Finding good childcare has surprisingly been one the biggest challenges in parenting for me. You obviously don't just want to leave your kids with anyone, but finding the right person to trust is hard. It takes risk, investment and time to make it work. The Real Mom series is back as we get into the nitty gritty of what has worked for us and what hasn't with hired help. Be sure to the other real mamas' perspectives: The Effortless Chic; Sacramento Street; The Life Styled; FreutcakeHey Mama Co; A Daily Something; Thoughts by Natalie; The Sweetest Occasion; Sarah Sherman Samuel
We have gone through four babysitters all of whom our kids have adored, fallen in love with and have moved on (with the exception of occasional night or two). I didn't realize how hard it would be to not just find someone amazing, but keep someone amazing. I think the worst part of the whole childcare process has been having to break it to my kids that their babysitter isn't coming back. 

What I have learned is that most qualified sitters or nannies are looking for something full-time. Often they will take the work they can get, but I've never been in a place that I could afford full-time care nor do I want that for this season of motherhood. So, it's understandable that they have needed to move on, but heartbreaking nonetheless.

Thankfully, most of our sitters have been able to babysit for us here and there when we are in need for a date night, but I was still left with a problem of how to find consistent childcare?

Preschool for both kids came sooner than we thought. I didn't plan on putting Levi in school at one years old, especially with his health ups and downs, but I needed to know that someone wasn't going to cancel on me last minute or quit all together for the sake of my job and my sanity. I felt so guilty about it because it wasn't what I had planned, and I had it in my mind that being home was the best thing for my kids. To my surprise, it ended up being the best decision I have ever made. 

Elle is a social butterfly and thrives in a school environment. This was not a surprise to me, and it sure gave me a peace about placing her in school. She needed to be challenged and she needed the socialization. We found a small Christian preschool not too far away that was recommended by kindergarten teachers in our area, and she goes five mornings a week.

For Levi, it was a bit harder to find a school that would take him at 1 years old, but we found another small Christian school up the road that takes such great care of him. Levi doesn't talk very much, but he has started to talk more since being around other kids. One thing that I have particularly noticed is that he is able to sit at a table nicely and eat his food, he puts his toys away when you ask him and he can sit criss cross applesauce on the floor while listening to a story. These are all things that Elle struggled with when we transitioned her to preschool at three years old. I must say that having a one year old with good manners is AMAZING!

I pick them both up at 11:30. We come home and have lunch and nap/quiet time and have the rest of the day together. It's perfect. I have also preferred school because I'm able to work from home instead of a coffee shop. Taking conference calls in your car is annoying to say the least.

If you're a mom like me that feels guilty about putting your kids in daycare, don't be. In many ways it can offer better learning experiences than keeping them home with a sitter. 

I will also say that the BEST babysitter we have EVER had came from a local nanny agency. We told the agency what we were looking for and they prescreened and interviewed candidates for us. They submitted five to us, and the very first one we met, we loved. We were given her driving record, her CPR certification and a resume. We also had a two month trial period. The agency charged us a percentage of her monthly earnings, and that's it. After the trial period was over we were able to work with our nanny on our own terms. Though we couldn't keep her after a couple months due to her needing more hours, it was SUCH a great experience and now she babysits for us for date nights and other things. She has become a part of our family, and the kids see her at least once a week. So, if you are looking for a nanny try an agency and save yourself the hassle of or calling all of your friends for recommendations.

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


Friendships have always equated to family, especially being an only child. It felt like I had so many sisters growing up. We celebrated holidays together, traveled together and shared our lives together. However, since getting married and becoming a mom, the rank friendships once held has diminished, and rightfully so. My husband and my kids come first, but friendships are still a very necessary part of my life. How to balance them, on the other hand, has become tricky. So, in this installment of the Real Mom Series we are talking about how we maintain friendships. Please be sure to read stories from other moms: Apartment 34The Effortless Chic, The Refined Woman, The Sweetest Occassion

When Elle was born I didn't find it very hard to maintain my friendships. They still took a big chunk of my time, and I was happy to give them the time they deserved. Elle was such an easy baby that she went everywhere with me - to shopping dates, to dinners, to work events...So, it was easy to catch up with friends and stay in their lives. However, when Levi came all of that shifted. Two kids is a lot more work, and, consequently, a lot less spare time for friends. It has taken more intentionality on my part to be a good friend. And truthfully, a lot of them have fallen apart because of it because I just couldn't maintain them all in the way that I wanted to. 

I had to grieve that expectation for myself and my friends. I came to a point of realization that I couldn't have as many friends, and that I the friends that I kept close were the few that I could go deep with. I didn't necessarily just drop people or weed them out. Naturally, I just saw the ones that felt easy and natural. So, proximity plays a big roll, as well as initiation on both parts. 

I have about four good friends that I share with regularly through meet ups, texts and phone calls, and that's about it. And the qualities that I love most about these women are: honesty, a desire to be better, grace for mistakes, and a lot of laughter.

