Self-Care Challenge – Day 2

 

How many times do we go from past to future in our lives as moms? Always thinking about tomorrow and wondering if life will get any easier and thinking about the easy life we had before kids gets us nowhere other than the land of stress. Today we bring ourselves to the present moment with this simple exercise that I am sure you will love.

 

Today’s Challenge : Savor a piece of chocolate (and if you are one of those rare cases who does not like chocolate, insert any other piece of fruit or food choice of your liking. Savoring a chocolate or a piece of fruit or any food you like really brings all senses together. Before you put a piece of chocolate in your mouth admire it’s existence, inhale the fragrance. Put the chocolate in your mouth, close your eyes and experience the texture, enjoy the taste. Eat it slowly. This savoring moment brings you in the present moment.

Question: What were your thoughts about this exercise?  Please let me know in the comment below.

 

 

Self-Care Challenge – Day 1

Moms,

Do you constantly put yourself down? Do you hear yourself making negative statements about yourself?

For example:

  • I am not good enough
  • I am not sure if I am doing it right
  • I am a clumsy mom
  • I am not fit to be a mom
  • I have no idea what I am doing

The more we talk badly about ourselves the worse we feel. It is our own responsibility to project our magnificence to the outside world. Our positive life starts from us.

Do something today that your future self will thank you for.

Today’s Challenge : Write 10 positive qualities about yourself and repeat them to yourself loudly atleast 5 times.

Question : Where do you feel you are not good enough? What one thing you can do today to change your thinking about this issue?

 

 

 

“Warning: Planning Ahead May Conserve Your Willpower!”

I recently came across an article by James Clear on willpower on his website http://jamesclear.com/ and realized how closely this affects moms all around the world and their productivity.

According to some articles floating around on the internet, an average person makes about 35000 decisions in a day. No wonder moms are overwhelmed when in addition to the 35000 decisions, they have several choices in front of them with respect to parenting.

1. What formula to use?
2. What bottle to use?
3. How long to breastfeed?
4. What food to make for the kids?
5. What activities to plan daily?
6. What clothes should they wear?
7. What schooling method to use?
8. What Parenting method to use?
9. What diapers to use?
10. How to dispose of them?
11. How to discipline them?
12. What TV shows can they watch?
13. What answers to give for their innocent questions?
14. To shout at them or not?
15. To give them a time out or a hug?
16. To let them play for five mins more or not?
17. What is the sleep time going to be
18. To wear the dress soiled with kids food or change?
19. To let them eat cake or not?
20. To let them in the park or not?

And so on. Other than parenting, moms have other decisions to make:

1. What bills to pay?
2. What is for dinner?
3. To fold laundry or not?
4. To watch TV or not?
5. To respond to 100 Facebook messages or not?
6. To like a post or not, to tweet or not?
7. What groceries to buy?
8. What vacations to take?
9. Which room to declutter?
10. What to make for breakfast?
11. To have a latte or not?
12. To exercise or not?

If you are working for work or your own business, then you have a lot of work decisions to make in addition to all these daily decisions.

According to an article in NY times magazine, (http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/21/magazine/do-you-suffer-from-decision-fatigue.html) the more decisions you make throughout the day, the more tired your brain becomes and less effective the decision process becomes as we move along the day. The brain can look for shortcuts like taking a hasty decision or just doing nothing. Either of which can turn very harmful especially if we are making decisions for others as moms. Decision fatigue also affects self-control and willpower. According to the study by Dr. Roy Baumeister, self-control acts more like a muscle and has limited energy throughout the day. The more you use it in the day, it affects how you decide later in the day due to depletion of energy. This might finally explain why moms like to eat chocolates and sweets and cannot get enough of it sometimes.

This article explains the reasoning behind the whole new productivity buzz of “planning ahead.”
While planning ahead will deplete mental energy on the day of planning, the choices already made and scheduled in calendars will make sure that the energy in making those decisions on a daily basis is conserved. Use planning ahead so we can use more willpower later when needed especially during testing times when kids don’t fall asleep till late night, and you can’t resist to show them TV because you need a break. Or when you see that dessert on the table staring at you and calling you to eat it ASAP or to choose between multiple job offers or important business decisions that you make at night.

