Stress Management For The Working Mother

Originally posted today on the Huffington Post…

The compliment I receive the most about my writing is that I am honest (to a fault) and that I give my readers empathy. By reading my blog, you feel that you aren’t alone. Some of you even admit that I make you feel more normal because my crazy life makes you feel better about your own situation. So overall, I guess it’s my relatability to my readers that keeps a lot of you coming back for more.

With that being said, if you relate to what I am about to write, then I will apologize in advance. Wholeheartedly… I’m sorry.

Recently our office had a doctor come in to talk about “Stress Management.” It seems whenever someone talks to me about stress I think, “I don’t really have any major stress in my life.” Then reality punches me in the face when I think about everything I face on a daily basis. Sure I don’t have any MAJOR stressors in my life, but when you have ten million small stressors, then it begins to add up significantly.

Of course some may view this as stress… others of us just view it as another normal week for a working mom in a blended family.

We have four kids at four different schools with two different custody schedules. Not to mention piano, tutoring, soccer, cross country, basketball and two girls playing tennis. Two kids had school pictures last week, which meant haircuts. Plus the end of the month in my husband’s job is exceptionally busy. He and I both will probably spend at least eight hours in the car this week carpooling kids. Every week is tough logistically, but I am proud to say we are surviving.

Although lately I haven’t handled my anxiety well, I feel like I do have plenty of coping mechanisms in place to manage my stress. As a working mom, this is what I rely on to get through the week.

1) Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends

I usually feel like I have a firm grasp on my emotions, but the past two weeks has been tough. I am not proud of it, but I have not handled my emotions well. I have yelled, I have cried, and I have overall been VERY short tempered. I met a friend for a margarita the other night and I filled her in on all of the crazy in my life the past two weeks and she said, “Val, no wonder you are struggling! That’s a lot!” Just talking everything out with her made me feel so much better. Having friends who validate you can be just what you need.

On Friday, I came home to a present at my back door:


After hearing about my week, my sister-in-law was sweet enough to leave me a “just because” gift. When we have friends who constantly remind us of our worth, then we are rich indeed.


IMG_1941Many working moms cause themselves unnecessary stress by not being prepared for the week. As a result, they are frantically running around last minute just trying to get by. I admit I am a freak when it comes to planning, but it helps me keep my sanity!

Each week I email my babysitters a detailed email about where they need to be and when with the kids. I then copy the same email and add (in red ink) exactly where my husband Joe needs to be and when. On his email I add the weekly menu and what I will need him to do. It is truly an act of team work, but when everyone knows where they need to be, then I don’t have to worry about it.

I also suggest that you include the kids by putting a detailed calendar on the wall in your kitchen (or other centrally located place). You can even involve the other parents by creating and sharing a Google calendar. My ex-husband, his wife, my husband, our kids, and I all share a Google calendar. We can all access the calendar on our cell phones and know all important information regarding the children, even when they are not with us.

3) Allow Extra Time To Avoid Being Late IMG_1975

One of the most stressful feelings is leaving your house knowing that there is no way you will get where you are going on time. It’s that sweaty, heart racing feeling that your child may be late for an important rehearsal or practice, but there is really NOTHING you can do about it and as the parent is it COMPLETELY your fault. We can blame the kids for not being ready or for not having their bags packed, but as the adults it all falls back on us. Make sure the kids pack up their bags the night before and put them by the door. Get up earlier if you must to make sure you can leave a few minutes early.

If you are like me, then you are probably used to being right on time. I am usually not early, but I am usually on time. The problem is, if you don’t allow extra time, then traffic can wreak havoc on an otherwise well planned day. It certainly can’t hurt for your child to get to practice early. It eases stress for everyone in the car.

4) Make Time For Yourself

I know personally that it is tough for me to get up and I’m immediately plunged into “mom mode.” Two mornings a week I have to leave home at 6:15 a.m. to drive 40 minutes to drop my son off at school in another county, turn around and drive back to drop off my daughter. Then I race to work to work eight hours in my “office job.” Then it’s straight back to “mom mode” with piano lessons and basketball games and soccer games and choral performances and homework and dinner and showers. Then the kids go to bed and I shift into “wife mode” when I try to connect with my husband. Did you see what was missing?

