This article comes from Rebecca Coleman, a foodie and a blogger, whose first cookbook, “Aquafabulous,” was just published last year. Today she’s talking about ways for busy moms to maintain their sanity — gentle reminders to let go and embrace ‘me’ time like your mental health depends on it. Because it does!
Last week, I was out at a business lunch, when a friend of mine walked in through the door. I was both surprised and happy to see her, and we spent a few minutes catching up. She has two small children and is a stay-at-home mom, so this was a rare occurrence.
One of the things we talked about was a recent solo trip she had taken to Europe last summer. It was the first time, she said, she felt like herself again. Pre-kids, pre-responsibilities. No one to check with, no one to consider, just her. Responsible only to herself. It was a real, as she called it, “shot in the arm.”
My friend’s story is not rare. Like many of you out there, I can identify with it. I am a solo parent, I run my own business, and I don’t really have support. It’s me. It’s all on me. And there are times when carrying that weight gets real exhausting. I spent years staring down the barrel of burn out, or actually being burnt out. But I’m now trying to change all that, and live my life in a less busy, more sustainable way.
In some ways, feminism has let us down. I’m a proud feminist, but the concept of having it all, the career, the family, the house, the vacation, the pursuit of that can be a dangerous thing. It’s impossible to sustain that pace. Something’s gotta give. And for many of us, that “something” has been our mental health.
The thing is, we live in a society that glorifies the hustle. I once asked Gary Vee if he was ever afraid that he’d burn out, and his response was “I just don’t think about that.” But the reality is, whether you think about it or not, it’s likely to happen to you.
Let’s talk about some ways to keep your sanity that doesn’t involve a giant bottle of “mommy juice” (aka red wine). No judgement.
I remember taking a few minutes longer in the bathroom that actually needed just to get a few minutes to myself when my kid was young. Today, with a teenager, it’s a lot easier, but try to schedule in breaks for yourself. Sign up for a night class, put the gym in your calendar. If knitting is your jam, make sure you put aside time for that. Go for a walk on your lunch break, not for exercise, per se, but to get outside. It’s really, really important to make time to recharge.
Get off your phone (just for a bit)
So, I work in social media. Like, it’s literally my job to be on my phone. And, like many of you, I find myself mindlessly scrolling through Instagram while at a coffee shop or while waiting in line at the grocery store. It’s like we can’t allow our brains to ever take a break. But here’s the thing: it’s okay to do nothing for a few minutes. To just hang. Look around. Notice your environment. Strike up a conversation with the person in line behind you. Pet a puppy. Flirt with a baby. Your phone isn’t evil. It’s a fabulous tool. But use it mindfully.
Here’s the other issue with social media: it creates unrealistic expectations. Every time you see one of your Instagram heroes posting about their perfect life, remember to take that with a grain of salt. I guarantee the reality of their life is a lot more like yours. The face that people put on social media is carefully curated, it’s not real life.
Connect with other adult humans
I have days when I look back and realize I’ve only spoken to my teenager and my cat, and not had a real-life interaction with another adult human, other than the Starbucks barista. I book coffee and wine dates with my girlfriends, and work dates in coffee shops with my other self-employed friends. Be sure to make time to connect with your spouse, not just over kids and work and household stuff, but life stuff, too. We need human connection to feel whole.
Okay. I’m not even going to sugar-coat this one: it’s hard. I like things done the way I like things done, but the reality is, if I’m to maintain my sanity and get my kid/spouse/mother-in-law to help out around the house, I have to give up a modicum of control. They are going to do it differently, maybe not to my standards, but that’s okay. Breathe, mamas.
Banish the mom guilt
I was always the mom with the homemade cupcakes, the one who made sure her kid went to school with homemade cookies in his lunch. There are things I have pretty high standards about, and when I don’t meet those standards, I am my own worst critic. I’m not super proud of that. The next time you start to beat yourself up over something, ask yourself: “if I were having this conversation with my girlfriend right now, what would I say?” and I’ll bet you’ll be kinder to yourself.
I’m not there yet. I still feel tons of mom guilt and have moments when I berate myself for slacking. But then last night an event I was supposed to go to got cancelled, and I ended up on the couch eating Chinese takeout and watching a new Netflix documentary in my pjs. It was awesome, and I didn’t even feel one bit guilty.
Okay, maybe a little… but I got over it. And I feel better for it today.
About the Author: Rebecca Coleman is a foodie and a blogger, whose first cookbook, “Aquafabulous,” was just published last year. She teaches classes in Social Media Marketing at BCIT and UBC, takes photos of everything she eats, and is mom to a teenager and a cat. Her busy life is fuelled by too much coffee and the occasional(ish) glass of red wine. You’ll find her at www.cookingbylaptop.com.