The only thing I know really well is my life. And I am an expert in one little area of parenting, one tiny little adorable corner. I'm an expert at my little Baby Bear. I'm not an expert at knowing everything I should do with her or how to do it, but I am an expert at knowing her. She's adorable.
Now that she's not a baby anymore I feel this need to record everything I learned, because I am already forgetting. Hopefully it will all come back to me when I need it and this mommy brain will have some pockets of good memory. But until then I'll write down a few things I've learned in this crazy learning experience called mommydom. Mostly for me later down the road when I need to remember, but if it helps you too, all the better.
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The past couple weeks I've been holding my breath. I don't want to move, or flinch, or even sneeze at the risk of disturbing this elusive exotic creature that has come sneeking into my life, this crazy endangered species called balance.
I'd heard rumors of it, had seen hints of it, tracks it had left in my life telling me that I had just missed it, but I hadn't seen it since becoming a mommy. Then one day, I blinked and it was there.
The past few weeks have been wonderful. Don't get me wrong, we still had melt downs and sleepless night or two, but on the whole we have been happy, rested, excited, and gaining traction on projects and to-do lists that have sat around collecting dust. I've felt so peaceful, happy, and productive that I almost don't know what to do with myself.
I am expecting it to pass at any minute, so I have been trying to enjoy every day of it. In the mean time I want to share some things I've learned about how to find balance, or at least create a space where balance can find you.
Prioritize Your Priorities:
Of course spiritual things come first. Unless the baby gets up before you and steals your scripture time. Like every day. And prayers are super important every day. Except for those nights when you fall asleep before you even finish getting undressed.
And family is number two most important. That's why you give up all your time to their needs, which, let's face it, are endless. And of course they need a clean house to live in so they can be healthy and happy so even when one of them isn't devouring your immediate attention, the stock pile of dirty dishes is waiting to take their spot. That is except for us working Mommas. When we have spare time it usually goes to work, to help pay for that house and all those dishes.
What we seem to forget sometimes is that happy families and marriages are built on the foundation of happy, healthy, fulfilled parents. That includes you Mama. And families learn how to have relationships with their Father in Heaven by watching their parent's relationship with Him. That means you Mommy.
More than a clean house, an extra paycheck, or cupcakes for the school bake sale, your family needs you. And not just any you, the healthy strong and happy version of you.
So how can we be the best versions of ourselves while still being Mommy?
Have you ever seen that object lesson with the jar, the marbles, the sand, and the golf balls? So you take this jar and try to fit all these other things inside. And you don't see how all this stuff is going to fit. You try putting the sand in first, then some of the golf balls, and try to shove the marbles in the corners, but it just won't fit.
The same thing is true with our lives. We only have so many hours in a day, so much space in our jars. If we we try to pack everything in at random we'll never be able to fit it all in.
But it can fit. You put the golf balls in first. They seem to take up the whole jar, but as you drop in the marbles they shake down the sides and through the spaces between the balls. You find that they all fit. Then you take some sand and pour it in little by little, tapping the sides of the jar, letting it settle into all the tiny crevices. Voila. Magically everything fits.
The same strategy works with our time. If we put the big, important things in first, like scriptures, prayer, that mysteriously wonderful thing they call taking a shower, they will all fit. Then we can add the marbles; the school projects, the Sunday School lessons, all those things that seem so big and daunting but aren't so bad if you have the time. After that, we can fit all the little things into the cracks, all the errands that need to be run, the trips to the park, all that smaller stuff that makes life full and delicious but won't hurt us if it gets missed for a day or two.
And magically it will all fit. At least most of it will, in my experience.
And one important thing to remember, you are not a marble. Your needs aren't sand that fits in the cracks where others leave time, if they leave time.
You are a golf ball. You are one of the first things to take care of. So do that with the first time you find during the day. Put aside your work laptop and the dish rag for later in the day and spend the first chunk of time you find on yourself.
I know, I know, this is where the guilt kicks in. We have to learn a new mantra, I am not selfish, I take care of myself so I can take care of others.
It can also be hard to focus on ourselves when our to do list is looming in the back of our minds. You can set a specific allotment of time for personal investment, be it an hour, 20 minutes, wherever you find your balance. When we find ten minutes or half an hour we spend it on ourselves until we've reached our time allotment and move on to other golf balls. That way we can tell the to do list to wait, knowing it will have its turn a little later in the day.
Prioritize Your Tasks:
Once you find the time, the next idea is to use it well. Have a list of tasks you'd like to complete in order. Maybe for you it's small list of repeated daily tasks. Or perhaps it's a rotating list of personal projects you can never seem to get to. Start by thinking, if I have only ten minutes today, what is the one thing I want to do? Put that at the top. If I have ten more minutes, what would I do next? Put that next on the list. I find that if I already have something in mind to do when the moment arises, then I can just jump into it and make better use of the time I find.
Also think about the things you can do that would have the most impact. Often I find that I get the best return for my investment if I spend time meeting physical needs, strengthening spiritual connections, or find fulfillment by creating something or learning something new.
Perhaps taking a shower or really doing your hair is at the top of your list. Taking the time to care for your physical needs can really give us energy and confidence during the day. (By the way, naps are totally a good use of time). Or perhaps your most neglected need is to spend quiet time meeting spiritual needs. Inviting the Spirit in our lives gives us peace, confidence, and inspiration to make it through our days more joyfully. Perhaps indulging in a creative outlet is your number one. Being creative is a Godlike trait that we can pass on to our children. When you strengthen your faith and show yourself some love, your whole family will benefit.
So what do you to when you just can't find the time?
Listen to uplifting and educating media while you do tasks like cleaning and working. NPR, TED Talks, MormonChannel, Librivox, and Pandora are some of my favorites.
Clean while kiddos are awake. I know it is tempting to clean while they are asleep, but that is prime mommy time (and SLEEP time!). Get the kids to help or wear your little ones around in a sling or baby carrier. You can clean and get some good snuggle time so your kiddos will be more independent and less needy other times during the day.
Save your errands and shopping for when you and the kiddos need an adventure to bust the boredoms or stir-crazies. And who knows, maybe your adventures will end in a little impromptu nap.
Try having a daily touch-base with your hubby once a day. Share how your day was, what still needs to get done for the day, and what he would like to do for the day as well. Perhaps he can take the kids while you do his errands. That way you can have a break and he can have some play time!
Create a mom group exchange with ladies in your community. Take turns with half the moms watching the kids while the other half have an hour or two to themselves, then switch the next week.
One last word on not feeling bad:
It is important to make sure you get quality time with yourself. That will be easier to do if you also get quality time with your hubby and each of your kiddos. Then no one feels neglected and they'll be willing to be without you for a bit.
And when you come back you will be a happier, healthier, stronger, more peaceful and resilient Momma that can live a better life and take better care of all your roles and responsibilities and lead a hopeful and optimistic life.
So go ahead. Put Mommy First!