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Krista turned a year old two weeks ago. We celebrated simply, with a pizza lunch and cupcake candle-blowing with just her cousins, her aunts, uncles and grandparents. This isn’t a sappy birthday post as an ode to my daughter. It is, however, a post about the lessons she taught me this year and why I will forever be grateful for her. She has made me realize what a different woman I am from the woman I was before she came into my life. A better woman, I’d like to think, too.

The truth is, last year was one of the best years of my life as a mom, but one of the worst as a working woman. I had a rough time managing two kids, work, and our home. Since Krista isn’t the easiest baby to care for, being a high-need child, the way I did things went totally haywire. Before she was born, I was a working machine. I had it down pat; I was all making sure my family had homecooked and healthy meals each day, and that my clients were all content and taken care of. It was a source of pride for me to be able to juggle it all.

Oh, how smug, proud and pathetic was I! Haha! **I got reminded of this post from Sanctimommy on Facebook the other day, and how I used to think exactly the same way, before I had my second child. Shame, shame on me!**
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I had it in control up to Krista’s “sleepy days.” I’d gone through the magic of her gentle birth (an amazing and unforgettable experience), and I spent two weeks on a self-imposed maternity leave from work. When I felt rested and adjusted enough — about a week, I’d say —, I went back to work. I thought, “Well, she sleeps most of the time; feeding’s easy… I got this!”

God, I’d give anything to take back that naive declaration! Haha! Because at that moment, I began to see that I didn’t have things all together anymore. There were no more clockwork days for me. The machinery of a seamless work-from-home-and-anywhere day encountered hiccup after hiccup: hours on end of carrying and breastfeeding; sleepless nights, because the baby girl was a light sleeper and “nuzzler” who needed me beside her; interrupted or postponed Skype meetings and consultations because I had a crying, weepy baby attached to me like a roo.

I became hard on myself. I fell into the trap of “doing it all” when Krista was at one of her most needy stages, during her 9th to 10th month marks. I botched some projects, and totally screwed up my work life. I mentally tormented myself over these failures, and blamed myself for not being more vigilant, more concerned for the health of my work life.

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The proverbial cherry on top of a challenging year was my husband Ton having to force-resign from his job of 8 years, at the same time we decided to move out of our rental home of five years. (Incidentally, these events marked Krista’s 10th month.)

Whew. Reliving all that through this blog post is still tough. Sometimes I can still feel the burden of those few months haunting me. What a humbling year 2015 was. Full of endings that became new beginnings, thankfully! We’re still ambling through this new lifestyle of me being the one who is regularly working, and Ton pursuing his long-time desire to put up a coffee brand. I realize that years ago, I prayed that I would be able to earn enough income for Ton to quit his job and pursue entrepreneurship.

Well, it happened! It happened when Krista arrived. She was our answered prayer because we prayed to have a baby girl, but she also preluded the paradigm shift that happened. We’re a single income family now, living in a much smaller home, with much less stuff, and yet we’ve never been happier. We saved up enough to (1) still keep an emergency fund, (2) continue investing in our mutual funds, and (3) put capital into our new business, Shophouse Coffee Co. and KENDO Creative studio. So it wasn’t a setback, really, that Ton needed to force-resign! It was my prayer being answered! How mind-boggling is that?!

I have Krista to thank for this. She taught us that all we need is a big bed, a comfy couch where we could all cuddle up each day, a small kitchen filled with the food we like, and a way of life that is stripped of everything but the essentials.

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As I write this, work projects have been picking up again, after months of me needing to lay low for a while. During my time away from work, I was able to improve on a number of things, like my client modules and consulting workflow.I took stock of the mistakes I made with clients last year and adjusted the way I worked so that I can still be effective, even though I have two children to care for.

(By the way: I have a new workshop, too, my first-ever full day “writing intensive for bloggers.” If you’re interested in that, visit my Event page on Facebook: Write Blissfully.)

So, this is why I’d like to think that Krista’s first year on earth changed me for the better. Having a new baby and learning to love her more each day made me crave for a simpler, lesser way of life. I’ve never been busier as a mom, but Krista’s presence compelled me to slow down in the other parts of my life so that I could enjoy the blessing of having two kids. I’m taking on less work than I used to, but I don’t feel robbed of opportunities.  She made me — all of us — realize that what makes our work blissful is that we can design it to fit our lifestyle… and now, that means making our work work for us as a family of four.

I think that’s something to celebrate, don’t you?

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Happy birthday to my baby girl, Krista Valentina!