How to take Time for Yourself

Photo by Samantha Gades on Unsplash

I’m gonna share a secret with you. I’m terrible at making time for myself. I’m great at making time for my kids, co-workers, and pretty much everyone else. Well… I could improve on making more time for my husband.

Fact is when my time conflicts with another’s, I’ll sacrifice my own time without thinking twice.

And that’s not ok. We as moms deserve to put our needs first.

I’m sure you’ve heard this analogy before, but I’m going to use it again because it’s so true. Consider when you’re traveling on a plane. You’re told that in the case of an emergency you put on your oxygen mask first, then your children’s. Makes perfect sense right? You can’t help them if you’re passed out on the floor.

The same is true in our lives! We can’t be there for our little family if we’re exhausted and stressed out! Our own self-care is just as important, if not more, as our family’s.

Yet when I want to take time for myself, it looks something like this:

I check the calendar to make sure there are no kid activity conflicts, make sure my husband will be home, either either feed them ahead of time or have the pantry and freezer stocked so they can make their own dinner, list on the whiteboard what needs to be done to prep for the next day – make lunch, take shower, get homework done, school papers set out, remind them when bedtime is… and on and on and on.

When my husband wants to go out? He does.

That’s it.

Why can’t I make it that easy? (Did you catch the whining?)

Aside from the fact that I have this annoying habit of having to be in control of everything, traditional views of husband and wife roles still run strong.

Nowadays being a stay at home mom is the exception not the rule. Which means most women are working. Often full time. Yet we’re still expected to maintain the house and cook the meals. And if we have kids most often we continue to be the primary caretaker. So no surprise that there’s little time to take for ourselves.

Now I understand there are exceptions. But they’re just that. Exceptions.

I love being there for others – to support, spend time with, and help. My default will always be to give to others.

But in order to really be there for them, I have to take care of myself first and foremost. And I have to be purposeful in doing so.

So what does that look like?

Have a conversation with your significant other to make the time available.

Come up with an agreed amount of time dedicated to you. Whether that be 2-3 nights a week or an hour every night. Figure it out together and commit.

While you’re at it. Talk about household and kid responsibilities and divvy them up. Consider what each of you likes and dislikes doing in relation to this. For example, maybe you enjoy mowing the lawn because you get fresh air, a workout, and time to think. Maybe he enjoys cooking.

If your kids are older, give them some responsibilities to free up your time. It’s good for them to learn to dust, do the dishes, even help cook. They’ll have to do it when they move out. Why not start now? You do plan on them moving out, right?

Oh and if you’re like me, work to diminish your perfectionism and controlling tendencies. The house will run different and that’s ok. There is more than one way to do things. No one will perish. The house and kids may be a bit messier, but no lives will be lost.

Set limits and boundaries

Make it clear to your family that this is your time. No phone calls, texts, or messages unless someone is bleeding profusely or dying. If they don’t need an ambulance, they don’t need you for the next 1-3 hours.

If you’re taking your time at home, put up a Do Not Disturb sign. Make it known that no one is to bother you upon fear of death or grounding until the sign comes down.

Schedule the time and stick with it.

No excuses. If you don’t commit to it and take it seriously, no one else will. You can’t expect others to take your time seriously if you don’t.

Make a plan ahead of time of what you’ll do with your time.

Right now start a list of everything you’d like to do. Seriously. Stop reading and go make your list. I’ll wait for you to come back.

Got it? Good, post it in the comments.

When you find unexpected time for yourself, take a look at that list and do what calls you at that moment.

On your own doing it all? Find the time:

  • Nap time is a great opportunity to relax and pamper yourself.
  • Put the kids to bed earlier. The extra sleep will do them good.
  • Get up before your household wakes. I’ll admit I struggle with this. But when I do drag myself out of bed early I’m always happier I did. I’ve never regretted it. The uninterrupted quiet allows me to get a lot done.

The key to following through? Set up your alarm across the room. When your alarm goes off, turn on the light, turn off your alarm, and immediately leave your bedroom. Don’t hesitate. Don’t even think! A coffee pot with a timer doesn’t hurt either.

  • Mornings just aren’t your thing? Then stay up later.

