Getting Over “the Middle” Like a Pair of High-Waisted Jeans.
Clowns to the left of me. Joker’s to the right. Here I am. Stuck in the middle. With you?
Are you here with me? Feeling stuck? Halfway to the end. Halfway from the beginning. Too far to go back. Still so far to go. An overwhelmed mama.
We’re still about a month away from the middle of the year, but this year is starting to feel a little heavy for me. I’m not quite sure why. On paper, things are awesome. The weather has been amazing, I’ve discovered a new Cider Rose that has made my life, I’m taking a family vacation with my sister and her kids in July, I’ve even managed to plan a few date nights and some of them even include my husband. Things are good! Great, even. But, somehow, I’m in a funk.
Last December, I got really serious about preparing myself for how awesome this year was going to be. I set goals, made plans, created vision boards, and drafted lists. I got a planner and pens and stickers and washi tape. And then I got ANOTHER planner to help me keep the planner organized. I was ready.
And now, here we are, a looong way from December, and I sort of feel like I’m trudging uphill through knee-deep mud, carrying a backpack of good intentions and guilt. I’m checking the lists and planners a little less frequently. I’m hitting snooze a little more often. I’m feeling the chokehold grip of the daily grind getting a little tighter around my neck.
What the hell, June? I’ve been waiting for you for MONTHS. What gives?
The perfectionist in me is also really pissed. “If we had just listened to Perfect Renata and let her run this show, we wouldn’t be feeling this way.” she seethes. “I made a lot of plans six months ago, I’ll be damned if I give up on them now.”
Why is follow through so damn difficult? Where did my momentum go? What happened to those bright, shiny, incredibly inspiring goals? Why do they now feel like baggage?
The thing is, my goals don’t have to be something I have to accomplish in a one-year time frame. I don’t have to wait until December to determine whether or not I’ve been successful. If I break them down into smaller, short-term goals they become more attainable. And I feel less of the burn out because I’m not constantly running a marathon. Occasionally, as one of my favorite inspirational mentors, Lisa Druxman likes to say, it’s a sprint.
Druxman (who is incredible btw and if you haven’t read her book, get it immediately) has taught me that breaking down goals into smaller sub-goals leads to a greater likelihood that I’ll stick to and actually attain the bigger ones. The same thing goes for forming new habits.
I’ve been trying for years to consistently wake up at the same time. Three or four days per week, I have no difficulty (ok, more like difficulty that I can more easily overcome) getting up at 4:15 to do a 5am work out. But to do it every day? Or at 5am on days I’m not working out? I just cannot drag my a$$ out of bed for the life of me.
It takes 66 days to form a new habit. That doesn’t sound so bad, right? At least not on day 2. But what about day 20? Shoot, I might not make it to day 5! Per Druxman, if you can break the habit down into smaller increments, say a few days or one week at a time, it becomes far more likely that you will attain your desired result. And when you achieve that goal, you’re that much more motivated to continue.
Unlike me at 5am. See above.
Have you been looking back at the goals you set last January? Are you like me and feeling overwhelmed and like a giant loser because you’ve stalled in your progress? Don’t scrap the goals, embrace the middle. Here we are.
Now what can we do about it?
What can we accomplish today? THIS week? THIS month? How about in the next 2-3 months? Do it. Then do it again. And again.
This how I’m going to prevent mid-year burn out. This is how I’ll keep trying to motivate and focus on getting over that hill, through the middle. I don’t suck as a person. I’m not lazy or worthless.. I’m entirely capable of achieving the goals I set for myself in January. I’m human. And I just need to reset myself a little bit. To put one foot in front of the other. And keep taking steps.
I’m pulling out the vision board from last winter along with my list of goals and action plans. It’s time to shake of the cobwebs and dust a little bit. And start again. Yes, today. In the middle of the week. Because today is as good of a day as any to get through this middle.
This mom doesn’t have any have any tattoos, but if I were to get one on my forehead, ok, maybe my wrist, I think I would want it to say: “good enough.”
Do you feel like that sounds like a cop-out? It kind of feels like one to me when I say it. Like, if I hired a painter to repaint my house, I don’t know that I want him to look at his work and say, “good enough!” as he heads home. Or a doctor stitching up a cut on my kid’s leg after a fall, “ok kiddo, good enough!” Seems like you’ve fallen a little short.
But as a mom, I think a strategy for success we really have to give ourselves is the grace to say, “it’s good enough.” Or we risk driving ourselves insane with anxiety over perfectionism. And that’s just no way to spend your time.
Because we are all enough. I am enough. You are enough. And we are all good. So ENOUGH with the criticism and negative self-talk. I’m calling a moratorium.
Because your kids and your partner, your family, they don’t care about perfection. They don’t care about that last five pounds, or if the floors aren’t as clean as they could be. They won’t remember if you baked the perfect cookies or if you attended every baseball game.
What they will remember is whether you laughed, loved and lived your fullest life. What they care about getting the fullest, best version of you. The happy, confident, kind and amazing woman and mom that you are.
Think about the next time you’re feeling guilty about not having spent enough time with your kiddo or made that perfect dinner after work. Or volunteered in the middle of the day for the class field trip. It doesn’t actually matter.
What does matter is that you show up every day and make the time you spend with your spouse and your kids, even if its short, meaningful and purposeful. Connect with them by looking into their eyes, listening to their words, and holding their hands. Share sweet and tender moments, even if only at bedtime for a few minutes. Pack a note in their lunch. Send a text during the day. Those moments may seem small and trivial but they make a huge impact. And will be remembered.
It is enough. It is good and enough.
No one does you better than you do it. So step our there and be yourself. And be amazing.
