Author Archive: Melissa Harrison

fitness-ladies-running

How I grew to love fitness

In my life, I’ve worked out for myriad different reasons: to lose weight, to train for a 5k, to look fabulous in my wedding dress, to take off unwanted baby pounds. However, it wasn’t until three years ago that I really started to enjoy my daily fitness routines. I went from a girl who would enjoy the occasional jog a few times a week to someone who takes cardio and strength classes at the gym up to 10 times a week (I’m now certified to teach these classes…hence the higher-than-usual amount of time I spend at the gym).

Trust me, I was not always like this.

Was it hard to start a routine? Definitely. But once I did, I couldn’t stop and then, because I truly enjoyed what I was doing, others became aware of my interest and started asking me to consider teaching.

Me? A fitness instructor?

Turns out, I love that, too! Over the past three years, in addition to setting up a regular fitness regime for myself, I also took time to become group fitness certified by NETA as well as Les Mills certified in BODYPUMP and BODYSTEP.

What has helped me enjoy working out is a combination of a few things. And although I realize that not everyone wants to add fitness instructor to their résumé, I hope that one of my reasons for developing a love of fitness might resonate with you and quite possibly turn out to be something you love as well.

My workouts are a stress-free zone

Every hour of my day is spoken for–whether with work, my family, kids activities and yes, even working out. The difference is, when I’m working out, it’s a stress-free zone. It is my time to relax, refresh and focus on something that is important to me.

I have a great support system

A happy wife makes a happy husband, right? OK, all jokes aside, I do have a wonderfully supportive husband who understands the importance of my workouts and the great mood I’m in when I come back! I also have a great support system at the club where I teach and workout. From the clients to the other instructors, it’s a close-knit group that supports one another in our goals.

New friendships have developed

I didn’t set out to make new friends by developing a consistent workout routine, but I’m glad it worked out that way. I have made some really great connections and friendships with other women at my gym. We’ve taken our workout friendships outside of the club as well, having ladies’ night, traveling to training weekends together and participating in other fitness events such as 5k runs and challenges.

Learning to love your workouts can be a challenge, but once you set up a routine that works for you, it’ll seem second nature. Be sure that what you’re doing is fulfilling your own need–not a goal that someone else has for you–and you’ll feel great once you’ve accomplished what you set out to do!

*Previously published May 2012.

moneystress

Budget basics: Handling finances under life’s pressures

No matter what “they” say, times are still tough for many of us playing catch up from the Great Recession. In my house, we moved from two incomes to one (and added two more children to the mix during that time). So, how do I keep the finances in control without stressing out big time (well, without stressing out all the time…because, let’s face it, I still stress a bit about them)? I tap into my Type A personality, of course.

There’s an app for that

We have a ton of bills in our house–student loans, mortgage, insurance, preschool tuition, utilities–and they are all due on different days. Before smartphones and Google calendars, I used to open a bill and write its due date right on our paper calendar that hangs on the refrigerator. Depending on the bill, I may actually write it on the calendar for a few days before it was due to ensure time to get it off in the mail on time.

Now, I’ve skipped the whole paper calendar business and moved to apps on my iPhone (and they’re available for Android phones as well). One that I use all the time is Astrid. This is a great app that will notify you of when bills are due, doctor’s appointments, grocery lists, etc. Keeps everything organized and sends you reminders as you need them. Perfect for busy women.

Spreadsheets are cool

If you wonder where all your money goes at the end of the month, take time to track all of your expenses and give yourself an honest assessment of what you’re spending and where. I use Excel spreadsheets and they’re helpful because they take the “busy work” out of adding everything up since you can set those up automatically.

Every Sunday, I sit down with our checkbooks and go through everything that has been spent. Each bill or payment type has its own column in the spreadsheet and an estimated monthly payment column that is totaled at the bottom. I know exactly how much money it takes to run our house each month and what we can (or can’t) afford in “extras”. For my family, I know that our two biggest expenses that can be cut at the moment are things like going out to eat and birthday gifts for our kids’ friends.

Whether you set up a spreadsheet or just write everything down for one month on a piece of notebook paper, it can be a real eye opener to see where your money goes and make realistic decisions on where you can cut spending.

