Making the Most Out of Your Minutes

We are certainly not all knowing. We aren’t even half-knowing. But what we do know from years of trying to do it all (which, p.s., is a total impossibility) is that you can’t do it all. Admitting it early in your career as a mother will make your evaluation of yourself a whole lot easier to take. Cutting yourself some slack before you start the day will soften the blow when you can’t work out, clean your house, do the laundry, go to work, take your kids to gym class, do some homework, make dinner, and oh yeah, get yourself dressed.

The list of never-ending responsibilities goes on and on. Being a mom is no joke. While the actual number of people who need you, want you, and can’t function without you can be small (for most of us, this is a low single-digit number), their demands are high. As a result, the days are long, and the nights are short, unless your little one is still not sleeping. Then the nights are even longer! We are here to offer a few pointers from a couple of girls in the know who are still trying to know how to make the most of our days and the most of our time.

First things first, plan. Plan, plan, and then plan again (preferably in pencil so you can erase). Make a road map of what you want and what you need your day to look like. If it seems unrealistic or nearly impossible, then move some of your stops to another day. With less on your plate, it will make you less anxious about satisfying a long list of activities.

Anticipate what you might need and whose help you may need. While a crystal ball showing you what may go wrong and what will go right does not exist (although if you find one, please share!), knowing what you can and cannot accomplish alone is helpful. Things like extra milk, extra diapers, and extra clothes don’t take up a whole lot of room, but they do make a whole lot of difference in your day. Think about everything that could go wrong, and plan for that. Taking a little extra may make your bag a touch heavier, but it will make the potential downsides much lighter.

Be Efficient. The best athletes, surgeons, and technicians are efficient. Whether they are efficient in their footwork out on the court or efficient in their hand movements in the operating room, their lack of wasted movements moves them to their destination faster. Now, while we don’t expect you to be Serena Williams, try and mirror this in your day-to-day routine. Doing a couple of things at once (although texting and driving is NOT on this list) will help you bang out more than one task at one time. That’s why they made hands-free breast pumps!

Shut off, and tune in (to your family). We as mothers have definitely learned this lesson the hard way. Hearing your child ask if your Apple product is more important than their newfound ability to ride a bike is pretty awful. They are the apples of your eye, and trying to make the most of your time together is key. When it comes to the end, you won’t ask yourself if you sent enough texts, but you will ask yourself if you spent enough time together. Staying present with your plus one and plus ones will alleviate a lot of the guilt you feel when you are gone and ensures that your time together is more meaningful. Remember, it’s about quality not quantity.

Don’t worry about how you look, how they look, and how it looks! Although your desire for things to look just right is right on in our appearance-obsessed culture, we are all filled with flaws. Real life is not as glossy as your Instagram feed would make it seem. Filters will filter out the bad days (who posts the bad hair days on Facebook?), but they don’t represent the truth. Be mindful of what you take away from images on social media; they aren’t always reality. Bottom line: if your 2-year-old wants to wear her PJs to the park, sometimes it’s better just to go  with it. While you will have to put your foot down on some things (she is not wearing Minnie Mouse PJs in your family pictures), you have to pick your battles. Feeling good is way better than looking good.

Take time for yourself. An exhausted, frustrated, and spent mother, like a muscle that has been utterly fatigued, is not going to function as well without a break. We all need a day, or at least a few minutes off. Don’t be ashamed to ask for a break, a mini time out, or a breather. It doesn’t make you a bad mother it makes you a smart woman. Knowing when you have hit your breaking point will help avoid a way bigger problem.

Let the little things go. For fear of sounding trite or clichéd, we can’t stress this one enough. As doctors, we have seen a lot of bad stuff, to say the least. The kind of stuff that takes your breath away, brings you to tears, and makes you thank your lucky stars that you are still alive. And while many things in medicine bring us sadness, they have also helped bring us a lot of perspective. Appreciate what you have and who you have. You never know what could happen tomorrow. The small stuff will work itself out, trust us…doctor’s orders.

Fitting It All In: Maximizing Your Day

How do you get to work, work out, and work on your kid’s homework, all in one day? Trust us, it’s nearly impossible. We fight the same battle every day. Trying to figure out how to fit it all in is a daily struggle. And trying to fit it all in with a smile on your face and some positivity is even harder! While we don’t really have any magic bullet and, unfortunately, have not found a way to add extra hours to the clock (we’ve tried), we have figured out a way to be as efficient as possible—walking and talking, running and listening, watching and writing. Here are a few tips from two busy moms to get as much done as possible in those waking hours.

