Congrats to Tara on her September feature! Tara is a 37-year-old Movin’ Mama residing in Andover, MA with her husband and 3 yr. old twins! When she’s not spending time on her Yoga mat, she’s a Cardiovascular Clinical Pharmacy Specialist (AKA Pharmacist) and co-CEO of her family (her own cute title, may have to steal that one). We asked her how she’s living well today and here’s what she shared…
How do you typically start your day?
Ha! Well that depends on the day and what time I was able to get to bed the night before. When things run smoothly I like to get up early and squeeze in a little yoga practice before work. In my ideal world, I would like to do this every day.
Then I make my breakfast, pack my lunch and head out the door. Some mornings though, I just don’t have the energy. After spending a night running around with the kids and staying up late to work on projects (likely while binge watching some of my favorite shows), the snooze button becomes my best friend and I will hit it about 2-3 times before getting up to start getting ready for work and head out the door. The good thing about these mornings is that I am usually able to see the kids and grab some hugs before I head out the door. My daughter has been doing this thing where she mouths “I love you” and then winks and points at me and it melts my heart every time.
My favorite mornings are when I can have a lazy Saturday or Sunday with the kids. They don’t really get to watch TV, so on the weekends I let them cuddle in bed with me and watch a show and then we all get up and make breakfast together. Usually something they can help with, like pancakes or eggs and then we all sit together and plan out our adventure for the day.
What is your favorite workout right now, and why?
Yoga! It makes me feel strong inside and out. With the limited time I have between juggling a marriage, 2 kids and a career, what I strive for in life is BALANCE.
Easier said than done, but at least my practice helps me to feel like I am moving in the right direction. We recently moved from Texas back to Massachusetts, so while I get settled and find my new yoga home here, I have been doing online flow yoga practices led by some of my favorite teachers in Houston. Yoga has taught me the value of patience and honoring what my body can do today, free of self-judgement. Each day I build strength and flexibility that I use on and off the mat.
The other reason I love yoga, is because it is something that I have been able to share with my kids. They naturally took to yoga and from a very early age I noticed them trying to mimic what I was doing. I quickly took the opportunity to start teaching them the breathing techniques, basic poses and meditation.
Practicing together has helped us to develop a unique bond and I have noticed that it has helped them to develop their self-esteem as well as helping them learn to regulate their emotions through deep breathing and relaxation. They never cease to amaze me. Just the other day Violet was calling me over to show me that she had learned the dancer’s pose.
What crossed your mind when you found out that you were expecting twins?
Getting pregnant was such a struggle for us. After 3 years of trying, we had already come to terms with the reality that children might not have been in our future. So, when the ultrasounds showed not one, but two babies, I had no words…it just seemed too good to be true. Immediately a wave of emotions rushed through me.
I was excited to be pregnant, scared about successfully carrying these babies to term, and anxious about the challenges we would face raising our children in Houston when both of our families lived in Massachusetts. It was a little overwhelming to say the least, but the amount of joy and happiness that filled my heart was like nothing I have ever experienced. After being married for 7 years, I knew we were ready and I was SO thankful that I was going to be a mom.
Once the initial shock wore off, I started to think about more of the actual details, like how would we afford daycare with 2 children? Do we put them in the same room or separate them? (ours are still in the same room per their request). Would I be able to breastfeed twins? (I was told it would be like holding 2 footballs – and it wasn’t. my little footballs squirmed and wiggled and repeatedly tried to roll off the pillow).
What do you love most about being a new mom so far?
Honestly, as much as I love the double hugs and hearing I love you x 2, I love that I can be there for those little people. I cherish those moments when Mom is the only one that can wipe the tears and make them feel better. I love feeling their little chests rise and fall as they begin to catch their breath and calm down. I hope they always know that I am here for them and that I will always be their biggest fan.
I also love how they have changed me for the better and helped me to rethink my own definition of happiness. My career has always been a big part of who I am, but now I take my job as Mama Bear and Co-CEO of this family very seriously. I want to be a huge part of Landon and Violet’s formative years and I make sure to carve out quality time with them each day, which sometimes means a lot of late nights and snooze buttons for me.
What has been your biggest challenge with wellness since the birth of your twins and how are you overcoming it?
My biggest hurdle was mentally reassuring myself that it was ok to still have “me” time. As I mentioned it was so hard for us to get pregnant so when I finally got the good news, I was so cautious and I cut way back on my activity. It all worked out for the best as I was able to carry the twins for 37.5 weeks and I actually worked up until the day I delivered.
But, after wanting to be a mom for so long I just felt so guilty leaving the babies. How could I possibly spend all day away from them at work and then still carve out an hour for myself? It was a mental road block that was so hard to break through. It finally all changed for me on my 2nd Mother’s Day when my husband bought me a 30-day pass to my favorite yoga studio. When I opened my card and saw that gift, I felt something come alive inside me. It was like fate.
We had just moved to the suburbs and the studio I had gone to in town had just opened a new location about 5 minutes from our house. I gave everyone a kiss, grabbed my stuff and headed out to the studio to start my practice. It felt amazing!
