GEMS for working mothers

Is your life an endless cycle, revolving around work and taking care of children? If so, you are not alone. In a recent study from the Families and Work Institute, half of American women say they don’t have enough time to spend on themselves and choose the activities they enjoy. We all know that saying “yes” to increased responsibility can make us feel more secure with the boss and help us avoid conflict in the family. But all too often, “yes” is our default mode with just about everything.

In a world of relentless demands, saying “no” is grossly underutilized. Of course, you can’t abandon endless to-do lists related to work and housework. But don’t you think you also deserve to identify your other, more personal priorities? Get started now with these handy GEMS: Give Up, Evaluate, Move On, Savor, that can help you brighten your life.

Give Up: As a guardian, do you sometimes feel frustrated, stressed, or resentful about your workload and household chores? Recognize that some of the barriers are in your own head. And learning to change your standards is critical. Let go of the idea that you can do it all. And don’t beat yourself up for it. Guilt is a predominant emotion for those who worry that they are not doing enough. Remember that it is okay to do less or delegate, given the realities of your situation. Know that you are dancing as fast as you can.

Evaluate here and now – You’ll make better decisions by taking a step back and evaluating what you’re doing. Tired of volunteering in your kids’ classrooms, coaching their soccer team, and spearheading the school fundraiser? Decide what makes the most sense to you, and then prioritize. The same goes for housework. As long as you are willing to do it all, others are unlikely to come near the plate.

Keep going – think about what you wanted to do today but couldn’t find the time to enjoy yourself. It can set your priorities for tomorrow and help you stay on track in the face of the inevitable distractions. Mark this as the beginning of creating new rituals. Find out specific activities to integrate into your regular routine: taking a walk at lunchtime, meeting a friend for coffee once a week, writing in your journal, or reading before bed. Make this time just for yourself and keep it sacred.

Savor your personality: Society sends mixed messages when it comes to taking care of yourself. On the one hand, we are taught to pursue what we want, but if we fight too much, we are considered selfish. Integrate your personal fulfillment as you practice saying “no” to what may present as the greatest opportunities. Because giving in to external pressure and taking on more responsibility can amount to ignoring what may be best for you.

The time-worn woman has become a common archetype. We are socialized to be available to our spouse, children, parents, friends, and boss. And the price we pay to please others is high. At what point do we learn that charity begins at home? Self-esteem comes from having the courage to make tough decisions, even if they are unpopular. After all, if a long-term goal is for our children to find personal fulfillment, shouldn’t we lead by example? Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and act like you’re the person you love the most.

© HerMentor Center, 2013