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Refocusing Priorities on Parental Leave

Refocusing Priorities on Parental Leave

I’m currently on parental leave and it has been very different this time with a baby and a young child to balance. Being committed to my career is a priority. My number one priority while on “parental leave” is to be a good parent. I try to be supermom and focus on my kids – cooking for them, cleaning up after them, and going on adventures with them. Unfortunately, that’s a lot of focus on 2/3’s of my loved ones and not a lot of focus on my spouse.

My priorities going forward in no particular order are:

  • Quality time with kids (aka leaving the house)
  • Housework duties
  • Cooking for my family
  • Me time (training for a half marathon)
  • Quality time with my partner

I’ve somehow overlooked the importance of quality time with my partner. Watching a TV show that we both happen to enjoy isn’t quality time. It is a way for both of us to decompress from the day and I think it serves a purpose, but I’m fooling myself if I consider it quality time.

My Me-Time Dilemma

If you’ve read this blog before you’ll know that I am a runner. I train for half marathons and that requires 2 weeknight runs and a long run on the weekend. Running is when I have my time to myself to recharge my mind, share a laugh with my running buddy, and talk about something bigger than Fancy Nancy’s latest fancy word.

My husband and I usually watch a TV show at night and then go to bed. I’ve been really sick for all of March with a cold that I can’t shake. I realize now that I complain about my cold and use it as the excuse for going to bed early or wanting to sleep in after the kids wake on a weekend morning. However, my husband really shook me when he asked why I don’t make time for him. He pointed out that I complain about being sick, yet I still made time to run 16 kilometres. His point was that I’m to sick to stay up another 15 minutes to talk about something important that happened during his work day, but I can find the strength to run 90 minutes.

I’m really glad he did speak up and question my priorities. I think it shows our mutual respect for each other that we are addressing it. I truly believe that self love isn’t selfish. That said, I was living pretty selfishly by how I was making my priorities.

Why My Husband is a Top Priority

My husband is my partner and my best friend. Unlike prior relationships, I feel like we are equals. While we each bring different strengths to the relationship, we achieve a perfect balance. I think its important to state that because when I set my priorities today I need to make him a priority too. I decided 9 years ago to enter into a marriage with him. Entering into marriage was me acknowledging that I would always make him and our relationship a priority. We need to hold ourselves accountable to reset our priorities if one of our needs isn’t being met.

Refocusing Priorities

I’ve spent 12 years in my career and I know how to get my job done successfully. As a mom of two, I only have 11 months experience so I’m going to cut myself some slack and refocus my priorities. I think I’m going to dust off our chess board and challenge my husband to a game of chess instead of opting for a TV show one night. Last week, we made 80 meatballs after the kids went to bed and we had fun being in the kitchen together. Maybe we will even go for a run together with the baby in the stroller when our older daughter is with grandma.

Shelby Hancock discusses the need to refocus priorities while on parental leave

Let me know…

Isn’t being a grown-up fun? I’m thankful to have this blog to be able to express myself, especially this topic which is a lot more personal than normal for me. Have you made an effort to refocus your priorities or re-prioritize your marriage? Let me know in the comments below.

Podcasts to Improve Your Commute

Podcasts to Improve Your Commute

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

  1. The DIS Unplugged: Disneyland Edition
  2. Channel 33: Bachelorette Party
  3. This American Life
  4.  House of Carbs
  5. 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.

5 Podcasts to Improve Your Commute
5 Podcasts to Improve Your Commute

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.

 

Mouse House Mom Shelby Hancock 5 Podcasts to Improve Your Commute

Those are my 5 podcast recommendations. What are yours?

Balancing Half Marathon Training

Balancing Half Marathon Training

My hobby, sport, and way of keeping in shape is running. I’m a fan of the half marathon distance. I ran my first half marathon just over 10 years ago and have enjoyed many others since. My husband’s first half marathon race pic just popped up in my Facebook feed as a memory from 10 years ago, which was funny since he was 100% in the friend zone at that time and I kicked his butt in that race!

Half Marathon: The Perfect Distance

I find half marathons the perfect distance since it is far enough that you can’t skip your long runs, but not too far that your training runs take over your life. With a 10 kilometre (km) race, I could rest on my laurels and while it might be painful, I could jump into a 10km race and survive it without adequate training. However, in a half marathon, the level of discomfort and risk of injury is much higher if you don’t complete your training runs.

My longest training run for a half marathon would be under 2.5 hours long. If I started my run at 6 AM, I could be home in time to eat breakfast with my family.

