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before and after

Lifestyle Motherhood

Family Life: Expectations VS Reality

Before the birth of your first child, how did you imagine life looking? Which expectations lined up with reality? If you’re honest, I’ll bet a fair amount threw you for a loop. This was definitely the case for me. Our family life expectations vs reality are sometimes two different worlds. Especially as a new parent.

You can’t know, in the months leading up to their arrival, who your child will actually be, and how you’ll actually respond to them. They are their own person, with preferences and opinions about the world you’ve spent hours cultivating specifically for them. Our babes do not always agree. Whether we like it or not.

In the nine months since my daughter was born, I’ve eaten my share of crow. Therefore, I write this to expose a glimpse into my truth. Whether you’ve been here and totally relate, are on the cusp of new parenthood, or (like I used to) enjoy a good laugh at parents’ expenses, behold my Family Life: Expectations VS Reality:


Expectation: My baby will eat only fresh/organic/no sugar/no additives/low sodium food, prepared with love, from scratch.

Reality: Who has time for that? Seriously? Parenting is a busy job, and sometimes, cubes of cheese is all my daughter will eat. At least she’s not hungry, right?

no vegetables expectations vs reality


Expectation: No TV until they are at least 2 years old.

Reality: Sorry, not sorry. My daughter loves Sesame Street. Using Elmo and the gang as entertainment so I can eat/shower/clean/do laundry/pay bills/finally call my mom back/go to the bathroom solo, is a needed reprieve. I play and engage all throughout the day, but Mama needs a goddamn break.

no TV expectations vs reality


Expectation: Days will be occupied with reading and educational toys.

Reality: I dreamed up BIG expectations about play time. We built our daughter a little library, sectioned out toys based on her age. Turns out, she could not care less about reading. In fact, books seem to annoy her. And the favorite “toys” are TV remotes and a set of plastic measuring cups. Not sure what exactly those teach, other than “this goes pretty far back in my mouth.”

childs library expectations vs reality


Expectation: I will not raise my voice at my kid.

Reality: I think children are born with an uncanny ability to test your patience. Occasionally, I react loudly. I lose my temper because I need her to “just give me a fucking break.” I’m human. To be fair, sometimes I raise my voice for safety. But more than likely, I’m saying “no,” which is my daughter’s least favorite word.

parent losing cool expectations vs reality


Expectation: We’ll create a magical nighttime routine to help baby wind down and sleep through the night.

Reality: Bath time, reading, singing songs, all the typical sleepy time routines, rile up my daughter. “Oh, these silly parents. I see where they are going with this, but I WILL FIGHT. YOU CANNOT NOT CONTROL ME. Also, I plan on waking at least every two hours all night long, so best of luck.”

crying baby expectations vs reality


Expectation: I’ll be a cool parent.

Reality: My baby is too young for me to embarrass her just yet. But wearing sweatpants in public in your 30s is cool, right? And “Baby on Board” signs? What about memorizing the PBS kid’s show songs?

cool mom expectations vs reality


Expectation: Instagram Parenting.

Reality: Whatever social media teaches us about what parenting looks like, the reality is definitely not perfect. Life isn’t one big photoshoot (though photoshoots with my baby are the most fun). I enjoy posting sweet moments, milestones, and funny glimpses into our life. That being said, I’m for sure not pulling out the camera when I’m covered in shit or my daughter is losing her mind because “no you can’t have that, its not for babies.”

fit expectations vs reality


Expectation: My house will stay clean and organized.

Reality: Sometimes. This is only sometimes true.

organized house expectations vs reality


Expectation: I will take time for myself.

Reality: My personal time is napping with my daughter (or laying down with her when she falls asleep and rewatching “Parks and Recreation” because it’s the greatest show). Driving the long route home from the grocery store to hear the end of that song I love. Reading instead of tackling the dirty dish pile. Personal time is about taking care of yourself, however you define it.

me time expectations vs reality


Expectation: I will love my child.

