“The balance what?” you ask.
I am referring to the burden and guilt trip we give ourselves each day over our attempt, and quite often failure, to balance all aspects (mom, caretaker, professional, student, friend etc.) of our lives.
I call it the Balance Burden and, truly, I spent my first year and a half of motherhood often riddled with guilt because I couldn’t seem to juggle it all. It wasn’t until the birth of my second daughter (18 months after my first) that I finally threw my hands up and admitted defeat.
With the slow realization and acceptance that balance was unattainable came a sudden relief, and the mommy baggage was quickly lifted off my five-foot two-inch frame.
In the days (specifically 20 months) since becoming a mom of two amazing, extremely energetic, and willful little girls, I have learned a few things about the best approaches for me to manage my multiple roles. I learned most of these lessons the hard way, as in coming home from work stressed about an undone project, only to be a bit cranky and short-tempered with my family followed by a sleepless night feeling downright crummy for not being a better worker, spouse, and namely mom.
Through trial and error I have discovered that these tips work for me and I hope they are of value to you:
- Create a priorities list and re-evaluate it monthly. Take stock of what you value and write it down. Make choices on how you spend your time based on that priorities list. This list can change as your work goals change, seasons pass and kids’ extracurricular activities and hobbies change.
- Take charge of your schedule. I have been notoriously terrible at saying no. I am slowly learning the art, beauty and necessity in saying no. Decline requests that don’t fit into your priorities list. Say no kindly but firmly and embrace the freedom of not adding something to your plate.
- Give your kids uninterrupted kid time. When I got home from work, I would be greeted with a cluster of hellos, cries and questions. I tried to tending to my girls’ needs, inquiring about my husband’s day, and making dinner – all at the same time. How did that work? Terribly. Now when I come home, I devote 30 minutes with my daughters. I then chat with my husband and think about dinner. This works much better.
- Give yourself “me” time. I am no pro at this and don’t practice it as much as I should but when I make time for myself, I am a better mom. I’m kinder and more patient and I feel like me. One piece of advice I received not too long ago was to put “me” time on the calendar. If my Outlook calendar says yoga, I am more likely to pull out my mat and work on my yoga warrior pose.
Above all, stop comparing yourself to others. Embrace and accept who we are as women, mothers, and professionals. Unfortunately, girls are taught at a young age to compare themselves to the females around them from the classmate with the better math test grade to the supermodel on the cover of the tween magazines. This self-comparison carries itself into motherhood and we are constantly contrasting our mothering skills with those of the stay-at-home mom down the street or the VP who seems to have it all.
Stop it. Embrace yourself in all your glories and flaws. Your kids, your spouse, your boss only want you and no one different. Say goodbye to the balance burden and hello to you.
Photo credit iStockphoto