Happy 1 year anniversary to Mousehousemom.com, my blog! This isn’t really a cause for celebration since it wasn’t long after I began the blog that I got pregnant and wanted to sleep every minute when I wasn’t at work.
This past year we celebrated our first born’s 3rd birthday and a few weeks later we welcomed our newest addition, a baby girl, into our family. I’m now 8 weeks in on my 18 month parental leave.
In the weeks and months ahead, stay tuned for more frequent posts on the blog. I’m in the midst of planning a Walt Disney World vacation, learning how to get back into running, and trying to figure out how to entertain a 3 year old while I nurse a baby during the day. You’re fortunate that you can follow along on this journey without having to smell the inevitable spit-up in my hair or the horrible diaper changes that fill my days. Unless of course this is my own mother (who makes up 75% of my site views) reading this, then I apologize for the smell.
I’ve got a career I love and a commute I hate. Listening to podcasts has helped me turn my office commute into me time. For most of my career (pre-suburb life) my commute was a 30 minutes. The old commute consisted of a 12.5 minute walk, a 15 minute boat ride, and an escalator up to my office. With such a breezy commute, I had no need to listen to podcasts.
My commute now ranges from 45 minutes to 2 hours, on a bad day. One particular bad day, I spent 3.5 hours in my car on top of my work day. While I have 5 radio stations to flip between it doesn’t cut it.
My husband introduced me to podcasts and I never thought they were for me because I hate wearing ear buds. However, in my car I can connect to my iPhone and listen to podcasts through the car speakers.
Here are 5 Podcasts to Improve Your Commute
The DIS Unplugged: Disneyland Edition
Channel 33: Bachelorette Party
This American Life
House of Carbs
Guys We F****d
These are five very different podcasts and each one responds to my mood on a given day. Not all of them are child-friendly and I’ll discuss that further below. My daughter is only 2 so I never listen to podcasts with her, but some of these would be suitable for younger audiences.
The DIS Unplugged: Disneyland Edition
The DIS Unplugged: Disneyland Edition keeps me savvy to all things Disneyland throughout the year. It follows a 5 person round table format and covers news, housekeeping, rapid fire, and other interesting events happening in the Anaheim area. It is available to download Monday mornings. I began listening 8 months before my Disneyland vacation and it made planning our trip easier.
Each episode is about 1 hour. There is no reason for kids not to listen and in the future I see myself downloading a dozen episodes and binge listening on a family road trip to Disneyland.
Note: If you’re a Disney fan you’ll also want to download “Connecting with Walt” podcast, which is led by Michael Bowling, a Disney historian who is also a member of The DIS Unplugged. These are longer episodes and cover more of the history side of Walt Disney World.
When to listen: In the morning when you want to get a variety of information.
Channel 33: Bachelorette Party
Surprisingly, my husband is the one that recommended this podcast to me. I’m not techy with my iPhone so I find it a bit confusing having to search Channel 33 and scrolling through the feed to find Bachelorette Party, but it’s worth it. This podcast is hosted by Juliet Litman and is available to download later on Tuesdays. The show often has a guest co-host (e.g., another writer at The Ringer, Sports Gal, or a former Bachelor contestant) to help analyze the last night’s episode. Juliet hosts this during each season of the Bachelor, Bachelorette, and Bachelor in Paradise. Watching the Bach is my guilty pleasure and then listening to another intelligent woman discuss it helps me feel validated for watching this reality TV show.
Each episode is about 45 minutes. If you let your kids watch the Bach then they’ll be ok listening to this.
Note: Juliet also hosts Jam Sessions podcast on Channel 33, which covers the week in pop culture and celebrity news, which is just as good.
When to listen: Wednesday commute home – reward yourself after a long day!
This American Life
If you’ve heard of podcasts then you’ll likely have heard of This American Life and Ira Glass. Each podcast has a theme and three or more “acts” that relate to the theme. Each act tells a story of an event or experience. This is easy listening and I either learn an interesting fact or something new each episode.
Each episode is about 45 minutes. The host will warn you if content may not be suitable for kids before an Act commences.
When to listen: Listen on your commute home from work as it will help you transition out of your workday and help clear your mind.
House of Carbs
House of Carbs is a new podcast as of early July, but I’m going all in and putting it on my list. If you like food, then go download it. I won’t lie, the hosts voice drove me insane the first episode, but after listening to a few I don’t even think of it. This is the perfect podcast for fans of food – it doesn’t discriminate between fast food or gourmet dishes. The guests have been stellar from premiering with Adam Rapoport (Bon Appetite Magazine) to most recently with David Chang of Momofuku.
Each episode is about 45 minutes. Kids could listen, but I doubt they’ll have the appreciation for the various food cultures discussed.
When to listen: During morning commute, assuming you don’t have an empty stomach that will growl too loudly from food envy.
Guys We F****d
Let me start with: Not kid friendly. Also, the language sometimes has me rolling my windows up on a hot day and turning on the A/C so I don’t surprise nieghbouring cars with my speakers.
That said, I think Guys We F****d has an important place in society. As a mom, I need to figure out how to wrap my head around “slut shaming” and this podcast is the “anti-slut shaming podcast.” After seeing this podcast as a top comedy podcast week after week, I decided to download an episode and see what it was about. Two females host the show and interview guys they f**d or other interesting people. These interesting people might be comedians or employed in the adult sex/fetish industry. Guests often share a crazy sex story. This podcast is unlike any other and if you want to listen to something that will at times shock you, but also educate you, then give it a try. Swearing doesn’t shock me and there’s plenty of that on the podcast – that’s the least of your worries.
