So much of my identity was wrapped up in being “mother” for so many years. I lost connection with myself; once I recognized this, I was determined to fill the “Year Ahead” portion of the YearCompass with worthwhile, personal goals. I just needed to find out what those were, and that has been an exercise in trial and error. Several pages into reviewing the year prior portion of the assessment, we were asked to write down the title of our past year. Mine? “Directionally Complacent.” And the three things that I wrote to say goodbye to? “Not knowing what I want; not believing in myself; not putting myself first.” My first challenge was to change that title, and really walk away from those sentiments.
In determining the root of these three offenders, I started to recognize how much time I wasted on completely insignificant things, on feeling frustrated but not knowing why, on feeling unfulfilled. My life was consumed with day-to-day busy-ness: things that “needed to get done”, grocery lists, meal plans, sports schedules, appointments, chores, the lists are never ending because there are always things that need to be done, to be remembered, to be scheduled. Mothers hold so much in their heads; we have so much minutia on our minds on a daily basis that it’s not a wonder that we slide into the blurry sidelines; if we are not intentional with our time creating goals and actually focusing enough to accomplish them becomes less and less of a priority, and we become consumed by all of the things.
The next few months for me were filled with the consumption of self-development books and blogs, following suitably inspirational Facebook pages and Instagram accounts, stalking life coaches (a career territory I wasn’t familiar with prior to this endeavor; I’ve followed Cara Alwill Leyba across every platform she is known, including purchasing her books), downloading podcasts and generally trying to consume as much get-off-your-ass-and-make-something-of-yourself content.
Perhaps one of the more consequential actions I took was enrolling in a Facebook Group program called Morning Routine Refresh. Paula Stang Stinnett, Chief Possibility Officer at The Art of Being Queen offered a free five day program that focused on mothers who are feeling lost, frustrated, tired, drained, chaotic, stretched too thin, discouraged…the adjectives that were used by the participants in my first round were among all of these (she does not just focus on mothers, however this particular program was designed specifically for this). These vapid, desolate words resonated so loudly with me. The premise of the program was to focus on yourself first and foremost, to set your day up in such a way that by rising earlier in the morning you would commit a section of time to yourself, and you alone. Not to clean your kitchen or rotate a load of laundry, not to commit to an exercise program, but to focus on and reconnect with you, the woman that you are, by whatever means felt right to you. Self-care (at the time of enrolling in this program I hadn’t quite acknowledged this term), journaling, yoga, meditation, reading for personal growth; the rules were loose as far as what activities were allowed, as long as it benefited the growth of you and you alone.
This simple idea was eye-opening for me. My days up until that point were cyclical; I was up at 6am if I was lucky, showering, getting the kids up and ready, packing them up for the day, dropping them at their respective places, spending 8-9 hours at the office with its own demands that bleed not just slightly but into each and every hour outside of the office, leave work, pick up at daycare, pick up at school, head home, start dinner, do laundry (there is always more laundry, it is a never-ending constant), help with homework, facilitate baths and showers, enforce nighttime routines, and then prep for the next day if I was feeling up to it; if not, that meant that the next day was already starting behind, which was most days. Most days I wasn’t sitting down until 9:30 at night, and I just wanted to drink a bottle of wine, watch something mindless on Netflix, bury my head and sleep. In the mornings I was pressed for time, on edge, stressed and absolutely lost my shit on more than the occasional basis. At night, I ran a drill sergeant’s time clock: homework, dinner, shower, bed. In between tasks or while waiting for dinner to cook I zoned out scrolling through Facebook catching up on other people’s lives, which had no significance in my own life but felt overwhelmingly important.
Just reading that makes me exhausted. It weighs on me in an almost physical way. Because under all of the tasks and routines and busywork, there are the things that I would have liked to do for myself: exercise, read, a hobby, something creative. I always felt frustrated that I didn’t have the “time” to allocate to these things that I desperately wanted to be doing.
Dedicating 20 to 30 minutes to meditation, yoga, personal growth, writing, journaling, anything that allowed me to focus on something that I wanted to do allowed me to really determine the activities that resonated with me the most. Carving out time to focus on and to reconnect with myself, in the quiet of the early morning, and take a breath before diving into the day was simple and easy (minus the early set alarm) yet extraordinary. I read books that sparked ideas, listened to podcasts that motivated, I meditated, journaled and focused on gratitude. Once I had committed to creating that time that was solely for me, I found that I was much more at peace with the demands of the day, of the pulls from my daughters, my husband, my home and my job.
I highly suggest trying it for a few days. Carve out time for you and you alone. In the quiet of the morning (or whatever time of the day you can), pursue yourself. Reconnect, invest and prioritize you. Find the spark that will light you on fire. It’s there, you just have to be willing to take the time to connect with it. This was all a part of my journey back to writing. To here, with you, the consumer of my thoughts.
I wouldn’t ever suggest that I have all of the answers, nor have I mastered the balance of woman and mother. I’m simply sharing my journey. However, as I developed a keen interest in developing myself outside of the role of mother, I saw a window of opportunity to share my story in a way that might scale to something that other mothers were feeling. Mothers who were stuck, unhappy, and not living up to their fullest potential. And I rediscovered a strong propensity for writing, the previous evidence of which was long ago burned in my parents’ fireplace.
Motherhood is all-consuming, if you let it be. That is why carving out time to dedicate to and staying intentional about your growth and goals as a woman is paramount in finding success, in finding the illusive feeling of “balance”.