I often get asked by friends and family, "how do you do it??". I'll be the first to admit that I'm an over-achiever. And some days are better than others. Like everyone else, I get stressed out. After all, I have a lot on my plate. I look at it like this: I'd much rather be stressed sometimes but be getting closer to a goal than be just stressed. Because, let's face it, life is stressful no matter what. Here are my top 10 tips for success that have helped me balance motherhood and my career goals.
1. It's okay to compromise.
Sometimes, when we have children, we have to create a new plan. Okay, more like all the time. But that doesn't mean you have to give up altogether. Before I got pregnant with my oldest, I was planning on going to a private school in LA and becoming a singer. This was my dream ever since I was 7. I had even gotten into the school of my dreams. But as I got toward the tail end of my pregnancy, I realized that this dream was not going to be what was best for my daughter. So, I found a new dream. And that's okay. I decided I wanted to become a lawyer, did all of my undergrad online so that I could work, and got practical experience at a law office. I ended up starting law school a year sooner than I thought I would. The journey I've had with my daughter is, in my opinion, better than what it would have been without her. So don't be afraid to make adjustments. I'm a firm believer that everything happens for a reason and at the time that its supposed to. Maybe you can't go to your dream school, but you can still go to school. Maybe you'll have to take night classes. Do whatever you have to. We are so lucky to live at a time where there are so many educational and employment opportunities available. Do your research and look into the different types of options available. You might find that you'll need to compromise on your ideal plan, but that's better than throwing in the towel.
If you're like me, there's a lot of things you'd like to get done but you just don't have the time. At some point, you have to realize you can't do it all. That doesn't make you a bad mom. That doesn't make you a failure. We'd all like to have our house spotless all the time, children perfectly well-behaved and educationally advanced, home beautifully decorated, be in perfect shape, and look flawless. At least these are my ideals. And as much as Instagram would like you to believe different, ain't nobody got time for that. So what is most important to you? Some things are needs, but others are just wants. Identify them and set them aside for when you have time or take them off your list altogether. Make a list of everything that you need to do and then figure out what must get done that day. Everything else can wait.
3. Stay focused.
When you have a lot on your plate, it can become tempting to let yourself get distracted when you get overwhelmed. Sometimes, you have to cut out toxic people. You have to surround yourself with people who will be a positive force in your life and will encourage you and support you. Along the way, you're going to have to make sacrifices for the greater good. So that means less time relaxing and going out. You also have to hold yourself accountable. Pay attention to how you spend your time. Often when I feel like I don't have enough time in my day it's because I'm wasting away time on my phone or otherwise not being productive. If you have a hard time doing this, set limits for yourself. For example, I will study for one hour and then take a break for 15 minutes. Or I can go on social media only after I've gotten done everything that must get done today.
4. One step at a time.
It's easy to get overwhelmed when you have a hectic schedule. Especially when you add in kids who can have meltdowns at any given moment. Recently, my mom gave me some simple but great advice: its just as easy to say you can do something as it is to say you can't. Just take it one step at a time. Don't think about everything that has to get done, just focus on what is right in front of you. Get that done and move on to the next thing. This is where it's also important to prioritize. If you get done the most important things first, it will be okay if you don't finish everything because whatever's left will be things that can wait until the next day. And if you're adding something new to your plate, try to add one thing at a time if you can. Allow yourself to adjust to this new responsibility before you add on something new so that you don't get burnt out.
This something that I'm working on. But you guys, it's soo important! I won't give you the over-used airplane analogy, but you get the jist. If you are well-rested and in a better mood, you are in a better position to conquer your day and be there for your children. I know this is easier said than done. Try to carve out a set time in your day when you can depend on getting a break. Take a walk to clear your mind. Turn on the TV and get some alone time. Every now and then, let your to-do list wait and nap when your kids nap. Take a bubble bath. Whatever is your jam. Life is all about balance. Your children will be okay if they play in their room for a little while or watch cartoons. Its better to take a break to recharge then to not and lose your mind. Because trust me, it will happen. These babies be cray.
6. Plan ahead.
In order to get to where you want to be, you have to start with a plan. Oftentimes, I find that the easiest way for me to create a plan of attack is by working backwards. I ask myself, what is my end goal? What are the steps I need to take to get there? Are there any shortcuts? What if one of these steps doesn't work with my schedule? Is there an alternative that will still get me to where I need to be? Write every step down. People always say this, but it's so true. It will help you see the overall picture and help you not forget anything. Plus it's really satisfying when you can check something off and see yourself getting closer and closer to your goal. And don't forget to reward yourself as you reach these goals. It doesn't have to be big if you're short on money, it can be as simple as eating your favorite food or getting a massage.
I'm constantly re-evaluating things in my life to adjust to what works best for me. There is no need to force something into your schedule if it just doesn't work. Especially staying at home, I have had to make adjustments based on what works for my girls. Pay attention to what is causing frustration to your day and try to figure out how you can avoid it. Sometimes we take on too much and there's nothing wrong with that. It's okay to say, "This is too much" and change your mind. It doesn't make you a failure, it makes you wise. At the end of the day, you are the one who has to balance everything, not anyone else.
Don't be afraid to ask for help! I get it. I hate asking people for anything. I will normally avoid it at all costs. But you'd be surprised at how much your friends and family actually want to help you. If you find there are things that just have to get done and it's too much for you, ask someone you know if they'd be willing to do it. The worst they can say is no. You're not any worse off. But if they say yes, it will be weight off of your shoulders. If there isn't any task that you feel someone else can do, maybe they can babysit for you. Maybe you can find another mama who can trade off with you on babysitting each other's kids. Be creative and think outside the box.
9. Set boundaries.
If you're working or in school, or both, don't feel the need to apologize for putting your children first. You will never regret missing work or school for your kids but you will regret not being there for your kids when they need you. Learn how to say, "I'm sorry but I can't do that". A lot of times we want to be people pleasers but its at our own expense. If you can take something on, that's great. But it's okay to say no. Even if its a great opportunity that you don't want to pass up, if you know that it will make you feel like you're running ragged it might be best to turn it down. For me, it has helped to just say that I need to think about it before I give people answers. This way, I have time to find out if I have the wherewithal to do it before I commit and feel locked in when it becomes more than I expected. So think things through. And make sure you ask questions so that you know exactly what you're signing up for.
10. Be proud of yourself.
As mothers, we can put so much pressure on ourselves. I promise you, you are your own worst critic. Motherhood is the most rewarding challenge in life, but a challenge nonetheless. Whether you're a stay at home mom, in school, or at work, know that you are amazing. It may not always feel like it, but everyday you are teaching your children important life lessons that will pay off as they get older. To them, you are the best mom in the world. And that's the only opinion that matters.