The Power of a Smile

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Going to the store with four children in tow is not an easy feat for this mother, but sometimes, I do what I have to do. One place we visit on occasion is our local warehouse store, Costco. Before we leave the warehouse, there is an employee stationed near the exit, checking everyone’s purchases and receipt. Believe it or not, this part of our trip is a highlight for my kids. I’m being serious … they will sometimes fight over who gets to hand the receipt to the “checker”. Why all the competition over this seemingly mundane task?

Because they want to be the recipient of the smile.

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Some employee must have been bored one day or just in a good mood, and started drawing happy faces on everyone’s receipts. Well, this simple gesture apparently caught on because almost every receipt checker at our store does this. (I did notice that this only occurs when I’m with my kids, though.) Whether this is a company-wide policy or it only happens at our store, I’m not sure, but it certainly makes my children happy. What is it about a smile?

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To be honest with you, I don’t have a naturally smiley face. My natural, just-walking-down-the-street facial expression may be interpreted as sad, mad, or serious. I sometimes have to work at displaying a more pleasant countenance. But I’ve seen how a smile can, not only turn my day around, but someone else’s as well.

Have you ever smiled at the cashier, who was clearly having a rough day? I used to work in a large movie theater, and when people were late for the show, they were not too happy about waiting around in long lines. The few patrons, who took the time to smile and say “thank you” brought some peace to the chaotic rush of opening weekends.

Compared to my brief career in the movies, my days as a homeschooling mom are more busy than ever. And when I’m busy, I forget to smile. My children are great about reminding me, whether directly or indirectly, by their silliness and funny commentaries.

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Did you know that the Bible talks about the power of a sincere smile?

“A glad heart makes a cheerful face, but by sorrow of heart the spirit is crushed.” (Proverbs 15:13)

“The light of the eyes rejoices the heart, and good news refreshes the bones.” (Proverbs 15:30)

Not to be underestimated, that small movement of our facial muscles can lift up the heaviest of burdens. And when my countenance is fueled by my joy in The Lord, I hope the world will see a smiley face. :-)

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Why I Would Rather Be Home With My Kids Than Go Back to My Corporate Job

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After college, I worked in a major brokerage firm in the big city. I was thankful to have a job, but I didn’t love it. I had always hoped that one day I would get married, have kids, stay home with my little ones, and say goodbye to Corporate America.

So when my husband and I decided I would quit after finding out we were expecting, the countdown began.

At the time, one of my co-workers had just returned from maternity leave. I ran into her at the elevator and excitedly said, “Welcome back! You must miss your baby.” Her reply wasn’t at all what I expected.

“Not really. But I missed the guys here.”

“Oh, ok” was the only reply I could come up with, while I thought about the guys she was referring to … a group of salesmen, occupying two rows on the trading floor of our office. Only a file cabinet separated my desk from their space. All day, they talked, belched, flatulated, yelled, and told crude jokes. I was confused. She missed them??

Well, I guess I had a totally different experience from her. Don’t get me wrong … I did work with some nice people. Nevertheless, when I handed in my resignation, I did not look back. I’m thankful that God gave me the opportunity to stay home. Sure, I have crazy days now, but I would still rather be home with my rambunctious kids than go back to my corporate job. And I’ll tell you why.

My kids are way cuter than my co-workers.

imageThat’s good enough for me, but I’ll give you a few more reasons.

My kids watch their language.

I always had to give my ears a good cleaning after a full day of hearing curse words at the office. My kids, on the other hand, look at me in shock if I accidentally say the word “stupid” in front of them.

My kids’ tantrums are more bearable.

When my child throws a temper tantrum, it’s nothing compared to enduring the irrational yelling from a financial broker, who is cursing at you for requiring him to submit more paperwork that the law mandates. Yes, this happened to me a few times.

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I’m sure you can tell this is staged. They would never team up and give me attitude all at the same time. They know better. :-)

My kids face consequences for bad behavior.

