What if you had a whole extra hour of “me” time in your day? What would you do? Exercise? Read a book without pictures? Take a bath? Spend some quality time with the hubby? Actually call a friend to catch up?
Chances are, as a mom with young kids, you probably feel maxed out and the promise of an extra hour a day sounds like a fairytale. But, here’s the truth, you live in a great time to be a mom! We have washing machines, dishwashers, even Roombas! The household tasks that used to define womanhood have been slashed to a fraction of the time they used to take and more than ever, husbands are pitching in too! So why do we all feel so busy and frantic? I’ll tell you a little secret, you don’t have to feel that way. You have the power to transform the tone of your life and bring back that “me” time. Here are five seemingly small things that are stealing away your “me” time.
Put down that phone!
Depending on the source, it appears that American’s spend roughly 4-5 hours a day on their phones! Let me repeat that FOUR TO FIVE HOURS A DAY! That’s crazy! That’s more than the amount of sleep you get with a newborn! This constant multitasking is ruining our ability to be in the moment and focus on the task at hand as well as hurting interpersonal relationships.
So, how do you do it? It’s hard. I have to recommit myself to this process regularly. First, I recommend not carrying your phone with you around the house. Pick a central location, turn the volume up so you don’t miss a call, and let it sit there. Make a commitment to yourself about when and how long you’re going to use your phone.
To reduce stress and improve sleep, it is recommended not sleep with your phone in your bedroom. It’s also recommended to avoid checking your phone for the first hour you’re awake or the final hour before bed. Beyond that, it’s up to you to determine what’s best for your lifestyle. There are several apps designed to help you break cell phone addiction. Moment – Screen Time Tracker (for iOS) and QualityTime (for Android) will tell you how many minutes you’ve been on your phone and what apps you’re using. I was shocked to see my average daily use came in just under 6 hours. YIKES!
Turn off the TV!
Binge watching is a way of life in modern day America. I’m totally guilty of it too. I was so embarrassed recently when I mentioned on Facebook that I needed a new show to watch and 90% of the suggestions I got back were shows I’d already watched. Ouch! This comes back to the multitasking issue just like your phone. Why just wash the dishes when you can wash the dishes and watch TV? Why just bathe the kids when you can bathe the kids and catch up on your favorite show?
There are two big reasons this TV habit is a problem. Once again, it diminishes our ability to focus on the task at hand. When we focus on too many things at once it leaves us mentally exhausted and then, all we want to do is veg out and watch TV. Talk about a vicious cycle!
The bigger problem, we are modeling this behavior for our kids. They see having the TV on all day, all the time, is acceptable. I don’t know about you, but we have frequent TV battles with our 3 year-old who is just devastated when mommy says it’s time to turn the TV off. I wonder where he gets that from? The average adult American watches 33 hours of TV a week. Imagine if we stopped the binging and focused on just watching the shows we really love, an episode or two at a time, with intentional focus. Wouldn’t that be great? I’m not advocating for chucking out the TV entirely – although, if you think you can do that, great! – I’m suggesting we just need to be more intentional about what we watch and how quickly we consume it.
With these screen time issues – both phone and TV – accountability will make you successful at making life long changes. Set some small, attainable goals and share them with your husband, your best friend or your mom, whoever. Ask them to check in on your progress and keep you accountable. Future you and your future family will thank you.
Stop making separate meals!
Okay, I’m going to switch gears on you here. Let’s talk about the kitchen, one of our biggest time sucks. And let’s talk about setting up our kids to be successful healthy eaters as adults. How many of you feel like a short order cook? That, my friends, is sucking away your time. I recently had the opportunity to attend a webinar about child feeding. The instructor, a registered dietitian, explained that once our kids hit toddlerhood, there are clear responsibilities for feeding. As parents, we decide what, when and where. The child decides how much of each item provided to eat. Let me draw out the key point here, we get to decide the “what.” So, if you are letting your kids dictate the food options at each meal, you are adding extra stress to your life and theirs by shifting your responsibility on to them.
I’m a big fan of the 80/20 rule with respect to most things in life. So, I propose that, at least 80 percent of the time, you need to be preparing one meal with minimal “alterations” for personal taste. Reserve the 20 percent of meals for the times you want to eat anchovies and you know your kids would never touch them or for the times you want to prepare a meal for the family that contains a known allergen for one person who will need an alternate meal.
So what does this look like in real life? Well, you tell your kids we’re having grilled cheese for lunch. You make them a kid friendly grilled cheese and, if that isn’t your taste, you make a more grown up version for yourself. At dinner, you serve spaghetti but you make sure to also serve bread and veggies so if someone doesn’t love spaghetti they have other options. In each of these cases, your prep is streamlined and the kid feels in control because they get to pick how much and what of the offered food. Can I also point out, if this process is followed, there is no meal time fighting either? If that isn’t a time saver, I don’t know what is! Please comment below if you’d like to hear more about what I learned from this webinar. It was fascinating!
Have you ever had a mom friend call to get together and you feel like you have to decline because “x” is hanging over your head? Chances are, you’ve been procrastinating on “x.” Procrastinating turns an unlikeable task into an impassable mountain that at some point has to be dealt with. The truth is the longer you leave that yucky chore, the yuckier it’s going to get and the longer it’s going to take to deal with. That one spot on the carpet becomes a veritable Dalmatian and now you need to pull out the carpet cleaner rather than just the spray and a rag. To beat this roadblock, start a procrastination list and add to it whenever you come across a task you just don’t want to do. Once or twice a week, set aside 30 minutes to tackle a procrastination task. The time limit will help you get over the hump of starting because you know the unpleasantness will end. If you tackle unsavory tasks more frequently and in smaller chunks, not only will it keep the tasks more manageable but it will save you time in the long run. Plus, you’ll just feel like a Rockstar!
I was recently at a Bible study with women of varying ages. One of the older ladies piped up and said when she was raising young kids stories of terrible births seemed to be a way of “one-upping” each other. Now, she observed, being busy has become a badge of honor for moms with young families. I’m going to pound this home again and again. Americans are too busy and too overscheduled. If you feel like you don’t have any time for you, it might be because you have too much scheduled for everyone else.
Small children learn best just through play, so really consider if the sports and activities your child is involved in are helping or harming their development. Look at you and your husband’s schedule, are you running in different directions all the time due to work, church and community commitments? Maybe it’s time to pare back and pick only a couple of activities that the whole family can do together. I recently heard of a family that ditched a bunch of activities in favor of clogging because it was something for all genders and all ages. I say, “more power to them!”
Oh man, I feel like I just dropped a mountain of stuff on you to weed through. I’m sure it seems daunting but I want you to pick one or two things to focus on and then tell me about your goals in the comments below or email me personally. Sometimes just saying it out loud on purpose makes that goal even more real. I’ve even included this free printable you can use to write down your goal and why you’re making that goal. Because, let’s be honest, without a reason, making a big life change is kind of pointless. So, think long and hard about why you want to make the change. Is it to spend more focused time with your kids? Is it to cut back on mommy guilt? Is it to read more? Or exercise? Or start reading again? Whatever the reason make that goal and the driver visible in your life and you can do it! I know you can!