Creating Balance

Having a Busy Life Isn’t the Goal

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

I don’t know the meaning of life necessarily, but I do know that the purpose of life is not to be busy. People brag about how little time they have; they overschedule and overextend themselves to the point where they have no time to breathe. We’re guilty of it, too – of putting so much on the calendar that we can’t squeeze in a simple date or time out with friends.

Our lives seem to get busier and busier as each day passes us by. Between running a household and planning meals for 8, running and growing a business, children and grandchildren, household chores, and more, who has time to just breathe? Having a three-generation family that includes four adults, two teens, and two young children at home and finding ways to balance the needs of the family with the needs of each individual can be exhausting.

There are some days where all we are doing is hanging on for dear life from the minute we wake up until the minute we head back to our bedroom, look at each other, and say, “WTF?!” But we do try to do things to minimize being busy for busy’s sake.

  • We say no. While we make it a rule to say yes to our kids if we have no reason not to, we do say no often.
  • We use the calendar to book time off – whether it’s a night away for Dave and I, a dinner out with friends, or a concert, we get it on the books.
  • We don’t fret in those moments where there is nothing to do. We rejoice. I don’t feel guilty for playing Candy Crush for 20 minutes because it resets my brain from the long, non-stop workday to the evening.
  • We stop and breathe in the moments – moments with our kids and grandkids, moments that we know are so fleeting.
  • We take advantage of every opportunity to travel, play, see concerts, play board games, and spend time with friends.

We aren’t getting it perfect right now – we’re a little overwhelmed with our household structure and the demands it has placed on us, our time, and our finances. But we know this is also fleeting, and that within a year, everything will be different. Louis and Kira will take our grandbabies and move to England, Anika will leave for college. So we grab on to each day and enjoy the ride, seeking balance wherever we can.

Creating Balance Parenting Work at Home

Working at Home Benefited My Kids at Every Age

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Dave and I have been successfully working at home running a business for more than ten years. It was a rough start, but after different corporations had told us both that our choice was a career or our family, the decision was easy: Family comes first, not atrocious bosses. We wanted to teach our children something other than being choosing corporate slavery.

The work-at-home life can be especially appealing to moms with young kids. With little to no maternity leave offered in the US, it can be heart-wrenching to leave babies at day care after only a few short weeks. Not to mention, the cost of day care can make working barely worth the hours put in. Although managing work with young children at home was no easy task, it was well worth saving the cost of day care. Most importantly, by working at home,  I had a lot more time with my kids.

I was there for every pick up and drop-off. I could attend every concert, meeting, and extracurricular event because I made my own hours. I never had to negotiate with a boss about sick time because my kid had the flu (again) or worry about making both the meeting and the doctor’s appointment.

As my kids got older, I was there for them every step of the way. As a business owner, I didn’t have the time to be a “classroom mom” but I had plenty of availability for field trips. I could run my daughter’s gym clothes to her when she forgot them, or I could take a forgotten project to my son just in time for class. I was home after school every day to field the excitement and the tears, the anxieties and the successes.

The flexibility was and still is a major benefit of working from home. Summer vacation means that if I want to work twelve hours one day I can have the next day off completely to go on an impromptu adventure with my family. It means that I can prepare clients that I am taking a four-day weekend, because I can. Work will be done, but I won’t be available. I’m not on call to anyone but myself and my family.

Now that one of my children is heading off to college and the other is a senior, I get to be a part of everything that is important in their transitional stages. I get to take my son to grab his books on a Thursday, and the next week, take him to move in on a Friday. I’ve already scheduled my daughter’s audition for her dream school, along with last minute getaways to make up for what will soon be an empty nest. I also have another grandbaby coming in October (yay!) and no corporation I know offers grand-maternity leave. Regardless, I’ll be taking a few days to support my daughter and spend time with both my grandchildren. No, I don’t get paid vacation, but I do get to take time as I deem appropriate. My work happens on my terms, which means my family always gets to come first.

The work-at-home life is not an easy road to travel. Honestly, we’ve had to bust our butts to get this far, but it has been worth all the times that I’ve been up at 5am fielding emails and working until dinner (or editing a blog in the middle of a sleepless night before sneaking away for one last vacation). The benefits far outweigh the negatives, and I’ve had moments with my children that I would never get in a cubicle.


