If you are feeling overwhelmed, frustrated, or annoyed juggling motherhood and multiple other roles, you are not alone. In fact, the pandemic-induced crisis and lockdown appears to have exacerbated these feelings for many women irrespective of geographic, social, or educational status. Attending to deadlines, Zoom calls, chores, feeding, teaching, engaging, while dealing with noise, mess and tantrums! Sounds familiar?
Indeed, we are going through extraordinarily challenging times! Too often I hear my friends and clients vent out their frustrations. The common theme is “How do I find some ‘me time, be calm and remain sane!” As a mother of two little boys with a full-time job, I totally relate.
The good news is that it is possible to manage stress and be joyful and relaxed. While the anxiety caused by the crisis is real, we still have the power to choose how we respond to it and manage our own personal situations. I am a strong proponent of creating the change we want from within us, rather than waiting for external changes to happen. This is true not just now, but always. The key is to become aware of our thoughts, habits, and action, and tweak those that don’t serve us.
Here are my top 5 ways to combat the pains and reap the joys of motherhood
1. Accept that you are doing enough: One of the biggest struggles in my journey as a mother has been to accept that I am doing enough. At one point I went through a phase of chronic fatigue after our second child was born. At the time, I was managing a full-time job, getting very little sleep, and on top of this, obsessed about cooking and feeding kids on my own. I felt guilty for going to work and not spending the time with kids. I was overworked and less rested, and yet I felt I am not doing enough. I was obviously more irritable, and this had a cascading effect on everything else.
How many of us go through such self-induced guilt and stress? The fact is it doesn’t help anyone, including the people for whom we are striving to do it all for!
The only solution is to accept that you are already doing enough, prioritize what’s most important, and ask for help for those tasks that can be delegated. This will help save time, energy, and even relationships. No one is a superwoman and those who appear to do it all simply have their priorities sorted.
2. Letting go: Striving to achieve perfection in everything, all the time, is not healthy. I realized that it was my need for perfection that was preventing me from letting my husband or someone else help. I wanted it a certain way, so I would rather do it myself. I would even redo things my way. Imagine the amount of time and energy wasted on top of feeling stressed all the time.
If you have similar urges, just let go! I know of moms who are striving to be the best teachers during the home learning phase. It’s okay if you can’t be as you were never meant to be! Accept the imperfection and mess! When you let go of the need for perfection, you will notice that you become more relaxed, and when you are relaxed, you become pleasant and patient. This enables you to respond to kids positively, creating a fulfilling experience rather than a stressful one. Remember, the power of choice is in your hands!
3. Finding calm amidst chaos: Just as a battery needs recharging, human beings also need to recharge and rejuvenate. How do you do this? Most people think of a vacation, doing a trip, or visiting the spa. While these are great things to do, they are short term fixes as the effect will wear off the moment you get back to routine. Therefore, it is important to recharge every single day.
Finding some quiet time for oneself, practicing meditation, listening to music, and making time for reading and hobbies are great ways to recharge. Setting aside even 20-30 minutes for these activities will make a big difference. Although it may seem like there is no time for this amidst everything else, remember that making some time for oneself will in reality free up more time as you will find yourself more efficient and productive.
4. Keeping healthy: I realized the hard way that nothing in life is worth chasing for at the expense of health. Getting good sleep, eating healthy and timely, and living an active life is crucial for sustained happiness and contentment. As busy mothers, we often forget to take care of oneself. Think of simple and easy ways to do this.
For instance, doing a few squats while waiting for the onions to cook (think of all instances when you can squeeze in some exercise) , eating a handful of nuts every day, drinking lots of water, establishing a routine for kids, and getting them to sleep early so that you can sleep early. I can tell from my personal experience that every little thing that you do consistently, counts. I used to squeeze in 5 minutes of high intensity abs exercise from a YouTube channel every single day and achieved significant core strength and toning. What matters is that you do something rather than nothing!
5. Entertainment: After my first child was born, I gave up watching TV. I was either working, cooking or taking care of the kids. I would get irritated seeing my husband watching TV and would reject his invitation to watch with him. I thought there were more important things in life. I seldom realized that I was taking life too seriously and had lost the ability to just chill. I was so wrong! Today after consciously bringing back the element of entertainment in life, I can say that this is what has brought back the much-needed zest.
So, do not forget to just chill, watch a movie, play a game, and socialize with friends. I highly recommend online socializing over a coffee or a drink with friends during this lockdown phase.
By Dr. Lakshmi Ramachandran, PhD