If you haven’t heard from me in a while, it’s because I’ve been busy with this:
I wanted to share my journey as a working mother because I’d tried it all: staying home full-time, working part-time from home, part-time outside the home, full-time outside the home and finally full-time from home. In every situation, I made every possible mistake along the way (did I mention I learn things the hard way?), and so my hope is that YOU can benefit from my mistakes! At least you’ll feel you’re not alone.
Along with my story, I share some great tips and resources, and follow up with self-coaching exercises you can do to achieve YOUR ideal work/family balance! Here’s what others are saying about the book:
“Jenny opens up to us with her own story that is so very honest and touches your heart. It made me feel it’s okay to be myself and nothing more or less. I would definitely recommend to others! It’s a must read for not only working parents but anyone that has self doubt themselves. I’d love to hear more of Jenny’s stories. They are truly inspiring.” Nozomi Morgan
“I would absolutely recommend this book to other working parents. Jenny provides simple strategies and ideas that I think would be helpful to many working parents. It was perfect timing for me to read this right now! I would actually like for my husband to read it too! I felt like I could really relate to some of Jenny’s experiences which made me keep reading!” Lori Goldsmith
Get your copy of Have It All: You CAN Balance Work and Family today. And if you like it, please leave me a review on Amazon. Thanks!
It’s the second week of January – how are your New Year’s Resolutions going? If you’re like most people, the outlook is not promising: nearly a third have given up after two weeks, and more than half give up after six months, according to Statistics Brain. Why do so many people give up? We know it’s not for lack of motivation: we really, truly want to lose weight, get organized, enjoy life more. So why do we keep reverting back to old habits? The reason may lie in our subconscious: in his book, Know Can Do, Ken Blanchard describes how he set out to answer this question. He learned of research done at the University of Santa Cruz back in the 1970’s that explored the link between what we tell ourselves subconsciously and how we behave. These researchers discovered that after about age 11, 77% of what we hear is negative. Whether or not we are conscious of it, we internalize these negative messages. (I’m fat, I have no willpower, I’m lazy, I’m too old….).
These researcher pioneered the field of neuro-linguistic programming, or NLP. (Neuro=brain, linguistic=language – what we tell ourselves.) Could repeating positive messages affect behavior? The answer was yes! These positive messages are known as “affirmations“. There are a few tricks to it – for example, if you tell yourself you will lose weight, your brain will focus on the fact that you need to lose weight, and you will self-sabotage. Instead, tell yourself that you are moving toward your ideal weight. Ken Blanchard discovered that it takes repetition to counteract those negative messages, so those who use NLP repeat the affirmations by listening to a recording of them every night or posting them around their home and workspace so they read them often.
A life coach or therapist who is trained in NLP can write custom affirmations for you based on your goals. If you want to try some generic ones on for size, I recommend Affirm Your Life, where you can choose from hundreds of affirmations and even add them as an app on your phone.
Another trick to following through on resolutions is to have someone hold you accountable. Once again, a life coach can fill this role, or you can just buddy up with a friend and check in with each other regularly. Imagining how you feel when you achieve your goals is another powerful motivator that will help to keep you on track.
In short, you don’t have to become a statistic: with some smart strategic planning, you can dramatically increase your chances of success. Think how proud you will be and how good you will feel when that resolution becomes a habit!
So, if you’ve read my last two posts, hopefully you are feeling less stressed about the holidays because you are taking care of yourself and simplifying your schedule. Here’s the last, and probably most important way to relax and enjoy the season: make sure it has real meaning for your family. It’s so easy to get caught up in the commercial aspect as well as the social obligations: we think (consciously or unconsciously) that we need to buy at least as many gifts as last year, we feel that we are expected to attend certain functions, and pretty soon we forget the real meaning behind the season.
If your family is religious, then staying in touch with your religious observances is a clear way to focus on the “reason for the season”. But even if your family doesn’t subscribe to any particular religion, here are some ways to focus on the spirit:
1. Make gifts meaningful. If you have kids, then you’ve probably experienced cheap plastic toy overload. The recession, increased environmental awareness and recent publicity about the dangers of imported toys have helped many of us realize the pointlessness these types of gifts. One way to avoid this is by buying quality made educational toys such as those by Melissa and Doug. Another is to give “experiences” instead of toys that may be played with for a short while and then discarded. A friend of mine said her daughters’ favorite gift one year was when her mother treated them to a dog-sled ride. Stocking stuffers were muffs to keep their hands warm and treats for the dogs. It was a special experience they will never forget. A trip to the ballet, a concert, or even a day at the bowling alley with friends are all great ideas.
