Remember life before kids? Yeah, me neither. Once baby arrives, life is consumed with diapers, crying, house chores, toys everywhere, etc. You, if you are like me, go to work every morning to “escape,” if you can call work an escape. You do your projects, paperwork, and whatever else it is you must deal with at work, while at home projects and chores pile up. Your planner is stuffed with overdue bills, past due tasks, and a plethora of meetings and events you must make time to be at. To make time and room for all of this, you skip lunch, quit the gym (which is also wasting money since you are paying the membership fee for your three year contract with them), and forget what it means to have fun with friends or (gasp) your significant other. When we get stressed out, ourselves is the first thing we stop caring about, which only makes things worse.
There are only a few basic habits that you must do in order to survive, but these few habits are not all that you need to make sure you are doing on a weekly basis. Most people grow up being told, or at least I did, that the more I gave, the more I would get in return. For instance, I went to college in the Summer of 2008, two months early from when I should have been starting, and then decided to double major, requiring that I take 19 hours a semester in order to finish in four years, so that I could finish and get on my way to bigger and better things. I did not stop to enjoy my last summer home with my friends. I did not stop to think about the impact taking that many classes would have on my social life or my health. Instead, I worked myself silly, eating chicken nuggets every day for six months until my grandmother realized one weekend while I was home that I bruised a little to easily. I was missing needed vitamins and nutrients.
But I was still going. So what was the big deal? I mean, as long as I was functioning and things were getting done it was okay, right? Well, no. And even after I realized that I could not just eat chicken nuggets from Chik-Fil-A everyday, I caught myself only every doing homework or things for classes, never going out with friends or calling my parents to say hello.
Just like The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Families by Stephen R. Covey describes it, “At first this woman’s consuming concern was for the basic need for food. She was hungry. Her child was hungry. The one focus of her life was to make enough to feed her son and herself so that they wouldn’t starve. This need to survive was s o basic, so fundamental, so vital that even when her circumstances changed, she was still ‘obsessed with fighting that monster called hunger’ and ‘could not let that go'” (Covey 316).
Even when we change, we feel the need to continue in our old habits and to continue to overwork ourselves. The point is that it is easy to fall into this trap of work, work, work to the point that it becomes counterproductive. You begin to stop making progress and, instead, lose focus and become irritable. Your children aren’t sure what you want from them and your significant other doesn’t want to be in the same room as you anymore.
So, how do we combat this? Well, sometimes I reward myself. I’m so tired I can barely keep my eyes open, but I force myself to finish whatever it is I’m working on. What I’m doing is making more work for myself because I’m missing the details I would not miss if I were alert. I’m running on fumes and, therefore, not paying full attention to what I am working on.
Instead, I make myself stop, go to bed, and tell myself I’ll finish it as soon as possible when I wake up. Sleep is an important part of our daily lives. But it is too often neglected. We, as moms, wake up early to be able to get ourselves ready before the kids wake up and then get them ready. We rush around all day, no naps allowed. We pick kids up, go home, cook supper, clean, wash kids, get them to bed, finish cleaning and working on things that couldn’t be done during the day, go to bed late, wake up all night with screaming babies, and get up early to go again. The truth is though, sleep is necessary.
According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, “getting enough quality sleep at the right times can help protect your mental health, physical health, quality of life, and safety” (“Why is Sleep Important“). And you know as a mom that you need all the mental and physical health you can get. Instead of doing that extra cleaning, go to bed. Go to bed a little earlier. No, the house won’t clean itself. I’m aware of this. Believe me, I’ve tried to make it. But it can wait until you have time. It can be a little messy and the world will not end.
Other things that you need to plan into your daily routine are making sure you eat. Not just anything. Eat healthy, vitamin and protein packed things. Energy giving things. The food you put into your body becomes your body. So make sure you do it. And, in the process, you are teaching your children to eat right.
Make sure you exercise. This is a hard one for me. Who has time to exercise? We’re all busy, especially as moms, but Lifehacker Blogger, Gina Trapani, answers this question in her post titled: How Can I Fit a Workout into My Daily Routine? Trapani’s advice includes working out with other people, putting it on your calendar, getting a workout buddy, and finding exercise that you enjoy doing.
And, make time for you and your significant other to spend quality time. Plan a night, hire a babysitter, put on a dress that you don’t have to worry about breastfeeding in, and go on a date with your significant other. It doesn’t have to be fancy. It doesn’t have to be an all night affair, but you spent 9 months with the baby while he/she was cooking, then another 6 months everyday with him/her making sure he/she was growing properly. You owe it to yourself to be you for a night again and not worry. Leave the baby with a trusted sitter, your parent or someone you can really trust so that you do not worry too much, and GO OUT! All your husband is wanting is a night with you. If you skip this too often, husbands start to think you don’t want them around. Then, guess what, they wander off. Remember he needs you too.
Now, with all this in mind, and this is only a small piece of the pie, go forth and begin to take care of yourself. You can’t be the best mom possible if you don’t take care of yourself as well as you are taking care of your kids. They need a mom who is setting a good example of how to live life to the fullest. Show them how by being that role model!