The “Year of Casey” – A Recap
At the start of 2022, I declared that I was going to have a “Year of Casey”. Essentially, it’s been a year where I have focused on myself – physically, mentally, and emotionally. After going through many years of infertility treatments and then having two babies, back to back, I simply didn’t feel like me anymore. I felt like I lost touch with the person I used to be and I wasn’t putting any of my wants or needs on the top of the priority list. As I said in this blog post back in January…
I’ve spent the last five years doing a lot of crazy things to my body. I had three miscarriages, multiple rounds of IVF, thousands of shots, a vaginal birth, and then a c-section, all in a very short amount of time. My body hasn’t been my own in years. I honestly don’t even know what “normal” feels like anymore.
I was a tad nervous putting this all out there on the internet because at first glance it seemed very selfish to dub a year all about myself. I was afraid people might think, “You’re a mom of two and a wife. How dare you think about yourself?” Ha! But, as you’ll soon read, the number one thing I learned after eleven months of this is that by putting myself first, I’m able to be a better mother/wife/friend/daughter/business owner, and more.
I shared updates throughout the year at three months in and then again halfway through if you want to give those a read. Today, I want to recap the entire year and dive into what I learned about myself with this experiment. Plus, I’ll let you know how I’ll keep the momentum going into 2023 and beyond!
Strive For A Well-Rounded Life
Whenever I talked about my “Year of Casey” and heard from other moms wanting to do the same, the number one question I received was about mom guilt. “Don’t you feel guilty taking time away from your kids to do things for you?” Here’s what I learned. You need to emulate the life you would want for your child – a well-rounded life full of hobbies, friends, and activities that bring you joy! Yes, that means experiencing life beyond your children and your home. When your kids grow up, isn’t that exactly what you want for them? If so, then you need to show them how to do it!
One of my favorite messages was from a woman who has a hobby night once a week where she takes a local woodworking class. Her husband gets a night off to pursue one of his passions, too. She has learned new skills, met interesting people, and most importantly, she did something for herself! I absolutely loved hearing this!
I also heard from some older women who wished they had a do-over of those young years with their kids. They wish they would have taken more time to nourish themselves back then. Now, with their kids grown, they are finding it harder to find their passions, connect with friends, and find themselves again. Hearing all of these perspectives on motherhood was fascinating and deepened my commitment to finding myself!
Letting Go Of The Mom Guilt
I must also stress how I’m more energized and present when I’m with my kids after taking time for myself. When I go to lunch with a friend, I come back rejuvenated and excited to play and be fully present with my children. I’m a better mom because I’m caring for my own needs too.
We’ve also tried to bring the kids into our world more often, instead of devoting every second of our weekend to kid stuff. After reading this book earlier this year, I have a newfound commitment to invite Rory and Ellis to do adult things with us. They helped me shop and plant our fall planters; Rory helps me water the indoor plants every Sunday; and she helps with basic tasks around the house. And guess what? Rory loves it and I’m sure Ellis will someday love it too!
My number one motherhood tip, which you’ve heard me say many times before, is this: Don’t leave anything for nap time that can be done with the kids while they’re awake. I don’t do laundry/clean/cook when they’re asleep. Instead, that time is for me! I tackle those tasks when the kids are up, and they often help or tag along.
My Physical Health
Okay, so let’s dive into more of the nitty-gritty of “The Year of Casey” and how I’m feeling in each category. First up, the physical.
The biggest change has been my diet. I started the Mayo Clinic diet back in April and now strive to eat a lot more veggies and a lot less processed stuff. I followed their protocol very closely for about 8 weeks and now I’m doing more of an 80/20 approach. I stick to a pretty healthy diet during the week and then eat what I want on the weekends. I’ve lost about 15 pounds and feel better than I have in a long time!
As I mentioned in past posts, I spent some money on skincare treatments. I did a Fraxel treatment at my dermatologist to remove stubborn melasma on my cheeks from my pregnancies. I’ve also been doing quarterly Botox on my forehead to help with lines. I’m a big fan! Finally, I did laser hair removal on my bikini area and highly recommend it! You can read all of my favorite skincare products here.
I had a House of Colour appointment with my best friend, in February. Not only was it a fun girls’ day out, but I learned so much about what colors work well for me when it comes to clothing/makeup/hair. At the appointment, the consultant uses the principles of color science to discover the client’s color palette. The palettes are divided by seasons – I’m a Summer – and each client leaves with a little booklet of all of the best colors for their particular skin tone.
Since then, I’ve only purchased pieces for my wardrobe that work with my Summer season. Plus, I’ve gone a bit cooler with my blonde highlights and I only wear lipsticks that work with my season. The result? A lot of compliments when I wear the “right” stuff. It’s amazing how many messages I’ll get about how a color looks nice on me. So, I’m a big fan. In fact, I’m taking Jan to get hers done in a few weeks so she can figure out her colors too!
My Emotional Health
As many of you understand, being a mom of two little ones can be lonely. Add in, giving birth (twice) during a pandemic and you’ve got a recipe for solitude. This year, I wanted to reconnect with old friends, work on forming a new community, and spend more one-on-one time outside of the house with Finn. Here are a few things I did this year…
- Started a neighborhood book club. A bunch of young moms on my street meet once a month.
- Gave a makeover to someone in need: I made an amazing friend in LaTanya with our Feel Good Makeover and got to spend time with my favorite blogging duo, Kim & Scott. We all just got together for a pizza party last month!
