How ‘SMART goals’ got me out of my postpartum funk

The SMART goals became a distraction from the self-loathing that had consumed me for months.

How ‘SMART goals’ got me out of my postpartum funk

My youngest child just turned 1.

Knock on wood, I think I'm leaving the new motherhood fog.

I've read such fog lasts for the “fourth trimester," “when your kid sleeps through the night" or “when crawling starts." Mine lasted longer than any of those definitions. Regardless, I'm starting to re-connect with the world and re-figure out the person I am—and who used to be.

While the birth of my first child brought a feeling of purpose and joy, the birth of my second came with an unexpected wave of postpartum anxiety and depression. Suddenly I had to navigate mothering with my maternal instincts clouded by exhaustion and self-doubt. I don't like doing things poorly (does anyone?) and I set high expectations for myself as a paren.


Accordingly, my confidence took a nose dive.

To restore it, I looked to outside sources for validation. My business was an obvious target—it had historically provided a sense of accomplishment, and I had relatively more control over it than other parts of my life at the time. In my postpartum mind, if my clients liked (i.e. hired) me, then I was a likable person again. If I successfully got them art (I'm an art advisor), then I was a successful person. Linking my self-esteem to my work would give me the boost that I needed to get a grip – so I thought.

This plan crashed, burned, and ultimately provided a useful education that frankly would have been handy when I started being an adult. But regardless, there were a few lessons: First, “business" is hardly under your control—if it were, I'd have a different financial profile. Your business choices are in your hands (service offerings, marketing languages, client service), but the mentality of your target clients is not; in fact, it is heavily influenced by the social, economic, and political landscape that is entirely out of your control. My emotional struggles, for example, coincided with the 2016 election, and anyone remotely interested in life as we know it could not have cared less about art on their wall. Second, as a small business-owner, you are your brand (and your brand ambassador).

If you're linking self-esteem to business, then your sour mood translates to a sour brand. These days, people aren't begging to do business with a brand they don't love…there's too much competition with too many distractions, so a deflated business owner should not expect an inbox overflowing with inquiries. The company that I built and loved was accordingly not providing the validation I needed.

I made MANY subsequent efforts to find my way out of PPD (I make it sound like a trap, but that's actually how it felt), and I am attempting to write a semi-humorous book about those antics—but the relevant and noteworthy game-changer for me was the discovery of“SMART goals."

This acronym may be wildly popular, and though I've heard it before, it wasn't front of mind when I first needed it. A business success coach reminded me about how to approach “SMART goals" by spelling out the acronym. The goals I set were—






The objective here is to make goals that are all of the above… that are essentially entirely within your control.

When you make goals related to items outside of your control, you can perceive yourself a failure for not doing anything that has actually failed.

This was an intriguing realization, and so I started to practice. My un-SMART (stupid?) goal of “get new clients" changed to “call 3 referral sources from" “Figure out Instagram" became “read article on IG followings."

I LOVE checking items off a TO DO list so I started writing items down, crossing them off, and found it so fulfilling that I expanded my scope: “get baby to nap X hrs" became “put baby to nap at 9."

“Get in shape" was changed to “jog 2 miles."

My days became organized and manageable and my sense of accomplishment heightened. I even started to have some spare me time, which was initially confusing and then blissful. I got a haircut, bought some clothes, and took a bath with my new scented candle.

The SMART goals became a distraction from the self-loathing that had consumed me for months.

My anxiety and depression faded, and I started to laugh more, be present, and remember what makes me tick—when alone and when with my family. Not surprisingly, business started to pick up. That was good news, but I proudly realized that it wasn't driving my confidence… it was a bi-product of the choices I was making—the choices that were in my control and not at the mercy of outside world happenings.

This knowledge was empowering, and it gave me stronger faith in what I could accomplish personally and professionally. My brand felt more defined, and like my personality, it became more secure, appealing, and something people proactively wanted a part of.

