Taking My Own Advice

I haven't written as many posts as I would have liked to the last few days/weeks.  With Josh back on constant travel, and me trying to be a good and present mom, my "I" gadgets have taken a big time back seat to James, and what I wanted to write I needed to type (with all my fingers, not just thumbs).  This isn't my "typical" post full of pictures and fun updates on our lives.  It's about the changes that are occurring in my life right now, observing my evolving point of view, growing as a mother and letting go of the some of the things I love, so I can be a better wife and mom.

A few weeks before James was born I wrote an article for my sororities website on the balancing act we play as women  Why I Give My Time.  Work, family, volunteer commitments; sometimes it's a bit overwhelming.  As our lives ebb and flow and we grow as women our interests, priorities and availability change.  The overall theme is there is a time and a place for everything, do what gives you joy and make your happiness a priority.  This article I wrote, paired with a few others I've read the past few weeks have helped to shape and guided me to make some important decisions and strive for excellence in my new role as a stay at home mom. 

The time I have to spend with James is precious, I need to take full advantage of every moment.  When one of my best friends was visiting from Florida right after James was born she told me to enjoy it because they won't want to cuddle forever.  I took her advice to heart, and have been savoring every moment with my son.  Her words of wisdom paired with  this article from Hands Free Momma got me to put my iphone and ipad down unless James is conked out, we are face-timing with Daddy or jamming to a baby themed Pandora station.

I also took the article from Motherhood Matters to heart as well.  While at first I didn't feel like I compare myself to others or feel inadequate (lack of confidence has never really been an issue for me-ha), I've quickly realized that I do, more so recently than ever before.  Josh has a wonderful job and provides for our family, and I feel so lucky that I get to stay at home with James.  But I look longingly at the Mercedes SUV's and mulit-million dollar homes that surround us.  I'm not sure where my new obsession of commercialism is coming from.  I guess it would help if we didn't live in the highest income per capita city in the country, but I have to work much harder to answer the question posed at the end of this article of how to keep my perspective on the importance of my role in our family with so many temptations to compare myself to others. 

For those who know me, they know I like to be involved.  I am a hand raiser, a joiner, I like having lots of things to do.  I've quickly come to realize that being a mom to James is my number one priority.  The first week of the month is always insane with all the groups I'm involved with between board and committee meetings I'm out of the house almost every night.  It became very stressful and too much to bear very quickly, I nearly had a nervous breakdown a few Friday's ago while Josh was out of town, possible the country (I can't even remember where he was now).  I had a specialist appointment with James, where we got not so thrilling test results, sitting in traffic I quickly realized there was no way I would ever get home and get dressed in time to be at the Cherry Blossom Gala with my sorority alumnae group, where I was of course the point of contact.  It was then I realized how stressed and snappy doing all these things where making me.  It was time to clean house (not physically - I'm got help for that), but clean out and get ride of the things that take my time away from my family.  Over the past few weeks I've resigned from a bunch of positions and am winding up my commitments for the year with others.  I feel when May 22 comes and goes I will finally be able to breath again. 

I'm not sure if the link to my article will work, so here it is, as if this post isn't long enough.

Why I Give My Time

I’ve always been one of those people who were the first to raise my hand to volunteer. I try to give everything my all and I have always enjoyed being involved with lots of activities – the typical overachiever. As I’ve grown as a woman, I have learned lots of valuable lessons. When to say no and when to say yes, how to find joy in my daily activities and to be sure what I spend my time doing is enriching my life and helping me to meet the goals and priorities I have set for myself.

During different stages of our lives, different activities take priority. Planning my wedding trumped being president of my university’s local alumni chapter, career demands meant not serving on the gala committee of my favorite charity. Now, becoming a mother means leaving career opportunities I had worked long and hard to achieve.

Three years ago, when I moved from my home state of Florida to the suburbs of Washington, DC with my husband, I left behind the non-profit board of directors I sat on, activities with the Junior League, a fantastic career and the best friends a girl could ask for. I didn’t know what my new life in the Nation’s Capitol had in store for me, but was excited to spend it with my husband.

Quickly, I found a great job. I enjoyed being married. Planning and preparing our dinner menus, traveling, and exploring our new hometown were the highlights of my activities. Something was missing, so I decided to get more involved with Phi Mu by volunteering with the DC Alumnae Chapter and advising the collegiate chapter at American University. I transferred my membership to the Junior League of Washington, DC and joined a Daughter’s of the American Revolution Chapter. I’ve been able to make great friends, grow as an individual and find joy in doing all these things. I continue to learn more about myself and the woman I want to become by remaining involved with Phi Mu and volunteering with these other organizations.

The joy that fills my heart when the collegiate women I advise reach a goal they set for themselves or when I read with children at a homeless shelter by volunteering with Junior League are very satisfying and complement the life I have chosen to create for myself.

A main goal of mine is to have fulfilling days where I feel enriched and am able to be the best wife and mother I can be. I learned that by making my happiness a priority, I am able to be a better mother, wife, friend, daughter and employee. Here are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way to help me develop a work, life, volunteer balance:

  • Edit – take the riff raff out, do what’s rewarding to you.  Find a way to bring joy to things that have to be done.  Folding laundry becomes a lot more fun when done while watching a recorded episode of the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
  • Record – write it down and have a game plan.  Keep a calendar and schedule help to see what’s ahead and properly plan for it.   There are great online tools and beautiful paper planners to keep you on track.
  • Delegate - one person can’t do it all.  Set clear expectations, provide the tools and resources needed to complete the task and let the other person run with it.  It won’t be the same as if you did it yourself, but that’s OK.
  • Balance - learn to say no to unnecessary things and yes to meaningful activities.  Don’t count the quantity of what you do as a volunteer, count the quality.  Include time with your family and friends on your priority list.
  • Communicate - it’s imperative to be on the same page as the others in your life from co-workers to children, let them know what’s going on.  Regularly talking with my husband about our plans for the week has changed our marriage for the better.
  • Vision – set goals and check in to ensure that how time spent is worthwhile and helping you to achieve your goals.  If I spent all day running errands in the car, how did that help me achieve my goal of spending time with my family?  
  • Escape – take time for yourself.  Have some quite time, go for a walk or take a bath.  You’ll feel refreshed and ready to take on anything.
  • Endeavor - strive for excellence in everything you do.  Cutting corners is never fulfilling, work hard and take pride in your accomplishments.
These are just some of the guidelines I use to help me prioritize and balance the activities in my life.  I’m sure the list will grow as I continue to grow as a woman.


Dee Stephens said...

I hear you. I relenquished some of my volunteer duties and activities and pretty much have focused on my leadership role in The JL of Charlotte.
I found it was taking a lot of time away from my marriage at the time.
As far as comparing our life to others. That's the one main reason I quit Facebook.
I felt like it did nothing but bring me down overall. Toxic almost. Yeh, it's nice to keep in touch with people but after a while, it becomes a little much and I made the decision to focus on me and our life and not others.
Best decision ever.
I'm not sure I'll ever log back onto it.

Anonymous said...

Amen! this reminds me of a post my friend Jen recently wrote about women striving to achieve the impossible all for the sake of balance. But balance is different for all of us. While I don't know what it's like to be a Mom yet, I do know how much your life's priorities have changed. I love the guidelines you've listed here! These are some great tips to maximize your time with quality and purpose, always keeping family first.

Kudos to you for traversing these waters with grace & love! And especially for encouraging other women.

Stink Bone Jones said...

Sarah, I read your post a few days ago & reread the part about James & a specialist. I have thought about it every day since. I do pray all is well.