I get home from a long day at work. After commuting home in bumper to bumper traffic, I am exhausted. I pull into my driveway and begin my second job: trying to get my kids fed, cleaned, and into bed. If they would just do everything I say, then I could relax. But they don’t. They goof around, ignore me, dawdle, meanwhile I get angrier and angrier. I’ve tried to create systems and be organized to keep the evening running smooth but my family sabotages my attempts at organization. How can I get them to frickin’ GO TO BED ALREADY so I can have a moment of peace?!
Parent Educator Answer:
Jessica, I can hear your frustration, but after coaching hundreds of Supermoms just like you, I have a hunch that what really is going on for you is exhaustion.
It sounds like you’ve been listening to advice with creating organizational systems, but no amount of organizing can solve a problem of fatigue.
You want the kids to go to bed so you can relax. You think the only way you can relax is by finishing your tasks. But when we treat kids like tasks on our list, they rebel. They act silly, naughty – whatever they can do to shake us out of “task mode” and connect with them in meaningful ways. Many Supermoms have stressful beliefs that make them resistant to relaxation:
“There’s too much to do.”
“More work will pile up later”
“I can’t relax until everything is done”
When you feel tired but you push through your fatigue ignoring your own body, it creates tension and pressure. This self imposed pressure causes us to snap at kids and act impatiently. It creates tunnel vision. The only thing you can see is getting through to that finish line at the end of the day.
This isn’t a problem of getting kids to bed as much as it is a problem of you feeling exhausted.
The only solution for fatigue is rest. You are trying to get to it by getting all your tasks done, but as a busy working mom, this will never happen. There will always be more work to do. You need to learn to rest while work remains undone.
Learning to relax, before your chores are done, is really quite simple. Here are some easy options
Your energy goes where your attention goes. When you are thinking about clients and colleagues all day, your attention gets pulled outside yourself, draining your energy. When your kids are pulling on your attention saying “Mommy look at me!” “Listen to me!” it drains your energy. Even if you leave the house to get a break, if your thoughts are still on work or kids, it will drain your energy. The only way to restore balance is to turn off your busy brain and focus your attention on your physical body.
- Listen to a 10 minute meditation before you go into the house.
- Take 3 deep breaths and say the word “release” with each breath.
- Do a body scan. Notice what you are feeling and where you feel it.
- Repeat a mantra like, “In this moment, all is well.”
- Do 5 minutes of yoga poses, focusing on breathing and balancing.
Life Coaching Answer:
What gets in our way from taking short breaks during the day to focus on ourselves?
The strange cultural idea that a good mom should be self-sacrificing, efficient, clean, and put everyone else’s needs before her own. We are not robots. We are not a cog in the machine of productivity. We are humans and we need to respect the human body as it is designed. Rest when you are tired. Work when you have energy. Play to restore your spirit. Please fight against this ridiculous notion that we are BETTER mothers when we IGNORE our bodies and our humanity.
The other BIG obstacle to getting Supermoms to rest when they are tired is the 3 P’s.
All three of these create enormous amounts of PRESSURE. This pressure robs us of our creativity and our problem solving. It makes bedtime feel like walking through mud, trying to catch slippery fish. When we feel pressured to get it all done, do it right, make people happy, and ignore our own fatigue, it brings out the worst in us. We can’t even see that it’s possible to relax before the kids are in bed. We can’t imagine leaving the dishes undone and feeling peaceful about it. These 3 P’s are toxic to our happiness and our ability to feel in control of our lives.
Try this for a minute. Think about your evening routine with the kids: dinner, homework, baths, screen time, bed. Can you notice the pressure you feel? Imagine it like sandbags sitting on your chest and shoulders. Now imagine that you can lift these sandbags off your chest and just move them to the side. You can always put it back on, but let’s just see what your evening routine would be like without the pressure. Do you notice that it’s easier to breathe without the pressure. Without carrying so much pressure, this bed time routine can be lighter, easier, possibly even enjoyable.
- Pushing to power through
Without the perfectionistic, people pleasing and pushing to power through your fatigue, you might be able to come up with relaxing ways to connect with your kids. You might find amusement in their goofy bedtime antics. You might use your creativity to discover wind down activities that work for your kids like audiobooks or giving hand massages.
This does take some time but it is worth it. Once my clients are able to remove their self imposed pressure, they start relaxing, respecting their bodies needs, releasing the frustration and enjoying their evening routine.
Supermom Kryptonite – worshipping productivity
Some of us have a default setting in our brains that prioritizes productivity above all us. Whether it’s the role modeling we got from our moms who never rested, the old protestant work ethic, or cultural programming like “If you’ve got time to lean, you’ve got time to clean” or maybe you just like being productive? Either way, these messages about productivity being the most valuable use of time and energy are today’s supermom kryptonite.
I used to love going to my kid’s volleyball tournaments. These are long, twelve-hour days, an hour or two from home. For me, it was a no guilt, no obligation holiday. My cultural programming agreed that watching my kids play was “good mommying” but there was a lot of down time in between games. I loved that I wasn’t in charge of anything. I could hang out and chat with other parents, I could read, go for a walk, sometimes I would sit in my car and write a blog or take a coaching call, run errands, whatever I felt like doing. It was a lovely way to spend a day, until I ruined it.
This last tournament was up in the wine country, two hours away. I met up with a friend for lunch who I hadn’t seen in a while. It was lovely. But the whole time I kept thinking, “I should be getting my work done.” Just because in the past I had occasionally been productive during these tournaments, now I was pressuring myself to get work done while there. Listening to this voice in my head telling me I SHOULD be working made the tournament much less enjoyable.
Intellectually, most of us would agree that worshipping productivity doesn’t sound ideal, yet at the end of the day, we judge ourselves based on how much we accomplished. Very rarely do I
evaluate myself by asking: Was I kind? Did I uplift the energies of the people around me? Did I push outside my comfort zone today? Did I act aligned with my values?
Instead, I’m focused on what I did or did not accomplish. This is worshipping productivity and I say we stop by doing today’s Supermom Power Boost.
Supermom Power Boost: Do Nothing
Pick a day on your calendar and declare it a DO NOTHING DAY. Much like the volleyball tournaments used to do for me, having a day off to do whatever you feel like doing is nourishment for the soul. If you relate to Jessica and feel tired and cranky at the end of your days, it is especially important. For some of you, this will be hard to do inside your home. If so, you can go to a spa, check into a hotel, go for a drive, wander around the city, whatever feels delicious to you.
The purpose of the DO NOTHING DAY is to get you back in balance. You don’t have to stare into space for 12 hours, unless that is what you feel like doing. You just want to listen to your own body and spirit. Nap if you feel like napping. Eat when you feel like eating. Move when you feel like moving. It’s too easy to ignore yourself when others are around, so make this a day just for you.
I have had many delightful DO NOTHING days that stand out in my memory. 12 hour spa days. Driving around listening to a great audiobook (Anita Moorjani’s, Dying to Be Me). Wandering up and down the aisles of libraries or bookstores. Reading my book while being brought food that I did not have to cook or clean up after. Falling asleep on a park bench in the sunshine. Whatever you do on your DO NOTHING DAY, make sure it is UNPRODUCTIVE, feels delicious and nourishes your body and spirit.
Go into our Facebook group and tell us about it. Let’s change the cultural programming to start celebrating moms who care for their bodies and souls.
Quote of the Day: “Rest until you feel like playing, play until you feel like resting. Never do anything else.” Martha Beck