Finding Your Identity After Parenthood

Image Source

Having kids is like nothing else in life. It changes the way you think about the world, and lets you love someone in a way that you never knew possible; but parenthood it is not to be underestimated.  No matter how much you love being a parent and adore your kids, it is the ultimate test of grit and resilience and there are going to be times where you are exhausted, mentally broken, and feel lost in your direction in life. It happens because you start to care for someone else around the clock, someone who needs you, and only you for every waking moment, and all the things you had on your life to-do list gets put aside so that you can dedicate your whole world to this little person’s needs, while often neglecting your own.

 

Being a mom is such a blessing, and every day I am so grateful for those little boys who are growing into sweet and hilarious people who challenge me every single day.  It is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I am always conflicted about my life as a mom and where I stand in the professional world. I have worked hard as a manager and as a student, and although being a mom comes first, I still very much value my future as a financial provider for my family while finding my own satisfaction in my career path.  I have spent three years putting my heart and soul into taking care of my family, and I find myself thinking a lot about my own identity besides being a mom. Cheryl Richardson, author, radio show host and teacher, states that “many mothers fall prey to the common misconception that their identity is merely wrapped up in what they do. You are more than the care you give your children and the responsibilities you take on for the good of your family, and you can reclaim your identity after children and marriage.”

 

Here are some things that have helped me on my journey through parenthood:

  1. Discover your interests: Spend time exploring what you like. The things that interested you before might have changed, and that’s ok! Take time out and get to know yourself again. For me, even listening to my own favorite music rather than Disney songs from Moana over and over again makes me feel like myself again. Take a class. Going back to school changed my life! It made me feel like I had “me” time again and a chance to start fresh with my career options.
  1. Do something out of the ordinary. Most of the time, being a parent is all about routine, especially if you stay home with the kids. Routines can help us to be more efficient, but breaking that routine every once in a while can be liberating. Take some time to go on a hike with friends, or find a fundraiser for a cause that you care about.  Social time is so important for creating connections and nurturing the ones you already have. Making yourself visible in your community can help you find a job, internship, or volunteer opportunity. Don’t get a lot of alone time? Take your kids! Go camping, head to the beach, or even go to a movie. “When we consistently stick to the same routines, some brain functions run on autopilot, but by changing our habits, we can force the brain to pay attention and exercise itself. Simply switching up your environment or changing your workflow exercises your brain, generating positive and lasting changes.

    My husband and I on a scuba diving trip to the Great Barrier Reef in Cairns, Australia. We left the kids with my parents to have some one on one time.
  1. Have some “me” time. Take time to take care of yourself. It does not mean that you are being selfish. For me, sometimes it means dropping of the kids so that I can focus on school work, or spending time with my husband one on one. The options are limitless if you just give yourself a little time to do whatever it is you want to do while re-charging and taking time to reflect.  Having uninterrupted time to think about what you really want can help you create a game plan for getting closer to your goal.
  1. Find your tribe. Whether it is your family, friends, colleagues, or someone you met at the park, finding people who you can relate to can help you form important connections and can help build a community of trust and support in your life. My tribe is my family. Many of them live in Reno and I know that when I need to get work done or do something for myself, I can count on them to help me out with the kids. My friends with kids help keep me sane because we can all laugh about the crazy things we do as parents while the kids play, and my friends without kids encourage me to think about where I am going next in my career and what I want out of life for myself.
  1. Use your resources. Find a quick class to take to sharpen your skills on a subject or program, or ask a friend in the industry to give you feedback on your resume. If you are still exploring your interests, try volunteering for a local organization. You will likely form valuable connections while helping others in your community that you care about.
Image Source

When spending so much time working with and for your kids, it is common to feel detached from who you feel that you really are. Parenting is a role that you play; it is an important one, but just as we are employees, students, friends, and volunteers, those positions are roles, not necessarily what defines us or who we really are. As parents, it is also common to be too hard on ourselves for not living up to who we think we should be in those roles. Parenting is hard enough as it is, but if you never make anything happen for you, you can’t expect anything to happen to you.  What are some ways that you have found your identity while caring for others? Whether you have kids or not, take some time today to reflect on who you want to be, what kind of example you want to set for your kids, and if your current path is leading you in the right direction.

