Moms seem to feel obliged to “do it all”. We have a hard time letting things go and get caught up with how things “should” be. You want to make sure your girls’ hair is nicely styled, you stress to prepare healthy home cooked meals, the kids need their extracurricular activities, and of course, you should volunteer at the school.
When you’re a single mom, it might seem like your obligations have multiplied rather than just doubled with the loss of your spouse. And that may be true because now your kids have extra emotional needs, now you have counseling or court appointments, and now an affordable home means a longer commute to work.
Moms tend to feel responsible for their kids, jobs, and others, but usually not their own needs. You have a hard time saying no or asking for help. Maybe you got negative responses from your partner or kids. Maybe, you set standards too high and don’t like how your kids do things, so you’d rather do it yourself.
And then, overwhelmed, you get lost in procrastination or activities that don’t matter. You get caught up in keeping up with the Joneses because there’s just so much pressure to look or act a certain way. You spend time shopping for things you don’t need, watching TV shows and internet videos you don’t have time for, or volunteering at school with resentment for the intrusion on your time.
It’s a crazy train with no exit in sight. So, you cry about having too much to do and not enough time to do it in. And then you pick yourself up again, committed to getting it together because people are depending on you. Determined, you search for some new planner or app to better organize your life. You try a new system to be more efficient. You set new goals and reprioritize. But still, you struggle with getting it all done and wonder if things will ever change.
You can’t create more time. You can only be responsible for yourself and your choices. You have the power to decide what you want to spend your time on. Sure, you have to work to pay the bills. And certainly, things come up beyond our control. Kids need to be fed and have clean clothes. But there’s so much in your day that you get to choose what you’ll spend your time on.
If this is a struggle for you, you can take back control. It will involve time for some soul searching and planning. Preferably, you want to find several uninterrupted hours. Choose a time when the kids are away for the weekend, in school on your day off, or ask someone to watch the kids. If it’s impossible to get a block of time away, schedule an hour a day for the next few days when the kids are asleep.
Next, find someplace to go that’s inspiring, but allows you to work without distractions. If the piles of laundry at home distract you, head out to the library, a lovely park, free museum, or a coffee shop. Bring a notebook, laptop computer, or your mobile device. I like working with paper and pen because it is simple to get started, but choose what works best for you.
Now, take some time to think about what your priorities and values are. What to you want most in life? Accept that there are seasons to life. Young children demand much time, but it won’t be forever. Finances dictate what you do today, but you can improve your situation. You get to decide what you want your life to look like and in what direction you want to head.
Do you want to go back to school? You might not have the funds to pay for a college degree, but with abundant free online college courses, there’s nothing to stop you from learning on your own. Do you wish you could work from home and not have to put your children in daycare? The internet allows you a multitude of opportunities that weren’t available 5 or 10 years ago. Do you dream of owning a home? Maybe you can alter the vision of a custom 2,500 square foot house to a cozy 2-bedroom condo that will cost you half as much.
Now, take that dream list and analyze it. What is really the most important to you? What are you willing to give up in order to have what you want? If soccer is not that important to your son, but it uses up all your free time together, why are you doing it? If you hate your job, how long are you willing to stay at it? What can you do today to get started in a new field?
Decide that no matter what has happened in the past, today can be different. Your past does not dictate your future. Choose to be grateful for your life and what you have been given. You may have gone through some really terrible times, but thank God for the gifts you’ve been given – your beautiful children, a place of your own to live, a boss who supports you, or a mom or friend who helps whenever she can. Then, commit to doing things differently.
Don’t start with overhauling your whole life, but pick 3-5 areas for change, so you don’t get overwhelmed, but can have some traction fast. Limit your list to simple goals you can achieve over the next 90 days. You want to see success at something sooner rather than a year from now. Set SMARTER goals. SMARTER is an acronym for specific, measurable, actionable, realistic, time-bound, exciting, and relevant. Instead of saying you’ll “Learn a new skill”, a SMARTER goal would be “Sign up for the online writing course at Udemy and complete it by December 31”.
Once you have a few goals in place, decide what steps you can take this week. Accomplishing that big hairy goal can be overwhelming. You don’t have to see the end of the road to take the first step. Do you want to lose 30 pounds? Then maybe the first step is an appointment with your doctor for a physical and advice on losing weight. Or you could clean the junk food out of your house. Or you could decide you will start walking for 10-15 minutes every day. Take a step that is doable for you and don’t be embarrassed it’s too simple. This way, you’re more likely to stick to it.
Next, you have to decide what you’ll cut from your life that is getting in the way of your goals and living the life you want. Do you and the kids have too much stuff that overwhelms you? Clean out the closets and cupboards and sell it or give it away. Are you volunteering too much? Choose 1 or 2 things that mean the most to you and fit in this time of life, like working in the Sunday School class your child attends.
Finally, share your dreams and goals with a few close friends or family members who can support you and hold you accountable. You might find they need the same help from you in their life. Achieving just 1 or 2 goals or developing new habits that move you towards achieving your goals will huge impact your satisfaction with life. Decide today to do something different. Then, you’ll find much more meaning and satisfaction with your life.