As a working mom myself, I know how difficult it can be to maintain a good work-life balance. In fact, most days it seems almost impossible! Between waking up early, getting the kids ready, trying to make yourself look presentable, rushing the kids off to daycare or school, working a full day, rushing back to pick up the kids, carting them off to different sporting/after school events, darting back home to make dinner, feeding the kids (don’t even get me started on the arguments and protests that ensue during this time), then it’s time for homework, baths and finally bed! Oh, and did I mention that somewhere in that hectic schedule we need to find time to eat right, exercise, maintain a social life (yes, I know many of you are laughing at me right now), give our significant other (if we have one) some time and attention and focus on self-care? Well, for the working mom, this is our reality, and yes,it can be hard, REALLY hard!
So, a few months back, seeking support and validation for the exhaustion (both physical and mental) I felt nearly every day, I stumbled across a great resource; the Working Mother Magazine. I find myself browsing this website often and in doing so, find that many of the struggles I face daily, so do other moms. I find this website provides not only the support and validation that I was seeking so much more.
Today, I would like to share an article that I recently came across titled: 10 Quick Joy Fixes for Weary Working Moms: Brighten up your day with these simple ideas, By Erin Leyba PhD. As a social worker, I am always telling my clients to practice self-care and build in small efforts throughout their day to boost morale and positively, so this article really resonated with me. So, in honor of Mother’s Day, here is my gift to you:
Post a “caught you being good” chart on your fridge and record kind or cooperative things that your family members do, such as getting dressed without being asked. Keep a “joy journal” on your kitchen counter and record hilarious, sweet or fun things that happen (and add photos for a memorable scrapbook) with your family. Send “joy texts” to a partner or a grandparent saying things like, “Johnny was so nice-he shared his cheese when Ted dropped his” or “Joanna had so much fun exploring the creek barefoot today.”
During lunch, meet up with a friend, go for a 20-minute “savoring” walk in nature, get a quick manicure or eat something scrumptious. During a non-driving commute, listen to a favorite podcast, play uplifting music, journal, text a partner or a friend, or write in a gratitude journal or app. Your time will be fundamentally different because you committed to treating yourself.
If you swap every weekend bike ride for a trip to Home Depot and every lunch with friends for a kiddie birthday party, you will certainly lose your mojo. Whether it’s a quick run, a session at the driving range, a yoga class or reading a novel, “feeding your cup”-even for an hour-will fill you with even more to give to your children.
Research suggests that warm, consistent bedtime routines offer opportune times to bond with children, reduce child and parent stress, and grow children’s capacity for relationships. Read books, sing songs, cuddle, tell your child a funny story about when they were little, and create space for your child to tell you about his or her day.
Date nights let you de-stress, create new happy memories together and be lighthearted, playful, flirtatious and romantic. They help you deepen your communication beyond “what time’s the babysitter coming” or “we need more paper towels.” They offer the ideal time for you to share the things you’re excited or happy about and to get support for the challenges you’re encountering as well.
Many new parents feel blah, lonely, anxious, depressed or exhausted after having a baby. Give yourself some time to process and accept the “big feelings.” Notice where feelings are present in your body-such as a tightness in your neck or a pit in your stomach. Try journaling freestyle for 20 minutes and notice what feelings show up on the page that need your attention. Go for a long walk outside to process feelings that may be “just under the surface.”
If you feel guilty about not spending enough time with your child on the weekend, you might say, “This weekend I’m going to have fun with my daughter at the grocery store, read her this stack of books and spend an hour at the park with her. I will feel good on Sunday night if I’ve done those things, and I will let the rest go.” Remember that almost all parents struggle with guilt, such as not living up to the “motherhood myth” or feeling like they should be constantly attentive and never get angry. Also, despite the fact that nearly all parents spend more time with their kids than they did in 1975, 85% of parents still feel like they don’t spend enough time with their children.
Nearly all health and happiness derived from friendships comes from the 5 to 15 people closest to you, not your 150 acquaintances. Many new parents focus so much on their families that their friendships start to dissolve. Prevent this “silent drift apart” by getting together with your good friends-actual face time-at least once per month. Set up a standing lunch or dinner on the first Friday of the month, organize a book club or dinner club, or participate in a sports team together. When friends invite you to do things, accept every invitation or offer an alternative (e.g. “I can’t go out for your birthday dinner, but I’d love to take you out another time”).
Researcher Kross and colleagues found that the more people used Facebook in a two-week period, the more their life satisfaction declined over time. Remind yourself that people put forth the best parts of themselves and their experiences, and purposely hide or keep the more challenging parts private. You might see a family goofing off with Tigger at Disney World, but you don’t see a carsick toddler or the meltdown when it’s time to leave. Remind yourself, as Anne Lamott says, “not to compare your insides to other people’s outsides.”
If you are exhausted from cleaning up spills or refereeing arguments, 1:1 time helps you put the zip back in your step, the magic back in the moment. Take a child to a minor league baseball game, to play mini-golf, to the park or even with you to the grocery store. Give them a role or a job along the way (such as taking photos at the ballgame or marking things off your list at the store), keep it lighthearted and offer them a choice between two alternatives (e.g. “Do you want to see the big cats or the sea animals at the zoo today?”).
By: Amanda Keller, LCSW