My son will be five in May. This means I have successfully managed to be a full time working mom for five years. This includes everything from pumping breast milk in a client parking lot to days where all I did was care for a child and work from the moment that I woke up to the moment I went to sleep.
Somewhere along the way, it’s gotten easier. Maybe that’s just my son’s age as he gets older or maybe I am figuring a key piece of it out. I like to think it is the later.
You cannot pour from an empty cup.
Navigating the last five years hasn’t just been being a working mom. I have lived in three states and therefore moved between each one (Indiana, Maryland and Tennessee). I have navigated relationship changes and am currently working through the next phase of that. Let’s just summarize it as messy and stressful. Multiple articles contain lists of the most stressful things you can do in your life and there hasn’t been a year in the last 5-10 years that I didn’t have at least three going on at the same time.
At some point in your life, whether you are a mom or not, you have to learn that you put yourself first.
I am not saying that you are the bitch that isn’t capable of considering others feelings. You are the woman that is strong enough to know that you can’t take care of others to the detriment of yourself. That only results in you being incapable of caring for yourself and other around you. You realize that you are worthy of breaks. You are entitled to them, even. And they are hard to come by as a mom.
Where do you start?
I started small. I had a 20 minute a day workout that I committed to. I was going to spend 20 minutes a day on me and at the same time downloaded the audio book “Girl, Wash Your Face” to listen to at the same time. I started waking up at 6 am to do this before my son woke up for the day because it was the only time I had. As I sit here and think about this time in my life, I can still envision the layout of the room I worked out in and tears still come to my eyes. I remember how that woman felt. Cringing. Angry. Exhausted. Desperate. Lost. I remember how angry I was at where I had gotten. I was frustrated with my body, my attitude, my life and my world.
You are allowed to struggle.
My son is one of the cutest beings you will ever encounter. Seriously, one of the cutest things you will encounter. Follow along at @hackingtheworkingmom if you don’t believe me. He is sweet and kind and loves fiercely. I was one of the lucky ones, but I can easily see how moms would struggle with post partum and not just right after their baby is born but for years. You are allowed to struggle. Don’t hide it. Be honest with yourself and those around you.
The practical part
- Set your priorities. Through it all, I knew my son needed to be provided for. I knew that I needed to learn to love myself. I knew that I needed down time. I let the rest go and when I was ready picked it back up slowly. The house being dirty doesn’t harm anyone. You being unable to breath is harmful.
- Make time for yourself in a way that fills your soul. More than likely, you don’t know what this even looks like yet. Spend time sitting and figuring it out. If you could be anywhere right now, where would it be? What would you be doing? What would you smell, see and taste? What activities do you do that you feel happier after?
- Learn to say no. With set priorities, when things don’t fit in those priorities, say no. And don’t apologize that you are saying no. You deserve to drive your own life.
- Move your body. Rachel Hollis says “Move your body, change your mind”. I don’t know if it’s the original quote, but I swear this saved me. When I was angry, I worked out and let out my frustration. There have been workouts accompanied by tears streaming down by face as I did knee drivers because I hated where I was. There have been workouts where I skipped even higher because things were going well that week. There is power in movement.
Don’t stay stagnant. When you don’t know what to do, set your priorities and move. And most importantly, know that you are never alone.