Let the World Know You’re Here: How to Express Yourself Authentically

Recently I took a personality test, which asked me about 144 questions about myself and how I view or feel about different situations. Some of the questions were spot on, easy to answer, and I was sure of how I felt. Others made me think a lot more, and some made me a feel a little uncomfortable because my honest answer wasn’t the answer that I hoped would reflect the real me. There was one question in particular that stood out to me in terms of who I am and who I hope to be. It had two statements to choose from and looked like this:

  • I have preferred to inhabit my own little world.
  • I have preferred to let the world know I am here.

This question really stuck with me. I am someone who has definitely inhabited my own little world! Of course I want to be recognized, accomplished and make my mark on the world, but I am also a mom of two boys under 4 years old, a grad student, volunteer, daughter, sister, friend; and sometimes just getting through the day and getting everything done is a “win” in my world. Although it is chaotic, it is also my comfort zone, and sometimes it takes just one experience outside of your comfort zone to open up a whole new perspective for you.

I was asked for a class to Google myself and see what came up. According to Google I pretty much didn’t exist in the world.  Of course, not everyone wants to be found online, but if I am going to show up at all, I want to be found for the things that matter to me, my contributions to others and that reflect my own voice, not just my Facebook profile. I am more than my day to day life, and I want express myself in a way that represents the bigger picture of who I am.  So how do we stand out and make our voices heard in a way that represents ourselves authentically? First we need to identify our values and how we want to connect with others, and then express ourselves in a real way that adds value to your presence.

Representing yourself and finding achievement through self-expression can be inspiring, creative, and can help you find emotional energy and freedom in your work. Self-expression is being aware of your true self; what you value, care about, and what gives you energy and motivation. Once you define this in your life, you can control when and how to present it to the world in a way that represents you.

Here are three ways to start expressing yourself authentically:

  1. Do it for you: You don’t need to impress anyone. Don’t be afraid of how others might react to when and how you express yourself. You don’t need anyone to validate or approve of you, especially when you are being authentic. Sometimes we take so long to create the perfect message in our minds that when we are ready to share it, the moment to do so has passed. Try and live in the moment and nurture your own voice. Don’t base your value on the number of people who “like” what you have to say.
  2. Find your passions: What do you love to do? How do you want to help people? Maybe it is something you want to do but don’t take the time to, or are afraid to do it because of where it might lead you. Experiment with different hobbies, sports and classes to find what outlet allows you to feel like you can be true to yourself.
  3. Let go of the outcome: We can’t control how others are going to express themselves and it is not always going to be positive or supportive. Be truthful to yourself and let the real you shine through. People will appreciate your genuine thoughts whether they agree with you or not.

Everyone has something to say, and expressing yourself in person and online can allow you to have a real connection with people who appreciate you for more than what’s on the surface. Having a presence online allows you to be found and attributed to the things that you care about. You are probably going to be found one way or another, so why not control that information yourself? You can be seen for the real you and the messages you want to send to people. Find your voice and an outlet to express yourself in a way that makes a difference in your life and in your community. Let the world know you are here!

Running for Resilience

My mom running the RTO

It seems like every week there is a different running event going on in Reno. In April, there are going to be at least 9 different races, each with different themes and charities to benefit, and that is not even including the Tahoe area.  The running community in Reno has exploded in the last 10 years. Participate in one 5k and it will all make sense why.

I grew up running in sports, but after high school it was harder to find the motivation without a coach telling you what to do and a team who you would let down if you slacked in your practice. I decided to run my first 5k when I was about 3 months pregnant with my first son. It was the Leprechaun Chase in downtown Reno and I felt confident because I had the best excuse ever if I needed to walk or was taking it slow. I was pretty intimidated and had no idea what to expect.  What I found was that there were a lot of really fast runners, but also slow runners, walkers, parents pushing strollers, kids, and grandparents all running together. Families and friends cheered on strangers from the sidelines with motivational signs and chants. When I finished, I felt a huge sense of accomplishment and I felt like part of this incredibly supportive community of people who were all doing this thing together.

Reno Tahoe Odyssey

Since then I have ran numerous races in Reno and Tahoe, and this will be my 5th year running the Reno Tahoe Odyssey, a 178 mile, 12 person relay race around the Reno/Tahoe area. Running has given me a sense of empowerment over my health, happiness and my ability to meet goals. I have learned to accept failures and to praise myself for my efforts. Overall I have become much more resilient, and that has given me confidence to take on other goals that I might have otherwise felt were out of my reach.

Here are just a few of the ways that running adds value to your personal development journey:

Community

Our RTO team crossing the finish line together.

