Workouts for Busy Moms

There’s no denying it; life has a way of getting in the way of your fitness goals. With a baby at home, a full-time job, and a social life, it can be hard to fit in a workout between drop-offs and feedings. When you’re juggling the rigors of parenting with a full-time job, the last thing you want to worry about is the time you spend at the gym. 

Even though you love to exercise, taking the time to work out can end up being an afterthought. Before you know it, a few extra pounds are piling up, and you’ve wasted your time on the treadmill when you had so much to do. How can you work out while parenting? We’ve got some workout ideas that work for busy moms.


This is a high burn streamline workout to get you going. It takes a significant focus on the cardiovascular system and improving your overall aerobic ability. The main objectives around the exercise are tailored to beginners. Given 30 second reps and 2-minute rest breaks, it should take about 15 minutes to complete. This time is for absolute beginners but can be done faster as one progresses. The leading muscle group targeted is the thighs and glutes. To get going, you need an arms-length of space around you. 


Morning glory is a full-body workout that is suitable for beginners. It is, by nature, a high burn streamline exercise that targets most of the muscles on your body. Especially the larger ones. This is great to get going in the morning. It brings to life the cardiovascular system and awakens the lungs. If you are a beginner, this should take you a maximum of 25 minutes to complete, given 2-minute rest periods between workouts. If you cannot make it to the gym, this is the perfect alternative for home. This is because only a tiny workout space is required. 

Perfect Storm

This workout has its focus on mobility. Issues like coordination and balance are well dealt with in this high burn streamline workout. It has a meager difficulty rating and is quite perfect for beginners. It is excellent for the morning because it will give you better facial and core fitness. The workout also engages your cardiovascular system as well as improves your aerobic performance. It targets the main muscles required for movement. This includes your quads, glutes, and abs. For those in a rush, it should take you no more than 10 minutes to finish. 


This is an exciting and fast workout to get your legs ready for the day ahead. Moms often do a lot of walking, which is an excellent way to keep those legs toned and ready. It has been designed for beginners, so there is no need to worry if you have not worked it out in a while. It will help to get some rhythm back into your heart by activating your cardiovascular system. If you can spare it, this 15 minutes a day will help you get back into your workout flow.

Show Time

This is a workout that will get you looking fit and ready for the day. It has a low difficulty rating and will help you improve your overall posture. It will get some air in your lungs and help you improve your aerobic performance. The main muscles that are targeted in this scenario are the thighs and core. These muscles are vital to the body being able to carry itself easily. That is why this is an excellent workout for moms who are always on their feet. It is a prolonged and soothing exercise that will take you about 15 minutes to finish. 


This workout has been designed to help release any tension that your body may be feeling after a tough week. We all have days like that, and this workout has been designed to stretch the whole body. It will activate your inner strength and provide you with some natural revitalization. It is excellent to help improve your breathing. It will also help you to be more conscious and mindful throughout the day. This can be quite a necessary morning workout, given the everyday stresses of the day. To get started, you only need a yoga mat’s worth of space and 10 minutes. 

Time of my life

This is a very motivational and positive workout that should not take you longer than 15 minutes to complete. It is a very inspiring high burn streamline exercise that gets the brain to reward movement. It will get your heart pumping and clean out your lungs from last night’s air. It targets the sections of your body that trigger neural centers in your mind. This should have you feeling fresher and awake throughout the rest of the day. You will get a maximum rest time of 2 minutes, making it easier to go through as a beginner. 

Full Counter

This is an excellent and steady option for mothers looking for a nice way to improve their self-defense skills at home. It is a full-body exercise that focuses on movement and creating a sharp mind. It combines a host of high-quality combat moves that any beginner can try. This will help you feel more secure and self-confident in everything you do for the day. The main muscles targeted in this scenario would be the front and back of the thighs. Twenty-five minutes is the maximum time you would need to get this done. 

I love squats.

Are you looking for an option to activate your cardiovascular system and improve your lower body strength? This workout can be your go-to. This is for moms who have a bit of a fitness background and want to step it up again. It will test you, but you can expect better balance and coordination in a brief period. You will mainly be focusing on your tone and your strength. A high-intensity workout should be done in about 15 minutes with 2-minute rest time in between sets. 

Arm Lift

This is a great workout to get some tone going in your upper body. It is suitable for beginners and will help work out your triceps and biceps. It is effortless to forget to work on your upper body, which will help you develop some control and do things. It should not take you more than 15 minutes to do and is one of the more straightforward exercises for your body to adapt to over time. Within a brief period, you should see rapid improvements and results. 

Princess Workout

This is a super fun, high-intensity workout recommended for moms who have a bit of experience in their bag. It should electrify your cardiovascular system and get your blood pumping with oxygen-intensive activity. It targets a wide selection of large muscle groups and is an excellent exercise for those days when you want to get into it. This exercise takes about 20 minutes to complete if you are taking two-minute rest breaks. To achieve this all, you need a little bit of space and a determined mindset.

Gifts for Busy Moms | Recommendations Your Mother Will Love

Being a mother is hard, but it is even harder when you have a full-time job, a newborn, and many other responsibilities. If you have a busy schedule, you may find you don’t have as much time as you want to spend with your children. If you need a gift for a busy mom, we recommend our list of gifts for busy moms.


