Everyone has heard the saying “Happy Mama, Happy Family” but the reality is that the majority of mums have a hard time being that way. Statistics tell us that they bear the mental and often physical load of managing the family. This means that carving out time to focus on the things that are important can be a challenge. However, if you work at it long enough that it becomes a habit then you will be on the right path to feeling like you are in control of your well-being.
Personally, I always feel better if I have exercised and been outside for some part of everyday, so I build in early morning exercise into my routine 2 or 3 times per week. I also get to things like book club meetings and lose myself into sewing projects whenever I can on a weekend afternoon. These are the things I enjoy doing myself, but everyone is different. Here are some tips to de-stressing life and getting some time back that I think are relevant to every mum.
Spend less time in the car by choosing local
When you are signing your kids up for teams or lessons look for opportunities to consolidate and share activities with other local parents.
In my experience parents can get too focused on finding a perfect club or teacher when - unless their child has some sort of amazing talent – knowing others and connecting with your local community is more beneficial to both the child and parent. Local clubs are often within walking distance, or if you have to drive are only a quick trip rather than navigating across town.
Agree on what activities are appropriate and try to group them rather than spread them across days. I find one busy day followed by one ‘rest’ day better than having commitments most days. For example, if your kids are in swimming lessons can you get the lessons at the same time or right after each other?
Share the load
Once you’ve got your schedule sorted find some like minded people you trust to share the load with. It makes no sense for each parent to walk or drive only their kid to an activity. Go out of your way to connect with parents whose kids do the same activities. This is a lot easier to do if you are both locals and likely to have some sort of connection. If you don’t know anyone then introduce yourself and work at building up your network – be brave, just like we expect our kids to be! Before long you will know half the class/team and your kids will be wanting to hang out with each other as well.
To get beyond just being a social connection do something practical to kickstart sharing the load. Reach out and make an offer of help to others. In the same way sleep creates sleep in babies, offering help makes others more likely to do the same. When someone offers you help, accept it with an attitude of grace, not defeat!
By sharing transport or care not only will you have to spend less time in traffic, your child will have the opportunity to forge friendships and see parents model the sort of community behaviour we expect our kids to demonstrate.
Reduce your expectations and delegate
When things are feeling too much just let somethings go. Set your standards lower and then progressively teach yourself to spend time on the things that matter.
Get your kids involved early in being responsible for things. There are lots of age appropriate tasks they can do to help themselves and if you are consistent in encouraging them it will become a habit. Small pieces of help can add up to a mum feeling a lot less like they are drowning in chores.
Enjoy being outside
You will always feel better if you’ve done at least one small thing outside involving exercise each day. Do a walking meeting at work, go for a quick walk while your kids are doing an activity or do a shop run with a backpack rather than the car or have your dinner as a picnic in the park.
Being organised makes you feel more in control
Cooking and shopping efficiently isn’t exciting, but it can save you a lot of time and money and doesn’t always have to involve mince! You should also schedule in time for yourself to do the things you want to do and make sure everyone knows about them.
There are plenty of tools out there to help you get organised. Getting across some of them is worth the initial time investment (e.g. shared calendars, aps such as OurHome for kids chores, TeamApp & TeamStuff for team mgmt., PlanBuyCook for meal planning)
Good luck with the balance. Don’t be too hard on yourself and remember to celebrate small successes.
- Mum of two doing on average 13 car trips per week, even with car pooling
- Answers ‘yes’ to too many things both for her and the kids
- Strategy consulting experience gained through work in both consulting and in-house strategy roles
Maggie is one of the founders of Parachuute