The time spent with very little children was once described to me as "the longest, shortest time." I didn't realize how true this statement was until recently touring a preschool for my son, who will be turning three in July. Right there, inside a classroom, I had the realization that he was getting older. Of course, I know that babies grow into toddlers; toddlers grow into children, and so on, but his transition between baby to little boy seemed to happen too quickly.
So it seemed fitting when my husband recently asked me what I wanted for Mother's Day, and without hesitation, I said "more time."
I want to freeze time and hold onto these moments with my kids as long as possible, but I also want (and need) more time with...me. And if you’re anything like me, just having those two dueling thoughts, or to even want to have both more time with my kids and without them, it’s hard to not feel guilty of that something is wrong with me.
And then I remember… life is full of contradictions, especially when it comes to what we want and what we need.
Perhaps that is why we resort to attempting to “have it all” as a way to feel a bit better or less alone in fulfilling those needs. As a self-described recovering perfectionist, I'm slowly (and at times, painfully) embracing the imbalance and messiness that comes along with being a working mom. I'm learning that not every situation requires 110% of my time, energy, and attention. I’m also learning that taking care of me means being a better mother. And sometimes, that means being OK with giving myself a little slice of alone time, whether that be a quick bath at night or an afternoon writing. The older my kids get, the clearer this truth becomes. Kids just seem to know when their parents are struggling. And the last thing I want for my kids is to have them worry they can’t get the love and care they need from their mother.
I'm still working on it, but here are a few ways in which I'm embracing the messy, imperfect challenge that is parenting through both self-care and communicating my needs with my family. Since I run my own business, finding little moments in the day to come “home” to myself through meditation and self-care has, in all honesty, changed my life. I’ve come a long way, and if there are any mothers out there reading this that feel ashamed or guilty about needing that alone time, please know it’s perfectly normal. There isn’t one way to make it work, but when we do what we can to take care of ourselves, the rest falls into place, however imperfectly it needs to.
1. Set Boundaries (and stick to them!) - When I have to work, I go into the office. I never (well, rarely ever) bring work home. If I do work, it's after the kids go to bed.
2. Say No - It's okay to say no. Saying "no" doesn't mean you are a bad person, it's just not the right decision at the moment.
3. Focus on one task at a time - I've found a planning system that has worked for me. I map out my week, with my to-dos, and assign myself deadlines. When things get really overwhelming, I take a deep breath, plug in my USB essential oil diffuser, and dig in.
4. Meditate - This has been essential for my sanity! I start each day and end each night with meditation. Sometimes it's 15 minutes, sometimes it's only 5 minutes while sitting in my car in the parking lot. I also keep my Chill Pill Essential Oil Rollerball on hand at all times, in case I need 30 seconds of meditation. It usually comes out of the bag at least once during traffic.
5. Me Time - I carve out “me time” when I can. Sometimes it’s at work, 10 minutes scrolling through Instagram with my USB diffuser and the office door closed. Or unwind in the bath at night. Taking just a little time for myself has been instrumental with feeling grounded and present.
6. Ask for help - By far and away, this has been the hardest for me to learn. It's okay to need help. It’s also okay to ask for help. Asking for help doesn’t admit defeat; it admits humanity.