Hi everyone! I’m slowly but surely getting my act together and getting closer to being able to get back into my blogging routine. I so appreciate your patience! In the meantime, I’m happy to introduce Willow from My Own Trail. She’s a busy mom who finds time to keep active and make her health and family top priorities. Read on to find out how she does it all! -Maryea
Hi, my name is Willow and I blog over at My Own Trail. My blog, like me, is scattered and long-winded. I tend to ramble on about the things I’m interested in: fitness, running, healthy living, food, my family, work, and anything else that I decide is worth writing about.
I have been a regular follower of Maryea’s for quite some time. I love her blog! Being a wife and mother of two who strives to live a healthy active lifestyle, I can relate to Maryea. So, when I read that she is struggling with balancing everything right now, I found myself nodding at the computer screen. I, too, constantly feel like I’m going in a thousand different directions as I attempt to balance it all. I think most of us do.
So, I did what anyone who is struggling to balance everything does…I emailed Maryea and volunteered to write a guest post for her blog…because apparently I needed one more thing on my plate.
Seriously, though, I really wanted to write a guest post because I think we, especially women and mothers, tend to feel like we are the only one struggling. We look at other women and we compare ourselves to them. We see how much more successful/healthy/thin/organized/etc. they are and we wonder why we can’t be just like them.
The Internet and blogs are great, but they can really exaggerate these issues. I LOVE reading healthy living and parenting blogs, but I often find myself wishing I had the house/job/life that another blogger has. But, you know what, we’re all human, and we all have lives and issues that go beyond the computer screen. We only see one part of someone’s life when we read a blog, and that can be dangerous. So, I wanted to write this article to bring to light the fact that we all struggle. We are all trying to make it work in this crazy, chaotic thing called life.
So, how do we do it all? Well, the first step is admitting that we can’t. Huh? Wait a minute…isn’t this post supposed to be about making it all work? Sure…but, none of us are capable of doing everything for everyone all the time. There are limited hours in the day and it’s impossible to do everything. So, tip #1 is about realizing our limitations:
Recognize that you are only one person and you cannot be everything to everyone
This is something I really struggle with. I have a really hard time saying no, and I don’t like to disappoint people. So, I tend to take on way more than I can handle. But, this isn’t healthy. For the past four years, I have been working on a second master’s degree (because one just wasn’t enough). In addition to part-time graduate school, I also: worked full-time, taught classes part-time, raised children, helped run a household, tried to find time to exercise and train for three half marathons, and took on a few major projects at work. Last semester (I work at a college, so I always discuss time in semesters), I took on way too much.
I really felt it, and for the first time I had to let some things go. It was tough for me, but I felt better once I did it. I was literally making myself sick with stress and anxiety because my plate was too full. So, I gave myself permission to scale back and I immediately felt better. You have to determine what works for you, not everyone else.
Once you determine what things are worth your energy, you have to figure out when and how you are going to do them. So, tip #2 is:
Make a schedule
I’m not talking about a rigid schedule…unless that’s what works for you. You just need to figure out how and when you are going to fit everything in. For example, I know that I want to exercise 5 – 6 days a week. Since I work full-time, it’s difficult for me to fit it into my schedule. If I don’t plan for it, I’ll never do it. I used to go to the gym on my lunch hour.
I scheduled it into my calendar as a “meeting” so that I wouldn’t book other meetings at that time and treated it as a mandatory obligation. If you’re lucky enough to have a gym at your workplace like I am, this is a great option. Unfortunately, this arrangement stopped working for me a while ago. I wasn’t getting enough time at the gym and I was feeling stressed about finding the time to go between meetings and other work obligations, so I had to find a new solution, which brings me to tip #3.
Sure, I just told you to make a schedule and now I’m telling you to be flexible. Jeez…I’m really being helpful, huh? However, I don’t mean that you should just ignore your schedule. Instead, I mean that you should understand that sometimes life will require you to make adjustments to your schedule, either short-term or long-term. Sometimes you’ll be really busy for a few weeks and have to rearrange your schedule. Other times, you’ll find that the schedule you created just isn’t working at all and needs to be changed completely. This is what happened to me a few weeks ago. I realized that my lunchtime exercise schedule wasn’t working for me anymore, so I changed it around. Now, I get up really early (between 4:50 and 5:00 AM) so that I can exercise before work.
I leave the house while the kids are still sleeping and get back just as they are waking up. So, I get to see them and help them get ready for school/daycare, but I also get to exercise for an hour. Yeah, it’s tough getting up that early, but it works for me. It might not work for you, so you’ll have to figure out how to arrange your schedule so that it fits in your life.
It’s so easy to get caught up in feeling like there are so many things that need your time and attention, but really, very little is actually that important. This is why it’s necessary to understand and determine what is important to you. That brings us to tip #4:
Understand what’s important
This is different than #1 because I’m not suggesting that you eliminate more things from your life. Instead, you need to really think about what is important to you and worth your time and energy. This will help you determine what to take on in the future and will help you if you do end up having to eliminate more things from your life. For me, my family is top priority.
I refuse to take more time away from my kids than I already do because of my work schedule. So, I don’t take on a lot of obligations that require me to be away from them in the evenings and on the weekends. That’s my family time.
I also want to make sure I keep my marriage healthy, so I make sure to spend quality time with my husband. Even if we’re just sitting on the couch watching a funny show or talking about our days, we need that time to stay connected. A special date every couple of months is also nice.
I also value my friendships and make sure that I find time every few weeks to get together with my closest girlfriends. Luckily, some of my friends are runners, so I can hang out with them and exercise at the same time…how’s that for multi-tasking?
Health and fitness is also really important to me, so I make sure I find time for exercise and healthy food prep. Anyway, I could go on and on listing what’s important to me, but that isn’t really necessary. What really matters is what’s important to you.
Of course, even though we all have priorities and ideal versions of what life should be like, the harsh reality is that sometimes we’re going to get into a phase where it’s just too much. You might have a new baby that is taking a lot of your time, or be taking on extra work to make some money, or just have a few weeks that are really busy. Regardless of the reason, sometimes we just can’t do it all. That brings us to the final tip:
Be gentle with yourself and be willing to let some things go, even if it’s only temporary.
I am very committed to serving my family healthy, whole foods. I thoroughly enjoy spending time in the kitchen making them healthy, homemade meals. However, sometimes life is too busy and I have to be able to be flexible. In those times, I turn to “healthy” convenience foods like Annie’s Mac-n-Cheese or simple meals like sandwiches or scrambled eggs.
I used to get mad at myself for taking the “easy” route, but I don’t any more. My kids are healthy and happy and a few “quick” meals aren’t going to change that. They get more time with me during those busy days because I’m spending my limited time with them instead of in the kitchen. So, give yourself permission to take shortcuts and let some things go. In the end, everyone will be happier for it.
If you made it all the way through this rambling post, thank you! I hope my tips have helped in some way. It’s tough balancing it all. But, at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is you and your family. We all have different lifestyles and situations, and what works for one person doesn’t always work for someone else. You can’t compare yourself to anyone else. Just be true to yourself and everything will work out. The world won’t end if you take on one less thing.