Being a parent is many different things. Amazing, joyous, a dream come true, fun. But my favorite way to describe it is OVERWHELMING. There have been many long days, followed by long nights, that it's not until I collapse on my couch that I realize what a complete and utter mess my home is. So much for cleaning up our messes as we go! Psh, yeah right! That monotonous cycle of sleep (or small naps interrupted by waking babies), cook, clean, play, cook, bedtime, repeat, leaves little time to enjoy your life and to maintain your sanity. Here are a few tips that can hopefully allow you more "Me Time" and moments of sanity.
1.) Wake up fifteen minutes earlier. I know this is easier said than done but it makes a huge difference. My daughter doesn't enjoy me constantly yelling at her in the mornings before I'm caffeinated about where her backpack is and I don't enjoy it either. By waking up fifteen minutes before her, I allow myself a cup of coffee and the time to quickly check some emails. It not only allows me some time to breathe and sit in silence but it helps me feel ready to take on the day. (Side note: It took me a full week to not groggily roll out of bed and yell "ugh" at the alarm clock, but I stuck with it and am so happy that I did.)
2.) Make a schedule... and stick to it. There are a thousand different schedules online you can use as guidelines but only you know what works best for you and your family. Improvise and create something that works for everyone. For me, I organize my mornings and my evenings because those are the times my family is most productive. Mornings include: breakfast (but not before I took a quiet coffee break), walk to the bus, workout, shower, go to work. Then I head home from work, where my daughter and husband are waiting for me, I start dinner, throw some laundry in while they work on her homework then we eat as a family, play a quick game (we are loving Candyland right now) then it's bath time, book time, and bedtime by 8pm. There are two things I will NOT give up in the evening and those are family dinner and an hour on the couch with my husband once my daughter is in bed.
It's easy to lose the minimal time we have together by thinking about what else there is to do but we try to take a break, even for only half an hour, to sit down and just be with each other. It's really important to me that my daughter knows how important family time is and how I won't give that up. She may only be five, but in ten years, I'd like to think she will still tell me about her friends and her life because I've always cared about it... And not just because I'm being a nosy mom (which I am, but who cares.)
3.) Plan a date night. It's perfectly acceptable to get a babysitter for the evening and then do nothing "date-like". My husband always makes time to date me. Whether that's us going to the movies and out to dinner, or whether that's grocery shopping and running errands at the end of the day, we both have the ability to just talk about our day and to just be with each other. I can't do the ships passing through the night routine so I make sure that we have a babysitter at least every other week so that I can enjoy time with him and we can catch up on how work is actually going. I'm sure there's a few more things he'd like to say than to me other than, "It's fine."
4.) Be okay with allowing yourself to not be okay. This is a big one. There will be times that everything is falling apart. Your baby is crying, you haven't showered in days, you can't remember the last conversation you had with an adult, and there's NOTHING in the fridge, I mean, nothing. Like I said parenting is OVERWHELMING. Take a few minutes to breathe, relax, yell or if you're like me, cry. There have been countless days where I've just had to sit on the floor of my daughter's room and cry, too.
It happens, but remember, you're not alone. Sure, there are a few mom's that you pass in the grocery store that have their hair and makeup done while their kids are behaving perfectly, but I can assure you, they're behaving that way because yesterday she had a meltdown and finally allowed herself to take a break! You just happen to be catching her on a good day.
The best advice I could ever give someone is simply this: The best way to keep it together is to allow yourself to fall apart. No one is perfect, and by taking time for myself, keeping a schedule, maintaining a healthy relationship and occasionally crying in the closet, I allow myself to be perfectly imperfect. Sure there are days where everything falls apart but more often than not, everything falls together. My daughter and my husband think I am the master of the universe and that's all that matters to me.
Steffani lives in Florida with her husband and daughter. She is an Acupuncturist and Doctor of Oriental Medicine. She specializes in pain and stress management as well as nutrition and herbal therapies. She enjoys motherhood but misses sleep dearly.