The easiest way to find joy when you “stay at home”.

maxwell playing Maggie Whitley

Sometimes it’s just a bit too easy for my focus to be on keeping our home super clean and tidy — only then will I be happy, I think to myself. But really, that mindset is a huge lie. Especially for our mama hearts when we already feel like we are juggling a small circus for 12 hours a day ;)

But I’m determined to not let that kind of discouragement into my home.

If I’m spending all of my time¬†cleaning and tidying (or even too much time, since cleaning a small space doesn’t take long) then other areas of our home aren’t being tended to.

Things like…

- loving on the people inside our home

- going on long walks where our hearts and minds are exercised

- feeding my family through meals and conversation around the table

- the purpose of our home: to grow and learn and rest and encourage one another, daily.

I try to reserve two small windows of time each week towards tidying our home, usually at the start and end of the week, so we (I) can fully enjoy the weekend in all it’s glory. This easy exercise has helped me find the joy in a lived-in home, especially since I “stay at home”.

Walking around plastic toy hammers, and blocks, and books, and the dog’s toy, and don’t forget about the laundry drying on the rack — these all shout LIFE to me, and life should be celebrated. If my focus is on putting all of these things away, what kind of message am I sending out?

It doesn’t take much for our home to feel unclean or untidy since we’re in a small space. But I’ve learned to know the difference between a home that feels comfortable to us and our friends, or a home that feels uncomfortable.

baby bump Maggie Whitley

And perhaps the most important thing I’ve learned with all of this: when I set too high of expectations on myself it’s not just our home that suffers, the people who live inside our home suffer, too.

It’s not my ability to clean and tidy well that should bring me joy…

It’s the day-to-day of life that brings me joy: having a messy kitchen, owning clothing that needs to be laundered, having floors that need to be swept of beach sand and pretzels, and tidying our toys because we play with them.

And this joy? It also brings me freedom.

Mamahood vs. Full-time Work: what helped me decide.

maxwell twin shirts maggie whitley

Max and I are kinda like “two peas in a pod” these days, soaking up the last few weeks where it’s just he and I at home together during the day. When I reflect back on the last 17 months I have so much peace over what we’ve learned and how we’ve bonded. Of course, so much has changed too, comparing what I thought would be to what actually is. These changes have me so, so grateful for the support in making one of my biggest decisions ever: to focus on our family instead of also trying to run two handmade businesses (and write a blog). Naturally I did slow down big time once Max was born last March, but as he became more of a toddler (and less of a little baby) I knew I needed to adjust exactly where my attention was going each day. I like to refer to that time as, learning the art of saying “no” :)

Every woman experiences mamahood differently. And while we each have our personal preferences, one thing in common is the number of hours that fill each day — it’s exactly the same. Before Max was born I knew I wanted to take an eight week maternity leave from handmade, but as that mark neared I found myself not quite ready to jump in with both feet. A few more weeks passed and still, I wasn’t ready.

When you find yourself in a mamahood vs. full-time work dilemma, like I did, I think it’s important to listen to your body and heart for guidance. We each have totally unique experiences, requirements, support systems and family needs. My story is probably different from my neighbors, which is likely different from their neighbor, etc. It can be hard to know exactly what to do, but knowing there’s beauty and grace in customizing my new plan was so encouraging for me.

Before having my first baby I was incredibly organized and (let’s be honest) a scheduling pro. Now, I’d like to think I’ve hit a more realistic balance with all of that advanced-planning stuff ;) But, trying to do too much each day during that first year absolutely frazzled me and I constantly questioned if I was doing it right. Come bedtime I didn’t feel like I had been creative enough or rested enough to continue with my previous schedule. My emotions felt uncontrollable and nothing I was doing felt like it was being done well. (Not a good feeling.)

Really, what I wanted to focus on was this precious new baby — and that felt like “enough”. Working full-time, in addition to be a mama, was something I felt could be put on hold, at least for now. I encouraged myself, saying as my need for more creativity rose my new schedule would help me be able to say “yes”. I felt peace in this decision, and the peace was constant. Success! (I also reminded myself this new schedule is what works best for me, for my family, for now, but we could make changes at any time.)

A friend shared something with me a few months ago. In summary she said, “your children won’t wait for you to grow up; they’ll do it regardless of how you prioritize your time.” That was hugely powerful for me and helped to propel me forward.

Am I nervous for another little baby to join our family? — totally. But I know my days have room for this kind of exciting growth, so that’s what I’m leaning on.

fine print: I know many mamas who work full-time and have peace over that decision, and I fully encourage them to continue with that personal decision. I believe part of what makes someone a good parent is their ability to do it well, and consistently. This blog post is in no way a “my way or the highway” post, but it IS a post that I pray will encourage you to move forward in confidence with whatever decision your heart is guiding you to do. There is nothing worse than the guilt of self-doubt. I’m cheering for you :)

When your big brother plans a suprise visit…

family maggie whitley

family maggie whitley

venice beach umbrella maggie whitley

family maggie whitley

family maggie whitley

My brother visited me for my birthday in July — a surprise visit! — and I just have to say, having a solid relationship with your sibling as adults is pretty rad. We’re only two years apart in age, but now that we have children of our own we have a totally different, awesome relationship from when we were younger.

Last year Matt surprised me by flying to Los Angeles for a week. It was his first time meeting Maxwell and it was amazing to see them interact as uncle and nephew. This year was more of a reunion for them. It was like we stepped back in time (minus my new baby bump) and the flow of his visit didn’t miss a beat. My brother has two boys of his own, so our parents are very curious if our second Whitley baby will be a boy or girl ;)

airplane bank maggie whitley

airplane bank maggie whitley

image

Uncle Matt and Maxwell (about 5 months old), Summer 2013

We visited the Santa Monica Promenade soon after Matt and his girlfriend Kim arrived in LA. While we were window shopping, and reminiscing about Matt’s visit last year, we stopped into a baby boutique where Matt bought a red airplane piggy bank for Maxwell.

Once we were back at home they sat at the table and Matt taught Max how to put the coins in the thin slot on top. There’s a special message written on the bottom… and reading it makes me feel so many emotions. I’m incredibly blessed to have him as a big brother, and how much he loves my family.

I’m grateful that the miles between us are like a strong, woven rope. They don’t take away from our relationship, instead they give us something to cling to.

29!

family fourth of july maggie whitley

Over the weekend so many great things happened. First, our family enjoyed a loooooong three days of togetherness. It was fun and lovely and re-energizing and memorable. Secondly, we celebrated the Fourth of July and went to our first parade with Maxwell, hooray! What a wonderful day for our country to celebrate. And then to top off the FUN category here (if that’s even possible), I turned 29 on Saturday! ;)

Zack surprised me with a birthday brunch with my best girlfriends and our hubbies, pedicures, the sweetest cards from him and Max/Bauer/baby #2. And can I just say — the cards Zack writes for Max and Bauer are hilarious. Oh my. Later Saturday night we had dinner down in Manhattan Beach, and then pulled into our driveway just in time to get Max to bed. And then on Sunday we found ourselves at the pool. Everything about our long weekend was perfect, even the cranky moments of naps being boycotted.

Did you know I’ve known Zack since I was 18? We met as freshman in college at Central Michigan University and have pretty much been inseparable since. Eleven years later and he’s still the same caring, charming man. That in itself is a grand enough gift.

What a wonderful, blessed life this is. The hard days still come around, but focusing on the sweet moments is what pushes us through. I always get excited to turn a year older because it’s another opportunity to reflect on all the positives. Yup :)

PS. Maxwell last year at his first Fourth of July celebration, he’s so tiny!