Recently, a friend shared an idea from a training event she had attended. The presenter suggested imagining your ideal week and writing it down, hour by hour.
I had an Oprah light bulb moment when I tried this. Even as a stay-at-home, work-from-home, homeschooling mom—all things I WANT to do, I was spending a lot of time doing things I didn’t want to be doing. Driving. Cooking. Cleaning. Many hours a week. This left hardly any time for what I wanted to be doing outside of work and school. Reading, gardening, relaxing with my kids, having a drink with my husband, visiting with friends, walking my dog. If your schedule is anything like mine, it’s no wonder so many of us are tired, burnt out, unmotivated, anxious, and sometimes even depressed.
But, we’re MOMS, right? We HAVE to do that stuff. It’s in the job description. That’s why the title says “Radical.” Because I’m going to suggest that you do less of those things. Maybe not stop altogether. I’m not totally insane! I will suggest that with some thought and planning, you can dramatically reduce the time you spend on the less-than-fulfilling duties of parenting and more on the things you love.
I imagine you staring at your screen right now, muttering to yourself, “Ohh yeah, crazy lady, how exactly am I supposed to do THAT?” I completely understand that not all of these ideas will work for everyone, considering kids’ ages, work schedules, varying levels of support from family. My hope is that just one of these ideas will give you a little breathing room in your days or inspire you to find something that will work for you.
Find carpools. This is my #1 suggestion because it dramatically improved my life. I was slow to embrace it because, for a variety of reasons, finding do-able carpools was unreasonably challenging. Then again, so is driving three kids to three sports, lessons, clubs, friends, and events. I could literally be in the car eight hours some days. Every ounce of effort to arrange carpools has been worth it. Ask everyone you know and keep asking until you find what works. So here is a shout out to all the moms who have split driving with me the last couple of years – I LOVE YOU because this has freed up so much time in my life.
Stop cooking so much. I love to cook. It is important to me that we eat home-cooked, healthy meals most of the time but not at the expense of my sanity. I was spending a ton of time making meals, meal planning, shopping, prepping, and cleaning up. There are ways to do this no matter your budget – sandwich night, leftover night, snack trays (what we adults call charcuterie boards) as dinner for the budget-conscious. If you have the extra funds, prepared meals from the refrigerator or freezer section make life easy and are still less expensive than take-out.
Stop folding laundry. Whoooaaa….what? Ok, at least reduce how much time you spend folding laundry. One day, I sat down next to a mountain of laundry and decided to sort it into smaller chunks to make it less overwhelming. I realized that if each person folded their own clothes, it wouldn’t take long at all. So I called over my perfectly capable children to fold and put away their own laundry. Honestly, I had to look away. Letting go of “the right way” to fold was challenging, but it gave me more free time and gave them important practice. #worthit.
What if you have little ones? Hang up everything you possibly can. Or rather, have them hang it. Buy extra hangers and show children age five or older how to hang shirts, dresses, and pants. For even smaller children, it might be worthwhile to install a row of hooks or pegs where they can hang the majority of their clothes. For everything else, simplicity is the key. Stack underwear in a drawer, toss socks in another and let the kids find matches, teach simple folding techniques for towels, shorts, and other basic items.
Reimagine bedtime. Thanks to a couple of horrible sleepers, we established an extensive bedtime routine years ago. The good news is that it mostly worked. The bad news is that some days I just didn’t have it in me. A bedtime routine is essential for many babies and small children, and when they are older, it is still the time of day my kids open up and want to talk about their day, their problems, and the meaning of life. Not kidding. Luckily, it is possible to find a middle ground.
Keep all the warm, snuggly, wonderful parts of bedtime, but how about you cut yourself some slack? Thinking back to when my children were small, I occasionally (not often enough!) declared it “short version” bedtime. Instead of baths, just teeth brushing. Instead of two stories, we read one. Instead of sharing three things we were thankful for, we shared one. Unbeknownst to me, even at the ages of 2 and 3, this helped them develop empathy and flexibility. Man, I should have done more of that!
As tweens and teens, of course, this looks different, but they were still keeping me up later than I wanted to be. They like to stay up later than me so I was staying up late too in order to take advantage of that sweet bit of time they are willing to talk and be snuggled. I was tired. Instead, I have started “tucking” them in on my schedule. I go to their rooms, chat, plan the next day, love on them a little (or a lot), and still get to bed at a reasonable hour most nights.
Go to bed earlier and get up earlier. If you can work a little wiggle room into bedtime, I am going to gently suggest going on to sleep instead of….(fill in the blank with all the things you need and want to do). If this sounds like torture, I KNOW. I am a night owl. I get it. However, I have learned things over the last two years while getting up at 5:30 AM with my high schooler. I am not less tired when I sleep in. Plus, those early morning hours are quiet and peaceful. I can focus, think, read, write, or sit quietly enjoying my coffee, therefore getting my day off to a solid start. It makes the whole day better. The last hours of the day do not have the same rejuvenating effect because my mind is full, my body is tired, and I cannot be as productive.
Momming is a full-time job. There’s no way around it. That does not mean we need to carry on until burnout overwhelms us. Self-care is not optional if we want to maintain our mental health, but it doesn’t have to be expensive or inconvenient. In fact, I think it should be the opposite – simply making room in our days for ourselves and treating ourselves as well as we treat those little humans we love so much. Radical? Not really.