Buckle up, my friends because I have 3,000+ words coming your way this morning! I finally got around to writing my follow-up Instagram Stories Q&A post and it is a LONG one!

The Instagram Stories Q&A post I shared back in May was actually my most popular post of the month that month, so I figured I’d keep the series going! These posts take me longer to put together than I anticipated (since I cannot help but seem to give VERY long-winded answers) so I apologize for the delay in answering these questions many of you sent my way via Instagram when I put a call out for questions back in June. Better late than never, right!?

I’d say about 98 percent of the questions I received from you guys last month pertained to some aspect of motherhood, so I figured I’d roll with that theme for this round of questions. Below I address everything from finding workout motivation post-baby and how my relationship with Ryan changed after Chase was born to losing the baby weight and balancing motherhood with the chaos of everyday life. I hope at least one question interests you and I’ll see ya in August for Round Three of this series!

Instagram Stories Q&A: Round Two

  • As someone who doesn’t have kids yet but is married, I would love to know how you balance marriage and parenthood. I am worried about how my relationship will change (even though I know it’s natural/inevitable)!

I love this question because what you said is true… Your relationship will change! But that is not necessarily a bad thing! Yes, you may argue a bit more and lose your temper faster, especially in the beginning when you’re both sleep deprived and trying to figure out how to be parents to a baby who only seems to cry and sleep, but there’s something so incredible about the bond that forms when you are both pouring your heart and soul into loving and caring for a child.

Date Night Davidson, NC

That being said, I remember snapping at each other big-time when we couldn’t figure out how to swaddle a screaming Chase at 3 a.m. when he was a newborn. One thing I learned? Acknowledging the fact that you’re both overly tired and stressed goes a long way. One of my girlfriends told me to ask myself, “Are you tired?” during the first few months when I found myself feeling abnormally ragey toward Ryan and more often than not the answer was YES. This simple question helped me realize I was likely more sensitive and easily upset because I was exhausted (and my postpartum hormones were still all over the place).

Once the newborn phase passed, things got much easier. Ryan and I both agree that we seemed to hit our stride with Chase when he was around six months old. He was napping well (though still not sleeping through the night) and we began feeling more like ourselves again.

julie ryan fagan

To me, the biggest change we made in our relationship after Chase was born was that we now have to be much more intentional in planning quality time together. Things that used to happen all the time, like grabbing dinner for two at a local restaurant for a spontaneous date night, are no longer an option. Yes, it may seem like you’re still together a lot but there’s a HUGE difference in talking with your spouse when you’re not distracted and attempting to have a legitimate conversation with a little one interrupting you every 30 seconds.

Ryan Julie Chase First Birthday

Understanding that sometimes we won’t get to really sit down and talk and listen to each other until after Chase is in bed and prioritizing quality time together at home (no TV or other distractions) went a long way for us and helped us to continue to communicate openly. From our dating days, Ryan taught me a lot about airing my grievances with him right away rather than keeping them bottled up and never has that been more important than after we had a child. I want Chase to grow up in a house where he sees that it’s okay for his parents to disagree and talk through conflict in a respectful manner. I tend to want to keep the peace and brush any bad feelings under the rug but that only pushes them down until they explode and I’m a total mess. Telling Ryan why he’s upsetting me or what I need from him (and vice versa) is so helpful in keeping our relationship in a happy place and something that has proven even more important as we do our best to raise a child together.

julie ryan chase family

Also, without family in the area, we didn’t get out much on our own for a solid year after Chase was born. Finding a couple of babysitters we trust and love in the area has truly been a game-changer for us since we now feel like we have more options in terms of getting help for Chase when we need (and want) to get away and reconnect as a couple.

  • How did you lose all of your pregnancy weight and how soon did you go back to your pre-pregnancy body?

I received this question from multiple people and sometimes I don’t know how to address it because I don’t really have a quick answer or a specific plan I followed. To be honest, losing the baby weight was simply not a priority for me at all in the beginning. Truthfully, I thought it WOULD be when I was pregnant. But then I had Chase and I just didn’t care. Sure, it would’ve been nice to fit into my pre-baby clothes faster and feel more confident but I was completely wrapped up in Chase and decided early on to give myself a break in the “body after baby” department. There’s enough for new moms to worry about after birth without the added pressure of feeling like you have to look like you did before you had a baby immediately after you give birth. That’s not realistic (at least it wasn’t for me) and so I focused mainly on fueling my body with mostly healthy foods for the first few months and let whatever happened in terms of weight loss happen naturally. I hung onto 8-10(ish) pounds for months after Chase was born and didn’t lose all of my baby weight until Chase was about nine months or so.