Women Chaos Coordinator T-shirt

This is a fun and charming T-shirt that will benefit a busy mom who needs to get dressed and out the door quickly. Made from a combination of very soft cotton, this is a casual T-shirt with a versatile host of functions. Mom can wear it out for casual sports or combine it with skinny jeans when going to the store. It has a simple maintenance regime which makes it perfect for everyday use.

Joy cuff Inspirational Bracelets for Women

This is a nice, simple, and affordable piece of jewelry that you can get to make your mom’s day special. It is fully adjustable, meaning one size will fit all moms. It has been polished and is shiny, making it stand out nicely. It has an inspirational and positive message on the inside. This should help your mother feel appreciated and uplifted.

The Little Things

Shower Bombs w/Organic Essential Oils

Provide your mom with the luxury spa experience all in one cheap and well-packaged gift. This purchase will come with six different shower oils that will help provide lovely aromatherapy. They function in a manner that is quite like bath bombs and help to relieve stress and relief. This is great for moms who do not take enough time out of the day for self-care.

Body Restore Shower Steamers

This is a pack of 15 shower streamers. If your mom has been stressed out recently and quite exhausted, this is an excellent form of aromatherapy to help release any negative energy. It lasts pretty long and ensures a fulfilling experience that will provide some much-needed relief. It also helps with things such as nasal congestion and detoxing.

Visa Gift Card

Many modern moms appreciate being able to choose their gifts. Sometimes only they know the best words they need. Possibly the little things that they cannot talk about. This is a stylish way to provide them with that option. A non-reloadable Visa gift card will allow them to shop anywhere that a visa card is accepted. It is an action that is classier than simply handing over a $100 bill to your mother.


Massagers for Neck and Back Pain Relief

This is a heartfelt gift that will no doubt revitalize your mother. It is a massage unit that comes with eight different modes. She will tend to the severe issue of tension within her shoulders, waist, and legs with this. These are some of the hot spots that contribute to daily discomfort. It comes with a guarantee of satisfaction and is a very thoughtful option for a busy mother.

Shiatsu Neck Back Massager Pillow with Heat

On this option, you get four massage nodes that work wonders to relieve any pain in the muscles. It is a deep kneading massage unit that is suitable to use on the whole body. It is fully adjustable and will adapt to any size. A busy mother will surely enjoy this because it promotes positive blood circulation. This will help to strengthen the heart and soothe out any tension accumulated throughout the week.

FYMRIA Bath Bombs Gift Set

Busy moms often prefer a home alternative when it comes to spa-grade experiences. Taking care of themselves at home after a long hard day of work is a refreshing experience. This set comes with 12 extra-large bath bombs that offer a high-quality relaxing experience. They have aromas that have been designed to help deal with stress and anxiety.

RENPHO Eye Massager with Heat, Compression

This is for the moms that always claim they do not have time to look after themselves. This is a brilliant and innovative heating massage therapy product. It focuses on relieving eyestrain and reducing any oscillating pressure. This all happens through built-in heating pads that work wonders to deal with dry eyes and eye puffiness. The best thing about this option for busy moms is that they can use it in their sleep. They can therefore rest and recharge simultaneously.

Productivity Tools

Wreck This Journal

This is quite an immersive Journal that will allow your mom to dive into her creative side. It is a Journal that has been designed mainly for de-stressing and offers a healthy and positive way to let out tension. The author of this Journal encourages moms to let out any frustrations they have, even if they need to pull out pages from this book. It is pretty versatile and can also be used as a handy little notebook to assist a busy mom in remembering her day-to-day tasks.

Mom’s Family Wall Calendar

One of the main ways that moms increase their productivity is by having informational items in the fridge. This is a zone in the house that everyone passes by, and it can function as a friendly reminder for daily tasks and birthdays. A busy mom will appreciate this set that comes with nine different fridge magnets and a calendar, and some stickers.

Instant Pot Duo

The seven-in-one appliance will surely make cooking on the go meals much easier for a busy mom. If you are willing to spend a bit more, this is an efficient and productive tool for cooking. It comes with 13 intelligent touch options for cooking a wide range of meals. It cooks 70% faster than standard methods and is straightforward and straightforward to clean.

Knock Knock Grocery List

This is a straightforward and practical gift to get for a busy mom. It offers a simple solution to the age-old problem of writing a grocery list. It is about six by 9 inches and comes with 60 different sheets on it. This should give you about two months’ worth of grocery lists at a minimum. It has over 22 categories of groceries that are sure to remind her of any missing items in your home.

Smart Planner Pro

This is a daily planner that has been designed with a wide range of informational supplies to help improve the productivity of your mother’s days. It has been well researched and should help set and achieve goals and improve overall time management. It comes in a lovely compact size that will offer the ability to improve mindset and gratitude. This should help to decrease burnout and enhance positivity. 

Organize Hourglass Sand Timer

This stylish and creative stopwatch will help your mother achieve her bigger goals much more straightforwardly. This glass timer will provide a minimalistic design to any office space and help with Sprint workouts. Apart from being a productive tool that will assist with timing, it is also an elegant display item. It has timing options of between 30 seconds and 5 minutes. 