We don't travel together or celebrate holidays together, and they surely don't come before my guy or my kids, but we do share our lives together still. It's just through a lot of intentional conversation, and I've realized that's enough. 

Photos by Rennai Hoefer


We all know the quote, "Comparison kills joy," but comparison is often painted in this light that the struggle with it is completely within our control and our own responsibility. Though our thoughts can absolutely be the culprit of comparison, there have been moments when moms have compared me to themselves resulting in passing judgement for our differences. I'm not talking about overt shaming, but rather a covert kind of shame that comes with the best intentions but hurts just as much.

For example, here is a sentence that seems good, but rather, is an act of comparison with a potential to hurt moms. "If I can do it, you can do it." Though that sentence can be meant to encourage someone, the person saying it is comparing the other person to themselves and telling them they can do something when sometimes the truth is that the other person can't do it or doesn't want to. And often what follows after that sentence is uttered is judgement and shame even if they don't say it out loud.

Whatever it is (breastfeeding, sleep training, exercising, working, cooking, childcare, etc.) most moms tackle parenting challenges in the best way they can and it looks different for everyone. I tried SO HARD both times at breastfeeding, and I've been met with, "If I can do it, you can do it; Just keep trying, you will get it. It's best for your baby; I didn't have any problems with it at all, you're probably not doing it right." Yucky, right? Have you been there? Or maybe it's the challenge of sleep deprivation....Have you ever said, "I'm so tired. My baby was up twice last night," only to be met with, "That's nothin'! My baby was up three times last night and hasn't slept through the night for over a year now." This idea of one-upping another mom by how much we can handle or do for our kids and shaming others who complain about their hardships isn't okay.

There are no gold, silver or bronze medals for moms. We're all gold medal winners if we are doing the best that we can to take care of our families. To some, the best means baking everything from scratch, having a home cooked meal on the table every night and homeschooling. That's so awesome! Who wouldn't love those things?! For me, the best means hugs and kisses whenever I can get them, reading a book to the kids before bed, and donuts after dance class. Again, what kid doesn't love that too?

I bottle fed my kids, I let them eat Cheetos, I let them watch television, I have a nanny, I order takeout some nights, I let my daughter wear lipstick, my kids wear hand-me-downs most of the time, sometimes I forget to brush their teeth, I don't DIY anything. These aren't bad things or parenting fails. Where did we get this idea that they were? If you craft stuff, bake stuff, eat only organic and are able to do it all without childcare that's so great! I love that! But at the end of the day, that doesn't make someone a better mom than me or the mom that buys store bought cupcakes and works full-time. Kids aren't necessarily better kids because of that either.

We are doing our jobs as moms when our kids are told they are loved, their needs are met, and they are able to learn and grow with joy. There must be equality within motherhood, and we must stop comparing ourselves. To read more on this topic of comparison from other amazing, real moms be sure to check out the posts below:

A Daily Something; Cloistered Away; Design for Mankind; Parker Etc., The Life Styled; The Refined Woman; Sacramento StreetThe Effortless ChicCould I Have That; Sarah Sherman Samuel; Sugar & Charm

Photos by Sarah Waggoner; kids outfits from Carter's


How do you know you're ready to have kids? I would ask that question of my friends that were moms before I became one, and they would always answer, "You're never ready for it." Now that I am a mom, I would say that's a very true statement. I think you just have to keep an open mind and have open hands to what life may give you. And then, if you have a child, the next question becomes, "When do you know you're ready to have another?" Although, for me, I always knew if I had one I would at least have two if I could help it. Here's why...

You see, I'm an only child, and I hate it. I've always felt this way about it and I still wish I could have siblings. It's lonely being the only kid. There's a lot of pressure with the role too.

These feeling are no surprise to my parents. However, they were very intentional about having only one. They came from big families of four and five kids where there wasn't a lot of money or opportunity to travel and have nice things. My parents, based on their experiences, didn't want that for me. When I would ask why they only had one they would say, "We wanted to give you the world." Their hearts were pure and good. They had a peace that their little family was complete, and that they were making the right choice. 

But, I want to take a moment to shine some light on why I really didn't enjoy being the only child. Everyone seems to think that we are spoiled rotten with toys and attention, however, most only children I know received less attention. Parents can't be playmates all of the time, and siblings often take on that role when you add more kids to the family. So what happens in a family where there's just one? Well, we become "responsible" earlier and we start "adulting" earlier because our friends are our parents. Or, we develop a very good imagination and start occupying ourselves. Either way we become very independent kids, so much so that as adults I often have too full of a plate and don't know how to just play and celebrate like the rest of the world.

I wish I had siblings to talk to about handling my parents or to share grief when loss comes. I wish my kids had aunts and uncles to love on them from my side. Only children often marry people with siblings and then have to learn how to become siblings half way through their life. It's really HARD. Not to mention, expectations of friendships are higher for only children because we look at our friends like family. Whereas our friends don't really see us like that because they have their own brother and sisters. It may be the only choice for many families or the financially responsible choice for families, but this is what I would say if you're thinking about only having one...