This past year was incredibly inspiring and challenging. I literally tear up when I pause to think about how grateful I am for my girls, my husband, my parents, and the opportunities we have every day. And while I still have sporadic irrational breakdowns (yesterday's related to getting the wrong Easter egg dye), I'm generally able to navigate those by accepting (or eventually remembering) my own definition of success—one that involves setting and making an effort to achieve real goals, taking control of what I can, and embracing what's left to chance

In this second year of my baby girl's life, I choose to define success for myself.

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    These challenges from Nike PLAYlist are exactly what my child needs to stay active

    Plus a fall family bucket list to keep everyone moving all season long.

    While it's hard to name anything that the pandemic hasn't affected, one thing that is constantly on my mind is how to keep my family active despite spending more time indoors. Normally, this time of year would be spent at dance and gymnastics lessons, meeting up with friends for games and field trips, and long afternoon playdates where we can all let off a little steam. Instead, we find ourselves inside more often than ever before—and facing down a long winter of a lot more of the same.

    I started to search for an outlet that would get my girls moving safely while we social distance, but at first I didn't find a lot of solutions. Online videos either weren't terribly engaging for my active kids, or the messaging wasn't as positive around the power of movement as I would like. Then I found the Nike PLAYlist.

    I always knew that Nike could get me moving, but I was so impressed to discover this simple resource for parents. PLAYlist is an episodic sports show on YouTube that's made for kids and designed to teach them the power of expressing themselves through movement. The enthusiastic kid hosts immediately captured my daughter's attention, and I love how the physical activity is organically incorporated in fun activities without ever being specifically called out as anything other than play. For example, this segment where the kids turn yoga into a game of Paper Scissors Rock? Totally genius. The challenges from #TheReplays even get my husband and me moving more when our daughter turns it into a friendly family competition. (Plus, I love the play-inspired sportswear made just for kids!)

    My daughter loves the simple Shake Ups at the beginning of the episode and is usually hopping off the couch to jump, dance and play within seconds. One of her favorites is this Sock Flinger Shake Up activity from the Nike PLAYlist that's easy for me to get in on too. Even after we've put away the tablet, the show inspires her to create her own challenges throughout the day.

    The best part? The episodes are all under 5 minutes, so they're easy to sprinkle throughout the day whenever we need to work out some wiggles (without adding a lot of screen time to our schedule).

    Whether you're looking for simple alternatives to P.E. and sports or simply need fun ways to help your child burn off energy after a day of socially distanced school, Nike's PLAYlist is a fun, kid-friendly way to get everyone moving.

    Need more movement inspiration for fall? Here are 5 ways my family is getting up and getting active this season:

    1. Go apple picking.

    Truly, it doesn't really feel like fall until we've picked our first apple. (Or had our first bite of apple cider donut!) Need to burn off that extra cinnamon-sugar energy? Declare a quick relay race up the orchard aisle—winner gets first to pick of apples at home.

    To wear: These Printed Training Tights are perfect for when even a casual walk turns into a race (and they help my daughter scurry up a branch for the big apples).

    2. Visit a pumpkin patch.

    We love to pick up a few locally grown pumpkins to decorate or cook with each year. Challenge your child to a "strongman" contest and see who can lift the heaviest pumpkin while you're there.

    To wear: Suit up your little one in comfort with this Baby Full Zip Coverall so you're ready for whatever adventures the day brings.

    3. Have a nature scavenger hunt.

    Scavenger hunts are one of my favorite ways to keep my daughter preoccupied all year long. We love to get outside and search for acorns, leaves and pinecones as part of our homeschool, but it's also just a great way to get her exercising those gross motor skills whenever the wiggles start to build up.

    To wear: It's not truly fall until you break out a hoodie. This cozy Therma Elite Kids Hoodie features a mesh overlay to release heat while your child plays.

    4. Have a touch-football game.

    Tip for parents with very little kids: It doesn't have to last as long as a real football game. 😂 In fact, staging our own mini-games is one of our favorite ways to get everyone up and moving in between quarters during Sunday football, and I promise we all sleep better that night.

