Every new mom soon learns what a difficult balancing act this role can be. Not only are you responsible for a totally helpless little being (and perhaps other little beings as well), you also wear a number of other hats, which may include that of employee, spouse, friend – even caretaker for an elderly parent. It’s difficult to achieve a balance, to find enough time in the day for others, not to mention ourselves.
But you must take care of yourself first, said Andrew D. Wittman, PhD, the author of “Ground Zero Leadership: CEO of You” and managing partner of the Mental Toughness Training Center. “This is especially true for moms,” said Dr. Wittman. “Just like when the oxygen masks drop on an airplane, put your mask on first. If you don’t, no one will be there to take care of the kids.”
If you’re wondering how you can possibly find time for yourself – with work, driving the kids to various functions, meal preparation, laundry, and a myriad of other tasks – it can be done, said productivity expert Tara Rodden Robinson, PhD, author of Sexy + Soul-Full, a Woman’s Guide to Productivity – by looking at time in a new way.
Many of us go through life thinking of time as the enemy, something that passes too quickly, she explained. “But while we can’t control the ticking of the clock, we also don’t have to be caught up in the urgency and scarcity of time passing.”
One way to slow things down, despite how full your calendar is, is to choose a different experience of your time, said Dr. Robinson. That is, to recognize a few things, such as the fact that there will probably never be more time later – to take that hot bath, read a book, pursue a hobby, or work out. And that while we often think of our time as “precious,” we spend a lot of it doing things that are more mind numbing than fulfilling – like spending it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Although it’s not always easy to do, it’s also important to take a good hard look at your life, both at home and at work, and to decide what is most important to you. Is your job taking priority over your marriage, your family, and self-care? It may be worth considering the hard decision of changing your job or even your career pathway. And if you are the one doing the majority of the “unpaid work” such as laundry, cooking, shopping, and cleaning, it may be time to delegate some of the tasks, lower your standards a little, or see if your budget can accommodate hiring some of the work out. Crucial, too, said Dr. Robinson, is to avoid over-commitment by “learning how to say no with love and courage.”
While it’s a process to reassess your life and make changes to free up time for yourself, there are exercises you can do right now to slow your mind down when it seems like the pace is too hectic. One, said Dr. Robinson, is to try to take in as many details about your surrounding environment as you can. If you’re outside, for example, note the green of the leaves, the cracks in the pavement, the feel of the breeze on your face. This exercise, she explained, is based on research from neurophysiologists, who have discovered that when you’re fully present and engaged with the world around you, your brain assumes that time is passing more slowly and that you have more of it.
And Dr. Wittman offers this effective and simple “micro-vacation.” Find a quiet space for three minutes, even if it’s in the shower. Then take a deep breath, inhaling for 15 seconds, then exhaling for 15 seconds. Finally, visualize your perfect day, if there were no limits of distance, time, or budget. MS&F