Did you know that American mothers works an average of 98 hours a week, between their day jobs and parenting? That’s more than TWO full time jobs! In my own life I've certainly experienced the crush of too much to do and not enough time.
10 years ago, when I became a single working (outside the home) mom of four, things like diet, exercise and washing my hair on a regular basis went out the window. My days were filled with running from work to practices and games. At home I rushed to get dinner on the table and make sure everyone’s homework was finished, all the while trying to squeeze in some actual family time.
At the end of every day I’d fall exhausted into bed, with no energy or ambition to do anything for myself. Does that sound familiar? Do you rush around every day, running from one thing to the next? At the end of the day are you emotionally and physically drained? Do all your days seem the same?
What if I told you that life doesn’t have to be spent in a frenzied rush of family and work obligations. In fact, life wasn’t meant to be that way at all! The burden of parenting is a relatively new problem in Western society. Today’s parents spend way more time running their kids to various activities and are expected to fulfill multiple roles including volunteering, coaching along with their full time job.
The good news is that there are many ways to make more space in your daily life, which will not only help you take back your time, but will also be good for family.
Learn to Say No
It always amazes me how, when faced with overwhelm and stress, many women just keep smiling and saying yes to more obligations. I see this All. The. Time. They say yes to making snacks for the class bake sale; they say yes to letting their kid have an impromptu sleepover with her entire travel soccer team; they say yes to their boss about working over the weekend to finish a budget report.
There are a lot of myths surrounding the reasons that women hesitate to say no, They don’t want to disappoint others or be viewed as selfish or lazy. Saying no might make you feel uncomfortable or guilty in the moment, but in the long run the ability to set personal boundaries and recognize when you’ve taken on too much is essential to your health and happiness.
Ask for Help
Have you ever done something that someone else could do because it was easier or quicker for you to do it yourself? Working moms are often the chief decision makers in the family. They decide everything from the weekly grocery list to the where the family is going to spend their summer vacation. Being the one in control can make it hard to delegate tasks to others.
One of my health coaching clients, Nancy is a perfect example of a busy working mom with some control issues. Nancy came to see me because she was feeling stressed and burned out at work. As we talked about her whole life, both work and home it soon emerged that Nancy, a super organized medical practice manager, was going from a high stress job to a high stress home life. Her two teenagers were involved in multiple sports and school activities, her husband worked an hour away and wasn’t available to help with carpooling the kids to where they needed to be. Plus Nancy took care of all the families medical appointments, shopping, finances and weekend plans.
Nancy recognized that she could not keep up this pace and that she needed to be willing to let others, like her husband and children, help. When I asked her if asking for help was hard, she nodded. “In my job as a manager, if anything goes wrong, I am the one who gets blamed. I do more than I should because it makes me feel more secure and in control.”
That fear was spilling over into her personal life. When I asked if there were tasks her husband could do, such as the grocery shopping, Nancy thought about it for a moment and replied “It’d be a disaster! He’d buy all the wrong stuff and spend too much money.”
Is the need to be in control driving any of your actions? Does it keep you from asking for help, because you fear that it is going to make more work for yourself? Nancy’s husband did eventually start doing the grocery shopping. And he did buy the wrong items and he did go slightly over budget. But what Nancy discovered what that letting her husband help wasn’t a disaster or the end of the world. If fact, it was totally worth it, because she suddenly has three extra hours each Saturday to do the things she wanted to do.
Are there areas in your life that you have been avoiding asking for help? These could include:
Carpooling kids to every single practice, game, appointment, etc...
Family parties holiday/birthday parties
Perhaps you can set up a carpooling with other parents, so that you are only picking up two practices a week instead of five. Or you hire a housekeeper (they aren’t that expensive) to do a deep clean once every two weeks, so you don’t have to spend your saturday morning scrubbing the tub. The point it to start thinking about ways to change what is not serving you by inviting others to help.
Stop Trying to Do More
Another common trait I see in many of my clients is the habit of doing more rather than less.
In the quest for balance and to have it all, women will extend their days and try to go, go, go and then wonder why their goals fail and they are even more stressed and burnt out.
They’ll get up an hour earlier to squeeze in a workout or stay up an hour or two later to squeeze in some homework. What if we stopped squeezing more into our schedule and instead gave it room to breath?
Make a deal with yourself that the next time you want to add an activity into your life you must first get rid of something. If you want to start taking a yoga class, you have to give up making dinner on those nights and instead ask your spouse or kids to make it instead. If you want to start on your Great American Novel, you have step down as the PTA chair, and use that time for writing.
Just because you can do anything doesn’t mean you should. Giving up activities isn’t a sign of failure, it’s a sign of growth.
Let Go of of the Things That No Longer Serve You
Julie, a fresh faced twenty something who was a star basketball player in high school, came to see me because she was trying to find balance in her life and make time for exercise and eating better. She was about six months into her first professional job and was working long hours, eating a lot of take out and not getting to the gym as much as she wanted. Because of her love of basketball, Julie had coached a local girls high school basketball team all through college, while working and going to school full time. As we discussed what her current schedule looked liked, Julie shared that she was still coaching her local girls basketball team.
As we looked at Julie’s schedule and discussed the non-negotiables (like her job) as well as the things she could give up, I brought up her coaching.
“Is this something you have to do right now?”
She hemmed and hawed and I asked her if it was difficult to think about not coaching basketball. She frowned. “Yeah, I’ve always coached or played ball. It’s who I am!”
Julie failed to recognize that coaching no longer served her. She was in a different place in her life and did not have the attention and energy coaching required. And not only was coaching adding hours of extra work onto her day, she no longer enjoyed it. It had become just one more thing on her to do list. But she was reluctant to let it go because she thought it signaled failure.
You do not have to keep doing something just because you’ve always done it. If you have volunteered at your church for years, it’s okay to step away and let someone else do it. It doesn’t mean you can never volunteer again, it just means you need a break at the moment. If you are always in charge of your family Thanksgiving dinner, that doesn’t mean that you have to host it every year for the rest of your life. Let someone else cook the turkey for a change.
Setting personal boundaries by learning to say no, delegating to other people and stopping activities that no longer serve you are all ways to create more space in your life.
To help you get started, download my free Perfect Day workbook, which will help you get clear on how you want to be and feel in your life.
Then be sure to connect with me at our Barefoot Creatives Facebook group and share your biggest AHA moments and how you plan to create more space in your daily routine.
Create a Life You Love -