Reality: The love is beyond measurement.

love expectations vs reality

At the end of the day, parenting requires flexibility. Going with the flow, and whatnot. Family life is surprising, glorious, messy, and unpredictable. Laugh off what you can because it’s the most beautiful experiment in which you don’t know all the rules. Embrace the chaos. Learn to love reality not meeting your expectations because family life is so much better than what you imagined.

DIY Lifestyle Motherhood

Building a Nursery: How I Saved on Cost and Space

Building a Nursery

What do babies need? I asked this as my husband and I set upon preparing and building a nursery for our first child.

Car seat, definitely. A crib? Or basinet? The nursery is small. Oh, it turns out we both want to share a bed with the baby, that solves it. High chair, but not for a while, right? When do we start solid food, again? What about a changing table? I think they are unnecessary; he likes the idea of a diaper station. Bottles, pacifiers, toys, socks. We need to get socks.

So, I began compiling lists. You might not think it, but babies need a lot of stuff. Or so we’re told by advertisements and baby stores. Children’s furniture is shockingly expensive, especially considering the size. Tiny people require tiny things, but eventually, all too quickly, they outgrow the tiny things. It seemed absurd to spend hundreds of dollars on any one thing that might last a couple of years or even a couple months. I started researching and asking advice from other parents. What we needed versus what we wanted. What was a life saver, and what we could do without. Slowly, items were being crossed off my lists.

We began making room. As my due date approached, we brought out the gear, clothes, furniture, and all things baby related we’d been collecting. I nested. I cleaned, organized, and folded tiny socks. We bought paint.

I began building a nursery.

Building a Nursery

This is what you see when you first walk in the room. The end result came after several rearrangements, adding/taking away accent pieces and furniture. I’m sure it will continue to evolve as my daughter grows.

  • One of my favorite parts about the nursery is this Alphabet I found on Etsy. I love the illustrations, and the set only cost $32. It was my first purchase specifically in mind for a baby’s room.
  • A friend gifted the fish mobile in the upper left corner.
  • The square floor shelf was pulled from another room because we decided furniture in the nursery looked better white. The colorful shelves were around $3 each on clearance at IKEA. Actually, the shelf came from IKEA, too. We super love IKEA.
  • A friend gifted The Pack ’n Play because her little ones grew too old. We’ve yet to use it for anything other than storage, which is a nice dual purpose. The room is a small space, 10 x 10 feet, so it’s nice to quickly pull her tummy time mat off the floor and out of the way. When I’m carrying around a crying baby, I don’t want to trip on “stuff.”

The Dresser:

Building a NurseryI saved on cost by buying used and fixing up. This is the before/after of the dresser I bought on craigslist for $40. I only have this photo from my Instagram of the “original” blue. It took FOREVER to finish this 3-foot tall dresser. Or felt like forever because I was working in a hot garage at the end of summer while 8 months pregnant. Unfortunately, I never took progress pictures. So I’ll give a description of my work:

  • Sanded down the blue paint (with help from my husband).
  • Painted several coats of white, excepting the back and bottom, and the yellow fronts of the drawers.
  • Painted several coats of the yellow.
  • Taped off the sides of the drawers and painted the black stripes.
  • I found an image online of a cat silhouette, then birds, and I drew onto the dresser. Full disclosure, I just copied a cat image from Google because it’s not like I’m trying to sell this. Then, painted in the black.
  • The knobs were a dollar each from Home Depot.

When I put the shelves back in order, the two smallest with birds didn’t fit. After a week of working on this, usually in a couple 2-3 hour blocks each day, I thought I might die. I cried a lot. After a small breakdown, I swapped drawers, and tada—they fit! Good enough. I spent so much painstaking time getting everything just right during two days of touch-ups using paint dipped q-tips, that I was done. Other than that tiny mistake, I really love it!

Building a Nursery: It’s all in the details.

Building a NurseryIn the photo on the left, I fixed the alphabet to the wall with adhesive photo corners from a local craft store. They didn’t stay stuck, though. After a couple of days, the cards began falling off. So, I got some sticky tac, and they’ve been up without issue since. I really like the finished look of the photo corners, which saved on cost. It gives the illusion of framing, without the expense of actually framing.  