Creating Balance Self-Improvement Stress Management

Put Stress to Work for You

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Stress gets a bad rap. Stress makes you fat, ruins your skin, is bad for your heart. We all just need to relax.

I admit, there are moments when all I want to do is curl up in a ball and cry (a great stress reliever) or yell at anyone who dares to cross my path (a not-so-nice outlet for stress). Stress can be bad.

But…stress can be good for you if you just learn to use it properly.

Stress is a biological reaction in the body left over from our caveman (and cave woman) days. When the saber tooth tigers were headed right for us, that stress kicked in and helped us put our bodies and minds in high gear to escape danger. Given that the level of speech function we had back then precluded a lot of couch time, fight or flight stress reactions saved lives.

In modern society, stress is ignored or internalized. Our stresses don’t come in the form of saber tooth tigers that cannot be missed but in the form of a list of to-dos that never seem to quit. Instead of reacting with a fight (knocking some things off the list) or flight (learning to say no) reaction, we smoke more, drink more, and pile more stuff to eat – and to do – on our plates.

But stress can still work for us. It is still a dump of adrenaline into our bodies that gives extra energy and sharpens our minds for rapid decision making and processing. We just have to learn how to put stress to work for us in the modern world, and that takes learning how to recognize the modern saber tooth tiger when he’s about to pounce and putting that spurt of energy to good use.

It requires two things: using the stress to motivate you, and then burning off the adrenaline dump with some exercise.

I credit stress with helping me achieve my goals: finishing my undergrad degree in economics at a prestigious university while raising five kids; finishing my master’s degree in English literature while building a business (while raising five kids); five cross-country moves with toddlers and teens in tow each time and still having kids who think I’m an ok mom.

Sure, there are moments when stress feels overwhelming. I mean, I’m on my fifth trip through the teenage years, have a three-generation household, a kid leaving for college, and a toddler in my house who thinks screaming at the top of her lungs is great entertainment. That alone makes me want to curl up in a ball and cry drink a bottle of wine every once in a while. But I have found that by paying better attention to my body, I can funnel the energy that comes from stress into motivation. It’s not easy; in fact, it takes a lot of practice. You still have to be smart and realize that you have to have balance (which means getting up, walking away from the stress, and exercising).

Image via Gratisography, the very best free images on the web, by Ryan McGuire, my favorite photographer on the planet.

Creating Balance Self-Improvement

Seeking Balance

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Balance is elusive.

I often work too hard, then I’m so tired I can’t do anything useful for self-care. It’s the nature of my business – there is always something more that needs done, so I could conceivably work non-stop forever. I want that clean desk, boxes checked, end of the day to happen…and it’s not going to. I have had to teach myself that the work is continuous, and I have to find good places to stop.

But then, when I do have a minute, the demands of others reach out and grab those precious minutes. I don’t mind – in fact, that’s probably the biggest problem: I want to say yes, every time someone needs something from me. I’ve become more adept at saying no to unreasonable client requests, especially once I realized that a client who was paying me a pretty decent retainer fee was reducing me to slave wages with extra demands.

But I’ve hit a point in my life where my constant devotion to my business and to the others in my life is resulting in negative consequences for me. My health is suffering. My stress is too high. My ability to do what I need to do to be healthy is non-existent.

What I’ve decided is that saying yes all the time isn’t good for me, but it isn’t good for them, either. Because if my health deteriorates to the point where I can’t do anything fun with my kids and grandkids, or if my husband is stuck taking care of a sick person just when we’re finally getting to the point where we can enjoy alone time together, well that’s not doing anyone any good at all.

So I’m going to try to find that elusive balance for myself – a balance that doesn’t mean I’m so tired at the end of the day that all I can do is walk from my office to my living room and collapse – a balance that prioritizes me time, my time, and my health. And I think my kids will be cool if occasionally I have to say, “Not right now.”

My new truths:

  • I’m no good to anyone if I can’t take care of my own self
  • Taking care of me makes me better at taking care of others
  • My health is as important as everyone else’s needs
  • Down time – for me to read, meditate, contemplate – is essential
  • The house – and the people in it – won’t fall down around me if I step away to paint and feed my creative soul

I’m a work in progress, and I’m still learning what I need to thrive. I am lucky to be surrounded by people I love, but the thing is, they love me too – and they want me to be here, healthy, and happy more than they want those few minutes of my time that I take to nurture me and restore balance.

