A few months ago, I had one of those days. One of those weeks, really. You know the ones. The ones where no matter what you do, everything just goes haywire.
My husband was out of town for work, and after putting in my own long work day, I picked up my son at daycare. He wailed the entire way home because I forgot to bring his favorite blankie in the car. As soon as we got home, my dogs greeted us by demanding dinner (loudly) and, not to be outdone, my son joined in. The dishes were piled up in the sink, plotting to take over the kitchen and I had completely missed my run (or any workout) that day.
And I was tired. Because this day looked exactly like the day before and the day before that. And tomorrow would probably look pretty similar. My son was also having sleeping issues at the time, so I was in a constant sleep-deprived haze just one level above a coma. I knew there were probably some middle of the night sleep battles in my very near future and I wouldn’t be paying off my sleep debt anytime soon. And I had to function at my job.
As I looked around my circus of a kitchen, I realized the only options for dinner were peaches and canned green beans (the latter of which we buy for the dogs as special treats). Sorry, dogs. We ate your special treats. What a huge fail of a day. And this was fairly typical. I fail a lot.
My husband travels regularly for work, which means I’m often left to hold down the fort at home and work a full-time job. And attempt to train for half marathons and have a social life. My weeks are crazy. Thankfully, my job as a software designer allows me to work from home, so my only commute is dropping off and picking up my son from daycare.
A few years ago when my husband first took this job (pre-kid), I drove over an hour each way to work and still managed to find time to go to grad school and train for a marathon. My schedule was my own to do with as I pleased. Now I no longer have the hour-plus commute – I’m fairly certain if I did, I’d lose my mind. But we do have a toddler, so sometimes I still feel like I’m losing my mind.
So here I am, half losing my mind, trying to hold it all together, and trying to do it all. Mom, wife, friend, career, hobbies. And I know it’s not possible to do it all, but I’m still trying. And I’ve found coping mechanisms along the way (other than copious amounts of coffee and beer). Maybe they’ll work for someone else (or maybe they’ll just resonate with others who’ve tried them, too), so I’m sharing them here.
Bake a ton of casseroles and freeze them
This is such a timesaver. When I was pregnant with our son, I made three months worth of casseroles for after we had him. And I’m fairly certain that was the best decision I made during pregnancy. While we bumbled around in the new parent fog, we still had good meals to eat.
And now? I still set aside a Sunday afternoon once every few months and go on a casserole baking spree. It’s not a particularly fun way to spend a Sunday afternoon, but beer helps and you’ll thank yourself later when you realize you actually have real food for dinner after a crazy day.
Get in on the meal delivery trend
In our house, we’re fans of meal delivery services. Perfectly portioned recipes that arrive right at my door and eliminate the hassle of recipe hunting and grocery shopping. Yes, please. We’ve tried a few of them and we keep several in rotation, including Blue Apron and Hello Fresh.
For times when I’ve run out of casseroles or just want something different, these services are a good addition to our kitchen. And while I like cooking, but don’t always feel like parsing through recipes and grocery shopping, a meal delivery service is the perfect way to add healthy variety.
Sadly, on my previously mentioned crazy day (the one with the peaches and canned green beans) I had run out of casseroles and forgotten to set up meal delivery. I haven’t made that mistake since.
Do something for you
It’s trite but true: you have to take care of yourself before you can take care of someone else. If you’re sick or stressed or a mess, you won’t be in the best frame of mind to help a screaming tiny human navigate their unsatisfactory breakfast choices.
It doesn’t have to be big and you don’t have to spend a ton of money on it. Find twenty minutes to read a book, sketch or paint, write, listen to a podcast, go for a walk, or something else, anything else that relaxes you or brings you joy.
For me, one of those things is running. I have other hobbies, but running is my constant. Even when I hate it, I love it. It’s my me time. An hour or so on the road – just me and the pavement – always leaves me feeling better than before I started.
Know when to pivot
I’m talking about big things and little things. If your schedule isn’t working, tweak it. If your career path isn’t one that works for your family, maybe it’s time for a change.
One thing I’ve had to pivot a bit is my career path. I’m still on it, but it’s a bit of a detour. Rather than climbing back up the management track I was on before, I backed off to being a senior-level individual contributor for the time being. I landed in a good spot where I’m able to continue my path, but also able to work from home full-time.
No, I’m not a VP like I was certain I would be by the time I hit my current age, but at least I’m moving forward and adding skills. I love what I do and I have the flexibility to work and be a mom. And to me, all of those things are much more important than a title.
But mostly, give yourself some grace
You aren’t perfect. I’m not perfect. No one is perfect. And no one can do it all at the same time (no matter how far we lean in). Even that mom friend or coworker you think is unflappable. Trust me, she flaps. And I’ve leaned in so far, I fell on my face.
Mistakes happen. Feeling overwhelmed happens. Peaches and canned green beans for dinner happen. It’s called life. It’s called motherhood. And it’s a stressful, crazy, beautiful journey. Enjoy it, embrace it, survive it.