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


In my opinion, the idea of "co-parenting" should just be summed up in the word "parenting." I don't understand how the roles of parenthood were ever so divided. Being a parent is such a challenging, life-giving and selfless role that it really takes a team to do it well. I am continuing the Real Mom Series today on the topic of "Co-Parenting" with some other lovely bloggers. I hope you enjoy what I have to share, as well as my peers' stories. 

The Effortless Chic / Sarah Sherman Samuel / A Daily Something / Our Style Stories / The Life Styled / Parker Etc / Sacramento Street / Sugar & Charm / Apartment 34

Ryan and I grew up very differently, but one thing that we had in common was that our moms did most of the day-to-day parenting. My mom worked full-time and his mom stayed at home, but the roles of our dads were simply to work and be a disciplinarian. Our dads didn't do much of the feeding, cooking, laundry, diaper changing, homework, grocery shopping, hair brushing, play date going, etc. We both agreed that we wish we saw more of our dads in the picture, and so we knew if we had children that was going to be something we would be intentional about.

So, when we had Elle I thought everything would fall into place easily, but I quickly learned we had a lot of expectations to sort through. Co-parenting is something that, quite like marriage, requires constant communication. Right now, parenting is the source of most of our fights, but not because we dislike parenting, rather, it's because we want it to feel SO equal that the second we feel like someone is doing more than the other we start becoming resentful and agitated. 

When you first get married you divvy up roles. For example, Ryan does most of our bookkeeping, taking out the trash, dog poop clean up and we'll take turns on the dishes. I do the cooking, laundry, house cleaning and dishes. With parenting, we share roles. We take turns getting up in the middle of the night feeding Levi. If one gets up in the middle of the night for the 3:30am feeding than the other wakes up with the kids at 5:30am. On weekends, when Ryan is home from work, we take turns changing diapers, doing feedings, making meals, etc. But never do we have someone just doing dirty diapers because, duh, that would suck.

What makes the shared responsibilities muddy is the fact that I stay home with the kids and run a side business while he works a 40 hour desk job. I'm obviously changing a lot more diapers, making more meals, and playing mom more than he is, so when he gets home I want to be able to have a moment to myself. It's the kid free hours we fight over most and the sense of entitlement that we both feel to them. One thing that we both agree on is that being home with the kids all day every day is WAY harder than going to a desk job and having adult conversations. Ryan has stayed home with the kids for consecutive days while I was away on business, and he totally agrees.

So, we started daddy-daughter dates to give Elle more quality time with Ryan, and to give me a moment to myself. Another thing that we do is that we both have one night a week that we get to go out with our friends. Every other week we try to have a date night and hire a babysitter. Those three things have helped tremendously with balance. 

I would say the biggest thing that has helped us be better co-parents is a lot of communication. Sometimes we communicate with some yelling, but we have definitely learned it's better to talk than to bottle up any feelings.

Lastly, just realizing that we are in a different place than we were before children, and that we simply can't do whatever we want when we want has helped tremendously. Letting go of that expectation has saved us from many fights. 

We are an open book when it comes to our journey as parents, so feel free to ask more questions if you'd like. 

Photos by Creative Marriages


When I got pregnant everyone was quick to tell me all about what to expect and prepare for in becoming a mom and taking care of a baby. What they did not tell me was how my marriage would change and the bumps that come when you add kids to the mix. Today, I am continuing on in the series, "Real Talk with Real Moms," with other bloggers focusing on the topic of relationships. Be sure to read the other bloggers' experiences on how they have learned to manage relationships in their lives since becoming moms, and you can continue reading below to hear my experience, specifically, with marriage. 

Not to get too personal because one day I know my kids will read this, but my marriage to Ryan got so much harder when Elle came into the world. If I could sum up the source of all of our fights and trouble it would have to do with expectations. I could write a whole book on the importance of managing expectations with hundreds of examples of how I made mistakes in that arena. Our marriage definitely felt like it had taken a backseat to parenthood, especially during the first three months of having a baby. You can't be intimate for six weeks after having a baby, and let's be real here, it's not like the weeks leading up to having a baby I felt sexy either. So, with the dry spell of intimacy, on top of sleepless nights, on top of the stress of figuring out if you are doing things remotely right as a mom, on top of no date nights...Yeah...Our marriage was pretty much a commitment without all of the warm fuzzies. We were in the trenches of being parents. Anyone else been there?

Yeah, that's pretty much a recipe for disaster: a lot of fighting and a lot of resentment...Ryan having the expectations of sleep, of "down time" when he got home, of me feeling back to normal after six weeks...Me having expectations that he would always want to hold the baby after a long day at work, that he wouldn't complain about the sleepless nights, that he would be extra loving and caring of me...

The second time around the reality of challenging circumstances was similar (no sleep, two kids to take care of, no date nights initially, etc.), but because we knew what could happen to our marriage we found ourselves being so much more intentional with our relationship. We didn't plan a ton of date nights to fix things, but we did what we could to show love and for one another. Also, the biggest thing that has helped...marriage counseling. There. I said it. My husband and I have been in counseling for awhile, and it's probably the best thing in the world we could have done for our marriage. We fight better, love better, communicate better...Having someone help us work through old scars, underlying resentment and simply be a mediator that helps you get to the heart of issues and explore areas that we like to ignore has been the healthiest choice I have ever made.

