One of the fabulous things about living in this day and age is that, as women, we have access to many more opportunities than our mothers and grandmothers. Don’t get me wrong, I know there is still a way to go when it comes to gender equality. But (Australian) legislation now enables women to stop work to have a baby, with a bit of financial support, and gives us the security of ensuring that we have a job to return to. We can really “have it all” without having to choose do I want a career or do I want a family.
So, just like me, many mums find themselves in a situation where they are “balancing” a job, a partner, and children. Add to that extended family commitments, further education, a home business, appointments, social commitments, hobbies and possibly a desire to improve health and wellbeing.
Now I’m not here to try to argue that working mums have it harder than stay at home mums, because I know that’s not true. And I have mum friends who stay at home and say they feel guilty discussing their feelings of overwhelm with other mums who also work. We all have 24 hours in the day, and we all have commitments and responsibilities to tend to, it doesn’t actually matter what those responsibilities are made up of. Although I would argue that caring for children are a different kettle of fish altogether, as their little lives actually and really do depend on you.
Most mums I know express feeling overwhelmed. And the ones that don’t express it are either incredibly supported by their close community of family and friends, or have found a perfect routine that is executed very precisely without any random unforeseen spanners in the works!
Is “balancing it all” the goal? I’d say its an unattainable one, as there will always be times in your life where one responsibility requires more attention, whether it be sick kids, a peak time at work, or preparation for Christmas. Instead, let’s go with…
How to “make it work” in a healthy and satisfying way
What’s not serving you?
- What is currently not serving you?
- Are there commitments you can let go of or postpone until a quieter time?
- Endless scrolling and refreshing? Social media can be a bit of a vortex. I personally don’t have any social media apps on my phone. If I want to look at Facebook, I jump on the desktop. This helps a little bit, although I find myself jumping on the desktop to quickly look up something or pay a bill and the temptation to look at Facebook always wins. Something that was going to take 1 minute has now taken 1 minute + 15 minutes of mindless scrolling. Limit yourself to checking one a day and set a timer if you have to.
Learn to say no
- Do you sacrifice your own happiness and sanity to people-please? (This was so me 5 years ago).
- Be honest with people who ask for your help. Let them know how you are feeling and that you would help if you could.
- Read “The Power of No” by James and Claudia Altucher for some great strategies.
Maximise your time
- The Commute – I spend 4.5 hours of commuting to and from work each week. Is there some way you can make use of this “dead” time and turn it into something more productive/relaxing/mindful? I listen to audiobooks/podcasts while I drive, but if you are catching public transport, why not try meditating or practising some deep breathing? There are plenty of meditation apps that can assist.
- Frequent/Last Minute Grocery Shopping – Try dedicating 30 minutes every weekend to writing a menu plan. You will then have a grocery list of all the items you need for the week, and can reduce your grocery visits to once or twice a week. It will also help you save on food wastage.
- Spending Hours in the Kitchen – I spend Sunday afternoon doing an hour of power in the kitchen – double recipes and do some batch cooking. I have many freezable portions, particularly for my toddler – baby-friendly bliss balls, vege fritters and small portions of baby pate.
- Eat That Frog – there are just some things that we don’t want to do, but required to do and saying “no” just isn’t possible. “Eat That Frog” is tool to deal with procrastination by Brian Tracy, when you do the very last thing you feel like doing, first. It’s based on a quote of Mark Twain, who famously said: Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day. Then you can spend the rest of the day on the things you love.
Be a Present Parent
I find this one really tough during the week. My work world continues on my days off, and the temptation (or often requested need) to check and respond to work emails can leave me thinking about and problem-solving work issues when all my daughter wants is for me to engage with her.
Childhood is short and if we spend that time with our minds somewhere else we will be left feeling unsatisfied as a parent. If we start to practice mindfulness in all that we do, over time we can quieten down the part of our mind that panics over the next thing on the to-do list.