As Mothers, even though we can somehow make time for our kid’s playgroups, lessons and sports activities, our husband’s errands and last minute requests, grocery shopping, cub scouts, our church and community responsibilities, keeping the house in some semblance of order and a thousand other daily responsibilities, often the hardest thing to find time for is ourselves! At the end of a day we sometimes feel like a gerbil on a wheel running as fast as his feet will carry him hour after hour and at the end of the day, ending up just where he started!
I must say that I admire my friends who always find time to exercise, read and meditate but for me those things are a conscious effort and often get pushed to the bottom of my “to do” list. I have to force myself to make time to do what is really most important. Two things have saved my sanity when it came to taking care of myself and, though I would expect that you would have to modify these ideas to fit your own lifestyle, here they are for what it’s worth:
From the time Richard and I were married, every Sunday we had what we called a “Sunday Session.” This consisted of his keeping the kids from pounding down the door for half an hour while I locked myself in my room to contemplate my plans for the coming week (and then I did the same for him). I categorized my goals in three sections: 1) What did I need to do for myself to become a better person, which often included exercise, reading scriptures, community and church service. 2) What I needed to do for my family, which included not only getting kids where they needed to be but also mommy dates and one-on-one talks with a child who might be struggling and 3) What was needed to accomplish my work for the week. While the kids were all home my work was keeping my home in order. I was also always under the gun for a writing deadline and fulfilling speaking assignments.
As you can see, your lists would be similar and also different, yet giving each of those areas just a few minutes of thought was immeasurably helpful. Even though I didn’t always check my goals every day, just having them in my mind helped them come to pass. Besides a short list of things for the week, I tried to accomplish some little thing in each category every day and even though I didn’t always succeed, I’m sure I succeeded more often than I would have, had I not given it some though and written down specific goals.
The second thing that helped me most as a young mother was to have what I would call “A Day Away”. Once a year and later sometimes even twice a year Richard would help me arrange to get away for a day or a part of a day to do some “lifeplanning”. Usually I would actually go to a motel or hotel room, depending on our budget for the year. Sometimes I would just take my planning journal and sit in the van in a lovely park for the afternoon. There I had some great quality time to assess where I was and where I was going…as a mother and as a person.
I did an inventory of the five facets of my life (note: last month’s column was about doing this for your children). I thought about how I was doing physically, mentally, emotionally, socially and spiritually. I read. I caught up on the news, I wrote. I think I even took a nap! It was a time of rejuvenation and of a determination to do better and even to figure out that I was doing pretty well in some areas. It was usually on a Saturday so Richard could stay with the kids and when I got home, I was a new woman…refreshed and recharged. He was much more handsome than I had remembered when I left the chaos in his hands. Not only that, he appreciated me more than I could have imagined. In addition, the kids were cuter, nicer and even more manageable for several hours!
I could write a book on the intricacies and importance of taking time for yourself but in the end, you have to come up with your own plan. Prioritizing it is desperately hard but oh so important. I have recently learned that an airplane never flies exactly on a rigid course. Changes are made all along the way as needed according to wind and weather patterns but they almost always arrive at the planned destination. So it is with our lives as mothers. Thinking about and actually writing down the flight plan is sometime an enormous challenge, given the plethora of demands on our lives but it is the best way I know to eventually arrive where you want to be.