the quote that changed my parenting mantra

Motherhood is a delicate balance between enjoying/savoring the moment, and getting sh*t done. When we were living in Tucson, for a few months before heading to Valdosta, I found myself more lost than usual in the scramble of work and kid to-dos. My pendulum swung far into work mode, with intense focus on all of the things I needed to complete in those three months.

We were in a temporary space with rented furniture, and 99% of our belongings were already in Georgia. We did the best we could to make it feel like *home* and Sunday nights included the entire family around our kitchen island, laughing and cooking together, while the cousins ran around playing. We had an amazing time with family and friends, celebrated Liv’s birthday, went on date nights, and I took awesome fitness classes with my Tucson friends. (I still miss Orangetheory, barre3, and (r)evolve.) It was such a fun and joyful time, but I found myself overwhelmed with anxiety about the upcoming move.

While spending time with our family and friends in Tucson was the greatest blessing, it was also a major tease. It was a borrowed life, and a reminder of our house in Tucson and the time when we actually got to live there. I found myself begging time to stretch, and hoping maybe they’d just forget about us in Tucson and we could stay there. (Doubtful, but a girl can dream.) I was sad to be leaving so soon, and overcome with the what-ifs and unknowns of moving back to Valdosta.

What if I didn’t like it, just like our last initial experience in V-town? (Spoiler: I don’t! Surprisingly, I love it.)

What if I couldn’t find a good school for Liv? (Thankfully, we found an excellent school. When I pick her up, she talks a mile a minute about her day, and looks forward to going each morning.)

What if it took a long time to make friends? (I feel like I was swooped up by the incredible V-town girls as soon as we got here.)

It just goes to show that worrying has no merit and things can often turn out so.much.better than we anticipate.

At the same time, foresight and patience have never been my virtues. I feel like the way things are now is the way they’ll be forever. It’s one of my many flaws, and a huge reason why I was so anxious while we were in Tucson.

Worry about the unknowns constantly lingered in the back of my mind, in addition to the great moving to-do list. I found myself living from day to day, from chore to chore, from task to task. Survival mode. Thankfully, we were all together, but life temporarily felt like a waiting game.

On the outside, I was watching the girls play at MyGym, smiling and laughing, but on the inside, I was thinking about what I was going to make for dinner, remembering we needed to do baths before getting ready for bed, wondering when the Pilot would be home from his night flight, and going through the mental checklist of things left to do for the move. (Book a hotel, rental car, pack the things we’d need immediately and begin to box the rest, purchase packing supplies, get plane tickets, sell the car, arrange furniture pick-up, etc.)

At night, I’d curl up in bed with a book on the Kindle, and use it as time to unwind before it all started again. While I was reading Chip and Joanna Gaines’ book, The Magnolia Story, I came across something that completely changed my mentality, and redirected my energy.

“I mean, that’s life. Life is never predictable. Life is never really manageable. If your mind-set is always, “I’m just surviving”, it seems to me that would wind up being the mind-set for the rest of your life. You’d just get stuck in it.”

? Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story

Here I was, in such an awesome place with people I love so dearly, and I was missing it. I was draining myself by wasting energy on circumstances that didn’t even exist. It was a huge distraction from something that’s incredible important to me: working hard to be a great mom to our babies. My parenting mantra became, “Thrive. Don’t survive.”

In the book, Joanna talks about her insanely busy life with four kids, a business (<— empire), and everything they have going on. She made the choice to thrive instead of merely surviving through the tasks at hand. She’s always been someone I greatly admire, and I definitely have some WWJD (What Would Joanna Do?) moments in my life. Needless to say, I took that part of the book to heart, especially because she seems like she has the whole mom-ming, life-ing, hustling thing DOWN.

It was a huge kick in the pants for me to be more present, and to seek out joy, even in the mundane moments. And I’m not thinking, “Yay, this is fun!” when you’re watching your small child throw an epic tantrum in the middle of a very fancy, and very quiet boutique. (Happened recently.) It’s taking a deep breath and seeking gratitude for what’s happening now, instead of constantly looking forward to the next chores or tasks we have to do. (Which as moms, it can be SO HARD.) For example, when they’re in the bathtub, we’ll sing funny made-up songs, make bubble beards, or I’ll enjoy watching them play while I browse through a magazine. Many times before, it’s been me sitting on the floor writing a grocery list while simultaneously thinking of something else.

“I always thought that the “thriving” would come when everything was perfect, and what I learned is that it’s actually down in the mess that things get good.” 