If my kids ever speak to me, even with half the disrespect that the guys at the office displayed, they get sent to their room to face the consequences. Unfortunately, at my former job, as long as you made money for the company, rude behavior can be overlooked.

My kids have better hygiene.

Even the most challenging potty-training days were better than being around grown men passing gas without a care who heard or smelled it.

My kids don’t get drunk after hours.

Sure, my kids will get an occasional sugar high and run around like crazy monkeys, but when they finally crash, I get to soak in the peace and calm of watching them sleep so soundly.
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I have plenty of crazy, pull-my-hair, did-I-even-take-a-shower kind of days, but I would still rather be exactly right here. I don’t know if I’ll get to be a stay-at-home-mom forever, but right now, I want to treasure every moment that I have with my kiddies.

 

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8 Must-Do’s Before Delivering Your Baby

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I really try not to procrastinate, but sometimes life just gets very full, and you have to … well, prioritize. That’s a better way of putting it, right?

Historically, I’ve never delivered earlier than a day or two before my due date, but not all pregnancies are created equal. And I knew I was going to have to step it up if I’m going to be ready before this baby decides to come out.

So, I may not have the baby’s clothes for her first year all neatly organized by months in the closet, but I think I have the most essential things covered. If you are expecting, here are 8 things that you should have done before that eventful trip to Labor and Delivery.

1. Get a Car Seat

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Unless you’re having a home birth, make sure you have a car seat and know how to install and use it. I don’t think hospitals will let you leave unless you have one. By the way, in case you didn’t know, car seats have an expiration date. So if you are having baby #2 or #3 or if you are getting a used car seat, check the date.

2. Set Up the Crib

The baby’s room doesn’t have to look like it came out of the pages of a pottery barn catalog. All you really need is a place for baby to sleep in: a crib, bassinet, or playpen.

3. Get Diapers

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Have some diapers on hand, but don’t stock up too much on the smallest size. Some babies outgrow the newborn size very quickly. And if you’re cute bundle is prone to diaper blow-outs, better go a size up.

4. Arrange Childcare

If you have other children, make sure to arrange for someone to watch them while you’re at the hospital. Your next door neighbor may not be ready for an unexpected knock on their door at 3 am because your water broke.

5. Wash Clothes

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You don’t have to have complete matching outfits washed, ironed, and hung. Some newborn onesies, sleepers, and burp clothes will do. Having them washed and ready means one less chore for you to do after you get home from the hospital … because you will not be thinking about chores for a while.

6. Camera Ready

Maybe it’s time to listen to that “storage is full” message on your phone, and clear some space to document a very important event. Bring your charger or extra batteries. You will not want to forget these moments.

7. Pack Your Bags

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Unless you’re at some luxury hospital, all you’re getting from them are ugly hospital gowns and mesh underwear. Include in your packing list a towel, some toiletries, and stretchy clothes for going home (sorry … you probably can’t fit into those pre-pregnancy jeans yet). Also, don’t forget to pack a going-home outfit for your baby.

8. Paperwork Ready

You would probably rather not spend all afternoon navigating through the automated phone menu of your insurance company. But it’s even worse if you have to do this in your hospital room after giving birth. Get all the insurance details for yourself and the baby squared away beforehand. Bringing the necessary paperwork and phone numbers with you to the hospital can save you some headaches.

If you go into labor earlier than expected, you may not want to be scrambling to get things done in between painful contractions, so don’t procrastinate too long. :-)

What other essential things should expectant moms do before the baby’s arrival?

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Lessons from the ICU

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Mother’s Day is this Sunday. Mothers are a peculiar bunch. They love and adore their children one minute, and then scream at them the next. They gush about the joys of motherhood, but have a growing list of woes since giving birth. They give so much sacrificially, but hope for some kind of recognition in return … especially on Mother’s Day.

There was a time in my life, though, when I thought I would not live to see another Mother’s Day or any other day. My son was almost two years old, and my daughter was 5 months.

