Mama Needs Podcast - Episode 003: Sarah Williams
Jenn: Hi, and welcome to the Mama Needs podcast. My name is Jenn, and I am so happy that you are with me today. This podcast is just for you, Mama, because you matter. Each week I’ll be talking with another Mama. As most conversations with women go, we’ll cover a multitude of topics, but mainly we’ll share stories of motherhood, all the ups and downs, lessons learned, and how these Mamas practice self-care. So take a seat, fold your laundry, drink your coffee, do your dishes – I know you’re multitasking – and listen in. This podcast is sponsored by the Mama Needs Subscription Box. It’s a monthly subscription box to remind you to take time for what you need: a little bit of self-care. I’ll be curatng each box that includes 4-6 items: gifts for you, self-care tools and ideas each month for how to practice self-care. Even better, the box is themed each month and a surprise. Go check it out at mamaneedsbox.com.
Jenn: Hey Mamas! Welcome to the third episode of the Mama Needs podcast. I’m so glad you’re here with me today. This episode I am talking with my friend Sarah Williams. She’s been a friend of mine since around 2010, I think, and we talk about that in the episode a little bit. Now we live in different states and we just have continued to stay friends on social media, which is a wonderful tool for friendship. When I asked her to come on the show, she was super excited. She has always wanted to be on a podcast and I’ve always wanted to host a podcast. I know that you are going to love this so much. If you are in a place where you can write things down, then I would suggest getting out a journal and a pen because she drops some serious wisdom in this podcast episode. She is just so full of life, and she has five kids, so she has so much material to take from. Her life is just so interesting to hear – her kids, how she became a Mom, some of the stories she shared about her perspective on motherhood – that I know are going to resonate with so many of us. Anyway, she is awesome! I know you’ll love my conversation with my friend, Sarah. Hey, Sarah! Thanks so much for being on the Mama Needs podcast!
Sarah: I’m so excited to be here. Thanks for having me!
Jenn: I wanted to start out by you telling us who you are, where you live, a little bit about your family, and what you guys do.
Sarah: Okay. I have five children ages 12, 11, 8, 6, and a surprise 1-year-old. We live in southwest Missouri, which is where I actually grew up. We had kind of bumped around, living in a few different states. A few years ago it just felt like it was time to live near family so we moved back to my hometown about two years ago to be near my family and just to have a little more help with our kids. My husband is in sales, and I stay home with my kids and home school. I also work part-time from home. That is a short snapshot of our family.
Jenn: Awesome! I love that! I guess we can talk about how we met. We both lived in south Florida at one time. I’m from there; you are not, but you were living down there. I actually remember the first time meeting you, I think, at a Moe’s Restaurant. Is that correct?
Sarah: Yes! I thought that’s what it was too. Yes.
Jenn: Oh good. I’m glad we’re on the same page. Yes, I know that we had a mutual friend, Mallika, and at that time you only had four children. Is that right?
Sarah: I think I had three. We had just moved to south Florida when I met you, and we had three and then ended up having our fourth down there. Then when we moved to Missouri, we had our fifth. So I actually had children in three different states.
Jenn: Wow! That’s so interesting!
Sarah: We’ve had a busy decade!
Jenn: Yes, you have. That was really fun! I’m glad that we were able to meet. So tell us how you became a Mama.
Sarah: Well, I became a Mom because I didn’t know how babies worked. It’s not actually a joke. I had been married a few months and whatever I was taking to prevent babies. We were given the advice to wait three to five years after we got married to have kids to get to know each other, and I thought that was great advice. So whatever I was taking – I can’t remember – was making me sick so I decided to stop taking it without really thinking through it. I got pregnant immediately, so I became a Mom much quicker than I anticipated. Obviously, I know how it works; I’m not that stupid. I just didn’t know timing and all of that. So, I actually became a Mom – our first son was born exactly a year after we got married. Well, a couple days after our first anniversary. It was quite a whirlwind of a situation because my husband and I actually had never even lived in the same state. While dating, we never lived in the same state. We lived in the same state at some point, but we got married, I moved to where he was, which was in Kansas City, and then I got pregnant a few months later. It was very quick.
Jenn: Obviously, becoming pregnant and having a baby was obviously a shock to you as it is to many moms, I think. I know it was for me. What kind of feelings did you feel? Obviously, when you found out you were pregnant it was pretty surprising, but then as the nine months went along how were you feeling, and then when he was born how did that feel?
Sarah: When I first became pregnant, I was actually super excited even though it was shocking. It was really a welcome surprise, and even though I thought I wanted to wait a few years, I was excited. I knew I’d have some time to prepare for it. Besides, most of my life I had wanted to be a mom, so it wasn’t like it interrupted some big career for me or anything like that. It was actually what I really had wanted to be since I was a young girl. So I was super excited. I was really, really sick, so that took a little bit of the excitement away, just kind of feeling miserable the whole time. At the same time I just loved it. I read as much as I could, finding out how to be a Mom, what to do and the logistics, and different things like that. Preparing for it was like the greatest. I often joke I was the best Mom ever before I actually became one. I was ready. I had read everything I could. At that time, being that it was around but not as expensive as it is today, there was enough to be where I could be in a little New Mom’s group and stuff like that. I was really looking forward to it. Well, when I had my son, I was so overwhelmed. It was so much harder that I thought it was going to be like. I felt I always wanted to do this. Most things in life at that point had come pretty easy and I thought this was going to be easy and it won’t be much work, but holy cow! I was humbled very quickly. Not only humbled, I was floundering. I didn’t know what to do. Nothing that I had read in the book was working or making sense. Because I was pretty young (I think I just turned 24), I didn’t have a ton of friends with kids at that point. It was a shock to my system, to say the least. The first couple of weeks or months were quite rocky, to be honest. I was trying my best but was so nervous. It was really hard. I was deflated pretty quickly.
