By Dr. Alessandra Wall, Owner of Life in Focus.
Becoming a mother is both a great adventure and a sort of prison sentence. You discover the gift of transcendent love, but your time is no longer yours. Your priorities shift entirely and suddenly, "you" don't even register on your own list. Your schedule revolves around the needs, wants and demands of your child.
Do as I say, not as I do
As mothers, we strive to teach our kids how to live the best lives possible. We create opportunities for growth and experiences to inspire and encourage them to dream big. However, if some of the most powerful teaching a parent can do is through modeling behavior, then many of us are struggling to effectively convey these skills to our kids because we're neglecting them in ourselves.
The price of parenthood
I used to believe that to be a good mother, I had to sacrifice my needs for those of my child. It was fine when our needs aligned, but there were times when they weren't compatible (like when I needed quiet, solitude, a thriving career or sex with my husband). I was constantly under pressure to get things done right and right away. I was tired. I felt guilty all the time for not being a good friend, for losing patience with my kids, for not always enjoying time spent with my sons or for giving up on the finer parts of grooming. I believed I had let my business partner down, and resented that my thriving business was stalling because I couldn't put in the hours to nurture it.
My story is but one among a growing number of professional mothers who struggle to be great in all they do. But, then a light bulb dawned and I realized...
It starts with making time for yourself
What my experience taught me is that we don't need to put ourselves aside to take care of our children. When we thrive, our families thrive too.
Most moms I know manage with getting by, and a few with living well, so thriving is a tall order. It's SO worth it, however, and it all starts with making time for yourself.
So why is it that we don't? Here are the most common excuses.
1. There is no time.
Many parents, and especially new moms, feel overwhelmed by all they have to do to keep their head above water. They are overbooked and have no extra time, but with the right focus, they can direct their efforts and maximize ROI.
We are overbooked and underwhelmed because we misallocate time, efforts and resources to pursuits that aren't fulfilling. By identifying what matters most, we can effectively focus our attention and thrive; cut out what is only mildly rewarding, and work toward deeply satisfying goals.
2. It's selfish!
Research demonstrates that a mother's well-being directly impacts a child's happiness and that quality time matters over quantity of time. Unfortunately, modern working mothers have set hard-to-meet standards for how much of time and attention we believe we should allocate to our children. We set ourselves up for failure, and end-up stressed and guilt-ridden.
The choice isn't between them or us. As a psychologist, coach and mother, I can tell you that the more balanced and happier you are, the better parent you become. As we take care of ourselves and reduce stress, we thrive; we are present for our children and model patience, self-care and self-love. It might not be how we thought we would teach those values, but it is a far more powerful lesson than anything children will get from a book.
3. I have no idea what I need anymore.
Many mothers struggle to identify what fulfills them. Without this insight, we cannot create goals, nor focus our efforts - -we cannot thrive. I recently surveyed several moms for a Thriving Parent coaching package that I offer, and as one mother put it: "I feel as though I've changed a lot... but I have also been in 'survival' mode for 18 mos... I'm just going through the motions w/o real thought about what I want or what I'd be excited to do. Where do I even start?"
We want to be the best mothers, partners, professionals. We have high standards we can't always meet. Making time for ourselves is a small choice that has a watershed effect on all other areas of our lives.
So start small. Take time this week to devote time to one thing that will make you feel significantly better. It's doesn't have be big, just something with a great ROI: take five minutes to day-dream, sit in silence for three minutes, or go to bed 15 minutes early.
By identifying what you need and taking small steps to get there, you'll get to a place of better balance and self-care that will allow you to be a better mother, partner and businesswoman. You can do it!
Dr. Alessandra Wall is the Owner of Life in Focus. She is a wife, mother, coach, therapist, nutritionist, CrossFit Coach and the Board Chair of Empower School. Dr. Wall understands that life requires a delicate balance. A graduate of Duke University (BA) and University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center (Ph.D.), Wall practices balance in San Diego, Calif., and coaches working professionals who want more out of life. For more, visit http://www.lifeinfocussd.com.