Lately my plate has piled up higher and higher. In an attempt to avoid full-time work outside the home, I’ve taken on a variety of part-time jobs. While the flexibility is awesome, it’s all too easy to get lost in the endless tasks I could (not necessarily should) be doing. Add in domestic responsibilities and the desire to be present with my ever-changing daughter and, well, parts of me are being left behind. Like writing. Like yoga. Like self-care.
So, here I am today making a sweeping declaration. I’m allowed to stop working (for the most part) on the weekends and do things like write even if writing doesn’t pay the bills. It’s okay to have a slightly messier house so I can go to yoga at least once a week. It’s not the end of the world if I’m occasionally not home for my daughter’s bedtime so I can meet up with other moms to write or actually go on a date with my husband.
Basically, I’ve realized I need to look at where I can let go so I can take care of myself. And, I know I’m not alone. We could all benefit from some honest reflection on how we use our time. In the spirit of creating more space for self-care, I offer you the list of journal questions I’m asking myself this afternoon.
Responsibilities. Make a list of the responsibilities you have in life. What jobs do you have in and out of the home? What obligations do you honor with your friends, family and/or community?
Set days/times for each responsibility to be met. I’ve fallen into the trap of allowing many of my responsibilities to wash over each other so I feel like I never get a break. While some obligations may not realistically be categorized into specific time slots, most can be limited to specific days and times. As a student and a teacher, I set up a schedule for myself and stuck to it. This afternoon I’m attempting to replicate the same approach to life as a mom/wife/teacher/entrepreneur/etc.
Develop weekly/monthly/yearly goals for each responsibility. Keep it simple, but actually map out what you hope to accomplish this week/month/year for each of your responsibilities. Finding clarity in what you plan to achieve helps get rid of all the time wasters, (cough::: Facebook).
Acknowledge your distractions. Actually make a list of your biggest distractions from each responsibility. While tools like social media are crucial to many of my roles, they can also be big time wasters. Recognizing this helps me free up time for more important priorities, like meeting bigger goals and actually having time for myself. My newest plan is to set a timer as a reminder to limit distractions.
Acknowledge what brings you joy. Our responsibilities should ideally bring us joy. But what else makes you happy? Make a list of everything you enjoy doing in life, both work and recreation.
Set weekly self-care commitments. Look at your joy list and figure out what you want to do for yourself on a regular basis. Examine your calendar of responsibilities and figure out a way to consistently schedule in time for things like exercise, meditation, creativity, friendship and romance. We all need personal time to prevent burn-out, stay healthy, and be present for the people in our lives.
Allow space to be unproductive. I have a tendency to over-schedule myself and my family. It’s okay to have time not dedicated to anything in particular. We all need hours to lie around the house and get nothing “done.” Instead of feeling like this is wasted time, acknowledge the need to rest and just be as part of the critical ebb and flow needed to maintain momentum in a busy world.
Have anything else that belongs on this list for self-reflection? Please share– these questions have evolved out of conversations I’ve had over recent months and I’d love to hear your secrets too!
The first few months of E’s life were quiet and slow. We nursed and napped and often that seemed like it. Time moved like taffy, languid and sweet. People often asked if I watched television. The answer was no. My life was an ongoing meditation. Somehow the stillness was enough.
With each month, the momentum picked up a little here, a little there. Sometimes the stillness was too much. I contemplated returning to work as a teacher, but I could not do it, I was not ready. Being a stay-at-home mom was more than enough.
And, it still is, but my use of time is changing. Forget the labels, SAHM vs WAHM, it is similar enough. Suddenly I am free again, the magic of early bedtimes and well-managed naps. For 2015, I have a schedule. Different chores for different days, focused time use for each block E wakes and sleeps, with spreadsheets to go with it because that is how my brain works.
Writing remains my passion, but I also have a different need, a need to get out, meet people, and contribute more immediately to our household income. It is in my bones. I am doing it for me. Like so many in our culture, I don’t know how not to work for financial gain. For better, or for worse, it is hard to say.
This year, I am embarking on a new adventure and joining the family business after more than a decade avoiding it. I should have known, really, that one day real estate would officially call my name. My first real job post-college, after all, was real estate consulting. I grew up walking the floor plans of the homes my aunt built, the homes my whole family seemed to sell. When my husband took the plunge, I should have known I would be next.
