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Category Archives: Work/Life Balance

Letting Go #chronic illness #simplify

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Life with kids is hard enough. (Joyful, yes, but hard.) Add chronic illness to the mix, and it’s nearly unbearable. But, it can be made easier. You just have to let some things go.

Easier said than done, I know, but it can be done. More importantly, for the sake of your health, your sanity, and your relationship with your family, it needs to be done. So, here’s a gift from me to you, something we often feel we need in order to make decisions, big or small: Permission.

I hereby give you permission to let the following things go:

  • ¬†Facebook/Google+/Twitter, etc. Unless you use these things primarily for work, drop them (at least temporarily). Your friends will still be there in two weeks or a month, as will all their horrifying, celebratory, and banal updates. I promise. If you’re truly worried about missing something big, let your closest friends know you’re dropping off the social media map for a while. That way, they’ll know to contact you in person if something really big happens. Disclaimer: This may be very difficult for you, depending on how much time you currently spend on social media. It will get easier. In fact, the longer you can go without checking your accounts, the less drive you’ll have to do so.
  • Non-work-related emails. (This is easiest if you have a separate work account.) Check your work emails daily, if necessary, but commit to only sorting through and answering your personal emails two or three times a week. Schedule the days, and don’t cheat. If someone in your life needs a faster response, they’ll call.
  • Unscheduled phone calls from numbers you don’t know. This is why we have voicemail and answering machines. Unless you’ve scheduled a phone call with someone and/or it is a call from a number you know you have to answer (such as your child’s school or doctor), let it ring. If not answering makes you uncomfortable, allow yourself to check your messages immediately. If it’s a call you should have taken, you can always call back.
  • Non-essential housework. Yes, we have to do the dishes, clean the kitchen, wash the clothes, vacuum, and sweep. Dusting, unless dust aggravates you or your children, can wait. So can the mirrors, the windows, the baseboards, and the floors in your bathroom (unless you’re currently potty training – that can get messy).
  • Non-essential baking/cooking. We all want to feed our families healthy, home-cooked meals, and that’s normal. (Of course, if you hate cooking and you have the money to purchase healthy prepared foods, by all means, go right ahead. That’s normal, too!) But, you don’t have to bend over backward to make baked goods from scratch for your child’s school functions or play dates, especially when you don’t feel well. Same goes for nights in with friends. Grab some take-out, frozen pizzas, party trays, or cheese and crackers. Your (true) friends won’t care.

It may not seem like much, but you’ll reclaim a significant amount of time and energy by letting go of these everyday tasks and activities. If you’ve found other ways to simplify, please comment. We’re all here to help each other.

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Achieving the Elusive #MomVacation

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Mamas rarely get vacations. Even when we’re on vacation, we’re working. Whether we’re in Honolulu, Paris, the Bahamas, or Argentina, someone still has to get up with the kids. Someone still has to arrange dinner, and coordinate everyone’s plans. There are still diapers to be changed, young butts to wipe, sibling scuffles to referee, and various anatomy parts to prep for adult-time fun. More often than not, these tasks fall to the mom.

The only way to get an actual vacation as a mother is to go alone.

Yes, I can hear you laughing. But, I’m serious. We all need a break, especially us mothers, for whom every waking minute is lived in response to someone else’s needs.

But how do we get that break?

Planning. Planning. And more planning.

Last weekend I went on my first vacation in over two years. (It was a writer’s retreat, so it was actually a working vacation, but it was a vacation nonetheless.) I was a nervous wreck, but my family (including my still nursing 17-month-old son) did surprisingly well in my (49 hour) absence. While my husband is a wonderful father and all-around marvelous man, I attribute much of the weekend’s success to the level of effort I took in making sure everyone and everything was completely prepared.

For those of you who, like me, dream of regaining your sanity and reintroducing your self to yourself, here’s what I did:

  • Arranged for my in-laws to come stay and help my husband while I was away. (My son has only just learned to sleep through the night, and since he is still nursing to sleep I was concerned my husband may not be able to get him down. I figured having additional adults there would ensure he – my husband – got some sleep no matter what.)
  • Printed out a daily schedule for my son, complete with approximate nap and snack times.
  • Prepared and printed a toddler-wrangling handbook that included all the little tips and helpful hints I’ve figured out from being at home all day, every day with my kids. (Such tips included the details of the bedtime routine, including the specific wording of the vitally important bedtime song, how to tell when nap time should commence, what snacks the baby will actually eat, what to do – and how to tell – if he’s teething, and the proper dosage and timing for any necessary medications.)
  • Baked my son’s favorite muffins, so my husband would have plenty of easily prepared, toddler-approved breakfast foods. (Making food pre-coffee is HARD, y’all.)
  • Washed, dried, and put away all the laundry in the house (so my son’s pajamas and towels would actually be where the handbook said they were).
  • Cleaned the entire house so my husband wouldn’t feel any need to focus on anything except our son.
  • Packed the freezer with easy-to-heat dinner foods, in case everyone was too exhausted to cook.
  • Ensured we had plenty of diapers, wipes, diaper rash cream, and other toddler necessities.
  • Left the address of the retreat on the fridge along with the phone number of the closet neighbor to where I’d be staying. (The retreat was at a farmhouse where there was no internet access and limited cell phone service.)

All that work might seem like overkill, but I can assure you it made it significantly easier to leave. It also made it much easier for my husband to handle life without me, and you know what that means: I’ll likely be able to leave again in the near future.

Score.

 

Making Time for the Unexpected

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Having grown up in the U.S. to remarkably independent self-motivated parents, I internalized the idea that hard work equaled success from an early age. But, working hard doesn’t have to mean working 24/7. In fact, working constantly is a sure-fire way path to burnout: physically, mentally, and emotionally.

As a homeschooling work-at-home mom to a breastfeeding infant and a special-needs, pre-teen girl, I’m constantly fighting the urge to spend every minute of my day engaged in one task or another. Between writing books, juggling clients, teaching my daughter, and caring for my son, my house, and my husband, there just never seems to be enough time to get it all done. But, I’ve learned the hard way that trying to do it all without taking the time to rest and recharge means getting less done overall.

It is invariably the days and weeks on which I am over-scheduled with work projects and other must-do tasks that some unplanned event or catastrophe throws a wrench in my plans. My baby gets sick, cuts a new tooth, or refuses to eat and requires my constant attention, or my daughter has a meltdown that takes hours of time and most of my energy to get under control. Or, I get sick and simply can’t work any more that day, no matter how much I’d like to do so.

In short, things happen that I can’t control, and it means I have to be able to adapt. And, I can’t do that, if my schedule isn’t flexible enough to accommodate unforeseen events. To make sure I have the flexibility I need, I created the 75% rule: However many hours I want to work in a week, I cut it by 25%. Then, I fit my work assignments into only the hours I have marked as available. No matter what.

When I first implemented this system, I really had to work against my tendency to fill in the empty hours on the calendar. If a new client popped up with a potential assignment, I would see the empty slots in my mind and automatically say “yes, I have time.” It took me months to realize that the empty slots weren’t really empty. They were full with events, outings, and setbacks that I couldn’t possibly foresee. They were my fail-safes. And, in my life, they are absolutely necessary.

What about the rest of you? Do you fill your schedule, or do you purposefully leave some time for the unexpected?

Other links on working smarter by working less:

The 80% Energy Rule: An Old Secret to Success

Blogger Justin Jackson talks about The Principle That Changed My Life

Relax! You’ll Be More Productive