Start the day early. As much as a five AM wakeup call seems ungodly, it is a great way to get things going (that and a shot of espresso!). The early-morning wakeup call offers you some quiet time before your brood beckons you to their bedside (say that five times fast!). The “Mom” calls come early, but if you can beat them to the punch, you might be able to squeeze some you time in. While we use this time to sweat and burn some calories, it is also a way to let loose and set the cadence for the rest of our day. Exercise does way more than just burn calories; the release of endorphins improves your mental state and focuses you for the rest of the day.

Whether it’s a cycling class, a run, or a Pilates session, whatever gets your blood going will likely get your brain going as well. While we get it’s hard to get out of bed when it’s dark and cold, it may just provide you with more motivation than a Starbucks trenti (did you know they had something bigger than a venti?)! On the days that your kids are up early and you can’t go before they cock-a-doodle-doo, take them with you. Maybe invest in a jogging stroller. The car is a great place to nap, so why wouldn’t the jogging stroller do the same trick? Even if you can’t fit it in but you need your fix, play tag, lift them in the air, and clean up their toys. Although unconventional, if your kids are anything like ours you will be sweating in no time! And don’t underplay getting to and from work. Walk or run (did we really say run?) to and from the office. This is a great way to save money (and the environment) and get your blood going. Keep a mini shoe collection under your desk, an extra pair of underwear/bras, some deodorant, and even a dress (trust us, it will get some good use). You may even consider splurging on a hair dryer. It will “dry” away all the evidence!

Listen to music as much as possible—you don’t need to jam out for hours, but some good tunes on your way to and from work will reset your head and help focus you. We have found this is also a good trick when writing, studying, and even completing tasks. We all need a zone-out/Zen-out session from time to time. It gives you time to decompress and recollect your thoughts. Music has a way of doing this that is unlike any other medium. While we too love a good Bravo reality TV show, it can be a bit more distracting. Definitely get your fix of Real Housewives, but maybe not every day. Reading is also an excellent way to let your mind go; a good novel can literally transport you to another century. Book clubs with friends and even your kids are a great way to get conversations going.

Set aside email/work time. Whether you work in or out of the house, the emails are constant. They are literally non-stop. Trying to stay on top of them can be exhausting. It can also detract from your time at home, time with your kids, and time with your partner. Pick two to three times a day where you return emails, respond to text messages, and return phone calls. The worst thing we can do is be a slave to our phones (and we are culprits of this in the highest order)—it distracts us from our family, detracts from the flow of our day, and can be downright depressing. We all have to work, and we all have to take care of business. But if we are more efficient with our time, we can accomplish a whole lot more.

Make meals matter. Whether it be with your family, your friends, or with your co-workers, put your phone down, and turn the TV off. Meals can be a great time to communicate. You don’t have to make the food (we get it), but you do have to eat. Use your mealtime to make the most of your day. Go on a date with your partner. While it doesn’t have to be a big to do, it can do big things for your relationship. Kids bring with them a whole new world. The nonstop “Mommy, I need you” can wear you down. Remember that time alone with your partner is important. And while you may not make it to Bali or the Bahamas for a week’s kid-free vacation, you can make it to your local bar for a beer! Put time aside for you and your partner. It may be the necessary ingredient for a long and healthy relationship.

Write as much down as possible. As much as you think, “Yeah, I’ll remember that,” you will forget it. So become tight with your calendar. It will make sure you don’t miss a beat (or an important event)! Be it Google, Microsoft Outlook, or an old-school refrigerator door with a magnet, write things down. Whether it be your kids’ school activities, your shopping list, or when your bills are due, this will help you remember who needs to be where when and what needs to be done when. Being aware of what’s coming up will alleviate anxiety because it will allow you to plan. It will also allow you to see when you need extra help.

Don’t be a martyr. Ask for help, and let others help you. While you are almost superwoman, you still can’t fly! As women, we hate asking others for anything. We take one more, add another thing to our plate, and say yes to another task. Know your limits, and don’t be afraid to set them. Spreading yourself thin will lead to exhaustion, exasperation, and a less than ideal outcome.

Try to plan for what’s to come (and not necessarily the next five and ten years; that’s just not possible). Plan for the immediate foreseeable events. For example, lay out your clothes for both you and your kids the night before. Mornings can be stressful, and this can alleviate the “oh no, where are those shoes?” moments. Keep a good weather app on your phone; it can save you from wearing your favorite suede boots in the pouring rain! While you won’t be able to plan away every problem, conquering a few things will help alleviate some of the stress and anxieties that we all feel.

While we certainly don’t have all of the answers and most definitely lay awake at night thinking of all the things we didn’t do that day rather than all that we did do, we try to use the hours we are awake in the best way possible. Plan, plot, proceed, and prepare. But don’t forget to play; unfortunately, once we are out of school, the last “p” is often forgotten. Put it back in your day; it makes a difference in your mood and can often make you more productive. And remember that, no matter how much you accomplish, it will never feel like enough. We all feel this way. It’s a part of being a mom. Welcome to the club!