Cash-only is a great way to go

I’m sure we’ve all heard the phrase “spend within your means” a thousand times. For some, this is easy and for others, it can be much harder to do. Try a cash-only mentality and see how that works for you. If you don’t have the cash to pay for it, don’t buy it. For a few months, in my house, we literally pulled out enough cash each week to cover our basic expenses–food, toiletries, diapers–and only used our checkbook for paying the bills.

This is also a helpful approach if you or your significant other has a hard time remembering to put receipts in checkbooks (this is an ongoing battle in our house…my husband, though good-intentioned, misplaces receipts…a lot).

Sacrifices don’t have to be painful

If you have children, it can be hard to tell them “no” when you don’t have extra funds to pay for soccer camp or dance lessons. And, if you don’t have kids, it’s equally as hard to see your friends going out for dinner or purchasing a new set of yoga pants when you’d like to indulge as well. So, make your sacrifices fun!

If you’re tight on cash and can’t do the normal “extras” think about things that will make you happy that you can still participate in. If you’re cutting back on kids’ activities this summer, find a list of local events in your area that are free and pack a picnic lunch. Concerts in the park is one great idea. Visiting the farmer’s market. Taking a tour of a local farm. Having a water fight in your front yard. All great, fun, free ideas.

If you’re missing the chance to hang out with your own girlfriends because you’re tight on cash, why not invite them to your place once a month for a pot luck girls’ night? Or, set up a “cooking class” where everyone can bring their favorite recipe and you cook together. Have a spa night where you put together homemade treatments. Go for long walks. Start a book club or book exchange (or use the good ol’ fashioned library).

Talk it out

Sometimes, stress just comes with the territory and right now, for many, it’s money-related. Just be sure to have someone you can talk things out with–a spouse, a friend, family–and don’t try to hide behind something you’re not. If you’re having money issues or can’t seem to get a handle on your finances, be sure to ask for help. It’s OK and at some point in our lives, we all go through it.

*Note: Blog originally published May 2012.

growth

Reflection at work

I’m a very process-oriented person. I see a task, I make a list, I walk through the process of what needs to be done to complete said task and then I check it off my list.

However, there are times when sticking with the process just to get things done can hinder a bit of that creativity that I need and enjoy. Many times it’s worth it to sit back, take a break and reflect on what I’m doing without a looming deadline over me.

We talk a lot about reflection in our personal lives and pausing to think about our own needs and true feelings, but what about reflection when it comes to work?

Really? Reflection at work, you say?

Sure.

Find your “ah ha” moment

Think about it: You’re slammed with a project that you’ve been working on for weeks—months, even. The deadline is looming and it’s all you can do to hold back from slamming your laptop down and calling it quits because you’ve been “at it” for way too long.

Step away from the project.

Oprah talks about the “ah ha” moment. Others talk about it in terms of a light bulb. However you want to phrase it, your “moment” has more of a chance to show up when you least expect it—when you remove yourself from the situation, when you take a step back.

Good or bad, many of my best ideas come when I’m in bed. I’ve shut down for the night, I’m reflecting on my day in my mind, not thinking about one specific project in particular when it hits me—yes! That’s the answer I’ve been looking for! For you, it could be taking a walk, moving on to another project that has nothing to do with the one your working on, or calling up a friend to talk about something completely off-topic.

Be open and honest with yourself

Whatever you need to do as a means of reflection as it relates to work, do it. And, don’t be afraid to voice this need in the work space. If you’re struggling to come up with new ideas, give your boss the heads up that you’re going to take a five-minute walk and clear your head. Be open and honest and get to know when you truly need to take a break from what you’re doing.

So this month, make a promise to yourself to spend some time reflecting at work—your mind will thank you for it!

How to stretch a dollar

The money harvest: How to stretch a dollar

How to stretch a dollarDon’t you wish money grew on trees? Maybe then I wouldn’t mind so much when the leaves fall in my yard and I have to rake them up. A yard full of rake-able money? Yes, please!

OK, OK, I know it’s not all about the money, but in these economic times (yes, there are still many in this country who are struggling to find jobs or additional sources of income) I thought it’d be helpful to share how we’ve been learning to stretch the dollar at our house.

Without getting into personal details, we’ve had to really assess our finances at our house–new school expenses, daycare, cars, extra transportation to and from work, medical bills–it seems as though there is something “new” to pay all the time. Couple that with our desire to buy a new home sometime in the near future (and minimize our debt) and we’re getting a little budget-happy over here.

