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A (somewhat) balanced schedule

June 14, 2018 6:42 pm8 comments

Eighteen months ago, I bought a house, moved to a new state, then had my third baby. Maternity leave was survivable (and even lovely at moments), but going back to work left my head spinning. I was managing three different childcare plans, trying to prove myself at work, commuting into the city a couple times a week, trying to stay on top of  (and learn about) household management, all while nursing a baby and still being mom to my two other boys.

I pretty much abandoned any sense of a social life, particularly since it required that I make new friends. That wasn’t a happening thing — most of the time I was showing up 20 minutes late, unshowered, with tears pricking at the back of my eyeballs. I just couldn’t get it together.

But a few months ago, things started to get better. I started to feel like I could breathe again. I committed to exercise, therapy, and regular showers. I started to design ways to get social interaction and a bit of pleasure built into my life. But after a year of barely surviving, I got a bit overzealous. After finding myself triple booked or just completely overwhelmed by the pace of my life, I decided I needed rules. Hard and fast rules. They require self-control, but they’ve worked well for me as I learn to balance being a working mom of three little ones, who wants a little something left for herself and her marriage. Here they are:

Everything goes on cal. I’ve put all of my meetings/appointments on my calendar for years, but now I add anything that HAS to get done. If I need to process the pre-school registration by a certain day, it gets scheduled. If I schedule a babysitter, her hours are on my calendar. Basically, I don’t rely on my memory at all anymore.

I’ve started respecting my limits. I have a very limited ability to manage “extras.” Getting real about this has helped tremendously.  I consider extras to be things like dinner with friends, special outings with the kids, being Mystery Reader in my kindergartner’s class. Anything that is a one-off and requires a commitment. I found that I can swing 1 or 2 “extras” per week. When I want to plan a get-together with a friend, I don’t look for my next possible opening. I look for the next week that isn’t already scheduled with its allotment of extras, and find a time in there. Sometimes that means scheduling a month out, but I would rather do that than make plans that I’ll ultimately be too overloaded to keep or enjoy.

I don’t kick the can down the road. If I have to do something – whether because it’s a straight-up obligation, or because I really want to — I schedule it and then do it. Cancelling only causes stress, wastes energy on scheduling/re-scheduling, and annoys people.  If I don’t really have/want to do it, I make it clear to the other person that it’s not going to happen for a long while. Kind of a “sorry, not sorry” situation. Mama doesn’t want to implode.

My goals are flexible. Life tends to blow up a lot around here (sick child, urgent work meeting, snow day, etc), so my routines need to be flexible. I found that saying “I’ll work out Monday, Wednesday, and Friday” doesn’t really work for me, but I MUST exercise regularly. Every month, I commit to a number of workouts for the month (usually 12-15), depending on my travel schedule, kid obligations, workload and more. Then it’s up to me how I get those workouts in. I track them all in a fitness app to keep myself honest. I do the same “monthly goal” plan with anything I’m trying to focus on: home-cooked dinners, long chats with my siblings, quality time with each of my sons. I keep the goals modest, reachable, and flexible, and only have a couple each month.

This is working for me, though I’m interested in how other busy people are managing to stay sane…