The Baby Sleep Miracle: What Every Parent Needs to Know

We all want our children to sleep, but sometimes it’s a struggle. The Baby Sleep Miracle is a guide for parents that provides expert advice on how to get your baby to sleep and stay asleep! Discover the best tips for getting your baby into good sleeping habits, including when they should be waking up in the morning or napping during the day.

What is the Baby Sleep Miracle?

Baby Sleep Miracle Book Cover

The Baby Sleep Miracle is a guide for parents that provides expert advice on how to get your baby into good sleeping habits. The book includes the best tips for getting your baby into good napping and bedtime routines, as well as when they should be waking up in the morning or taking a nap during the day. It also discusses co-sleeping and other techniques. 

The Baby Sleep Miracle will help get your baby sleeping and keep them happy at night. It is an invaluable resource for any parent looking to create a routine that works from day one without relying on common myths or old wives tales. 

Co-sleeping with the baby: Sleeping in the same bed can be helpful when it comes to laying your baby down and getting him/her to sleep. It can also help when they wake up during the night because you are right there with them. 

If your baby is co-sleeping in bed with you, it might be best for both of you if he or she sleeps on a separate mattress next to the parents’ bed. This way, you can sneak away for a bit of privacy for yourself or get up to go the bathroom without disturbing your baby.

What will the Baby Sleep Miracle do for you and your baby?

The Baby Sleep Miracle is an invaluable resource for any parent looking to create a routine that works from day one without relying on common myths or old wives tales. 

The book tackles issues like establishing bedtime and naptime routines with the baby (it also includes detailed information about how much sleep babies need at different ages), soothing techniques, helping you and your baby get some much-needed rest. 

What are the Baby Sleep Miracles pros & cons?


  • The Baby Sleep Miracle is a comprehensive and easy to understand resource. 
  • It offers solutions for all sorts of sleep issues that parents may have with their baby, including establishing healthy bedtime routines or soothing your child at night. 
  • It comes with three freebies.
  • Backed by top scientific research.
  • It is easy to implement.
  • The methods are practical. 
  • It covers all bases. 
  • It is delivered instantly, and you can download it in pdf format immediately when you pay for it.


  • I am not sure why their website does not look good. 
  • It is a very long eBook, but it would be better with video content.
  • Some people might find the book’s advice too strict, but it works.

If you find that your baby will not sleep or is having trouble adjusting to a new routine after the arrival of another child in the family, this book might be what every parent needs. 

Does the Baby Sleep Miracle work?

Yes, it works. There is a growing community of mothers who have benefited from the methods taught in the book. 

Being a part of the Facebook community is of tremendous value. You get to learn from others who have been where you are. 

You can cut out the noise from your baby’s room. I found a solution and have recommended it to other mothers. The Baby Sleep Miracle by Mary-Ann Schuler is a guide that will show you how to do this. Have you heard about it? Yes? You can see an image inside the book below:

Mary Ann knows about babies. She is a psychologist who has worked with them, and she wrote a book about it. The book has been done for many years and tested by many parents. They seem to have found this information helpful because it works! 

The book tells you how to get a baby to sleep. You do not need to worry. It is a step-by-step guide that new and experienced moms can use. 

The idea behind this is that it will be comfortable for the mother and the child. Some people say they had good results after using the system, but others said it took a long time to see benefits from what they found in this book.

What is in the book?

This book has some points. It is set up in a way that tells the story of how things happened. The book starts with the basics, and then it goes on to talk about more advanced topics. Some of the things this book talks about are:

  • The development of a flexible sleeping and feeding cycle.
  • Why you should not rely on nursing your baby for comfort. 
  • What you can do with a pacifier to soothe the baby with natural sleep techniques. 
  • How to feed the baby when they wake up. 
  • How to put them back down to sleep after they eat

We will first cover all of these topics. Then we will talk about how old the child is and advise on what to do at that age. This book will help you know what your baby should be doing and when.

Baby Sleep Miracle has three things. The Miracle Sounds are music that soothes the baby. Double Trouble Sleeping Struggle helps with problems with more than one child. Night Terror Stopper is for those who have trouble sleeping and need something to help them sleep better. You can get all three of these things in mp3 format so you can download them.

Get It Here

Confessions of a New Freelance Writer

About eight months ago, I concocted a plan to launch a fabulous career/life as a freelance writer and content strategist. I focused on my goals, took every freelance opportunity that came my way, started writing more, began laying the foundation of self-employment, and set a date to quit my job.

And then, after 13 years of sitting in an office doing “marketing,” I actually quit.

Confessions of a new freelance writer.

Here’s something about me: I’ve never not had a professional job — unless you count three weeks after I graduated from college and about four weeks after graduate school. I realize that makes me very lucky, but it also means that I’ve been very risk adverse, and quitting my job was not something I did lightly.

I’m not sorry I quit — My career in marketing hasn’t felt right for a long time, and I’ve spent years attempting to determine the next step. At my most recent job, I was teetering on the edge of a precipice — I was unhappy enough for long enough that I knew I was dangerously close to jeopardizing my opportunity to leave on good terms after six years of service that (I’m told) “exceeded expectations.” It was truly time to go. And so I went… on good terms and on my own terms.

