No one has unlimited time. Everyone has some given list of things that time needs to be spent on. Even before I became a mom, it was often difficult to do everything that was required of me and still have time to play in the woods, travel and adventure (and I wasn’t even blogging back then!).
Adding a child to the mix can seem like a death sentence for anything you enjoyed pre-kid. After all, children DO require an investment of time, significantly so, and you can’t simply add to your schedule without taking something away. You WILL have to reprioritize. The trick is being intentional with what stays, and what no longer fits.
Early in my parenting journey, it felt like the thing that no longer fit was me. Time and energy to ride my bike, take a trail run by myself, go to a long yoga class, or even complete a single task from start to finish without interruption felt light years away! (Ok, that last one still is when a toddler is home. Let’s be real.) I felt like I couldn’t get away unless the all the work had been done; the laundry, dishes, food ready, house tidy and clean, actual job work, everything. And boy had that work list grown. Our laundry tripled between cloth diapers and a baby who needed a full costume change every 20 minutes or so. There were suddenly baby apparatuses all over the house, bottles to wash, baby food to make and package for daycare, on and on and on. I kept hoping I’d catch up and waiting until I did to allow myself to get out the door. News flash...it never happened.
My issues were compounded by the post-partum depression and anxiety of course. The exhaustion and brain fog made everything take forever. I was overwhelmed by the littlest things. The anxiety would keep my brain spinning in circles almost paralysed about what to do next. “I should start the laundry. No, that might wake the baby. I’ll do dishes instead. No, we need dinner soon, I’ll work on that.” Stares at food in fridge feeling overwhelmed by the broccoli and the enormous effort chopping requires, thinks we should probably just order pizza, again. “Maybe I SHOULD start laundry afterall.” Round and round we go. Yeah...it was super fun.
And then there is the guilt and anxiety of being away from your child one moment longer than you have to. If you are suffering from clinical anxiety, there is a very real physical sensation that almost suffocates you. But even for moms who don’t have that delightful bit of chemistry happening, the guilt is real.
Man...I’m making this sound really grim aren’t I? Hold on, it gets better. Pinky Promise.
What I’m learning through mindful examination is that mom can NOT be the thing that gets dropped from the schedule. Period. It is crazy making and will lead to burnout, resentment, and martyrdom. So something else will have to go. But what? In my much more clear brain (thank you Dr. Victor for finding the best treatment for my PPD!) and with a bit of coaching from my therapist (thanks Michelle!), I have begun to identify a handful of time wasters that need to go so that I fit again. Maybe a few of these will ring true for you too, or maybe not. Perhaps you don’t do any of things on this list, or maybe some of the things I’m going to stop doing add immense value to your life. That’s ok. The point is to spark the thought process. Start to dig deep and figure out what ACTUALLY matters to you. Weed out anything that isn’t serving your life to the very highest and get rid of it.
Workaholism: It took a serious health crash after becoming a mom to really drive this one home for me, but I have a serious tendency to overcommit and over do my work life. I want to serve 150% to the very highest of my ability and I accept nothing less of myself. While being dedicated to your work and doing a good job is important and valuable, it serves no one for me to stay late day after day stressing about details that no one will notice but me if it means I’m exhausted, run down and unfulfilled. Long term, this approach will actually cause my work quality and job satisfaction to decline. Just say no to workaholism.
Perfectionism: The driving force behind #1 of course. Good enough actually is. I can’t say I have amazing advice on HOW to let go in this arena. I had to drive myself to Adrenal Fatigue and collapse to really be ready to let it go. But when I was ready, I was really ready. Don’t make yourself sick before you get there. If this is something you need help with, find a therapist to help guide you. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it is a sign of strength and clarity.
Being fussy about food: I love food. A lot. You might call me a foodie. I come by it honestly. My parents fed me on wild rice, venison, asparagus, salmon, sushi..all the good stuff. I did not know from a white bread PB&J until I went to other kids’ houses. I also enjoy cooking and making delicious and healthy meals. What I don’t love, is spending time in the kitchen to the detriment of doing other things AND washing endless piles of dishes. I have devoted some brain power lately to thinking of a two or three week rotation of meals that are healthy, delicious, and fast. If it takes more than about 15 minutes to prep on a weeknight, or 45 tops on a Sunday, I’m out. It isn’t a priority right now. I also don’t “meal prep” on the weekends. This is a strategy many people suggest for eating well when you are busy. Frankly, I hate that strategy. I have better things to do with my Sunday than spend it destroying my kitchen cooking all day. Plus, who the heck wants to eat something on Friday, that you cooked last Sunday?
