When I feel like a failure as a working mom, here is what I remember

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Some days I feel like I have it all together.  And some days – as a working mom – I feel like I’m a failure as an employee, as a mom and as a person.

I debated for a while whether to post today – I let a few things really get to me, and because of that, it was not one of my best days – but I think it’s important to be honest, so here I am.

I had a sick kid today and a full day of work that I needed to get done and limited time off to spare.  My solution was to take my sick kid into work – not the best for the kid, my co-workers or myself.  But when you’re trying to make it all work, sometimes you come up with crazy solutions (that maybe don’t always make sense!).  The end result ended up being fine and I was able to best help my kid and get my daily work done, but it wouldn’t have happened if I’d been left up to my own solution (which, let me repeat, was not a good solution).

You can’t do it all by yourself.  Believe me, I’ve tried again and again.  And I’ve failed again and again.  I can do a lot of things.  I’m proud of my successes and confident in my ability.  And I know that as I continue to learn, I continue to grow.  Here’s the important lessons I was reminded of today:

Remember, you have others to help you. Let them be kind.

I never ask for help.  I hate asking for help.  I want to be able to do all things and do all things perfectly.  And I know that isn’t realistically possible for any human to accomplish – much less to try to maintain on a regular basis.  But I still want those things, badly.  So when I need help – really need it – I have to mentally psych myself up to ask someone to help me.

And guess what, when I ask others for help it’s usually no big deal to that person and I’m better off for having involved them, letting them help me, and building a new part of our relationship.  Ask for help when you need it.  Ask for help more often.

And if you’re having a hard time asking for help (like me), accept the help when it is freely given to you.  In an important conversation today, I was offered help.  And even with the 1000 things running through my mind – my response was, “Thank you for helping me, I appreciate it.”

Figure out what works for your energy or emotional release. And do that thing.

When I’m starting to feel my stress build to the point that I’m not sure I can take it, I try to find something to help exhaust me.  Now, I’m not talking about mental exhaustion – I’m usually already there by this point! I’ve found what helps me calm down is something that can take my mind off of my stress, release all of the extra (stress) energy that I’m internalizing, and something that is good for me.  I usually will exercise – and it seems to work.  Today, I went to the gym after work and focused on the workout. About 15 minutes in, I decided to add some extra weights during my weightlifting class and by the end of the routine – I was exhausted and REFRESHED – because I was thinking about the exercise and not my stress.

Keeping the stress with you is only going to do damage to you.  Get it out in a healthy way that actually eliminates the exhaustion – it could be talking to someone, it could be running, it could be getting enough sleep.  Find what works for you and make it a priority to make it happen.

Tackle things in small pieces. Remember small progress is still progress.

I often wake up in the middle of the night when I’m stressed and think about all of the problems of the world. I need to fix everything and I’m too sleepy and disoriented for anything to make sense, so I spin my wheels and make no progress.  I’ve started forcing myself to write down the real things that I’ve developed and send them to myself in email.  Then I do something else until I can go back to sleep (so I don’t think about everything that has ever existed in the world that I need to fix).

When I wake up and I’m thinking clearly, I look at my email and am able to write down my “real” tasks so I can make progress today.  Then I focus only on what I can accomplish today or what I planning I need to accomplish so I can make tiny progress tomorrow.   When I think about the here-and-now, I realize that I’m making progress and it’s making a big difference over time.

There are many times where I have to tell my kids “No” because of something related to work or not take a work-related opportunity because of what it means for my kids.  I realize it’s the balance that will always exist in my life and I’m comfortable with my decisions and my progress. I know they’ll be good days, challenging days and important days in the future.  I’m working to make sure that my days are purposeful and that I make a difference with what I can do.

I’ve learned is purposeful positive thinking makes an enormous difference in my life, and I think it will benefit you as well.  When I’m feeling like a failure as a working mom, I remind myself of the power of purposeful positive thinking, because it works. Instead of thinking, “I can’t do it all,” I remember,  “I’m doing the best I can and my best is enough.”  Switching my thinking is a valuable reminder that gives me strength in challenging situations and makes me continue to do the best I can – to be the best mom, the best employee and the best person. 

I think that’s all I can ever really hope for.  And I’m happy with that. Because my best is enough.

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18 thoughts of encouragement for 2018

File Jan 05, 4 00 52 PMA friend of mine shared thoughts recently that to build courage in others, we should be more focused on encouragement.  It was the right message at the right time for me.  Instead of New Year’s Resolutions, I theme my years (and I’ve been doing it since 2003), and focus on improving my life in a key area for the whole year.

I’d been struggling with what to have as my focus for 2018, too much on my mind and the thoughts running through my head, “Does anyone really need my help? What do I have to offer?”

And then I’m reminded that each of us has unique talents and gifts.  My strengths include organization and communication – and I love sharing what I’ve learned with you.  I know it’s helpful to be reminded what you do well and get tips for making improvements.

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Focus On What You Want Most

Lately, I’ve been focusing on what I want most.  It seems a little selfish at first blush, but it’s not.  This thought method helps align my focus with my values and makes me realize when I have a decision to make – I can think about what I want or what I want most.  I can’t always have both options, so I have to make decisions based on what is most important to me. It’s added incredible clarity and made me step out of my comfort zone even more.

I encourage you to stop and think about what you want most and let that guide you as you move forward.  Here is the organized strategy that has worked for me:

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The easiest 1000 conversations you’ll ever have

As a parent, I’ve been secretly dreading having “the big conversation” with my kids.  I know they’re necessary, but what a load of responsibility! This big conversation would have to be perfect! And then I heard something a few weeks ago that changed my entire perspective.