It’s been two months.

I have no idea what I’m doing.

I wade through each day unsure of where the hours go.

When I worked in an office, the days dragged. In some ways, this is better — I’m not bored — but I’m not actually getting a paycheck for being busy, and I have a feeling that I’ve fallen into the trap of working harder but not smarter.

So what am I doing? I do have a few client projects each month. Still, I spend a lot of time applying to freelance or part-time or contract opportunities — emails and applications that apparently disappear into the ether the moment I hit send… Sometimes I start to go down the Elance path, but I don’t even know where to start… I consider, then reconsider, how to market myself and to whom.

I knew it would be like this — I knew it would take time to figure it out; I knew the transition would be rough, but I was so secretly hoping that everything would work out and the freelance life would be instantaneously amazing. Here are some of the myths that I let myself believe (while at the same time reminding myself that I shouldn’t believe them). It turns out I should have listened to myself — at least the part of myself that wasn’t coming up with a freelance fantasy:


Last fall, I had three freelance clients and a full-time job, which meant I felt like I was literally working around the clock. With three clients, I reasoned that I had a sufficient foundation and could expect a certain amount of income when I quit my job — then one of my clients closed her business, and a few projects didn’t pan out the way I expected. I knew this by the time I walked into my supervisor’s office to give my notice, but I figured, hey, everything will fall into place. I’m still waiting for those things to start falling.


Welcome to the land of magical thinking. Why did I think this? I’ll tell you. I thought that once my pesky job was out of the way, I would spend every morning working on my fitness while sipping an ultra-clean, vitamin-infused, superfood smoothie in my suddenly-fitting-again Lululemon yoga pants. I would cook myself every meal, sit down at the dining room table, and eat mindfully — never again succumbing to the likes of Chipotle or Panera. All stress would melt away, along with a few pounds, because, you know, I would be living the dream.


This was part of the point, after all — to function better as a family. And to me, functioning better means having a relatively clean and organized home, which is, I have learned, 100 percent impossible unless you LITERALLY spend all day, every day cleaning. The minute I think the laundry is done, my husband’s basket is full again (seriously, why does he need to change four times a day?). As soon as I finish cleaning the house, Emme comes home, pulls out 80 gazillion toys, spills her milk, and manages to smash crackers into the freshly vacuumed rug.


Ah… the myth of “work-life balance.” I thought I would have my day totally figured out with plenty of time for work, household management, and self-care; I would spend quality time with Emme from the time she came home from daycare to the time she went to bed, and then I would relax in the evenings. But mostly, we’re still just trying to survive and get to the next thing. And, I’m still sitting on my couch “working” late into the night. What am I even doing? Just like during the day, I’m not really sure, but nothing about it feels balanced.

None of this is to say I regret my choice, but it will take some time before I get this new life and career figured out. And maybe I won’t. Maybe it’s not the right choice for me — but at this point, I’d rather know than be sitting in an office still attempting to decide the next step in my life. At least that part is over.

Also, I would like to point out that I have made dinner more in the last two months than I had in the last two years. Small victories — I’ll take what I can get at this point. 

How We Announced Our Pregnancy

Disclaimer: I am not pregnant.

Three years ago, my husband and I found out we were expecting Emme two days after Thanksgiving while we were in Ohio. After taking four (yes, four) pregnancy tests—and carefully studying each one—we concluded that, no, our eyes were not tricking us, and yes, that was definitely a second pink line.

We somehow kept it quiet from my mom for another day before heading back to Chicagoland. We decided to do this because we knew our family would be coming for Christmas, and if we could wait it out, we could tell my mom and her husband, my sister, and her husband, as well as my MIL, all at the same time, to achieve maximum baby news excitement.

For five long weeks, I managed to act “totally normal” on the phone and make holiday arrangements until everyone arrived in Chicago on Christmas Eve. I knew I wanted to do something special and maybe a little creative, but I didn’t want to go overboard based on time and talent. So, I had these custom holiday cards made on Etsy by heathergearhart:


We added a copy of the ultrasound to the left side of the card:


My sister and her husband actually arrived in Chicago first and knowing that I couldn’t keep the news in for long, we gave them the card in the car after picking them up from the airport. In hindsight, this was a bad idea, because the subsequent screaming and excitement nearly caused Joey to have an accident. We told my mom and her husband later than night and, because my sister already knew, she was able to stealthily film the whole thing without my mom noticing.

As much as Christmas 2011 was not the greatest holiday season ever, due to the whole feeling-like-hell-all-the-time side effect of early pregnancy, being able to tell my family in person and not over the phone was priceless. I still love this card. I thought it was simple and creative, and it’s a special keepsake from this time in our lives.

My Latest, Perhaps Greatest, Meal Planning Tools

For years—maybe my entire adult life, definitely since Emme was born nearly four years ago—I’ve been attempting to stick to a realistic meal planning system. I’ve diligently saved recipes, made lists, and shopped weekly, only to let too much food go bad when I didn’t actually prepare the meals I had planned. I’ve spent too much money on takeout, relied heavily on frozen burritos for lunch, and defaulted to pasta + bottled sauce as my go-to dinner more times than I care to remember.