Here are a few things moms can plan ahead:

  • Outfits for self for a week or day ahead
  • Outfits for kids for a week
  • Meal Planning for adults and kids
  • Scheduled activities for a month ahead
  • Prioritize necessary and eliminate unnecessary activities
  • Plan for snacks to avoid crash eating
  • Plan for meetings a week ahead
  • Take decisions early in the morning
  • Plan for unhealthy meals once a week to avoid failing daily
  • Schedule time on calendars for daily activities including bath times, getting up, exercising, etc

Having a plan for every possible issue a child may come up with will make life easy but that is unlikely to happen and for that simplification of everything else in life becomes a lot necessary.

Do you believe you need to work on your willpower? Do you plan things ahead of time?

Do you want to conserve your willpower? Get tips and strategies on planning ahead so you can use your brain for important decisions in life!

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Mommy Overwhelm

It was a regular afternoon. I had a huge pile of laundry that needed to be folded. Dinner was not ready. I was too tired to even think about what to have for dinner. Probably takeout, I thought.

Groceries were still pending. I had a hectic week at work with lots of assignments due.

 

At least the kids were playing by themselves. Hubby had some extra work to finish as well. No sitters were available. Also the kids went to daycare during the week so I was already feeling guilty to send them anywhere.

 

I could see toys lying all over the floor as I was walking from one room to another. And just as I decided to take care of the toys a bit later, ouch… I stepped on a lego piece! Its an 11 on a pain scale of 1 to 10!!

 

I threw whatever clothes I had in my hand on the floor, lost my calm, spelled out a few curse words and thought to myself:  

“When are the chores going to end? Will I be ever able to breathe? Why do I end up having to choose between chores all day long? Where is this village that was supposed to help me raise my children that everyone keeps talking about?? I need a freaking vacation.. Well, wait! I just came back from it and am exhausted already!

 

And the socks? The f…ING socks!! I spent all morning trying to find one matching pair each for both boys to get them ready for preschool and it seemed like a struggle. Why on earth do socks disappear from the washing machine like that??

 

I had a meeting next day that I needed to work on. I decided to order takeout.

 

Why had I suddenly fallen apart and felt this huge overwhelm of responsibilities that I wanted to run away from? (Shit! Did I say run away? Am I supposed to say such things? Am I not a good enough mother?)

 

Wasn’t I supposed to love my children so much that I couldn’t live without them even for a second? Then why do I have thoughts of running away from them??

 

The fact is, I do. I do love my children and my family a lot.

 

Wasn’t I supposed to be able to take care of my family and balance while still being able to do the numerous things in life that I liked and enjoyed, just like all the other high achievers out there (read the single, or married without kids friends I have)? In fact, I consider myself extremely ambitious.

 

But then this overwhelm?

 

I have been a full-time working mom, a stay-at-home mom, a work-from-home mom, a part-time working mom but no matter what my work–life situation has been, I found myself in a constant state of overwhelm.

 

It usually crept up when  I was all alone in the house going from one chore to another.

 

The voice inside me said million different things, sometimes all at the same time:

 

  • “You are supposed to have a clean, clutter free house. It is your responsibility.”

 

  • “Your kitchen should look and smell perfectly delicious. You cannot order meals from a restaurant.”

 

  • “Just quality time isn’t enough. Quantity is important. You’re just not being a good mom by choosing yourself first and going to work away from home like that. They are small kids. They need you. And you have not enrolled them in enough activities so maybe you don’t love them enough. “

 

  • “Stop playing! Your work is important. You have to be the next vice president before 40 and you are not even able to keep up with your schedule. Finish that project right now.”

 

  • “You have not met any friends in the last month. You ought to call these 10 people for lunch and prep the meals yourself.”

 

  • “What is going to be this year’s birthday theme for child N. You need to go on Pinterest right now before you are too late planning and ordering.”

 

To be frank, the mental chatter seemed never ending and extremely exhausting.