Breastfeeding Creating Balance On Motherhood Toddlers

It’s Ok to Have a Breaking Point

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

I have loved breastfeeding my daughter. Breastfeeding her as an infant was a breeze, and it’s come in handy in her current toddler stage. Breastfeeding has also resulted in a co-sleeping relationship that I never anticipated, so I have a few things going on that I didn’t realize would still be happening at this point. I never thought long and hard about a solid date for weaning, or for encouraging Hallie to sleep in her own bed. I won’t even bother calling it sleep training because it goes sort of like this:

*  sleeping Hallie, being laid down gently in her bed.

* Hallie wakes up. Cries. I rock Hallie gently or breastfeed if she asks, and place her gently down again.

* Hallie wakes up. Cries.

* “Oh, so you don’t want to sleep in your bed? Ok, I tried.”

The end.


So, I had never really moved beyond what we have been doing, because it has worked for 20 some months. This was letting Hallie nurse whenever she wanted (because weaning has failed us once already) and letting Hallie sleep wherever she wanted. Until a couple days ago, where something in me snapped. Maybe it was the sleep deprivation from a particularly rough night. Maybe it was the milk blister that reappeared with a vengeance, clogged ducts and all. Doesn’t matter, because I immediately knew that something needed to change.

I’m still relaxed about the whole thing, but now when I used to want to “see how things go”, Hallie has a deadline of her 2nd birthday to be weaned, at least during the day. I would also love to see Hallie sleeping in her bed until at least 3am (let’s not get greedy here), and that I would like to start yesterday. Steps forward must be made, or else I’m going to lose my damn mind.

I was and am feeling a bit touched out. Hallie is by my side almost 24/7, and as much as I’ve loved breastfeeding and co-sleeping, I’m losing the relationship that I have with myself. It’s time to make some changes, and even the smallest ones have large significance.

For example, Hallie has already dropped down to breastfeeding 2-3 times per day, when just last week she was breastfeeding on demand. This could mean every hour if she was particularly bored. Hallie was also waking up 6-8 times in the night to breastfeed, and now that I’m coaxing her into her own bed, she only wakes up every 2 hours. I know that still sounds insane to some parents, but to me, it’s beautiful. It’s just enough to reassure me that there is light at the end of this tunnel.

I don’t need Hallie to be weaned tomorrow, or to be sleeping in her own bed. Hallie will likely be nursing to sleep past her 2nd birthday, and I don’t think she will ever be a child that sleeps through the night. That is all completely ok. At the same time, I’m allowed to change my mind about how I parent. I’m allowed to change my mind about whatever decisions I’ve made. I’m allowed to be selfish, even for just a moment. Hallie doesn’t nurse because she physiologically needs it. She breastfeeds because she’s either hurt, tired, or bored. I can still comfort her when she’s hurt, rock her when she’s tired, and play with her when she’s bored. All without my boobs! Until the other day, I didn’t know that either.

I cried when Louis put her down for nap and she didn’t ask to breastfeed, and it took a lot of mental strength to not barge in and offer my trusty boobs. I had to really remember the nights when she’s doing some fantastic nurse-nastics, stretching my nipples and pinching me because she thinks it’s funny. I had to remember nursing every hour through the night and getting bit in the process, because she was just restless and not actually hungry. I had to remember that I am a person beyond the milky boobs, and that I deserved something more, even from my child.

For Hallie and me, it’s time for some changes. I will cry some more tears, but I’m excited for the independence that we are both learning to appreciate. We’re in this together, and it’s the beginning of something new in our relationship. I can’t wait, and I’m breathing a sigh of relief for my nipples sore from breastfeeding and my back stiff from co-sleeping. I hit my breaking point, and that’s ok. I’m still a good mom, and change isn’t always a bad thing.

