I’m a big believer in the idea that life is meant to be experienced, not merely survived. But… if I’m completely honest, right now, I’m in full survival mode. As a happily married woman in her mid-30s, who is the mother to an energetic 18-month old son, I am also 20 weeks pregnant, a full-time Technical Writer, a part-time freelance writer, and a serial entrepreneur. While some days are really tough, requiring constant prayer to carry on, other days are great. At the end of it all, things balance out. I realized, however, that there are some tools that I consciously use to maintain my sanity and maintain my balance.
Remove any phrase that begins with “I should be…” from your vocabulary
“I should be spending more quality time with my son.” I should be more active in his classroom.” Not only is that not at all helpful, but it can be detrimental to your emotional and mental health. It creates guilt within, and daily life has a way of trying to make us feel guilty for one reason or another without adding our own personal contributions. So, instead of focusing on whatever is it that you think you should be doing, focus on what is within your control at that moment. Then, consider what may be possible for that day. Stop thinking and act on those things. Tomorrow is coming regardless, so deal with it when it arrives.
Give yourself a break – literally
As mothers, there is almost no such thing as a break, ever, because even when our children are not in our presence, they are still on our minds. If in addition to being a mother, you are married/have a significant other and a job/business, your brain and body are constantly working. Plus, if you’re in a stage of life similar to mine, a full night of uninterrupted sleep is the stuff fantasies are made of. Because of this, I take my breaks where and how I can get them (now that it’s finally sinking in that there really is NOT an S on my chest and nobody ever expected there to be, except me). A break comes when our son spends the night at my mom’s. We go to Red Box, get take out, and are in bed by 11 PM. When my husband tells me not to pick up our son from daycare and instead to go home and rest, I say okay. When I take a mental health day from work, I still take my son to daycare so I can have a few hours to myself. It’s not selfish to put yourself first from time to time. In fact, it’s healthy. If we neglect ourselves, we run the risk of the inevitable crash and burn, rendering us useless to all.
If you are in a place where you don’t have family in town, make it a point to find a network of like-minded, trustworthy mothers who you can depend on and who can depend on you. Is this easy? No. Does this require a ton of effort? Maybe, most likely, yes. But the possible gains are priceless and irreplaceable. So release the guilt and try to get some “me time.”
Routine, routine, routine
Sure, a routine can be monotonous, predictable, and at times boring, but for my family, the reward is peace and it’s worth it. Yes, it’s pretty much guaranteed that we won’t stay at an outing past 8 PM because that’s the time when our bedtime routine starts. If it’s Sunday, we definitely are not staying in any one place too long because it’s our day to shop, do laundry, and prepare for the week. Routines look different for each family and how you construct your own is a personal decision. Don’t beat yourself up if things don’t go according to plan every day, but having a general plan can be enough to steady the ship. Keeping to our routine most of the time makes it easier because we all know what to expect. Children thrive on routine and boundaries, and adults stay sane.
You are invaluable to the world around you, so take care of yourself. You’re worth it, and you’re doing a great job.