PUTTING THE "MY JOB IS HARDER THAN YOUR JOB" GAME TO REST

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I grew up with two hard-working parents. I didn't have a stay-at-home mom or dad. So, when I grew up I always saw myself working full-time too. I wasn't really sure if I would even become a parent, but sure enough, God blessed me with a daughter and three years later a son.

When Ryan and I were planning on starting a family our hearts became aligned for me to stay at home with Elle, and also work part-time from home. Thank you, Internet! I never felt comfortable completely giving up a job. Maybe it was because my mom had engrained in me to never, ever stop working just in case something happened to Ryan. (Boy, am I sure glad she did that...but I digress...) So, I made a way to do both, but I what I didn't know was that I was setting myself up for failure because I didn't have any clue about boundaries or what to expect.

I had no idea how hard it was to be a stay at home mom. Oh my goodness is it soooooo hard. It's one of the hardest jobs on the planet. HANDS DOWN! And I can say that because I have done it ALL. Worked full-time, stayed at home, and now being a single parent working full-time and parenting alone...Hands down, being a stay at home mom is harder than any desk job, in my opinion. And being a stay at home mom while running a business....Well, my friends, that's working two full-time jobs truthfully. 

The reason why it's harder than a desk job is because you are constantly pouring yourself out without any encouragement from a colleague, zero payment from a boss and hardly any breaks. Heck, I still don't go to the bathroom alone unless I'm at my desk job! When you are home with a baby constantly breastfeeding and changing diapers, while a three year old is repetitively asking for snacks and for you to play...And then you finally get the toddler down and the baby is still awake....Oh my goooshhh...Never ending, exhausting job that is soooo worth it in the long run, but then you have all of the other housework to do and you barely have two hands to do it....I mean, those "I love you, Mommy's" and sticky jelly kisses are worth more than gold, but it doesn't put the fuel back in the tank. While desk jobs can easily affirm you and give you a pep in your step as you cross things off your list, make people happy and can see it on their faces, and get paid.

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I have a lot of friends that are stay-at-home moms looking to work a side gig to bring in some cash and here is what I will tell you so that you can learn from my mistakes:

1. Make sure you know why you are wanting to stay at home, and make sure your partner sees the value too. Maybe even agree together to assign what that numerical value is of being a SAHM. That way it's not EVER looked as FREE and you both see your role as important.

2. Make sure you clearly define your SAHM hours and your team parenting hours. You can't just hand-off your kids for the whole night to your partner when they get home, but you may need that one hour break you would normally get for lunch at your desk job when they get home. (Some days kids don't take naps and there ZERO breaks).

3. Make sure you define the reason why you are keeping a part-time job. Is it really for the money or are you doing it for job security or are you doing it to help your mind sharp. Whatever it is make sure you define the why.

4. If you are going to work from home, set your office hours and stick to them, so that your spouse knows when you are working.

5. Since SAHM's or SAHD's don't get reviews or bonuses, make sure your partner knows when you are feeling unappreciated, discouraged or kicking ass. Have them help you celebrate wins and grieve losses. You might also want to join MOPS or mom clubs to other moms can cheer you on. 

6. Don't ever say you don't work! You are working and providing a lot of value to your family by raising your children. Put it one your resume on LinkedIn. I sure did! It's called the "pregnancy pause." https://www.linkedin.com/in/alexandra-evjen/ Just because I was home with Elle doesn't mean I wasn't learning and gaining skills that can be applied to a team office environment. I learned to nurture, to discipline, to multitask, to be comfortable with looooong hours, etc. 

7. Remember that even though your job is hard it's the most rewarding. I wish I could go back to being with my kids more. It's such a short time in their lives before they go to school, and I wish I got to do that more for Levi. 

Now, full-time working moms...I know you might be mad at me right now for saying this, and that's okay. I'm a full-time working single mom, and this is just my opinion now that I have been able to compare and contrast different seasons and roles. I'd love to hear your thoughts too. Please share!

TIPS FOR SURVIVING: FIRST WEEKS OF SEPARATION

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As I have been sharing about my journey of my sudden separation and divorce, women have come out of the wood work in similar places unsure of what to do. Many of them have written to me in the first days and weeks of their husbands sitting them down and telling them they are leaving. I remember that day all too well, and I remember the days and weeks following were the hardest of my life thus far. I was dealing with shock and trauma, and I had no clue what to do. So, this post is for those women, future women who will find themselves in this spot and for the friends that are walking with them through it. I hope it helps...