Jenn: I can totally relate to that because I think we all are experts on motherhood until it actually happens. Then, your kids don’t follow the rules of the book or whatever you read to prepare, and then they are actually people with feelings and desires.
Sarah: Yes, and then those 18 hours they said that babies sleep – I didn’t realize that was in 15-minute increments. It was like, 18 hours – wow! I can do that. Then wait...
Jenn: It was always funny to me when they said, “Sleep when your baby sleeps,” but that’s only for 15 minutes! What am I going to do? That’s not long enough for me.
Sarah: Yes! O my gosh, and I was such a sleeper before that, too. Plus the fact that I was nervous about having kids. How am I going to do this? I don’t know when to sleep. It was quite the wake up call from two years before when I had been in college and didn’t schedule a class before 11 a.m. because I was so tired. Sleeping in 15-minute increments – it was quite crazy!
Jenn: Did you live near family at that time?
Sarah: We did not. My husband and I lived in Kansas City at the time, and the closest family was about three hours away, which is great for a short little weekend trip, but certainly not for when I need help. At that point I was pretty new to the area still, and because we were newlyweds, all I wanted to do was spend time with my husband. I didn’t really even try to make friends, so when I had my baby, I had a few friends but I didn’t have the support network that I had come to find out is super important to having a baby. Seeing how we weren’t near family and I didn’t even have a lot of friends, it was pretty lonely those first couple of months until I eventually was able to make some friends, grow my network, and things like that.
Jenn: Yes, I think so many people can relate to that because especially if motherhood wasn’t exactly what you thought it was going to be, it can be very isolating and lonely. I did have family near me when I first had babies, but when I had my third baby, Jack, we had moved states, so I was all alone. You know, I obviously had my husband and my two other kids, but we were still very new and it was hard. I can totally go there.
Sarah: That’s a change, that’s for sure!
Jenn: Yes, it really is – a lot of change all at once. So along those lines, how would you say – you eventually had more kids back-to-back until your fifth surprise – how would you say that you have cultivated friendship while you have been a mama?
Sarah: The way I cultivated friendship was actually from examples I saw when I first became a mom. I had a neighbor in Kansas City, and her name is Allison. She is still one of my very dearest friends. She was the first person to reach out to me when I had my child. She brought me a meal. She brought me dinner over, introduced herself, and she told me, “Hey, I have a Mom’s group. If you want to join it, we would love to have you.” I was a little nervous at first because I honestly had never met anyone so nice who reached out to me just to be nice. I knew that I needed something so I joined her Mom’s group that turned out to be hugely important in my life. The biggest thing I learned from her and from being in that group, just around more seasoned moms who had been doing it a little bit longer, was the importance of just inviting people into your everyday life. It’s not waiting for some big moment or some big event. Even like a girls’ night when you can all align childcare – whether with your husband or your mom or someone to help you. Just do it every day. So, those first few years of having kids she would invite me to her house. We probably spent three days a week together. She was my neighbor, so I’d just go to her house for a couple of hours. At that time I wasn’t really great at inviting people to my own home because I was still new at it and was a little insecure about how to do that, how to provide snacks. I didn’t know these things, but she taught me the value in just inviting people into the everyday. So I really tried to do that. Once I became the more seasoned mom, inviting a new mom over, not worrying about if the baby’s stuff is everywhere or if the toddler draws on the wall or anything like that. Just invite them – and to initiate. The biggest thing I can say is if you sit around and wait for people to invite you – I was very fortunate that somebody did invite me, but I since have moved a few more times and that’s not always the case. I found that that is rarely the case. The advice I could give is to initiate friendships – even when it’s uncomfortable, even when you’re putting yourself out there. I’ve very rarely initiated where it’s gone poorly. Most of the time I feel like especially in today’s age we’re all a little bit starved for community and everyone is looking for friendships, from what I’ve experienced. So, anytime you can be someone who is brave enough to initiate, it really does help friendships for us because I think we’re all nervous, thinking “Oh, everyone else has friends and I’m the only one who doesn’t.” I would say that most every mom I talk to feels lonely. Even if it seems like they have several friends, sometimes they’re not seeing them as often as they’d like or something like that, so cultivating friendships for me in this season of life is just a lot of initiating and not being bitter or frustrated when people don’t initiate with me but just taking the initiative to do it. It has always paid off. There has hardly been a time where – I can’t even think of a time when it hasn’t paid off – when I checked with someone, “Hey, let’s get together for a short coffee date or having them over or maybe for dinner or for whatever.”