 

I am just very thankful for my mommy group because I could bring up such topics and voice my issues and see if anyone else felt the same way or if I was the only one with such crazy thoughts.

 

After I posted the question, everyone reached out saying, “Hey, you are not the only one! I feel the same way too.” All of them were in different work-life situations. But they all felt the same overwhelm in their lives. We were all showing symptoms of Mommy Overwhelm

 

We each have a way to deal with our overwhelm. Some drink wine. Some cry away in their closets. Workaholics like me try to work harder.  I also find respite in something else like mindless TV shows

 

I love wine but due to a weak digestive system (TMI alert) and history of alcoholism in the family, I can only indulge in and drink my sorrows away in small quantities.  Crying has always been an option in the past, but there is only so much a person can cry.

 

As a process engineer, I looked for solutions beyond the temporary band-aid. I thought to myself:

 

  • My husband or kids never demanded a cleaner house from me. In fact we have someone that helps us with house cleaning twice a month.

 

  • No one ever gave me 100 lashes for not cooking dinner. I can order dinner whenever I want.

 

  • My husband has always been extremely supportive in whatever decisions I make.  

 

  • People at work were very supportive. In fact, I was working with a very understanding team.

 

As I dug this problem deeper by trying to understand it and by talking to other moms, I figured out that I was beating myself up for not achieving the idealistic expectations that I had put on myself.  I was creating my own self-imposed guilt

 

Self-imposed guilt and the resulting overwhelm is probably the number one reason why moms are unhappy. If only there was a way to silence this inner voice of distress and calm things down drastically.

 

This thought inspired my quest to try out different things to manage my guilt. While I am still working on the figuring out the root cause of mommy guilt, here is a 6 step process that has worked for me in the recent past for effectively reducing my overwhelm:

 

  1. Write down everything that is overwhelming at this point

 

  1. Strike off the points that are not under my direct control, such as kids not eating food. I can only prepare healthy food, I cannot force them to eat it. (My Indian upbringing makes me force them sometimes but my adoption of US culture makes me nervous that someone is going to call 911 and tell the cops that I forced my kids to eat veggies at dinner!)

 

  1. For everything that is under my control, I add due dates to these items to complete them. For example, I give myself usually a week or two to complete items depending on what I think is the right amount of time for them.

 

  1. For the one or two things that I can do right away and cross off, I do them. It gives me an instant sense of accomplishment.

 

  1. For the few things on the list that I know I am overwhelmed about and are under my control but I’ll not get to them until later in the year or are not that important at all, I strike through and decide to delete from my “list”. If they are not important at the moment or even at a later time, they are not important to fret over.

 

  1. Is there something on the list that I can delegate? If yes, then I add it to someone else’s list. Yes, I have decided to ask for help.

 

————

 

I think this process has given me a greater sense of calm. I can now take kids to the park without thinking of cooking dinner. I can cook dinner without thinking of the laundry that needs to be done. I can work on my projects without thinking of the grocery list. With this approach, I feel I can breathe better these days and keep my mind more focused on the tasks at hand.

 

Have you been battling overwhelm lately? What is the number one thing that is troubling you as a mother? What one step have you taken to fix this issue? What was the outcome? I would love to hear your comments.

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What No One Talks About

Marriage after two kids. Really, someone should talk more about this.

“Oh, you have one kid?” Why don’t you have another kid! Your kid will have a playmate.”
“You have two boys? Now, why not try for a girl?”

Why the heck do people make such comments? Have they not known better in life? Do they want everyone to be miserable just like them?

After our second boy, our life has changed completely as we knew it. We have to feed two picky eaters. Have to deal with two different nap times. They even run in different directions when we are outside, shopping, trying to get things done, or just trying to make sure they are having a good time (read: getting tired so that they fall asleep).

Why doesn’t anyone tell you how it really is? Like the dirty details of how long it really really takes your kids to fall asleep. It takes my older one anywhere from 5 minutes to 5 hours. Well 3 hours really! But you can imagine laying down next to a toddler for 3 hours when all the work is pending downstairs and you have not even really had a chance to greet the husband?
How they both decide to wake each other up in the morning when you really want to snooze for just 5 more minutes. We both want to hide when it comes to our kids’ bedtime. It is an everyday battle in our house.