When traditional meal planning fell short of my expectations and energy, I switched up my game, trying strategies that should have helped me lighten the load—services like Blue Apron and Fresh20, freezer meals, and locally prepped dinners that you just have to heat up in the oven. They all had their merits, but nothing stuck.

But lately, I’ve found peace and some actual success with meal planning. With a few tools and one secret weapon (Spoiler alert: It’s my husband), our family manages to get dinner on the table most nights of the week (not to mention having several work-week lunches prepped for me and plenty of do-it-yourself breakfast options for everyone). How did we do it? The first step might surprise you and will definitely bring to mind therapy sessions and support groups rather than grocery lists and recipes. To make meal planning work, I had to find some acceptance.

Let me explain: Last year, I worked with a health coach for a few months. In talking to her, I realized that meal planning was a source of anxiety for me. That made me realize I had to let go of both perfection and control in the meal planning process. After years of feeling proud that I wasn’t a perfectionist, I finally realized that I mayyybbbeeee had some perfectionist tendencies and I mayyybbbeeee was an eensy, weensy bit controlling. Having a young child who makes so many things feel out of my control can do that to a person.

But I digress… Anyway, I know all of this sounds awfully intense for, you know, dinner, but when I finally accepted that meal planning, meal preparing, and meal eating didn’t need to be perfect, shit got easier. Then I found some tools to complement my new breezy meal planning attitude.

Game Changing Meal Planning Tools


In some ways, Pinterest might function the same way for many of you that Plan to Eat does for me. But with Pinterest, I find often myself lost in the weeds—I log in to get that one recipe I saved six months ago and three hours later, and I’m pinning lake houses to a new board, cleverly titled Lake L-I-v-I-n. Plan to Eat doesn’t offer me that kind of distraction, and while the interface leaves something to be desired, the functionality works for me and my brain.

First, it gives me a place to save all those recipes that I randomly come across. It allows me to look at a calendar, compare it to our family’s shared calendar, and schedule an appropriate amount of meals for the week (which is not seven, it’s more like two or three). And, it compiles a list of ingredients based on the recipes I choose. Is it perfect? No. But Plan to Eat gets me farther in the meal planning process with less pain than anything else has.


This isn’t earth shattering. The amount of legwork I do varies, but spending time prepping meals for the week on Saturday or Sunday always makes me feel like I’ve done something productive. This usually includes two to four of the following: Making 3-4 lunches for the week (see next section), cleaning and chopping vegetables for weekly dinners, making a breakfast casserole, and prepping sauces, meatballs, or other meals that have a longer fridge and freezer life.


You know how mason jar salads were totally a thing a few years ago? Well, I discovered them like six months ago! And let me tell you: Game. Changer. Not only do they make it easier for me to eat more green stuff, they are perfect for advance planning and portable. I also figured out my optimal number of mason jar salads for the week–three. I bring the same salad three times, then do my best to make a different salad for the following week. This seems keep me from suffering from lunch fatigue. I end up buying my lunch one day a week, which feels like a treat, and I usually work from home on Fridays, so I just eat leftovers or something.

If you haven’t already, I highly recommend investing in a set or two of mason jars (wide-mouth, 32-ounce jars are key). We have started using them to store everything. As for salads, they have to be filling and tasty for me to actually eat them. Here are a few of my favs right now:

Chicken, Apple, and Pecan Salad (I ditch the kale and use something like Pullman or Boston Lettuce.)

Chopped Black Bean and Corn

Paleo Taco Mason Jar Salad

Sweet Potato Pear Wild Rice Salad


In an effort to eat better, my default is to think that our family should be making all meals from scratch. It’s a lovely idea, but it’s not realistic for us at this point. Trader Joe’s to the rescue. We keep a stockpile of a few TJs frozen meals on hand. Our favorites are Shiitake Mushroom Chicken and Kung Pao Chicken. We serve both with rice, and often add whatever extra veggies (or for the Kung Pao Chicken, some pineapple) we have on hand.


Remember that thing about control? In the division of labor in our household, meal planning, prepping, and cooking has always been my thing, but when I went back to work full-time in January after freelancing for a year, something had to give.

It’s not so much that my husband expected me to be in charge of all things kitchen; we just had very different ideas of how to manage a week’s worth of meals. He would eat out every meal without a second thought, while I wanted us to be eating home-cooked meals every night. Once we had a conversation about it, we found some balance. I plan our meals, do some light prepping on the weekend, and typically do the grocery shopping; he cooks.

Cooking on the week nights was always been the point at which my whole meal planning system breaks down. I walk in the door after a 8+ hours of working and 1.5+ hours of commuting, and I would struggle to find the energy to actually prepare the dinners that I had so diligently planned. My husband’s work day tends to end before mine (it also starts before mine), and his commute is less than 10 minutes on foot. When I come through the door at 6 p.m., to dinner on the table, it’s a relief, for real. In many ways, it’s the best of both world’s — I get to plan what we eat without actually having to cook it.

Anyway, I’d love to hear: Do you have any meal planning secret weapons?

Is a Freelance Career Right for You?