    To wear: From impromptu games of tag to running through our favorite trails, these kids' Nike Air Zoom Speed running shoes are made to cover ground all season long.

    5. Create an indoor obstacle course.

    Pretending the floor is lava was just the beginning. See how elaborate your personal course can get, from jumping on the couch to rolling under the coffee table to hopping down the hallway on one foot.

    To wear: These ready-for-any-activity Dri-FIT Tempo Shorts are perfect for crawling, hopping and racing—and cuddling up when it's time to rest.

    This article was sponsored by Nike. Thank you for supporting the brands that supporting Motherly and mamas.

    Our Partners

    This post is brought to you by Staples. While this was a sponsored opportunity, all content and opinions expressed here are my own.

    One of the biggest changes in my household once my daughter started homeschooling was that, suddenly, everything and everyone in our home had to start pulling double duty. While I was used to wearing a lot of hats (mom, wife and WFH employee, to name a few), suddenly our dining room was also pulling shifts as a classroom. My laptop was also a virtual teacher. Our living room hutch was also a school supply closet.

    If I didn't want my home to be overrun with an abundance of clutter, I had to find products that could multitask. Here are 10 products that are saving this WFH + homeschooling mama right now.

    Stylish storage cabinet

    Whether I need a place to keep the printer or just want to keep crayons and colored pencils organized, this pretty cabinet provides a mixture of exposed and hidden storage without clashing with my living room decor.

    White board calendar + bulletin board

    With so much on our plates these days, I need a visual reminder of our daily schedule or I'll forget everything. This dry erase version makes it easy to keep track of Zoom meetings and virtual classes—and I also love using the corkboard to display my daughter's latest work from art class.

    Natural Recycled 3-Ring Binder

    From tracking our curriculum progress to organizing my family's paperwork, I can never have enough binders. Even better, this neutral version is pretty enough that I can display them on the bookshelf.

    Bamboo storage drawers

    The instant you start homeschooling, it can feel like you're suddenly drowning in papers, craft supplies and more. Fortunately, these simple bamboo drawers can be tucked into the cabinet or even displayed on top (seriously, they're that cute!) to keep what we need organized and close at hand.

    Laminated world map

    I love this dry-erase map for our geography lessons, but the real secret? It also makes a cute piece of wall decor for my work space.

    Rolling 7-drawer cabinet

    When you're doing it all from home, you sometimes have to roll with the punches—I strongly recommend getting an organizational system that rolls with you. On days when both my husband and I are working from home and I need to move my daughter's classes to another room, this 7-drawer cabinet makes it easy to bring the classroom with us.


    From our first day of school photo to displaying favorite quotes to keep myself motivated, this 12"x18" letterboard is my favorite thing to display in our home.

    Expandable tablet stand

    Word to the wise: Get a pretty tablet stand you won't mind seeing out every day. (Because between virtual playdates, my daughter's screen time and my own personal use, this thing never gets put away.)

    Neutral pocket chart

    Between organizing my daughter's chore chart, displaying our weekly sight words and providing a fits-anywhere place to keep supplies on hand, this handy little pocket chart is a must-have for homeschooling families.

    Totable fabric bins

    My ultimate hack for getting my family to clean up after themselves? These fabric bins. I can use them to organize my desk, store my oldest's books and even keep a bin of toys on hand for the baby to play with while we do school. And when playtime is over, it's easy for everyone to simply put everything back in the bin and pop it in the cabinet.

    Looking for study solutions for older children? Hop over to Grown & Flown for their top picks for Back to School.

    Work + Money

    100 unusual + surprising baby name ideas

    From Adelia to Ziggy.

    Our list of 100 baby names that should be on everyone's list this year includes more choices than in the past of names that are obscure and surprising. That's because there are so many more unusual baby names coming into widespread use and baby namers have become a lot more adventurous.

    Expectant parents do not need to be told to move beyond Jennifer and Jason. Their thinking about names has evolved to the point that the most useful thing we can do is offer a large menu of intriguing choices.

    Here are our picks for the 100 best surprising + unusual baby names now.

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