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It was like any other day. Towards the evening, I felt feverish, but like most moms, a little fever wasn’t enough to halt all household activities. But as the evening drew to a close, the slight fever turned into nausea. It must be the flu, I thought. I spent most of that night hunched over the toilet, vomiting.

The next morning, I thought I would feel better, but I didn’t even have the strength to pick up my daughter. My husband took the day off from work and promptly brought me to the doctor. What I thought would be a quick visit became a day of being wheeled from one hospital department to the next. My last stop was the ICU, where the doctors inserted an IV line in my neck, and shortly after, I was alone in that dimly lit hospital room. Everything happened so quickly.

What just happened? This was only the flu. When a nurse came in to check on me, I could barely speak, but I mustered up the strength to whisper, “Can I go home now?” The reply was not at all what I expected. “I’m afraid you will be here for a while.”

The doctors discovered that I had a serious staph infection, which entered my blood stream and sent my body into septic shock. My body was pumped with fluids and all sorts of antibiotics. During my hospital stay, I wondered if I would see my family again. My husband brought pictures of my precious babies, but it was not enough to kiss and hug those pictures. I longed to hold them again.

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All my typical complaints about sleep deprivation and endless chores seemed insignificant while I laid down in that cold hospital room.

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By God’s mercy and grace, one of the antibiotics worked, and the symptoms of the infection eventually subsided. However, I came home weak and thinner than when I was first admitted to the hospital. Not exactly the weight loss plan I was hoping for.

That experience seems like such a tiny speck in my life, but as I recall those events from 8 years ago, it’s as if they just happened yesterday. Life, of course, went back to normal. And this mother, who once thought she would never see her children again, has settled back into her frequent frustrations with parenting. But, God mercifully brings me back to that hospital room time and time again and reminds me of the precious lessons He taught me there. I will always remember …

  • That our next breath is not guaranteed to us.

“… you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes.” (James 4:14)

  • That celebrations, like Mother’s Day, are reminders that everyday ought to be spent in continual rejoicing.

“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Philippians 4:4)

  • And, that my children truly are precious gifts from my Lord.

“Behold, children are a heritage from the LORD, the fruit of the womb a reward.” (Psalm 127:3)

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To the Mom of the Child with Special Needs – Part 2

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It was about 5 years ago. I sat in the school’s office with my son, filling out enrollment paperwork. Though I hurried through the process, I wasn’t fast enough to escape an impending meltdown. We weren’t quite done, they told us. He had to take a photo for his school ID card.

What should’ve been a quick point and shoot moment was anything but that. That ID card, with the picture of his tear-stained face, would always remind me that the road ahead will have many obstacles to overcome.

Are you a mother of a child with special needs? Perhaps you can relate well to this story. Maybe you’re just beginning your journey, and you feel paralyzed, afraid to take the next step, not knowing where this road will take you.

In my previous post and in this one, I hope to share some thoughts that will give you courage to press on.

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Stay Two Steps Ahead (+ Two More)

Even if you’re the most spontaneous person on the planet, when you become a mom, you will likely become the person, who instinctively prepares ahead.

But if you have a child with special needs, you need to stay two or more steps ahead. There is no such thing as overpreparation. Not only will you have a Plan B, but Plans C, D, and E as well. Moreover, you will have to include your child in this preparation,  walking him through every step ahead before it happens. Transition from one activity to the next is tough for special needs kids, but it can go more smoothly when you announce what is to come so that he has some time to adjust.

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Seek Support From Others

The path you’re on can be a very lonely one.  It’s so easy to get into the mindset that no one understands, but that thinking just leads to further isolation. But you don’t have to feel alone. I know it can be risky to lay open your heart like that, but God may have prepared that friend to be the one, who will bear this burden with you. And, it doesn’t have to be someone, who has a child with special needs. You can receive great encouragement from those who are willing to listen and be there for you.

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Spend Time Reflecting

When faced with the challenges of caring for your child, a number of thoughts spin around in your head … some thoughts are irrational, some depressing, and some even despairing. “Will I ever have a normal life?” That time needed to reflect is not to multiply more thoughts, like these. But rather, it is to intentionally meditate on the complete opposite.