There are a lot of factors (technology, careers, families, busy lifestyles) that contribute to making it harder for us to find the time and confidence to connect with others. We naturally crave connections with others, and it is so important to invest your time into something where you feel a sense of belonging; where you are part of a tribe. They push you to be your best and elp lift you back up when you are at your worst. In a running community, everyone is at a different level and no one judges your speed or your process, but rather they praise you for just being there and giving your best. It is a great discipline to teach yourself strength, not only physically to push through when you feel weak, but also mentally to talk yourself through it and believe that you can succeed. Belonging to a group lets you see that people are not judging you, and that they value your presence, and helps you work on accepting others and letting go of your own judgments.


Accountability

There are a lot of curve balls that life throws at us, but with running, you are in complete control. You set your goals, find motivation from within, and tell yourself when it is time to push harder, take it easy, or call it a day. Your performance is the outcome that comes solely from the motivation you give yourself and the actions you take. There’s no one else to blame if the outcome isn’t what you expected, and there is a lot of personal accountability that comes from that. There’s also a lot of personal gratification and there’s nothing like the feeling of running that last stretch to the finish line and knowing that all of your hard work has paid off. The best part; the only way to fail is to give up. You ran 5 miles yesterday and only a half mile today? Awesome! You got out there and did it. Small efforts still make a contribution to your goals; don’t give up.

Resilience and Confidence

My sister and I after running up to Virginia City on the RTO

Running isn’t easy, especially if you are just getting started. Every season when I start to train for the Odyssey, I am dying trying to run a few miles. It is something that you work on day after day and you can definitely set yourself up for failure if your goals aren’t realistic or if your negative self-talk is overpowering you. When you come across something that is physically and mentally difficult and you are able to push through that and keep going, that resiliency that you build up spreads to other aspects of your life. You start to see that you are strong and what you are capable of if you really apply yourself, and that is a powerful feeling.

If you live in Reno, check out a list of upcoming races here, and even more are listed at www.race178.com. Regardless of the level you are at now, I encourage you to sign up for a 5k in your city, even if you want to walk it. You might surprise yourself how much fun you have while setting goals for yourself, building strong transferrable skills and most likely benefitting some local charities too.

Connecting Hobbies With Career Success

Photo Source

Finding hobbies that you like to do outside of work is an important part of keeping work-life balance and nurturing the interests you have that you don’t necessarily deal with in a normal job. In our busy lives where we sometimes feel that we have just enough energy to make it through the day, hobbies may seem like more of a treat when you have spare time, rather than a necessity for balancing what you have to do with what you love to do. Hobbies are the things that we choose to do, that we are good at or enjoy learning about, and play an important role in many aspects of our lives including stress relief, allowing us to connect with people who share the same interests, and engaging us in activities that we choose to be doing that are purposeful and important to us. They give us the ability to develop new skills while balancing out what we need to do on a daily or weekly basis with what we love to do.

Many people have a hard time making hobbies a priority because they seemingly do not have a direct impact on our career development or financial success, but studies have shown that participating in hobbies outside of work that you are passionate about can actually have a measurable impact on your performance at work. “Maintaining such hobbies can make individuals seem more appealing to potential employers, improve their mood, increase their confidence, reduce stress, provide networking opportunities and help them work better with others.”

photographyThere is a reason, after all, why so many employers ask about hobbies in an interview. They are looking to see if you are well-rounded and if you may have skills such as leadership, and the ability to set goals and see them through. “It’s assumed that if you engage in a diverse assortment of hobbies, you may be better equipped to manage a broader array of experiences and people on the job.”

When you challenge yourself to do something new that you enjoy, and then you continually build upon those skills, you develop a sense of mastery. By breaking up routine in our daily lives we are challenged in a positive way without the stress of a work related challenge. Skills that you build through your hobbies can transfer to all aspects of your life including work and may include skills like time management, patience, decision making, networking, grit, creativity and confidence. Since our hobbies reflect our personal tastes, values and interests, they can also be important clues to direct us towards meaningful and successful career choices.

Photo Source

We are able to find what we are passionate about by exploring many different things and finding something that speaks to us on a personal level. Taking a class is one of the best ways to explore a new interest and expose yourself to something new without any commitment, and it is a great way to network with people who share the same interests. The more you explore, the more your interest in something meaningful to you will come naturally. I encourage everyone to try something new this week. Maybe it is a new yoga class you have been wanting to try, or taking a fun painting class with wine, or even going for a run. You might just find your passion and you won’t know if you love it or hate it until you try!