Jenn: Yes, I love that! I can speak to that too because living in a new place, you’re absolutely right. People are super nice and genuine. However, it takes a lot for someone to initiate, especially if they already have a group of friends and you are a new person. I spent a lot of time when we first moved to the town we’re in now in North Carolina, just trying to initiate friendships, going to coffee inviting people over, and things like that. It was hard, I will tell you. But, like you said, it has always paid off and some of my greatest friends here are those I initiated with. They have told me how much it meant to them that I actually tried to reach out. Not that they didn’t want to; it was just that either they were insecure or they didn’t even think about it or just didn’t have time. I love that piece of advice. When you were pregnant and/or just having babies, I know that we get a lot of unsolicited advice. Even if you just read something in a book where you realized that was actually not helpful, or someone told you something at your baby shower, or your great aunt gave you some advice that you didn’t ask for, what was some of the best and worst advice that you got?
Sarah: We’ll start with the bad. The worst advice that I got and continue to get is to enjoy every moment from well-meaning adults. I will tell you this: Because of the ages of my kids, I was almost out of the little years when I kind of re-entered the little years, and so it has given me a little bit of perspective. Now that I have a one-year-old again, I had kind of forgotten how hard one-year-olds are. So, when I think about my twelve-year-old as a one-year-old, all I can remember is “Oh my gosh! He was so cute! I enjoyed him. I loved him so much! But now that I have a one-year-old again, “Holy cow! This is exhausting!” He is the cutest thing in the entire world, but exhausting. So, the whole premise of enjoy every moment – I get the heart behind it because it does go fast – but only when it’s going fast. It doesn’t go fast when you’re a new mom for the first couple of years. It does do that, but at that point it’s not really fast. I used to be so frustrated because I feel like the only time people would say that was when I was in Target with a screaming toddler. A sweet little woman would say, “Enjoy every moment! It goes so fast!” I’m like, “I’m being humiliated in Target right now. I’m not enjoying this.” Gettng puked on in the middle of the night or trying to potty train. Whatever it is, there’s so many moments I don’t enjoy, but I feel like there’s this undue pressure. It’s kind of the same thing like “You only have 900 Saturdays before your kids go to college. Enjoy them all!” It’s like “Oh my gosh! That’s so much pressure!” That’s floating around Facebook. So that’s the worst advice. The best advice I heard was probably about a decade ago. I heard a man speak, and I cannot remember who he was. I really wish I could because I have come to this and told it to so many people, unsolicited probably. He was a man who would go into businesses and help them. He was talking to moms about how to handle your household as a business and have some of the same principles. One thing he said was to determine the five things that your family is going to do well, that you’re going to care about. These five things carry over from who you are as human beings. Then make all your decisions based on those five things. The reason is because it makes most decisions easy. Then you don’t have to judge other families whose five things that are different. To give you an example, one of my five things is that I really value family togetherness, doing things as a family. So, one of the things we have opted not to do as a family is to get involved in traveling sports. Because with the size of our family, we can’t just really afford to take all seven of us to soccer tournaments every weekend – you know with hotels and food and things like that. So we’ve opted not to do traveling sports, but not because they’re not important. Just because we value family togetherness as one of our core values. But my brother and his family do traveling soccer, and it makes so much sense for their family. He has two kids. They fit perfectly in a hotel room, and they love it so much. They value being really involved in their community. Both are equally great. There’s not that one is better or worse than the other. He and his wife value community involvement. She is a great philanthropist. She is really good at raising money for things. It’s really cool because I can look at them and see that is so great that they can do that with their family and not feel bad about myself because I don’t do that with my family, or not feel elite because I decided, “Oh, we’re not going to do that.” Either way, either of us feeling better than someone or feeling worse than someone – neither of those are good. So, basically when my kids were little, I just identified the things that were going to be most important to us and live by those mostly, and most of it comes pretty naturally. One thing we value is laughter. My husband is really funny and our kids are funny, so that’s something that has naturally come because of who we are. Of course, I had a friend tell me one time, “Well, I’m really glad that your family is about that, but we’re too serious for that.” That’s true because she doesn’t do that the same. Anyway, I love that advice because it really has helped me to be more secure in the decisions I’ve made and less judgmental of decisions other people make, if that makes sense.
Jenn: Yes, I love that. That makes so much sense. I feel like we do have those values, but they’re not defined like that. I hadn’t thought about actually writing them down. I feel the same way that you do like we don’t do traveling sports because there are too many of us and it is just a value that we have. I don’t think that another family doing it is doing it wrong. It works for them and I think that’s awesome. Such good advice! I love that very much! So now what we’re going to talk about – the best and the worst moments of motherhood. Now, you mentioned some tantrums in Target, and I have also had tantrums in Target. What were some of the best and worst moments? I mean, you are still in the trenches because you have a one-year-old. So, by no means are you done with best and worst moments, but so far what would you say?
Sarah: Mine are less about specific examples and more about an overall feeling. The worst part of motherhood for me is the feeling of “Am I doing this well enough?” I try to not put a lot of pressure on myself. I try not to be too critical, but my natural self is being a little bit critical of myself – not of other people. So many nights I feel like I get to the end of the day and I feel like man, I just rehearse the things I did poorly or that I’m not doing well enough. I really don’t want to live that way, but that has been the hardest part for me – never feeling like “Man, I’m just killing this!” If I have a day like “Wow! I just rocked it today,” it goes south tomorrow. Having that feeling of – I don’t want to say I don’t ever feel good enough because that’s not true, but just the overall feeling of ... I think maybe our generaJon struggles with this more than others in the past have. It’s that feeling of “you’re never enough”, “you’re never going to do this well enough.” So, that’s the worst part for me – that nagging like are you ever doing this well enough.