 Building a NurseryTo the right, the 3×3 feet “you are my sunshine” painting. I used the paint we’d purchased for the baby furniture, plus a little orange I found in the garage. The leftover plywood came from my husband building our platform bed. Upcycling is a great way to stay within a budget!


                                       Building a Nursery                 Building a Nursery

The handmade blocks and “Grace’s First Library” are two aspects of the room which came out of our baby shower; therefore costing us nothing. Instead of decorating onesies, I wanted something my daughter could get use out of years down the road. We set up a station with crafts and paint, and guests designed these special toys just for her.

On the shower invitation, I asked that each person brings their favorite children’s book to start her collection. We now have over 40 books, and she’s 5 months old.

Rocking Chair Project:

Building a Nursery

Here, I again did not take progress pictures. I didn’t expect to be sharing any of this with the public, so it never crossed my mind. The chair cost $12 at a local Habitat for Humanity store. We’d been searching for months, so when my husband showed up with that sweet deal, he found me elated. Until I realized he brought me another painting project. I love how it turned out, though, so we both did a good job.

  • My husband took apart the chair and helped me sand. Sanding sucks, even without a huge belly.
  • I painted 3 coats, and it was all tedious. If you look really close, which please don’t, you can see where I got tired of painting and got sloppy toward the bottom. Whatever, it looks way better than the original brown, right?
  • I purchased the cat pillow a couple years ago, and now it fits perfectly with the unintentional animal theme.

The Closet

Building a Nursery

This is the back wall of our nursery. A closet is not particularly eye-catching, but this shows how we utilized room in the small space. We spent a lot of time organizing. Everything has a place, and we do our best to put things where they belong. This is a huge help in keeping the room decluttered.

  • Her diaper bag and stroller hang on designated hooks, which makes it easy to always put them away after each use. Less clutter for the ground.
  • We took the door off the closet to make the area feel more open.
  • Shelves are great for decorating and storage. Above the tiny TV, we have a little family photo section. Plus The Hulk piggy banks from when my husband was a kid. Passing down = cost saving. Inside the closet, each shelf contains similarly themed items (work out gear: yoga mat/hand weights, canned cat food/treats, breastpump/accessories).
  • To the right we have our laundry baskets, both purchased on clearance. The larger one for the adults, the smaller for our daughter.  Fabric makes them look a little fancier than plastic, and since they are exposed and easily accessed, instead of crammed in a closet, we keep dirty clothes picked up. Again, less clutter in a small space is key to having the room feel big. 
  • The stuffed animal corner cost us $20. My husband found another sweet deal on the large bear, and the rest were free from the local “Buy Nothing” Facebook group, or gifts.

Building a Nursery
This is another example of how I saved on cost while building a nursery. I bought these picture frames at Goodwill and painted them black and white (again, using what we already have). I drew digital pictures of our cats, framed the first ultrasound pictures of our daughter, and printed a couple photos from when my husband and I were kids (our favorite of each other). One of a kind, personal artwork makes the room unique, and this section cost less than $10!

The moral of my story:

It’s relatively easy to spend a lot of money building a nursery. If done right, it can be incredibly easy to save. Everything pictured that we bought specifically for the nursery, totaled under $200. You’ll notice no crib is in the room. We decided to co-sleep with a family bed, so our daughter sleeps with us. Good thing we own a king sized bed. I convinced my husband we don’t need a changing table. Instead, we change her on the bed, which is more convenient for us anyway.

  • Bringing what you can off the floor is going to help save space when building a nursery.
  • Use your own crafty ways to decorate the nursery (or any room) to save on cost.
  • Upcycle.
  • Check out local groups online.
  • Browse craigslist every day.
  • Find a friend, like I did, whose kids are slightly older than yours, and take all their hand-me-downs.

We’ve paid for almost nothing full price while prepping for baby and building a nursery. Except for socks. We totally bought socks.