As moms, we want to do it all. And that means doing a lot. A. Lot.
Even more if you are a working mom. We want to be successful at our jobs, get that promotion, while still being there for our family, every school play, doctor appointment, and music recital, all while keeping the house clean, the dishes done, our kids clean and clothed, and our significant other feeling valued and loved, not to mention staying fit and looking put together. Whew!
So how do you do it without spreading yourself too thin?
It can feel like if you are succeeding in one area, then another area will suffer. Work-life balance means that as one area goes up, another goes down, like a teeter-totter. But wouldn’t work-life harmony be better?
You could view all your responsibilities more like a portfolio, with each area needing more or less time investment depending on the “market situation.” Resources and efforts need not be applied uniformly.
There are times when your work duties might need to take the front seat, getting a higher percentage of your time investment. That doesn’t mean that your family duties will go neglected, they just a smaller percentage of your time. Then your priorities can shift with your family getting the majority of your investment. Other times it may be a more even split.
And it isn’t just work versus family, there is a whole list of items in your portfolio that need the investment of your time. We have things like cleaning, finances, spousal relations, and laundry, (not necessarily in that order) all needing our attention. It’s a matter of finding the right harmony for this time and place, not for all time and eternity. The needs of our work (housework or job) and the needs of our family change, sometimes every day, so why try to place the same emphasis on all our duties all the time. If you view it as a flexible portfolio of investment needs, then you can move your time around as needed.
Don’t do something just because that’s the way it’s always been done. While difficult at the outset, change can also bring much-needed relief. Have you always tried to do a load of laundry each day to keep up? Perhaps doing it all on one day would free up time on the other days? Or maybe you use the same kind of mop your mother always used. Try some other options like a Swiffer or Roomba which might have an initial investment but could save you loads of time down the road.
I love the story about the newly married woman who went to cook a pot roast and started by cutting off each end. Her new husband asked her why she did this. She told him, “That was the way my mother always did it.” So they called mom and asked her why she cut the ends off her pot roast. Mom proceeded to tell them, “That’s the way my mother always did it so that’s how I learned to do it.” They decided to call Grandma and ask her about it. Grandma laughed when she heard and said, “I did that because my roast pan was too small to fit the entire thing.”
There is no “right” way to do things. And making things work to fit you and your family is one of the best things you can do for your sanity. One of my favorite websites tells me that housework done incorrectly still blesses my family. The floor is better half mopped than not mopped at all.
Just Say No
You don’t have to do it ALL. Just because you were asked, doesn’t mean you need to say yes, even that means saying no to yourself.
Pinterest worthy birthday parties? No.
Three different after-school activities? Nope.
Matching mother-daughter outfits for church? Not happening.
Just because they (I still haven’t figured out who they are) said you should be doing something to make your children’s childhood absolutely perfect, does not make it true.
Our children don’t remember the stuff, the extras, the picture-perfect planning. They remember the time you spent with them. My kids will remember when I got down on the floor and played board games with them. They still love it when we run around outside playing a totally made-up version of basketball.
So, don’t worry if the food you serve them isn’t Insta-worthy. Take a deep breath and let them wear the mismatched socks and cape to the grocery store. Skip the birthday party entirely and make memories with them at the beach instead.
Unplug From Social Media
Building on the last tip, viewing the highlight reel from all your friends or worse, social influencers, can make you feel like you are totally missing the mark. I have fallen prey to this, thinking that if that working mom can do all the things, then why can’t I do that too? But the reality is that despite appearances, none of our situations are the same.
The photo of the fit mom who is back down to her goal weight just two months after her baby was born, maybe she has outside help come in to help clean or cook. That amazing looking dinner your friend just posted, maybe it has piles of dirty dishes and paperwork shoved just outside the frame of the shot. And then there are the kids. No two of them are the same and each one comes with their own unique challenges.
Without all the same exact set of circumstances, it really isn’t fair to compare, so just turn it off! Stop allowing those photos to make you feel bad about the amazing job you are already doing with your family.
The helicopter mom is a real thing. I almost became one, too. With my second child, I knew he would be my last and so I wanted to hang on to his infant years as long as I could. I was getting him dressed up until age 4! Some part of my brain knew perfectly well that he could get himself dressed, but I enjoyed that feeling that he was still little. It also took up way more of my time than it needed to. And now because of it, he is not in habit of having to do it himself and I’m paying the consequences.
There are all kinds of lists out there of what kids should be able to do at different ages. You have little indentured servants helpers who can ease some of your burdens. Not only does this help you, but it will make them better grown-ups down the road. And that is our job, after all, turn our kids into good grown-ups.
Take time for yourself
It is actually good for you AND your family for you to take time for yourself. This shows your children that you value yourself and that taking care of oneself is something they should do as well. Plus, it is very valuable for you to be “unavailable” sometimes for your family. If you always help at the drop of a hat, they won’t find that independence we were just talking about. (That goes for husbands too.)
There is plenty of evidence on the benefits of self-care. Research shows that getting regular exercise can help you self-regulate, or control your emotions during stressful situations. Additionally, Harvard Medical School says the food you eat can affect your mood. Eating “good” foods have the benefits of reduced anxiety, lower depression, and overall improved mental outlook.
Now, this is not to say that you should spend all your time in hot bubble baths, at the salon, or getting your nails done. Those are all good things once in a while, but self-care can mean many things. It can be turning up your favorite song and singing at the top of your lungs in the car on the way to pick up the kids, making time for exercise, or giving up the unrealistic expectations you put on yourself. Anything you do for yourself that helps your mental, physical, or emotional wellbeing is self-care.
Moms have a lot going on, but we can take steps to make sure we don’t get burned out, that we aren’t spread too thin. If we take time for ourselves, move our focus when needed, stop comparing our lives to some ideal we never created, and allow our kids and family to grow and help, then we can find the peace we deserve.
Are there any techniques you have found that help you with finding balance?