Time has to be one of the most widely used excuses ever. We use it to get out of doing something, to push projects to the side, and we use it to justify the things we say and do. Being a working mom with an active duty husband who is frequently gone, the time excuse isn’t really an excuse, it’s a part of my life. I used to find myself constantly apologizing for the crunched schedule that is my life, but why should I? Everyone who knows me, knows that my cup-runneth-over. to put it lightly. Between not getting home until 5:00 pm, to cooking dinner, cleaning the house, trying to spend a little quality time with the kids each evening- my Monday through Friday is jam packed. I have felt so overwhelmed lately that I have let my dedication to working out start to slip because I am just so flipping busy. I can make the time when I truly want to, but I am so spread thin with everything else that by the time I get home and have dinner started, working out isn’t my top priority at the moment. I have been averaging 3-4 workouts a week, not too bad but my diet is sporadic and the discipline in that area at the moment is seriously lacking. I have been able to average about two workouts a week and my diet is so sporadic not because of time, but because of the decisions I make and my current priorities.Another area of my life that has been put on the back burner: this blog. If I didn’t have an amazingly proactive partner (Amber) to pick up the slack for me, this blog would sink! I spent the entire month of August in a very intense class that was 8 hours a day with a minimum of 2 hours homework each night. Once the class was finished at the end of August, I was thrown back into the ring at work trying to get up to speed on everything that happened while I was gone. This time of year is extremely busy for my work so by the time I get home each evening, the last thing I want to do is pull out another computer and write. But here I am on a Saturday morning at 6:34 a.m. trying to put in that effort. Instead of apologizing for my absence or beating myself up for taking a step back, I will simply acknowledge it and let it pass by without causing me too much mental trouble. I found it helpful to create a priority list as it keeps things in perspective when I am feeling stressed.
My priorities: My children, my career, my home, self care, friends and family, and this blog.
My first priority are obviously my children. Being a working mom means that we are apart for 9 hours a day so when we are together, I make sure we are spending quality time as a family. Going on an evening bike ride with my kids is more important to me than making sure I called a friend back. My second priority is my career. I have an incredibly mentally demanding job that keeps me on my toes, keeps me motivated, and I have yet to dread going to work. I spend a good portion of my time in front of several computer screens during the day and during the week, I find it difficult to come home and open my laptop because I feel burned out from computers! My home is my third priority. I love a clean home that smells good and is inviting. The beds need to be made, floors clean, kitchen clean, and laundry done. I always keep a tidy house as a chaotic and messy home gives me anxiety. Self care is my fourth priority. After the above are satisfied, it’s time for me which includes working out, stretching, doing my daily skin care routine, or even just relaxing when I feel like it. Friends and family are my fifth priority. I make sure I find time at least every other week to call my mom or text my friends. This blog is my sixth priority. I absolutely love being apart of it and it truly brings me joy to write and post things that uplift others. Where I am finding difficulty sometimes is literally the computer issue because I feel like I am always on a computer.
You see, I used to be very, very bad about beating myself up over things I didn’t accomplish that I set out to do. I have been the queen of over-achieving since I can remember and although I loved the image of being this rockstar, it wasn’t sustainable long term as I would eventually crash mentally, physically, and spiritually. I got so used to operating at such a high level in regards to accomplishing things that no wonder I struggled so hard with anxiety and depression. I would set such high expectations for myself that if I didn’t meet them, I would beat myself up to the extreme over it which usually resulted in me lashing out feeling like total shit. This was a cycle that was so prevalent in my life that is was actually embarrassing. On the outside I looked like this mom who was able to make it to play dates, go to school full time with a deployed husband, babysit my friends’ kids, and take on many different household projects. However, on the inside, I was this frantic, frazzled, and short-tempered person who constantly felt like I was drowning in my own commitments and responsibilities. My short temper would cause me to lash out on my husband, my mom, and even my daughter. Blow up after blow up, I eventually started to become aware of my behavior and how mentally unhealthy it was. I realized that I needed to set realistic boundaries when it came to projects and managing time. I realized that I was so worried about being perceived as the mom who does it all that I put my mental health on the back burner. I started to pull back where I was overcommitting, I started saying no to things I didn’t want to do, and I started using my planner religiously. I would write a couple of realistic tasks that I could do each day that would still allow me the time I needed to mentally relax, work out, go for a walk, or even watch a movie. If vacuuming the upstairs wasn’t on my to-do list for the day, then I was not going to do it.
I feel like as moms that we get so caught up in accomplishing things we need (or feel we need) to do that we leave little to no room for ourselves to just be.
Over the years, I have learned that being gentle with yourself is a key element in finding inner peace. I am gentle with myself because I know how spread thin my days are and it would be impossible for me to get everything done that I want to do without burning out. To prevent said burnout, I simply re-prioritize my tasks. Since my kids and my career are my main priorities in life, I have to make sure I am taking care of my mental health in order to operate on my best for my kids and for my career. I can’t beat myself up for not working out 5 days a week. Sometimes things HAVE to get pushed to the side, like getting a workout in when I have dinner to cook and chores to do after work. So what is my new method of approach? Once again, utilizing my planner to help me manage my time. I give myself two to three chores to get accomplished each day after work and I make sure that I give myself two days during the week to workout. Combined with the weekend, that brings my total to four and I am good with that! If I beat myself up for not having time for the PTA or to have all my family photos organized into photobooks, I would feel like crap more often than not. If I am not taking care of my mental health first, how can I be performing my best at work and at home? I couldn’t!
So I am asking you ladies that are tough on yourselves to start being more gentle. There is a difference in making constant excuses and having valid reasons for making decisions regarding managing your time and priorities. Some weeks I am kicking ass in all areas of my life and some weeks I will be lucky if I worked out even once that week. If you are struggling with time management, make a three tier priority list! If it is a busy week and you only have enough free time to get a homemade meal on the table, than consider that a win! Also, don’t be that person that has to fill up their small amounts of free time with other obligations. I remember once having such a crazy busy week and a friend asked me to babysit on a Saturday and I said sure! Here comes Saturday and instead of relaxing or having ‘me’ time, here I am in another commitment. What I am saying is be selfish with your time ladies. Yes- it takes time getting used to saying no to propositions for commitments and obligations and as a recovering people-pleaser I can tell you that saying no can bring you so much peace. So don’t feel guilty about saying no or beat yourself up over not watching your friend’s kids. Stop with the apologies while you’re at it; you don’t owe anybody an explanation for the choices you make or how you manage your time and priorities. Got too busy this week and couldn’t get to a project you wanted to get to? It’s all good sister! There is no shame in reprioritizing your tasks in an order that is going to keep your mental health in check. When you start to become more gentle with yourself and only giving your time to what is realistic for you in the moment- you prevent burnout!