Mom Life Balance. It’s probably a mythical state of being. We picture working moms, successful career perfectly balanced with a meaningful and full home life; stay-at-home moms thriving in domestic bliss as they skip from one playgroup to the next. The truth is, we’re all struggling to keep our head above water. Not just maintaining a healthy work/life balance, but remembering to look after ourselves outside of our duties at work and motherhood. One of the hardest truths I had to swallow when I became a mom was that I could not Do it All. There was only one of me, and 24 hours in a day, if I was going to survive, I couldn’t keep handing out my time and energy to every person and activity that came knocking.
The best advice I ever got when I became mom was just that, do whatever it takes to survive. What’s important to you, you will find a way to achieve, and what isn’t will inevitable fall by the wayside (along with all the missing socks, hats, mittens and toys you left the house with but never returned with). It’s nice to imagine we’ll continue at work full steam, maintain our previous fitness and nutrition routine, perfectly keep up with all our friends and family, and stay engaged in all our social commitments after we have kids; but the truth is we can’t do it all and its unhealthy to try. Pick the things that matter most to you and start with those.
My daughter is just shy of two, and for me her sleep has always been my number one priority; I will sacrifice everything on the altar of Sleep. For better or worse, the only place my daughter will nap is in her bed; but once she’s down I have a good 2-3 hours to myself in the middle of the day. Friends are always asking if we could meet up in town or in the evenings and I have to turn them down. Can’t she just sleep in the pram? What if you just kept her awake? For me, that would never work. She would inevitably become unbearably cranky so I couldn’t enjoy myself out, drop off for 15 minutes, then wake straight back up and be awake and angry the rest of the day. No 2-3 hour break for me! I’ve had to sacrifice a lot of social outings and time with friends, but the upside is when I do manage to see friends, I’m rested and at peace. I use nap times to catch up on house work, cooking, or to do something for me, like work on my art. I’ve missed being more social, but one day things will be different and for now this is the balance that works best for me.
Know when to say No
I have a type A personality, I’m organized and a bit of a control freak (think Monica in friends). This unfortunately means I always feel compelled to say yes when people ask me to help out or be in charge of stuff. I find myself slowly gravitating towards a busy schedule where people are dependent on me. I ultimately end up burned out as all of my relaxing “me time” hobbies have become commitments in which I owe other people my time and energy. At the peak of my commitment, I was going to a writing class, an art group, gym 3 times a week, 2 part time jobs, running a bible study, 4 play groups a week, plus I do all the cooking and cleaning in my home and am a stay at home mom. No one panic, I have an excellent husband who’s never shy to jump in and do his share. My type A personality means I prefer to do things myself, my way, than to watch him vacuum the rooms in our house in reverse order. Yes, there’s a correct order.
I became so stressed out it felt like I had a physical knot in my stomach. I was losing sleep and weight and I began spending afternoon nap time starting various projects only to leave them half-finished because I could no longer focus on any one thing. I’ve since quit one of my jobs, stepped down from running one of my clubs, and have started allowing myself “days off”. If I don’t feel like going to one of my voluntary “fun” activities… I don’t go!
You Matter too
Being a mom doesn’t just change who we are, it adds to it. We are still sister, daughter, friend, co-worker, artist, athlete, chef, insert title here and on top of all that we have one or more mini humans looking up to us to provide everything in their world. Keeping up with friends, work, family, your kids, it all takes time and energy, and you can only put out what you put into yourself! Staying physically active helps me burn off that excess, frustrated energy and gives me the peace and patience to face life with a toddler. Its the part of my day where I’m doing something purely for my benefit and enjoyment. I also need a creative outlet. If I haven’t spent time in a week drawing, painting or writing I feel like the essence of who I am is fading away.
We all have things we did before we were moms that made us feel alive, feel like ourselves, feel whole. Being a mom doesn’t mean giving those things up. Sometimes the best way to love and teach our kids is to demonstrate for them what its like to look after yourself. Find what makes you you, and make the time for it each week.
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