Name: Maggie Conran
Location: Nashville, TN
Kids: 10-year old & 6-year old boys
Maggie is a homeschooling mama who lives in the wonderful community of East Nashville with her husband and their two sons. Maggie wrote for many years on her blog, Just Say NO to Mommy Brain, and has written about parenting for The Tennessean and Free Range Kids. Her children’s books Christmastime to Me from A to Z and Just Right Julia are available on Amazon. Maggie recently got to participate in the story telling event Listen to Your Mother where she read a story she wrote about losing her mom to Alzheimer’s. She loves to write and sometimes wishes she had more time for it. But for now, she’s happy to spend the long days and short years living it up with her tribe.
After having kids, what product can you not live without?
My mini-van. Even though I only have two kids, I regularly fill every last seat. The DVD player comes in handy for longer trips and is great for “van school” — I can’t tell you how many documentaries I’ve heard while driving my kids from place to place. I’m a total convert.
What was the best kid friendly vacation or day trip you’ve been on recently?
My in-laws have a condo on the Big Island of Hawaii and we do our best to get there once a year. While Hawaii in itself is obviously amazing, it’s the familiarity of the place I love the most. The kids know where everything is, feel comfortable exploring on their own and have a sense of belonging that they wouldn’t have just anywhere. This makes life incredibly easy for me and my husband. The kids are happy, we’re happy…it’s truly a vacation.
What is a parent hack that you’ve discovered?
Opting out. It’s so easy to get caught up in the grind once you have kids. It’s like we think, if only we can do everything right, we’ll win at parenting. Only, it’s not a contest. You don’t have to breast feed or raise the next President or pack a Pinterest-worthy lunch box. All you really have to do is help your child grow into the very best version of himself. This will mean really different things for different kids and that’s ok. Parenting is not a one-size-fits-all situation. There is no right way. Figure out what works for you and let go of the rest. The “mommy wars” only exist insofar as we let them. Opt out of that nonsense.
What are your kids’ favorite books right now?
My 10-year-old is in another Harry Potter phase and my six-year-old is kind of all over the place (Magic Treehouse, books about soccer, Hooked on Phonics readers…). But one thing we always agree on is Shel Silverstein. We read poems after stories almost every night and they never get old.
My six-year-old is really into music. He likes to pull up his mix on Spotify and hijack the wireless speaker in the kitchen. I’ve heard more Vanilla Ice in the last month than I ever did in 7th grade…
What’s a really useful product that you don’t see on a lot of registries?
Having a nice diaper bag is essential. I’m not talking about the utilitarian one with all the extra pockets and key fobs. My husband tried to give me one of those after our first son was born and I had to point out that If I was going to wear an elastic waist band every day, I would not be able to carry a camouflage diaper bag as well. I needed something that made me feel like a human woman again. For me, Petunia Pickle Bottom did just that. It was a little expensive but so worth it. It was a major part of my wardrobe for years (I used it with both babies) and was the only thing I actually liked that fit for a while.
Do you love your stroller and/or baby carrier, and would you recommend it?
I got carpal tunnel during my first pregnancy and spent the first year of my son’s life trying to get rid of it. One of the specialists I saw was a chiropractor who pointed out that carrying my son around in his carseat was not doing my body any favors. I got a stroller base for my car seat (Graco SnugRider) and never looked back. (The person who finally got rid of my carpal tunnel? A Chinese acupuncturist who was worth her weight in gold. Two sessions and it was gone forever.)
What is your kids’ favorite toy right now?
I’m not gonna lie, Amazon Prime has totally changed our lives. Whereas my boys used to just have piles of boxes at Christmastime, they now have them year round. Sure, their room looks like a trash heap at times but those empty cardboard boxes provide hours of entertainment.
What is something about having kids that you didn’t expect you would love?
Homeschooling. I never, ever thought I would say that but it’s been such an awesome surprise. Our son went to Kindergarten at the public school down the street and while it wasn’t terrible, it was never as great as I hoped it would be. We stuck it out, not knowing any better, but by the time first grade rolled around it became clear that something had to give. I was already a stay-at-home-mom so we figured we could try homeschooling without making any major life changes. If it worked, great. If it didn’t, we’d start researching our other options. I was terrified but five years on, it’s the best decision we’ve made for our family. It’s like we stepped off the conveyor belt of life — making lunches, signing papers, rushing to get to school before 8:00 every morning — and started choosing how to live. Rather than checking boxes, we’re learning. It’s actually super fun. We’re really lucky to have a vibrant homeschool community in our neighborhood which makes the whole thing feel a lot less fringe. The question of “socialization” is a joke around here as everyone knows the homeschoolers have a lock on that. When public schools are off on Friday our weekly “Open Play” at the park practically doubles in size. We’ve met our people, and our lives are so much richer than I ever could have imagined.
What advice would you give to first time moms?
Find your tribe! Being a mom can feel so isolating at times. Having friends to go through the journey with makes everything so much better. Plus, other moms understand your struggles like your husband never will. Even the best, most connected dad is not a mom. I don’t know why it’s so different, but it is.