How was self care even possible when simply sneaking in a 10 minute uninterrupted shower in the morning was a luxury. Sure the dishes can wait but then they pile up creating an even bigger task. And as for sleeping when the baby sleeps, very good advice for sure but not always practical when you have other children to look after or you crave some alone time just to be able to do adult things like read a book or watch a movie.
Working women and mothers in particular face so much pressure with never ending to do lists, multi-tasking and constantly giving, we risk burnout. It's an ongoing challenge that never really goes away.
History shows us families used to be larger, mothers used to stay at home with the aid of in house nannies or servants as the acceptable norm.
Fast forward a few decades where women have won the ability to join the workforce as equals yet somehow we have managed to go backwards in our thinking. We are busier than ever but expect ourselves to manage it all with no outside help? It's near impossible and setting ourselves up for a mental breakdown. We need to normalise paying for the domestic services we need.
Superwoman simply does not exist nor should it be idolised.
Achieving goals, getting through tasks and being productive does not make you a better person. You are amazing not by how much you accomplish but by how well you love.
I no longer try to do it all but focus on areas that fill me and drop the areas that drain me. I've thrown away as many distractions as I can that stop me from using my time to love those around me. Ask yourself, does this serve me or does this hurt me? Does this energise me or does this drain me?
If you are juggling too much right now, rather than run away to a monastery somewhere and drastically turning your life upside down, take a gentle approach by really examining your week and asking yourself if there are any tasks that aren't essential to your life. What are your drainers? Can it be outsourced to someone else or removed all together? If you need a break from your life, then something doesn't fit.
10 PRACTICAL TIPS TO SIMPLIFY YOUR LIFE
1. Grocery shopping or thinking about what to cook every night stressing you out?
Give your brain a break and gain back your precious mental real estate by considering the number of meal plan subscription services out there: Hello Fresh, Marley Spoon, Dinnerly, Soulara and Light n Easy just to name a few. You can choose to make the meals yourself or order pre-cooked heat and serve meals saving you time on dishes too. Some of these services even cater for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks so you don't have to worry about a thing. If that doesn’t work for you, consider doing online shopping through Woolworths or Coles to avoid the task of getting all the kids in the car, trying to find a park and keeping them happy. If you prefer less plastic, waste free service offerings that give you great organic, vegan and gluten free options, The Source Bulk Foods and The Happy Apple in Melbourne are great. For my Sydneysiders Delish Deliveries is incredible too. If your budget is an issue, batch cooking or meal prepping one day a week does help reduce the weeknight dinner stress.
2. Cleaning might be a stress point for you, so get a cleaner such as Tidy Me. I’ve set them to come fortnightly and they can even wash and pack away dirty dishes and change your bed sheets! Their standard fee includes this plus kitchen, bathroom, bedrooms, floors etc but for extra you can even ask them to iron or do bigger cleaning jobs. You can stop or pause anytime or adjust/customise each clean. And if using chemicals is an issue they are happy to use your own cleaning products.
3. If juggling the kids and work is a challenge, consider investing in day care, a nanny or an au pair. We send Leo to the local Montessori Academy three days a week and he has absolutely thrived being there. So much more than we could ever offer him being tired and stretched so thin as we are. We may not spend the entire day with him on those days but he comes home to refreshed parents. I put away the phone and really enter his world. I value quality over quantity. He's growing so much in his social abilities and independence. We've even applied their systems at home too. He has his own 'learning tower' which has made a big difference so at 21 months of age he already knows how to cook his own breakfast and set the table. I guide him but I don't have to pick him up and hold him all the time.
4. Hire a gardener if this is a problem area for you.
5. Pay for a car wash if you hate doing this.
6. To save you running around everywhere like a full time chauffeur, perhaps the kids don't need to do three different after school activities, perhaps they can drop one and keep the two that they truly enjoy or you can ask a grandparent to take them instead. Carpooling also works too.
7. Set a specific day for specific tasks rather than trying to do a little bit each day. Wednesdays are my admin day, so all my invoices, payroll, rosters and non-urgent emails can wait till my allocated day. This may not work for your situation, but the principle is the same, think about how you can streamline your week.