It was July 3rd. Our kids happened to sleep over at their grandparents the night before, and we were having a lazy morning just the two of us. I sat down at the kitchen table to make some day plans for our day off, and Ryan sat down across from me. I asked where he wanted to go, and he said he didn't want to go anywhere that day. He then proceeded to tell me had been doing a lot of thinking, and then the words came that he was really unhappy in our marriage. He told me he didn't have fun with me anymore, that he didn't enjoy spending time with me, and that he felt we were incompatible. He felt that we would both be happier and our kids would be happier if we were apart. He told me reconciliation is not an option, and his mind was made up. Of course, I had so many words and I was shocked and confused, especially after recently celebrating our 10 year anniversary. Granted, we had been in marriage counseling for almost three years prior to this moment, but I had been doing very well in my personal counseling.I asked him to help me understand more, and he agreed to go to counseling to help me understand, but again, not to reconcile. 

Those initial couple of days were incredibly difficult. I had to entertain family for 4th of July and pretend everything was okay with a gun shot wound to my heart. I cried so much those days, but I had to be strong for my kids when they were around and not show there was any concern or reason to worry. 

When we got to the counseling office he proceeded to explain again his feelings and decision. The counselor recommended that we meet with a family therapist to help learn what we best for our kids for separation and how to talk to them. We did that a week later. Our counselor also recommended separation at that time since Ryan had already chosen, so he moved in with his parents and I stayed in our home. The kids stayed with me during the week to keep routine, and on the weekends went over to his house so that I could have time to grieve and recoup. There's more to the story, but those are the logistics of what happened in the first couple of weeks.

If you have found your self in this devastating turn of events this is what you need to know. This is traumatic. This is similar to experiencing the sudden death of a family member. The situation is out of your control because the decision is controlled by another, and yet their heart is beating. It is extreme rejection. It is life altering. it is shocking. It is traumatic. Therefore, your body and mind are going to go into survival mode and experience a trauma response. This is how it felt:

- I was numb. I was like a ghost and then I would full on break down when I knew it was safe to let go (no kids around, no people around).
- I started having panic attacks. I started hyperventilating to where I couldn't control my breathing for 5 minutes or so. Scariest shit of my life. I thought I was having a heart-attack and dying. They would come on when I would see Ryan and be in close proximity. 
- My hair started falling out in clumps. (I also have autoimmune disorders and stress aggravates them)
- I couldn't eat. I was physically ill. I started throwing up, and I couldn't eat. I went from 128 to 118 and I'm 5'7". That's waaaaay too thin. 
- I couldn't sleep. I was exhausted from so many sleepless nights. I would fall asleep fine, but I couldn't stay asleep. As soon as 2:30am or 3:30am rolled around I would wake up suddenly. Truthfully, it still happens every night. More about that below...

If you are experiencing these symptoms. You are normal, but here is what I did to combat them.

1. I got a counselor. Part of your panic is that you don't know what to do. They will help you figure out what you need. 
2. Told my best friends and my family. They needed to know to encourage me with phone calls, text messages, to come and sit with me, etc. Don't keep it a secret from close, trustworthy peple that can help you and are for your marriage. Don't share with people that are going to be divisive. 
3. Made an appointment with my primary care doctor. I shared with my doctor what had happened, and she prescribed Zophran for nausea. It helped me have more of an appetite. I also got anti-anxiety meds to use as needed. I actually haven't taken them at all, but it was a comfort to have. I honestly should have taken them when I knew I was going to see Ryan because I would have avoided some serious panic attacks that scared my children. I would also recommend getting an STD test if that's applicable to your situation.
4. Ate liquid foods. Peanut butter, banana and chocolate smoothies were the only thing I could eat. I think I survived on a week of those. 
5. Got childcare. Babysitters and family chipped in to help give me some self-care time and kept the kids having fun. 
6. Went to church - My faith is what sustained and continues to sustain me. It puts my fears at ease and gives me wisdom. 
7. Wrote out my feelings in a journal a LOT. You'll want to text and talk to your spouse, but I would advise only doing that when you are stable to avoid more damage and hurt.
8. Avoid oversharing to kids. Sought out advice from therapists specializing in childhood development. Don't wing talking to your kids. Seek wisdom from professionals that will help your kids adjust the best through this process. Make sure both parents go together. 
9. No need to make lawyer calls right away. Don't panic! Divorce proceedings can't happen without you. Ask for a month of time to catch your breath, sort your emotions and feelings and needs. 
10. Avoid triggers. I only watched happy sitcoms for a long time. The airport was a hard place to be for me because it was a lot of happy couples and families. Avoid places and things that are going to send you into panic. 
11. Exercise. Let your stress out through exercise. It's good for your mind and body. 