Challenge:

Here’s my challenge to you. Try out one of the tips mentioned. Then check in here and let me know how it went! What worked? What didn’t? How did you tweak it to work for you?

When You Doubt Your Parenting Abilities

Photo by frank mckenna on Unsplash

Lately I’ve been doing a lot of yelling. And my kids are the primary target. I didn’t even realize how much yelling I was doing until my son asked, “Mom, do you like yelling at me?”

Ouch.

Why do I yell?

I yell out of pure frustration. Frustration at repeating myself for the gazillionth time and having a premonition that I’ll be repeating myself again. Very soon.

Take cleaning up after themselves for example. I’m constantly reminding one to pick up his toys and the other to wipe up after cooking. Barking out orders like a dog at the arrival of the mailman.

One day I opened my mouth to bark, but to my surprise, my daughter cleaned up the scrambled eggs aftermath without me saying a word. And she did a great job! On another occasion I was about to bark at my son, but hesitated deciding to wait. Low and behold he put everything away without my saying a word. Wow.

Too often I don’t allow them the opportunity to show me they’re more responsible. I’m too busy jumping in wanting it done instantly. Instead, I need to pause and let them do it on their time. Within reason of course.

I yell because I’m stressed and overwhelmed juggling multiple obligations. Acting as career woman, personal assistant, chef, and chauffeur. And of course I crazily try to pursue my own interests when I can.

I yell because sometimes I’m tired of adulting.

I yell because I fear that I’m not a good parent because I can’t give them everything. At times only the bare minimum. And I feel guilty about it. I hate telling them it will have to wait or maybe someday knowing someday may never arrive. I’m afraid I’m disappointing them. 

I feel guilty for not being “perfect”.

Can you relate?

So I yell because let’s face it, I’m overwhelmed, out of control, and put too my pressure on myself. I have completely lost it. I seriously need a timeout.

Here’s how it all came to a head.

The other day the lens popped out of my daughter’s glasses and I couldn’t get it back in. It was the week before school started. I immediately did a run down of our calendar and when we could possibly fit in a trip to the eye doctor among soccer games, practices, lessons, and meetings. The list of activities and appointments scrolled through my head like a computer reading code.

I was getting overwhelmed trying to fit one more thing into the next few days.

“I’m not sure when we’ll be able to have these fixed,” I mentioned distracted as I squinted at the calendar.

“Great!” My daughter exclaimed irritated. “Now I’ll have to wait months before I can see again! Great start to the school year,” she muttered under her breath as she sulked into her room.

I instantly got offended that she felt her basic necessities weren’t a priority to me. So I exploded. “Unbelievable! I’m sorry that I can’t drop everything on a dime to get your glasses fixed! You’re not the only one in this house! We have to balance everyone’s life and I’m trying to do the best that I can.” (Not one of my better parenting moments.) As I stood there with fire shooting from my eyes and smoke billowing out of my ears, her words sink in extinguishing my temper. “Wait. Why do you think it will take months to get them fixed?”

“Because earlier you said we had to have an eye exam before we could replace these glasses.”

Oh. Yet again we’re on two different tracks of the mind. “Not to pop the lenses back in,” I reply.

“Oh.”

Here’s a little basic communication tips so that you can avoid the tantrum I just had. Stop. Listen. Don’t assume. Don’t jump to conclusions. And most importantly don’t leap to yelling.

Confession

I yell because for all the justifications and reasons why I yell, what it really comes down to is that I’m afraid that if my kids don’t do well it means I failed as a parent.

I worry I haven’t done enough for them. I worry I won’t have taught them everything they need to know. What if I missed something? What if I messed it all up?

Do you ever worry about this?

Truth is every parent has fears. We’re constantly doubting ourselves and our abilities.

There’s no instruction manual for this parenting thing. Closest one I ever found was Jo Frost’s Supernanny. Shame it only applies to kids birth to age 6.

The reality is my kids will fail sometimes. Just as I fail sometimes. However, it is a learning opportunity and not a reflection of me as a parent or person. We can’t be afraid of them failing. It’s important to allow them to fail and then be there to help them reflect on the experience and learn from it.

We’ve been placed in our child’s life because we are the best person to help them navigate life. It was no accident. No mistake.

