What To Do When You're Ready to Quit

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As a kid, I was practically a professional when it came to coloring. I paid close attention to every detail, never strayed outside the lines, and even finished each masterpiece with a little tissue buffing to give it that special shine.

One particular piece landed me first place in a coloring competition, and as my prize, I received a gift card to a local department store. The second they handed me that gift card, I knew exactly what I was going to get and told my parents right away. But in typical fashion for my parents, they told me I needed to wait one week, and if at the end of that week I still wanted that Turtle Tots turtle, they would take me to get it. 

One week?!?! That's a lifetime in the world of a kid. Their justification to me was that they wanted me to be sure this particular toy was what I truly wanted.

Now maybe they secretly thought this turtle was silly and hoped that I might change my mind. I've never asked them. But one thing they did know, was that the interests of a young child can change day to day, even hour to hour. So not only were they helping to ensure I would end up with a prize I really wanted, they were also teaching me patience and the concept of delayed gratification.

Missing Out

Fast forward 30-some years and I once again was in a position to practice what I had been taught. When my son was about 6 months old, I had to take a business trip that would take me away from home for 2 nights. Definitely not a long trip in the grand scheme of things, but for some reason, this particular trip felt like an eternity. Henry was in a particularly cute phase at the time and I returned from that trip to a mountain of emails at work, house projects that had fallen behind (no fault to my husband, being a single parent is hard!), and stories of all the fun the two of them had had in my absence.

I was tired just thinking about getting caught up.

I was sad that I had missed out on being with my family.

And I was angry that I was in a job that required me to travel, even occasionally.

Putting Lessons to the Test

So what did I do? I immediately jumped to thinking about quitting my job. I thought that if I didn't have to work, I wouldn't have to travel and therefore wouldn't have to feel this way again.

I thought about our budget and what it would take to live on a single income. I thought about breaking the news to my boss and to my clients. I even went so far as to say it out loud to my husband. To which he calmly responded,

"Is that what you really want?"

If it was, he said, then I should take some time to really think about it. To think about what my days would look like. To think about my career. To think about not just the short-term, but also the long-term implications. And if at the end of my thinking, I still felt as strongly about the proposition as I did right then, in that moment of pure frustration, then we would start to figure out how to make it happen. But give it some time, he said.

Time and Truth

Ok Mr. Life Coach. I felt like that kid pining for my turtle all over again. But unlike then, when I decided that in fact, I did want that turtle, I ultimately decided that I wasn't ready to quit my job and stay home. I realized that I really did like my job and working and that I was just tossing out quick solutions in the heat of the moment rather than thinking about the bigger picture.

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It's so easy to do that, especially when emotions tied to our kids are so strong. Things change, feelings change when you have kids. I know plenty of new moms who were no longer interested in their careers the way they were before having kids. The end of maternity leave is such a classic example of this because it stirs up all kinds of crazy thoughts and emotions. Only you know whether leaving your job and staying home is the right decision for you.

It's Up to You

If there's one thing I am slowly and painfully learning through motherhood, it's that everything changes. Be sure that whatever you are deciding isn't decided in haste. Make sure it's something that feels right.

And then make the leap, or don't. It's up to you.

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Whether it's about working or staying home, or whether it's even about your job at all, I am merely suggesting that you don't rush into it. Think it through. Sleep on it. Plan it out. Say it out loud. But most of all, give it a little time.

To this day, I don't regret staying at my job...or getting that turtle. But there are plenty of other rash choices where I wish I would have given myself more time.

Don't Set Yourself Up for Failure

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Productivity is probably not the first word that comes to mind when you think of the transition into motherhood. Beautiful, overwhelming, life-changing - those are more realistic. But productive? Not so much.

Talking to new moms about productivity is kind of like talking to fish about swimming. It's just something we do naturally. Moms are productive. We feed the baby, change the diaper, wash the laundry and in general, get stuff done because another little person depends on us to do the work.

But when you add working [mom] to your title, suddenly all you think about is productivity.

Getting Shit Done

I try to squeeze as much as I can out of my days. I aim to have a plan, be efficient and take action.

There are few things I geek out about more than productivity because when I have limited time and a lot to do, I want to find a process that will allow me to not just do what I have to, but do it as quickly as possible so that I can (GASP) have a few minutes of free time!

Lately, however, I find myself procrastinating, and as a result, barely completing half of my daily to-do list. Nothing is more defeating than carrying the same task from day to day and week to week until you reach the end of the month and just give up. I guess Oma isn't going to receive that thank you note after all!

