Heading back to work
I thought I would drop this blog post on January 1st, as the takeaway is really about pledging to yourself to slow the f*%k down and committing to doing less in the chaos of life. This post is about my journey heading back to work just over a month ago-yet it will speak to every single mama out there. We are all guilty of putting our mental and physical health last. This is a reality of being a mom, but it needs to become the exception, not the rule.
I’ve been back to work now for just over a month. And holy sh*t has this ever been an intense month. I’ve felt mom guilt, dog mom guilt, partner guilt, Am I enough guilt, What am I doing guilt and a whole lot of exhaustion. Let me also add that on top of heading back to work full time, I decided that this would be the month to launch my new business, bump and bae. I think it’s pretty clear that I am your typical Type A personality. I knew it would be an adjustment, and to be honest a lot of it is adjusting my expectations of what I am capable of doing in a day. I always have a to-do list (a few actually-for different areas of my life). On weekends I’ve always buzzed around from errand to errand, task to task, until its suddenly Sunday evening and I slither into bed exhausted. I used to measure my day’s success in how much I had accomplished.
Recently I read a post asking quite simply ‘who are you when you aren’t doing anything?’ North American culture rewards and acknowledges the busy, the productive and the goal-getters. Reading that one line really made me stop and think. Why do I always need to be doing something? Why can’t I just be still? How can I be fully present in my daughter’s life if I am always thinking and planning for the future?
A few weeks ago, I came across Kate Northrup’s book do less, and let me tell, I couldn’t have started reading it at a better time. Ok, that’s not true, I probably could have benefitted from reading it a few months ago. Kate speaks to mamas about time and energy management, the very thing we all struggle with. What made me breathe a big sigh of relief, was her talking about how our days and weeks and months and life are all circular, not linear. Most of us think of a day as ending when the sun goes down. We expect to cross off everything we have set out for that day’s to-do list, otherwise we have failed in some way. This leaves you feeling stressed and in a constant state of anxiety. We need to think of our days, and time as circular, just like the seasons. Certain times in a day or a week, we will have more energy to put towards outwardly tasks, and other times we will need to turn inwards and recharge. In recharging, you will actually be able to accomplish the important, necessary and challenging tasks in life with some ease.
So, the biggest piece of advice I can offer you before heading back to work is to make a list. This isn’t to overwhelm you of all the things you need to do in a day, its actually to see what you can remove from your plate. Write down what you need to do each day and week. Ask yourself, what can I not do right now? What can I not do at all? Do you have a dog? Ok, who is walking the dog and when? Is this something you can get help with, at least part time? Can your dog join a pack walk a couple of times a week? Live in a dwelling that needs basic upkeep? Ok, if you don’t get to the laundry or vacuuming this weekend, can it wait? Probably. Can you get help with cleaning the house? Can you budget for a monthly deep clean? Can you and your partner tag team and do a one-hour power clean on a Saturday morning? Life is about to get that much busier, so decide what your non negotiables are, and then decide where you can let go of control and expectations. Can you say no to a social event here and there if it doesn’t make sense for your well-being? Can you scrap an hour of Netflix watching in the evening for an extra hour of sleep? Can you plan simple batch meals? Can you be ok with a frozen Annie’s burrito and a salad as dinner once in awhile?
You cannot possibly go a hundred miles an hour in every area of your life, and expect to be mentally, physically and emotionally healthy and happy. You need to fill your tank. Running on empty is a reality-sometimes. When your baby is sick overnight, you have a dog to take care of, your partner is out of town for work, you need to make dinner and you need to contribute meaningful input at your morning work meeting, well, in this case you are definitely running on fumes. Short term, you can push through. Long term, this.will.steal.your.joy.
We as humans, and more specifically as moms, are not made to do it all. You need to ask for help. You need to share household, pet and baby responsibilities with your partner. You need to take turns rocking your sick baby to sleep. Maybe she prefers you rocking her, but the more your partner does it, the more they will be that source of comfort for your child. Life is short, and life is not guaranteed. So, for the love of god, choose to jump off the hamster wheel and enjoy small moments of calm and joy every single day. If your mother-in-law asks how she can help, suggest a few ways. Release the mom guilt. Release the guilt of burdening others. It truly takes a village to raise little humans. Being a mom is challenging beyond belief for SO many reasons, so take that time to truly soak in the calm, joyful moments. Not everything needs to get done. At least not all today. Release control. Talk to other mamas. Join a group if you don’t have many friends in a similar boat. Knowing others are going through the same struggles really, really helps. Hell, laughing about it when it all seems too much with a jumbo glass of red wine in hand, is a surprisingly great remedy.
So on this day, I urge you to commit to doing less (strategically) and being a little more gentle on yourself. If you can make these two goals a priority in 2020, I can assure you that this will shift your perspective on life.