Each episode is about 1 hour. No kids. New episodes available on Fridays.
When to listen: On the drive home to get your mind off of work.
Those are my 5 podcast recommendations. What are yours?
I am happiest when I have solved a problem with the use of a spreadsheet. A few years ago, I began using a spreadsheet to make my weekly meal plans. Having weekly meal plans keeps me focused and efficient. Also, my husband and I both arrive home from work between 5:30 and 6 PM and that doesn’t give us much time to boil water, let alone make an entire meal.
Why I do Weekly Meal Plans:
Holds me accountable to eat better.
Reduces food waste.
Saves money on one-off grocery trips or eating out.
Saves time as I can prepare food in advance.
Reminds me to use freezer food.
Easing into Meal Planning
If meal planning is going to be a shock to your system, then start out slowly with only planning weeknight dinners and plan to make more than you need so you can eat leftovers during the week. I know leftovers are a polarizing subject, but let it be known I’m #TeamLeftovers.
Below is a sample week for my family:
Veggie Stir-fry with chicken and rice
Pasta with microwaved meatballs
Crock pot Chicken w/root veggies.
Next Day Prep
Take chicken out of freezer.
Boil pasta + assemble.
Take whole chicken out of freezer.
Chop veggies and get crock pot ready.
The Extra Rows
I find it very useful to add additional rows to my weekly meal plans to include “next day prep” and “evening activity”. As a result of “next day prep”, you don’t forget to take food out of the freezer. This allows freezer food time to defrost and you can also plan more evening prep when you anticipate a more hectic next day. The above example shows that I take my chicken out of the freezer and into the fridge on Wednesday night. Come Friday, I can put the thawed chicken into the crock pot.
Depending on the amount of time you have to prepare your dinner each day, you can adjust the amount of next day prep to do and move some to the day of. For me, it is useful to have my rice and water measured the night before so that it is ready – all I have to do the day of is rinse the rice and turn on my rice cooker and in 15 minutes, I’ll have my carbs!
Adapting for Children’s Eating Habits
I add rows to my weekly meal plans for my daughter (the Munchkin), to indicate who will pick her up from daycare (e.g., my husband or the grandparents) and on what night she needs a bath. If my husband and I are eating perogies or potatoes then I need to plan a meal for the Munchkin that is different from ours. She’s usually a good eater, but has always refused potatoes.
You can expand the weekly meal plans to include weekends and all other meals. I’ll be sure to blog about some of my favourite quick and easy week day meals.
I can quickly write in what our dinner is for each night and post it on the fridge. Alternatively, you can start with this if it is your first foray into meal planning. Posting the printable Mickey menu on the fridge helps us keep Disney alive all year in our home!
In the last week before the end of my maternity leave I took the Munchkin in to the day care for a couple hours each day to support her “gradual entry”. I wish I had a gradual re-entry to help ease into my career after maternity leave. Instead, I spent the Munchkin’s gradual entry time at day care at the mall updating my professional wardrobe. Taking the full year of maternity leave, I didn’t realize how long it had been since I wore my pre-pregnancy wardrobe. Due to seasonality and the need for stretchy maternity clothes, it had been two years since I wore spring clothes at work.
I remember my first day back after maternity leave being a Monday and I had to wake up before 5am to nurse the crying baby, put the baby back to sleep, and then start my morning routine. Many tears were shed that morning (mainly my own), but my little family survived the dreaded first day “after maternity leave”.
Day Care and the Mom Guilt
Our day care staff were all amazing and we didn’t have to worry about the Munchkin’s needs being met. After maternity leave ended, I needed to learn to manage all of the mom-guilt I was feeling.
In the first two months back at work, the Munchkin refused to nap at day care. This meant, as a one year old, she was awake from 7am to 5:30pm. On the drive home from day care she’d constantly be falling asleep. This lack of seriously required sleep caused mom-guilt.
When the Munchkin refused to nap at day care people kept telling me that “next time” I needed to start spending more time away from the baby closer to going back to work so that after maternity leave “next time” it will be better. To me that sounds practical, but I also know that after maternity leave ends, my daily time allowance goes from spending all day with the baby to spending less than 2 hours of quality time with the baby. I would go the “cold turkey” route again in a heartbeat. If there’s a choice between time with my child and time to myself, the decision is easy.
Post Maternity Leave Office Routine
After maternity leave, I had to still supply the Munchkin with milk for her time at day care. This meant I had to pump at work and I alerted my manager of this a month or two before I returned so that I could have a place to pump in private. Pumping at work added another layer of complexity to determining my post-maternity leave office routine. It was a stressful time, settling in to this new office routine of pumping milk instead of grabbing a coffee or fresh air. I had also received a promotion so I was starting in a more advanced position and needed to catch up on all of the activities over the past year.
Mom Brain, the Good Kind
I think we’ve all heard someone say “pregnancy brain” but after I became a mom I heard “mom brain” a lot. This is an extremely demeaning term that we need to banish from our vocabs. This actually had me worried that maybe I’d have a lag and it would take my brain time to switch to analytical mood, but that wasn’t the case. In my opinion, society underestimates the work of parents in supporting and keeping an infant alive and thriving. When parenting, you are constantly making decisions and judgement calls, then immediately implementing those decisions and then moving to the next challenge. Now that I’ve been back at work a while I think I’m a more efficient employee and I second guess myself less, which I think is due to my other full-time job of being a parent.
Surviving and Thriving After Maternity Leave
I’ve now been back to work for over a year and my little family is surviving and thriving. I’m no longer pumping at work and I’m really enjoying being back in the office working. Having a career allows me to pursue my skills and passions and is a key piece of my identity.