Last year, I left my job as a marketing professional in higher education and took a career detour (I may have mentioned this). I quit my job of six years — a field I had about 15 years of experience in — and gave myself a new title: freelance writer. Being a freelance writer seemed to be the answer to many problems. It took my career in the direction I wanted to go (writing), while giving me the flexible schedule I had craved since my daughter was born (freelance). But striking out on my own was unlike any choice I had ever made. I was starting a business after being employed by someone else since college, which was scary and unchartered territory.

Like with most life choices, I consulted the internet. I read lots of freelance websites, and many of them were helpful. But I could never find information about of what type of person is a successful freelancer — or at least, what kind of traits help a person manage the quirks of a freelance career. In fact, I even asked this question in a freelance forum run by a well-known writer, and received a somewhat rude response along the lines of “how would [she] know,” which was, you know… not helpful.

So I’m writing that post myself. After a year of being a freelance writer, I’ve compiled a few… I guess I’d call them life or coping skills that seem to be critical to not only actually building a career, but managing the vast differences between being employed by someone else and being self-employed.

A freelance career sounds like the answer to work-life balance, but here are a few things to consider before you make the leap. Do you have the kind of personality that can cope with the reality of a freelance writing career. Find out...


Being a freelancer, especially a new freelancer, means your income is inconsistent, the number of hours you’re actually working and getting paid is inconsistent, how much you’re charging might even be inconsistent… basically there’s a lot of inconsistency. For me, the most nerve-racking part of those inconsistencies was the money part.

If you’re comfortable hanging out in that uncertainty, at least for awhile (at least one year, maybe two), then a freelance career might be a great choice for you. I find this is only palatable if you can reasonably live without a second income, i.e., you have someone bringing home a paycheck that covers all of the bases: mortgage, bills, groceries, and so on. But even if you do have this, and we did, going from two full-time and steady incomes to one plus whatever you make freelancing, which can vary significantly month to month, can be a huge, huge shock to the budget and the system.


When you work freelance, you spend a lot of time working alone. There’s no one down the hall to chat with, and you’re not in the mix with any office gossip (for better or worse). Sure, head to the coffeeshop, but chances are you’re just going to sit there by yourself. Being a freelancer is often very quiet. If you’re a person who lives in your own head, this can be dangerous. I didn’t have too much of a problem being alone, but when I ended up back in an office environment, I was practically giddy to have people around.


Doesn’t a freelance career sound like the answer to all work-life balance issues? You can work when you want and how much you want, on projects that interest you, etc. The flip side is that being a freelancer means your start time and your stop time are entirely up to you. I often felt like I could and maybe should be working around the clock. Without the artificial boundaries of 9-to-5, stopping work (however work was being defined) was sometimes hard. For me, turning off the to-do list was difficult even during the evenings or to stop for an hour mid-day for some of that “balance” I was so hoping for.


If you’re not self-disciplined and self-directed, a freelance career is not for you. I am definitely disciplined enough (I think), and I’m self-directed when I have a project for a client, but the business of setting up a thriving freelance career means that you have to market yourself (more on that in a minute). This part was particularly hard for me. I struggled to figure out what direction I should take my writing career in (Do I pitch publications, work on the blog, or focus on marketing copywriting? Do I sell myself to a particular industry or will I take whatever I can get? There were a lot of options/questions.) There is a literally endless and mostly undefined list of things a freelancer could be doing to forward her business goals. I often felt stuck in the business of being a freelancer, unsure what would be the most bang for my time-is-money buck.


When you’re working for yourself, you have to market your services, which ultimately means that you have to market yourself. Now, there are totally freelancing writing jobs that you can get without marketing yourself. I definitely got jobs by simply applying for them — the gig is a good example of that. But, my best gigs came about from networking and reaching out to contacts I already had. One great gig I got was with a university, which came about from a letter of inquiry I wrote to a woman I interviewed with a year an a half earlier. Another came from someone I met in a running group who ended up being a VP at a higher education marketing agency. Writing that email to the woman I barely knew was hard. Talking to the VP about what I did and what kind of work I was looking for, and straight up asking her to pass along my resume to the people who make these decisions was hard. For me, self-promotion was… unpleasant — it felt like I was constantly asking for favors — but it was doable, and I got better at it as time went on.


So this isn’t a personality trait, exactly, but I found that advocating for a fair rate was extraordinarily difficult and very, very important. First of all, it’s hard to find good information about what exactly you should be charging, and freelance writing rates are literally all over the board. There are people making well below the minimum wage writing for Upwork and other content mill-type sites. There are people charging over $100 an hour for copywriting services. Most publications typically have a set rate that they pay — blogs, if they pay at all, can pay as low as $25 or $50 with online media sites like Jezebel clocking in at $250. Consumer magazines typically pay more, trade magazines often higher still. In the interest of getting the work I desperately felt I needed, I had trouble asking for what truly deserved. I worked in exchange for services sometimes, my rates were all over the map, and I took whatever I could get.

Here’s the good news: I got better at this, and with a few exceptions, by late summer 2015, I had set a rate of $40/hour for copywriting services, which cut me out of the running for a lot of local and smaller businesses looking for writing services. That, I learned, was OK. But here’s the bad news: As I saw very clearly this week while looking at a freelance writer’s proposal that I should have been charging more.