Analyze your debt

We want to move. The problem is we have a few things to pay off first (that, and the housing market, but that’s another blog post). So, last month, I drew up a spreadsheet on my trusty white board and laid out all the debt we have. I broke it into 12 months, added up all our income (and expenses) and analyzed how much “extra” we could throw at our debt each month to get things paid down.

Keeping track of your current income, your expenses and your debt can be an eye opener. In fact, just by that exercise alone my husband and I were able to come up with a plan to cut our grocery/toiletries bill down by $300 a month. Unless you put it all out there in front of you to see you’ll never know where your potential is with cutting down the things you owe.

Prioritize

So, you have your debt list, now, make a plan to pay it down. Prioritize the debt you want to get rid of first and also the things that you can’t cut out of your monthly expenses. Then, take a look at the “extras.” Do you need a new cut and color for your hair every 6 weeks like your stylist suggests? Probably not. Do you need a $5 coffee during the networking meeting? Nope (suggestion: brew your own at home and bring it in a travel mug). You get where I’m going here.

It’s hard to prioritize but if you do it honestly you can really stretch that dollar for the more important, necessary items on your list.

Set a cash budget

We’re a cash-only family (unless you count emergencies like when our washing machine pooped out on us last month). We literally have a monthly cash envelope that we pull from every month to do our grocery shopping. All other bills and expenses are paid for with our debit card. Knowing what your expenses are for an entire month will help you determine what you can cut down and what you can feasibly set as your cash budget.

Another tip? If you enjoy using credit cards or racking up points, miles, etc. use cards that allow you to make payments in the store. For example, we have a Target card (LOVE Target). We do all our grocery shopping and other necessities at Target. When I go to the store, I bring my list, I have my budget and I also bring the cash. I make my purchase using my Target card because each time I do, I get 5% off my purchase. And then, I go right over to customer service and pay off the bill that just went on my card.

There are lots of stores that offer programs just like that; take advantage. It boosts your credit rating, earns you extra bonuses AND you don’t have to keep balances on high-interest cards. Win. Win. Win.

Track everything

Maybe this should have been at the top of the list, but it is super helpful to write down everything you spend for one month. Some may argue that I’m a bit too organized (I literally have a spreadsheet where I input all of our outgoing income each month). Do what works for you, but at the very least try it for a month. You can use those numbers as an average and really figure out what you’re spending and where you can cut down.

Learn to say no

This is where it gets hard in our house. Some nights it’s just easier to order pizza or grab something from the drive thru than figure out what to make for dinner (and then actually have to make it!) This is where I need the help of my husband to say “no.” And it works both ways; there have been times where he’ll want to purchase something or grab dinner on the go and I need to be the one to hold my ground with a “no.” Work as a team–whoever your team may be. If you know you’ll be hard pressed to stick to your guns even after your budget is set, tell someone about it and ask them to be your supervisor of sorts.

I’m not a financial expert (do they know where money grows on trees?) But, I have been working through a family budget for more than a decade now and have learned a few things along the way. Here’s hoping that some of what I’m suggesting rings true for you and can help you with whatever money goals you may have.

Happy stretching!

Fall Leaves

Fall family traditions

My oldest two hanging in the leaves they piled up last fall.

Fall is hands-down my favorite time of year. The weather, the colors, the activities; they’re all wonderful. So when I was asked to write this post about fall traditions I was excited to share what makes me smile–what our family does–each year when fall hits.

Below are four of my family’s fall traditions:

Football rivalries

We have a mixed-family when it comes to football. First and foremost, my husband and I love the sport and our kids get equally excited when games come on. The issue here is that my husband is a Minnesota-born Vikings fan and I am the Wisconsin-native Packers fan. This causes some discrepancies and fun challenges when it comes to our four kids. Our oldest loves the Pack (God bless him) and our daughter, for whatever reason (OK, it’s because her aunt is from Chicago) is a Bears fan. That leaves the younger two boys with whom my husband and I have a fun time trying to persuade to come to each of our “sides” of the football fence.

