Yes, I’m talking to you. Supermom. Multitasker extraordinaire. Pick that lego out of the bottom of your foot, exit out of your fifty open tabs, pause from screaming into that pillow and take a deep breath. Parents with young kids have been put through the wringer the past few years. As my young, single co-workers describe some of their toughest moments of having to wear something other than sweatpants to go into the office a few days a week. I have learned to practice those deep, labored breaths to keep from exploding from the stress of it all. Like Luisa from Encanto, the pressure is too great and I might just blow.
As someone who uses planning as a coping mechanism for my anxiety, this shifty pandemic has played many tricks with me. Who can plan when everything can change in an instant? Sorry parents, school is closed today because it said it would snow though it didn’t snow, not even a lick. I knew early on that the only way that I was going to scratch the surface of surviving this pandemic was if I was stealthy and proactively planned time for myself no matter what happened around me. Time to re-center and feel like myself again. Where no one is calling out my second name or crawling all over me while I’m on the toilet. Here are a few ways that work for me to reclaim my time that don’t include mediation, or waking up at 4am—because sleep is crucial these days:
1. Set regular weekly time aside and stick to it
I set aside two hours every Saturday morning to write. From 10am-12pm. And I do mean every Saturday morning. This is time for me. To do whatever I want but I like to reserve it for writing. My husband and I talked about it beforehand and we agreed that this time would work for us. He gets our kids out of the house, typically to the playground or scheduled activity. This is currently during my daughter’s weekly ice skating lesson. There are things in life that I’m just going to have to miss out on and I’ve learned to be ok with that. It doesn’t make me a bad parent. My husband takes videos for me of the girls on their walks and it’s special time that my daughters get to spend with him. I also give this same courtesy to my husband so that he can have exclusive time for himself and I can get special mommy-daughter time with our girls.
2. Take back your time before you take time off
I used to think that I had to do all of this pre-work before I took time for myself. Make sure the snacks were ready and we had enough milk handy. I stopped doing all of that for my more than capable husband. I was becoming resentful and it was taking up too much of my time and valuable headspace thinking about the pre-work that I thought had to be done for everyone to survive and thrive while I was away. When I let go, turns out, the kids are always happy and my husband figures it out and does it his own way. I was just making extra work for myself.
3. Don’t over-schedule
Our weekends are not filled rushing our kids from activity to playdate to birthday party. We stick to one weekend sport activity at a time and try out best to schedule them in the same group if we can. We also are mindful of trying to attend birthday parties to support our friends, but two a weekend is the max. I want my kids to get bored and have creative, non-structured play and do not want them to feel stressed being rushed around. Our oldest also has a tough time with transitions, so we don’t want to burden her with too much stimulation and change. We get back from an activity and my girls have quiet play or tablet time and that’s when I get my workout in which is a priority for me. Not over-scheduling our weekends has given us much more time for ourselves.
4. Jump on easy tasks when you're at your limit
When that sign-up email comes out for a class party or activity that we need to contribute to. I rush to sign up for the task that won’t take a lot of time. I have one of the fastest online ordering trigger fingers on the East Coast and those napkins are checked off my list in a flash. I reclaim time for myself by looking at each of these things in time increments. I really enjoy cooking but if I sign up for bringing in a side dish or something homemade, not only is that time signing up but also time making the dish, buying the ingredients, making sure the container is disposable, getting it to the right person on the right date, etc. Leave all the hard tasks for the other mom’s—what a B! No, sometimes I have the time and sign up for the harder tasks, but if I am running on empty, I will do what I can and not extend myself.
4 1/2. You’ve heard it before: put your oxygen mask on first.
You have to prioritize your time and what matters most to you. There’s all the excuses in the world to stop you from doing it. But the laundry will be there, the dishes can be tackled later. This time is mentally taxing and you need to fill your cup too. So, reach out and take it.