In that minute when you first became a mom, your time was no longer your own. As women, many of us are socialized to be the nurturers and the caretakers, so you may have found that your time was compromised to take care of the needs of others even before your children arrived into your world.
We spend a great deal of time thinking about what has to be done and then figuring out the sequence in which to do it so that it can all get done in the most efficient way by the day’s end.
That’s a lot of mental work. In fact, this has even been termed “emotional labor” – when we keep a running checklist of things.
The day’s events. Our responsibilities. Things to prepare. When to leave in time for track or soccer. What to prepare for dinner. Remembering to flip the laundry from the washing machine to the dryer. We need more ketchup. Etc., etc., etc. I could go on for days (you know what I’m talking about).
And then the guilt. Oh, the guilt!
We feel guilty because by the end of the day, we impose this insane and unrealistic expectation that, we “should have done more.” I’m about to put an end to all of this “should-ing”. We should all over ourselves and, in the end, we still aren’t happy.
We should bake cupcakes from scratch. We should make our children a healthy dinner each night – chock full of fresh veggies that you just picked from your garden. I don’t have a garden, so I am abandoning this idea of fresh dinner because if the kids have food in their bellies, they are fed. The end.
And then we compare.
We compare to the other moms who we think have it all pulled together and are doing a better job at this motherhood gig. Well, let me tell you – each one of us is struggling and this is not an easy job. In fact, this is one of the hardest jobs I have ever had in my life!
So, in an effort to help us to become the owners of our time, to be kind to ourselves, and to create the time to take care of us, I would like to share a few ways for you to do that.
It’s Goal Time!
As a mother, you are committing to things left and right. “Of course I can bake 70,000 dozen muffins for tomorrow’s bake sale,” or “Plan the next PTA event – of course, I’m on it!” But where does it end? How do you decide in which activities or volunteer events you will – and won’t – participate?
What I challenge you to do is to identify 1-2 goals that are important to you.
Yes, you heard me correctly – 1-2, not 5-6 or 111-112. 1-2. Now, when you are thinking about how to use your time and where to invest it, you will need to ask yourself, “By doing this [insert activity], is this serving me and my goal(s)?” If it is not, then it may not be that important to take care of right now. Or, it may not be something you need to volunteer for or take on, just because you feel like you ‘should’ or that it would make you a ‘better mom’.
For me, I’ve been taking on volunteer tasks through my children’s school for the last 6 years. For some reason, I felt like this was part of the motherhood gig and that if I didn’t, I would be somehow cheating my children. Last year, I ran a very large fundraising event. For me, the planning and carrying out spanned from September to May. By the end, I was drained, cooked, and I was angry and resentful.
I spent so many nights, days and weekends purchasing, planning and advertising – and what I realized is that the time I spent doing all of this took away from the time that I could have spent with my kids.
I was stressed, irritated and overwhelmed because it was very hard balancing the demands of this event, my house, my children, and my practice. I vowed to myself that I would not take on a fundraising event of this caliber again. And, I haven’t. I really haven’t. If it doesn’t give me energy, a creative outlet, or an opportunity to share a cool experience with my children, I’m not doing it.
Build in Your Own Down Time
Just as our children need down time built in to their day, we do too. This may mean setting aside 30 minutes for you to scroll through social media, read an article or a blog, send a few texts, or respond to emails. It’s your time to watch your favorite show, color, or read a book.
And, here’s the deal – when you do this, it’s time set aside to do mindless things and there is no guilt about it. No, “I should be folding laundry instead,” or “I should be emptying the dishwasher.” You are acknowledging that you need mindless time and you are taking it… as often as you need to because this is what gives you the energy to keep going for the remainder of your day, or for the next day.
Don’t Forget to Play
By freeing yourself from the “I shoulds,” you will be freeing up a well of energy that you didn’t even know you had. By simplifying and directing your energy into a few places that really matter, you will find that you will have more time to play. Play with your kids, with your husband, with your friends – and just doing something that you find fun, like painting rocks!
By protecting your precious time, you are indeed creating more time and energy to invest back into yourself first, and your family. But, the major difference is that you will feel like you are not being pulled in so many directions, doing so many things that you can’t keep up with. Instead, you will have time to play and actually enjoy these years when your children are available and more than willing to play with you!
Although the days are slow, the years are fast – and as a mom, you know this by looking back at your pictures or videos.
Motherhood is exhausting and somewhere we raised the bar from being a mom to being a supermom. We have invested our time and energy and spread ourselves too thin. Guilt and the “should” have dominated, and it’s time to let that go and give back to yourself – which is, in turn, giving back to your family. And this makes the journey more fun!
Dr. Liz Matheis is a licensed clinical psychologist and certified school psychologist
who specializes in assisting children and their families with Autism, ADHD, Anxiety and learning/behavioral disorders in Parsippany NJ. Dr. Liz was trained at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Madison and Teaneck, where she earned her BA in Psychology, MA and Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.
In her private practice, she has 4 therapists who provide after school and evening hours. Stephanie Fredericka, LCSW, Nicole Filiberti, LSW, Michelle Molle-Krowiak, Ed.S., LCSW & Chrissy Sunberg, M.Ed., AAC are a welcomed addition and provide specialization in CBT, Art & Play Therapy, Grieving, Trauma, In Home ADHD Coaching, and use of the Sand Tray Therapeutic Technique.
Dr. Liz focuses on well-aligned parenting styles via parent coaching, helping parents who are divorcing or divorced to maintain a co-parenting relationship, creating a consistent home environment, and the establishment of boundaries and behavioral expectations in helping children and families to realize their fullest potential. She also serves as an Educational Consultant to parents who are seeking to optimize their child’s IEP, and need support and advocacy to maximize their child’s special education program and related services. As a former School Psychologist on the Child Study Team, Dr. Liz also provides psycho-educational evaluations that are Child Study Team friendly.
At present, she is a contributor to a number of popular press magazines, radio and blogs, where she is able to provide real-world, pragmatic solutions to complex problems. To learn more, visit www.psychedconsult.com or email at [email protected].
The views and opinions expressed on this blog are purely the blog contributor’s. Any product claim, statistic, quote or other representation about a product or service should be verified with the manufacturer or provider. Writers may have conflicts of interest, and their opinions are their own.