In our culture, many people, primarily women, wonder if it's truly possible to "have it all," by being a parent and having a career and not sacrificing yourself and your needs in the process. I know I've wondered this, as I've experienced both work/life balance successes and epic failures over the years. While my life still gets busy, and it sometimes feels impossible to juggle all of these balls without dropping at least one, I have to seriously find (and prioritize) ways to make time for myself as a working mom.
I know what you may be thinking: "Shouldn't my kids, my job, and my partner come first?" Well, the answer to that question is an emphatic and unapologetic, "No."
If you don't find time for yourself, you will lose part of yourself. If you don't take care of your own health and needs first, who will care for your family and do your job when you get burnt out or sick or worse? Because, that is what happens when you spread yourself too thin. Trust me, I learned the aforementioned the hard way.
It's taken a large amount of creativity, scheduling, responsibility-sharing with my partner and learning to cut myself some slack, but I've finally found ways to make time for myself as a working mom. Not just for me, for my family, too.
I Changed Careers
I realize that I was super privileged to be able to change careers to find more balance and less burn-out in my busy life. I now consult for two or three clients at any given time, write, and teach yoga and fitness classes, rather than working 60 (and sometimes more) hours per week, at a high stress job and spend all of my me time trying to keep my sh*t together, rather than decompressing.
I Prioritize Self-Care
I try to find ways to put myself first every day, no apologies. I am not saying that my kids aren't the most important thing in my life, because they totally are, but I know that if I don't take care of myself there will be nobody to take care of them.
So, I take breaks, eat chocolate, exercise, make sure I have food in the house beyond mac 'n cheese and tater tots (although, I do love tater tots), and occasionally lock myself in the bathroom to pee alone.
I Cut Myself Slack
I am far from perfect. In fact, most of the time I am a hot mess. I stopped trying to be this "picture perfect mother" a long time ago and around the time I realized that perfection is often the enemy of good. I don't have to do everything to be enough — for myself, for my kids, for my partner and for my job. As a result, I've found that I do better when I know which things I can let go.
I Stay Up Late Or Get Up Early
I enjoy being awake in the house by myself. I can read, catch up on Netflix, and journal. I also enjoy getting up early to exercise, practice yoga, and make sure the house is clean, err, I mean cleaner than it was the night before.
I Get Me Time On My Lunch Break
Whether it's shopping online or getting a run in, I take breaks during the day and use them wisely.
I Use Available Resources
I no longer feel guilty about using child watch at the gym or taking my parents up on their offer to watch the kids so I can go out, work out, or get some time to myself.
I Find Things My Family Can Enjoy Together
I love spending time with my family. However, watching the same insipid shows can get a little boring, so I mix things up a little. I love to paint, and now my older kids are old enough to help. I love to bake and they can (for the most part), help without making the task completely unbearable.
I Get Creative
Sometimes fitting in "me time" means getting creative. Can I fit more than one errand into one trip? Can I have fun, while also getting stuff done. Usually that simply requires a latte or a glass of wine.
I Ignore Other People's Expectations
My house will never be spotless. After all, we have five kids. I refuse to give up time to myself to kill myself cleaning up every damn day, like Sisyphus pushing a boulder up a hill.
So, we expect our older kids to help out according to their abilities, and we have learned that there are some things more important than a freshly mopped floor. Like my mental health.
I Share Parenting Responsibilities With My Partner
This is a big one. Moms don't have to do everything. Gender roles are for the birds, and if both of us are going to work, we need to divide things evenly to make sure everything gets done, and everyone is fed, clothed, and relatively happy. Besides, even though my husband doesn't always do things the way I do them, he'll never get good without practice. We find balance in our lives by supporting each other and saying, "To hell with unfair gender roles."