Based on experience and the counsel we have received, here's a couple things that helped and are helping now:

1. When the kids are asleep, carve out 15-30 minutes of one on one time at night without any distractions to ask each other how they are feeling. Don't just ask, "How was your day?" That's an important question, but knowing how someone is feeling is even more important because you will know the emotions driving their tone, behavior, etc. Also, ask, "What are you wanting from me?" Maybe it's just a hug or maybe they are asking for more help around the house, but knowing someone's wants helps with understanding expectations so that resentment doesn't build. You might not always be able to give what the other wants, but you can hopefully come to a compromise.

2. Either ask for help or take things off your plate by saying, "NO." People, we only have so much time in the day, and we have to prioritze what's important. Taking care of myself and my marriage has made me a better mom, but that also means I can't do as much as a friend, daughter or blogger. Since having children we have outsourced a lot more so that my husband and I can see each other more.

  • Hired a house cleaner to deep clean once a month
  • Hired a babysitter to watch the kids three mornings a week
  • Put my daughter in pre-school two mornings a week
  • Hired a pool man
  • Hired an assistant for AVE Styles
  • Said no to some travel
  • Said no to having friends over sometimes
  • Asked family for babysitting during the evenings for date nights

3. Try to make a date night every other week when your baby turns 3 months. We ideally would love a date night every week, but it never has been able to work out that way. So, every other week or so we go out just the two of us. Sometimes it's during the day for lunch and sometimes it's a nice dinner and movie. Just make sure there is some conversation happening and you're not just staring at a movie screen the whole time. If you're a mom of one, take advantage of the newborn stage and go out on dates with the baby sleeping in the carseat next to you. Ryan and I would do this all of the time at restaurants where you could pay ahead so that we could leave at any point.

Check out other bloggers' posts below:
Could I Have That
Apartment 34
Smitten Studio
The Refined Woman
Parker Etc.
A Daily Something
Effortless Chic

Read past posts: Feeding, Sleep, Travel, Childcare

Photos by Gina Meola


I'm so glad that you have been enjoying this series, "Real Talk with Real Moms." These honest conversations need to happen in the blogging community to share the reality of the challenges we face as business owners, moms, wives and friends. Sometimes our perfect pictures can give the impression of a perfect life, and we want to make sure you guys know we are trying to figure out this mom thing just as much as the next person. Today, we're continuing the conversation with childcare and work...

AVE Styles existed before I became a mom, but when Elle came along I knew I needed to put her before my work. Motherhood is a very important job, and I take it very seriously. This is a decision I make every day, especially now that I have Levi as well.

When Elle was under a year old I designated sleeping time as the only time I would work. Occasionally there were times when I would bring her to photo shoots, but when she turned six months old I started shooting only on weekends when Ryan could watch her. There would be an exception here and there, but it was rare. One thing was certain, I was going to do my very best to be present when she was around and give her my undivided attention. 

As she grew and my business grew I ended up having my good friend's mom watch her two full days a week. I made this decision so that I could give my full attention to work, and then my full attention to Elle when I got home. The rest of my week was just us. 

Fast forward to having two kiddos, it's just not that simple anymore. My attention is divided between two kids now and my business has grown even more. Something has to give somewhere and it's not going to be my health, my marriage or my kids. My husband and I both feel that the work I am doing is a needed financial contribution to our family, and without getting too spiritual on ya, that I'm meant to continue this career path for now.

Elle turned 3 this year so she was ready for preschool when Levi was born, and she has been thriving having social interaction with friends. That has left with me one one one time with Levi two mornings a week, which I treasure so much. I was really starting to wonder when we would have that time together.

But with nap times not always synching and evenings needed for my marriage, I'm left without any time for AVE Styles. So, this year we made the choice to have someone help us for 9 hours a week in our home. Three mornings a week for three hour chunks so I can do the work I need to do to keep AVE Styles growing. I also hired an assistant to handle several writing projects and miscellaneous things, so that I can focus on the blog, my Pinterest classes and my clients.

I will tell you that I have never been more efficient with time in my life. I have never been more protective of such a limited resource, and I have never been more thankful that I can continue having my kids home with me for the majority of their weeks.

My advice to any man or woman managing a business from home is to set specific work hours so that you can be fully present with your kids. If your income is needed to continue working outside the home or what you do is rejuvenating to you so that you can be a better parent, I am in full support of you. Just give your kids 100% when you are with them so that they know that they come before your job. Put the computer down and go play because they deserve it. Not everyone is in the same situation and sometimes there are seasons when you are going to have greater workloads, but just don't stay in a place where you can't give your child quality time when you get home from work.

Hear from other bloggers on their decisions to introduce childcare and how they balance their businesses. I love that everyone does life differently with the end goal of being the best person and mother they can be. 

To see past posts in this series, check out my experience with sleep, travel and feeding.

Jen Pinkston, The Effortless Chic
Caitlin Flemming, Sacramento Street
Hilary Walker, Out Style Stories
Rebecca Gallop, A Daily Something
Em Scott, Em the Gem
Sarah Sherman Samuel, Smitten Studio
Samantha Wennerstrom, Could I Have That
Amy Anderson, Parker, etc.
Erin Heimstra, Apartment 34

Photos by Rennai Hoefer and Gina Meola