When Things Aren't Working, Try Something New

You might tease me about the amount of time I spend reading about productivity, but it has provided me with a nice and somewhat expansive tool belt of ideas from which to pull. Whenever I find that my needs have changed and what I'm doing is no longer working, back to the tool belt I go to try something new.

As a working mom, I keep lots of different lists. I manage over 50 client accounts at work, stay on top of bills, budgets and financial obligations at home and keep track of errands, supplies and appointments for the family. That doesn't take into account the coaching and writing I do here for Mother Nurture and all of the many projects I would love to tackle personally (meditation, capsule wardrobe, book club...).

All that to say, with so much to keep track of, if I don't write it down it's not getting done. But lately, even if I do write it down, that's no guarantee that I will do it. I have been procrastinating and I don't like it.

So for the next few weeks, I want to try making some tweaks to my process so I can feel like I'm actually making progress. I want to end my day feeling like I kicked ass instead of feeling like the day kicked my ass! If you want to join me, here's the plan:

TIMING

In the book "Essentialism", there is a section devoted to a phenomenon called 'planning fallacy', which is people's tendency to underestimate how long a task will take, even when they have done that task before.

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I am so guilty of this! For instance, I often think that meal prepping for the week only takes me an hour on a Sunday. Two and a half hours later when I am still in the kitchen cooking, I am frustrated, angry and ready t throw in the towel because everything else I wanted to do is now going to get pushed back or scrapped altogether.

On the flip side, I often put off reconciling our budget or putting away the dishes because I think it will take me forever. But setting a timer recently, I learned that I can empty our entire dishwasher in 3 minutes and I can reconcile a budget in about 10-15 minutes. That's nothing!

So I am going to start timing some of my recurring tasks and guesstimating the amount of time other tasks might realistically take me to complete. And I'm going to add in some buffer time.

Seeing 10 minutes next to a task should help me create a more realistic list and help me get started because 10 minutes is nothing!

RUNNING LIST

I said before that if I don't write it down, it's not going to happen. I'm sure you can relate. The problem is my running list gets so long with all kinds of tasks and ideas, many of them not urgent or time sensitive, that it's overwhelming. When I'm doing my weekly planning and putting my priority items on each particular day's task list, I struggle to identify the most important items from the "someday" items.

So I'm going to move my running list to a separate page so that it's not so visually overwhelming. I may even take it a step further and put tasks/ideas into columns based on urgency.

Either way, while I definitely need to write things down to remember them, I think I want that place to be not quite so front and center.

KEEP IT SHORT

I've written before about keeping your daily work list to a small number of items, like 3 to 5. If you get through those and have time for more, great! But at the very least, you should be able to get through 3 to 5 and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

While I still heed that advice for my work list, my household and personal lists have gotten out of control! I must think that I'm superwoman or that I have the power to stretch time because these lists have probably 6 hours worth of work on them each day. And once I take out my time at the office, time with the kids and time for just life in general (shower, dinner, kids' bedtime, etc.), I'm left with maybe 1-2 hours before I have to call it quits and go to bed or I'll be useless the next day.

I'm hoping that assigning time allotments to each task will help. But at the very least, I need to get back to prioritizing 3-5 items at home just like I do at work.

It's All About Expectations

When it comes down to it, all of these changes are really about having realistic expectations. Knowing how long something will take, knowing what the priority is, and knowing your limit is about setting yourself up for success.

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When I set myself up for success, I approach my day completely differently than if I think there's no change to make a dent in what I need to do. I feel optimistic, encouraged and sure of myself instead of grumpy, overwhelmed and anxious.

Are you ready to make a few small changes to how you work and manage your daily tasks? Do you have other ideas for what you might do differently? Let me know by sending me a quick note at Katelyn@themothernurture.com.

Here's to taking back our days and setting realistic expectations!

What To Do When Sleep Is Not an Option

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Ahh, sleep. For a new working mom, it is that elusive mystical unicorn.

As much as we hope, pray and cross our fingers for a baby that "sleeps like a baby", the truth is, most of us are not so lucky.

Even if you are lucky to have a sleeping baby, sleep still may not come so easily anymore.

There is something about motherhood that flips a switch and transforms us into a wake-at-the-sound-of-a-pin-drop sleeper. Or there are all the things that have to get done, often at the expense of sleep. There is work to catch up on, chores to get done, time that we want to spend with our partner or better yet, by ourselves!

