I’m a mom. I’m a business owner. Some days that’s a LOT, other days I feel wonderful freedom and flexibility. On any given day, though, it takes a conscious effort to check in with myself to see what I need.
That’s the one thing one my list that I’m pretty terrible at. I think most working parents can agree. Heck, most super dedicated working single people can agree. It can feel like extra work to shift away from your list and focus on your own needs for a minute!
This whole story is through the lens of a working parent, but I wager it resonates with many people who feel completely stressed out and overworked.
The state of "overworked, constantly busy" has become the standard measure of success in our society and many have fallen victim to this mindset. We can only change that by giving ourselves the time and attention we each need.
Does it have to be this way?
Nope. It really doesn’t. But why do we all keep drinking the Kool-Aid? I don’t have an answer, other than the basic idea of keepin’ up with the Jones’ that we all seem compelled to do.
Most of us are on the hamster wheel, and we don’t recognize this until we, in essence, fall off. It’s often in the moment when we are trying to pick ourselves back up that we reflect on “what is actually happening here?” I had this experience a few days ago.
I woke up just plain angry. I was tired and fighting a cold. I had kids to get off to school and piles of work to do. It was the 7th night in a row of feeling like I have a newborn (parents, remember how not-awesome those first few months are!).
I don’t have a newborn, though. My kids are 3.5 and 5. They just suck at sleeping. One ends up in my bed every night between 10 and 11, the other is hit or miss—usually staying in her own bed all night, but once in a while I end up with the whole family in my bed. Not a recipe for a good night’s sleep, especially for a light-sleeping mom!
So, here I was with a major sleep deficit and I woke up angry. Not mean angry, but just angry and frustrated that I had so much to do and no energy or focus to do it. Harboring this attitude all day certainly didn’t seem like it would help anyone (especially not me).
As soon as the kids were packed into the car and on their way (with my husband playing bus driver), I knew it was time to check in. Time to pick myself back up and figure out how to tackle my day.
I quickly decided I didn’t have it in me to hop right back on that hamster wheel and start running. At the same time, I knew laying in bed all day would lead to extra stress, as I would clearly get nothing done.
How could I take a break and not get more behind?
I needed to reframe my day. I did, and it was amazing.
We’ve been talking a lot about it lately on our social media and blog—this idea of reframing situations. I decided I didn’t need a day off completely, I just needed to take a day off from the PRESSURE.
So that’s exactly what I did. I intentionally approached things differently that day. I needed to. I wanted to snap out of being angry, tired, and frustrated, and enjoy some quiet unstructured productivity.
I had an entire day to get done whatever I wanted to get done. It felt like a productive weekend day, sans kids! I started by cleaning the kitchen and throwing some laundry in the washer. I took a long walk and listened to an interesting podcast about colon cancer.
I had no idea what I would do when I got home from my walk, but my mindset had already shifted, and the movement and fresh air had started to turn my day around.
When I felt like it, I hopped on my computer and made progress on my work projects. I had a coaching session with a client, worked on community development for VHC. I rotated in more laundry and hung clothes on lines (because our dryer is broken… and somehow, despite the chaos of our lives, I find it therapeutic to hang-dry clothes for a family of six).
Doing it All Needs to Include Taking a Break!
As working parents, particularly working moms, we often feel like we have to do it all, but doing it all needs to include TAKING A BREAK.
A break for me may look completely different than a break for you. Vegging out with a book or TV isn’t relaxing to me when I have things to do or the house is a mess.
What a “break” looked like to me this particular day was simply letting go of the structure and the “must-do’s” on my list. I still needed to check many things off of my list, but instead of forcing it, I did one thing at a time, and nothing that wasn't critical for that day.
I invite you to allow yourself the time to focus on your needs and give yourself the permission to let go when you need to.
If you need helping navigating this approach, reach out! This is my favorite problem to solve: helping working parents figure out the what/when/where/why/how of putting the focus on themselves once in a while.
The next time you have a day where you feel like something’s gotta give—ask yourself:
Here are a few ideas on how you can take a break, even on the busiest of days:
You can do it all. But sometimes, you just need a break... and that is okay.