? Joanna Gaines, The Magnolia Story

2017 61 ZF 1928 87109 1 102

(Photo: Lindsay Colson)

Since I read that book, I’ve felt so much more joyful and spontaneous as a mom. This summer was our best summer yet, and I think it’s because I let some of the tasks and to-dos slide in favor of afternoons swimming, random adventures, and ice cream on the way home. We still have boxes that need to be unpacked, but I think if we haven’t needed them yet, we might not need them at all. 😉

We have regular childcare -in Tucson everything was on the fly, which often left me scrambling to finish work stuff- so that when I’m working, I’m working, and when I’m home, I’m home. I still get most of my work done either while the girls are at school (P goes to half-day preschool a couple of days a week) or at night when they’re sleeping. It’s amazing what it does for productivity levels when you have a solid block of time instead of quick blitzes throughout the day and playing catch-up at night.

I’m always learning, and always working to be a better version of myself. But, after I changed that mentality, I felt like a better mom. I was doing all of the same things, but enjoying it so much more. When I was constantly focused on what I had to do next, it often made me feel like I was failing.

I’d love to hear something you’ve learned or remembered in your parenting journey. What’s the best piece of parenting advice you’ve received?

Also, what do you do when your child is on their back screaming in a store? (Asking for a friend. It’s only happened once, but I want.. I mean, she wants to be prepared for next time.)



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  1. Laura @ Laura Likes Design on October 4, 2017 at 8:21 am

    I love those quotes by Joanna! We’re in a weird season of transition and I feel like by adjusting my mindset and seeing it as thriving as opposed to merely surviving, will really help!

  2. Caroline on October 4, 2017 at 8:49 am

    Listen to Thrive by Switchfoot on their album, Vice Verses. It was released in 2011.

    • Fitnessista on October 4, 2017 at 10:10 am

      k, i’ll check it out!

  3. Cassie on October 4, 2017 at 9:48 am

    I loved that book too. She is so inspiring. A big change I’ve made lately that I’m loving is that I added a smile column to my to do list. The goal is to write down any 3 specific things that made me smile that day. So during the day I’m look ing and hunting for those things instead of dwelling on the hard/tears/toddler negotiations of life. I deal with those moments but move on in a way that I’ve been unable to before all because I’m hunting for those 3 smile moments at the end of the day.

    • Fitnessista on October 4, 2017 at 10:10 am

      oh i love that idea!

    • JLee on October 4, 2017 at 7:28 pm

      A method that will likely be called for one time only, is to gently and lovingly join the little one in middle of wherever it may be, right along side them – with love.

  4. Liz on October 4, 2017 at 9:59 am

    That is such a good quote. i can totally relate to everything you said here as a mom. Wish I had advice about the temper tantrum in public lol. I just put my head down, collect my child and tell myself “well thats life sometimes” to make myself feel better. 2s seem fun!!

    • Fitnessista on October 4, 2017 at 10:09 am

      2s. oh man. the funny thing is that liv didn’t have terrible twos. it was the 3s and 4s that almost killed us 😉
      i crouched down and told her “i won’t let you scream in here like this” and carried her outside. of course, she turned herself into a bag of rocks and made herself limp and weigh like twice as much as she normally does. as soon as we got outside, she was fine. ah

      • Reghan on October 4, 2017 at 7:32 pm

        My son is 5 and the 3’s and 4’s were tough!! I feel like I’m finally coming out of that stressful time…and now my daughter just turned 3. The drama. I’m bracing myself…
        Honestly I would have done the same thing you did. I’d like to just leave them there and let them work it out, to not give the attention they want, but for me personally I feel like that’s a little rude to others in the store. The days are long but the years are short lol

        • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 2:57 pm

          haha amen. and i totally agree. i’d love to calmly sit there with her and let her figure it out, but it was so distracting and rude to everyone else. i figured she could calm down outside, and she totally did

  5. LeeAnn Benesh on October 4, 2017 at 10:25 am

    Beautiful post!! I have lucked out in the my kiddo likes to save her freak outs for the comfort of our own home. hahahaha. She has always been too embarrassed to do it in public. Maybe it is still coming…ahhhh.

  6. Tiffany on October 4, 2017 at 10:33 am

    Loved this post Gina! Thank you for sharing. Good reminder to live in the moment and embrace the present because you can’t plan for what the future will hold and don’t want to miss out on today. 🙂

  7. Ali on October 4, 2017 at 10:41 am

    Thank you for sharing this post. I’m a first-time mom-to-be, and for the first time in my life, I’m experiencing anxiety. I feel like I hear more about how hard motherhood is, rather than helpful, constructive advice on how to deal. So this is definitely a breath of fresh air and something I will come back to!