Jenn: Do you think social media has a lot to do with that?
Sarah: Oh, 100%! I definitely do, and I love social media so much that I’m not going to dog it. There are parts I don’t like, of course, but I’m never going to be one of those people who get off social media because I don’t think that. I do think social media has made it harder, and I also think the way we live more isolated lives makes it harder. When you see someone else going through something, you think, “Oh my gosh! That’s me too!” But if you’re feeling more isolated or people aren’t getting together as much as they used to. I know my Mom would talk about her past growing up. Her mom’s friends would come over every day and they would chit-chat and catch up on life. I think when you are with people together often, you can see that we’re all human and that we all make mistakes and have fallen short somewhere in doing something really well. I do think social media is being a primary source of relationships a lot of days, especially for stay-at-home moms. Part of that is par for the course – we can’t get out every day. We can’t have people over every day. I do think social media feeds a lot into that – just that feeling of everyone’s doing it well because we don’t necessarily put the worst moments out there. The thing I’ve learned about social media is you don’t really want to put the worst moments out there because people who put really ugly moments are kind of like “Eew – you know.”
Jenn: I love when you post on social media about something that your kids have done or said, or whatever, because it is less than perfect. Not only does it make you seem real, but it’s also relatable. “Look at her – she has five kids and it looks like she has an amazing marriage, but things are not picture- perfect all of the time.” Even though we can go on Facebook or Instagram or whatever and feel really bad about ourselves and how we aren’t measuring up like you said. We can also go on there and just laugh and relate to other moms who have the same kind of struggles as we do. I love that! I think you do that really well.
Sarah: Well thanks. I do try to be real on social media. I’m not very good at not being real. My kids give me just so much opportunity to be completely humbled and just trying to be authentic in who I am as a person and on social media, and I do actually love the community I’ve created and the friends like you that I’ve gotten closer with, having a live version of ourselves. What’s so funny about that is I actually had someone unfriend me, I found out through the grapevine, because she was mad that I had the bravery to be so real. I was like the bravery to be real? That was so weird. I just learned you can’t really win on social media because I really do try to be real on social media and I try to show the harder part. I will admit that as my kids are getting older – and I’ve heard this from other moms – it is harder to show the harder parts because my kids aren’t on social media but they’re getting older and they don’t want their stuff out there as much. I’m trying to find the happy medium with that right now. I do really work hard to show the honest parts of life because I do find that you connect deeper with people who are more real. The other thing about working with social media is (1) you can always un-follow people. If there are people who constantly make me second-guess myself or make me feel bad, I just don’t follow them. It’s not personal. I just can’t handle it at that moment. TEASER: The last year or so I’ve really tried to curate my feed to what brings me joy and not just all the ways I don’t measure up against other people for them.
Jenn: So you basically Marie Kondo’d your Facebook feed.
Sarah: You know what? That’s one of my gift in life - decluttering.
Jenn: I love it!
Sara: I tidied up my Facebook feed, my Instagram feed, and it really does bring me a lot of joy. It’s not like I un-follow people I disagree with. That’s not actually the case. I just un-follow people who don’t spark joy in my life. That’s great! I love Marie Kondo. It applies every area of life.
Jenn: Yes, I love it! Hey guys, I just want to take a quick break to talk about the sponsor of this show, and that is the Mama Needs Subscription Box. This box is a self-care subscription box for Mamas. It is especially curated just for you by me, and it’s a monthly box. Each month has a different theme. Some examples of themes are “Mama Needs Peace,” “Mama Needs a Fresh Start,” “Mama Needs Chocolate,” and I think those can resonate with most Mamas. Each month is a surprise. You do know the theme, but you don’t know the items in the box. In each box there will be four to six items – kind of like tools to help you practice self-care and some gifts just for you. If you struggle with putting yourself on your to-do list like so many of us do, I just encourage you to go and check out Mamaneedsbox.com and consider subscribing for yourself or for a friend or your sister or your Mom because we all need self-care. After we pour and pour out all day long to our family, we need to be filled up. One way that we can do that is just to take care of ourselves – just basic needs and just little things to spoil us. That’s what this box is all about, and I hope that you’ll go check it out. Once again, it’s at Mamaneedsbox.com. ... Well, what about a best moment of mamahood so far?
