Prioritize yourself, Mama; it will be good for everyone.
You know those women you see leaving their hot pilates class in the morning, dewy skinned & glowing – strutting toned derrières next-door to Starbucks, enjoying their lattes with other Lululemon clad supermodels? Yeah, I’m not one of them.
A few months ago, when I was a pregnant, working mom with a one year old in daycare, teaching barre classes in the evenings & fumbling with my domestic responsibilities, I vowed to become one of those women – a woman of leisure. I planned to have my second baby & put my career on hold, leaving plenty of time for long strolls with a baby carriage and peaceful mornings over a slowly-sipped cup of coffee. I would be free from the morning rush, free from a corporate calendar, and free to do what I wanted, when I wanted.
Surely I could cart two tiny children to a yoga studio every morning without too much trouble. We’d hit a juice bar and get our groceries at Whole Foods while we were out. We’d return home tired, and they would nap while I dusted the furniture, then painted my toenails.
First, understand that a single fitness class (in Silicon Valley) runs about $28; add $8 (x2) for childcare, and I’m looking at $44 for a drop in. Ugh, I’m sorry – I just quit my job – my income is zero dollars. And when I do make peace with hemorrhaging money on account of a workout, I’m usually waitlisted for the only class time that offers childcare – maximum occupancy: 6 kids. Really?
It’s worth mentioning that my 2 year old won’t sit in a stroller, so those long walks I longed for are out of the question, too. And I’m just not able to power through a home workout with “Mom Mom Mom MOM….” happening.
Next, remember that I always have two kids in tow. We are calm & collected – never. Someone is always throwing a fit (not even I am above it). Try holding a screaming infant on your lap in the salon just once and you’ll understand why my hair is always pulled into a bun. My nails, once polished to perfection, are now broken and bare. These new bags under my eyes could use some attention, but self care takes time – and a babysitter.
The ironic thing about quitting a job and making zero dollars, is that I still have to spend dollars on childcare to get anything done. I’ve given up my income to care for our children – it’s a luxury I’m grateful for – but consequently, I’ve been insecure about asking for help. After all, staying home is my job.
But finally, last month, my husband returned home from a routine business trip to witness an epic temper tantrum – mine. Seventy-two lonely hours without his company, 3+ awakenings each night, no exercise & no break had left me completely depleted.
So, that night, he sat me down to set 3 goals that would prioritize me. Maybe he did it because he cares so deeply about my happiness, or maybe it was because he’s tired of being my punching bag – the reason doesn’t really matter. The result was the following list of priorities – In this order:
1. Fit in fitness:
I need strength and energy to keep up with my kids, so this is a must. Plus, I just bought one of those cheeky bikini bottoms that a mom probably has no business wearing – but darn it – I’m going to make it look good.
I [we] decided my physical & mental health is worth the financial investment. I found a place to workout that is only a few blocks from my daughter’s preschool. Twice a week, I drop her off, then push the stroller on to my strength training class. I sign up for a childcare slot a week in advance to make sure we get in – and yay, I only have to pay for one child!
It takes some logistics & coordination, but twice a week (at least), I get to hit my reset button.
2. Establish regular date nights:
Again, this is a cost with great ROI. It’s no secret that quality time is important for a thriving relationship. And not to be a pessimist, but divorce costs a lot more than a few dinners out each month.
I was fortunate to find an amazing nanny who was looking for filler work; one half day of help per week allows me to squeeze in a few errands (maybe get a manicure?) before a weekly date with my husband. Not only do I get some much needed adult time, my kids are learning from a really neat woman (who’s not me). Double win!
3. Contribute something – beyond the walls of this house:
I need goals that are tangible to get me out of bed in the morning. Motherhood, on the other hand, is a long journey with no destination. While I do want to return to my career someday, I don’t want to sacrifice precious time with my girls right now. So, I write. I write in hopes that my experiences, thoughts and feelings might resonate with someone who needs a laugh, some advice, or just to know that she’s not alone in this madness. For now, honesty is my contribution.
And guess what… Most days, I feel great!
I’m beginning to feel less guilty about taking time for myself; it truly makes me a happier, more patient mother & wife. I have a lot more affection to share when I’m thriving. After all, you can’t pour from an empty cup.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”