This morning, for example, I was teaching a few fitness classes and when I returned, my dear husband had dressed our one year old in head-to-toe Vikings gear (don’t worry, I’ll remedy that after his nap…Packers outfit is all picked out). But see, this is what we do in our house. We joke and have a fun time when football season rolls around. We even have an annual Vikings/Packers party when the teams play each other. At our wedding, my dad had custom half-and-half Vikings/Packers jerseys made for us as a gag gift. It’s all in good fun.

Apple orchards

My favorite event we do each fall as a family is our annual visit to the apple orchard. I love to watch my kids explore, feed the animals and just enjoy the surroundings and smells that come with that day. Lately, we’ve been visiting Apple Jack Orchard each year, but we’ve gone other places as well. In addition to our annual trip to the apple orchard, we typically venture over to Otsego’s 101 Market where they have a corn maze, corn pit and other fun activities for the kids. We let everyone pick out their own pumpkins for carving in October (note: that is NOT one of my favorite fall traditions. I’m horrible at pumpkin carving and leave all that goodness up to my hubby).

Along with the visit to the apple orchard comes yummy homemade apple pies (this I can do and I make a mean homemade crust, if I do say so myself). There is nothing better than hot apple pie right out of the oven with a little scoop of vanilla ice cream. Yum!

Bonfires

The bonfire tradition is two-fold: First, we love having fires as our “tailgating” tradition before many football games and second, the kids really enjoy them in the evenings as a way to hang out, make s’mores and stay up late (on the weekends, of course). Us adults love them as well after the kids have gone to bed to catch up and enjoy a few cocktails. Plus, there’s always some kind of fun, gooey food involved when it comes to bonfires. Check out these fun campfire dessert recipes I found the other day.

There’s something so relaxing about a good fire. Some of our best conversations (and debates) happen during these times. To me, it’s relaxing to hang out and share stories this way.

Thanksgiving dinner

Thanksgiving is the holiday we own in our family. I completely understand how hard it can be trying to please everyone and travel to visit relatives all over the state (or country, in our case). So, my husband and I decided very early on in our marriage that we would save Thanksgiving for us which means we do not do any traveling; we stay home and have Thanksgiving dinner as our own family. Some years, we’ve had relatives to the house (especially as we’ve brought new babies into the mix) and I’m OK with that. But, for the most part, Thanksgiving has been the one holiday during the year that is low-key, low-stress and super relaxing, just the six of us.

We go all out with the traditional Thanksgiving meal–turkey on the grill, mashed potatoes, corn, beans, homemade pie, etc. The kids like to help in the kitchen, too. Some years we just hang out in our PJs and others we dress up–really, it’s whatever we feel like doing that year. I think that’s what I love most about this holiday. It’s so nice not to have to go anywhere and to be comfortable in our own home.

Those are just some of the fun things we do each fall as a family. And I’m interested to hear: What are your family traditions during the fall? Share them with us here!

CareerGoals

Renew your career goals and replenish your motivation

Whether you are just starting out in the workforce, are looking to re-enter after some time off or are contemplating a career change, it’s important to set goals and check points for yourself. And with everything else we, as women, have going on in our daily lives, sometimes that can be difficult to do.

This is something that I struggle with every once in a while, too. Although I have big plans for my business and have seen success over the years, it can still be difficult to imagine what it’ll be like (or what I want things to be like) 3, 5 or 10 years down the road.

So before you start a career overhaul, I want you to think about the following questions honestly:

  • Are you happy?
  • Do you work because you have to or because you want to?
  • When you think about the future, do you see yourself in your current position?
  • If money wasn’t an issue and you could create your “dream job” what would that be?
  • If the world ended tomorrow, would you look back on your life and be proud of what you’ve accomplished as it relates to your career? Your family? Other personal ventures?

Depending on your answers to any one of the questions above, it may be time to renew your career goals and to think about what will keep you motivated as you work on accomplishing those goals. It may be as simple as sitting down with a career counselor and talking about options or it could be more drastic such as quitting your current position and moving on to the unknown.

The point of the question activity above isn’t to get you down on where you are in life or where your current career is headed. Instead, it’s an activity that should motivate you to make the changes you need to in order to answer a resounding “YES!” to the first question asked.

So, how do we do that?

