As a doctor, a wife and a mother of three, I’m often trying to juggle more tasks than I should. Between countless work responsibilities, volunteer activities, the family’s social commitments and a busy household, my life can become very stressful. Sometimes, the calendar is so jammed packed that it’s almost impossible to decipher.
While other mothers have marveled at my capacity to “have it all,” what they haven’t seen is the stress and exhaustion that comes with trying to be a Supermum. The reality is sobering. When I try to catch part of a professional meeting, cook for the school bake sale, attend my daughter’s dance recital and still be home in time to read my 5-year-old a bedtime story, I’m bound to fail. In order to survive the challenges of being an employed mother, I’ve learned the hard way that it’s important to cut back, set priorities and create spaces in my schedule. If you’d like an approach to mothering that fosters a little more sanity and wholeness than the mythical “Supermum,” here are five suggestions.
(1) Learn to say “no.” It’s hard to know why this little word can evoke so much guilt during motherhood. Somehow we’re programmed to think that being a good mother means accommodating everyone’s needs. But if you value your sanity and health, it’s important to know how to set limits. This means not always saying “yes” to the people around you. With practice, saying “no” will get easier.
(2) Don’t strive for perfection. It’s OK to be “good enough.” Be kind and forgiving to yourself. Think about the small areas where you can take a short cut. Buy cookies for the bake sale instead of baking. Do a quick cleanup by putting all the stray items in a basket instead of insisting on an immaculate house. Do a 15-minute workout when you don’t have two hours to spend at the gym. Make a 10-minute phone call to a friend when you don’t have time to get together.
(3) Set your priorities and forget the rest. Part of keeping sane is having a sense of what’s important. Ironically, when we feel scattered, it’s tempting to tackle a relatively unimportant task that can be accomplished quickly. Instead, take a mument to consider which task will bring you peace of mind. Sometimes the right thing to do is put in the extra hours to finish a work project, while other times it’s obvious that playing with your child is the best choice. If you follow your inner compass, you’ll have an easier time making good choices. Make keeping sane your number one priority. After all, if you’re not sane, the whole family suffers.
(4) Get help. Enlist tangible support—like assigning chores to family members, hiring household help or ordering take-out food—as well as emotional support. Getting together with other mothers can provide immeasurable emotional relief as well as childcare help.
(5) Enjoy the mument. When life is rushing around you, it can be easy to get swept up in the frenzy and ignore the magical muments that occur on a daily basis. Take joy in conversation during a family meal. If you need to drive your children to events, use the car ride as a time to converse with your child. A lot of kids open up best during these rides. Slow down. Life’s too short to rush.
Laura E. Stachel M.D. Obstetrician & Gynecologist
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.