One of my favorite events in the Olympics is the balance beam. The athlete not only walks across the thin wood block, she dances! Sometimes she wobbles, increasing our awareness that regardless of how “routine” the performance—balance is at the core. The athlete stops, refocuses her attention, and makes an adjustment before continuing. As this applies in my life, when there is a wobble, I am tempted to rush across to finish my routine. The pressure to be productive is not directed just for moms, but they tend to have many roles and to-do lists that conflict with inner balance. We also have an additional talent that we bring to the beam—we multi-task.
Moms are multi-taskers; it’s what we do. Our ability to do many things simultaneously makes us the “go to” person at home, at work, and in the community. It is both a strength and vulnerability; it can derail us from ourselves. While we are in our daily lives, it seems unnatural to stop, refocus, and make an adjustment before continuing.
We are designed to expend and recover energy for healthy balance. To combat stress, we biologically need to relax. The signs of chronic stress without recovery are: Poor sleep, irritability, mood control difficulty, forgetfulness, heart palpitations, and poor nutrition. This is the “wobble” for nonathletes, it is a cue to build some recovery time into your routine.
If you are like most moms, you have a calendar—on the fridge, in your car, in your purse. It details the pulse of your family and directs the minivan in the right direction. This calendar should also be used to schedule recovery time. At this stage of your life, what do you need to recover from daily stress? Moms with young children typically need sleep. As children get older, the need for time alone is pressing. When teens are preparing to launch, moms need some peace and planning time for themselves.
These are starting points: identify a basic need. Put it on the calendar. If you write it down as an appointment it is easier to prioritize the plan. Once you establish a basic need, implement this new schedule for two weeks. Notice your mood, energy, overall health. How many days did you stick to the plan? What is the resistance, what blocks you from taking care of you? What can you do to address that? After removing barriers to your basic recovery plan, consider self care at another level.
Now that you are thinking more clearly, perhaps you identify loneliness for friends, or a wish to lose weight, or a postponed hobby interest. Everyone’s answer to those deeper questions is different, but you must stop, refocus, and make an adjustment before continuing.
In other words, moms—there is always more that will be required of you, more to be done, more needs to fill. A healthy mom is a balanced mom. Your family will appreciate the time you take for yourself after they see the benefits—not before. Give yourself permission this year to seek balance, one step at a time, recognizing that you are the “go to” person to make it happen. Remember the athlete, she not only walks across the balance beam, she dances. This year I hope you dance!
Dr. Lisa L. Marotta is a health service psychologist within the Counseling and Consulting Offices of Paul Tobin, Ph.D., and Ann Benjamin, M.Ed., ccoffices.com.