I have spent a lot of time in earnest prayer and reading the Bible, so that I would see my situation, not through the eyes of a tired, frustrated, and inadequate mom, but through the eyes of a powerful, gracious, and all-sufficient God.

“But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”(2 Corinthians 12:9)

If you missed Part 1 of this post, click here.

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To the Mom of the Child with Special Needs – Part 1

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I never thought I would be on this road, being a mother of a child with special needs. A road is probably not the most accurate description because, often, it feels like a roller coaster. Nonetheless, this path that God has put me on has come with many blessed lessons.

If you are a parent, who has just received the news that your child has and will continue to have some specific, special needs, you may feel as though you’re caught in the rapids, trying to stay afloat, while the raging waters of information from doctors, therapists, specialists, and educators surround you and threaten to engulf you. It doesn’t have to be that way. You don’t have to be in despair.

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Don’t Compare with Others

Ah, the comparison trap! We all do it, whether or not we have a child with special needs. This is especially detrimental for the mom with the special needs kid. “Special needs” implies they are on a completely different page from most kids their age, so comparing is an exercise in futility.

I used to always feel like I needed to get my child “caught up” and felt discouraged at the thought that he will always be “behind”. But caught up to what? Behind in what? Whose standards anyway? Is it in education? Motor skills? Social skills? It was stressful.

Your child’s milestones will be different from his peers and from his own siblings. An unhealthy preoccupation with the progress of others will keep you from focusing on your own child’s development.

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Rejoice in the progress (no matter how small)

Sometimes it may feel like there’s no progress at all. It takes a bit of stepping outside of yourself and seeing your child from another vantage point to notice that there are changes. Perhaps recording them in a journal will help you see them and be intentional about searching for them. Don’t limit yourself to the great leaps and bounds. Progress is often seen in the small baby steps. Remember being overjoyed when your baby took his first steps. That doesn’t have to stop now.

Be Your Child’s Special Friend

Making friends will likely not come easy for your child, especially as he gets older. I have wept over my own child’s lack of friends and wept even more when I noticed he matured enough to notice this too. Party invitations will be rare, and play dates will be a challenge to arrange.

I remember that at his own birthday party, my kid pulled me into one of the rooms away from all the guests, closed the door, and asked if we could play “I Spy” together. As much as I wanted him to be comfortable with everyone else, I was the one he really wanted to be with. I was his special friend.

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In some of my most desperate moments, I remember googling things like “I don’t know what to do about my special needs child” or “feeling alone being a special needs mom”. I know I wasn’t necessarily going to get answers and solutions. In reality, I just didn’t want to feel alone. There are others out there going through this right now. If you know someone who could be encouraged by this, please share this post with them. And even beyond that, be their friend.

(Part 2 of this post will be coming soon.)

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4 Things You Don’t Need to Buy When You’re Expecting

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When we found out we were expecting our fifth child, “shocked” doesn’t quite fully describe our reaction. We had given away most of our infant stuff, preparing to leave the baby years behind. God had other plans for us.

Without a stockpile of baby things in storage, it’s like we’re starting over again. But I hope years of experience have taught us that we can save money by avoiding purchasing things that largely remained unused during the past 4 baby stages that we have gone through.

If you are a new mom-to-be, here are 4 things you really don’t need to spend money on.

1. Maternity Clothes

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I had a lot of stretchy type pre-pregnancy clothes, so I was able to keep wearing them throughout the pregnancy. It’s getting tough, though, during this last month, as my clothing selections have decreased tremendously. I have a couple of nice tops that I can still wear when going out, but honestly, when I’m at home, it’s yoga pants and hubby’s t-shirts. And I’m ok with that.

For pants, I could not have survived without the Bellaband.