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 3:03 pm

      hang in there! i feel like people like to freak pregnant people out about things that don’t end up being true. “sleep now, because you’ll never sleep again!” uhhh, thanks.
      i wish they would have told me stuff i actually needed to know while i was pregnant 🙂
      it’s hard, but not unmanageable. you’ll do amazing <3

    • RR on October 5, 2017 at 10:02 pm

      My best advice is to be adaptive! I have 2 kids with night-and-day temperaments. What worked well for the first does not work well for the second. Everyone’s advice is usually steered from their own personal experience with their children. So my advice is to trust your gut and adapt to your kid’s personality and needs.

  8. Katherine Johnson on October 4, 2017 at 12:22 pm

    I can relate to all if this too. I’ve been thinking about thriving instead of merely surviving. Somedays all I can do is survive, but stopping and slowing life down has helped. Moving more towards minimalism has helped. Life is not so overwhelming. I still want to get rid of things! As far as the tantrum, if it’s not going to stop, then yes, you may have to remove the child from the situation. I tell my kids ahead of time if I have to leave before what needs bought or whatever, there will be a consequence. A time out for the young ones and some sort of grounding for the older ones. I feel they need to learn that in life. There is a consequence if I don’t follow the law or pay a bill on time, etc.

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 3:02 pm

      yes, the logical consequences work well for us, too. usually time is a good one: because you spent all of that time throwing a tantrum, we don’t have time to go to the park or time

  9. Kelly on October 4, 2017 at 1:31 pm

    Love this! I’m always in such a hurry that i’m missing everything! And for what?!

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 3:01 pm

      exactly! it’s such a distraction

  10. Jennifer on October 4, 2017 at 1:50 pm

    Soooo appreciate this. We are on the verge of yet another big move and our life just seems to constantly look like survival mode. I’ve always had the mindset that circumstances had to change in order to thrive but i love this idea of a perspective change, that we can always thrive where we are!

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      hang in there with everything you have going on!

  11. Tracy on October 4, 2017 at 2:54 pm

    I loved that book! So much more than I thought I would actually. I think I’ll probably read it again and have recommended it many times. I respect the Gaines even more since they decided to end their show.

    I’ve always tried to act like and emulate the type of person I want my kids to be as adults. Lead by example!

    Screaming kid on the floor at a store? Very calmly pick her up and leave with the least amount of drama possible. I found that most people were understanding and most had been in that position before! Remember…this too shall pass!!! She’ll grow out of that stage before you know it!

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 3:00 pm

      yes, i was the same way! i knew i would like it, but i loved it
      you’re right. i need to keep reminding myself that she’ll be over it soon. being a toddler is hard work

  12. Katie on October 4, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    Great post! love when you share such personal posts– especially on motherhood! <3

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 2:59 pm


  13. Bethany on October 4, 2017 at 4:22 pm

    Love this! Life is too short! I often think when I am stressed about something ‘will this matter 5 years from now’. Most all the time the answer is no so I go on and get over it.

    I always feel for the parent with the screaming kid, like I want to high-five her! I think (even though it is terrible) you just kind of got to let them scream and just hurry to get out. Then make sure they understanding why they cannot act like that and they should be punished for it. Allowing them to get what they want to diffuse the situation will only make it happen again. Next time maybe they’ll think ‘last time I got my toys taking away for 2 days and didn’t get what I want so maybe I shouldn’t do it’.

  14. Michelle on October 4, 2017 at 5:46 pm

    I really needed to read this valuable piece of advice – thank you. I am a mum to two toddlers (one who is autistic), I work and I am about to sit my piano exams tomorrow. Life always feels out of control, particularly when I’m too busy thinking of, and doing, multiple things at once. But perhaps we need to embrace the chaos more and realise that we will never grow if we’re not being challenged.

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 2:58 pm

      i hope your exams went well today <3
      and love that point. it's in the chaos where change and growth happens

  15. Caroline F on October 5, 2017 at 12:28 am

    Someone always has to have the screamer in the store! Some days it’s just our turn ! I have an emergency lollipop in my purse and hope that works. Otherwise High tails to the checkouts!!!