Replenish your motivation

It’s hard to stay motivated each day of the week. And for some of us, even though we adore our jobs or our chosen paths in life, we can’t help but feel down every now and again. Here are a few tips I found to be helpful in keeping your motivation going (these can also be applied to your personal life):

  • Be a planner. Part of what can be overwhelming in life or setting career goals is that you don’t have a path in mind. Or, you feel overwhelmed because there is so much to get done each day that it seems there isn’t anything left for you. Plan your goals. Write them down. Make lists. Cross off the things you’ve accomplished. It’s therapeutic to see the amount of things you do in one single day.
  • Engage with positive people. This means at work as much as it does in your personal life. If your co-workers are bringing you down, get out of there. Think about it: If you work 40+ hours a week, you’re spending more time with your work “family” than your own close family and friends. Surround yourself with positive people and you’ll be more apt to think positively about where you’re headed next.
  • Give yourself adequate “me” time. Again, this is true for personal endeavors as much as it is for building up your work skills and professional development. If you are thinking about a career change, for example, join a networking group focused in that new area. Want to learn a new skill that can be applied at work? Find a workshop or training session in your area. Invest in yourself; you’ll stay motivated longer.
  • Concentrate on the good. In you, that is. Stop focusing on your faults or what you “should have, could have, would have” and think about what makes you great. So many times we rush through work or the highlights in our careers without stopping to appreciate the great things we’ve achieved. Don’t be afraid to give yourself a pat on the back every once in awhile (and use that as motivation to think about where those great things can take you next).

At the end of the day, it’s all about perspective. You only get one life; live it well and live it to your full potential. Be happy. That’s what it’s all about.

time

Hobbies? Who has time for hobbies?

As I write this, it’s a Saturday, and I’m working (well, not currently, because I’m writing this post, but you get the idea). I’m sitting in my living room, looking out at the beautiful summer day and thinking about how nice it would be to hang outside or do anything besides work.

I’m kind of a workaholic. It’s hard not to be when you have your own business. And last week, my husband also went back to work (a change from his role as a stay-at-home Dad) so our lives are in a bit of an upheaval right now. So as far as hobbies go, I’m struggling to find time to fit them all in.

What is a hobby?

I’m no dictionary, but to me, a hobby is something that you enjoy doing. Something that relaxes you, that inspires you. A hobby makes you feel happy. Bottom line: hobbies are different for everyone.

Making time for the hobbies we love

I don’t have a ton of spare time. If I’m not working, I’m teaching. If I’m not teaching, I’m taking care of my children. And then there is the matter of spending time with my husband. So “alone” time for hobbies? Right now, that’s kind of laughable in my house. However, there are a few things I try to do to keep my “me” time (and time with others) a part of my crazy, hectic life.

Here are some examples:

  • I multi-task to the extreme. Working out is something I enjoy. It relaxes me and is one of the few times during the day where I’m able to shut off my mind and just breathe (albeit heavily since my heart rate is up). And so, I became a fitness instructor. Not for the money or the career aspect, but for the time it would allow me to learn a new skill, feel good about myself and have no excuses for why I was continuing to put exercise lower on my priority list than it needed to be. Yes, for me, exercising is a hobby and, something I can also make a little money on part-time.
  • I schedule dates with friends. I love scrapbooking. I’m one of those people who captures every moment, writes religiously in my kids’ baby books and tries as hard as I can to keep everything updated (my oldest is 7 and I’m already thinking about the awesome photo boards I can make for his graduation party). So a good friend of mine who also loves to scrapbook (and works at a scrapbooking store–score!) and I try to set up a time every month (sometimes every other month) to scrapbook together. It’s not typically spur-of-the-moment (what can be these days?). We set a date, stick to it, and count down the days until it’s “our time”. A change of pace from our college days when we could literally just plan something minutes before it happened, but for us busy moms, it works.
  • I beat the pants off my husband in Dr. Mario. Some couples go out for romantic dinners. Some carve out weekend stays at a nice B&B. My husband and I play Dr. Mario on our Nintendo 64. And it’s competitive. For real. One night, we made it the rule that we couldn’t go to bed until someone hit 50,000 points (or until the clock struck Midnight). My point is, for us, in our stage of life, we do what works when the kids go to bed. We don’t have a ton of resources for babysitters and nights out on the town. But we do have things we can do at home together that are mindless and fun at the same time.
  • I take my family on walks. We don’t have a dog and taking walks as a family of six can be daunting (can’t anyone seem to remember to get to the bathroom before we leave??) but we do it anyway. Regular walks after dinner helps my husband and I reconnect after our day. It reminds me to stop and watch my children get excited about birds, airplanes and other things we, as adults, now find trivial. Walking may not be a hobby for some, but it’s a nice family routine that we’ve developed as a way to stay close and connected.

