Late last year I gave birth to a sweet baby girl (she’s my second) and it was one of the best things that has happened to me lately. Pretty soon, however, managing an infant, a toddler, a full-time job, and a part-time surface design career became messy and posed quite a challenge. Not to mention household chores and aging parents. If you’re a mother, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It wasn’t just about limited time or the pile of work that I had to attend to. It was also about my tendency to try and control everything. I realized soon enough that I could NOT control everything.
It took a lot of work, some trial and error, and a big mindset shift to start seeing some semblance of sanity in my life. Does this sound like you? Try some of these changes that I brought about in the way I thought as a new mom.
5 Simple Mindset Shifts
1. You can’t control everything
See how I’m echoing what I just said? When this realization dawned upon me, it was an obvious shocker. If you’re anything like me, coming to terms with this fact can be hard. I tend to nitpick on every single thing my family does. I am not saying I am very particular about keeping my house clean, for example, but for some reason, I can’t stand my family members making a mess. Call me a hypocrite if you want, but I am a bit of a control freak.
2. You can’t dictate how others judge you
No matter what you do, people will judge you. If you’re a stay-at-home mom, you’ll be judged for not bringing in the moolah or for not making “good” use of your time. If you’re a working mom, you’ll be judged for being too busy and not giving your kids enough time. You’ll be judged if you have a toddler who throws random tantrums in public. You’ll be judged if you let your kids watch too much TV. You’ll be judged (by your kids) if you don’t let them watch enough TV. I think you get my point here. You will be judged and there’s nothing you can do to stop others from doing so. The only thing you can do is to not be hard on yourself and stop letting others’ opinions bother you. Easier said than done, but at least we can try.
3. Say goodbye to guilt
I’m going to piggyback on the previous mindset shift here. We often judge ourselves for doing something (or not doing something) as a parent. Yes, imposter syndrome exists in parenting as much as it exists in our careers as creatives. How often have you caught yourself fretting about dirty dishes in the sink, laundry that needs to be folded, or ordering too much takeout? I know I have! This guilt was crippling until I decided that I wasn’t going to let it consume me. It was a tough ask, but I started forgiving myself every time the dishes piled up or the washing machine wasn’t turned on.
4. You don’t have to do it all
Being able to say goodbye to guilt stems from the realization that we don’t have to do it all. I like to think I’m in charge of everything even if it means inviting uncalled-for stress upon myself. On so many occasions, this mindset has caused burnout and has made me snap at others at the slightest trigger. I constantly try to remind myself that I don’t need to do everything single-handedly and that it’s okay to ask for and accept help.
5. Self-care is important
As working mothers we want to give the best to our children while also ensuring that we fulfill our roles and responsibilities at work, whether we are self-employed or working for someone else. Somewhere in our busy day-to-day schedule, we forget to factor in our own basic needs. For a long time, I told myself I didn’t need a shower if I didn’t have the time for it, or I could do without a meal once in a while. This led to a lot of health issues and my anxiety worsened over time. Prioritise yourself–whether it means eating your meals on time, going out for a 30-minute walk, or anything else that constitutes self-care for you.
Once I started getting comfortable with these new perspectives, it was time to shift my focus to practical things I could do to make my life a little less complicated. It’s all a work in progress, but I’ve narrowed it down to seven hacks that you could easily implement in your busy schedule.
7 Hacks to Ease Your Burden
1. Set limited number of goals that are attainable
Start each day by starting the previous night. Set yourself simple manageable goals for each day. I like to keep a physical to-do list of a maximum of 5 things to do each day.
2. Check off one thing at a time
I love the feeling of accomplishment from physically checking each item off my to-do list. I ensure that I move on to the next task only when I’ve completed the previous one.
3. Establish a consistent schedule
Consistency is key. Set aside time for each important activity. I try to stick to a routine that considers the nine hours I work at my day job and the three hours that I work on my freelance surface design career. I also try to remain consistent with when I eat my meals and when I take my breaks.
4. Take frequent breaks
This might seem counterintuitive to being productive, but it is a necessity. Even if you have a career you love, doing it all the time, without taking enough breaks can cause burnout. While you might want to make the most of the time you have at hand, constantly working on the same thing can cause both mental and physical fatigue.
I take regular breaks and most often they are planned. I use that time to get up and move around the house a bit or go grab a glass of water or pet my dogs or play with my daughters. Avoid using social media during your breaks because, hello, we are supposed to give our eyes and brain some rest.
5. Make a timetable, be flexible
I’ve found that making a rough timetable charting all my tasks for the day and how long I want to spend on each helps maintain my sanity. I need a bit of order in my life (though I might not always welcome it). The key here is to remain flexible and allow some tasks to flow over to the next time slot.
6. Get good sleep
I’m an insomniac but I’ve been trying some lifestyle changes to get more sleep these days. Since I have an infant to put to sleep, I force myself to hit the bed early. I keep my phone on silent, turn off the WiFi, and resist the temptation to check my messages or scroll through my Instagram feed. I still wake up many times during the night, but at least my brain isn’t cluttered with what I consume on the internet.
7. Batch your tasks
I am all for batching my work. With the kind of schedule I have, I’ve found that grouping similar tasks and getting them done for a dedicated stretch of time helps relieve some of my workload. I usually employ the batching technique for writing my blog posts and newsletter content or creating subscriber downloads.
Some other tasks that you can batch as a creative business owner could be admin tasks, pitch emails, researching companies, taking new courses and creating art. I am still a batching newbie but with the little that I have actually planned ahead, I’ve found great success.
I know quite a few of my artist friends incorporate at least some of these practices in their daily lives. How many of these resonate with you? Have you been able to strike a balance in other ways? I’d love to know!