I don’t know about you, but each morning I wake up and aim for a balanced day. A day of balance between being a mom first, and a psychologist/professional second. I have aspirations of staying calm, planning ahead, and staying on top of the schedule and demands of my children and private practice.
Each day, I envision that I will be able to manage all that is needed by my team of therapists, billing, marketing, and contacting new referrals, as well as homework, lunches, dinner, activities, quiet time, and a reasonable bed time.
And each day, I am frustrated to no end. Does this sound familiar?
Well, after years of trying with 3 children (ages 12, 9 and 5 now), I think I’m going to stop trying to find this magical balance that I so strongly hold in my wishes and aspirations. I think I need to change my expectations as I am disappointed with myself for not finding that balance each day. At the end of each day, I sit down and review and criticize, criticize, criticize myself for losing my cool or becoming overwhelmed.
The worst thing that I know I hold, and I’m certainly not alone, is that I have this vision in my head of what each day “should” look like, how my children “should” behave, and how I “should” respond. That “should” list is making me “should” all over the place, and it’s not working for me (or you) anymore. So, instead, here is what I am going to propose:
I am going to propose that we embrace each day for its uniqueness and blend of variables that it brings. I mean, the fatigue (yours or theirs), the cold/illness (yours or theirs), the moodiness (yours or theirs), or the intensity of the day. That is, I’m taking away that expectation about what I think it “should” be each day and instead, I want to have no expectations at all.
Whatever it is, it is. Easier said than done, but in the moments where I have been able to suspend my “shoulds”, I have felt less anxious and less critical about myself and my capabilities.
In other words, be kind to yourself. Be forgiving of yourself. You got through another day. No need for negative self-judgments or criticisms. Everyone is alive, fed, and well. That’s the marker of a good day!
We are pros at using our hindsight to think about what we (again) “should” have done. It’s okay to be tired, moody, hungry or just plain old done with a long day. It’s okay to be tired, it’s okay to go to bed early without folding the laundry. It’s okay. It’s just okay.
At the beginning of each day, start with a realistic list and positive self-messages, like “I can do this. This will be a good day. However the day ends up, it will be fine.” End each day with positive self-messages, like “You rocked it today! Nice job. You got through a rough one and survived! I’m proud of you!” Speak to yourself as if you were speaking to another person if you have to.
I have found that when I give myself a pedicure, a massage, a lunch outside of my office by myself or with a friend, I become refueled and can handle what’s to come for the day or week. That is, it’s important to schedule a little time for yourself, by yourself or with a friend.
I used to struggle immensely with the guilt of doing that for myself; I would feel selfish and spoiled. I would feel badly about myself for not being able to just ‘go’ without the need for a break. For whatever reason, I’ve internalized this unrealistic sense that I can do anything for however long without a break. That’s not realistic nor necessary. In fact, it’s not even human.
We, as moms and women, need to develop more realistic expectations for what we are going to accomplish in one day instead of a list 3 pages long to be followed by a healthy dose of self-bashing for not getting through it.
What?!? No more. Schedule your down time, enjoy it, and repeat again in a week or two. Know your cues for a need for downtime and burnout – and respond quickly. When you get to this desperate state, nobody wins. Not you, not your kids, not your spouse, not your coworkers, NO. ONE.
In the motherhood manual that I never received, nowhere does it say that this job is going to be easy. In fact, it’s the hardest job I have ever had. It’s also the one where I judge myself the most, and you are likely judging yourself too. Embrace your days, judge not yourself, and schedule in your time for yourself, and you will find this job to be a little bit more doable!
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.
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].