Creating Balance Parenting Raising Healthy Kids

Why It’s Important to Ask for Cooperation, Not Obedience

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Raise your hand high if you like being told what to do! As an adult, if someone tells me that I MUST do something, I instantly want to do the complete opposite. Even if there are good intentions, what is our reaction if someone offers unsolicited parenting advice? Uhm, excuse me, but I think I know how to parent my own child, thanks. Most of us don’t like being bossed around, not to mention the special sort that like to completely rebel against it. Not that I would know anything about that…


The same mentality applies to children, yet we expect these tiny human beings that are hardly capable of regulating their own thoughts and emotions to follow orders. Sure, the directions may be simple, but it’s still a command. In their little brains, “I don’t want to” is a perfectly reasonable response. Just because you asked doesn’t make it a requirement. And just because you asked nicely, still means absolutely nothing. This is something I remind my husband of regularly. “But I asked nicely!” And? I still don’t want to sit and watch you play Call of Duty. Sorry, not sorry.

Cooperation is much more effective.

Even at Hallie’s early age, I notice that I’m much more likely to get a response if I ask for cooperation rather than obedience. Whether it is helping to clean up or simply getting dressed, when I ask for her help the response is much more positive. A direct command of “clean that up” is likely to result in me chasing my toddler down the hallway as she giggles hysterically. Like “yeah right, mom.”

Redirection is also a handy tool.

Obedience is most often expected when kids are misbehaving. “Stop that” is still a command, and you’re still likely to get a blank stare. Sure, you can threaten with a timeout, but that’s not a permanent solution. As soon as your back is turned, your darling gremlin will be at it again. Redirection gives you the opportunity to discourage one behavior while positively reinforcing another. You have to replace it with something you’d actually like to see, because guess what? Your kid most likely just wants attention. Wouldn’t you rather be congratulating your child on completing a puzzle together than yelling at them to stop throwing blocks? It’s that simple.

Why is it important?

Cooperation is a better characteristic than obedience. Obedience discourages innovative thinking and independence. If your children are constantly relying on you for direction, you’ll both get tired of that quickly. Cooperation is also something that is transferable. If you’re constantly demanding something of your child, you’ll see that at daycare or school, your child will repeat what they’ve heard. They won’t ask to share a toy, they’ll demand it. But if you ask for cooperation, your child will be more than happy to help clean up or play a game with other children. It teaches give and take, and it also teaches responsibility for one’s actions.

Maybe running your house like a military base could work, but obedience is driven by fear, where cooperation is driven by selflessness. Building a support network rather than a command center encourages healthy development, and shows your kids that you’ll be there when they need you. These are skills that do need to be taught, especially when a young toddler can’t connect that they are being punished for not cleaning their room. Or they are refusing on purpose because getting a rise out of you is funny. Asking for cooperation instead of obedience inspires your child to think for themselves, and in this day and age, I can’t think of anything more important.

Creating Balance Self-Improvement Stress Management

I Suck at Self-Care

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

Self-care is important, especially as a mom. You can’t possibly devote all the necessary energies to your kids if your own tank is measuring empty. As much as I try to repeat this mantra to myself, I must admit that I suck at self-care. I feel guilty leaving for only the briefest of moments, and I can’t even tell you why. Other family members are completely capable of caring for her, and even if she cries as I leave, her eyes are dry as soon as I’m out of sight. So why do I have such a hard time doing something for myself as an individual, and not as a mom?

We all have our struggles.

I struggle daily with PTSD, a souvenir from my time in an abusive relationship. For a couple years I convinced myself that I was doing “well enough” and that things would get better with time. In my circumstances it didn’t, and I now attend therapy weekly to address the trauma I experienced. This is not only critical to myself as a person, but it is vital to my role as a good mother to my daughter and partner to my husband. The levels of stress I was experiencing were wearing on my marriage, and having a newborn did not make things easier. I noticed that on the days that I was tired (which was almost every day), I didn’t have the strength to keep my demons at bay. Addressing my mental health is one of the best things that have done for myself, and I’ll continue to work on recovery.

Unfortunately, as valuable as my therapy sessions are, I wouldn’t count them as a mini-vacation. I know that I still need a hobby of sorts to give myself a break from all my obligations and worries. As much as I would love to be on a beach, sipping cocktails handed to me by beautiful servers, that is not in my near future.

I’m a city girl in a farm world. 