My 3 Tips for Successful Half Marathon Training

  • Find a plan and routine that works for you.
    • Be realistic when making your plan. For me, I can’t commit to more than 3 days a week.
    • Also plan out your runs; determine what time of day works for you and make a routine out of it.
  • Find a race and register for it to keep you motivated.
    • Having a goal to work towards will keep you motivated. I tell lots of people about my upcoming race far in advance so I feel accountable.
  • Find a training partner or run club.
    • While I enjoy running on my own, I couldn’t imagine all of my long runs by myself. Having someone with you can make your long runs fly by. Running is a form of therapy for me since I talk through problems, vent, share memories with my running partner.

Running After Baby

After having a baby, running was a major challenge for me. The motivation to loose weight was certainly there, but my body wasn’t ready for that kind of intensity. My body had changed; I was nursing and had major nursing boobs that could not be tamed. Running wasn’t comfortable so my plan to run 6 months after giving birth and to start half marathon training went out the window.

I tried once more to run when my baby was 13 months and I had been back at work for a few weeks. While my body cooperated with running this time, I found it difficult to stay committed. Part of the problem was that I ran alone at 7:45 PM, after the baby was nursed and in bed.  I was exhausted, it was dark out, and Netflix was calling me.

Third time was the charm! I survived a busy August at work and I knew the fall was going to be busy at work so if I didn’t get running soon I’d never maintain my fitness during the winter. Baby was now 18 months old and I was daydreaming about Disney vacations and it struck me: why not run a Disney race!?!  My timing could not have been better as the Tinker Bell Half Marathon’s registration was coming up in mid-September.  I laced up my runners and tried to run and this time, with the right motivation and a better fitness level than the other two attempts I kept up my training and ran the Tinker Bell Half Marathon last month.

Half Marathon Training Plan by Mouse House Mom

Baby Steps: Initial Running Plan

Starting my half marathon training in September for a May half marathon gave me ample time to build a foundation before I had to start logging long miles. September, October, and November focused on a run/walk program. This meant each week I’d run 1 minute, walk 1 minute until I’d reached 12 to 15 minutes of total run time. Then the next week I’d bump up my run time.  After a few weeks I was running 10 minutes and walking 1 minute. From this, I switched to distance based training with 3 to 4 km runs during the week and a 5 km on the weekend.  Each long run (weekend run), I’d increase by 1 km.  I also listened to my body and decreased every few weeks to let my body have a break.

While I was focused on this training and really happy with my progress, I should note that I was nowhere close to the times I once ran. I don’t blame pregnancy on this as I had a health scare in the years leading up to pregnancy that I think took its tole on me.  I’m a highly competitive person, but I took this slower pace in stride (pun intended).  Now that I’m a mom, I’ve chilled out a lot more and having time to run and pursue my own fitness makes me happy. I’m not longer focused on my splits, although slow or not, I always aim for a negative split.

My mantra for running post pregnancy is: No expectations, no limitations.

Find a Training Plan that Works for You

A quick Google search can turn up dozens of half marathon training plans. In some you have to run 5 days a week, in others only 3 days. Some have steep build ups in long run mileage, while others are more gradual. I suggest you open a spreadsheet, take what you like from multiple plans that you’ve reviewed and plug that into your own plan.

For me I have a simple long run build up that I don’t mess with in the 7 weeks leading to the race, which is as follows:

  • 16, 16, 12, 18, 18, 20, 8 km.

While this builds my last several weeks, most training plans should cover a minimum of 18 weeks with a minimum distance of 10 km to begin.  Keep this in mind as you set your sights on your goal race and plan accordingly.

Plan Your Runs

Plan out when you are going to run, then make it happen. I nurse my daughter to sleep at 7 PM daily and I only have an hour with her before bedtime so I know during the week I need to run later that I’d prefer. Running at 7:30 PM means most of the year it is dark so I have a reflective vest and my husband knows my route.

For my weekend long runs, I aim to be home by 8 AM.  This means I may need to be up before 6 AM or for a shorter run, closer to 6:45 AM.  Yes, it is early, but I’m committed to my training and I find running enjoyable.

Mouse House Mom Half Marathon Training
The before and after shots this spring.

Importance of a Training Partner

I’ve got an amazing training partner that happily runs at my odd ball times. She supports me, loves me, and let’s me talk on and on about whatever is bothering me. You won’t find a training partner better than mine, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try and find one. I forgot to mention, my training partner is my mom – my IRONMAN, marathoner, more energy than I’ll ever have, MOTHER!

Let Me Know…

Let me know if you have questions – I’m passionate about running and happy to help you figure out how to juggle it into your busy life.

