are truly loved.
And who knows, these people might just become our best friends one day.
This post contains Amazon affiliate links, which means we make a small percent at no cost to you when you purchase an item through this post. Thank you!
A big welcome to Denaye Barahona of the Simple Families site and podcast.
Do you ever wash the sheets?
It was the question that started it all. One day while making the bed my husband casually asked me, “Do you ever wash the sheets?” It wasn’t a question of curiosity; it was a question of sanitation. You see, my husband doesn’t see me wash the sheets. He leaves early in the morning and comes back late at night.
I work from home and take care of our young children, so I do the laundry during the day. When it’s time to wash the sheets, I strip the bed, wash them, then put them back into place.
It’s almost like it never happened.
Kind of magic, really.
My brain has become adept at running our home and family like a well-oiled machine. This machine often works the magic of making it all look like it never happened. Planning it all, remembering it all, knowing it all, and worrying about it all—all within the confines of one tired, overworked brain.
This is the invisible mental load of motherhood.
There are many days when I feel as if my brain may explode. I must keep a constant supply of clean underwear in the drawers, a stash of emergency snacks in my purse, and ensure flu shots are administered before the peak of the season is upon us.
I do all this while trying to sustain some semblance of a career, sanity, and toned arms.
The Plan: How to Reduce the Mental Load
The mental load of it all consumed me. So I made a plan.
I knew I needed to wrangle my exploding brain and get a handle on this motherhood journey (of which I’ve only skimmed the surface). I am going to keep this simple, because if you are still reading I’m going to take a wild guess that you are also blessed with a very capable, yet nearly-exploding brain. So here’s how I reduced the mental load in four steps.
The vast majority of the mental load is invisible. It’s the planning, worrying, researching, and anticipating that consumes our minds. Therefore, the first step is to make it visible. That means, take everything out of your head and put it onto paper. I took the mental load out of my head and turned it into a pile of note cards. Each card earned a separate piece of the mental load.
Anticipate when we will run out of toothpaste.
Ensure that children use the toothpaste.
Make sure that Crest doesn’t cause cancer.
You get the drift. Every notecard holds a piece of the larger mental load. When executing this massive brain dump, I was stunned at how much of the mental load was invisible even to me. The sheer amount of material that a parent considers, processes, and executes each day is astounding.
It’s no wonder that we feel stressed out, right?
Step 2: Understand
Once the brain dump is complete, I worked to develop a better understanding of it all. I sorted and divided my mental load into three categories: planning, worrying, executing. This helped me to better understand where I was putting most of my energy and time.
Low and behold, I am a planner. I found “planning” to be the area that I spend most of my time.
Be sure everyone has an extra blanket in case the night gets cold
Remember to bring extra shirt for the baby when we eat Italian food.
Make sure the big kid pees before we leave the house.
Most days the mental load feels like a massive jumble in my head. Therefore, sorting it out and understanding exactly what my overwhelm really looked like was a huge learning experience.
Step 3. Reduce
Reduction was also a three-part sorting process: keep it, delegate it, or eliminate it. There were many no-brainers that I had to “keep” in my mental load, like packing lunches. The kids have to eat, right?
I’ve always struggled with asking for help and delegating. My husband is very helpful with the kids and our family, but he thrives when he knows exactly what he needs to be doing. So by handing off a physical piece of my mental load to him (i.e. a handful of cards) he appreciated having it all in written down.
The best part of this process was elimination–which was the biggest way I reduced my mental load. I became aware of plans, worries, and actions that weren’t necessary and weren’t serving me. Tossing those into the trash–once and for all–felt great.
Step 4. Maintain
Whenever we make big changes, it’s important that we stick with them. Reducing the mental load is vital, but also replacing many of those thoughts and worries with healthy alternatives is also necessary. I am on the journey to find a consistent mindfulness practice–dabbling in yoga, meditation, and generally just being completely present with my family.
