Tell me if this sounds familiar:
The alarm goes off and you roll out of bed, still exhausted from not getting enough sleep. Your morning coffee isn’t really helping and your work day feels like one issue after another.
It takes three hours to send your boss one email and you finally give up at 5 p.m. and start the commute home. When you walk through the door, you are immediately met with a sink full of dishes, dinner to make, homework that no one understands, a partner who thinks you should be ready for sex, and an endless to-do list that you can’t seem to complete.
Can you relate? If so, then you know the life of a working mom or dad.
There is something about being a parent that means we give all that we are to helping our little humans grow. But, there is a fundamental flaw in that thinking. When we do not care for ourselves, we end up with nothing left to give.
Think about being on an airplane. We are told to put our own oxygen mask on before helping those around us. It’s because we are no good to anyone when we have no air. The same principle applies to us as working parents.
I’ve found that it’s possible to work self-care into our busy days with just a few adjustments to our priorities.
Here are some ways we can carve out time, even on the busiest of days:
Don’t pick up your phone
Many of us have developed a habit of checking our phones first thing in the morning. Turning off the alarm turns into checking the weather, which turns into checking the headlines, which turns into checking Facebook…you get the idea. It’s a time suck.
Instead, give yourself five minutes to meditate. Check in with your breath. Set an intention for the day. Notice your thoughts, but do not engage with them. This will lead to a more peaceful morning without taking any time away from your morning routine.
Turn off the radio
This is similar to leaving your phone alone, but time spent driving can also be meditative if we let it be. When the radio is off, we can experience the flow of thoughts in our head and reengage with our creativity. Likewise, we can use this time to invest in ourselves by listening to an audio book or a podcast that helps us grow, learn, or just relax.
Build in a buffer
Whether it is the first five minutes after you walk in the door or the 15 minutes after dinner, build in a buffer of time that is just for you. Even if you only use this time to go to the bathroom in peace, it is time well spent. Shifting gears from work life to home life requires that we honor the space in between. Our different roles require us to use different skill sets, so we need to give ourselves time to be in the right mind-set.
When we are at work, we need to be fully present and giving our best to our job. Likewise, when we are home, we need to be fully present and giving our best to our partner and/or our family. Our relationship is an entity that needs its own nurturing and attention, so be purposefully present with the people in your life. Be “two feet in.”
We create more stress for ourselves when we only give half of ourselves to work, to our relationship, or to our family. In my previous relationship, I asked for my partner to listen to me for just five minutes as I vented about work. Once the five minutes were done, I put the topic away to focus on being present at home.
Ask for help
I pride myself on being able to “do it all”—so many of us do! But we are doing ourselves such a disservice by not asking for help. If we are in tears by the time we ask someone to help us out, it will take twice as much work to put ourselves back together. Once a week, get a sitter or take the kids to a friend’s house and have coffee, go for a walk, or just fold the laundry without being interrupted every five seconds. Know what you need and care enough about yourself to make sure that you get it.
Our work, our families, and our relationships should all be life-giving experiences for us—not life-sucking. When we give too much of ourselves without replenishing our supply, we can become someone we don’t even like. And if we don’t like us, no one around us will either.