By Christina Shepherd McGuire
photography by Paulette Phlipot
We all mother something (unless, of course, we are a dad). Whether it’s kids, furry friends, a business, or the home, mothering takes an emotional effort that far outweighs our other tasks. Often, mothering is like looking at the world through tinted glasses. You tackle work objectives and contemplate new opportunity by putting the needs of those you care for first. It’s like an added layer of “stuff” sandwiched between you and the outside world. And this layer—one you’d trade for nothing else—dictates an existence that can be downright hectic at times.
That’s why I created the new Mamasphere column in Teton Family Magazine—to help moms sort out the many facets of a life viewed through a mother’s lens. Sometimes the lens gets foggy, and at other times you can see for miles. But by providing tips on topics like work, organization, eating, and love life, I hope to make your navigation just a little easier.
Okay—New year, new priorities. Let’s head into 2014 straddling the passenger’s seat instead of fully gripped in the driver’s. How so, you ask? Start by taking a few hours each week to simplify and prioritize, clearing the clutter from your calendar.
Week #1: “If Momma Ain’t Happy, Ain’t Nobody Happy”
Priority number one is YOU! So, before sifting through the monthly to-do list, put yourself at the top. First, schedule in what you need to be happy and grounded. This could mean a mid-day Pilates or yoga break, a monthly massage, or a weekly powder day. Take this first week to pencil YOURSELF into your calendar. Then don’t wait! Get out and exercise your newfound agenda.
Week #2: Accomplish One Thing Daily
Before you mark up your calendar with work deadlines, doctor’s appointments, and afterschool activities, step back and tweak your mindset. Other, more primitive cultures, believe that tackling one task daily is enough. “Not possible,” you chuckle, knowing your upcoming schedule for the week. But if you really integrate this mentality while plotting things out, you’ll reap the bennies of less overall stress.
Demonstrate this practice on your kids, too. Make them choose one activity seasonally—skiing, soccer, horseback riding, gymnastics—to avoid the rushing around that ultimately puts the family in a constant state of flight. Start by segmenting your day. For the first week, schedule in one “’must do” work task daily, one afterschool item, and one evening priority. If you have blank spaces already, congrats! The following week, leave some FREE space after school and in the evening. Soon, with a little self-training, all your evenings will be FREE for impromptu enjoyment.
Week #3: Reinvent the Morning Routine
Now that you have the perfect schedule, let’s work on the specifics. The flow of the morning routine sets the foundation for the day. If your routine is hurried, then the kids go off to school stressed and grumpy. Did you forget to eat breakfast? Brush your teeth? Don’t fret; we’ve all been there. Use these rules to get back on track.
Rule #1: Wake up an hour before your children.
Okay, this rarely happens in my house, but even a half hour will give you time to greet the day with a quickie workout, pour yourself a cup of coffee or tea, and get breakfast staged.
Rule #2: Plan ahead.
I confess. I NEVER make lunches the night before. This is an area where I really struggle! But I do believe that planning helps curb the morning rush. Kudos to you night owls who have chock-full lunch pails in the morning! But for those of us who need nine hours of sleep, let’s just try to get the backpacks packed and outfits picked out.
Rule #3: Make it fun.
Instead of rushing them, challenge your kids to dress themselves, brush their teeth, and comb their hair. Set a timer and give rewards for a job well done. Coaching, rather than nagging, helps kids establish their independence. And as they adopt their roles and execute their tasks, this frees you up, too.
Secondly, put on some music. Mellow jazz provides good background music for eating; profanity-free hip-hop motivates kids to dress, clear their plates, and brush their teeth; and classical music lends a calming environment for last-minute homework (don’t tell the teacher I suggested this).
Week #4: Take Back Your Social Life (or some semblance of)
We all feel happier when we’re surrounded by people, right? While the natural tendency in winter is to hole up, it may not be the best for your inner soul. So break out that schedule again and set aside one night a month for some romance (okay, maybe just a candlelight dinner—sans conversation—at first) and one day, afternoon, or evening for a little girlfriend time.
When the kids were little, I would haul the Bumbo (God, I loved that thing!) over to a friend’s house for a Friday happy hour. The girl time, and girl talk specifically, provided a nice segue into the weekend. It was a platform for dumping all my weekday woes and talking about future goals and aspirations. Living in a remote mountain environment, these interactions are so needed that if we don’t force them into a priority slot, we may fall into a wintertime slump.
Taking a mindful approach to your schedule will hopefully provide you a road map to a mellower existence (we could all use a little of that, right?). By focusing on your priorities and clearing the background noise from your daily agenda, you will find yourself spending less time in what my daughter calls “la-la land” (when my mind is obviously somewhere else) and more time in the present.