It has definitely been double the hugs, double the kisses, double the thank-yous. But it is also a multiplication of germs and sicknesses and snotty noses and coughing syrups.

And double the money you will pay for a sitter for a “date night.” You know the night when you and the husband have dinner quietly without kids, and you are unable to talk about anything other than the kids.

In an allotted 10 to 15 days of vacation time at work, there is usually none left because it all gets used up to take care of sick kids. And there is the added stress of constant negotiation with the spouse as to whose meeting is more important and who has to end up staying at home.

Frankly, living and dealing with younger kids is hard. It is the hardest job I have ever seen in my life.

Have you ever experienced this? You decide to spend the whole day with kids and take them to the museum only to find out that they really wanted to go to the park today. Or they start throwing tantrums and want to play outside after just returning home from the park.

How does that make you feel when you make them the priority of your life and you don’t receive even a token of appreciation back?

It takes a huge toll on the pillars of the family,  the Mom and the Dad. More importantly, the Husband and the Wife. Parents have to take so much of their mom and dad role seriously throughout the day that somewhere shoved in the corner are the husband and the wife who feel that the “marriage” aspect of their life has been neglected.

The thoughts of “do you really think I am sexy anymore” or “do you even love me” or “I just want to run away from this marriage because I am going nuts” start to arise.

The communication starts to diminish. The topics tend to circle around children and their activities. The individuality starts to suffer. The marriage starts to suffer.

We message each other throughout the day, mostly about all errands and tasks for the day. And after we come home, the kids usually take over all conversations. Husband and Wife interactions are left for the tiny window of time between when they fall asleep and when we fall asleep, if we get that. One of us usually falls asleep along with the kids and it becomes really hard to wake up from that after a tiring day.

The extra time at home (if you are lucky to get some) is spent catching a “relaxing” moment of just mindlessly watching reruns of Seinfeld and not having to make any decisions.

The next day starts and the busy schedule takes over again. How are we nurturing this marriage? How have we become two lost souls only caring for the kids but not caring about the reason we had these kids in the first place?

The truth is that extra efforts need to be made to keep this relationship going from both sides. Efforts in understanding each others’ viewpoints; efforts in understanding how tiredwe both are; efforts in making sure we make the other feel loved, making sure we feel the other is heard and appreciated; efforts in understanding that we need space and time ourselves before we can make time for each other;efforts in understanding that maybe the other person needs extra help in their routine; efforts in understanding that all the other person needs today is a hug; efforts in understanding that in these rough patches we are meant to tough it out together and not leave the other person in distress.

Parenting is hard. Maintaining a relationship and keeping it alive and smooth is harder. Trying to do both at once feels nearly impossible. 

What are you working on in your relationship at this moment? What extra efforts are you taking to help you make your marriage more intimate so that you feel less like a lonely planet. I would love to hear from you 🙂

What I learnt from a homeless person about putting my needs first

I had been stressing about my job and it’s never ending issues since the year started. It seemed a very great opportunity when I interviewed. I was going to get to work in a retail corporate environment and get to use my background in process improvement and also get to learn a lot about functioning of retail, marketing, sales. It seemed like an MBA on the job, and for the most part I truly enjoyed it. But there were some basic decisions that were made that were not agreeable to me. This was causing a lot of stress.

When I looked at my children , I wondered if the experience I was getting was worth it for me the stress and the sacrifice of giving up all of this precious time with my kids..

For the longest time, I dreamt of doing something on my own – starting my own business that gave me the ability to prioritize my home and my children.

A big question was bouncing on my head : Then why on earth was I struggling to quit my job so that I could better my life and those around me?

Then, one day when as I was driving to work, I stopped at a traffic light. A homeless man was holding a sign , ” Homeless, Any help will do. Hungry!”

I had Cliff cereal bars in my car and I took one and handed it out to him. He took it in his hand and looked at me with huge disappointment. He handed me the cereal bar back and said, ” I cannot eat this crap.”

