Motherhood is a balancing act. Boundaries between your needs and others’ naturally disappear as your focus turns towards your children. It makes sense for your family to become the number one priority, but that doesn’t mean all your other priorities need to be met at that same high level of attention and commitment. I definitely learned this the hard way as I experienced complete burnout from convincing myself that I needed to do absolutely everything on my mom checklist; meet up with old friends for drinks, take the kids to twenty-two birthday parties (minor exaggeration), volunteer to be team mom or coach, answer parent/student emails after school hours, etc.
Attempting to do all of these things left me exhausted and bitter. Bitter that I couldn’t get everything done that I wanted to and even bitter at my friends with no kids who urged me to meet up with them, since they clearly didn’t understand the challenges motherhood presented or at Janice who seems to be an active modelesque soccer mom effortlessly .
I Blame Me
In reality, that bitterness was wrongly placed! It was my decision to blindly agree to all these commitments and overload my plate. Ultimately, I should have just been honest with myself and my needs, instead of trying to magically conjure up the time and energy for all these endeavors. It’s necessary and healthy to have other priorities than your children, but one of your main priorities should always be yourself.
Check In With Yourself
I think it’s extremely important to consistently check in with yourself to make sure that you’re not overextending or exhausting yourself. For example, before committing to an activity or project ask yourself, “Is this something I need right now? How do I feel?”. I think parenting makes it so easy to go on “auto-pilot” and repeat the same routines everyday, but it’s key to remain present and grounded during these routines. On one hand, going on auto-pilot is helpful as it allows us to power through our tedious tasks, but it prevents us from honestly reflecting and seeing how we’re doing. Check in with yourself regularly, are you sleeping enough? Do you have enough personal time to unwind? Are you in need of a girls’ night? Are you feeling fulfilled? Do you need to ask for help?
Prioritize Your Needs
After you take note of your needs, then it’s important to actually prioritize them. Yes, everything on your to-do list may all seem equally urgent, but in reality you should stick to your top 2-3 priorities in order to avoid tiring yourself out. Plus, when you set unrealistic high expectations for yourself, like trying to get to all 23,890 items on your to do list, you set yourself up for disappointment. If you only focus on 2-3 important tasks, you’ll feel much better getting those successfully completed and then seeing what energy you may have for anything else. I think this approach is efficient in that you’re setting boundaries with yourself and being authentic with what you can/should focus on. When you’re all over the place and try to achieve a little bit of everything, nothing gets completed and you feel unproductive.
About That Self Care
Additionally, take time for self-care. “Self-care” is one of those advertising buzzwords that are thrown around everywhere nowadays, but its importance is not something to be underestimated. In order for you to continue being a stellar mother and all-around awesome human being, you must fill your cup first before you can fill others. Once you take a small break for yourself, you’ll be able to return to life’s duties refreshed and recharged. This time to yourself doesn’t need to be a huge vacation getaway, but could manifest itself in opportunities of time you already have.
Maybe wake up 20 minutes earlier than your kids usually do so you can have quiet time to meditate and journal. Or, while your kids are doing homework, do some gentle stretching and deep breathing as you lightly pick up around the house. Just being mindful while you are doing household tasks is an act of self-care, because you aren’t allowing stresses or anxieties override your day. Self-care could even look like taking the dog for a walk around the neighborhood and catching a beautiful sunset, doing a fun face mask together with your kids or THERAPY. In any way, it’s about taking precious time to love yourself a little bit extra.
These tips can help you protect and cherish your mom boundaries, while fostering healthy transparent relationships with those surrounding you. Once you’re honest with yourself and your needs, everyone becomes honest with their own needs as well.