It doesn’t matter what you consider your hobby as long as you do something. Remember that it’s healthy to take time for yourself and do things that make you happy. Sure, sometimes I hear friends talking about the great new photography classes they’re taking, the book club they’re in or the latest vacation they’ve booked and I feel a slight tinge of jealousy. But I remind myself that for me, for my family, for where we are in our lives, the hobbies we’re able to take advantage of now work just fine.

We’re happy, we’re healthy, and even if it means I’m working on a Saturday, I know that come 8 p.m., it’s go time against my husband in a little Dr. Mario battle.

Now, what hobby will you make time for today?

06192012_4 ways to keep your party  and gift budget in check_Harrison

4 ways to keep your party & gift budgets in check

Last month, my 7-year old was invited to seven birthday parties. That’s more than one party each weekend—sometimes even more than one party on one day!

Being a mother of four, I know all too well that allowing my kids to go to birthday parties adds up—quickly. And, if we assume you’re a “yes” person like me and, if there is nothing else on the calendar, you let your children (or yourself) attend (or throw) any and all parties that come up.

That gets pretty expensive.

Here’s my tips on how to save money when it comes to throwing a party or sending your children off to their friends’ next big shindig:

Holiday sales

Do you have a sense of how many birthday parties you or your kids will be invited to each year? Scope out the after Christmas, Thanksgiving or any other holiday-type sales and stock up. Buy gifts ahead of time and keep them in the same area you store your wrapping paper, etc. You’ll always have something on hand and won’t end up spending a fortune on full-priced gifts. Another thought? Use Amazon wish lists to set up lists for each member of your family. You can have notifications sent your way when items go on sale and often can score free shipping. (You mean, I don’t have to leave my house or pay extra for someone to deliver the gift to me? Yes, please!)

Recycling wrapping paper

Do you buy new bags and tissue each time you need to wrap a gift? If you’re not picky about your gifts being wrapped a particular way, there is no harm in recycling the tissue paper from gifts you’ve gotten or saving the gift bags as they come in for your own parties. Use a large plastic bin or paper bag to store your own tissue paper, ribbons, bows, etc. Or, go old-school and wrap up your gifts in pieces of last week’s newspaper or the comics. Your recipient is going to tear it apart anyway, right?

Pinterest

Pinterest is an awesome tool to use for cheap, do-it-yourself party decorations, food items and invitations. I was all over Pinterest when it came time to plan my 5-year old daughter’s “fiesta” birthday party. We made all our own food (even the salsa!) and decorations. And the best part? She’ll remember that birthday as being a la Mom and Dad. We worked hard to make it look and feel special—on the cheap!

BYO (add item here)

When you throw a party, ask your guests to chip in with anything from food to beverages or napkins. We love to entertain at our house (and let’s face it, with four kids, it’s much easier to stay on home base than transport everyone somewhere else). A method we use a lot is to provide a “main” meal or course and ask our guests to bring an appetizer or dessert. And a good percentage of the time our guests also bring their own beer or wine (we typically have water and juice/pop on hand).

Those are my tips for cheap party planning and gift-giving. What are yours?

HeartandFlowers

3 messages my kids hear every day

I am a busy working mother with four small children all under the age of 7 years. At times, I certainly feel the “mom guilt” when my children are asking me to stay and play as I’m heading off to a meeting. And unlike many working mothers I know, I’m lucky that my husband is a stay-at-home Dad—the primary caregiver for our children during the day. I can trust that he’s on the same page as me and will treat our children with love and respect while I’m away.

That doesn’t mean that I don’t know the woes of daycare and other caregivers. There was a time in our lives where we did send our children to daycare and even had an in-home nanny at one point. I had to let some of the control go when it came to what those caregivers provided to my children. I also had to be OK with the things that I could miss out on—new words, first art projects, new interests.

It’s healthy for our children to develop trust and emotions for caregivers outside for their immediate family. But how do we ensure that our children feel loved and appreciated even when we’re having a busy week (or just busy life, in general)?

I concentrate on these three things: delivering on promises, giving affirmations and being generous with my affection.

