“How do you do it?” That’s a question I often get asked, right up there with “what’s for dinner?” Sometimes, especially when I’m feeling super stressed, I ask myself the same thing.
Raising kids while managing a career and keeping the romance burning is daunting for any woman. Hopefully, over time, we all learn how to make it work, or at least, work on most days. I’d like to share with you what I’ve painfully learned over the past 27 years of being wife-mom-nurse-entrepreneur-volunteer.
Don’t beat yourself up. You’re not perfect. I’m not perfect. Yet often, I am my own worst critic and push myself too hard. This area is a struggle for me. Sound familiar? A good friend once gave me great advice, paraphrasing from St. Augustine: do the best you can and leave the rest to God. And learn to let it go.
Be organized. In our house, I keep track of the kids’ activities using a big bulletin board and a wall calendar/planner. There’s a chores list to avoid arguing over who’s doing what job. I have a menu for the week’s meals, a corresponding grocery list, and a roster of quick, usually healthy weeknight meals.
For work, I rely on my daytimer for each day’s appointments and to-do list. There’s a big whiteboard calendar on the wall next to my desk that shows the entire month’s appointments at a glance. I have user-friendly software for bookkeeping, and am diligent with filing and documenting. I don’t let myself get behind in tasks such as sterilizing my instruments, restocking supplies or even laundering my scrubs. I know that I’m very fortunate to be able to fit my work around my family’s needs. That’s the beauty of being in business for myself.
On a related note, you won’t catch any diseases from my house, but you’ll know you haven’t stepped into a magazine spread. Martha Stewart, I’m not. And that’s OK.
Develop friendships with other women. Who else can you simultaneously overeat and talk non-stop with? Who’s going to bring you meatballs when you’ve just had a baby; burgers when there’s a death in the family; make you crazy just because?
Cultivate romance. OK, so he doesn’t look like the 22-year old I saw across a crowded room, but then I’m not my 21-year old self either. We’ve had our moments over the 31 years we’ve been together, 27 years of them as husband and wife. Through all the diaper changes, sleepless nights, disagreements, misunderstandings and pettiness, we’ve managed to carve out some time for ourselves, if only for a walk or a date night in the dining room once the kids are asleep. We don’t always have to go to a restaurant. The important thing is we make the time to be present to each other with no distractions.
Say “no.” About 2 years ago, I told my spiritual director how guilty I felt for turning down a volunteer position at my church. Wise Friend peered at me through his glasses, folded his hands on his desk and said with slight exasperation, “may I remind you that you are very busy already and have more than enough to do.” He went on to point out that my primary responsibilities are to my family first and to my business second. It’s wrong to put the needs of my community or church before my family and business and he warned me not to stretch myself too thin. Now, the only volunteer position I hold is the Catechism teacher for the First Communion class at my parish. Recently my pastor asked if I would volunteer for the RCIA program. My answer? “No.”
Look after your physical needs. A bad back is an occupational hazard in the nursing profession and I have been plagued with one since nursing school. The fear of crippling back pain, coupled with vanity, motivates me to maintain normal weight, strength and flexibility through a healthy diet, regular exercise and yoga-style stretches. As a nurse, one of my roles is health-teaching patients to live a healthy lifestyle; therefore, I need to practice what I preach. In trying to keep myself healthy, my family is healthier too. We all benefit. Find what motivates you and do whatever it takes to be healthy.
Look after your intellectual needs. Studies show that keeping your brain active can safeguard against Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. But that’s not the only reason for giving my brain a workout. Reading, writing and taking courses when time allows makes me happy. What keeps your brain synapses firing?
Look after your emotional needs. This isn’t easy, I have to admit. Sometimes I bottle things up and then explode. Not a good idea. I’m constantly working on this one, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone.
Look after your spiritual needs. Find a good spiritual director, if you can. At the very least, talk to someone with the proper theological background to clarify and correct any faith questions you may have. That’s very important because spiritual growth influences all the other areas of your life. Read the Bible as well as the writings of the saints and great theologians. Go to church every week. Pray constantly.
Have fun. I enjoy getting together with friends. I love being with my family. I like my own company. Laugh!
Be grateful. Life is a blessing. Everything is grace.
Most importantly……..Trust the past to the mercy of God, the present to His love, and the future to His providence. (St. Augustine)