Alessandra Arendt Photography

The year you have your first baby it's kind of tough to think of anything major happening that year other than the baby, but 2016 surprised me with all that I was capable of, in more ways than one.

We took a surprising amount of flights which I didn’t expect (44 totaled between the three of us) with Trey clocking in 10 of those. Challenging but doable, growing for sure.

Other key stats: the amount of books I checked out from the library (56!), mostly pregnancy, birth, or baby related, and the rest design focused or cookbooks.

We went on fewer dates but I remember them more, mostly for the uninterrupted conversation and less about the restaurant, and how sweet it is to get time together at this stage of life. We’re shooting for quality over quantity here.

My word for 2016 was grow. It was a tough year for me; growing pains I guess. I had a long and difficult pregnancy, and then unrelated to the baby, we got difficult news more than once. But, I do feel like I grew in huge ways; the obvious one (I gained and lost nearly half my body weight, I became a mom, etc) and the not as obvious ones: the ones not shared on social media and harder to pinpoint, the quieter, subtler, but life changing ones. (Our baby also participated in grow by tripling his birth weight in 6 months instead of the standard 12. #bigbabyclub)

We won the lottery in the baby department with Trey, and although having a baby always involves work, it’s the kind of work that you want to work for, because it’s so beyond rewarding. He’s a complete delight; he’s happy and giggly and cuddly and chunky and all the best things about babies. The amount of happiness he brings us daily is almost absurd. When I think back on this year, what I mostly feel is just so very thankful.

What I learned this fall is that while wonderful, post-baby life left me with a fraction of the time I had available for work. I took on way too much. This left me stressed out, resentful, and disappointed. I was living into the extremely high and unrealistic expectations I placed on myself in the name of wanting to DO IT ALL which proved to be unhealthy and so detrimental to me.

I said no last year more than ever before, and I will continue turning down many, many good opportunities, because I have one important thing on my plate right now: taking care of Trey. My inbox also requires attention and is important, but less so. I remind myself that someday, I will have more time. What will remain decades after this busy time of life is not the emails I could get back to or the income I made but the memories I have of the time I spent with my child.

I scaled way back, and at first it felt foreign and hard, but I’m leaning into it more. I’m realizing that my capacity is not defined by anyone else’s capacity. Just because someone else is doing XYZ + ABC does not mean I have to. I want to find my limits, and live in that space, of taking on just enough to feel productive in my work but also at being a present mom. I want to succeed at both, and to do that I need to guard my time fiercely and confidently.

The two books that had the most profound impact on me this year were: Present Over Perfect by Shanua Niequist and Chasing Slow by Erin Loechner. Both carried the message that we’re doing too much and it’s ok to do less and maybe take a breath once in a while. I devoured these books and hope that they steer a new course for me next year.

My word for 2016 is PLAY. I need this reminder that it’s just as important as work. Playing with Trey, yes, but also play for me. Getting outside more, working exercise back into my life more, less time in front of screens, more time on the floor. This is my small reminder to not take myself so seriously and to remember to have fun while I’m creating a life.

In 2017 I will be turning away from the crazy hustling that left me stressed out and overbooked, and instead creating space for playing, simplicity, and lightheartedness. I want a calmer, happier, slower life. Play is the word I’m choosing to help me do just that.