The first step is to take a look at how you are currently spending your time. Make a list each day for a week outlining what you did that day and how much time each activity took. This is my typical day when I can fit in exercise (2-3 times a week):
5:45am: Wake up and get dressed in workout clothes
6am: 9 month old wakes up. She drinks her bottle while I check my email and blog.
6:30am: 4 year old wakes up. Get her dressed. Brush teeth. Finish packing bags for daycare that I started the previous night.
7am: Leave house for daycare
7:30am: Fitness class or running (activities that are very close to my house)
8:30: Shower and get ready for work
12:30pm: Eat lunch and run errands, make phone calls or go to doctor's appointment if necessary
5:15pm: Pick up kids from daycare
5:45pm: Unpack bags, clean dishes from day, do homework, play
6:30pm: Start dinner
7pm: Husband is home, eat dinner
7:30: Bedtime routine (bath, books, teeth) while the other person washes dishes and cleans up
8pm: Bedtime for both kids
8:15pm: Make bottles/lunches for both kids for next day
8:45pm: "Down time". Catch up on TV, read, chat, pay bills, etc.
Identifying Priorities. Obviously, everyone is going to have very different responsibilities and schedules but no matter how much you have going on, it is important to understand your priorities. What needs to get done each day? What can you get out of the way today that would eliminate stress now or in the future? What can you do today that would make you happy? And what can get less attention or moved to another day?
As you'll notice from my schedule, I don't spend much time getting myself ready in the morning. My go-to hair style is a bun. I have a lot of hair that would take at least an hour and a half to wash and style and that isn't a priority for me. My make up is very simple, I never have my nails done and I don't shave my legs as often as I should (sorry hubby!). Instead, I made other things a priority, like fitness and trying to have at least one hour a day that I can do something for me. Read, watch TV, blog, etc. Maybe for you it is being able to catch up with a friend or listening to music. Whatever your priority, sometimes you have to give a little in one department to get the time you need in another. Which bring me to my next point.
Create balance. We've all heard the phrase work-life balance but that idea can being a little overwhelming. Work-life balance often gives the impression that you need to "it" all, everyday. But just because something is a priority doesn't mean that you have to find time for it every single day. The balance is finding time for all the things you want to do at some point in time.
If your priority is to find more time to read, dedicate an hour to reading one day a week. If you want to make time for your friends, plan one night out a month. If you want to work out more often, try to find one day during the week and one on the weekend. I've noticed that since I'm spending more time blogging and doing research for projects, I've spent less time watching TV. But I haven't stopped enjoying a night of mindless TV completely, I just don't do it every night. Don't let the fact that you rarely get time to do something mean that you never end up doing it.
Enough with the guilt! I'm talking to myself but there is a good chance this one applies to you too. I am endlessly frustrated by how guilty we make ourselves and others feel about trying to be a 'good parent' while also taking care of ourselves. Throw in working full-time and you have a smorgasbord of guilt. Wanting to spend time with you kids is one thing but denying yourself hobbies, friendships or alone time with your spouse because you feel guilty about not spending every waking moment with or doing things for your children is another. Margie Warrell wrote in a Forbes.com article, "...it's who we are for our children - happy, good-humored, and a role model for the values we believe in - that ultimately impacts them more than how closely we, our homes, or our meals resemble the front cover of women's magazines. The reality is that you do not have to be a perfect parent to be a great parent." Preach!
It may seem stressful and overwhelming to try and fit in activities that don't feel absolutely necessary but it is time we change our mindset so that taking care of ourselves is a necessity. It's just a matter of figuring out your priorities, balancing out your tasks and not feeling guilty when you finally do something for yourself. So get out there and sign up for that underwater basket weaving class you've always wanted to take! And if you still don't feel like you can find the time, I'll come over and wash the dishes.