 

 

 

5 Ways to Explore Your Hometown: Reno Redevelopment

Photo Credit: http://www.ralphandersen.com/jobs/city-manager-reno-nv/
Photo Credit: http://www.ralphandersen.com/jobs/city-manager-reno-nv/

I grew up and live in Reno, Nevada and to most people who have lived here, it is one of the friendliest and supportive communities to live. Somehow everyone is connected by two degrees of separation and when you meet someone new, it doesn’t take long to find out how you are connected in the community. Reno has been a constantly evolving city and offers a completely different feel than it did even a few years ago, especially in the downtown and Midtown areas. A $1.2 billion downtown reinvestment plan along with the development of Tesla’s giant gigafactory are just a few of the changes that are sure to host and inspire an array of new people and businesses to come to the area.

Reno has become a prime example of how reinvestment and change can bring new opportunities for the city, surrounding areas, and for the people and families who live here. New businesses and services have popped up all around town providing opportunities to discover self-investment opportunities in fitness and wellness, outdoor adventure, social interaction, community involvement, intellectual and career development, and creative exploration.

reno_nevada
http://www.history.com/topics/us-states/nevada/pictures/nevada/neon-arch-sign-in-reno-2

A substantial part of investing in yourself comes from seeking out new experiences, and what better place to start than in your hometown? (Especially when businesses give discounts to locals!) Whether it is signing up for a class or trying out a new running trail, stepping out of your normal routine can open doors that may lead you to find new interests and passions that you didn’t know you had. I find that even when I take my kids to a new playground or on a new trail around town, I am much more comfortable seeking out other new places to check out and experiences we can enjoy. In future posts I plan to highlight several local attractions, experiences and businesses in the Reno/Tahoe area in hopes of helping people in our city and others in their own towns to find ways to develop themselves through experiences close to home.

Here are 4 ways to explore your own hometown to discover how it can help your personal growth journey.

1. Visit local attractions

Reno and Tahoe are incredibly good about the amount of events that go on in the area, and many of them are free. Going to new places in town, especially with a friend, helps you to become more comfortable with areas you may not be familiar with. The more you can conquer around town, the more comfortable you will be to seek out and enjoy all that it has to offer. Cheer on your hometown team, find the best lake or river to spend the day, and take advantage of seasonal activities such as farmer’s markets, pumpkin patches and snowshoeing.

Great Reno Balloon Races
Great Reno Balloon Races

2. Check off your city bucket list

Try out some of the places that you have always wanted to but never got around to. I’ve lived in Reno almost my whole life, and the more I explore this city, the more amazed I am at the businesses and people that I find. Make a list of new things to do whenever you go out and try not to go to the same places or restaurants twice until you have made it through your list. Free community events such as concerts, movie nights, sports events, and arts are a great way to experience the culture of your town on a budget. Find a local charity that you are interested in and go to one of their fundraising events. This is a great way to step out of your comfort zone if you want to develop yourself in social situations.  You might be surprised at who you meet and the role they play in your community.

 

img_4860
Ferrari Farms Pumpkin Patch

3. Take a class

Whether you’re interested in painting, sports or computer programing, take advantage of the classes that your community might offer. Reno has some great options for learning new hobbies like cooking, gardening, and art classes. Community colleges and universities usually offer a variety of vocational courses that are also great ways to explore an interest you may have. Even Home Depot and Lowes offer DIY classes for adults and kids. You might find something you are passionate about.

4. Join a group

Since some of these recommendations are likely to lead you to meet new people and probably ones with similar interests as you, try and join a group that meets every week or month. Ask around at classes or search Facebook for local groups that might spark your interest. Running groups, mom’s groups, outdoor adventure groups, you name it, people want to find others that like what they like. It is nice to have a place to belong to, and sharing experiences with others is a great way to feel good about your journey.

 5. Go on a date night

It is almost always easier to try new things if you have a partner or a friend join you. Arrange some time with your significant other or a friend to do new things that you wouldn’t normally do on your own, like going on a new hike or taking a class. If you decide to do it again, you might feel more comfortable on your own knowing what to expect, and if it is a good place to bring kids or pets next time.

I hope some of these tips encourage you to go out and see the people, places and businesses that make your home town great! What is your favorite experience around Reno and Tahoe that has helped you grow? Share in the comments I will make sure to go experience it too!