Before I had my son, I was a pro at self-care. Here’s what a normal weekend looked like for me:
I woke up leisurely after a full night of sleep (those were the days!). I would meditate for around 30 minutes in my comfy bed, then I would write in my journal and read a few pages from my favorite uplifting books. After that I would drive to a beautiful location (usually the beach or a woodsy trail) for a nice run… Then I might grab a coffee or a bite to eat after my run and read some more. After that I would head home for a shower, rock out to some music while I got all gussied up, and then my husband and I would meet up with friends to enjoy a nice weekend of wine tasting, BBQ’ing, and relaxing.
I’m telling you, I was a PRO.
Self-care as a mom looks a WHOLE lot different though. The scene I just described above (which used to be such a regular occurrence) now seems like a fantasy vacation. Kids require a lot of time and attention, and my previous weekend routine simply doesn’t fit into my new family schedule anymore.
The problem is that I often feel guilty for not “taking care of myself” the same way I used to before I had kids. “Self-care” is such a buzz-word these days, and there are times when I actually feel bad about myself for not indulging in the same kind of activities that I used to be so good at. All of this talk about “self-care” makes me feel like I’m letting myself down if I’m not taking all of this time for myself the way I used to.
However, I think it’s important to realize that just because I don’t spend the entire day focused solely on myself anymore, it doesn’t mean that I’m not still taking care of myself. I’m still able to re-charge while integrating all of my responsibilities as a mom, wife, employee, friend, sister, daughter, etc.
Here’s how self-care looks to me now that I’m a busy working mom:
I spent the majority of my life trying to please everyone around me. I was completely consumed with trying to gain others’ approval. I wanted everyone I came into contact with to like me and think I was a “good” person. Ultimately, I needed them to validate me so I felt worthwhile and loved.
What a colossal waste of time.
Allowing other people to determine how I operated my life was incredibly inefficient, but even worse, it resulted in a lot of unhealthy behaviors:
As a working parent, you don’t have any time to waste. Yet as life becomes busier, it becomes more difficult to evaluate what might be wasting your time and energy. Some things that used to inspire and motivate you now seem to drain you. You can’t put your finger on it, but you know there are areas of your life that sap your energy. These are things I like to call “energy vampires.”
Here are the things that I’ve found waste my energy the most, which ultimately ends up wasting my precious time:
“The busier you are, the more successful and important you are.”
This message has controlled me most of my life. Working in the litigation profession taught me that being overwhelmed and out of time reflected success. The “best” attorneys were always stretched for time, which made them seem more in-demand to me. Add to that a billable hour requirement that virtually guaranteed an uncertain future if you didn’t hit the mark.
The message was clear to me:
Being busy meant you were important and successful and had a solid future. Being calm and stress-free meant you must not be working hard enough. Being “busy” became my badge of honor as I excelled in my career. I didn’t stop there though… I filled every minute of my day with something. Graduate school at night. Social activities on the weekends. Training for half marathons and pottery classes and volunteering to work overtime.
I thought at the time that I was just being well-rounded, but looking back, I was exhausted. My life had zero margin. I got sick a lot, and I was always stressed out. “Busy” was my middle name.
Then I added a husband, and a couples of kids to the mix and I hit my limit.
I knew something had to change.
At first, I blamed the chaos in my life on being a new parent. It’s true, being a new parent involves a period of adjustment and has a pretty steep learning curve. But over time I began to realize that the stress and overwhelm I felt as a working parent was actually a result of my holding onto a busy lifestyle as a badge of honor. I had plenty of time, but I wasn’t using it wisely.
Before I had a baby, I spent the first hour or so in the morning meditating and writing in my journal. I eased naturally into my day, and set a calm and positive demeanor to my day (well, most of the time).
Once I had my son, my mornings no longer belonged to me. I was in “Mommy Mode” from the first moments of my day (usually awakened by loud cries) and they didn’t end until I went to sleep at night (and often, I picked up a midnight shift or two throughout the night). The second I became a mom, I inadvertently gave up an important part of what created balance, calm, inspiration, and happiness in my life.
Although my son is still an “active sleeper,” I decided a few months ago to set my alarm an hour before he usually wakes up (about 5:00 a.m.) so I could re-establish a morning routine that was consistent and dedicated to my personal well-being.
Devoting the first hour of my day to establishing my goals and intentions has made all the difference in my level of productivity and temperament. I no longer feel depleted and disorganized. Instead, I have a plan for the day and am able to move forward with a more balanced and positive state of mind.
Here’s what included in my Morning Routine (and tips for creating your own morning routine).
Last week we talked about the best way to narrow down your to-do list by eliminating, automating, and delegating tasks that you don’t absolutely need to do. This week, we’re going to focus on maximizing your time with the tasks that are left on your list. I have implemented all of the tools listed below into my life, and I can’t tell you how much smoother my life operates now.