As mothers, we all strive to do the best we can for our families. Sometimes, though, we run ourselves ragged trying to get the house cleaned, doing laundry, taking kids to school, and making a career for ourselves. But you don’t have to be Wonder Woman to make your life work.
Pick Up Your Toys
Toys populate our house. It’s actually more of an infestation. Toys are everywhere: In the kids room, there are four large containers that are brimming with toys. In our bedroom, the husband and I often trip over small toys the kids have left there during the day. The living room is the worst; my son’s train tracks work their way around the entire floor. Stuffed animals, robots and Buzz Lightyear sit casually on the sofa. Matchbox cars and smaller items find their way into inconspicuous places in the sofa and always surprise me when I sit on them.
Instead of picking up after them like I used to do, the husband decided about 6 months ago that before going to sleep, the kids should pick up their own toys and put them away in the proper containers. At first there was moaning, groaning and dragging of feet, but now it has become a part of their daily routine, like brushing their teeth. Gone are the days of bending down and spending half an hour picking everything up. As the kids put their toys away, I can sit on the clean sofa and put my feet up.
In addition to picking up toys, if your kids are old enough, have them help with daily chores. I’m not saying that you need to have your 4-year-old get down on her hand and knees and scrub the floors like Cinderella, but you should teach them about responsibility and that you and your husband are not their servants.
What’s for Dinner
After dropping off and picking up my daughter from school, taking her to kung-fu class, playing with my son and his robots, walking the dogs, and working, the last thing I want to worry about is what I’m going to throw together for dinner. When this happens, I get anxious and waste a lot of time going through the pantry and refrigerator trying to scavenge for essential ingredients. I get stressed out and my mood changes for the worse.
Something needed to change or else I was going to go crazy and we would be eating mac and cheese for the rest of our lives. I decided to take an hour every Friday night and plan what I was going to make for the week, and what ingredients and other groceries would be needed. By doing this, I’m able to let everyone know what’s for dinner and plan in advance — no more starting to make Chicken Cacciatore without the tomato paste and sauce. By grocery shopping on the weekend, and with a list, I avoid having to go to the market several times a week, having forgotten key items like milk or bread.
I don’t enjoy going out unless it’s with the husband or with the rest of the family, but there are those days when I need a little escape. During the week, I rarely do my hair or put on my make-up. I usually roll out of bed, change out of my pajamas, and throw something on. By the time the weekend rolls around, I’m usually feeling grungy and need a pick-me-up. That’s when the husband or my mother-in-law watches the kids for a couple of hours while I run errands for myself. Sometimes I get my nails done or finally make an appointment to get my hair cut. I always laugh when my hair stylist says, “See you in eight weeks.” It’s more like 6 months. You can’t expect yourself to be at everyone’s beck and call every minute of every day.
If your child brings lunch every day to school, don’t wait until the morning to make it. You’ll be rushed and probably just throw whatever you can into the lunch bag. Just like the family dinners, plan out your child’s lunches the week before. Take 15 minutes the night before to assemble the lunch; you’ll make healthier choices and you’ll have more time in the morning to actually sit down for breakfast or talk with your kids about the upcoming day.
No One’s Home
Everyone’s got a cell phone plastered to their ear. In restaurants, at the grocery store check-out line, and even in bathrooms, people feel the need to talk with someone all the time. Sometimes it’s irritating to see this, especially when the person’s voice is overtaking your quiet dinner plans at a restaurant. But cell phones have become an integral part of our lives, and unfortunately, the husband and I can’t escape this technology.
So that we can enjoy our family time and not have to talk shop with business associates 24 hours a day, we don’t answer our cell phone or the home phone during dinner. This is our family time. When people call and we pick-up, it interrupts dinner and we aren’t able to share our day’s activities with one another. I also don’t answer my phone after 8 PM. This is the time I spend with the kids while they take a bath or get ready for sleep and we read a story together. Make it a point to establish clear work and social hours; this is especially important when you work from home. 8 PM doesn’t have to be your particular cut-off time — it could be 9 PM.
Just Say “No”
I am constantly on the computer because of work, answering dozens of emails daily either on the computer or on my Blackberry. If I see that there’s an email waiting in the Inbox and it needs an answer, I will reply right away. I cannot let it go, even for just a few hours. When I found myself in bed answering emails at 3 AM, I knew I needed to make a change. Now I stop answering emails at 9 PM. I’ve been working on trying to turn the computer off at this time also, but unfortunately, this process is slower. Give me a few weeks to work on this one.
Setting these boundaries will give your day more structure and you’ll find that you’ll have more time for yourself and for your family
Save Gas, Money, and Time
If you’re having a hard time getting up every weekday morning to drive the kids to school, and feeling burned-out, try carpooling. Ask around the school and see if anyone lives close to you and would be willing to participate in this venture. You can take the kids to school for one week and another mom or dad can take them the next week. If you can’t find someone else at school, consider asking your spouse. Believe me, this will save your sanity during the school months.
Snap, Crackle, Pop
Sometimes I’ll look at the clock and see that it’s already 4 PM and I still haven’t eaten anything. On these hectic days I am cranky, irritable and moody. I start getting headaches and my ability to function decreases.
Take the time to eat breakfast, even if you just make a simple smoothie — at least you’re nourishing your body. Also make the time to eat a healthy lunch. When you ignore these important meal times, you’ll find yourself famished towards the end of the day and you will snack on junk food or eat way too much of something.
Go to Sleep
Although it’s a struggle for me to get up in the morning, I can burn the midnight oil and stay up pretty late into the wee hours of the morning. Unfortunately, since my daughter has started kindergarten, this is becoming more difficult to do and still wake up at 6:30 AM to take her to school. So starting this Monday, I am going to turn the TV off at 11 PM and go straight to bed — no reading books or catching up on magazines. I am determined to get at least 7 to 8 hours of sleep. When I get less than 7 hours of sleep, I am listless and tired for the rest of the day. I work at a slower pace and my attention span is practically non-existent. My face is puffy and I have dark circles under my eyes. There really is no reason to do this to myself.
It’s also very important that your kids get enough sleep, especially if they are going to school — they need as much brain power as possible. Get them on a routine where they go to sleep at the same time every night. My children’s night routine consists of picking up their toys, going to the bathroom, brushing their teeth, reading or telling night-night stories with the husband or with me, and then it’s lights out. Maybe I should take up this routine myself!
Take a Hike
I get restless when I perform an activity for long periods of time. I can’t sit in front of the computer for more than an hour at a time without getting up for at least a few minutes and walking around the house. Every day won’t be a great day, and you can’t expect it to, but you can try to make the most of it. If you find yourself agitated over work or something the kids said or did, or if you’ve hit a mental roadblock and can’t seem to get anything done, go for a walk or at least go outside and get some fresh fresh air. Go for a 15 minute walk and come back feeling re-energized. You can reflect on your day and focus on what else you need to get done.
Being a mom, wife, employee, and/or business owner are tough jobs, but you don’t have to be miserable in these roles. Give yourself enough room to breathe. Once in awhile, it’s okay to put yourself first.