Mother's day got me thinking how the job of "mom" Is unlike any other job. Many people unarguably agree that it the most difficult job there is (see American Greetings video). It is by far the most difficult job I've ever had, that's for damn sure. That said, we, as Moms, have this way of not treating this all-consuming work as a job.
When I worked in a "real" job, there was an order to things. We had routines and rhythms, meetings and mission statements. When a new client or account came in, we created new systems for them and readjusted our schedule to allow for the new work. If a particular area of our job was not working, my team and I would brainstorm solutions for how to improve it.
Why is it, then, that I don’t apply that same methodology to my home life? This is a time when I need systems and solutions more than ever.
Moms are notorious for walking through life accepting a constant state of stress. We’re always in a rush, on the edge, or totally losing our shit.
“This is just Mom Life,” we tell ourselves.
We’re supposed to live in leggings and stained shirts, possibly un-showered, with permanent bags under our eyes from lack of sleep, and furrowed brows from frustration and stress.
Damn. That paints a terrible picture when you really think about it.
Why are we okay with this? Why do we just accept that this is the way things are?
Did it ever occur to you (it didn’t to me) to do something about it? To sit down with ourselves and come up with solutions to our everyday problems? It's not to say that it would make them all go away, but there is something very powerful about putting our issues on paper and thinking through ways to solve them.
I can’t pretend that I thought of this all on my own. I’ve been taking a course online through minimalist blogger and podcaster, Allie Casazza, called Unburdened. It’s been a huge kick in the pants (leggings, of course) and led me to take a harder look at my mom life and how I live it.
One of my favorite exercises from the course is called "brainstorming solutions." Not for your day job, but for your job as a mom. As in, consider the parts of your day — morning, afternoon, and evening and write down your pain points with each category, and then find solutions to your problems. You can then later apply this to days of the week, times of the month, and even physical body, relationships with others, and relationship with yourself.
Today I’m going to share part of my exercise with you in hopes that I can inspire other moms to do the same for themselves.
- I’m always tight on time, and almost always late dropping off my oldest at preschool.
- Nearly every morning, Charley has a tantrum for a variety of reasons — her socks are on “backwards,” she forgot her blankie upstairs, she is falling off her chair and she can’t get up, she wants me to “READ HER A BOOK!!!”, etc. This is a constant source of stress for me and what I dread most when I wake up in the morning.
- I am always searching for extra things at the last minute — gloves, hats, snow pants, extra snacks, sound of the week items (for Charley’s school), books for the car, water bottles, my keys, etc.
- Overall, stressful and rushed! I have absolutely no time for myself from the moment I’m woken up (by either Maggie crying through the baby monitor or Charley creepily standing over my bed watching me sleep) to the moment we step out the door.
- Prepare EVERYTHING the night before – I used to just prepare lunches, but I still found myself scrambling in the morning for all the aforementioned items above. I have now started to literally walk myself through the morning the night before and get every little thing ready and by the door or in the fridge so I don’t even have to think about it in the morning.
- Say NO when saying YES would make my morning more stressful — We got into the habit of reading books or playing in the morning when Charley would wake up at 5 AM and we had plenty of time to kill. Now, she’s more of a 6:00/6:30 AM riser leaving us barely enough time to get dressed and eat. I’ve been forcing myself to say no when she asks if we can play cars or dress up or read books if there’s just not enough time to do it. I then accept that what follows may be a tantrum or just an extremely sad look on her cute face, but that over time, she will accept that this is just not something we do in the morning anymore.
- Have incentives — If Charley can promise me to have her socks, shoes, and jacket on by a certain time, we can then read a book in the car when we get to school. This way she is extra motivated to get moving and I’ve already got her to school by the time we’re reading the book. This also cuts down on my 1-year-old wandering off during reading (therefore having to go fetch her and tear her away from whatever she’s working on). One day a week, I also treat them to Starbucks (i.e. Chocolate milk for Charley, running around Starbucks and greeting everybody who walks in for Maggie, and coffee for me). Again, this is only if everybody is at the door and ready to go by 7:15.
- Let go — I do not have control over Charley’s emotions. I tell myself this on a daily basis. All I can do is have everything as prepared as possible to cut down on my stress, thereby hopefully cutting down on hers. When she does have one of her tantrums, I acknowledge what she’s struggling with, and then continue on with what I’m doing.
- Wake up early whenever possible — My 16-month-old is still waking up at least once a night, leaving me overtired and under-slept most mornings. Though I like to complain about it, I do have control over this too. I have to put in the work to train her to go back to sleep on her own without nursing or holding and rocking. Once I have achieved this, I will then have the energy to get up before my kids do, giving me extra time in the morning for myself to exercise, journal, meditate, or at the very least get dressed and brush my teeth by myself.
This isn't groundbreaking stuff. I realize this. It's actually ridiculously simple and slightly tedious. My intention wasn't for you to take my solutions to heart, but to realize that you can resolve your own problems by writing them down and addressing them rather than just accepting them.
It takes time to sit down and take this seriously. And you’re not going to want to do it because it feels silly and like a waste of time. But I realized that I was actually wasting way more time by not doing it. I guarantee you we all have ways we can improve our routines and relationships. We just have to take it as seriously as we would our job. Which shouldn’t be hard because it is our life, after all.
I've created a worksheet here so you all can take it and run with it.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog. I appreciate you. If you do decide to do this exercise, I would love to hear your feedback in the comments below. What did you come up with? Are your days feeling better? Have you applied brainstorming to other areas of your life?