“I don’t know how you do it!” It’s a phrase I often hear, usually in response to my tired appearance, jam-packed calendar, or penchant for arriving at all my obligations at the very last minute. It’s equal parts pacifying my disheveled state and championing my tendency to overcommit, overschedule and down-right overdo my entire life.
But it’s what I do. I’m a working mom.
I want to give my all to my family, my friends, my career, my extra curriculars, etc. Oh, and I want to do everything that I used to do before I had 4 kids, a husband, and a full-time job. So, phrases like “I don’t know how you do it” or “Do you ever sleep” seem to be validating my efforts while helping me squash the awful feeling of guilt that is so familiar to working moms.
Guilt. And being a Mom.
They go together so well there’s now a term: Mom Guilt. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably felt it. I definitely do. I feel it so often that I’ve adapted my thought process to not let it consume me. Instead, I’m trying to channel my constant stream of mom guilt into gratefulness. How noble and unoriginal of me, right? Books, blogs, and other resources have had this same idea, but I find it helpful to hear how others have adapted their outlook on life to be more grateful. So here’s what I’m working on so far:
Looking at things differently
You may have guessed it, but my life is chaotic. I’d like to say it’s controlled chaos, but I’m embracing it as a chance to “show my kids real life stuff” through everyday tasks that can be looked at as opportunities.
1. Chatting in the Car. Certainly not a novel idea, but I’m the first to admit that the video screens make for quieter, calmer car rides, but since getting a vehicle without screens (not my intention, but a blessing in disguise), I’ve noticed that my kids talk to me a lot more. It’s nice to hear about their days and talk about things they see outside. I mean they’re a captive audience as you bus them to and fro, why not use it as bonding time?
2. One-on-One Grocery Shopping. I’ll admit that it’s easier to order online and pick up but bringing one little with for weekly errands is really killing two birds with one stone. The little one that comes with gets to choose the snacks for the week, reads me the grocery list, or lets me teach them about choosing the right fruit or veggies, and hopefully giggles at my silly driving of the cart. It usually costs me a treat in the check-out line, but I don’t even mind because I enjoyed it so much!
3. Family Members pull their weight. Working moms can’t do everything. I’ve admitted that fact and you should too. Parenting at our house is as equal as it can be. We still have our usual duties, but my husband & kids are not above helping with laundry or dishes, cleaning toilets, and taking out the trash. My older kids will help make dinner, bake, or mow the yard. Having them help makes them so proud of their role in the family and it takes something off of my plate.
Managing my own energy
My second tip is to prioritize your time and energy for what is important to you. This is not easy and I often have to redirect myself. Simply stated, I would love to be a rockstar mom who has “Pinterest”-worthy snacks and crafts sent with their kids each day. But I don’t have time. Instead, I send mediocre snacks that I bought at the grocery store. I’m working on forgiving myself of these impossible standards that do not energize me. Instead, I’m spending my energy on how grateful I am for these life hacks that may also help you.
1. Meal Planning. This idea used to intimidate me because I thought you had to have a sophisticated, uber healthy meal plan. That’s not the case. Mine is not fancy. It’s food that we have in our fridge, freezer and pantry planned into meals that most of us like but are also relatively healthy. Another perk to this is that far less food goes to waste AND we grab fast food far less than we used to.
2. Carpooling. Thank goodness for our carpool families! It is life-changing for our large, active, family. Finding families that live near us to decrease trips across town to the gymnastics club or hockey arena. Not only does it save gas, but carpooling allows us to have some more coveted evenings at home during the work week. If you have active kids and don’t have a carpool-I highly recommend you set one up!
3. Gadgets and Appliances. I am bursting with gratefulness for the amazing little devices that allow me to accomplish so much at one time. I literally start the dishwasher, throw a load of laundry in the washer (and maybe one in the dryer too), start the robot vacuum, and toss some food in the air fryer all virtually at the same time. I can even catch up with friends or family on my Airpods while I’m doing all of this. These gadgets me put energy into my family while not compromising on cleaning.
I may never be the perfect mom/wife/friend/co-worker/community member that I want to be, but I’m getting better every day at turning my mom guilt into gratefulness.