Back to real life: Some tips on making your life easier when coming home from vacations

Coming home from vacations can be tough. Coming home from vacations with kids? Well, raise to the power of your liking. This is of course not about a short trip or a day-out, it is more the issue for coming back from at least a 7 to 10 day vacation or longer. I am not going to be talking about dealing with that psychological phenomena that you might feel down or depressed when you come home; I just want to touch upon purely practical issues and share some of my tips on how to get back to “real life” as smoothly as possible.

  1. If you are flying and you happen to have a choice, pick an early flight back. The day of departure is anyway a lost day in a sense, so if you can just get home in the morning and still have some time for a smooth transition to your everyday life and for adjusting back kid’s schedules, use that! In general try to have at least a day to breathe out before jumping back to work, school and all the everyday chores. If you are able to schedule your vacation so that you have a weekend at home that’s even better. During your vacations you tend to loosen up daily schedules, you tend to have somewhat different eating habits and in general vacation time is obviously not the same as your daily routine. Additionally travel itself from point A to point B tends to be tiresome, especially for the little ones. Thus, if you arrive on Sunday and on the next day your kids need to go to school that will be very harsh on them! That will also be very harsh on you. So if you have a chance – take it easy and factor in the “adjustment time”. Small note on a daily schedule: on the day of arrival try to get kids to sleep at the usual hour and also get them up at the usual hour the next day – even if the next day is Sunday. Yes, 7 a.m. on Sunday might sound counter-intuitive, but trust me that would make the following Monday much easier.
  2. If you have that possibility do the laundry on the pre-last day of your vacation to arrive back with clean clothes instead of two-three full machines work. Big-big “but” here – only in case it is not too much of a hassle, as it is not the idea to actually ruin one of your vacation days! For us this time we just came back from our vacation at my mom’s, so doing the laundry for us was totally not a problem. Also if you were on vacation in a country where laundry service doesn’t cost the same as renting a limo you might consider using that. But to be honest the beauty of having laundry already done is worth even some extra bucks.
  3. Try sorting your clothes in your luggage in a way that it is possible to immediately take them out and put them in your closet. To be able to do that you need 1) to sort them at least per person (use plastic or paper bags; or just “divide the luggage in necessary amount of parts and assign a part for each of the travelers) and 2) to fold them in the same way you usually fold your clothes to put in your closet at home. What I mean by the latter is that if you for example usually fold your t-shirts flat to put them in the closet there is no point of rolling them to put them in your luggage, as you will get yourself an additional work when you come home.
  4. If this option is available to you – order your groceries online in advance, as your fridge is probably empty, isn’t it? What we usually do is order everything to be ready for a pick up on the day of our arrival. All we need then is just to quickly pass the supermarket and pick the boxes assembled for us. If that would not be possible we would need to physically go to the supermarket and lose at least an hour. If that can be avoided – by all means avoid it!
  5. Unless you have been away for just couple of days the amount of dust everywhere will be surprising in a bad sense of the word. You will have some time for a thorough cleaning later on, but upon arrival try quickly going over some common surfaces like a table, night stand, TV with a wet cloth (or a cleaning tissue). Same for the floor – “Swiffer” or analogues works perfect as a quick so-to-say “in-between cleaning” solution. You can of course skip this point if sounds irrelevant for you, but I personally prefer to have it relatively clean around at all times, and that way according to me is also a nice “take-it-easy transition to reality”.

As you have probably noticed I have a lot of “ifs” in my suggestions. Obviously. Some of the options will not be available for everyone (like a possibility to order groceries online, or an option to choose the morning flight), thus you have to see for yourself. The main point I want to make is – just have it at the back of your head that there are various ways how you can simplify your life upon arrival back home if you just do some homework in advance.

P.S. Some additional alarms on the first workday after vacations might also be a nice-to-have – like an alarm to remind you that you need to pick up your toddler from school! 🙂

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Hogwarts 2.0.: Learning magical powers in the comfort of your own living room

If you expect that by having read this article you will learn how to fly on a broom or how to freeze the moment I am afraid I will need to disappoint you. But for flying there are better alternatives and the moments can also be “frozen” in numerous ways. The magic I want to talk about is much more mundane yet also much more powerful. It can make other people’s day brighter, it can light up your own day and it can also miraculously get you what you want. It is the extraordinary power of a smile and a genuine “thank you”.

Saying “thank you” seems so easy but it is amazing how often it is overlooked. The root-cause of a lot of problems is that things are being taken for granted or that people are being taken for granted. Just a little bit of appreciation, recognition, gratitude can make somebody’s day and enhance positive vibes in the air. Coupled with a smile it does wonders!