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When you can't do it all, something has to go. And that something is often sleep. 

While I would argue that there are stages of life when you should do all that you can to prioritize sleep, to get as much as possible, even if it's broken; I know from first-hand experience that it's not always realistic.

Existing on Caffeine, Chocolate, and Adrenaline

I know, because I have had two babies who loved partying in the middle of the night. Babies who went through stages of only sleeping while being held, only sleeping for 30 minutes at a time, only sleeping with meditation music or pacifiers or a hand on their back. You name it and we have done it. It's what drove me to enlist the help of a pediatric sleep consultant (a story for a whole other day).

I tell you this to say that I get it.

I have existed on caffeine, chocolate and sheer adrenaline for longer than I ever thought was humanly possible.

I have hit the afternoon wall so hard, so many times, that it took every ounce of restraint to not curl up under my desk for a cat nap. Speaking of cat naps, I have slept in my car on my lunch break, in the pump room, and during conference calls. Sleep deprivation of a new parent is R-E-A-L, Real!

But I figured something out the second time around that, while it didn't magically add uninterrupted sleep to my days, did help to slightly offset the continual deficit I was running.

How to Offset the Deficit

I figured out that when sleep is not an option, everything else that contributes to your health HAS to be an option.

Because your sleep is dependent on another little being, one who doesn't understand that lights out means sleep, there's not a whole lot you can do to get more. I get that.

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Instead, think about the things that you can control. Things like...

  • What you eat and what you drink,
  • How much you move your body,
  • How you quiet your mind and reduce stress,
  • How much you smile and have fun, 
  • How productive you are, and 
  • What you do to supplement your diet.

When you're running a sleep deficit, you need to have a surplus in the other areas of your well-being to make up the difference.


Here is my short list: the "surplus" areas that I focus on when I start to feel that overwhelming, body and mind-numbing sleep deprivation set in.

The key here is to know yourself well enough that you can decide which combination of these ideas is going to have the biggest impact in offsetting your sleep deficit. 

Food & Drink

The first think that I always want to grab when I'm tired is chocolate candy. I love some peanut m&ms and Oreos. But what I also know is that I always feel worse in the hour following eating those things than I did before.

So I summon every ounce of willpower and opt for fruit, vegetables or protein. (Better yet, I just don't buy those things so I'm not tempted, because who has willpower when you're tired?)

I also know that when I drink TONS of water, I feel refreshed. I consciously drink glass after glass on the days when I'm feeling particularly tired. It really does start to wake me up.

Movement

They say that exercise actually increases your energy levels, even though the thought of it probably leaves you feeling tired and exhausted.

Maybe you just start with something small like a walk around the block on a work break or up and down a flight of steps. I also love starting small with simple stretches or a sun salutation to wake myself up. I've even done this in a conference room when I'm feeling that urge to nap under my desk.

Quiet Your Mind / Reduce Stress

I have never found meditation as meaningful as I have when I'm tired. Because when I am tired, I am emotional; I am quick to anger; I succumb easily to stress; and I just feel, in general, like the sky is falling.

Meditation is like a nap on steroids. It helps to calm my mind and my emotions and leaves me feeling a bit like I've gotten some sleep.

It looks different for everyone. Do what works for you, whether that is counting your breaths in cycles of 10, starting at a candle, doing yoga nidra or using an app like Headspace or Calm. Give it a try.

Supplements

I always make sure that I’m taking my daily vitamin and whatever else I’m into at the moment. At different stages that has been Vitamin D, probiotics, magnesium, Vitamin B complex, digestive enzymes, protein shakes, etc.

When you’re tired and easily forget about eating balanced meals, getting a little extra boost from vitamins and supplements is never a bad idea. (Of course, I’m not a medical professional so consult with your healthcare provider before trying all the things.)

Lagniappe

...also known as a little something extra. Everyone has their thing that helps them feel their best. Whether it’s doing a little journaling, having a glass of wine, taking a bath, you name it. Try to add it in when you can. For me, it’s diffusing some essential oils that immediately relax me or help build up my immune system because when I get tired, I catch everything!

You know what your own lagniappe is. Don’t forget about it. Add it in when you can for a little extra boost.


Let’s be honest. Nothing truly beats sleep when it comes to feeling your best.

But it’s time that we accept whatever stage we are in and do what we can to offset that deficit.

The Four Words Every New Mom Should Hear

When I think back to that first year of being a mom, I shake my head and smile.

