How to Maintain Balance as Mom (Minus the Mom Guilt)
Balance. Mom guilt. Presence. Self-care. I love these buzzwords that get tossed around and overused when it comes to advice and stories about motherhood. For a lot of moms, it is hard to have "balance" or make time for self-care without experiencing guilt. However, not every woman who is a parent feels this way. Some women have figured out a way to create balance and to release judgments, guilt, and shame for taking care of themselves. In my experience as a mom, it comes down to implementing one basic principle that helped me to almost instantly replace feeling guilty with feeling balanced.
Many mothers would say they struggle with creating balance in their lives. They don't have time to do the things for themselves (such as having uninterrupted conversations) that they once had time for because they are so busy doing so much for everyone else in their home. The biggest reason for this is that when you're responsible for the well-being, education, and care of a child (or several children), you only get small pockets of time in which you are able to do ANYTHING, and prioritizing yourself may lead to...guilt.
For example, when my child is at preschool or taking a nap, I realize I have a very limited window to choose what to do with that time, and for a while, it was REALLY difficult to decide. Sometimes I would procrastinate or just stand in the shower, trying not to think (and then be mad for not "getting anything" done.)
Some of my options are (but not limited to): I can eat a meal and shower (self-care). I can do the dishes and the laundry (household requirements). I can get some work done (create an income for our family). I could even clean the bathrooms, vacuum the kitchen floor, organize the toy bin, create a baby photo album, write thank you cards for the most recent birthday or holiday, read a book to improve my parenting skills, read a book to escape from reality, phone a friend, go for a walk, take a workout class, go grocery shopping (necessity), go to Target (part necessity, part therapy), get a pedicure, take a nap, take the car in to get fixed, call the insurance company back, call my grandmother back, get a bikini wax, listen to a podcast, or order diapers on Amazon. Decisions, decisions.
The point is, I struggled with the ultimate Balanced Mama implementation action: PRIORITIZING.
Ugh, how often have you heard that? "Just make yourself a priority." Yeah, sure. I'll get right on that, Rose. Thanks. However, let's not take it so personally. What I found was that creating a schedule, similar to that I once held while working out of the house before I became a mom, was extremely beneficial in helping my "deciding" what to do with my available time (I won't use the word "free" time here. You're welcome).
I bought a fancy planner (gel pens and stickers can increase the enjoyment of this activity, but are not required). My personal favorites are The Day Designer and The Erin Condren Planner. I drew a box around each nap, babysitter-covered childcare window and previously agreed upon time in which my partner and I agreed I would be out of the house while he covered the homefront.
Now, at the start of each week, I make a list of the weekly tasks I needed to accomplish (shopping, workouts), add in the variable activities (doctor visits, thank you cards), along with 2-3x a week I am doing something that makes ME better (pedicure, journaling, snuggle time on the couch). I write in exactly which days I can accomplish what, and make sure that each area of my life receives equal attention. This means I can commit and be present during my self-care time and social time (limited that may be) fully knowing that the next day's window would be focused on my work, blog, or housework.
When I trust that the not so fun stuff really, actually, positively would get done, and in a timely fashion, I am able to breathe and enjoy my time for myself, without the guilt. I also trust myself (gasp!) in knowing that I cannot be the present, grateful, healthy Mama I intend to be for my family when I am distracted, frustrated and resentful towards the schedule and situation I've created for myself. So instead of waiting until I break down (you know what I'm talking about), I sprinkle in the self-care time throughout the week, along with the other stuff. Planning ahead avoids the overwhelm and disorganization that results in Mama Tantrums.
You know how, when you're on an airplane, in an emergency, you would put your oxygen mask on yourself before helping your little one? Caring for yourself is the same scenario. Becoming a mother or a parent (in most cases) should not require you to lose who you are, forget your dreams, goals or activities that help to make you, you. And why on earth, in the last few decades, we created this idea that running ourselves ragged and sacrificing every part of our body and day to make our kids "happier" makes us a winning parent, I'm not sure. But, we can let that go now. You're still winning, even if you're less-stressed and healthy. (Insert winky emoji and high five emoji.)