Balance. Mom guilt. Presence. Self-care.
Many mothers would say they struggle with creating balance in their lives. They don’t have time to do the things for themselves—such as, having uninterrupted conversations—that they once had time for because they are so busy doing so much for everyone else in their home. The biggest reason for this is that when you’re responsible for the well-being, education and care of a child—or several children—you only get small pockets of time in which you are able to do ANYTHING, and prioritizing yourself may lead to guilt.
For example, when my child is at preschool or taking a nap, I realize I have a very limited window to choose what to do with that time, and for a while, it was REALLY difficult to decide. Sometimes I would procrastinate or just stand in the shower, trying not to think about anything at all (and then get mad at myself for not “getting anything done”).
Some of my options are (but not limited to): I can eat a meal and shower (self-care, check). I can do the dishes and the laundry (household requirements, check). I can get some work done (create an income for our family, check).
The point is, I struggled with the ultimate Balanced Mama implementation action: prioritizing.
Ugh, how often have you heard that? “Just make yourself a priority.” Yeah, sure. I’ll get right on that, Rose. Thanks. However, let’s not take it so personally. What I found was that creating a schedule similar to that I once held while working out of the house before I became a mom was extremely beneficial in helping me “deciding” what to do with my available time (I won’t use the word “free” time here. You’re welcome).
I bought a fancy planner—gel pens and stickers can increase the enjoyment of this activity, but are not required. My personal favorites are The Day Designer and The Erin Condren Planner. I drew a box around each nap, babysitter-covered childcare window and previously agreed-upon time in which my partner and I agreed I would be out of the house while he covered the homefront.
Now, at the start of each week, I make a list of the weekly tasks I needed to accomplish (shopping, workouts), add in the variable activities (doctor visits, thank you cards), along with two to three times a week I’m doing something that makes ME better (pedicure, journaling, snuggle time on the couch). I write in exactly which days I can accomplish what and make sure that each area of my life receives equal attention. This means I can commit and be present during my self-care time and social time (limited as it may be) fully knowing that the next day’s window would be focused on my work, blog or housework.
When I trust that the not-so-fun stuff really, actually, positively would get done,and in a timely fashion, I am able to breathe and enjoy my time for myself—without the guilt. I also trust myself (gasp!) in knowing that I cannot be the present, grateful, healthy Mama I intend to be for my family when I am distracted, frustrated and resentful towards the schedule and situation I’ve created for myself.
You know how when you’re on an airplane, in an emergency, you would put your oxygen mask on yourself before helping your little one? Caring for yourself is the same exact thing. Becoming a mother or a parent (in most cases) should not require you to lose who you are, forget your dreams, goals or activities that help to make you, you.