I live in an area where I simply don’t like to do what is available. It is rural farm and wine country, and to some that is haven. To me, rural is so incredibly effing boring. I don’t like to camp, or fish, or hike. No thanks. Of course, there are “fun” wine-and-paint opportunities but no one wants that mess. I’m sure I would be removed from the festivities, since one glass of wine would cause distraction, and anything more would cause disruption. One drink knocks me over, and tequila also may or may not make me bite? But that’s a story for another day.

My realistic idea of self-care would involve exploring parts of a bustling city, new exhibits in a museum, or even a night out downtown when the mood strikes me once or twice a year. Access to adult dance classes that aren’t mediocre, or a gym with childcare that wasn’t a 30-minute drive would be nice. However, I live in the middle of nowhere, so good luck to me and my pickiness of hobbies.

Making the best of it.

So right now, my self-care involves home workouts, most with my daughter present. The gym was a great stress reliever when I was younger, and still is. I love the feeling of a good workout, and although it isn’t a perfect fix, I have already noticed an improvement in how I feel in general. Yes, my daughter is still rolling around, which sort of invalidates what should be “me time”, but that’s ok. I’ve also been reading more, which is a good escape. The point is, I’m trying, and I will continue to try to find an activity that amuses me.

Self-care doesn’t have to be complicated. Sometimes all you need is a hot shower or a long soak in the tub to feel refreshed. I’m tapping into guided meditation to see what that does for me. Other times I put Hallie to sleep and eat a pint of ice cream in one sitting. All I’m saying, is that you find something that soothes the stress of day-to-day motherhood.

Mom-guilt is too real.

As guilty as time for ourselves can feel, it’s better for both you and your family in the long run. Your kids will survive for the short moments you have stepped away, and you’ll be more present in the moments that count. It may not be a perfect situation, or anything close to a beach get-away, but even a few minutes is exactly what you need to keep that mom train going. What do you like to do in your quiet or kid-free moments?

Creating Balance Stress Management

101 Ways to Keep It Simple

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Our family has been trying to simplify our lives. We’ve always tried to focus more on experiences than stuff, but even so, when we went to make our last cross-country move, we could have easily filled two moving trucks. So we started looking at what we were collecting and what we really, really needed to keep. We’re not done yet, but it’s been an insightful process. Here are some ways you can get started.

Get rid of Shoes and Clothes if:

  1. You haven’t worn it in the last 12 months
  2. You haven’t ever worn it but think you might someday
  3. You are keeping it because it might fit again someday
  4. You spent a lot of money on it, and even though you’re never going to wear it, you feel better not getting rid of it
  5. There are stains, holes, rips, tears, snags, etc.
  6. It’s outdated or out of style

 Get rid of books if:

  1. You can get the book digitally
  2. You’ve already read the book
  3. You will never read the book
  4. The book has enough dust on it you can leave a fingerprint
  5. It’s a cookbook and you can look up the recipe online (or, like me, you don’t cook)

Get rid of magazines and cancel subscriptions if:

  1. You haven’t read last month’s issue when this month arrives
  2. You have a stack of magazines you haven’t read
  3. You have boxes of magazines you store “just in case”
  4. You think the magazine will someday be valuable enough to sell
  5. You can get the subscription digitally

Get rid of home décor if:

  1. You don’t remember where you got it
  2. It has no intrinsic value
  3. It has no emotional value
  4. It has enough dust on it you can leave a fingerprint in it
  5. It no longer works with your current home fashion
  6. You don’t like it

Pay down debt by:

  1. Sleeping on it before making big purchases
  2. Paying more than the minimum payment on all credit accounts
  3. Not buying it – you don’t need it anyway
  4. Focusing on a single card to pay off (high interest or high balance), then using the money you save from that payment for the next card
  5. Not buying it if you don’t have the cash to pay for it
  6. Consolidating debt and closing credit cards

Reduce your monthly spending by:

  1. Skipping the morning latte and taking a cup of coffee with you to work
  2. Packing lunch instead of eating out
  3. Skipping the monthly trip to the hair salon and do it yourself
  4. Mani-pedis at home rather than at the salon
  5. Skipping the new outfit you think you need but really don’t; when you do buy, choose classic pieces that will last
  6. Using coupons at the grocery store
  7. Checking for discounts on purchases before checking out (my sister regularly saves 10-15% on purchases at department stores simply by checking her for coupons and sales offers while she’s in line to check out)
  8. Taking advantage of member benefits that give you discounts: AAA, AARP, American Legion, and others all offer travel, insurance, prescription, and other discounts that can save you money
  9. Renegotiating your monthly payments on everything. Our insurance company just tried to raise our rates on our car insurance (we don’t drive to work, put less than 10,000 miles on the car each year) by more than 20%. We called around, found similar coverage for less than we were paying before the increase and switched immediately.

