The compliment I receive the most about my writing is that I am honest (to a fault) and that I give my readers empathy. By reading my blog, you feel that you aren't alone. Some of you even admit that I make you feel more normal because my crazy life makes you feel better about your own situation. So overall, I guess it's my relatability to my readers that keeps a lot of you coming back for more.
With that being said, if you relate to what I am about to write, then I will apologize in advance. Wholeheartedly... I'm sorry.
Recently our office had a doctor come in to talk about "Stress Management." It seems whenever someone talks to me about stress I think, "I don't really have any major stress in my life." Then reality punches me in the face when I think about everything I face on a daily basis. Sure I don't have any MAJOR stressors in my life, but when you have ten million small stressors, then it begins to add up significantly.
Of course some may view this as stress... others of us just view it as another normal week for a working mom in a blended family.
We have four kids at four different schools with two different custody schedules. Not to mention piano, tutoring, soccer, cross country, basketball and two girls playing tennis. Two kids had school pictures last week, which meant haircuts. Plus the end of the month in my husband's job is exceptionally busy. He and I both will probably spend at least eight hours in the car this week carpooling kids. Every week is tough logistically, but I am proud to say we are surviving.
Although lately I haven't handled my anxiety well, I feel like I do have plenty of coping mechanisms in place to manage my stress. As a working mom, this is what I rely on to get through the week.
1) Get By With A Little Help From Your Friends
I usually feel like I have a firm grasp on my emotions, but the past two weeks has been tough. I am not proud of it, but I have not handled my emotions well. I have yelled, I have cried, and I have overall been VERY short tempered. I met a friend for a margarita the other night and I filled her in on all of the crazy in my life the past two weeks and she said, "Val, no wonder you are struggling! That's a lot!" Just talking everything out with her made me feel so much better. Having friends who validate you can be just what you need.
On Friday, I came home to a present at my back door:
After hearing about my week, my sister-in-law was sweet enough to leave me a "just because" gift. When we have friends who constantly remind us of our worth, then we are rich indeed.
2) Plan, Plan and Plan Some More
Many working moms cause themselves unnecessary stress by not being prepared for the week. As a result, they are frantically running around last minute just trying to get by. I admit I am a freak when it comes to planning, but it helps me keep my sanity!
Each week I email my babysitters a detailed email about where they need to be and when with the kids. I then copy the same email and add (in red ink) exactly where my husband Joe needs to be and when. On his email I add the weekly menu and what I will need him to do. It is truly an act of team work, but when everyone knows where they need to be, then I don't have to worry about it.
I also suggest that you include the kids by putting a detailed calendar on the wall in your kitchen (or other centrally located place). You can even involve the other parents by creating and sharing a Google calendar. My ex-husband, his wife, my husband, our kids, and I all share a Google calendar. We can all access the calendar on our cell phones and know all important information regarding the children, even when they are not with us.
3) Allow Extra Time To Avoid Being Late
One of the most stressful feelings is leaving your house knowing that there is no way you will get where you are going on time. It's that sweaty, heart racing feeling that your child may be late for an important rehearsal or practice, but there is really NOTHING you can do about it and as the parent is it COMPLETELY your fault. We can blame the kids for not being ready or for not having their bags packed, but as the adults it all falls back on us. Make sure the kids pack up their bags the night before and put them by the door. Get up earlier if you must to make sure you can leave a few minutes early.
If you are like me, then you are probably used to being right on time. I am usually not early, but I am usually on time. The problem is, if you don't allow extra time, then traffic can wreak havoc on an otherwise well planned day. It certainly can't hurt for your child to get to practice early. It eases stress for everyone in the car.
4) Make Time For Yourself
I know personally that it is tough for me to get up and I'm immediately plunged into "mom mode." Two mornings a week I have to leave home at 6:15 a.m. to drive 40 minutes to drop my son off at school in another county, turn around and drive back to drop off my daughter. Then I race to work to work eight hours in my "office job." Then it's straight back to "mom mode" with piano lessons and basketball games and soccer games and choral performances and homework and dinner and showers. Then the kids go to bed and I shift into "wife mode" when I try to connect with my husband. Did you see what was missing?
If I went seven days a week without any "me time" then I would go absolutely insane! Because of this, it is imperative that you find some time for yourself. Whether it's working out or reading or meeting friends for drinks. Carving out time for yourself can feel selfish, but as a working mother it is important for survival. I'm so thankful that I have a husband who understands that. He recently sent a group of my girlfriends and me to the beach for the weekend as part of my birthday present. I came back from that weekend renewed and ready to get back into the swing of my chaotic schedule.
So lean on your friends (and even ask for help if needed), schedule religiously, add time to give yourself a buffer when going somewhere, and look out for yourself every once in a while. Working mothers juggle a ton of balls at once (especially in a blended family), so you have to find out what works for you because a happy mom makes for a happy family!
Read more by Valerie DeLoach on her blog, Life in a Blender.