I was shocked. It was a chocolate brownie flavored bar, the kind that my kids ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner!! A homeless man who did not know what life was going to bring him next, who did not know where his meal was coming from , rejected a healthy meal in his hand. At first, I was a bit angry about this situation. “How dare he?”, I thought! But then I took a deep breath.

Even though life had brought him to a stage of homelessness, he knew what he wanted for his body, he was very sure of his needs and did not waste time in rejecting anything that was not right for him. (His needs could possibly have been proper food, money, clothes for interview, another drink, a drug or something else, but I did not have the time to find as the traffic signal turned green)

As I kept thinking more about him on my remaining drive to work, I realized that he was not for one moment afraid of me judging him as a homeless person who rejects food.

He was not for one minute afraid of being hungry forever.

The answer to my question came to me

Two words : Mommy Guilt

Why was I afraid to take a break and spend time with family? After all, there are so many people on this earth who need to work and cannot afford the lifestyle I live without working hard. How can I be so selfish?

I was afraid to take a break, not earn, and spend our money

I was afraid people were going to judge me all the time and say she is “wasting” her education/degree.

I was afraid I was going to be a bad housewife. A good housewife has to do tons of these things in a day that I was not sure I am capable of

Here is the twist.

When I was working full time, I was filled with guilt as well.

I was afraid my kids were going to hate me because I did not spend enough time with them

I was afraid that they were going to grow up and I was going to miss a huge amount of time to see them blossom into two young gentlemen

I really wanted to stop working completely for someone else but I realized:

I was feeling guilty for the possibility of not earning my share

I was feeling afraid of losing my “identity”

I was afraid that I would lose my career and fail at trying to make my dreams come true.)

So still too guilty to go all the way, I asked for a part time work from home position. In theory it seemed like a happy medium but in reality the struggle with guilt only became stronger

When I was home working, I would struggle with guilt, thinking about all the laundry that needed to be done.

When I was working at home, every time I looked around all I could see was clutter in the house

When I was working at home, it reminded me that I should instead play with my child.

When I was playing with my child, I felt guilty because my projects were yet to be completed

When I was doing the laundry, I thought of cooking food.

When I was cooking food, I thought of having a bath finally……

In all this overwhelm, I was feeling guilty about having no time to think about what I really wanted to do with my life
That day something clicked in my mind for the first time. I wanted more from life, but I was not listening to myself closely enough. I kept filling myself with guilt after guilt of choosing things that were not in my favor.

I went to work because I studied to become an engineer (that is what most Indians study for) and it made more sense without listening to my heart and passion.

I chose part-time work instead of quitting completely so I would have the “best of both worlds,” in the eyes of society.  In theory, it was supposed to enable me to spend more time with my kids and also think more about my passion. Sure, it sounded good, but in reality, I was overwhelmed with guilt during the moments spent with my kids and wasn’t spending anytime focusing on my passion.

I always tried to do what sounded “right” and not what fit me and my priorities the best.

I was running away from what I truly wanted. I wanted to listen to my heart more closely and work on my own heart’s desires.

I wanted to stay home and take care of my two beautiful boys and give them more time.

I wanted to spend my time on my own terms by finding my passion and pursuing it.

I wanted things beyond what a normal 8 to 5 (sometimes night shifts, sometimes weekend work, sometimes 60 plus hours a week) could offer.

After this incident, I knew exactly how I was getting rid of my guilt.

I knew exactly how I was going to prioritize myself and my needs instead of thinking about what society preferred.

I quit my job that day. I felt very very happy about quitting and still do.

For once in my life, I felt like the homeless man with no prospects but a life free of guilt.

So what do you take from this story?

No, I am NOT telling you to go Quit your job right now! I am not telling you to hate hard work. In fact, I would never say that.  I am a total workaholic.

All I am suggesting is listen carefully to the beat of your heart and follow your dreams. And don’t kill yourself with guilt. Really, DON’T!

And if you don’t mind, please share with me what your heart truly desires and what is stopping you from achieving your dreams in the comments below.

Are you overwhelmed with guilt no matter what you do? Do you feel like you are not a good enough mother? Are you stressed out thinking about kids at work and about work when at home?