A little example. You expect to get a good customer service. Sure so. But how often when you actually got one, you bothered to say “thank you”? That’s not needed, because a company is obliged to provide good customer service? Yes, but it’s not a company but its people who actually provide that service to you. Everybody likes recognition, moreover, everybody deserves recognition. I contacted a customer service of one company recently with a problem. They rapidly provided me with solutions and also with all the relevant information so that I could pursue one of the options. Of course, I wrote back to them saying that I am grateful, that this attitude is the reason I like their company and that I wish them all a splendid day. I had to recontact them two days later as that particular spare part I needed was only available for delivery in the Netherlands. What they did – they ordered it for me. Delivered to my door. For free. I am not saying that this happened because I told them that they are amazing. However, this is also not the first time that I experience good things coming my way after I have just been kind to people and have appreciated what they did to me instead of taking them for granted. When you send out positive energy you tend to get it back and not necessarily from the same person.

In personal relationships the power of “thank you” and a smile is even more significant. Yes, of course, you don’t make dinner to receive “thank you” from your husband, nor you do the laundry for that purpose. However, a simple “thank you” is a positive vibe that has a power to remove the tiredness factor from this never-ending chore-cycle. And as I said before, everybody likes recognition and deserves it.

In raising kids such recognition is likewise indispensable. When a kid tried to clean the floor (and messed it up worse than it was before) instead of saying: “leave that alone, you cannot do it anyway!” try: “thank you for helping me!” and a smile. You will be amazed how fast the skill will improve!

So unleash your magical powers and start enhancing positive vibes in the air by saying “thank you” to people and sending them your sincere smiles! When you smile the world smiles back!

 

 

 

Life plan: your instructions to the Universe

If one does not know to which port one is sailing, no wind is favorable” (Seneca)

“When you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it” (Coelho)

Whether you believe Seneca or Coelho, or none of the above, in order to achieve something in life you need to know what do you actually want. In my previous post about dreams – Protecting wings from being cut – I promised to separately talk about writing a “Life plan”, what to put in it and what to do with it afterwards, and that’s what I am going to write about in this post.

When I started writing my own “Life plan” at first I’ve read quite some psychology articles on whys and hows to understand if I need one and how to get to it. There are different approaches out there: you can go for a dream board, or a vision board, or a list, or anything in between – you pick. As long as you take a moment to reflect on your personal values and dreams and then find a way how to fix them be it in writing or in capturing an image, it works.

Having had a general dream board for a while, I decided to try something more structured, so I opted for a list divided in 6 categories –

  • lifestyle,
  • health,
  • emotional well-being,
  • financials,
  • personal development and vocation and
  • family.

The next step was to think about my values and a vision of what I want with respect to each of these categories, and then to write all that down in positive form and in present tense.

Why do you need to write things down? First, it pushes you to clarify for yourself what you want. Second, it motivates you to act. Research in the field of psychology has repeatedly proven that people become more committed to what they write down versus what they say. Third, it allows you to track the progress and thus get an additional motivation. 

I wrote down what I want to be able to do, where I want to go, what I want to have, what I want to improve, enhance. I thought about what type of lifestyle I aspire, what do I want to be doing. What do I want to spend my money on and how much money do I actually need for that. The goal/dream: “I want to have a lot of money” is actually flawed, as money is just means. Unless you collect paper or coins you in fact want not money itself but things and experiences money can buy.

After 6 pages of my “Life plan” were filled up, I identified my top 5 per category and wrote down a to-do list which I am currently actively working on, getting me closer to the realization of my dreams.

I understand skepticism some of you might have – that what is the point, for example, of writing down that you dream to travel around the world if you don’t have any money to do it? Well, if travel is really your dream there are hundreds of ways how to realize it with limited finances and thousands and thousands of people who already did it. If it’s not really about travel but rather about staying in fancy hotels around the world it is a different story, but also here you have options. Whatever it is – everything starts with identifying what do you precisely want in this life. Just be true to yourself.

As a final note, there are two “laws” that are to be taken into account :

  • the law of self-fullfilling prophecy – you become what you strongly believe in; and
  • the law of attraction – you attract into your life what you focus your mind on.

It works both ways – if you focus on negative all the time, if you nag and whine that nothing will ever work, that you will never achieve anything – you will program yourself to exactly that. However, if you focus on your dreams, focus on “how” rather than on “why not”, if you see the good, the positive, the bright, that is what your life will become. Confirmed by experience.

 

 

 

Motherhood: What has actually changed?

Of course you change when you become a mother. That’s a given. It is a major happening in life and it undoubtedly splits life in “before I had kids” and “now that I have kids”. However, sometimes when I am reading comments people make attributing the ground-breaking changes in their lives (and mostly negative ones) to the fact that they became parents, I cannot help but wonder if kids are really the cause? In my opinion kids can be the trigger and likewise and more often can serve as an excuse, yet the cause of a change is not them as such. It is once again all about choices.