It’s not one conversation, but many, that will really make the difference. And I realized I’d already been doing this all along.  I encourage you to consider these organized strategies that have worked for me:

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The Power of Being New

I’ve been in a few situations lately where I’m the new person and I’m not sure what to do.  I’ve seen others avoid these situations because it’s often uncomfortable to be unsure of the next steps. I used to think that I was the same way, but I’ve realized that I do know what to do and I’m comfortable getting what I need – so if I’m new or I’m the expert, I’m making the best of the situation.

Even if you’re new, you can be more organized in managing this situation.  I encourage you to consider these strategies that have worked for me:

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Start Small (and crush your goals just for you)

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It’s been a while since I’ve focused on what I enjoy.  Life seems to keep getting in the way. And I’ve had my focus in other places – growing family, life goals and work. I’ve come up with excuse after excuse and labeled them reason after reason – everything seemed valid for pushing what was important to me aside to get other things done.

But no more! I’m proud to say, I’ve made great progress this year in many areas and the goal I’ve been working toward is within my grasp.  Even when you feel like you’re at the starting line, I encourage you to make a plan to make progress. Here is what I did:

Focus on small goals.  

I had a baby in December and I gained a lot of weight (ok, it was a normal amount, but it felt like a lot).  I’ve been working steadily since then to lose weight, build muscle and eat clean.  In the last 6 months, I’ve lost all the baby weight (hooray!).  It wasn’t easy, but it certainly was doable.  I will write about the details later, but the short story is – I focused on a small goal to make it happen.  I watched each meal and each day with a goal of losing 2 oz to 4 oz.  It didn’t seem like much, but it adds up to about 6 lbs per month and over time, that makes a big difference!

When you have a major goal that you need to accomplish, break it down into tiny pieces. Seriously, tiny bite-sized (like 1 oz) pieces.  The smaller your goal, the more realistic it seems and the closer you get to your overall achievement.

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Your Daily Health Plan – Do These 5 Simple Things To Improve Your Health Today

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You can make small, healthier choices every day that get you closer to your goal. I’ve found that focusing on five small items each day has made a significant change in my health – even on busy days – and made me more focused, more alert and more content.  I encourage you to try adding one of these to your daily routine and watch your health (and sanity) improve.

Eat Breakfast Every Day

Start your day fueled and ready to go – choose a lean protein, whole-grain carbohydrates and something fun for breakfast every day. I love breakfast, it’s my favorite meal of the day. Breakfast foods are amazing and it’s always the meal where I’m the hungriest (Break-The-Fast makes sense).  I’ve heard some people say they can’t eat breakfast in the morning, but skipping breakfast is a bad idea.  I know on days I don’t eat a good breakfast, I make bad decisions the rest of the day (often with both food and life).

I typically eat two eggs, whole-grain toast a slice of cheddar cheese and tropical fruit & bananas.  It’s easy when I don’t have to think about it and I know I’ll stay full for hours. Try different healthy options until you find what works for you – oatmeal is an option, even turkey sandwiches are good! – if it works for you, then it works.

Plan Your Meals and Snacks

In addition to eating breakfast, I encourage you to plan your food for the day because it will help you make better decisions.  When I start each day, I know exactly what I’m eating throughout the day (by category at least) and it saves me time, thought and hunger pains throughout the day.  I try to eat 5 cups of veggies, 3 cups of fruit, 4 cups of lean protein and 4 servings of whole-grain carbs – I’ve noticed on this plan (I’m using the 21 day fix – the app is amazing) that I’m not hungry, I know what to expect and I’m losing weight (I had a baby in December, it’s the fastest I’ve lost weight ever).

When you are thinking about planning out your meals, I encourage you to think about one day at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed.  Make your breakfast, pick healthy lunch and snack ideas and then think about what is best for dinner – even if you can only make progress with one meal or one day – you’re still making progress.

When you have time, make a list of healthy foods you enjoy eating and start adding them to your diet (I eat two cups of roasted carrots every day, yum and healthy).

Make Time For Things You Enjoy

When I spend time doing things I enjoy, I find that I’m more productive with all things.  If you schedule it as an appointment you’re more likely to do it.  Even if you just have 15 minutes to spend, I encourage you to plan something you like to do today.  My favorite right now is front-porch sitting.  Even 15 minutes and I feel like a new person.  Find it and do it today.

Push Yourself to Move More

Find ways to get out of your seat and move every chance you can.  I try to schedule meetings in other people’s offices, I refill my water bottle on the main floor of our building (I work on the third floor), I always take the stairs, and I park far away from many stores. All of these help me add extra steps to my day and get me closer to my goal of 11,114 K steps per day (5 miles).

I also schedule workout time 5 days a week (because this is what I enjoy).  Sometimes it’s my lunch hour, sometimes it’s after work and sometimes I have to wake up really early to make it happen – but adding it to my schedule means I know I have time and I know I’m doing something for me.

Put Yourself In Time-Out

Sure, it sounds like a punishment for a toddler, but it’s a saving-grace for adults.  I can tell when I’m too tired, too hungry or too stressed to deal with something right then.  And I’ve said before, “I need to step away for a bit.” I’ve taken time-out naps, walks or time-out snacks (healthy snacks, of course) and it does wonders for my decision making process, my sanity and my response.

Try it – put yourself in time out every time you realize you’re not at your best.  And do something you like to do.  You need time to recharge and refresh, so you’re better on the other side.

It’s not too late to make a healthy focus for the year. Start today.