One of the most challenging aspects of settling into my new routine as a stay at home mom has been finding a compromise between my former self (with an impossible-to-accomplish list of daily goals) and my new role of mommy with a dependent toddler in tow. I tried and gloriously failed an embarrassing amount of times to accomplish all the things with Dessa at my side before I finally learned to accept this new pace of life that comes from being a full-time mommy. I eventually threw my to-do list out the window, learned to give myself a lot of grace and now keep my daily goals very simple.
I generally try to accomplish five basic tasks each day:
- spend some time working on the blogs
- accomplish one household task (beyond general tidying and kitchen clean up)
- take a walk to burn some calories
- do one activity outside of the house
- provide Dessa with one special experience
ONE – The first goal of working on the blogs is pretty self-explanatory. I wake up a couple hours before Dessa each morning to pray, have a little breakfast and coffee, and work online. There are dozens of tasks that fall under the umbrella of “working on the blogs” (it's so much more than just writing) and I never have time to do all of them adequately while I'm Dessa's primary caregiver, but the morning work time has certainly been my saving grace to get at least a little bit of work accomplished online.
TWO – The household task of the day can be anything home-related. It can be catching up on laundry, cleaning the bathroom, organizing and labeling the bins in our linen closet, working on the layout of photos for a gallery wall, cooking a huge pot of chili to restock our supply in the freezer, or raking leaves (soon to be shoveling snow). Anything pertaining to our household falls under this umbrella. The key is to set my expectations low and only try to accomplish one significant household task a day. Any extra work in the home is just an added bonus.
THREE – Like most busy women, self-care doesn't come naturally for me. It's easy to get so caught up in providing for the people we love and the things we want to accomplish that we put our own needs and well-being aside. I made a lot of unhealthy choices last year in my desperate attempt to juggle all the things. Now that I've taken steps to slow down, I'm making my health and well-being a priority. We don't have room in the budget for fitness classes or a gym membership, but walking is free and easy to do with a toddler. I try to set aside at least 20 minutes of my day to take Dessa for a walk. The fresh air is good for both of us, it helps get my heart rate up, and she loves being outdoors. Cold weather is just around the corner in Michigan and I'm a little nervous about how it will affect our daily walks, but we've already made a few trips to the mall to walk on rainy days and my plan is to bundle her up as much as possible before the ice and deep freezes come our way.
FOUR – I try to leave the house for at least one task every day. Whether it's grocery shopping, meeting up with a friend, or just taking a trip to the park, Dessa and I squeeze in a quick adventure most days.
FIVE – Unlike the previous four goals (which are mostly about me), goal #5 is all about Dessa. Each day, I try to look past the laundry, errands, and housework and set aside one special time or activity that is just for her. The special activity of the day could be anything – a trip to the zoo, cutting open a pumpkin to play with the guts, stopping at the park during one of our walks, playing with Play-Doh, or inviting the neighbor's dog (whom Dessa absolutely loves) to come over and play. Our fun activity rarely costs any money – it's more about setting aside time from my own goals and priorities to do something that's fun for Dessa. Not only do those experiences bring a little variety and joy to Dessa's day – but they also provide an opportunity to work on skills that aren't part of our daily routine. Dessa's special experiences also serve an important function of helping me to slow down and give Dessa my undivided attention. Those moments are often the highlight of my day and I'm always thankful that I set a little time aside just for her.
The best case scenario is when one of my activities is able to knock out a few different goals for the day. Like when we end our daily walk with a trip to the park (goal #3: go for a walk and #5: do something special with Dessa) or, even better yet, when we are able to stop at the grocery store on our walk (which would also take care of goal #4: leave the house). I don't accomplish every single goal each day, but the daily goals give me a realistic expectation to strive for as I plan for the day ahead and I hit the goals far more often than I miss them. Most importantly, I've begun to give myself a lot more grace and I've learned to let the day unfold around Dessa's natural schedule – which helps us both have a great day.
If you find yourself frantically struggling and trying unsuccessfully to squeeze in everything, it may be the perfect opportunity to give yourself a little grace, too. Take a good, hard look at the things you absolutely must accomplish every day (like taking the kids to school or preparing dinner), then consider general categories that can apply to your typical day at home. Try and narrow your list to a few general tasks to accomplish each day. Write them down, give it your best shot, and see what happens. You can experiment with what works and make changes along the way until you find the best goals for the natural rhythms of your household.
Making the shift from a long to-do list to simplified daily goals has been such a sanity-saver. My daily goals have freed me from the frustration of a never-ending list of things to do and removed so much unnecessary stress from my life – which helps me be a better mommy to Dessa.
Special thanks to Niki Marie Photography for capturing these beautiful images of my sweet girl.