A Eureka Moment. No, Not the Vacuum.

April 11, 2011

in Relationships & Family

I am pleased to introduce you to Liz Bronson. She is one of our newest contributors to the Relationships & Family section. Here’s a bit about her:

I am a full time mom of two goofy toddlers, a part time corporate recruiter, and the voice behind www.weekdaysolomommy.com where I explore the ups and downs of having a spouse who travels for work.  I try my best to juggle it all while maintaining my sanity and sense of humor.

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"Liz Bronson"

Last Sunday afternoon while feeling badly about skipping out on our Sunday night family dinner to take the 4:30 yoga class (it had been WEEKS and my body was craving a good stretch), I had a Eureka moment.  The stress in my life is about time.  And trade offs.  And not knowing whether the trade offs I’m making are the right ones.   The more I’ve been thinking about this, the more examples I get…

Here are a few:

1. After work, I take about 30 minutes to make a healthy meal for my family (If you haven’t looked at America’s Test Kitchen’s 30 Minute Recipe book I highly recommend it).  I stop working around 5, send AA home, and then sit my kids in front of the TV so that I can make them a healthy, home cooked, balanced meal.  It’s important to me that they eat healthy, and I enjoy feeding my family.  Still, that 30 minutes could be spent playing with my kids while a frozen dinner heats in the microwave.  Do you see where I’m going with this?

2. If I do something for me, like go to yoga or run to the mall to return one of my many online orders, I leave TD alone to take care of 2 kids. When I’m gone, I feel guilty because I know that it’s tough to be alone with them, and he’s solo while I’m enjoying myself.  Yes, sometimes I go on a weekend at nap time, but then I’m sacrificing time to get things done around the house, quality time with TD etc… I can’t get away guilt free… If I go out at night, I’m leaving him alone to put them to bed, or paying a sitter so I can get play time.

3. My choice to work part time works well for me, most of the time. But, because I’m part time and the rest of the company isn’t, I am constantly getting work calls during my mommy time.  Of course, I have to answer (to the caller’s chagrin as my children whine/fuss/fight in the background) because I don’t want anyone to see my working part time as a detriment etc, but that’s taking time away from my kids and my mommy time.  Or I’ll see an email on my phone (that I’m checking while with the kids, thus not giving them my full attention….), and run downstairs to check a spreadsheet or do something to “keep the process moving”.

I don’t want anyone to see my working part time as a detriment

4.  I’ll go watch Princess‘ ballet class while checking emails, knowing I should be at work, since it is during my “work time”, but she asks so nicely and I never go… Same goes for when I go to a doctor’s appointment, or (here’s where I get really crazy), do something like get my eyebrows waxed.

5. I hole up in my room watching The Bachelor on a Monday night when TD is home, hoping that he won’t come in, and if he does, tell him what I’m doing and watch him walk away a little disappointed that his wife chose Boring Brad over him.

I think you get the point.

I realized that I’m having a hard time living in the moment.

Since this “Eureka” I’ve been trying to put the phone away, and be more present with my kids.  I love being with them, but hate that nagging tug of the other 15 things I have to do. Why can’t I sort clothes while playing trains?

Well… because then I’m really sorting clothes and not playing trains at all.

I own the fact that I’m busy, but I need to compartmentalize that busyness in order to not feel like I’m doing everything in a so-so way.  I also need to think about what’s really important to me, and how I can get some time for myself without feeling badly.   The problem is that the only time that I have for myself is either time that I have carved out to spend with the kids (mainly mornings), time carved out for work (afternoons) and time carved out for family (weekends).

Because TD isn’t home during the week, it’s hard for me to take away from our family time to do something for me because I feel like I’m choosing me over us, and that feels wrong.  I don’t want to take more time away from the kids because I already take afternoons away from them.  In the evenings, if I want to get away, I need to hire a sitter.   And, frankly, I’m exhausted at night and don’t usually want to go out.  What ends up suffering is work, and that’s usually just for glamorous things like doctor’s appointments or things for the kids, because I can justify it.

So, here are my questions to you…

When do you take time to get out of the house just for you?   What has to give?  How do you avoid the guilt?  Do you think that there’s a way to get true relaxation with 2 toddlers?

Lil' Ho April 13, 2011 at 2:17 am

Great post, Liz. But, whoa!, no “me time”?? No girlfriends, gym time, spiritual moments alone with God, etc? Wow. True, we can say we have the rest of our lives for these things. But “me time”, at least mine, is far from trivial. I don’t want to be trying to find friends at 50; I want to be laughing with the friends I had when I was 35 about how we somehow survived! I don’t want to hit 50 and wished I lifted more weights so my osteoporosis wasn’t as bad. I need those moments of peace with God that allow me to just breathe when my patience is tested or open my eyes to a person around me in need. Saying “kids first” simplifies the issue too much for me. I have learned that I am a much better mom to my kiddos and wife to my hubby when I have my mental and spiritual health… And, sure, that means they are disappointed in certain *moments* perhaps… But I hope not so when they look back on any given week or, most importantly, on these precious years. Liz, I know first hand that you are a fabulous mom, wife, friend, and individual!! Don’t forgot that last one!! Thanks for the thought- provoking honesty!

gigi April 12, 2011 at 5:10 pm

I’ve written a few times about the myth of “me time.” Everybody says you need to have it, but for those of us who work for someone else (in addition to being a mom) and even stay-at-home moms who are very busy, sometimes that’s just not practical or realistic. I’m with Bejewell. I’ve made a conscious choice that for the most part, I don’t get me time right now. I’m okay with it. I’ll live.