Build savings by:

  1. Taking your extra change at the end of each week and put it in a change bucket in your closet
  2. Taking a set amount per week in cash and putting it in an envelope earmarked for whatever you’re saving for
  3. Paying down debt so that you have more disposable income to tuck away
  4. Maximizing employer-matched retirements
  5. Putting money in a Christmas account so that when the holidays come, you have cash to spend instead of credit
  6. Putting the money aside in a special account (or secret hiding place) every time you resist buying something you might otherwise have purchased.

Learn to embrace frugality by:

  1. Growing your own veggies and herbs
  2. Mowing your lawn with a push mower that doesn’t require gas, oil, or expensive maintenance
  3. Reusing and repurposing rather than throwing out
  4. Repairing rather than replacing
  5. Making do with what you have and being grateful for it
  6. Sharing what you do have with others; trade and barter rather than buy new
  7. Planning errands so that you make less trips and use less fuel

OK, so there’s only 50 here. But I’m still adding to the list. And it WILL keep growing.

I’m inspired daily by Becoming Minimalist. If you’re looking to do more than just save a few dollars every month and really want to begin changing your mindset, start there.



Creating Balance On Motherhood

Things I Don’t Have Time For: Leaving the House Edition

Getting Real with Kira Hazledine

There are parents out there that look completely polished. I am so envious of the moms that look gorgeous with pristine hair and makeup every day. I honestly wish I had the skills, because even when I do put on makeup twice or so per year, I don’t look like the tutorials. But really, even before motherhood, I didn’t put effort into my makeup or hair. I spent all my college years in sweatpants and t-shirts, and motherhood looks about the same.

The difference now, is that I used to have more options in how to use my time. If I wanted to, I could spend 2 hours bouncing around my bathroom listening to music and curling my hair. As a mother, I’m short on time and energy, and my attention is directed towards my busy toddler. I’m tired, and if we are trying to leave the house, I’m more than likely running late. With everything that it takes to get out the door, my list of the many things I don’t have time for gets longer ever day.

Here’s a small sampling of my list:

  1. Shaving my legs – I’m in athletic shorts regularly because, duh, they’re comfortable, but I only noticed the other day how out of hand things had gotten. My best estimate would be about 2 months? Even I was shocked about the length of my leg hairs this time around, and that’s saying something. But when 80% of my showers are occupied by my daughter, shaving is not a thing. I’ve officially hit the point where a razor no longer does the job, so if I really want a clean shave, I’m going to have to enlist the help of my husband’s electric shaver.
  2. Makeup – I married the right man, and I know because even he looks at me weird if I mention makeup. “Why? You never wear makeup, and you look beautiful anyways”. That is the correct answer, you wonderful person. Thank you, because I truly don’t give a crap about makeup and I’d just rather not. That means I have to wash it off later, and showers are already too hard. Toddler, remember?
  3. Brushing my hair – Most of the time, it’s piled on top of my head. Even my hairdresser knows that on my semi-annual visits, it can’t go too short, because then I wouldn’t be able to be so careless. Can you tell if my hair isn’t brushed? Don’t care. My daughter’s hair is brushed, so quiet yourself and be happy for the team effort.
  4. Shirts that make breastfeeding hard – A nip-slip is not on my list of things to do today, so every clothing decision I make revolves around how accessible my boobs are. I have some cute clothes among the t-shirts, but they’ve been collecting dust for a couple years now between pregnancy and breastfeeding. The last thing I have time for is fighting with my outfit while my daughter screams in irritation.
  5. Toddler clothes with buttons – Why. Why do manufacturers do this to parents? Hallie sits still for one button max. Anything more and I’m chasing her or trying to pin her down with my legs, because those buttons take both hands. Buttons for small, mobile children suck. Snaps, please.