So I’ve decided to make a greater effort to yell less and be quiet more. To listen more. To pause more. I will provide more opportunities for them to be responsible. And I will try to loosen my controlling tendencies and allow more independence, within reason, and be supportive if it doesn’t quite work out the way they planned.

In a society living in a facade of perfectionism, it’s hard not to second guess our abilities. It’s okay to doubt ourselves. What’s important is that we don’t buy into the false narratives.

Remember, we’re each doing the best we can with the experiences and resources we have.

Our kids are too.

The Secret to being Beautiful

Photo by ian dooley on Unsplash

“Mirror, Mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?”

Not me. Ever. So I’ve believed most of my life.

Growing up I was not considered pretty. I had a bad perm and acne. I also had extra weight on me. I was teased and rarely dated throughout high school and college. I grew up thinking I was ugly. I still struggle with thinking I’m ugly.

Until my daughter came along.

She is a beautiful girl. Often I wish I had her beauty.

Ironic, huh?

I have no problem seeing her beauty, yet struggle to see my own.

But how can I not? Everywhere I turn I see thin, beautiful females. Of all ages! On the covers of magazines. TV. In movies. On cartoons even!

Guys on the other hand are shown as fit or having a beer belly. They have a full head of hair or are balding or have a receding hairline. Doesn’t matter; all are acceptable. Show a size 14 woman and she’s labeled “large”. Show a woman with well-defined muscles and she’s “too muscular”.

As females we are surrounded by so many things that push us to be thin and beautiful. Diet products, exercise programs, beauty products galore!

I have to constantly try to avoid these traps from deteriorating my view of myself. Many times I fail. Now I also have to compete with it as I try to raise my daughter to have a healthy body image.

To counter this when she was little I was careful with the words I chose. I exercised not to lose weight, but to get stronger. I tried to avoid mentioning the number of pounds lost or that I wanted to get skinny. Foods I chose to eat were not to lose weight but to be healthy to give my body the nutrients it needs.

Yet I still failed.

My daughter has always been fit and strong. Physically and mentally. She is active and chooses healthy food on her own without fail.

Yet, at age 10, she asked me if I thought she was fat. My heart broke.

Now I’m not totally fit; I have a bit of cushion on me. I like my hot cheetos and chocolate. So I asked her, “Do you think I’m fat?”

Her eyes bugged out. “No!” She declared shocked I would ask such a thing.

“Then why do you think you’re fat?”

“Good point,” she responded a bit humbled.

Fast forward two years. The conversation finds its way back to us.

The other day she asks me, “Mom, do you think I’m fat?”

Surprised I exclaimed, “Why would you think that?”

“Well look,” she grabbed her stomach and pulled at the skin and then jiggled her thigh, “There’s fat.” Oh boy.

My now 12 year old daughter has biceps that could crush a can and quads and hamstrings that ooze pure strength and speed.

“Honey, it’s healthy to have some “fat” on your body. If you didn’t you would literally just be skin and bones. You’d be sick and frail. Not to mention fat also protects your organs.”

“Really?” She was completely surprised by this.

Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder

Let’s face it. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder. Which means there’s no constant. No similar form of measurement. To the fashion industry beauty is a size 0. How is that even a size? To a child it’s their mother, whatever shape or size she may be.

So what do we do? How do I help my daughter strengthen her self-image?

I strengthen my own self-image

Words are powerful and make an impression on one’s heart. We need to consciously create more impressions of love to bring light to ourselves and our precious girls and less darkness.

I look at how I treat myself and try to be more conscious about how I talk about myself and my image. Both in the presence of my kids and when I think they’re not listening. Trust me. They’re listening.

I talk more about being healthy. Longevity of life and what that means. I explain that what we do as kids to our bodies catches up to us when we get old. I stress that making healthy choices as a kid makes it so much easier to do so as an adult. When I turn down dessert I explain it’s not because I don’t want to get fat. It’s because I don’t have the opportunity to use up the energy like they do. At 41 I don’t need as much food as they might at 8 and 12 to keep going through the day.

I use close family members with health issues as examples of what we don’t want to do. Their health issues also serve as examples that our choices in our younger years impacts our older years. I ignore the “size” on clothing and go off whether or not it fits and is flattering.

