You’re a full-time working mom. You have no time intentionally set aside for you; every hour, every minute of the day is devoted to work, family, kids.
It’s not sustainable, and it doesn’t work.
Sometimes, in my working mom life, I feel like I am spinning and buzzing all over the place and barely have my feet on the ground. This always leads to burnout, excessive amounts of caffeine, and, eventually, to me being desperately need of a mental health day to set myself straight.
What I’ve found helpful is the practice of identifying exactly what it is I need to feel grounded as a mom and human being. What are the things that help you to feel like yourself? Maybe it’s ten minutes of meditation or a weekly yoga class. Maybe it’s phone calls with a friend or a trip to the grocery store by yourself. For me, I have zeroed in on the three things I need so I can be okay – so I can feel like me amid all the parenting chaos: running, reading, and writing.
This is especially important to me as I manage returning to my full-time job after my maternity leave with our third child. I am an introvert who needs alone time to be a functional human being, as is my wife, and ever since becoming parents, we’ve tried to make it a priority to give each other weekly time to recharge. Tamara will take the boys for a hike while I stay home to write and read; I’ll take the boys to a playground while she goes for an *actual* hike and does some birding.
While this is still a priority, the math gets trickier with each additional child added to the family. The only time I can (usually) count on for myself is early morning – extremely early morning. Like, the alarm on my phone starts beeping at 4/4:30 a.m. early morning.
I usually get big eyes and confused faces when I explain how early my alarm goes off. When I walk people through it, however, it starts to make sense. I’m a morning person, not a night owl – my energy depletes throughout the day, and so late evening will never be a good time for me to read or write. I go to bed pretty early – 8 or 9 p.m. if I can manage it – so I get a decent amount of sleep in before waking up at 4. And for me, as a human being, I crave a few hours to myself – hours when I am not responding to others, hours when I can get lost in my own thoughts and get a few of them down on paper.
It’s 4:52 a.m. as I type this. I’ve been writing for a little while, and in a few minutes I’ll go for a run. (A short jog with intermittent walking – for me, running does not have to be strenuous, but it does need to happen daily.) If I have time when I get back from running, I’ll read the book I am currently enjoying – Making A Literary Life by Carolyn See. (The amount of time I read is not critical – but I need to be engaged with reading a good book that I’m excited about, or I feel lost and spectacularly ungrounded.)
Will I feel like a human being after these three rituals? We’ll see. With a ten-week-old in the house, I’m short on sleep and there are many transitions happening in our family life. But these grounding practices get me a little closer to my goal of functionality every time I make time to get them done. And anything that helps me to feel steady on my feet instead of spinning wildly is worth the time.