Sarah: The best part about being a Mom to me is finally seeing the fruit of things I started when my kids were little. My older two are getting older now and having decent conversations, and I can see the things that I invested in them when they were younger finally coming to fruition. One example of that is each night before my kids go to bed, I lie with them at night. That is not something I think everybody should do by any means. I am a night person, so I’m at my best self at night. Each night I lie with my kids, and that’s also my way with a big family of making sure I have a few moments – at least a few moments – with each kid during the day. You know, with a large number of kids sometimes you go through a whole day and ask “Oh my gosh – have I even had a conversation with all of them?” So, laying with each of my kids at night is just my way of ensuring even if it’s just that ten minutes at night, at least I have that. Of course, I try to do more than that, but that’s the least. When they’re little it’s mostly like telling silly stories or talking to them about the day they were born or things like that. Now that my kids are getting older, I find that the tables have turned. They’re the ones who are doing the talking and that’s when they’re sharing the most intimate parts of their day, giving me a little glimpse of who they’re becoming. Sometimes I may go a few nights without lying with them and one of them may talk about something that happened to them a week ago, so it’s not necessarily that day. I don’t do it every day – especially having a one-year-old and I’m a little bit older, so I’m tired. But I do strive to do it. That has been the best part to me – like the things I worried about when they were little, I’ve seen that they’re becoming really awesome people. It’s not that they don’t do things that make me mad or frustrate me because tweens are very hard.
Jenn: Oh, yes.
Sarah: But at the same time I can finally see that it is actually working. The things I’ve said to them over and over – it’s actually working. That’s been really great and rewarding to see that everything I’ve invested and given to them is actually taking root even though it has taken a long time to see that.
Jenn: Yes, and that’s so encouraging to moms who have little ones at home – toddlers, preschoolers, and they constantly are saying the same thing every day, all day long. Just like we have done and are doing. Gosh, yes! That’s so encouraging! Thanks for sharing that! Okay, what has been your funniest Mama story? I’m really excited to hear this one.
Sarah: I feel like my family offers constant comedy. My kids are so funny! Probably the thing that stands out as the funniest to me is a few years ago I wrote this little E-book about my experience as a Mom. I wanted to get a picture of my kids and I was going to put it as the cover, but I decided not to. But at that time that was kind of what I was going to do for the cover. I took 200 pictures of my kids to see all different things and my youngest child was about two years old. The entire time I was taking their pictures, I was trying to get him to stay in the picture, bribe him, so I wasn’t really paying attention to the other three. So, later that night I’m going through my pictures to pick out which one was my favorite. I had this giant computer monitor, so the pictures are blown up and I’m scrolling across. All of a sudden, I come across one and my four-year-old is flipping me off, giving the middle finger. The funny part is he didn’t even know what that was. I’m like a Christian home-school family. Flipping off is not part of our everyday vernacular of our family. It’s not like we’re driving around, flipping people off. Granted, we did live in south Florida at the time and people do that a lot there.
Jenn: Yes, they do.
Sarah: But he didn’t know what he was doing, which I think almost made it funnier because it was so dramatic. The irony was I was writing this parenting book with my four-year-old who was flipping me off when that’s not at all who we are. I probably sat and laughed for an hour, and that picture still brings me so much joy, and what’s funny is my oldest son is one of those kids who is a real follower, kind of a “straight-and-narrow” type kid. Every time that picture pops up on Facebook or someone will be talking about it (because it has become an infamous picture with my friends), my oldest son is appalled by it. I love birth order and I love how different kids act in different scenarios, so to see the one who is appalled by it and then my middle son who didn’t know what he was doing but now has gotten a little bit older, it’s pretty on-brand for him. It’s not a picture I can just lay in my house for obvious reasons, but I just love it so much. That’s probably my funniest, that’s kind of lasted through the years. I really do, going back to core values, try to look at kids through a funny lens. Having that perspective, especially when they are young, I try to encourage young moms with is most things the babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are doing are not habits that they are going to do when they’re twelve. Whether it’s they can’t potty train or poop on themselves in public, or whatever it is, if you can look at it through a humorous lens, it really does make motherhood so much lighter because anytime I get too serious and take their behavior too seriously is when I start to get bogged down by being a Mom. If you can take a step back and look at it in a light-hearted way, I have found that to be the secret of success in being a Mom. It’s just not taking them quite so seriously because up until this point I don’t have teenagers, and there’s no behavior that they’re doing that is serious. When behavior is serious, it should be taken seriously. Most toddler behavior is not anything that translates into big kids. None of my big kids scream at me in Target any more.
Jenn: Oh my gosh, I am so excited that you shared that story! Joel has not seen that picture nor heard that story and he’s trying to be so quiet, he’s dying over here! I remember that very vividly, and actually when I sent you these questions ahead of time, I really hoped she’d tell the story about her son flipping her off.
Sarah: Well, that may be my 15 minutes of fame because I was interviewed on a radio show or something and there was this gorilla that was flipping off people in the zoo or something and I went, “Oh my gosh!” It was one of those moments where as a mom you do the best you can. Your kids get to decide who they’re going to be. Oh yes, he was four and he didn’t really know what he was doing, but if you see the picture it looks like he definitely knows.
Jenn: Oh my gosh! Well, I’m going to have to post some show notes and post that picture because it’s too much a classic to not do it.
Sarah: If you can think of it with the lens of like I was writing a parenting book, that’s what makes it even funnier. Wow! When I was trying to have that moment and have a successful moment as a Mom, it just told me “No, the kids are just going to keep humbling you!”
Jenn: Oh, absolutely! That’s so great! I love it so much! Moving on, how have you practiced self-care in your different seasons of motherhood, or maybe share how you haven’t? What has that looked like for you over the years.
