As a working mom, I am continually fine-tuning the work/life balance so that family, work, and my personal time are in harmony, and believe me, it's not a simple juggling act. Whether it's actually attainable or not, or even if it's worth it, is the million-dollar question, but I try. Author and marketer Nigel Marsh believes it is and that in order to make it work, you need to take control and start small. "Being more balanced doesn't mean dramatic upheaval in your life," he told a TED Talks audience. "With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life." I 100% agree with his theory. In fact, it's the modest changes and simple things I do for myself that not only bring me happiness but also benefit my family, not to mention my professional relationships. Scroll down to discover some of the things I do for myself that all working moms should.
In the past year, I’ve realized that staying at home all weekend, even if we do nothing but eat and watch movies, always has the opposite effect on my energy levels. When Monday comes around, I head into the office feeling tired and lethargic instead of refreshed and well slept, which is baffling to me considering the large amount of “nothing” I did. So this year, we started taking mini staycations and road trips as a family, just to get out of the city for a day or two, and surprisingly it worked. Even despite the packing and driving involved, these mini vacays have me feeling revived and perky when I return to my desk Monday morning. The trips don’t have to be costly; you can find very affordable and remote Airbnb rentals or sign up on various hotel sites for special deals in your area. Why does it work? Because you can completely check out for the weekend, forget about cleaning the house or catching up on emails, and focus on quality time together. If you don't take the time off, then you're joining the many other U.S. employees who waste about 429 million paid vacation days every year. So make the time to stop because you deserve it, but more importantly, you need it.
I am a huge fan of rituals. These habitual morning and evening routines are precious to me, and I look forward to them every single day. This “me time” is the calm before the storm, a little order before the chaos begins, and a chance for me to seek clarity and bliss, setting me up for a successful workday or night of sleep. I’m generally an early riser and like to wake up at least 15 to 20 minutes before my son does; it’s the only time the house is truly silent, and I use it to sip slowly on a cup of Earl Grey tea while I watch the hummingbirds fight over the feeder. Then I make a coffee and start prepping my green smoothie; by this time my son is usually up. At nighttime, my routine involves my son, we read a book each, or we tell each other a story from our minds before he falls asleep. I cherish this time together—we both do—and it doesn’t involve social media or electronic devices, which disrupt our sleep.
While I love my Ballet Beautiful workouts, there’s nothing quite like walking by yourself around the block, through the park, or along the beach. If you find meditation challenging, then start walking; it is the next-best thing. There are a few reasons, and it’s not about weight loss, though that’s a positive side effect. Firstly, it gets me out of the house. This is crucial alone time: just you in nature with the sound of your breath and the rhythm of your heartbeat to keep you company. Secondly, it lifts my spirits and pulls me out of any mental ruts I’m having. I like to walk for at least 30 minutes to an hour, but all it takes is 10 minutes to see the same results. “Just 10 minutes of walking at the pace you would use if you were late for an appointment—but obviously without that stress of being late—can boost your mood for two hours,” says Robert Thayer, Ph.D., the author of Calm Energy. Real Simple even coined it “America’s untrendiest growing trend,” with about 20 million American adults walking for 10 minutes or more at least once a week.
According to recent research, a third of children surveyed said their “parents spent equal or less time with them than on their devices,” and 36% “allowed themselves to be distracted by their device during conversations.” As much as I’d like to say this is unbelievable, the stats don’t lie, and I certainly don’t want to be one of them. So I make myself 100% available to play something fun with my son. This usually means doing something silly like Lego wars, tickle wrestling, dance-offs, and paper plane battles. It’s hilarious and the best stress reliever you can’t buy. He just asked if we can purchase some board games, so I’m sure that Monopoly and Uno will become our new nightly ritual. I also like to disconnect from digital devices during this time, which brings me to my next thing—unplugging from social media.
Since my job is 100% digital, everything I write is published online, the way I communicate with my colleagues is via email, and I promote my stories on almost every social channel available, taking a break can be challenging. But it’s also totally necessary. Not only is a detox from my social media addiction good for my personal and mental health, but it’s also essential to maintaining healthy, happy relationships with my husband and son. It might seem terrifying at first, but once you start, it’ll become your new addiction—believe me! Find a time that works for you, but I generally like to switch off the minute I walk in the door from work. This means making sure all your loose ends are tied up before you leave the office. I like to do one final check of my phone before I step inside, just to make sure. Then it’s offline from about 7 until 9. In this time, we have all had our family dinner, chatted about our day, washed up, read books, and put my son to bed. My son loves this time just as much as I do: He will often wait to eat with me if I’m running late from work because he values this family time so much. I like to do this on weekends, too, but it's definitely a set time frame during the week.
Sleep isn’t something us moms or dads get a lot, but it’s important you make time to fit it in, and the weekends are when I try to get mine back. I usually make a deal with my husband the night before so he knows that when my son comes into our room in the morning, he takes him swiftly into the lounge room and distracts him with food and play while I snooze away. We switch it up and take turns so each of us gets at least one sleep-in day over the weekend. My sister is a mother of three under the age of 7, and her husband lets her sleep in every Sunday. The kids know that’s her time now too, so they definitely don’t disturb her. It’s so important that I get this time; even if I’m not sleeping, just the simple leisurely act of lying in bed is enough to make me happy.
I can’t wait until Sunday comes around; even my son counts down the days because it’s the one day we all spend as a family and head off on an adventure somewhere. It doesn’t need to be very far, just somewhere new to explore. Last weekend we went to Venice Beach and hit the main strip. We played in the sand, did some pretty awesome people watching, checked out the cool skaters, had lunch at Café Gratitude (a 100% organic plant-based restaurant with a holistic vibe), and walked around the hip Abbot Kinney Boulevard. It’s only an hour away from home, but we really felt like tourists in a new town—it was so much fun.
If I don’t look after myself, I just start to feel miserable. I take pride in keeping myself together despite the demands of motherhood, and when one overwhelms the other, I feel out of control. So to get in back in balance, I finally booked myself into a fancy hair salon and had a few highlights. While only a marginal change, the difference in myself was major. I felt so confident, and not just because it covered some of my early grays, either; it was the act of doing something for myself that lifted my spirits and gave me a much-needed morale boost. But you don’t need to go anywhere or spend a lot of money. Sometimes it just means locking yourself in the bathroom for an hour and putting on a hair mask and giving yourself a mani/pedi while your face mask dries. You’ll feel like a million-dollar mom.
Lately I’ve realized how important my friends are. Having just moved from Australia to Los Angeles, I’m in a period of transition, and that means making all new girlfriends, from scratch. This can be tough for any expat, but especially for moms. I can’t always go out for after-work drinks, and my schedule doesn’t allow me to pop over for a quick dinner or movie. So I’ve started making plans; just a simple coffee with a friend is the perfect comfort and counsel I need. I crave these relationships and hope to make more of them this year. According to Working Mom, close friendships can reduce anxiety, improve your health, and see you live longer too, so say cheers to your girlfriends over coffee on a weekly basis—it’s good for you.
Date nights are crucial to my marriage; without them, the only quality time my husband and I have with each other is about an hour every day after my son goes to bed. That’s not enough to sustain a lifelong relationship. So we try to plan a night out together at least once a month. Last time we went to dinner, watched some music, and then went to the Magic Castle—an insiders-only clubhouse for magicians and magic enthusiasts. We don’t always stick to the monthly arrangements, because life gets in the way sometimes, but as a general rule, we try not to leave longer than a couple of months between dates. We have such an awesome babysitter too, so our son has just as much fun as we do.
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