You can’t do it all. Literally… it’s impossible. You can certainly try, and I have many times. I always seem to fall back into the “I’m superwoman in an unrealistic sense” mindset. Then reality hits hard. When you try to do too much too fast, you’re not able to give 100% of yourself to each of those things you’re trying to be great at. Even if you don’t work, motherhood can be challenging enough between breastfeeding, feisty & needy toddlers, house chores, marriage, and everything else on your to-do’s. If you’re a working mom, as I am, it can bring you to some serious self-realization moments when you suddenly feel like you’re not good at anything, and everything is falling apart around you. Here are some tidbits of advice that might help guide you next time you’re in a rut:
- Make a list. If you’re like me, you prefer the “old school” route with paper and a pen, but if your iPhone list-app makes you happy, go for it. Whichever method, physically write a list of the major responsibilities in your life, and then the minor ones (like chores, grocery shopping, etc). Then, take some time to stare at this list and put things in proper order. Prioritize. Try and see the big picture and put all factors into perspective. What’s most important to you? That’s number one. What has to get done (necessity)? That’s next. Re-arrange these responsibilities in a way that looks right to you…
- Go over your agenda (or make one). Break down the days within your week. Don’t look too far ahead into the year or at an up-coming vacation you may have. Focus on a typical week, and what each day looks like. Do you have deadlines? Appointments? Fitness challenge or goals? Write these down. Find gaps in the days leading up to the deadlines to get uninterrupted work done and schedule time for self-care. For me, it’s usually while one daughter naps (and the other has “quiet” time with an activity, or educational iPad App). Other times, it’s at night once my husband is home if I can muster up the energy and mental clarity to get good quality work done. Be realistic with yourself. Once those deadlines and work hours are accounted for, fill in the rest of your day (in non-specific chunks of time) to do the rest. For example: my “morning” will consist of breakfast with the girls, workout while they’re eating, then playtime and activities together. “Afternoon” will consist of lunch, check emails while they eat lunch, nap time (or quiet time) while I get some work done, then playtime with my girls. “Evening” will consist of prepping dinner while the girls play, dinner time (sit and eat at the table with them), then more playtime together (dishes can sit in the sink), then bedtime. “Late night” will consist of a glass of wine, writing for blog, wrapping up work for my clients, then finishing by 10pm to spend some quality time with my husband before I pass out unconscious. Obviously this varies, but it gives you a general idea of what a typical day looks like in my world. As you should notice: chores are not on this list. They’re not a top priority for me, and they’ll get done when I have little gaps to switch over laundry, or catch-up on dishes in the morning while the girls have breakfast. Once you know what your upcoming day looks like, and can visually see the gaps of time, you’ll be able to dedicate yourself to each thing without feeling flustered like you “should” be doing something else. You can give 100% of yourself to that specific focus at that designated period of time. Make sense? It’s such a visual thing! Write it down.
- Plan ‘bonding’ activities with your little ones. It’s one thing to get down on their level to play, but when you can put your phone away & come up with new ways to stimulate their imagination and introduce a fresh activity that you can experience together – that’s pretty special, and they’ll react to it. Kids are more simple than we think. Of course, my three-nager throws me for a loop here and there, but ultimately she loves trying new things! It doesn’t have to be anything complicated or fancy. Take out some construction paper, cut things up, give them a glue stick and let them create a masterpiece of some sort. Find unused boxes and make a doll house with scissors and tape (adults only) and let them decorate it washable markers & stickers. Pretend it’s Teddy’s (or Buzz Lightyear, or Barbies) birthday, throw a little birthday party and have all the stuffed animals attend – one of Isla’s favorite things! Make sure to have candles and something sweet on hand for a birthday “cake.’ Sliced banana, peanut butter and a few chocolate chips, or a full blown cupcake if you’d like – either will make them happy if there’s a candle in it. Get creative, have fun, and throw yourself right into the mix so they can see you’re fully involved and enjoying it with them.
- Slow things down. It’s doesn’t always have to be go-go-go. Sometimes, the most valuable quality time spent is sitting on the couch snuggling. Isla loves to “make up stories” together. We’ll each take turns telling a story, which usually leads to giggles, or – dig into the kids’ book collection and pull out a few that they haven’t read in a while. This is also a good time to grab a pad of paper, and a crayon, and go through the Alphabet. If they’re newbies in the ABC game, draw the letters and have them trace over, or use their hand and guide them through each one. If they know their letters, draw an Apple and have them guess which letter it represents. Do a few letters each week! My daughter knew her entire Alphabet by recognition when we were living in Switzerland. I gave birth to Presley that year (minus any English-speaking social life), so I was able to be very hands-on… I sort of miss that. I went through the alphabet with Isla last week and was stunned at how many letters she didn’t know. It was a good reminder to get back on track with our bonding “teaching” time – and bigger reminder of how important it is to be 100% attentive when spending quality time with your kids.
- Don’t worry, be happy. Instead of picking yourself apart for all of the ‘reasons’ why you feel you’re coming up short as a good mom, think about what the real culprit might be. Why are you unhappy or flustered? What else is lacking in your life that could be made better? If it’s a matter of needing time, well… we all need more hours in the day, but resort back to #2. Maybe you need a support system? Connecting with other women once in a while is a great way to unload, connect with others on your wavelength, and get that social fix that might be missing. You don’t have to be a social butterfly to be a happy mom, but what I’m saying is that you should try and connect with other moms in your community at least once a month for a sense of self, camaraderie and reassurance you’re not alone on the motherhood rollercoaster. You’d be surprised at how refreshing it is after an hour or two spent with other moms, and you’ll understand why it’s so important to have that outlet once you do. If you’re just feeling low, when the kids go to bed at night, drop everything (chores can wait, emails can oftentimes wait an hour) and run yourself a hot bubble bath, skim through a magazine you like, sip on a glass of wine, and/or simply pamper yourself with something that’ll make you feel like a human being again. I get stubborn when I’m tired, but even on some of my most exhausted nights, my husband will run me a hot bath and force me to go have some “me time.” As tired as I am, just soaking & having a few clear thoughts does give me a sense of self-awareness. We are human!
- Connect with your partner. We can’t forget about our husbands (or significant others). I won’t get deep into a marital discussion right now (or maybe ever), but what I will say is: it’s very easy to get so wrapped up in our motherhood duties (among other responsibilities) that our husbands get unintentionally shifted towards the back burner. I’ve been on a mission to be much more mindful of our relationship, making sure we have some quality time together once the kids go to sleep (without phones) and schedule a “date night” or “coffee date” every other week to step away and have some one-on-one adult conversation without distraction and/or being too tired to even talk. Be affectionate and show love throughout the day – even if it’s just a long hug when you pass in the kitchen, or a little spank when they walk by for a smirk. Once the kids are grown and on their own (which we all dread) it’ll just be the two of you again. Keep your relationship strong so the flame stays lit until then, and you’ll also notice that when your connection is good – you’re both happier.
- You’re a queen. Even on our worst days, our children look up to us like we’re the best thing in this world. I should take my own advice, I still have nights when I cry because I feel like I was an inadequate mom that day (and because of exhaustion). We never truly feel like we’re doing a great job… even when we are! That’s motherhood. All we can do is love them, and show them that love. They think WAY more of us than we think of ourselves…