More resources to come. Please feel free to email me if you have any questions. alexandra@avestyles.com

Best Moments to Be A Kid

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This post is sponsored by Gymboree.

I think we can all agree that the holidays are some of the best moments to be a kid. Baking Christmas cookies, counting down to Santa's arrival, shaking the boxes under the tree, sipping hot cocoa while looking at Christmas lights...To be a kid during the holidays is extra special, and now that I am a single mom of two I have all of these fears that the best moments will be lack luster. But, I've partnered with Gymboree to keep the holiday sparkle strong this year.

One of our holiday traditions is taking family photos, and I decided that even though our family may be different now, we are still a family and documenting it with a holiday family photos is important. Traditions don't have to stop unless you let them. 

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Gymboree had everything I needed to outfit the kids with style. Elle could not get this snowflake dress on fast enough, and the polar bear ear muffs were her accessory of choice. I always find it's easiest to coordinate family outfits if you start with the girls first and then pick the boys. 

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For Levi, I found an adorable striped shirt, puffer vest, joggers, boots and a snow hat. He looks like he is ready to chop down a Christmas tree for us.

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It was one-stop-shopping at Gymboree, and the great thing is that they carry clothes for all ages up to 12 years old. So, we'll be coming there for years to come to find clothes for family photos. 

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I'm so glad that we had these pics taken. Even though every joyful moment like this will have a bit of sadness attached to it, I know that my children will treasure these moments now and forever. And for that, it's worth it. 

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Be sure to check out Gymboree for adorable clothes for boy and girls and babies. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer

REAL TALK REAL MOMS ON TECHNOLOGY

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Understanding how to use a computer, tablet and smartphone is imperative these days. You could argue it's a form of literacy. When you think about it from that perspective it doesn't sound as crazy to allow your kids to use devices at young ages. Technology is their world, whereas us parents born in the early 80s can remember technology as being just a part of our world. In this installment of the Real Mom Series we are exploring this idea of introducing technology to your kids, how we do it now and how others do it. 


Elle and Levi have an iPad that they share and they play games on. There are also iPhone apps that I keep on my phone for them to play. I don't feel guilty at all about it because to me it's not the fact they use a device that is harmful it's the type of content they consume and how much of it they are consuming. So, put away shame for letting your kids watch T.V. and a movie in one day.

There are definitely age appropriate apps and shows, and I think it's up to us parents to use discretion and to watch the shows with our kids so we can understand what they are consuming. We have all of the usual apps like Amazon, Netflix, Hulu and even Disney Jr. and Nick Jr. Together we decide the show they are going to watch, and I make sure the kids either agree or take turns selecting. I am always in the room when they are watching a T.V. show or something on their iPad so I can monitor it. 

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I think that's the key. Be proactive as a parent in knowing how they are spending their time, what they are spending it on and how they are being affected by it. If you don't like how they are speaking to you after they watch Paw Patrol, then don't let you kids watch it. 

That said, I've seen a lot of buzz about the kids YouTube app going around on parenting blogs, and I agree that it's an app you don't want your young kids interacting with. There's a lot of strange content on there that Elle would get obsessed with such as the unboxing channels. And we ended up deleting it and she returned to her normal self.

What are your feelings on technology and kids? Are you proactive in being involved in what they watch? 

Read other thoughts from real moms: The LIfe Styled, The Effortless Chic, Design for Mankind, The Fresh Exchange, Natalie Borton, Apartment 34

AFTER SCHOOL SNACKS

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Packing lunches has gone to a level that I just can't compete with. From Bento Boxes to making animals out of vegetables, Pinterest has me all kinds of stressed out when I think about what other moms are doing. 

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Me, well, I just stick to simple sandwiches, bananas, and juice. And, you know what, that is totally okay because this simple lunch gives my kids the energy and nutrition they need to be healthy and happy, and I have more time to spend with them. 

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The same thing goes for snacks in our home. Though I would love to make banana sushi or something really creative for them every day, I just can't fit it in right now. But it's not the lunches that your kids remember when they are grown, it's how much you loved them and the time you spent. Moms, you're doing good just by making sure your kids have healthy food to eat. Minute Maid has been doing a great job on shedding light on parents #doinggood and taking the pressure off of themselves. Check out to see what I wrote for their blog this month, click here.

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