It’s too easy to become immune to negative images and words. I’m guilty of it. So many times I think what can I do? I’m just one person fighting against sophisticated marketing schemes. What impact can I possibly have?

So here’s my crazy idea. I want to start a ripple effect.

I start by checking my own behavior. I am a firm believer that how you behave is what formulates people’s opinion of you. So I try to be thoughtful in the words I choose to describe myself. I aim for balance in all things, food included. And when my children call me out, which they never hesitate in doing, I accept it with grace and take steps to improve.

I help my daughter to view her body more positively, then hopefully she’ll pass it on to her friends. I point out the marketing schemes, biases, and double standards. I ask questions to get my kids thinking.

I catch and point out negative self talk. They now do the same to me. They’ll do the same to others. And in turn others might do the same in their other social circles.

Suddenly a ripple effect just became a wave.

And soon the waves start rolling in. Pounding the surf. Pounding against the marketing lies.

So have a conversation. Ask questions. Point things out. Challenge them. Challenge their views. Drops of water in a bucket quickly become a bucket full of water.

I have a confession.

I still have trouble seeing myself as beautiful. Thought processes are hard to change. But I am now comfortable in my own skin. And that is a beautiful thing.

 

 

Annihilate a Rotten Attitude with One Punch

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash whaaat boy

Attitude.

Rolling of the eyes. Heavy sighs. The blank stares as if a total idiot is speaking to them.

And it started at age 10.

I don’t know about you, but when someone dishes out attitude towards me, I take it personally. I feel disrespected. And when I feel disrespected I get angry. Like blood boiling angry. The kind of angry that if you don’t leave this second, you won’t see the light of day angry.

I’m not just offended. I’m hurt and doubting my abilities as a parent. If my 10 year old is disrespecting me already, what am I going to do when she’s 16? Or 18? I start believing that I screwed up somewhere along the way and have now raised an ungrateful child!

Let’s face it, it’s a blow to my ego. Pure and simple. I’ve been thrown off my pedestal by my child and left to rot. Unneeded and unwanted. It hurts! My precious baby no longer looks up to me and adores me. I’ve gone from idol to, dare I say, human. I’m no longer the center of her world; just an annoying adult.

So I lash out. She lashes back. And so begins the battle of the wills. The fight to the death to be right. The stubborn refusal to acknowledge the other person may actually be right.

Fights continue, erupting over minor things. And over nothing!

Soon you start to avoid each other just to avoid arguing. A day turns into a week. Then a month. Until one day you wake up and realize that you don’t have a relationship with your child anymore.

Stubbornness and egos are deadly weapons.

Let’s face it, we pour our lives and our souls into loving and raising our children with the hope that they’ll become amazing adults. But as my daughter becomes more independent, I get scared. Because as she gets older, I can’t protect her like I could when she was little. I’m no longer her only influencer. She will be influenced by others and she has her own personality. It doesn’t matter how hard I tried or if I did everything right in parenting her. So I have to trust that I did the best that I could and pray to God she chooses well.

So one day I tried something different. I was vulnerable.

It started with the usual eye rolling and then the battle began. In the midst of this battle, I paused. “When you give me attitude, I feel disrespected,” I confessed. “It hurts that you may not respect me.”

Her eyes widened. “It does?” She was stunned at the sudden shift.

“Yes.” I took a deep breath slowly exhaling. “In my mind it means that you don’t value me. That you don’t think I’m worthwhile as a person.”

She paused, considering my words. “I don’t think that at all, mom. I just get really frustrated when you treat me like a little kid.”

I forget that right now, at this point in her life, she is overflowing with her own self-doubt, worry, and anxiety. Yet she so badly wants to be grown up. Throw in the wondrous joys of puberty and I’d be throwing attitude around too!

By being vulnerable I showed her that I can be hurt too and also provided an opportunity for us to see each other’s perspectives. It’s easy to forget that perception is based on experience and we all have different experiences. My perception was based on my own experiences so it was very different than hers.

So how do you annihilate a rotten attitude with one punch? Be vulnerable.

Next time you get into a battle of wills, take a step back. Be vulnerable. See what happens when you reveal your perspective.

So tell me. How do you deal with your child’s attitude? Share in the comments.