For now, I am assisting my husband with business management, but maybe one day I will also get my license to sell on my own. I did not expect this decision to excite me so much, but it is pretty much the most flexible job I could have with no set number of hours. There is still time in my day to write and be present for my family. It is a win.
In order to make it happen, however, we have had to focus on our systems and routines at home. I am a to-do list queen, so imagine my excitement to discover Google Keep, a place to keep all of our to-do lists synched in one place accessible by both computer and phone. I have already completely geeked out and made a list for everything: shopping, separate home and work to-do lists for both me and my husband, social tasks I don’t want to forget to accomplish…
Years ago I read the Happiness Project and it changed my life. Not because it was particularly profound but because it emphasized setting goals and getting organized in the pursuit of living the life you want. That is how getting organized to accomplish my goals makes me feel.
Not the smug or obnoxious kind, but just the fulfilled, purposeful, want-to-share kind. As you get organized for the year ahead, I would love to hear your organizational secrets too.
I admit it. Before Eloise was born, I wondered what stay-at-home moms did all day. I never thought they sat around and ate bonbons while watching day-time tv, but I was curious what filled their hours. As it turns out, a lot of time is spent doing what I expected, households chores and baby care, but when I get creative there is also time for me in there too.
Years ago, I remember watching the Real Housewives of New York and thinking “me time” sounded pretty selfish. I did not get why those moms were so eager to get away from their kids to do something for themselves. In the real world with a real baby though, “me time” makes more sense. I crave more mental stimulation than I get from my household duties, even if I also love said household duties and don’t want to give them up.
By nature, I am already more of a WAHM (work-at-home mom) than a SAHM (stay-at-home mom), as I am sure is the case of many mamas. It’s part of that need for external stimulation. Moms who don’t work at home must find some other outlet to keep sane, (like a hobby?). Between writing, my dream of bringing yoga into local public schools, and an entrepreneurial desire to set-up a booth for woven wraps at the farmer’s market, my brain is on fire with part-time work possibilities. The trick, however, is finding focus while living on the schedule of a five-month old.
My projects have a stop-and-go feel as I work in small chunks before something more pressing (awake baby!) comes up. Some days, feeding and getting the baby to sleep is all that gets accomplished around here, which can be hard to accept after so many years of go, go, go. However, I have to remember this is enough. When I allow myself to sink into the slower pace, I feel blessed to have the freedom to absorb the little moments with my girl while also pursuing my non-mommy passions, even if only for fifteen minutes at a time.
I thought I would share what a typical day looks like for me. I don’t claim entertainment value, just a real peak at what my life looks like right now, at home with a baby, the mundane and the beautiful. Yes, I still get antsy and wake up some mornings wondering if I would be happier going to work, but as long as I remember to be in the moment with Eloise (while also taking control of the free moments for myself), being at home feels like the right choice for now.
8:15 AM: Our morning has officially started. Eloise has been pounding on my back for at least fifteen minutes. I turn her toward her sleeping dad and slip out of bed, careful to construct a pillow fort on my side before I leave. Co-sleeping is such a personal decision. For us, it buys extra hours of sleep and is a treasured part of our bonding as a family. There is no getting out of bed in the middle of the night. There is virtually no crying in the middle of the night. Just peaceful nursing and cuddles…
8:20 AM: I sneak off to steal a shower and a peak at my email. I can hear Eloise cooing to her dad while I hurry to finish getting ready for the day. She lets out some warning squawks, it is time for dad to get to work and me to take over. He graciously changes her diaper before the trade-off. We move to the kitchen where I put her in her activity bouncer. She plays happily while I make breakfast and clean as much of the kitchen as I can before she squawks.
8:55 AM: Squawking commences, the kitchen is still messy. I move her to her blanket on the floor and eat my breakfast while sitting next to her. The dogs want to jump me for my piece of toast with avocado and egg. She watches me chew hungrily. It is time to feed her.
9:10 AM: We settle into our nursing chair. I grab my Kindle and get comfy. She is too distracted to focus for more than five minutes, we move down to the floor and get dressed for the day. I attempt to braid my wet hair while she sits in the Bumbo and chews on a washcloth.