This one investment has kept me from buying any maternity jeans. I just hook some ponytail bands through the button of my jeans and use the Bellaband and to cover it all up. [affiliate link]

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If you want maternity wear in your wardrobe, there are ways to get them free or almost free. Thrift stores are a good place to start. If you happen to have a circle of friends, who take turns getting pregnant, maternity clothes can just be rotated. You can also join local groups, like Freecycle. In our community, I always see Freecycle postings of folks giving away maternity and infant clothing.

2. Matching Bedding

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It’s so cute when you see all the different patterns and designs of bedding on display at the store. But, honestly, all you’ll really need are some fitted crib sheets, which you’ll constantly be rotating through the laundry pile because of spit-ups, diaper blowouts, etc. And, that matching crib bumper and quilt will end up in the closet because of the potential suffocation hazard to the baby.

3. Changing Table

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Our changing table has morphed into a toy shelf to a book shelf to a tool storage in the garage. And the only one who got to use it as an actual changing table was my first kid. If you’re limited on space, this is probably a non-essential. 99% of the time, I changed my kids on the floor.

4. Store-bought receiving blankets and hooded towels

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I don’t get those 4-pack receiving blankets sold at places, like Target or Walmart. They’re too small to properly swaddle your baby with. And, the hooded towels are no better. They’re too short, not very absorbent, and just left my baby shivering after a bath.

The blankets and towels that I have kept over the years are of the “made with love” variety. I’m thankful to friends who are gifted with sewing because now, we have blankets and towels that are the perfect fit.

Ok, all you seasoned moms out there, what else can you add to this list?

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

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5 Ways We Can Fail Our Children

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As parents, we will fail … sometimes horribly. But, we don’t have to raise the white flag and surrender ourselves to failure. By identifying some of these wrong patterns, we can start taking steps toward raising our children rightly.

1. Resorting to Anger

Most children can tell by your tone of voice and body language if you are haboring anger towards them. If your child needs correction, but you feel your emotions starting to boil over, go slow. Send your child to the next room, so you can take the time to breathe and compose yourself before approaching them.

2. Avoiding Forgiveness

Sometimes, though, you just mess up and let out your full wrath on them. Been there, done that. But rather than allowing that wall to remain between you and your children, you can begin to knock down those bricks with forgiveness. Though it takes swallowing a huge slice of humble pie, asking your child for forgiveness, not only models for them the right way to resolve conflict, but assures them that the relationship has not been broken.

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3. Letting Them Have Their Way

Let’s face it. Kids are persistent. If they don’t wear you down with their continual requests, you may find yourself just giving in to escape the temper tantrums. But be warned. Children that consistently get their way will face a rude awakening one day when they realize the world does not revolve around them. And, if they don’t learn, at an early age, how to submit to your authority, how can we expect them to heed other authorities in their future?

4. Failing to Follow Through

We can also fail to follow through on consequences to their disobedience. Perhaps we were being lazy, or our words were just threats to get them to outwardly comply, or we just completely forgot. But, if you say that their screaming at the store will be dealt with at home, you need to follow through. We can’t get frustrated when they don’t listen to us if all we give them are empty words.

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5. Encouraging Delayed Obedience

I used to help out in a classroom, where “the count” was implemented to get the kids to quiet down. It’s funny because once you get to #2, you start including fractions (2 1/2, 2 3/4, 2 7/8). Many of us have probably employed this same tactic at home. But, all we’re really accomplishing is training our children that delayed obedience is ok. If my kid is running towards an oncoming car, I’m not going to say, “I’ll give you to the count of 3 to stop.” And though it’s not always a matter of safety, a child needs to learn to obey his parent without delay.

I’m preaching to myself here too because it’s so easy to get into wrong habits of parenting. But don’t grow weary. You will see the fruit of your labor in due time.

“Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it.” (Proverbs 22:6)

 

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Flashbacks: One Year of Blogging Adventures

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I grew up watching popular family sitcoms, like The Cosby Show or Family Ties (yes, I am dating myself). One of my favorite types of episodes are those flashbacks, when the family gathers in the living room and starts reminiscing about the past. As a viewer, you get to travel back in time as well, getting snippets of some of your favorite episodes.