- Traveled to Dallas for a girls’ weekend with my college besties
- Enjoyed a Chicago staycation with Finn
- Organized a bloggers’ night out with a few other Chicago area bloggers
- Hired babysitters for multiple date nights, including a painting class
- Attended a dance class with a friend from college, a few times each month
Overall, I’m pretty proud of this list! It’s not easy to get away when you’ve got little ones, but I’ve seen how important it is for my emotional health to get out of the house and have meaningful conversations with other adults!
My Mental Health
I recently started seeing a therapist every week and it has been incredibly helpful for my mental health. Having someone to talk to about big feelings and to work through difficult situations has been a wonderful addition to my life. I can get a bit anxious and tend to over-plan and overthink things. I’ve learned a lot working with her and I plan to continue indefinitely. I think therapy is an amazing tool with benefits for just about everyone!
I’ve also stuck to my January goal of carving out an hour for myself most nights. We put the kids to bed and then I’ll shower, read, or watch a show. It’s nice to have a quiet house and time to do whatever I want. I used to sneak work into this time, but I’ve found that I sleep a lot better if I read from about 8 to 9 pm, and then it’s lights out.
Answering Your Questions
I asked for your questions about my year over on Instagram. Here are a few that I wanted to address.
How to not feel guilty that taking time for yourself often puts more work on your spouse?
Finn and I share the load in this house. We both have full-time jobs and we both devote a lot of time and attention to our kids. I think the biggest thing is to talk about it. If I need to skip the bedtime routine to go to a dance class one night, then conveying that information well ahead of time is a must. If he needs to skip the bedtime routine for a work call, I like knowing a day or two before.
It’s never going to be 50/50. In some seasons of life, you’re giving more and in some, you’re asking for more help. Aside from going out of town one weekend for a girls’ trip, Finn didn’t have to “shoulder the burden” during this year because I wanted time for myself. Many of the things I mentioned above happen while the kids are in childcare (therapy, doctor’s appointments, etc) or when they’re asleep for the night (dance class, book club, etc.). Oh, and find some babysitters! We’ve hired a girl in our neighborhood to watch our baby monitor once the kids are in bed, so we can go out to dinner together. We’ve also started utilizing a babysitter agency on days when we need the extra help!
One more thing – talk to your partner about this. If you feel like you need an hour to yourself for a workout or to get your nails done, talk about it! If Finn wanted to go play basketball with friends once a week, we would have a discussion and figure out how to make it work! The worst thing you can do is suffer in silence. Bring up your needs and I’m confident you can find a creative solution so no one feels like they’re carrying too much of the load.
How can you do this with limited funds?
Aside from skincare and the House of Colour appointment, my “Year of Casey” wasn’t a financial burden on our family. I don’t think you have to spend any money at all to have a year all about you! Invite your girlfriends over for a girls’ night at your house when the kids are in bed. Get new books from the library and read for an hour before bed each night. Take a look at your diet and make changes that will make you feel good and energized! I think people read about this year and think it’s all about making physical changes to yourself or doing pricey skin treatments (more on that next), but the emotional/mental improvements are even more important.
Which cosmetic procedures were the best bang for your buck?
On the flip side, let’s talk about some of the skincare treatments and how much everything costs. Obviously, these are not a must when it comes to having a year all about you, but I did enjoy them. I did Fraxel ($600), Botox ($350), and laser hair removal ($300) this year. Botox is something that is ongoing, since it wears off after three months. Personally, I find that it’s the most transformative, but it’s a long-term investment since you’ll likely need it 3-4 times per year. If you have stubborn melasma, Fraxel is definitely worth talking to your dermatologist about. I was able to get rid of some spots and would love to do it again, but it’s so freakin’ pricey! Finally, I really liked laser hair removal. It’s nice not getting bikini bumps anymore.
What are some mom guilt tips you have for us?
You can’t fill from an empty cup. If you want to give your kids the best version of you, then you have to make time for yourself and do things that bring you joy. It’s that simple.
What’s Next For Me?
The “Year of Casey” may be coming to an end, but none of the principles I’ve learned will be going anywhere! I’ll continue with all of the above in 2023 and beyond. One of the things I didn’t quite figure out this year was a dedicated workout routine. I have started going to more dance classes, but I never got into a 2-3 day workout as I had hoped. But, it’s definitely on the list for 2023.
Oh, and the fun will continue with my group trip to Italy in late April to celebrate 10 years of The DIY Playbook. If you’ve been on the fence about joining, this is your push to take some time for you. As women, we have a lot on our plates and it’s not often that we can choose to do something for ourselves solely because it brings us joy. Plus, it’s right before Mother’s Day, so I’m seeing it as a gift for myself. If you’re looking for some time away in 2023, this trip is perfect for you! I’m looking forward to a little time out of our house and away from the monotony of everyday life. Plus, wine and camaraderie, please! This blog post has all of the details if you want to join.
How Was Your Year?
I know it’s only November, but I did hear from lots of you over the course of 2022 saying you’re having a Year of Meghan/Jessica/Courtney/etc. I would love to know how it’s going and what you’ve learned along the way! Let’s all support one another.
I’m Casey Finn, the voice behind The DIY Playbook. I’m married to Finn & mom to Rory and Ellis. Together we’re creating our dream home in Chicago, one DIY project at a time.