Self care doesn’t have to be complex or expensive.
Four letter words are the best. Short, not-that-sweet, always to the point. But not all of my favorites are the salacious ones.
Two of my favorite four-letter words? Self-Care.
Unlike some of their naughtier counterparts, the meaning of these four-letter words isn’t always as understood. Does self-care mean taking a fancy barre class? Getting a weekly manicure or massage? A standing “date night” with your best friend? An extra five minutes in the shower? And for moms especially, what does self care look like?
Sure, those can be ways to take care of yourself, but self-care doesn’t always require a babysitter or extra money. It just requires planning, a little discipline and a desire to take care of yourself. Three things YOU absolutely possess and can implement today!
Now, don’t punch me, because you’ve actually heard all of these suggestions before. The thing is, you’re not doing any of them. Ergo you are overwhelmed, stressed, feeling burned out and disconnected from your life. Stop it. And start doing these things instead. Right now.
1. Fine-tune your evening routine to crush your morning one.
I really hate this one, but damn it if it doesn’t work. Every. Single. Time. The idea here is that every night, in some way, shape or form, get yourself ready for the next day. That will inevitably make your morning run 100 times better than a typical morning.
For me that means cleaning up my kitchen as much as possible before I go to bed: washing the dishes and running the dishwasher, clearing the countertops and kitchen table, and sometimes packing lunches packed or prepping breakfast (something like overnight oats).
Trust me, the last thing I want to do at 8pm after my kids go to bed is to stand in a room where I have been standing all damn day long. Every ounce of my being is screaming for me to RUN away from the dishes. “It can wait ‘til tomorrow,” the she-devil in my brain coos, luring me towards Netflix or mindless Instagram story scrolling. Every single night, I never ever EVER want to do this.
But, since I’m in charge of the morning routine at our house, setting it up the night before always makes my morning easier.
Can you think of a way that you can simplify your morning by doing something the night before?
2. Take care of yourself by getting sweaty.
Sex, yoga, meditation, running, taking the stairs at the office, whatever gets you huffing and puffing. Several times a day. Every day.
I know that I’m not telling you something you don’t already know. And while you might say, “oh but I work out,” I bet you could probably still benefit from a little more heavy breathing. Consider adding meditation to the mix. Or taking a bike ride with your kids. Are you having as much sex as you’d like? Be honest with yourself. (And then with your partner.)
You don’t have to spend your day sweaty, just get more in touch with your body. How it moves and feels. What it likes and dislikes. What it responds to and shies away from. Start to pay attention to what your body is telling you and how it responds to the actions you’re taking. Or not taking, for that matter.
Consider the state of your sex life. Is it in a good place? A satisfying place? Just because it isn’t doesn’t mean it has to remain there forever. But, as favorite person of mine always says, “hope is not a strategy.” You can’t HOPE for things to one day get better. You have to take action.
So listen to your body and then make some changes. You deserve it.
3. Be the first person in your house to wake up every day.
This tip also really sucks. I mean, getting up in the dark? What in the hell? (This self-care thing is super fun, right? No wonder no one is actually doing it.)
Getting your a$$ out of bed is by far the hardest part. Once you’re out of bed, it gets exponentially easier to be awake at what probably is an insane hour. When I wake up, I repeat to myself, “I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy to be awake, I’m so happy…” to trick my body and brain into thinking that this early wake up stuff is something we actually want to be doing and not some bizarre circadian rhythm mixup.
Once you’re awake though, YOU get to choose what to do with your time. Journal, read a book, catch up on some work. Usually, I work out and then read or write with a cup of coffee. But, that doesn’t have to be what you do. The key is to find what will motivate you to get yourself out of that deliciously cozy bed. Maybe it’s meditating, maybe it’s catching up on folding that laundry you just couldn’t will yourself to do the day before, maybe you want to write in a journal or catch up on a show, THIS TIME IS ENTIRELY YOURS!
The trick here, and something I struggle with, is knowing when to stop with the morning me-time and switch into “midweek morning routine crazy mommy.” It’s almost like getting out of bed: “Don’t make me leeeeaaavve!” It’s a journey not a destination, right? I’m working on it. So get up before your people tomorrow. You’re going to be tired regardless, so you might as well do something for yourself.
Self-care doesn’t require you to leave your house or have to cost you a dime. It just requires a little discipline and maybe some planning. And all the coffee.
Today, on this Mother’s Day, I wanted to tell you how much of a gift you have been to me. You are a breath of fresh air and a lighthouse in a dark, vast ocean trying to swallow me during a treacherous storm; giving me focus, hope, and a light to steady and remind me that I can make it another day at sea. In fifteen years, you will probably hate my guts but, until then, I will hold on to this life preserver that you’ve thrown to me, your exhausted and anxious, uncertain mother.
Your sweet baby coos and easy smiles melt my heart and reenergize my soul. Even at 2am when I have to drag myself out of bed to respond to your gentle cries of hunger and sobs of loneliness.
You are constant reminder of how fast time is flying. As if it’s grown wings and taken us on the ride of our lives. We’ve so quickly gone from baby swings and boppy pillows to bike riding and t-ball mitts. And soon, braids and baby dolls. I breathe in your awesome, sweet new smell. And ruffle the thick blonde hair of your confident and energetic big brothers as they hug me with all of their might.
It’s taken me a little while to get here. Each of you has taught me something more about myself. You’ve taught me that I am strong. Fearless. Beautiful. Able. Loving. Creative. Wonderful. It’s hard to believe, most days. But I see it in your eyes. And you give me the breath I need to keep going.
I am grateful to you, my beautiful babies, for choosing me as your mother. You have been the most wonderful gifts I could ever receive in a lifetime.