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 2:56 pm

      you win with the emergency lollipop. that is GENIUS

  16. Diana on October 5, 2017 at 11:57 am

    We had an epic meltdown coming out of daycare the other day. Flop on the ground, wouldn’t get up and I’m holding the 1-year-old trying not to lose it. Luckily since it was at daycare, all the parents just politely stepped over her and smiled at me or said, ‘yeah, we’ve been there.’ In public I do my very best to keep a calm voice and say that it isn’t acceptable to act like that in a store. I either go outside until they calm down, or if they are on the way down we just do it in the store and then I have them go up to the clerk and apologize. Even if she clams up I’m hoping she realizes that her actions don’t just affect me, but others. Who knows. Then there are days where she is counting in Spanish to herself in the back seat of the car, and sharing bites of yogurt with her little sister and I think I’ve hit the jackpot of an awesome kid! They are little puzzles!

    • Fitnessista on October 5, 2017 at 2:54 pm

      oh those are great ideas. i told her she wasn’t allowed to act like that and took her out of the store. she calmed down so quickly!
      haha and you’re totally right about them being little puzzles.

  17. Lynora Dobry on October 5, 2017 at 5:50 pm

    I read this book when we were in our own life crisis…sold our house and waiting for our other house. Meanwhile, my husband we only saw my husband on the weekends because we had to live near my kids new school. It was awful, but I think I need to reread it and pull these moments out. Thank you for the reminder.

    On a work note, my daughter is in school now so I typically work when she is in school (my son is in all day) so when do you fit in the workouts if you are not teaching? That’s my struggle!

    • Fitnessista on October 8, 2017 at 9:34 pm

      it's been more challenging for me to fit in workouts now because childcare is so limited and i use any time i have childcare or when p's napping to work. i started working out during naptime, even though it usually means i have to stay up later to get everything done. i figured that it's easier for me to sit on the couch with my computer at night than it is to find motivation to go to the gym after we get the girls to bed. it's working for now, but not super ideal. i'm hoping i can get ahead with work stuff again so that i can use the time p's at preschool to work out, work for an hour or so, work during naptime, and then just tie up loose ends at night.

      • Lynora on October 8, 2017 at 10:23 pm

        It’s always changing me sometimes hard to keep up! Good luck with getting ahead and future naptime workouts!

  18. Heather on October 6, 2017 at 1:34 pm

    Tantrums are usually a control thing, right? Feelings or emotions not being met combined with hangry/bored and trying to express this with not knowing how. Usually when I see one about to ocurr, I get down to their level and look them in the eyes. I let them know that their feelings are ok to have (who doesn’t feel frustrated/mad?) and we have s quick snuggle. Usually that little checkin will get us through the errands. Sometimes, I will give them a choice between the natural consequences of a tantrum (i.e. A time out or losing a privilege for the day) vs rewards for appropriate behavior (praise and a fun activity). Usually they make a choice we all appreciate!

  19. Jenn on October 11, 2017 at 2:42 pm

    I’m so far behind on blogs because life, but this came at the perfect time. The husband and I both work full time, he’s doing grad school, and we have an almost 2 year old in the mix. I find myself in survival mode 99% of the time (you don’t even want to see my bathroom right now) but was just recently thinking I need to shift my mindset and appreciate the chaos right now or I’m going to miss the good that’s happening like extra solo time with the toddler. Thank you for the reminder!

  20. Gina Hackbarth on October 16, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    I’m in the same boat! I have a really demanding 3 yr old and a 10 month old, and it’s hard to enjoy the time I spend with them because I have such little time to myself (they stay up sooo late). I need to read The Magnolia Story now!

    • Fitnessista on October 16, 2017 at 1:18 pm

      hang in there! that age combo is super challenging. a year later, i feel like it’s so much easier <3

  21. Christie Hawkes on October 23, 2017 at 7:20 am

    Thank you for the reminder. I spend a lot of time in my head planning things out or rehashing something that happened. There’s a time and place for that introspection, but life must be lived in the moment. And children grow up way too fast (mine are in their 30s now with children of their own). Make sure to savor their childhood.

    Happy Monday!

  22. Vince on December 7, 2017 at 12:09 pm

    I love this concept. We do sometimes get stuck on the idea that we’re not doing well, that we’re just ‘getting by’. It’s easy to see how damaging this could be – how we would end up selling ourselves short in the process.

  23. Scarlet on January 22, 2020 at 3:17 pm

    I love your parenting mantra. And you are so right it is easy to get stuck in surviving and it takes effort to switch back to thrive mode after something shakes your world. It is all about being grateful for the here and now.

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