Sarah: As I look back, my oldest is almost 13, so in 13 years of being a mom, self-care has definitely looked different in different seasons. I think it’s really important for people to remember – I know when I was a new mom I was never going to get a break from my kids again because my kids didn’t take bottles very well, we didn’t have family in town, and different things like that. So, it really is a seasonal thing. There are seasons when I do it really well, seasons I don’t do it as well. Before my last baby was born, I finally was in preDy good stride with it. During that time what I would do is on Fridays when my kids would finish school, I would let them play unlimited electronics unJl my husband got home from work. It was a couple of hours, and that’s the only electronics that we allowed them to play during that season of life. They just got it all done at once because my kids are bonkers about electronics, so I like to get it all over in one period. My kids were a little bit older at that point in life and I would actually go into my bedroom and sit in my room and do whatever I want. If it was watch three hours of TV, I would watch three hours of TV. If it was painting my nails or whatever it was, I always knew I’d have that few hours on Friday to myself. Once again, I had a love-hate relationship with electronics, but I do try to use them to my advantage. I used their electronic time when I knew they would be glued to an I-Pad to take some self- care. Since we’ve moved to Missouri, my life has been a lot more hectic and I haven’t really found a good balance because of various life circumstances. But, the one thing I have tried to do, which you actually do on social media (which I love!) is I try to do a self-care Saturday night. At this point in my life I focus more on my body because I’m aging and things like that. I try to take a hot shower and deep-condition my hair, do a face mask, floss my teeth, paint my toenails – just different things that make me feel good. Appearance obviously isn’t everything, but those things make me feel rejuvenated. Then I get in bed and watch TV or something. I don’t necessarily, at this season in my life, have as much time and I think that has to do with having a baby, once again. When you have a baby it’s just a hard season. You have to take [self-care] when you can get it. All seasons of life the way I’ve managed self-care is not to apologize for my basic needs needing to be met. Sometimes moms say, “I never have time for lunch.” I sit down and eat lunch every day, and that’s a small thing, but it’s taking the time to just sit. It also shows your kids, “Okay, I have to eat lunch too!” I try to do little self-care things. My kids always get in a bad mood if I’m trying to do something for myself. Even when I sit down for lunch my older kids sometimes ask, “Can I have a glass of water” or “Can I do this or that.” “Once I’m done, once I’m done.” Those little moments of self-care are really valuable. I know when I only had little kids, one of the things I would do for self-care was strap them in their car seats and drive to a Starbucks that was 25 minutes away. Not the one closest to me, but the one furthest away. Get a drink and just sit. At that time I didn’t know podcasts, but if I was in that stage now I would listen to a podcast or watch something on Netflix while my kids were in their car seats because they might be screaming, they may hate the car, but they were strapped in and I wasn’t being touched. I have always struggled with being over-touched as a mom. Touch is my least love language. I hate being touched! That’s a self-care that’s not working any more because my kids are older. They’re not in car seats except my youngest, but man, when I had toddlers that was the #1 go-to. I think it’s really about thinking what really works for the season you’re in and not being bitter about the season you’re not in. The day will come when you’re not nursing a child or when your child doesn’t have separation anxiety or things like that. Just look at the season you’re in and look at what you can do and not be a martyr on the altar of never getting to take a shower, never getting to finish a meal or something like that. I’m not saying I’m crazy about trying to eat lunch every day, but it’s just one of those little things that – I don’t want to eat my kids’ left-over chicken nuggets.
Sarah: So, I’ve tried to prioritize little decisions because one thing I’m learning is little decisions really do add up. It doesn’t have to be this big, grand thing to be taking care of yourself.
Jenn: Yes. Oh my gosh, preach it, girl! I think simple is best. Also, being a new mom with one child is so hard. When you have your second, and third, and so on (if you have more), you know what’s coming. You can see the end. With your first, you’re like “Oh my gosh, this is never going to end. I can’t wait until they can walk and do this and do that.” Then when you have subsequent children, you think this is really just a season, there is a light at the end of the tunnel and I will get to take long showers again. I will get to talk on the phone with my friends – you know, things like that. I won’t have to heat up my coffee five times. I love that, and definitely you’re preaching to the choir because I feel like simple is best. You know, we don’t think about the very basic needs. I love that you just condition your hair, floss your teeth, and do a face mask. I think that’s so important. Even as little as making your doctor’s appointment that you’re supposed to go to. Those don’t seem important at the time when you have a million kids and they need you. You know, everything is happening all at once, but they are important. I think that’s great to consider what season you’re in and adapt to that. It really does help once you have more kids.
Sarah: The perspective I try to keep is I’m modeling to my daughters “being a mom,” and I’m modeling to my sons “being a mom” for when they’re married one day. I’m trying to think to myself would I want my daughter to work herself to death and never take time for herself and always feel stressed out and burned out? The answer is no! I would never ask my daughter to do that, but yet I’ll do that to myself. Why would I do that? I don’t know what it is that we think burning ourselves out is a great decision, not that we do that. Believe me, I can burn myself out so much. I’m not super great at taking time for myself, but when I look at it through that perspective, it really does help me to think this is the best for them, and when I take the time to care for myself and to care for my own needs and to value who I am before I was a mom, and I am a mom, I feel so much better and my I appear so much better. That’s the funny thing to me is why do I let myself get burned out because when I don’t let myself get burned out, I’m much better as a mom. It is the truth. I really need to keep that perspective even though I’m not great at it all of the time.