If I went seven days a week without any “me time” then I would go absolutely insane! Because of this, it is imperative that you find some time for yourself. Whether it’s working out or reading or meeting friends for drinks. Carving out time for yourself can feel selfish, but as a working mother it is important for survival. I’m so thankful that I have a husband who understands that. He recently sent a group of my girlfriends and me to the beach for the weekend as part of my birthday present. I came back from that weekend renewed and ready to get back into the swing of my chaotic schedule.


So lean on your friends (and even ask for help if needed), schedule religiously, add time to give yourself a buffer when going somewhere, and look out for yourself every once in a while. Working mothers juggle a ton of balls at once (especially in a blended family), so you have to find out what works for you because a happy mom makes for a happy family!



Shake It Off…

With four kids between the ages of 11 and 15, we hear a lot of “he said/she said” drama. In the day of Instagram and Facebook and SnapChat, our kids are constantly looking for ways to embarrass each other (and me). I always have to be on my game because at any given time one of them may snap a pic of me to send to 10 of their friends just to be funny. I’ve gotten so good at turning away quickly that there are probably millions of pictures floating around in the internet cloud of “deleted SnapChat pics” (sure… they just disappear into thin air, never to be seen again…) that look just like this:


This need for kids to embarrass others is a common theme that we see throughout adolescence. A girl may be upset that the boy she likes doesn’t like her… but likes one of her friends. She then goes to their other friends and tells lies and ugly secrets about that friend to get the other girls not to like her and in hopes that the boy will hear the gossip and not like her too. I could give about twenty-five examples from my own childhood of that scenario playing out play by play. The friend who the boy liked gets rejected and ridiculed by all of the girls for no reason whatsoever except that she was unfortunate enough to be liked by the wrong boy.

My favorite thing to tell our kids when I hear about this kind of situation is “SHAKE IT OFF.” I can turn on the Taylor Swift song below and we can dance until we forget what was upsetting.

That seems to work for them (for now) although I realize that as the girls get into their teens it will be a lot more hurtful and harder to move past. The alienation that can happen with teenaged girls can be devastating. I have a couple of friends who still talk about that alienation and how it affected them for years.

Yesterday I heard some gossip about me that was absolute lies. I called one of my best friends who is the best sounding board of reason that I know and I said, “I know I shouldn’t care, but I am so upset that a lot of people may hear this and it is just so far from the truth! What if people believe it and don’t like me??” She said, “If you know in your heart that you have done nothing wrong, then you have to move on. If you did do something wrong, then you have to own it and apologize and then move on.” She added that real friends will talk to me before coming to any conclusions. While I know that is true, why is it so hard to swallow?

How can we teach our children to move on after having their feelings hurt when it’s almost impossible to do as an adult??? Even when we know in our hearts that we have done nothing wrong?

I saw this on another friend’s Facebook page this morning and I knew I had to include it:


The whole world would be a better place if we all truly tried to get along rather than hold grudges and try to make others look bad. It’s not healthy for anyone to be in a war. If you know in your heart that you are saying things that are true and right and just, then you are on the right path. As Shel Silverstein said above, when we are all happy and silly and love each other, then EVERYONE WINS.

My favorite Bible verse says,

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” Philippians 4:8

My goal is to shake off the gossip and focus on my amazing family. I have a husband who is not perfect, but he is perfect for me and I love him with all of my heart. I’m so proud of the communication we share and the dedication he shows to our relationship and to our family. There is not doubt we will have the best time growing old together. Most importantly, I am proud of the Christian man he is and what a good role model and father he is to our kids. We have four funny, beautiful, smart kids who make us so proud every single day. I have some of the best friends a girl could ask for who know that I would never be malicious and unkind. I have the most supportive and loving family who is always behind me 100%.

The next time my girls come to me about unkind words being said about them, I am going to encourage them to think of all of the excellent and praiseworthy things in their lives. Make a list if they need to, and pray over everything on the list. When we focus on what we have to be thankful for, then everything else is petty and insignificant.