Saying yes to everything: I’m not just an overcommiter at work don’tcha know? I tend to feel like we need to go everywhere, do everything, and say yes when we are invited. Even when I don’t particularly want to. Here’s the thing, even if you are invited to something you WANT to do, it is ok to weigh it against everything else that is happening in your life right now and decide if it will fit. If not? Say no. And you don’t even have to give a reason.
Clutter: We are in the process of DEEPLY clearing out space in our home. Everything must go. Well, everything that isn’t 100% necessary for our lives or doesn’t bring us joy and add value. This, of course, has an up front cost in time. It takes time to paw through closets, cupboards and pantries clearing the deep dark corners of things that no longer serve you. But I suspect that long term, we will find a huge time and mental clutter savings by ridding ourselves of the excess. I’ll keep you posted on how that’s going in a couple of months.
- Guilt: Mom guilt is very real. I can especially get caught up in it when I’ve been away from my kiddo all day working. It can feel selfish to claim an extra 30-40 minutes for myself. Like I should spend every last second of my non working time glued to the Little Bear. But really, that serves no one. What I actually need to do is be 100% checked in and present with him when we are together. THAT is more powerful than adding physical time during which I’m massively distracted.
Cleaning: Yep..I’m not cleaning anymore. Ok...that’s a BIT of an exaggeration. I’m not going to let my house rot into the ground of course. But as much as possible I am minimizing and streamlining anything that needs to be done in this department and outsourcing some of the rest of it. When I was in the bad place with my health, my therapist insisted in no uncertain terms that I was to find and hire a housekeeper to take some of the pressure off. We couldn’t afford it. We did it anyway. Best expenditure ever. Remember, money is a renewable resource. Time is not.
Gratuitous Internet use: I’ve saved the best for last. I never used to use the internet and social media too much. But I certainly feel like I do now. I think it is a habit that started while pregnant and in those early daze of parenting. I was incredibly sick my whole pregnancy. Most of the things I liked to spend my time doing were just not possible anymore. Then came my colicky, non-sleeping kid and the restless discontent of PPD/A. My phone was an escape. A way to check out and numb myself to the hell I was experiencing. But I’m not in that place anymore, and the time that is spent 3-5 minutes at a time staring at my phone slowly saps productive and focused time and steals my attention from my family when we are together. That isn’t helpful at all. I was curious just how much time I was spending on my phone, so I installed the free iOS app called Moment. It tracks both total time spent with your screen on, and how much time you spend in each application. (Side note, if you feel like looking at your phone while driving is a problem for you, they also have an app called Focus, that will crab at you if you pick your phone up while driving.) Know how much time I spent on my first day with Moment installed? 4 hours and 7 minutes. I was shocked and appalled. Now I did watch some Netflix for about an hour that evening, not something I do everyday. I also spent about 30 minutes using it to transfer photos and manage my calendar for work. Even if we remove those chunks of time, that still leaves 2 hours and 37 minutes of...who the hell knows!? And, not only are those 2.5 hours of my life unaccounted for, but productivity research tells us that it takes about 10-15 minutes to get into the flow of doing something. Any time we are interrupted, it takes us another 10-15 minutes to get back into an optimal state of productivity. So, I likely lost a lot more productive time than that, being distracted in 3-5 minute increments. Honestly, I DO get a fair amount of value from social media. There are mom groups who give me advice and keep me sane, friends I hardly catch up with otherwise, and a cool community of other adventure loving mamas on Instagram who inspire me. I don’t see myself giving it up altogether. Instead I want to be really clear about when and how I’m using this tool.
Bonus! Here are few common uses of time that I never particularly did a lot of, and I don’t plan to start:
Lengthy hair/makeup beauty routines.
Crafting. Nope. Not for me.
Shopping. I buy food. Otherwise, I minimize time in stores.
Playing video games.
Youtube rabbit holes.
Obsessively researching new hobbies or activities. I tend to gather a bit of info and then just go for it. I’ll learn along the way.
Frequenting movie theatres, bars, festivals, or concert venues.
There is nothing particularly wrong with anything you want to choose to spend your time on. If spending two hours in the kitchen every night, or hours on hair and makeup every morning gives you value and makes you happy, then do those things. Many people LOVE going to concerts. It isn’t about right or wrong. It’s about being aware of HOW you spend your most precious non-renewable resource and being intentional with your choices. So the next time you find yourself saying “I would love to be doing______, but I just don’t have time.” Spend a moment to reflect on what you might reprioritize to fit in the things that make you feel the best.
Did anything here strike a chord for you? Is there something you are currently doing that you wish you weren’t? What is one thing you want to work on removing or reducing from your life to make space for the things that are most important? Leave a comment and let me know.
If you find this blog and my writing valuable in any way, please consider starting your next Amazon purchase below. You'll get the same service, selection, prices and shipping you expect from Amazon and they will send me a small percentage of the purchase price for the referral. Many Thanks!