1. Delivering on promises

A child’s memory is like none other. If you say you’re going to plant flowers with them after work they sure as heck will keep you to that promise until you make it happen. I make it a point to stick to the promises I make to my children. If I say I’ll chaperone a field trip, I schedule that event right in my calendar just like any work meeting. Likewise, if I know I’ll have a hard time following through on a commitment, I’m very honest with my children. I let them know the things I’d like to do with them but that once in awhile, those things may need to wait depending on the other commitments I have during the week.

2. Giving affirmations

It is a rule in our house that when 5 p.m. comes, we have dinner together. As a family. During our family dinner (no matter how chaotic it may seem with all our kids trying to talk at once!) I ask my children about their day. I listen to what they learned about in school. I talk to them about the strengths they have whether it be that they were a good listener that day, did well on a spelling test or shared nicely with a brother or sister. I think it’s important to always let my children when they’ve done something well.

3. Being generous with affection

There’s no shortage of hugs and kisses at our house. And I will admit, sometimes I feel annoyed when I’m requested to hand out a hug and a kiss to each child even if I’m just running to the store for 15 minutes. But I’m also well aware that at some point, those hugs and kisses will be fewer and far between. So, while the getting is good, I make sure to hug, kiss and tell my children I love them every single day.

All working mothers need to figure out what is the right balance for them. What works for me may or may not work for you. We can all sense when our children might need extra love and attention; carving out special time for our family is really what it’s all about.

So, what works for you? What are three words or messages your children hear every day?

HarrisonKids

Why I love my work

These four cuties are a big part of the reason I love my work.

Today is a hard day. At first, I thought of backing out of writing this post because, well, at this moment I’m not loving my work. Do I love being a business owner? Yes. Am I grateful for the success I’ve experienced over the years? Yes.

Do I wish I could just “clock out” and forget about today? Most definitely.

My story

I’m an overachiever and one of the craziest Type A personalities you’ll ever meet. I don’t say this as a means to brag (believe me, it can be a detriment as well as a blessing) but, rather, to give you perspective. Growing up, I always knew I wanted to have my own company—to run the show. I worked hard in school, I designed my own degree at the University of Minnesota, and I put my time in working in various levels of management and areas I thought would provide me with the right skills to start my own firm.

I made the leap in 2006 (while pregnant with my second baby—because that’s not stressful at all, right?) and started a marketing and creative services firm. My top reason for starting my company at the time was because (I thought) it would afford me the ability to control my schedule, watch my children grow and still support my family financially.

For the most part, that’s still true. Being able to take time off when I want to have lunch with my first grader or be a part of preschool graduation is a huge reason why I love my work. But sometimes it doesn’t always work that way—there are still things I can’t control (and that doesn’t fit well with my Type A personality).

The good far out-weighs the bad

The fact is my work isn’t always rosy. There’s invoicing (I failed accounting. Twice.). There’s my business plan. There’s the pressure to compare myself to what everyone else has going on. And, as a working woman, a wife, and a mother, there is constant explaining (“What? Your husband stays home with the kids? So, you’re not just freelance?”)

And without going into details about why I’m struggling today (I’m OK with it—we all have struggles) I’m going to focus on why I love my work—because I may not be in love with it today, but this post is a wonderful reminder for me to focus on the good that outweighs the bad.

I love my work because:

  • It allows me to watch my kids grow. On a great day, I have no commute in or out of the office and I am always on time for dinner. I never need to miss a school program or doctor’s appointment if I so choose.
  • It enables me to use my strengths. I’m not bogged down by red tape and supervisors who may not be supportive of the kind of work I enjoy.
  • It empowers me to grow. My decision to attend conferences or networking events rests in my own budget; not that of a company who may not support my need for continued learning and growth.
  • It gives me a level of pride and accomplishment I don’t think I’d feel working elsewhere. There is something truly satisfying to look at the work I’ve done and the family I have and say, “ I made this happen.”

It’s all about perspective

No matter what your job—the executive of your household, a business owner, a women working her way up the proverbial corporate ladder—sometimes we need an extra push to think about why we really love our work. Our time on Earth is limited; that’s a given. And we all have bad days. But if you think honestly about it and still can’t say you love what you do, change it until you can say, “I love my work.”

And after this post, I can still say, I truly do love mine.

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