2. Share with the less fortunate. Volunteer at a local soup-kitchen, ring the bell for the Salvation Army, or sponsor a family. Your local United Way can give you a wish-list for a struggling family. Kids enjoy picking out gifts for other kids, and learn to appreciate how lucky they are. We are going to shop for the family we’re sponsoring tomorrow. It is humbling to think that others are soldiering on with so little. I am grateful for the opportunity to help in some small way, and for all of the blessings in my life.
This is my wish for you, too – that you find true meaning in the season and enjoy it with the ones you love.
One December several years ago, my husband casually observed, “You don’t like Christmas very much, do you?” I was heartbroken. I love the holidays, but I realized that I had lost my enthusiasm by trying to do too much – stress had taken all of the fun out of it. I certainly didn’t want to ruin it for my family, too. That was the year I started making an effort to prune my “holiday overachiever” mentality, relax and enjoy the season. Easier said than done, I know. Still, I’ve managed to convince my husband that I’m really not a Grinch. You can simplify and reduce stress in two easy steps:
1. Prioritize activities and events.
Gather the family together and get out your calendar. Decide which events are on your “must do” list: visits with family, religious observations, and school activities such as holiday recitals and concerts may be most important to you. Then, look at the rest of your options. If you discover, as we did, that you are invited to holiday parties three nights in a row, you may want to rethink your plans. Ask your kids which events are really important to them. You may be surprised to discover that rituals we take for granted, such as visiting Santa, may not matter to them, particularly as they get older. This will free up some time for some much-needed R & R.
2. Simplify your “to-do” list.
- I’ve really pared down my holiday baking. Try one of the “One Dough Makes Ten Cookies” recipes or organize a with your friends. Keep it simple by sticking to your strengths. I finally gave up on making candy from scratch – I’m just not good at anything that requires a thermometer. Instead, we make peppermint bark by melting chocolate in the microwave, spreading it on a cookie sheet and sprinkling it with chopped up candy canes. My kids absolutely love smashing the candy canes and have been demanding to know when we are making peppermint bark!
- I’ve also simplified my shopping – we live in a remote mountain location – so what I can’t buy locally I buy online and ship directly to long-distance family. No more all-day trips to the outlet mall.
- I also don’t send hand-made cards anymore. I like Smilebox for making a nice slide show e-card that can easily be emailed or shared on social media.
I know how strong the temptation is to make everything “perfect” for your family, but is it really worth it if you’re trying too hard and losing your holiday spirit? As working moms, we have enough on our plates already. Relax and enjoy yourself and your family will, too.
Last week I wrote about three ways busy working moms can reduce stress and enjoy the holidays. You can’t reduce stress if you’re not taking care of yourself, so here are some common wellness zappers and ways to avoid them:
Seasonal Affective Disorder: aka, “the winter blues”. Do you find yourself getting tired, depressed and even weepy this time of year? You’re not alone: according to Medicine Net, SAD “occurs in about 5% of adults, with up to 20% of people having some symptoms” and is five times more common in women than in men. As someone who is mildly to moderately affected, I can personally recommend the Verilux HappyLight. This is a lamp that reportedly mimics full-spectrum sunlight. If you don’t want to purchase a light, just getting outside regularly on sunny days can help a lot. Try taking a walk on your lunch break.
Neglecting your workout: The daylight hours are shorter and there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to squeeze in a workout, but there’s hardly a better way to combat stress. Getting started is the hard part, but you know it’ll make you feel better, right? If you can’t commit to an hour or even a half-hour, why not start small? Here’s a workout that claims to “hit every muscle in five minutes”. Surely you can do five minutes, right? I have a video workout series for the exercise ball that’s broken into 10-minute segments. I find it’s easy to tell myself I only have to do one segment, and then it feels good to get my body moving so I end up doing at least do two or three segments.
Blowing your diet: I wholeheartedly agree (as would my husband and kids) that it wouldn’t be the holidays without the goodies. It’s definitely ok to cheat a little, but we all know how bad we feel when we eat way too much rich food at a party and end up gaining the “December Five”. A couple of years ago I read a tip that said to fill up a little on healthy snacks (like raw veggies) before heading to a party, so you’re not so hungry when you get there. Another tip I learned is to alternate sipping glasses of water with whatever you’re drinking at the party. It keeps you hydrated and fuller, and helps you avoid any embarrassing over-indulgences.
So, get out and enjoy some sunshine, get your body moving and eat your veggies! What are your tips and tricks for taking care of yourself over the holidays?
Next week: Simplify and stick to a schedule to avoid holiday stress.