8. Consider putting your bills on direct debit for a short amount of time for example the first 6 months of newborn life. In this intense time, we are so sleep deprived, these things can easily be forgotten.
9. Need to run errands but don't have the time? Jump on Airtasker. They have so many people happy to do anything from going to the post office for you, moving your furniture or doing handyman jobs around the house. You set the task and the price, then someone responds to your request. Usually retirees wanting to stay busy or students who want to earn some extra money do this and it works really well.
10. Do one thing that feeds your soul each day. It can be praying, meditating, journaling, reading a book, going to the gym or watching your favourite tv show. Even if you only have 10-30 minutes, whatever it takes to bring you joy. Just allocate it in your schedule like you would any meeting and make sure your partner knows about it so they can support you in making it happen. That way your cup is guaranteed to be filled. But this is entirely up to you, the last thing you want to do is add pressure to yourself and feel like you have an additional task 'to do'.
Remember that our life is constantly changing. Some seasons are busier than others. You may not always need to outsource these things but if you just gave birth or find yourself in an intense stressful season, give yourself permission to invest in yourself even if only for a short period. After all, why are we so willing to spend copious amounts of money on the right bassinet or pram for our child but can't justify costs that look after our sanity? You need to be able to sustain your caregiving.
HOW IS YOUR LIFE WORKING OUT FOR YOU?
For me personally my life is full with running a business, studying at uni, managing the house and looking after my son. I love cooking due to the creative side of it, running my business as well as spending time with my son. These are all areas that fill me. But cleaning is a drainer. So rather than use the meal services, I chose to redirect my budget to a cleaner. The cost of one Uber delivery can sometimes add up to $50-$70 so I would rather Uber less, cook more, spend less time cleaning and more time with Leo.
Sure I had a few people wondering why I needed a cleaner, but people have no idea what you go through day to day and may never understand. They do not work your job, have your personality or share all of your values. So shrug off the judgement and live your best life! Grab that freedom! You only get one life, it's meant to be lived! If you feel shame or judgement, perhaps you are believing a lie that you are lazy for not wanting to clean or submitting to a false societal narrative that a good mother must cook dinner or just living out what was modelled to you by your parents growing up. There is nothing wrong with that if it works for you. But what happens when you have a different work path? Or financial pressures and goals? You are living in a different age to them. Your partner has a different personality to them who equally was raised with a different set of family values.
Take a step back and re-assess your life. How is it working out for you? If we can design our homes why can't we design our lives? De-cluttering our home is great but what would it look like to have a minimalist lifestyle too? Maybe you don't want to work and dream of the ability to be a stay at home mother? What changes can you sacrifice in order to make that happen? Culturally you may feel pressured to go back to work sooner than you are ready to, that somehow stay at home mothers are seen as 'less than' working women which is so wrong! At the end of the day I’m just challenging you to look critically at how you fill your week. We don't often stop to question how we use our time. Does this task require you or can it be delegated? It doesn't always have to be about productivity, your reason can be wanting to be more present with your family. Remember, does it serve you or hurt you? Does it energise you or drain you? Yes we all have financial budgets to stick to but cut out the expenses in areas that aren’t a must have and redirect it to areas that are essential for your wellbeing. Downsize the house or move to another area to reduce the financial pressure. Sit down with your partner and work out if you can change who does what tasks or if you have kids get them involved in it too. Perhaps it's unaffordable in your situation to pay for these services, so delegate the help within the family. But most importantly get honest with yourself. Really ask yourself what you love doing and what you hate no matter how embarrassing it may feel to admit it. No one is going to come and rescue you. No one knows what you need more than you do. Help from friends and family will only last so long. When you are hitting a crisis point, this is actually a blessing because it forces you to re-evaluate what is and what isn't working for you. It forces you to take hard decisions and make changes that are more sustainable.
Stop trying to be the ideal woman. The world doesn't need another tick the box, tired, stressed out soul. It needs you watered, ready to love, creating and innovating, offering only what you uniquely can bring.
So strip away the burdens and just be YOU, it's so much more fun!
Mother, wife, business owner and joy seeker!