Motherhood is a gift and I want to enjoy it as much as possible. That means reducing my mental load so that I can focus on being exactly the woman, wife, and mama that I want to be.
It’s a 30-day, digestible email series that I know will leave you with so much more clarity and relief by the end. (Erica note: The private Facebook group alone is easily worth the $30 cost of the series!)
Join us, and let’s reduce the mental load together! Learn more, right here.
We’d love to hear—Is the mental load something that weighs on you? (Tell us we’re not alone!)
I think most mums would agree that motherhood is simultaneously the hardest and most rewarding thing we’ve ever done. But for those of us who flourish in quiet and solitude, mothering can sometimes feel too hard.
Interestingly, I wasn’t always this way, drawn to quiet and rest. Before becoming a parent, I attended every social gathering offered to me and was often the life of parties. But I’m finding that the older I get, the more I crave silence and alone time. And there is no doubt that these cravings have increased exponentially since having my two children.
I have become more introverted since I became a mother.
Some of you might be nodding your head in agreement, thinking that yes, you too have become more introverted since you’ve had kids. Why does this happen?
For one thing, when you have kids, everything gets turned up to full volume. And I’m not just taking audibly. Life becomes busier, more complicated, and all of a sudden, full of more people.
A new parent gets hit with a double whammy of social interactions. Not only do you now have an extra person in your house to interact with (never mind keep safe, fed, and clothed!), but on top of that, you are expected to interact with all the people this little person has inadvertently brought into your life.
We find ourselves going to music groups, coffee dates, dance classes, football practices, and more. Parenting brings us an influx of new friends, events, and opportunities.
Some of the closest friends I have today are people I’ve met through my daughters. But with that comes the downside of feeling like I’m drowning in social invitations and interactions, which is especially hard when most of the time, I only have the emotional capacity for social interaction with my family. So when I interact outside of this, it’s taking away from my capacity to be present for my family.
If I say yes to coffee with you, it may mean I have to say no to interacting fully with my daughter after school. It’s been a steep learning curve, paved with lots of missteps (as well as a frequent desire to hide in my wardrobe!).
It seems so contradictory that now that I am a parent, I have an intense desire for solitude. It’s strange how when you need it most, you’re the least likely to get it.
But instead of trying to change myself—trying to fluff up my extrovert feathers—I’m choosing to equip myself with tools that will allow me to both respect my introverted nature and flourish as a parent.
3 Tools to Help You Flourish as an Introverted Mom
Tool 1. Knowledge
I know my weak points (well, most of them…), and I know that there are certain times when I will need more solitude and self-care. In practical terms this means planning and preparation. If I know that I have three tasks in a day that require socialization, then I need to ensure that I find space in between them or after them to recharge.
And to be honest, often three is too many. For instance, I just declined a coffee date for tomorrow because I already have an appointment with a personal trainer and another meeting. This on top of being with my family is my absolute limit.
Which brings me to…
Tool 2. The Willingness to Say No
I think I’m good at saying no, but the truth is I can get better. We all can! I find that the best way to say no is with honesty. It’s not the easiest. Lying and saying you have something else going on feels easier and more socially acceptable than owning up to needing downtime. But saying no is crucial for an introvert. Saying yes all the time will break you. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Tool 3. Communication
Your loved ones need to know what you need. We are constantly hearing what our children want and need. It’s okay to let them know what we need too. I often escape to my room for downtime, even just for five minutes. If one of my girls finds me, I explain that Mummy needs some quiet time. And if I also explain to my husband, then he can help me get that quiet time I need.
I’m curious to hear if your experience echoes mine! Have you noticed yourself becoming more introverted as you get older? Do you think it’s related to age or parenthood or a combination of both?
If this struggle is especially real for you, grab a PDF of our 12 tips for introverted parents—from introverted parents! Just sign up here, and be sure to check the box that says “Printable: 12 Tips for Introverted Parents.”
You’ll also be first to know when registration for my ecourse for introverted moms reopens. Thanks for reading!