“Life is like riding a bicycle; in order to keep your balance, you’ve got to keep moving.” -Albert Einstein
Such is the life of a mom..always “on,” ready and waiting for the next series of crises to avert. Whether it is making sure that your toddler’s prized stuffed animal is never abandoned anywhere (which requires almost constant vigil), or catching her vomit with your bare hands before it hits the couch, sometimes the biggest victory of the day is just being able to take a hot shower (for me, lately, it has been simply getting a diaper on my rollie-pollie 10 month old…without getting poo on the floor- WINNING!)
Take today for example: after not sleeping at all (most people who know me, know that I have been dealing with chronic insomnia for about the past year and a half) I arose at 4:30am to get an hour to myself to write this blog (it is currently 1:44pm and both of my kids are just starting to wake up from their naps, by the way…) I also awoke to a full iPhone screen of missed calls, Facebook messages, and texts concerning the passing of my Papa, whom I was very close with. Of course my daughter arose (demanding TWO hot dogs and a cheese stick, curiously enough) at 4:45am, and my husband woke up sick as a dog (there has been a nasty bug making its rounds here at the Peve-house). Trying to get the toddler fed and occupied so that I could make a few phone calls, prep a bottle for the baby and make myself something to eat seemed nearly unsurmountable, and it was barely 5am! And so it goes. Add the laundry that’s been sitting in the dryer for two days, the dishes stacked in the sink, the floor that is constantly covered in dog hair (and thus constantly requires sweeping and mopping now that we have a full-on crawler in our midst), and how can anyone possibly think about fitting a workout in, let alone a proper meal? Some days, I consider myself lucky to not have resorted to dining on Beneful, since it is usually the most readily available cuisine in my household.
Many of us not only have the day to day challenges of motherhood and homemaking to tackle, but we also have careers to worry about, businesses to run, and- gasp! even hobbies to try and fit in (wait-what are these “hobbies” that you speak of??) But in the chaos of all that plate spinning, we often lose ourselves in the midst of this delicate balancing act. We are so focused on the plates, that we forget about the person who is holding them all up, diligently preventing that awful crash. The truth is, that if the person doing all of that plate spinning doesn’t start making herself, and namely her health, a priority again soon, the inevitable will happen- and nobody wants to clean up that mess.
I remember when my daughter was born; I was so in love with her that I felt extremely guilty any time I even considered being away from her for a second. I didn’t even shower alone– she was in the bathroom in her bouncer right next to me, and eventually she played at my feet once she became old enough to sit up… I never even spent a night away from her until I was forced to, when I went into labor with my son! After the initial 5 weeks of postpartum recovery time, however, I knew it was important to get moving again and get my diet back on track. But… how was I supposed to do that when I was in my last quarter of my undergraduate degree, writing and preparing to present a 30 page honors thesis and yadda yadda yadda? Well, sometimes the answers are more simple than we think: I just had to make time. Once I had my second child, the barriers to diet and exercise became even greater of a challenge, yet by keeping exercise a priority, I managed to figure it out. All of my other tasks and to-do’s simply fell in line around it (and yes, crappy diapers ALWAYS occurred simultaneously on my way out the door, but…sh*t happens!) Instead of feeling guilty about it, I felt empowered by it- heck, if I could get a workout in with a baby and a toddler in tow in the rainy PNW who cares if I got in a hot shower or folded the laundry before 5pm? If I exercised I was happier, and in turn my household was happier (okay, it might not have been cleaner, but it was definitely happier!)
My point is that the longer you put yourself and your needs on the backburner, the longer it will take to find yourself again. I have been in your Nike’s (boots, platforms, or barefoot in the kitchen…whatever : ) and I am here to tell you that it is OKAY to want to do something for yourself, whether it is with your children or significant other, a friend, or completely solo.
Here are a few tips for maintaining a healthy balance between all domains of your life:
- Schedule time for yourself! I am talking about actual dates with yourself, seriously. They can be for 15 minutes or 2 hours… whatever you can fit in (I realize that sometimes this has to be during naptime, or after the kids go to bed as many of us have spouses that are away off and on). Just make sure that you don’t allow other menial tasks like laundry or dishes intrude on your “you” time (I am totally guilty). And don’t flake on them (err..yourself). Make it a point to carve out a specific time of day during which you can focus on something that benefits you, whether it is reading, taking a hot bath, exercising or zoning out on the couch. Just do it.
- Try meditation. 5 minutes in the morning and 5 minutes at night can make a huge difference in how you manage daily stress.
- Change your perspective. Instead of viewing things as obstacles, see them as opportunities. For example, if my husband is going to be TDY for six weeks and my gym doesn’t provide any form of childcare whatsoever, I could take that as an excuse to slack off, or I could take that as an opportunity to get my kids involved in my workouts. I could also see it as a challenge to get creative with what kinds of workouts I am able to do at home, and in turn spread the wealth to my fellow moms in the same situation (…I feel another blog post topic coming on!)
- Be prepared. I am sure that most of us with babies and tots never leave the house without diapers or wipes… so why do we leave the house without healthy snacks for ourselves as well? Preparation is the key to success in any venture. Prep your food and snacks out in advance, so that you won’t have excuses when push comes to shove.
- Let it go! This has always been a big challenge for me. Sometimes things can just wait… like that laundry that has been sitting in my dryer for two days, remember? Refrain from getting so caught up in the day to day grind that you forget to stop and smell the roses.
As I sit here at my counter typing away with the a/c on full blast, sipping my coffee and listening to my daughter count her crayons in the living room while my son squeals with delight over his veggie fries, I am reminded of the many joys that often break up the stress and chaos of this beautiful life we live. I lost a very important person in my life today, yet I am constantly surrounded by people whom I love and cherish and would give my life for in a second. I don’t ever want to take that simple fact for granted. As wives and mothers and sisters and daughters and students and friends we play so many roles and it is easy to lose ourselves in the process. By paying attention to yourself once in a while in addition to those you love and care for, you are allowing yourself to have healthier happier and longer relationships with all of them.
So now, I ask, what have you done for yourself today?