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.