Of course we love our kids, and we’ll do anything (and everything) for them. But the fact is we can’t lose sight of our own needs. It’s what helps us feel rejuvenated so we have the strength to nurture and guide our children. After all, isn’t what our kids really need is a genuine, healthy, and energized woman who enjoys not only her family, but also herself? When you find the time to nourish yourself, (whether it be your relationships, soul, body, or mind) your family will be more likely to appreciate the real you: an interesting, evolving, happier woman who not only loves them, but also life.
But a just-released Parenting magazine survey of almost 2000 moms found that most of us are not taking enough time for themselves. (No big shock on this one, right?) The editor of Parenting and I talked about the survey Today show. The two pieces of the survey that were “Hang on a minute!” were these:
• 96 percent of moms say we’re far more stressed than moms twenty years ago (that shouldn’t be any big surprise)
• 67 percent of moms also admit those moms of yesterday were also much happier than we are today.
Life is too short, Mom! If we can’t really be happy in the most important role of our lives, then maybe we need to change course a bit and find that balance. Are you with me?
The truth is we’re going ninety miles and hour 24/7. How can we possibly find time for ourselves in the constant treadmill-paced lives we lead? So how are you doing Mom? Are you taking time for yourself? After all, the best way to take care of your kids is to take care of yourself.
Of course you can’t add more hours to a day to find that balance, so look for simple little minutes—anything—so you can reduce that stress and guilt, and take time for you. Here are seven simple ways moms tell me they used to gain a little more control over their lives so they are better prepared to take care of their family. (Come on, any amount of time is no time at all—even ten minutes a day).
1. Check out that daily schedule. Are you always going-going-going and feel like your life is one long to-do list? Before you can create more balance in your life you must have an accurate idea of your typical week. So look at that Palm pilot, daytimer or calendar, and see what is really going on each day. Just cutting one thing in your weekly activity can make a tremendous difference in restoring balance. What one thing can you eliminate?
2. Say no and mean it. Write a reminder on an index card not to take on one more new task and tape it to your phone. Your new rule is: “First say no” (or at least you’ll have to call them back after your check your schedule). It can be a great time-saving strategy, because you’ll be less likely to impulsively commit yourself to things you really don’t have time for. I have to personally attest to this one. I was a “yes” person to just about everything, until I realized the things I was saying yes to I really didn’t want to do. So I made a new personal rule, “If the activity didn’t directly involve my kids, I didn’t do it. All of a sudden time opened up and I still had time for my children.
3. Start delegating. Why do it all the work yourself? Share those household chores as a family. Besides a less-stressed you, there will be more time for your family and your kids will learn that great virtue called responsibility. Make sure to post a list of chores and the member responsible. Then don’t be so darn picky, Mom! If your kid doesn’t make his bed like a marine, let it go.
My girlfriend does something in her house called the “Five-minute family pick-up brigade” that gets all family members involved and instantly cleans the house. Each member (dad included) is assigned a room or area and given a broom, vacuum or dust rag. Mom sets a buzzer for five minutes and everyone runs off to clean things “spick and span” before the timer goes off. Susie swears it’s the perfect way to quickly put the house back in order before going to bed or if a guest is to arrive. I love that idea!
4. Exercise. If you really want to take better care of yourself, you know it’s essential to do a regular exercise routine. And no more excuses: you can do it alone, with your girlfriend or with your whole family. For instance, put the toddler in a stroller or the baby in a front back and walk each evening. Join purchase bicycles for your kids and one for yourself and ride together; a mother-daughter yoga class; or have your girlfriend come over each day, punch in that “Buns of Steel” tape, and go girl. Find anything that you can tolerate doing with your kids –exercise wise that is—that gets you moving, then keep doing it.
5. Find time for one new thing. Decide what’s taking a back seat in your family (spirituality, intellectual stimulation, fun, together time, talking) then boost it. For instance, if you want to read more, then do it as a family. Set an evening reading time. Stash books in a basket or spread a blanket on the floor for read-alongs. Sure it’s hard when your kids are toddlers, but for school-aged kids, it can be wonderful. So what do you want to boost?
6. Date your significant other. Get a babysitter once a week (or twice a month)—and leave the kiddies at home. If you think going out sounds selfish, tell yourself you’re doing it for the good for your kids. Don’t put your marriage on the back burner. I mention this one, because the Parenting survey found a great majority of moms said didn’t spend enough time with their husbands. Find time to date your husband, and tell the kids you’re doing it because you love them! (That’ll get them thinking!)
7. Get a support system. Friends do matter. In addition to everything else they bring to your life, friends can really help in reducing stress and restoring balance. Here are a few suggestions:
• Create your own Mommy and Me group. Find one other mom with kids about the same age as yours and then connect to do outings together like picking blackberries or attending the library read-aloud program. It’s healthy company for you and your kids.
• Start a book club. If you and your kids like to read, why not start a mother-daughter) or mother-son) book club? Instead of reading apart, you can enjoy each other’s company.
• Set up buddy lists. Why not set up a twenty-minute daily chat with your girlfriends online? You could stay connected without leaving home but also share healthy menus or ideas to tame your toddler’s tantrums.
The simple everyday example of working in the garden, taking that computer class, meditating, writing in your journal, talking with a friend, soaking in the tub, enrolling in an exercise class, dating your husband –teaches our children the importance of finding balance. It’s a lesson they’ll need when they finally leave our nests and live their own lives. Let’s just make sure we are teaching the lesson of balance through our own lives. So what is the one thing you are going to do to regain balance in your life? So what’s stopping you? Get going!