Be ready to play and spend even more time with your kids than the average parent. Also, live near family where cousins and grandparents can keep your kiddo company and give attention to them. Make sure they have a lot of friends to play with, and even invite a friend along on trips. 

And as for our family, the question just became, "When should we have another child?" For us that just happened to be exactly three years after Elle was born. I really love the age gap (not too far and not too close). I think the key question to whether or not you should have children or have more children is, "Is my family complete?" I promise that in your heart and your spouse's heart you'll know the answer. Our family is complete at two kids, and knowing that in my heart makes me savor everything even more.

To learn about other experiences and perspectives on this question of having more kids, check out these other stellar mamas' blog posts as part the "Real Mom Series."

The Refined Woman / The Effortless Chic / Apartment 34 / The Life Styled / Parker Etc / Sarah Sherman Samuel / Sugar and Charm / Could I Have That / Sacramento Street



Every month I have a real conversation about different aspects of motherhood along with some other mamas in the blog-o-sphere as part of "The Real Mom Series." This month we're talking about education, and since we're in all different phases of motherhood you'll get to hear from many perspectives. Be sure to visit the other blogs to read more:

The Refined Woman, Design for Mankind, The Effortless Chic, Cloistered Away, Sarah Sherman Samuel

This topic of education is timely because Elle just finished her first year of preschool, and we are reassessing where she should attend next year. It's times like these where I wish I majored in family studies, psychology or education so that I know what is the "best" and "right" way to educate children. I wouldn't say we made a mistake this past year, but I would say we didn't really make the best choice for Elle and here's why...

I chose our past preschool based on recommendations from moms and educators in the area. You would think that's a surefire way to know if a school is good, but you know what I have found to be a better way to choose a school for your child? Your maternal instincts. Something told me that she just wasn't enjoying herself and she always came home tired and quiet. I thought it was because she just wasn't used to four hours of a classroom environment. 

In my gut I was 100% sold on her preschool, but I just kept telling myself, "But, it's the best in the area. Everyone says so." Well, this summer she has been attending a summer preschool program at a different school, and she has been coming home so rejuvenated and happy. It's an even longer day that her other school and she goes daily. I was preparing myself for a super tired three year old, but I was wrong. So, that got me to thinking, maybe her other preschool isn't really the best even though everyone says so. But, that really begs the question, how do I know what is best? Here's my two cents from a mom that is still figuring it out.

Well, I think the first step is to assess your child's personality.

Elle is an extroverted leader, and I think some teachers would classify her as a strong willed child because she argues everything to death (just like her mama). I love that about her, but it makes things challenging for a teacher. If  Elle can't see the personal benefit of something she simply won't do it. In fact, if you start any sentence with a command she will just rebel against it to try and assert power. It's just who she is and how she was made. All that to say, how schools handle behavioral issues is a very important aspect to how we need to pick a school. I felt like her past preschool constantly was telling her "no" and "don't" and "timeout." I also didn't feel that they embraced that part of her personality and tried to channel it in a positive way. So, we need to find a place that approaches correction with positive affirmation of good behavior. For example, "Good choice, Mary. Thank you for sitting on your square. Good choice, Ben..." and so on until the person not making a good choice realizes that they can receive the positive affirmation they are looking for by sitting down. Because Elle is extroverted, more time to play with friends is also a factor. Here past school only offered three hour mornings three days a week for her age, but there are other schools that offer daily school with longer days. 

The next step would be to tour the school and see if you have a good feeling about it.

Sometimes you just need to trust your intuition. You can read about a school on paper and it sounds fabulous, but until you tour it and talk with the teachers you won't know if it's a good fit or not. I've toured about five different preschools, and I definitely had better feelings about some schools than others. I would look at whether the school was clean, if it was safe, if it was organized, if the student/teacher ratio was good, etc. We also have a serious nut allergy in our home, so how they handle food at school is a bit of a factor. I also would ask about the teacher/student ratio. Children learn better in smaller class sizes because they can have more time with the teacher. It's just the truth, so if you can find a place that has a good student/teacher ratio then you're on the right track for success.

The next would be to see if the communication between the school and the parents is frequent and friendly. 

Anytime a teacher seems bothered to talk to a parent there should be a red flag. Parents and teachers have to work together to make learning enjoyable. Sometimes when Elle's teacher would ask me to work on something with her I felt at a loss as to how to do that. I really wish they could have given me some examples of how to work on fine motor skills. Instead, I just went to Pinterest to look up idea in hopes that those ideas would work. I also wanted to know more about what they were going to learn in the coming months so that I could reinforce those ideas at home.

There's no surefire way to find the right school. Sometimes you just have to try it and see. I thought I would screw Elle up by taking her out of school and putting her into a different one. I also thought I was a bad mom for making her go to school in the summer for longer days. You know what? Your kids may surprise you, and trusting your gut works better than you think!