9:30 AM I put her back on the floor with her toys while I gather her diaper bag, my favorite baby carriers, and her carseat. I am pushing myself to be brave and go to a mommy babywearing meet-up at the park. I check again to see who is going. No one I know. I ask a friend if she wants to go. No. I start to talk myself out of it but then remember I already put make-up on and took a shower. A special occasion. Now I have to go.
9:40 AM I collect Eloise and she is hungry again. This time she eats and I am going to be late to the park. No backing out. Must. Be. Brave. I change her diaper even though it really does not need to be changed. Damn we use a lot of diapers.
10:15 AM We finally are ready to go. I am always late these days. The car ride is smooth, no crying. I love daytime. I pass a new yoga studio and make a mental note to check it out when I get home. I resist the urge to google it on my phone at a stoplight. I remind myself I am a mom and need to act like one.
10:45 AM I park and fumble to get Eloise into my woven wrap. I am not good at wrapping out of the car. It takes a couple minutes to spot the other moms with wrapped babies. I approach, smile awkwardly, say hello. Thank God they are friendly. I learn some tips, meet a couple moms, marvel at how openly they nurse. Eloise wants to join. I feed her under majestic oak trees. I should get outside more often.
12:15 PM Eloise is getting restless. I have used up my social courage. She missed her first nap. We leave. We get home and my husband is home for lunch. He helps me lug all the stuff in from the car and takes over diaper duty again, score.
12:50 PM I make myself a bowl of cereal with bananas, hopeful if I move fast enough I can still get her down for a nap. Again, I eat sitting on the floor while she plays with her activity gym. She has rolled three feet off the blanket and the dogs watch her, suspicious of her new ability to move.
1:15 PM She doesn’t want a nap even though she has missed her morning one. We go back to the kitchen, I put her in her jumper while I finish cleaning the kitchen and make lunch for my husband while I also snack on everything in sight. Nursing is eating me alive.
1:40 PM She has had enough of the bouncer. We move back to the floor and play for a bit. She coos at her doggies. I attempt to entertain her with toys. She gets bored, so I carry her while I straighten up the living room.
2:15 PM We try jumping on the nap train again. This time I fall asleep while she nurses. When I wake up she has drifted to sleep too. I build another pillow fort and sneak out of bed.
2:55 PM Now it is my time. I pull out the computer and try to submit documents to Covered California since we no longer get insurance through my old job. The site is down for emergency maintenance. Great, that’s reassuring. I grab another snack. I open my blog page and stare at the empty screen. Time to write but Eloise wakes up crying. I go in and nurse her back to sleep.
5:05 PM I have been writing for a half hour before she awakens again. I’m sure this time she is up for good, but she nurses back to sleep as I get sucked into social media on my phone. After I am sure she is out and I have spent a good ten minutes staring at her tiny features, I creep back to my computer and start typing again.
6:00 PM This time she is awake, awake. I text her grandma and throw her in a carrier so I can finish straightening up the house. Grandma arrives and takes the baby. I get dinner going. It is nice to cook without also entertaining Eloise. I listen to her play with Grandma and smile.
7:00 PM I eat dinner as Eloise gets fussy. It’s just about my turn again. I take back over and vacuum the house with Eloise in the carrier. Normally I wouldn’t be so on top of every chore but our house is listed and I never know when we are going to have a showing. That and Eloise is soothed by the sound of the vacuum.
8:00 PM My husband gets home from the gym and we take the dogs for a quick walk. It is time to get Eloise ready for bed. I wash her face, change her clothes, and her dad reads her a book. I lie in bed with her and let her nurse while I read on the Kindle. She looks likes she just about ready to drift off when her eyes bolt open and she wants to touch the glowing screen. Great. Another hour later without the Kindle I have her asleep and sneak out of bed, half awake myself.
10:30 PM I meet my husband on the couch. We watch tv, aware of the ticking clock and those little blue eyes that will be wide awake in the morning no matter what time we go to sleep. She inevitably calls me back to bed a half hour later. I never finished my blog post. Maybe tomorrow (or the next day, as it turns out).