 

Happy running!

 

 

Related posts: Tinker Bell Half Marathon Race Report

Weekly Meal Plans for Working Parents

Weekly Meal Plans for Working Parents

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.

Shelby Hancock weekly meal plans dinner pic
Dinners planned out and enjoyed as a family.

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:

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Dinner Leftovers Veggie Stir-fry with chicken and rice Leftovers Pasta with microwaved meatballs Crock pot Chicken w/root veggies.
Next Day Prep Measure rice.

Take chicken out of freezer.

Boil pasta + assemble.

Take whole chicken out of freezer.

Chop veggies and get crock pot ready.
Evening Activity 8pm Run 8pm Run

Shelby Hancock weekly meal plans dinner pic
One of our weeknight dinners.

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.

  Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday
Pick Ups Dad Grandma Dad Grandpa Dad
Bath Night? Yes Yes

 

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.

 

Mouse House Mom gives an overview on how to start weekly meal planning for working parents.
Mouse House Mom gives an overview on how to start weekly meal planning for working parents.

 

Shelby Hancock weekly meal plans dinner pic
Roasted cauliflower is her signature dish.

Mickey’s Printable Weekly Meal Plans

My family likes that I use the Mickey’s Printable Weekly Menu [pdf] found on the Disney Family site here: https://family.disney.com/activity/mickeys-printable-weekly-menu/

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!

 

Related

If you’ve survived a busy week, then treat yourself to my Churro Treats at Home Recipe for a weekend family brunch.

Going Back to My Career After Maternity Leave

Going Back to My Career After Maternity Leave

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”.

Shelby Hancock Going Back to Shelby Hancock documents going back to work after Maternity Leave
Back to work 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.

Shelby Hancock after maternity leave settles into routine
Here’s a recent post work dinner with my munchkin. She sometimes eats before I get home, but she’s always happy to steal off my plate while we sit at the dinner table.

Thanks for reading!

Welcome to Mouse House Mom

Welcome to Mouse House Mom

Welcome to my newest adventure: blogging!

After many months of contemplation and research, I’ve decided to start a blog to connect with other like-minded people.   I’m at the point in my life where I’m constantly juggling all of my passions and my responsibilities.  It is more than the cliché “work-life balance” because for me it is learning to manage all of my passions:

  • Spending quality time with my family
  • Advancing in my career
  • Maintaining fitness through half marathon training
  • Cooking delicious meals and baking treats
  • Planning vacations and travelling (e.g., DISNEY)

There’s a steep learning curve managing it all, but I’m having fun and I can’t wait to share it with you. Below is a bit more about me and what to expect on the blog.

Career:

I have a full-time career in regulatory policy that I find very rewarding and fulfilling. Returning to work post-maternity leave meant it would also be the first time in a year that I’d need to shower and get changed out of my pajamas for five consecutive days. It wasn’t all bad though, I enjoyed being back at work where I could solve problems, converse with adults, write, and not get spit up on.  While I was on maternity leave I was actually promoted (feminist high-fives all around!) so upon my return I was learning new things and taking on new tasks. After three months, I had a routine that I was becoming more comfortable with and my parents were helping us out with a couple daycare pick-ups a week.  I even made it home in time to see the Munchkin’s first steps.  I’ve now been back at work for over a year and while there have been some crazy times (e.g., working 60 + hour work weeks), I’m glad that the Munchkin can see her mom pursuing her passions in a pant suit.

Travel:

In 2015 I gave birth to my daughter (the Munchkin) and since I’m Canadian, I was fortunate enough to have a one year maternity leave to bond with my baby.  During this time we enjoyed a two week vacation to Florida (e.g., Orlando, Naples, Miami) and spent that last few days of our trip in Walt Disney World. I think this is where I contracted Disney fever.  Last summer, we made a last minute decision to abandon our Parksville vacation plans and instead fly 12 hours with a 15-month old baby to Rome for a week. Best change of plans. Ever.

Fitness:

Last month I completed the Tinkerbell Half Marathon hosted by RunDisney at the Disneyland Resort in Anaheim. It was an amazing experience. I spent the six months leading up to our Disneyland vacation researching and planning all aspects of our trip. Listening to various podcasts, reading Disney books, and joining Disney-related Facebook groups, which inspired me to start the Mouse House Mom blog.

Next Steps:

This is where I’ll be sharing my experiences as a working mom who also loves running, food, and all things Disney.  I think it is important I remain connected to my own community by posting local events and activities as well vacation planning tips and suggestions.

See ya’,

Shelby