All that being said, I don’t want to mislead anyone into thinking I lost the weight I gained during pregnancy with no effort or thought. That was definitely not the case but it took me a while to really feel the itch to make an effort to do so. I think the biggest change for me happened around six months postpartum when I decided I wanted to tone up a bit and feel better in my skin before summer arrived. I know it sounds vain and maybe it is a bit, but I was ready to feel stronger and better about myself. I had a baby who was napping consistently (so I felt less overwhelmed and exhausted!) and I was sick of my leggings digging into my sides. I decided to meet with a trainer at Burn Boot Camp for a focus meeting. (BBC offers free focus meetings to all clients.)

SJL_2410a

I know BBC trainers are not dieticians but, on the whole, I know they prioritize clean eating which I figured wouldn’t be a bad thing for me to focus on, especially since I realized I was reaching for convenient foods over clean foods quite often. My trainer told me to track everything I ate for a week (with no adjustments to try to “eat healthier”) and report back to her. Oh my gosh it was SUCH a pain (I am not a tracker/calorie counter) and I think I only lasted three or four days but it WAS eye opening. You guys, I ate a TON of nut butter every day. (We’re talking 800 calories worth of peanut butter one day! Those spoonfuls added up for me, that’s for sure.)

When I showed my BBC trainer my food log, I knew what she was going to say before she said it. I needed more protein in my diet. My diet was largely lacking in protein and my food journal very quickly revealed that I gravitated toward quick carbs (and nut butters!) when I was hungry. I began doing my best to incorporate some source of protein into every snack and meal and felt 10,000 times more satisfied. I never tracked calories but I did make a concerted effort to swap snacks like a muffin for a protein smoothie or hard boiled eggs, a handful of almonds and an apple.

Work Snacks

Eating protein, carbs and fats at every meal and snack probably sounds like a no-brainer and, after reading more than my fair share about nutrition, I know that it is, but knowing what you should do and doing it are two very different things. I felt motivated to make a few small changes to my diet and I think that definitely helped me lose the last bit of baby weight by the time Chase was nine months old.

  • Any tips on finding motivation to work out after baby?

YES! I love this question!!!! After Chase was born, I took the doctor-recommended 6 weeks off from exercise with the exception of walking. Once I felt okay enough to walk postpartum, I walked around our neighborhood with Chase and Sadie every day and LOVED spending time outside with both of them. (This also really helped with cabin fever that can set in when it feels like you’re basically hibernating with a newborn!)

Walk with Baby and Dog

After six weeks, I searched for gyms in the area with childcare. (I knew my pre-baby fitness loves likely wouldn’t be an option for me anymore since they didn’t offer childcare.) Since Chase wasn’t good with a bottle (which we later found out was likely due to this issue with my frozen breastmilk), I didn’t feel like I could leave him in the morning or evening for months for fear he’d wake up crying and hungry. Finding a gym with childcare was a priority for me because I know myself enough by now to know that regular exercise does almost more for me mentally than physically. I also wanted Chase to have the opportunity to be around other kids every day since I was planning to stay home with him and didn’t have any other mom friends with little ones in the area yet.

Brittany recommended Burn Boot Camp to me and it was the PERFECT fit from the beginning. Not only did BBC offer free childcare, it was also packed with other moms and some of the most motivated and motivating women I’ve ever met. (I met one of my closest friends, Lauren, at BBC after we discovered our babies were only four days apart!) The workouts were right up my alley and I fell in LOVE. This made it relatively easy to feel motivated to work out regularly since I truly looked forward to BBC. My workouts were also pretty much the only time I felt like I got somewhat of a break from mom duty and focused on myself for 45 minutes so they almost felt like a treat for me.

I am sharing my experience because the number one thing I recommend to anyone looking to feel motivated to work out (postpartum or just in general!) is to find something you LOVE. Looking forward to a workout (or at the very least not dreading it/feeling completely bored) will make it 10,000 times easier to be consistent.

Jump Rope Workout

I also want to acknowledge how hard I think it must be for moms who work away from the home to fit in workouts regularly, especially when that often means sacrificing much-needed sleep in the mornings or time with your kids in the evening. This is something I know I cannot speak to so I’ll just try my best to offer one tiny bit of insight: Understand that your workouts do NOT need to last an hour or more to be effective. If you can manage to squeeze in a 30 minute workout at home a few times a week, that’s fantastic! Making small, realistic goals is often really helpful (i.e. working out three times a week for 30 minutes vs. six days a week for an hour) so you are setting yourself up for success and don’t feel discouraged. As you see progress, you’ll likely feel MORE motivated and can increase your goals accordingly.