I’ll give myself this much — Working with minimal direction, dealing with gray areas, and coping with missing information about what a client or employer actually wants when it comes to copywriting, I can easily live in this space. I have a sense of when to push for more direction and when not to, and my instincts on how to approach something totally undefined are often close to spot on. I don’t know how I got here, but it’s definitely one of my strengths. Writing for media outlets, I would say this is less true, but I’m comfortable with a swing and a miss, which might just be a byproduct of age and experience. The bottom line: When you’re a freelancer, no one is holding your hand, and you can’t walk down the hall to get clarification. You have to have the confidence in your ability to just move forward and get the work done.

As for appreciation, as a freelancer, you will not find an overabundance of it. You’ll have clients who are grateful and clients who like you, but you’re not really part of the team. You’re the hired help, quite literally, and the whole point of being a good freelancer — IMHO — is that you can quickly do the work with minimal direction and without being coddled. That’s what they are paying you for.


Taking a sharp career turn to freelancer often means playing the long game when it comes to building a reputation, a client base, and an income. That marketing and self-promotion I did? I sent the email to the woman at the university in February or March. In October, I was contacted by another woman in her division — my resume had been passed along. The running group VP? I gave her my information in July. I heard from that agency in October too.

It takes awhile. Since the beginning of February, I’ve been contacted by another higher education institution and another agency, both because I had contacts who knew me, with gigs that would have paid well. I had to say no. But, it drove home the point: It takes some time to really establish yourself as a freelancer. If I would have stuck it out, I likely would have had a lot more options today than I had this time last year. But the thought of a steady paycheck and boundaries of a normal work day were too good to pass up after a year of uncertainty.

Holiday Gift Guide for the 3-year-old Girl in Your Life

Scaling back on birthday gifts might be my MO, but I (admittedly) have a tendency to want to go a bit overboard for the holidays. This year, I’m trying to keep things more under control, so I’m thinking a lot about the stage my daughter is in and what toys might have a little more shelf life than say, three days.

According to a never-ending stream of Babycenter emails, three-year-olds are getting way into creative play. They make up conversations and stories; they love to pretend; they want to have their own “big kid” items; and toys actually keep their attention for more than 30 seconds. Woo hoo! Here’s a holiday gift guide for the three-year-old girl (or boy!) in your life based on what toys have been recent hits in our house as well as what I plan to get Emme this year.

Holiday gifts for preschoolers

(1) Fisher-Price Slim Doodle Pro, Purple

At the top of the list for my daughter is the Doodle Pro, a slim, purple version of the classic Magna Doodle. Our preschooler has a mini, Frozen-themed Magna Doodle with an annoying board book attached to it, but she plays with it constantly — drawing hearts, people, and tornados (don’t ask), while she tells herself stories. An upgrade to the full-size version is well worth it. 

(2) LEGO DUPLO Ice Cream Set

I reside firmly in the no-need-for-pink-LEGOS camp, and I believe any LEGO Duplo set makes a great gift for preschoolers regardless of gender. Case in point: My daughter received the LEGO Duplo Creative Play Ice Cream set for her birthday. This gift has been a big hit in our house, and for what it’s worth, the toddler and preschool boys in her life also seem to love it.

(3) Melissa and Doug Sleeping Bag

Emme all about building forts ever since her Grandma played pretend “campout” with her over the summer. I feel like her own sleeping bag is a “big kid” item she’ll get a big kick of — whether she’s uses it to “camp,” cuddle up in bed, or build a fort. Plus, it would be perfect for those nights she decides she needs to sleep in our room (three year olds and their ability to get up and get out of there rooms!).

(4) Skip Hop Ladybug Suitcase

Similar to the sleeping bag, I’m pretty sure my daughter would get a ton of use — play and otherwise — out of her own suitcase. She loves packing up all her toys and pretending that she’s heading out (wait, what?), and a suitcase could be used for actual trips as well.

(5) KidKraft Dollhouse

Emme received this KidKraft Chelsea Doll Cottage as her BIG birthday gift, and I think it’s a great present for preschool-aged kids. There are a ton of dollhouses out there, but the KidKraft house was a reasonable size and a reasonable price compared to other options. Plus, it came with all of the furniture. Not only does Emme play with the house and furniture, but we also gave her a doll family. She makes up conversations that go something like this: First doll, “Hello! I’ve got to go potty!” Second doll, “OK!” That alone is worth the cost of admission.

What’s on the list for your preschooler?

Guest Post: How Minecraft Saved My Weekends

Even as I write this, please know, I’d rather be reading my slightly trashy Scottish romance novel. But instead, I’ll exchange a chapter of Outlander for the iPad and the chance to explain how Minecraft, the video game popular nationwide with children ages 7 to 47, saved my family’s weekends.

Minecraft Saved My Weekends |

My 3-year-old daughter, Ellie, and I get lots of quality time. As a stay at home mom, I spend the week arranging outings, thinking of crafts and suggesting she play with her many games and toys. I also, at times, find myself counting the minutes until 4:30 p.m. when I feel minimally less guilty about turning on the TV and tuning in the entertainer of the moment — George, Mickey, Huckle, or Dora.