Taking that time for me and allowing myself time to re-energize and get centered created a shift towards restoring the balance that had been missing. Gradually I watched myself grow stronger mentally and physically, and I can’t imagine my life without my practice.
What is your best practice for stress-relief?
Yoga, mindful meditation and deep breathing. While the mediation takes more time and practice, the deep breathing is quick, easy and works for kids too. It has been an invaluable skill to teach these ticking time bombs that have shown me that they can decompensate at a moment’s notice.
Personally, I use the deep breathing to help me re-focus my energy when I am at the brink of a meltdown. And… admittedly, sometimes I need to use it to regroup after I have already flipped the switch. Taking the time to take long deep breaths keeps me from talking and saying things I may later regret.
For the kids, I use it when they are upset or having a full on meltdown. I know that a lot of their frustration comes from their inability to control their situation, so we practice breathing in order to help them find some self-control. This technique takes time but it is so worth it, because it works.
I hold them and keep taking deep breaths and once they are able to stop hyperventilating, they join in with me and we keep breathing until they can take three deep breaths on their own. Sometimes it helps if I put their hand on my heart and let them feel the rise and fall or my chest with the breaths. Within a few minutes they are able to regroup and get back to being kids. This has saved my sanity, limited the duration and frequency of meltdowns, and has helped prevent me from saying things I would have later regretted.
What are some things you’re doing to find work-life balance?
Work/life balance can definetly be a struggle at times. I am a clinical pharmacist at a major teaching hospital and between rounds, teaching, committee work and presentations there is always plenty of work to be done. My challenge as a mom is reeling in my type A personality traits that can make it difficult to pull myself away from my job.
Compartmentalizing my day has helped me to achieve some sense of balance amidst all the craziness. As much as I am NOT a morning person, I have attempted to become one. My goal is to get up early, squeeze in a workout, get to work by 7, wrap up by work by 4 or 5, pick up the twins and then spend my evening hours with my family.
At work, I have learned to set limits and say no when I start to get stretched too thin. I also try to give people a realistic timeline for when I can get things accomplished so that I don’t create too much stress and anxiety for myself.
When I am home I try to unplug between the hours of 5-9, limiting the amount of time I spend online and returning emails. I want my family to know and feel that they are my priority and they have my attention. We try to eat together as a family every night and I try to make some of our activities fitness-related to help provide me with some stress relief as well.
We go on long walks, swim and play outside whenever we get the chance. The key is not to beat yourself up on the days when you are just too tired to function. Those days when you wake up late, get tied up at work or are stuck trying to juggle making dinner, mediating a toddler dispute and frantically working to meet a deadline. It’s okay to feel a sense of relief and joy when the kids are finally tucked in and you can rest. It’s all about the little victories!
What do you do when you want to have “me time”?
Relax! Lately, between work and the kids, my life is always GO GO GO. I honestly had no idea how much energy 2 three year-olds would have! When I get that time for myself there a few things I love to do:
- Sit in a coffee house and actually enjoy my coffee while reading something completely unrelated to work
- Yoga – did I mention I love it?
- Binge watch TV. We never have the TV on in the evenings so when I am alone is the only time I get to catch up on my shows. Some of my more recent series have been Orange is the New Black, The Bachelorette and Chicago Med. Next in line is Stranger Things.
- Sleep. No explanation needed.
What is one piece of candid advice you’d like to share with other new moms who are expecting twins?
Life will always be imperfectly perfect. Just go with the flow and enjoy the moment. Life with 2 is challenging and I have learned to pick and choose my battles. For instance, I could buy the most adorable matching outfits and my daughter will inevitably tell me no thank you, and insist on wearing a full on pink tutu with green polka dot leggings +/_ sunglasses or a tiara…while my son, would prefer to just wear his pajamas everywhere. As far as I am concerned if we can get out the door on time with clothes and shoes that’s a HUGE win.
Appreciate that your children are twins but love and foster their individuality. Don’t stress about who walks or talks first, which one is good at sports and which one can sing their ABC’s. Focus on making them feel good about themselves and teach them to love and each other and their family.
Spend time with them and create memories that they will treasure forever. My husband laughs because I want to do something EVERY weekend, but after losing my own mom too soon, I realize that time is not guaranteed. I love these years where I am still their best friend and it is cool to hang out with mom. I stopped telling myself “it’s too much work to get everyone packed up and out the door or on a plane,” and we just started doing it. And you know what, the kids adapted. There will always be an inevitable meltdown, but the fun times will always outweigh those little bumps in the road.
But my biggest recommendation, especially as a working mom, is to just relax, take a deep breath and take it all in. It’s okay that your house looks “lived in”…as I sat down to type this I had to move some monster trucks aside and I am sitting at a table with Elsa and Jake the Pirate.
There are some weeks that the laundry is washed and will just sit in baskets waiting to be put away, and the dishes may pile up if the dishwasher hadn’t been emptied. But it’s OKAY.
Those things are there and they need to be done, and again they will wait because now Landon is asking me to play dinosaurs and Violet would like to paint a picture, and well, those things will always come first.