What has changed so drastically for me since I have become a mother? I tried to reflect on that:

  • sleep – oh yes, sleep… That’s the first thing that comes to mind. After you have kids there will be no more lazily waking up closer to noon, that’s true. Even if you were a good girl and the Universe blessed you with a good sleeper, still there will be “all-nighters” from time to time, there will be jumping up to check if your kid is breathing normally, there will be night feeds… And I am not even mentioning what’s awaiting you if you have been a bad girl! Well, it is indeed hard, but it is manageable. There are different solutions: the Sleep Lady approach, co-sleeping, shaking on a gym-ball, even the infamous cry-it-out (which I personally find unacceptable, but that’s my personal opinion) – try what works for you, or just wait for a while, it will not last forever!
  • me-time – if before kids all time was me-time now it has significantly shrunk, but I must admit that I don’t have the feeling that it’s that bad in my case. I always have at least some time for myself. I could do with more of course…
  • freedom to do what I want and go where I want – well, freedom is overrated and it is not only motherhood that sets the limits. I do feel certain limitations now, however it is just a matter of organizing for it. Before it was of course easier but also now if I really want it, I will find a way to get it. Otherwise, it is just that I don’t want it hard enough.
  • body – I do have some stretch marks despite fanatically smearing myself with anti-stretch mark creams during my first pregnancy, but hey – I am a tiger who earned her stripes! Actually that’s all there is for me. My weight came back to the same spot as when I was 18. I even still fit the pant suit that I wore when I was 18 (It did require some effort, of course.) My breasts saw some damage after two years of breastfeeding, but also nothing major. So overall, I personally haven’t experienced any significant body changes with motherhood.
  • fear – now this is probably one of the most significant changes that motherhood brought for me and it is twofold. On one hand, it is fear for my kids – overwhelming, irrational fear that something might happen to them. You can try to stay rational, you can try to do reasonable things to ensure safety and well-being of your little one, but this fear will still be there. Irrespective. On the other hand, it is fear that something might happen to me and my kids are then left without their mother. I assume the second part is even more relevant if you are a single mom, but it is true also for a mother in a relationship. But is it a negative change after all? I don’t think so. In a lot of cases it pushes you to reconsider your bad habits, to take more care of yourself and to be more attentive to yourself, so at least for me this change is a positive one.

Thus, I have to say that I am happy not to experience any drastic “negative effects” of motherhood on myself. Was it because I was lucky, or because I knew upfront what are my values, boundaries and expectations from the whole “experience” and was acting accordingly? I don’t know (smile), but I do believe all of the above had its influence.

Before I conclude, if I talk about changes motherhood brings, I cannot forget to mention the two most important positive ones which are:

  • understanding my own mother – after I became a mother myself I started understanding my own mother much better. There is a lot to comment here actually… but in the essence: Oh God, how did she cope with me?!!
  • Love with a capital “L” – and this is the most-most significant one! You love your parents, you love your husband or wife, you might have experienced “all sorts of love” before, but nothing compares to love you feel for your little ones! When these little arms are around your neck and you feel their warmth and that insane smell that only mothers know – the smell of your child’s sweet little head – that’s one (just one of so many!) of these moments when you feel a completely different “shade of love”. And despite the fact that kids drive me crazy on a regular basis, they also totally steal my heart with millions of sweet things.

So yes, there are always changes. For some people these changes might be more significant than for others, however in my opinion it is to a large extent a matter of choice and undoubtedly a matter of finding a right balance; the balance that works best for you and your family.

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A comfort zone: Should I stay or should I go?

You hear it a lot: get out of your comfort zone! In order to succeed, you should step out of your comfort zone! You see motivational pictures with circles drawn where your comfort zone is depicted as a small miserable circle and just there – at a just slight distance – is a big bright circle of magic that is supposed to happen the next moment you step out of your comfort zone. Yeah right…

I don’t argue that you need to stretch yourself from time to time and that you do need to face your fears (especially given that most of them are actually nothing but an illusion), and that you do need to step out there and dare to follow your dreams and so on. But what a lot of people forget is that you cannot step OUT of your comfort zone if you haven’t first stepped IN there. That is somewhat linked to one of my previous posts about norms (link) – there is way too much pressure from the outside telling you how you should live. However, people do have different pace in life and different circumstances, different experiences they went through. A lot of people at this very moment are struggling to find their comfort zone!

I was there, I know what I am talking about. When you move to a foreign country, when you change your career, when you just gave birth to your child, and in many-many more situations you feel so vulnerable, you are so damn out of your comfort zone already! And somehow the “big bright circle of magic” is also nowhere to be seen at that moment.

So if you already have a lot falling on you, before you boldly follow Baumgartner and jump from the stratosphere, take a deep breath first and search for your “small miserable circle of comfort zone”. Get in there, get yourself a comfortable pillow and heal a bit.

Give yourself a permission to push the pause button from time to time and take a moment to reflect on who you truly are and what you truly want. And then, and only then, when you are back to being a strong lioness (or a lion) with a shiny, iridescent hair instead of a ragged, tattered kitten, then you can, and then you actually should, step out of your comfort zone and head towards your dreams. But not before. Whatever everyone says.

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Self-development, reaching goals and lifestyle balance through the prism of parenthood and immigration

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