Jenn: Yes, for sure. If you are filling yourself up consistently, you’re just going to be a better mom. It’s just a fact. It’s hard to remember that, but it’s true. Now, just switching gears a little bit more, and we’re going to wrap it up. What is something that you found that’s your best Mama hack? What have you figured out that has made your life a lot easier that you would feel like sharing with us?
Sarah: The first one is with natural peanut butter, if you flip it upside down when you buy it, when you go to open it, it has actually stirs itself and you don’t have to stir it. That’s a really small one that has made a huge difference because we eat a lot of peanut butter. I posted that on social media a few months ago and it was like “Oh my gosh! What?!” Since then people tried it, and so that’s a really small hack. The other hack – it’s only taken me 13 years – I finally figured out a chore system that works for me and doesn’t overwhelm my kids and doesn’t make me overwhelmed with our house. It’s like a three-step system. What it is, is basically my baby can’t help at all. My six-year-old is kind of on the fence with what he can and can’t do. He was our first baby, so we kind of babied him a little too much. My oldest three are very capable. What we’ll do is rather than say, “Guys, go clean up” or “Get this room clean,” I’ll assign a task to each of them. In our main living area, it’s dishes, toys, or trash. So, one of them will say, “You get dishes. You get toys. You get trash.” For my six-year-old I’ll tell him something very specific like “pick up the shoes and put them in the bin.” We can get the room clean so quickly. Then, when I go to their bedroom it’s kind of the same. My daughters have their own, so they have to do it all. My boys share a room so it’ll be like “Make your bed, pick up the toys, and put the laundry away.” Having those really small tasks has made it so we have a really good system when we’re cleaning up the house. It’s not overwhelming. It’s not like one of those extensive chore charts. It doesn’t involve any sort of stickers. I cannot do a chore system to save my life.
Jenn: Oh my gosh! Me neither!
Sarah: So, when we do it together and we do it very specifically, it’ll change for each room – in the kitchen, then we move to the living room. Whoever is doing trash is a different kid, and I don’t even have a system where I do it. I say, “You do it, you do it, you do it. It’s not really fair. We don’t rotate it. Just whatever I’m thinking at that moment. It seems to work. It’s only taken me 13 years but I finally found a chore system that works for my family.
Jenn: Well, I may be stealing that because we have yet to really find a good chore system as well. It’s funny because your six-year-old sounds a lot like my seven-year-old to where he just can’t handle directions. He needs you to be extremely specific and repetitive. It’s hard for him.
Sarah: I know it is funny, and different kids are different. It is funny because it has to be very specific. His comes with a lot of I can’t do it. Whenever they’re complaining, I’m like “You’re strong and capable. You can do hard things.” Also, I joke with them “You’re the ones who make the mess, you’re the ones that get to clean up the mess.” Every once in a while my daughter calls me Miss Hannigan sometimes. I do enjoy a tidy house, so I do make them tidy it up because we’re home a lot and we do live in our house. I like tidy spaces. I’m not crazy with it, but I do like a tidy space. Every once in a while they don’t agree with my level of tidiness, there will be “Okay, Miss Hannigan!” It’s not like they’re singing ...
Jenn: “It’s a hard knock life…”
Sarah: Yes, that’s what they’re singing. They’re not singing how much they love being part of the family. They’re all complaining the entire time.
Jenn: That’s so refreshing!
Sarah: You know, that’s funny because I’ve had aspirations that when I say something, my kids are going to just do it without complaining. That’s my dream, but it’s not. They literally complain every day. I say “Every we do the same chores and every day you complain like you’ve never done them before.”
Jenn: Oh, my goodness.
Sarah: Yes, there’s a lot of complaining but it gets done, and that’s all I really care about.
Jenn: Exactly! That’s so good! I love it! Well, this is our last question and you’ve already touched on it. I just wondered if you had another nugget to share, but if you were coming into contact with a brand new mom – you know, you’re going to a baby shower or something – what would the one piece of advice be that you would give her?
Sarah: This is the advice that I wish I’d heard early on that I really do try to tell every mom, which is “You are the best mom for your child. God hand-picked you to be the mom for your child. You don’t have to do it like other moms are doing it.” There are so many choices you can make, especially with new babies and even childbirth and things like that. You get to decide what you’re going to do with your kid. You are in charge of them. That has been so freeing to me to be like “You know what? I get to do what I want to do with my own children.” Also, especially with little babies, just do whatever works – even if you never thought you would do it – just do whatever works. For some that could be sleeping in the crib or bed feeding or bottle feeding. Whatever it is, do what works for you, what works for your baby. I feel most of the stress we bring upon ourselves is trying to do what we think we should do versus what we want to do or simply what works. All kids are different and maybe what you do with one child you’ll never do with another child, and that’s okay. You can change, but you can also be the Mom you want to be and not apologize for that. Whether it’s stuff you do really well or stuff you don’t do well at all. One thing I do just terribly is I’m not good with food. I’m not good at making vegetables. I’m not good at making a well-balanced, nutritious dinner. Half the time “I don’t know if there’s food in the pantry. Find it!” It’s just not a strength of mine, and I really wish I was better at it. I really wish I could drink green smoothies for breakfast, but I’m just not good at that. That’s one thing that it’s really easy to beat myself up about. You get to be the Mom you want to be and you don’t have to apologize to other people because, as you talked about earlier, unsolicited advice that you receive – you’re going to hear it from everybody. It’s like you get pregnant and all of a sudden it’s a free pass for everyone to tell you what they wish they would have done or what they did well. The thing is, just be gracious – “Oh thanks your advice. I appreciate that” and not feel like “Oh, I have to do that.” That, to me, has been the benefit of having so many kids because early on I did not do that well. I really tried to do what everyone else wanted me to do. I remember a funny story: I remember feeling a lot of pressure that I had to potty train my oldest son. He had just turned two.”