This post is somewhat like those flashback episodes. Since this blog just turned 1 year old, I’m kind of in a reflective mood. So, here’s a look back at some memorable posts of the past.

Top Viewed Post

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There is not even a close second. This post on 6 Ideas for No-Cost Date Nights has been viewed more than any other on this blog. This is largely due to The Penny Hoarder sharing it on their Facebook page … many thanks!

Most Commented Post

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I have not always welcomed my little ones in the kitchen. It was my domain, and though I had envisioned a happy mom and kids baking cookies together, my personality was, at first, much too controlling for that to become a reality. However, I could not squash their eagerness to help, and slowly, I’ve let my guard down and allowed them to participate more in kitchen activities. Now, it’s become one of the ways that we bond together.

The Post that Explains it All

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I participated in a Blog Hop, where bloggers “tagged” each other with the topic Why Do You Write?  I really enjoyed thinking through and explaining my writing process. This post really goes into what makes me tick as a blogger.

My First Post

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There’s probably a total of 2 people that read this post, but it’s really the main theme of this blog. This whole concept of stewardship is what launched me into starting this site in the first place.

Thanks to all of you, who have taken the time to support this endeavor of mine, by reading, sharing, and commenting! Lord willing, there will be more blogging adventures ahead!

 

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Warnings for Bloggers-to-Be

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I made it!

I hit my one-year mark for this blog. It’s not my first blog, but I’m not sure if it counts when my only faithful readers in the past were my parents. Ok, I’m exaggerating. But, this is the first blog, where I’ve really tried to reach an audience (rather than the “journaling” type of blogs that I’ve had before) and where I’ve ventured into a self-hosted site and monetizing this little piece of cyberspace.

A whole year of this brought in a lot of lessons learned. Blogging can be fun, but there are some pitfalls to watch out for. If you’re thinking about starting a blog, I ask you to heed these 2 warnings.

Don’t misuse your time

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Blogging will take a lot of time. I mean, A LOT of time! If you want to go the self-hosted route, you’re going to have to learn all the techie stuff, fiddle with this font or that, try out different layouts, etc. etc.

And once your design is just perfect, you have to actually fill your space with some good and engaging content. That means you can’t just spit out whatever is in your head and hope that others will relate.

The time that you put in doesn’t just pour into your blog itself, but you have to be willing to check out other blogs, comment on their posts, and make some friends.

I think you get the point that blogging can really take over your life … if you let it. But don’t. Manage your time wisely. Schedule in a set time to write or comment on posts, so it doesn’t eat up other priorities in your life. For me, I squeeze in some blogging early in the morning, during the kids’ naptime, or after they go to bed at night. Sometimes it doesn’t happen at all, and that’s ok. Sometimes I have to totally step away from it, taking a week off, a month off, or even more.

It’s ok. The rest of the world will move on.

Don’t put blogging before family

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Because of the obvious danger that blogging can take up all your time, it can have inevitable negative effects on those closest to you, like your family.

And if you have a mommy blog, can you, in good conscience, post about “10 Activities to Plan for Your Kids” after telling your child you can’t play tea with her because you have some important blog writing to do?

Like I said before, try not to blog when your family is needing your attention the most. If possible, perhaps you can work out a schedule with your spouse, where you can have some time to create while he hangs out with the kids.

Even if blogging becomes an income-earning, full-time gig, it’s not worth it if you neglect the most important people in your life.

Kevin DeYoung, author of Crazy Busy, shares his thoughts on how blogging unchecked can have negative effects on our relationships [affiliate link]. “We don’t want to disappoint hundreds or thousands of people we’ve never met, so we work all night and ruin the evening of the few people who depend on us every day.”

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I’d like to know your thoughts.

If you’re a blogger, how do you balance blogging with the rest of your life?

If you’re thinking about starting a blog, what are some of your questions about it? (Maybe it can be a topic for a future post.)

 

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Thank you for your support! I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.” Click here for more information on my disclosure.

 

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