Luckily, my natural lazy habits have adjusted very well to motherhood. Today, I left the house in my husband’s sweatpants (he is an entire foot taller than I am, so it sort of looked like it was hammer time) and I have absolutely no regrets. When I’m chasing Hallie, comfort is all I care about. Also, when I do have time for anything on the above list (which is almost never) I get a lot of compliments out of minimal effort. “Wow, your hair looks great”! Thanks, I brushed it. Win.

Could I make time to brush my hair and do makeup? Of course, but I choose to do other things, like lay in bed. There are different kinds of moms, and we all have things we don’t have time for. You don’t have to wander around in sweatpants or put on a full face of makeup, either. Maybe your makeup routine is part of self-care, and that’s awesome! If your child’s well-being is the priority, it doesn’t matter what the rest of your list looks like. You do what makes you happy, and let yourself embrace the messy realities, too.

What’s on your list of things you don’t have time for?


Photo by Lenses and Laughter Photography, Bath NY
Creating Balance Self-Improvement

Overcoming Obstacles and Learning to Love the Present

Getting Real with Shadra Bruce

Would you have ever guessed that life would bring you to the moment that you’re in? Life never turns out as expected, and if it had, I might have been retired on a yacht somewhere in the South Pacific. Instead, I’m working diligently to grow a business, and supporting adult children that I thought would be moved out. I was sure that, at this point, I would only have one of five children in my household, yet three of my children, plus a son-in-law and grandchild, live here too. I’m in no way complaining – I absolutely love my full household, especially the time spent with my granddaughter, but I did imagine a lot more traveling at this point in my life.

I’m sure many of you are in a similar position, whether you planned to retire and instead you’re raising grandkids – or you thought you’d never have kids and you ended up with five. Or maybe you thought you had all your children, but now you’re faced with a positive pregnancy test at age 40. Maybe you’ve been laid off of the job that was supposed to set you and your kids up for life. Everywhere around me, friends are adjusting their expectations, prolonging or changing their work, putting off retirement or redefining what retirement will mean, or even leaving work to care for children (or parents), and reevaluating what they want out of life.

How do you get through these tough moments?

It’s easy to get stuck in a negative spin when things don’t go the way you think they will, but you know what? Every single time my life has gone in an unexpected direction – divorce, move, job loss, client loss – it has turned out so much better than I’d ever imagined. So now, when I feel like things are spinning out of my control, I stop for a moment and simply be grateful. I am here. I am alive. I am fairly healthy. I have a family I love. Tomorrow, anything could happen to take me away from all that I have, but as of right now, this is the life that I have and I am grateful for it. And as long as I have the opportunity of today, there is no obstacle I can’t overcome.

Prioritize what’s important.

Rather than wonder – or regret – what might have been, I choose to focus on the present, be hopeful for the future, and make decisions now that will improve tomorrow. I am a strong advocate of work-life balance, so that I don’t finish my work-day or work-week wishing I had spent more time with my family. The dirty laundry will still be there tomorrow, and so will that detailed report that needs finished. I want to end each day knowing that I prioritized the people and relationships that are important to me.

This isn’t a revolutionary idea, and you’ve likely heard it all before from somewhere else. What I’m asking of you, is what are you doing about it? Are you internalizing the message?

I didn’t come by success and happiness by sheer luck. I chose to put my own self and my family first, to enjoy my life as it is right now, and this is the attitude that has made my business successful and my family content. I acknowledge that obstacles in my path are as much a part of life as anything else, and some things I don’t have any control over. However, by exercising good choices over what I can control in my life is how I overcome whatever adversity comes my way.

Your attitude determines your outcome.

Whether you are trying to build a business, raise a family, or get your kids through college, the right attitude will help lead to success in life. You are capable of reaching any goal, and no matter what you are trying to achieve, you have to be stubborn enough to keep going. Remember, even Thomas Edison failed a thousand times to invent a light bulb, but once he figured it out, his invention transformed the world.

So how do you get on the right path?

First, have a plan, and then accept that not everything will go according to that plan. It’s frustrating, but as a mom, you know better than anyone else how something can change in a moment. Success comes from the passion behind your choices, the flexibility to handle change, and the determination to overcome any obstacle.

I’m not where I thought I would be, but I love where I am.