Jenn: Oh my word!
Sarah: I have to get him potty trained because people are pressuring me to. “Why is he still in diapers?!” For whatever reason, the people in my life really thought he needed to be potty trained. I was killing myself crying. I finally wound up calling a friend who had six kids and said “potty training is not going well. How do you do it?” I was all in tears. She asked, “Do you want my best advice?” I said, “Yes!” She goes, “Stop! You obviously aren’t ready and he’s obviously not ready. Why are you doing this?” “Because they said I need to!” “Who is ‘they’? It’s your child.” Ever since then, that was a defining moment. I was like “Wait! I do get to do what I want to do.” It’s not a selfish thing; it’s just I get to do what works for my kids and if that’s potty training the week before their third birthday, that’s what I’m going to do even if everyone says they should be potty trained before. That’s a small example, but you get to be the Mom and you don’t have to apologize for it or do it any differently.
Jenn: Yes, that’s so, so good. You know, I think potty training is pretty much the worst part of motherhood.
Sarah: The worst! It is the worst! I think I’ve referenced it five times.
Jenn: Yes, it’s so awful! ! I think it’s great when other moms are like “It’s so easy for me!” I think that’s wonderful for you, but at the same time I’m like “Be quiet!” Oh my gosh!
Sarah: It’s funny because no time in motherhood has come easy for me. I’ve had kids that were easier to potty train, but definitely that has been – yes, potty training is absolutely the worst. It is hard when others do it easily. I agree with you that when moms say “Oh, my kid potty trained himself at 18 months,” I’m like okay.
Jenn: Just don’t share it! Just don’t share it!
Sarah: Yes, yes. Mental note: We’ll probably never be friends.
Jenn: Well, Sarah, I so appreciate you taking this time to talk to me. I know that you are obviously a busy Mama because you have five little ones that require your attention and a hubby that’s taking one for the team right now. I really appreciate that! You are so full of wisdom. Everything you said, I’m just over here nodding my head and it’s about to fall off because everything you’re saying is so true and so real and so, so good. It’s making me feel a lot of freedom and I know for sure, beyond a shadow of a doubt, it’s going to make so many other moms feel so much freedom just in the decisions that they make, just the way they approach motherhood. I just love your take on it. I also wanted to say to everyone listening: Sarah mentioned that she wrote a little E-book a few years ago. She put it on Amazon. I was one of the ones who downloaded it and read it. I think I read it when I was breastfeeding my youngest son each night because you’re just sitting there forever, it feels like. I would just get my Kindle out and read while I was breastfeeding and I literally laughed out loud so many times! I had to stop myself because I didn’t want to wake up my baby. I just want to say it’s so good. It’s called Cupcakes on a Tuesday by Sarah Williams. If you want to go find it, you can. I also wanted to give a little heads-up that it will be included as a digital download in one of the boxes coming up for a Mama Needs Box, so everyone who subscribes will get a free online copy of it. It is so good! Thank you for doing that!
Sarah: Thank you so much for your kind words. I’d like to thank you for the work that you’re doing. I’ve also admired your creativity and your ability to make things and dream of things and see the needs of other people and meet those needs. I love your Mama Needs box and the different things you’re doing on social media that allow moms to feel seen and heard and remind them of what’s important. Each of your different focuses in focusing on what we need as moms is such a gift to all of us because it is so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day of motherhood that being able to see, “Man, I do need something” and your box provides that. It’s just so wonderful what you’re doing for moms and loving moms well. Thank you so much because I know for me, you are the kindest, sweetest person I think I know.
Jenn: Oh my goodness!
Sarah: I just love your perspective. Every time you post something or have Instagram stories, I love it so much because you have so much peace and bring so much peace and joy to people. Thank you so much for all that you do, for your box, and for your creative pursuit.
Jenn: Thank you Sarah! You’re so kind! I appreciate that. Oh my word! That was just like a fire hydrant. I feel like I don’t know where to begin. All of that was so good, wasn’t it?! Just from her perspective on life and the lessons that she has learned and the advice that she gave. I hope that you took notes. I’m just so grateful that I know her and that she’s my friend. I really hope that you enjoyed that. Thanks again, Sarah, for coming on.
That will do it for episode three of this podcast. I have my fourth guest all lined up. Her name is Holly Mackle. She wrote an amazing book, a hilarious book called Same Here, Sister Friend! She is going to be on the show next week, so I hope that you’ll check it out. Until then, You Matter, Mama!