I believe there is no way to not feel guilty – it’s just too hard when you have that many things pulling at you. The main and important thing is that you acknowledge it’s there and that you’re doing the best that you can. :)

Leigh Ann April 11, 2011 at 11:00 pm

I could have written this myself. I stay at home with the kids, but I’m constantly playing the game of giving them my full attention and pushing back the millions of other things that are running through my mind. And? I catch up on Twitter and my Google reader while I’m nursing my youngest. How motherly. So I totally feel you.

And the guilt? Maybe it will go away when their older and don’t need so much attention. I always feel bad leaving my hubs alone with all 3 kids (all ages 3 and under). Because Lord knows that when he’s home on the weekends I don’t want to be left alone with them, but then again, I’m used to it!

Catherine April 11, 2011 at 10:35 pm

I hear ya, Liz. Honestly, I don’t think there is such a thing as rest when you have two toddlers! From my experience and as I’m sure you know, time goes by really fast. As soon as you know it, you will look up into the face of pre-teens who are wanting to spend all of their time away from you and with their friends. I was a full-time working mom for eight years before giving birth to my second child who now stays home with me while I work from home part-time. I used to tell people, when asked about motherhood, that guilt was the topmost feeling that I had next to love for my son…. that guilt it just never ended no matter what I did. Now that he’s twelve years old, I think back to those days and wish I would have just let some of that stuff that seemed so important at the time go. Release the guilt, do what felt right and enjoy life instead of constantly feeling like I was being something to someone. And so my long-winded point is that it won’t be like this for you forever. Soon, they will be all grown up and independent, off at sleepovers at a friend’s house giving you the ENTIRE night to have to yourself.

Another thing, since you spend so much time with the kids during the week while your husband is away, seems like the weekends are the perfect time for you to escape while he has some bonding time with them. A couple of hours can’t do much harm!

Bejewell April 11, 2011 at 10:27 pm

I’m faced with these choices all the time, too, and usually I end up doing whatever means the most time with my kiddo. Because in the end, I know that time is fleeting and I’ll never get it back. The rest of it — work time, errands, “me” time — I’ll have my whole life for that, and my son will only be four once. From what I hear, in a few years he won’t want to have anything to do with me anymore, anyway!

It can be tricky with work especially, and it definitely means some late nights and a few dark circles under my eyes. But I’ve never resented that or felt guilty about any decision that means more time with him. I do manage to get a few breaks here and there, but the priority is always the boy, and I’m content with that. Tired, but content!

Christina Linnell April 11, 2011 at 10:15 pm

Awesome post Liz! Boy, the idea of balancing it all could be discussed every single day of the year. One day I feel like I am on top of this and then the next I feel like a total failure. Just keep pluggin’ away, that’s all we can do.

Beth April 11, 2011 at 9:52 pm

Hi,

I loved your post and it’s one that I think your feelings are common among working women with kids. But what I am learning (the hard way), is that guilt is just guilt and you have control over it. Does it do you any good? Probably not, so push it aside. The other thing is, you have to take care of you. Nobody else will put you first. You don’t want to be in a situation where you’re suffering mentally and/or physically because everything else came before you. Believe me, those little moments when you watch the Bachelor because it’s mindless and refreshes you are probably worth it.

By the way, I don’t think there’s any way to get true relaxation with 2 toddlers around.

Thanks for being so honest and open.

Beth

Tia Peterson April 11, 2011 at 12:53 pm

I understand a bit of what you’re going through, minus the part about needing to spend time with your husband. It’s hard to balance time for yourself and time with your kids when there is only one of you during the week. My son is a toddler, so I get it. It’s not like he comes home, heads to his room and plays Nintendo until dinner, right? :) Things are different when the kids are tiny still.

I take time to get out of the house when my son is at preschool. That is basically the only time that I get, and I really should be working during that time. I recently hired a babysitter for every-now-and-then, and have used her once and it was really nice. It’s a luxury, though, so I don’t plan on indulging that all of the time.

The other time I spend on myself is when my son goes to sleep. I hardly do any work at night anymore (I used to). I just decided that it wasn’t worth going insane.

Maybe in a year I’ll come to the realization that trying to be a single, work from home mom running a full-time business with a toddler just isn’t going to happen. I’m okay with that. It’s days like today, when he’s sick and I’m forced to do the “work at home while your toddler throws temper tantrums and you have to cancel two meetings” that I just throw my hands up and say motherhood isn’t all roses, is it?

Thankfully it is roses some of the time! :)

Great first post. Welcome to bizchickblogs!

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