I didn't take a shower until long after the sun went down tonight. When I finally ran the water, my day was just about over. It was defeating to stand there in the warm water, replaying what happened and trying to figure out where the time went. I had the best of intentions to put myself together this morning. My plan was to jog first then shower and get dressed for the day. But despite the fact that I threw on my running pants and sneakers at 6:30 a.m. when the kids got up, I never made it out the door for a quick loop. Instead, I spent the day rushing around doing all the things I usually do (shuttling kids, cleaning up, trying to juggle part-time work and writing) when suddenly, it was 7pm. I was bathing my children and all I wanted to do was jump in there with them and scrub away the mud from the park, the chicken nugget crumbs, the Elmer's glue, the perspiration. Even as I savored their adorable bath time, I felt like a film had settled over my skin.
Until I had my children, I never really appreciated what it felt like to get to dinnertime and wonder what you really accomplished that day -- yet feel exhausted. The reason, I'm learning, is that many caregivers don't perceive the things we do for our families in the course of a day as real "accomplishments." I would say besides the debate and discussion that comes with working in a busy newsroom, what I miss most from my full-time professional life is that feeling of relief, exhilaration, and pure joy from making a deadline, finishing a project or just closing up shop for the day. The reality is that moms never get to wrap up and enjoy a respite before the next day's work begins, because the work is never done. As my mom wisely shared with me early on in my motherhood journey, there's always another load of laundry, milk to buy and dishes to wash -- This from a marathon runner with two masters degrees, a slew of writing awards and a mountain of philanthropic work filling her time.
But this isn't a rant about how hard it is to be a mom -- you already know that. I'm writing about my day because I received some really valuable advice this week from a life coach who has been sharing helpful insights with newer moms trying to brave the transition to motherhood. Looking ahead to the New Year, Rebecca Rodskog of Rodskog Change Consulting (www.rodskog.com) encourages moms to take the time to celebrate their achievements - even the very mundane.
Here are few of her ideas:
1. Sit down for 1⁄2 an hour and write a list of all you did this year -- make sure to include everything -- not just the things that you set out to do at the beginning of the year, but all the other things that came up along the way (and yes, keeping the family in clean clothes all year counts)! It may help to go month by month.
2. To knock #1 up a notch, have a 2008 celebration party with your family (maybe on New Years Eve?) where you all get to do is talk about what you did with your kids and spouse -- have them make a list, too -- and share! And then eat cake to celebrate.
3. At the end of each day, write down at least three things that you did that day. Again, the little things totally count (for some newborn mommies, this may be getting a shower!). If doing this daily is too much, try doing it weekly, maybe with your spouse or children during dinner.
I'm sitting down to do #3 right now. I won't bore you with the minute details -- but between potty training, a kid with pink eye, buying holiday gifts, writing for an hour, conference call for an hour, paying bills, sending a couple of emails for the school holiday party, walking to the library for an afternoon puppet show, making dinner, bathing the twins and finally tucking them in, I guess it's no wonder I'm beat. It feels good to get this list down, though.
Try it when you're feeling deflated about how much you "achieve" in a day -- especially if you are not working in the professional world anymore or are between jobs. It does help to see it in writing. I guess we never outgrow that innate desire for a gold star. Maybe my New Year's resolution is to start embracing all the things I do for my family as real achievements, especially on those days when I haven't found the time to take a shower, or run, or get through everything on my to-do list. I'm also going to resolve (as I do every day) to find more time for me. As you celebrate 2009, don't forget to celebrate you and take time for yourself. Happy New Year!
For more insights on motherhood and the pursuit of wellness in mind, body and spirit, check out The Well Mom www.thewellmom.com and read more of Rodskog's advice for patting yourself on the back.