Ladies, have you noticed that every time we get together with our mom friends, the conversation quickly and inevitably slips into complaining about our daily struggles, demanding schedules, and overwhelming to-do-lists? We share how often we’re stressed about not having enough time, being constantly tired, and feeling at the end of our rope.
I get it. I’ve been there and I know how the day-to-day consumes us. Still, aren’t we missing something? Something important that needs to be on that list in bold letters?
Before you roll your eyes at the latter, let me ask you this: When was the last time you put yourself on your list? I can’t help but ask another ambitious question: With so much on our plates, do we even make room for our dreams?
As a mom of three and being relatively new to this country a few years back, I used to struggle to find a balance between work and motherhood. On top of that, I had this crazy dream of becoming a children’s author. I’ve learned a few things through my experience, and I’d like to share five tips with busy moms on how to get from exhausted to exhilarated while making time for your dreams.
For starters, I learned that no one will knock on my door begging me to take a break or giving me permission or a push to follow my dream.
I’ll start with the big one: Give yourself permission to pursue your dreams in life. Ignore the naysayers. In my case, even my husband was skeptical about my dream, and I’ve gotten hundreds of rejections from agents and publishers along the way in my pursuit of becoming an author, but I kept going. Just focus on the things that are within your control.
Setbacks happen, but it’s the direction you take after that matters.
Also, it’s important to find a supportive community of peers. Don’t put your dream on hold until after the kids are in college ― start today, make a commitment to your dream, and take small steps toward your goals every day.
It’s doable when you break it down to, let’s say, three specific activities you want to accomplish each day or each week.
But before you’re able to do that, finding some overall give-and-take balance is necessary.
So in addition to being your own cheerleader, become your own best girlfriend, too. Consider this for a moment: If your bestie knew you needed a little extra TLC, she’d drag you out of your draining survival mode cycle and into a little indulgence. She’d take you to a massage or the movies or a pedicure…. You should do just that for yourself. Yes, it’s important enough to be put on your calendar!
Tip #1: Be your own cheerleader
I realized that practicing self-care only “once in a while” simply won’t cut it.
Recharging had to be part of my daily routine or else it won’t do. Just like we can’t eat only once in a while, or breathe once in a while, we must push the pause button on endless chores and recoup our energy daily.
For me, reading was my escape. And so was writing. Devoting time to my creative freedom made me feel empowered and gave me a sense of being one step closer to achieving my dream.
Maybe it’s been a while since you turned your undivided attention to your own needs. If so, you might have to start with some practice on a weekly basis before integrating this into your everyday new normal, but it’s important to start somewhere.
If stress has gotten to you lately and you find yourself using your high-pitched voice with your family more often than not, it’s time for Mommy time-out. But that’s nothing to be upset about. No, no… this is the time to unwind. Girls’ night out? Or perhaps all you really need is a quiet, cozy place and a great book? Go to the library ― you can even get a study room for yourself for extra privacy!
Try making some time for yourself daily. Even a brief walk alone can be recharging.
Let’s agree on something ― housework will never be done! But it also hasn’t ever been known to vanish if we ignored it for a while. So, no harm will be done when you choose to wash your stress away first and then wash the dishes. Do something nice for yourself each day ― you’ll feel refreshed, uplifted, and maybe slightly frivolous to the messy house that greets you back.
Tip #2: Put yourself in time-out and enjoy every minute of it!
I also learned that I should take personal responsibility for my life.
I’m going to quote Jack Canfield, author of Chicken Soup for the Soul who says, “Don’t complain about things you’re not willing to change.”
Oftentimes, we tend to think that things are just happening to us, but we do have choices. When my kids were younger and needed lots of care, while I was chasing after my author dream, I also worked for our super demanding plumbing business. All my friends were asking me, “How do you manage to do all that?” Honestly, it was a question of discipline and commitment. I didn’t have time to write, I made the time, even if it meant waking up at 5 AM so I could have two hours of uninterrupted writing time in a quiet house while everyone was still asleep.
Working on mindset transformation proved invaluable too, and I devoted time to read those types of books that helped me tremendously.
Choose your commitments and activities wisely and with respect to yourself. If you have to say no to the 57th thing you’ve been asked to volunteer for, do that in order to clear your schedule for some personal time.
Cut out TV time and work on your goals instead. You get to decide your journey―create the right conditions for your success.
It’s not less important to take care of yourself. It’s absolutely necessary to make sure you recharge before you can tackle the bigger picture.
And no, taking care of yourself first is NOT selfish ― it’s actually smart and beneficial to your family.
Don’t spread yourself thin, and do say, YES to your own needs. Treat yourself often, be kind to yourself, and please drop the guilt! Moms are always sacrificing, putting everyone’s needs before their own, but that drains you pretty fast. How can you be of service to others if there’s no more of you to go around?
Tip #3: Pick your own building blocks.
Another thing I learned is that it’s unrealistic to be a Supermom who doesn’t need help.
I was new to this country and had no friends or family around. When my kids were younger, my mom came from Bulgaria to visit us a few times to spend time with her grandchildren, and that was very helpful.
So I encourage moms to find childcare support ―friends, family, or ask your spouse to take over for a couple of hours. If you have any reservations asking for help because you or the people around you have high expectations for you – that you can do it all on your own, here’s what I’d like to tell you: Choose sane over selfless, it’s the right thing to do.
You need help and it’s okay to ask for help. We ALL need it!
Ask your partner to take you out if he just hasn’t remembered in a while. Ask relatives to babysit. With older kids, ask them not to interrupt your personal time. (Remember, you are scheduling that personal time on your calendar!) Don’t wait for someone to ask you what you want or need…. you ask for it!
Tip #4: Ask for it.
It dawned on me that I’m actually setting a good example for my kids while getting personal fulfillment.
We want to teach our kids to respect themselves, and as loving moms, we encourage them to follow their passions and pursue their dreams. But are we leading by example? What better way to convey that message than to practice what we preach?
I want my kids to see me do the thing that I love, see me following the dream I’m passionate about, dealing with the obstacles and celebrating the results ― all the ups and downs that come in the process. I want them to see me as not just their mom, but also as a person with her own goals and a journey to personal fulfillment.
When I visit schools for my author visits, I strive to encourage kids to persist and go after their dreams, but I’d like for moms to do that as well.
When you show yourself respect, when you go after your own goals and reach for what you want in life, not only are you going to feel proud of yourself, but you’ll model for your kids what it looks like to follow your dreams.
However, if your calling is burning inside you and you ignore it, your kids will pick up on that. They want and need a happy mom, and they know that instinctively. Show them what it looks like to do what you love and to be true to yourself.
Tip #5: Reach for it!
So what do you say, ladies ―ready for a change?
A lot of the tips here are easy to implement, and I hope you’ll apply some, or all, of them. Find the balance that will move you from exhausted to exhilarated. Because a happy mom equals a happy household!