I can do that now. I'm on the other side.

But when I was in it...man, was I in it! I was in that stage of full-on sleep deprivation, of never-ending baby cries, of fevers and ear infections and teething, of short naps and multiple night-wakings, of long work days and corresponding mom guilt, of juggling work and home and family, and of battling PPD

I can honestly say that I was pushed to my breaking point and I thought it would never end.  

The Magic Words that Put It All in Perspective

I can tell you that it did eventually end. And eventually there was enough distance between that first year and the present to make me feel like I could do it again, because just 7 months ago, I became a mom for the second time.

I made sure to give myself enough time to recover, but not too much that I would forget how hard it can be in the beginning.

And it was hard. I had many moments of deja vu as I rocked and shushed another crying baby, powered through long nights and days with very little sleep and returned to work facing reminiscent feelings of guilt and overwhelm. And I admit that there were points when I thought again...I will never do anything other than care for this new baby and keep my toddler alive.

But then I would think back to that very first year of motherhood.

And I would think of everything I accomplished, not the least of which was raising a baby, and I would say to myself "I did it".

You Are Doing It

Katie Lee, author, speaker and lifestyle designer, says "your daily life is your whole life."

Think about that.

Life doesn't jump from one milestone or major event to the next. It moves through daily life even when that daily life is comprised of nothing more than nursing, diaper-changing, rocking and sleeping.

It's always hard to see the change when you're closest to it. Just like when you see someone you haven't seen in awhile and their weight loss is obvious to you but not to them. They see themselves everyday and the change is so gradual that they often miss it.

The same goes for those early baby days.

It feels like the same thing day in and day out, but the truth is there is change. Change in your baby and change in you.

So when I start to feel disheartened, when I think that surely my body and mind are going to break from lack of sleep and physical exhaustion, I remember that I am doing it.

Everyday, I am becoming stronger, I am learning, I am growing and before I know it, these everydays will become a year. And I hope it's a year I can look back on with amazement, a sense of accomplishment, pride and hopefully a smile too.

I am doing it.

You are doing it.

We are doing it.

When Will I Feel Like Myself Again?

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I remember, near the end of my first pregnancy, this feeling of anticipation as I looked forward to not only meeting my baby, but also to getting back to feeling like myself. For the last 9 months I had watched my body change as I packed on the pounds and grew a belly, adjusted my diet to include more protein, iron and a daily host of supplements, and switched to an even more limited wardrobe filled with stretchy pants, side-shirred shirts and flat shoes. The thought of wearing normal clothes, eating sushi, and being able to sit on the floor and see my feet sounded amazing! I just wanted to go back to feeling normal.

While I did all of those things shortly after my son was born, including fitting back into my old jeans, feeling like myself again took quite a bit longer.

The Timeline

A lot of new moms are eager to know when they will find this magical moment of feeling like themselves. Is it 6 months, 12 months or 2 years after giving birth? Having a timeline certainly would have helped me see the light at the end of the tunnel. To know that I only had 3 more months to go before it would all click would have been just the motivation I needed to keep going.

But that timeframe is different for everyone and depends on a variety of factors and circumstances. I believe that birth experiences, health issues or lack thereof, community and family support, sleep deprivation and a host of other things contribute to an individual mom's experience and when she will start feeling like herself again.

The truth is, your definition of "myself" will change during this time, and assuming or looking forward to getting back to someone who no longer exists will likely lead to disappointment. Instead, try to focus on returning to a place of acceptance and confidence in who you are. It is likely those feelings that you remember and think of when you think of feeling like yourself.

What You Can Do Now

If you're in that early stage of motherhood, wondering how long you will be living in this gray and murky area space between your old self and your new self, there are a few things you can do to start taking steps forward today.

One exercise I like to recommend to new moms, particularly if you are a visual person, is to create a venn diagram.

  • On the left side, list out the activities and traits that you loved about your pre-mom-self.
  • On the right side, list out the activities and traits that you recognize in yourself as a new mom.
  • Now, look for any areas where you see overlap, or more importantly, where you can CREATE overlap and jot those down in the center.

Having trouble finding the overlap? See if my own personal diagram helps inspire some ideas.

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It's just one step in the journey to your new normal, but articulating those thoughts and getting them down on paper is a great way to bring them to the surface and commit to taking some action. You will find yourself, slowly but surely. And I hope that the person you find is even better than the one you so fondly remember.


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