Weekends are much of the same. My husband is home and we take hikes, go out to lunch, and play in the yard. But for my 3-year-old, and I’m assuming for most preschoolers, there’s a certain need for constant entertainment, leaving little me time.

Having a couple hours to turn off your brain and engage in something mindless is crucial to recharge. I enjoy reading on the couch. My husband enjoys computer games. Most recently, Minecraft. (Although, for the record, he played it long before T-shirts starting showing up in Target).

So while we both have relatively simple ways of escape, it still often falls to me to fill in our daughter’s entertainment gaps. Not for my husband’s lack of trying, but largely because of our daughter’s “mommy-only” syndrome.

Enter Minecraft. I don’t remember how exactly it happened or why it worked, but one trying Saturday when I was exhausted and close to losing it, John asked Ellie if she “wanted to watch Daddy build his house.”

And so it began. On the weekends, sometimes for 10 minutes, other times for an hour, father and daughter herd cattle, plant wheat and fight zombies in the Minecraft world. They even build a “bed” for Ellie in her own Minecraft room that also houses armor stored in a “toy chest.”

Am I thrilled with the added screen time? No. Am I delighted beyond measure that father and daughter have found a quiet activity both can enjoy while I bank some quality couch time? You bet. In fact, this Minecraft bond has helped loosen Ellie’s clinginess to me. And for that, even I’d slay zombies.

Gena is a Midwest transplant living in Tucson, Arizona with her husband and 3-year-old daughter. When not killing scorpions, Gena writes about food and family. Follow her on Twitter @genakittner.

No Gifts Please: Should Your Child Have a Gift-free Birthday?

When I wrote about Emme’s 3rd birthday and showed off the adorable invitation, you might have noticed that “No Gifts Please” was printed under the date and location information. Yep… We asked people to skip the gifts for our kid’s birthday.

Maybe that seems horribly mean? Here was my reasoning: My daughter is the only grandchild on one side of the family; one of three on the other side. I knew her grandparents and other close relatives would give her generous gifts, and from that alone, she would be receiving quite a bit of stuff for her birthday.

No gifts please

When the guest list for her party started to get a little out of control, I started to think about the added clutter and writing dozens of thank you notes. Based on my untrained medical opinion, my blood pressure began to rise. So I started to think about requesting no gifts.

As you can imagine, the first person I consulted for advice was the entire Internet. And like most things on the Internet, the people seemed divided. Some regarded a parent’s request for no birthday gifts as an affront — they seemed convinced it was a trick. Others were totally on board.

Since the Internet is typically not to be trusted, I asked my IRL mom friends for feedback. Everyone seemed to think it was totally fine. They reassured me that no one would be offended by a “no gifts” request. They also said that people would probably bring gifts anyway (they were right).

I went for it. And many people brought gifts. That’s OK. Some people didn’t. That’s OK too. The people who did bring gifts, brought smaller items. Some people skipped the gift, but brought Emme a small token — a mylar balloon or pack of stickers. Others took the time to write a sweet message in a birthday card.

And it was all good! We did get less stuff, which was the main goal. However, the decision to ask for no gifts did have some pitfalls. People weren’t totally sure if we really meant it (we did), and a good portion of the party goers apologized for either bringing a gift or not bringing a gift. It was definitely not my intention to put any kind of pressure on my friends and family.

So, based on my experience, here are a few tips if you decide to ask for “No Gifts Please.”

How to ask for no gifts please at a child's birthday party. Tips for parents who don't want guests to bring gifts to a child's birthday party.

Keep the message simple.

I thought about trying to get super cutesy with the request that guests not bring gifts (“Your presence is our present,” etc.), but ultimately clarity and simplicity won out.

Make sure you mean it, but don’t be crazy about it.

Some people will end up bringing gifts and some won’t. If the choice people make is going to bother you — either way — just don’t do it.

Don’t send mixed messages.

People will likely ask you if you’re sure about this “no gifts” thing. A friend asked me, and I almost launched into a whole, you don’t have to bring a gift, but you know, people might bring small stuff and you should do what you want. You know what that sounds like? That sounds like I expected small gifts, which are still gifts. And I didn’t. So I just said that I meant the request and not to worry about bringing a gift.

Keep any gifts out of sight.

Often at parties, the gift table is displayed front and center. But if you’re asking people not to bring gifts, displaying the gifts can make people feel uncomfortable if they didn’t bring one. We tucked gifts away under a picnic table, and I don’t think anyone gave it a second thought after they arrived.

Don’t open gifts at the party.

To be honest, I haven’t been to a kid’s party where gifts have been opened in front of guests since Emme was born. When you’re entertaining families with young children, making them sit through an extensive gift opening session can be tedious. But if you do typically open gifts at a party, don’t if you’ve asked for no gifts. That will make people think you weren’t serious about your request and make them feel bad if they followed your instructions.

Emme had plenty to open, and at 3, she wasn’t totally obsessed with the idea of getting tons and tons of gifts — though I imagine that was the last time this will be the case. I probably won’t do it again, but we’ll also probably be transitioning to parties that are more kid-focused that family and friends focused.