Even a short workout can be incredibly beneficial and understanding that workouts don’t have to last an hour is HUGE, especially when you have a little one in the mix. I fully embraced this fact after Chase was born and absolutely think it helped with my consistency. My workouts for the first year of Chase’s life looked like a combination of boot camp workouts (45 minutes) and quick naptime workouts. I increased the intensity of my at home workouts but cut my typical pre-baby workout time significantly, so I was often done in 30 minutes or less. Workouts became more efficient and understanding I could work up a sweat and knock out a workout in under 30 minutes and didn’t need a full hour was huge for me as well from a consistency standpoint.

If you would like some 30-minutes-or-less workout options you can do at home, let me know and I can definitely put a blog post together for you guys with a bunch of shorter (but still challenging!) workouts in one place.

  • How do you balance motherhood, your job, working out and being a wife among all of your activities and family time?

In the first few months after Chase was born, I really struggled with this because Chase wasn’t on any kind of a schedule. I often felt frazzled because I never knew when I’d be able to work on the blog, workout, have time to do stuff around the house (cleaning, cooking), etc., but now that Chase is nearly two, balancing everything is quite a bit easier.

blogging with baby

The biggest key for me is keeping some semblance of a schedule on weekdays. Things don’t always go as planned (aka my energetic little toddler won’t nap for as long as I hoped for that day) but a basic outline of a schedule is really helpful for making me feel like I can accomplish the things I need to accomplish every day.

I generally wake up at the same time (and make a to-do list for the day), workout at the same time, meet up with friends for play dates around the same time, put Chase down for his nap at the same time, etc. I know this isn’t realistic for everyone (and likely isn’t realistic for us long-term either, especially if we have more than one child), but right now it works really well for us and I’m riding this wave as long as possible.

Julie Fagan Chase 15 Months

Perhaps the BIGGEST change I made for my sanity was committing to waking up before Chase. I am up at 5 a.m. almost every day and knowing I will usually have about two hours to myself before Chase is awake is huge. This is my most productive work time and helps me begin my days on a productive note. I also know myself enough to know what times I work best and I am NOT good at working in the evening at all. I really, really value my evenings at home with Ryan and Chase and try to shut down the computer and stay away from social media in the evening hours. (This isn’t always realistic, especially when I have a brand deadline, but it is something I try to prioritize.) This also helps me feel connected and present in family time at the end of the day.

In general a weekday looks like this for me:

5 a.m. – 7 a.m.: Work (and say goodbye to Ryan at 6:45 a.m.!)

7 a.m. – 8:15 a.m.: Get Chase up and dressed, feed him breakfast, get ready to head out for a few hours

8:30 – 9:15 a.m.: Workout

9:15-11:30 a.m.: Some kind of activity away from home (Gymboree, play date, park, pool, quick errand, etc.)

12 p.m.: Chase eats lunch while I prep dinner

12:30-3 p.m.: Work during Chase’s naptime

3-6 p.m.: Up in the air – afternoons are usually pretty flexible and we’ll often play at home, read books, meet up with a friend, walk to a local park, etc. Chase is also pretty good about entertaining himself in the early evening (5 p.m.-ish) so I’ll often use some of this time to throw in a load of laundry, straighten up around the house, do some dishes, etc.

6 p.m.: Ryan arrives home (this time varies, but 6 p.m. is a good ballpark) and hangs out with Chase and Sadie while I throw dinner together

6:30 p.m.: Dinner + Quick 10-minute cleanup of whatever part of the house is looking the most disastrous at the moment

7 p.m.: Bath for Chase

7:30 p.m.: Bedtime for Chase

9:30 p.m.: Bedtime for me and Ryan

As I look at this, everything appears quite structured but I don’t want to misrepresent myself at all because sometimes our days just look like one big chaotic mess. I think that as a mom it’s easy to feel like we’re doing a million things and nothing well and believe me I feel like that quite often.

I also really rely on Chase’s naptimes during the weekends to “catch up” on whatever fell through the cracks during the week. This is often when I’ll try to work ahead on blog posts which really helps alleviate some weekday stress.

During the weeks when I feel like I cannot catch my breath, I try to focus on my number one priority: My family. Sometimes this means a blog post won’t go up the next day. Sometimes this means I have to pass on a collaboration with a brand that would be great for my blog/business. Sometimes this means a workout doesn’t happen. Sometimes this means we’re eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner. And that’s okay. Above everything else, I am Chase’s mom and when I’m truly feeling overwhelmed, I try to focus on gratitude and motherhood. I know I am so ridiculously lucky to have a happy and healthy toddler and the fact that I GET to be his mom and care for a little man I love more than anything in this world is not lost on me for one second. If everything else seems to fall apart during the day but I know Chase felt loved and cared for, I try to think of that day as a success, as hard as it can be sometimes when my to-do list is glaring at me at 9 p.m.!

Questions of the Day

  • Is there something specific you do in your life to help alleviate stress and make you feel more balanced?
  • For the parents: What is one way your relationship changed post-baby? 

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