Do you ever have the sense that you’re swimming upstream and you just can’t get into the flow? April was like that for me. It started out with the St. Louis Symphony Four Seasons of Fashion events which were as fun as I expected and also as time consuming as I had expected. You know how you push through something intense and then get sick as soon as it’s over? That happened. Then my husband got a stomach virus. Then my son got it. Then I got sick again (with a cold), and my son and I both got pinkeye. I went to the doctor for my cold and got visually diagnosed with strep. That would have been great, because antibiotics would have cleared it up quickly, but since my illness didn't respond to the antibiotics, we deduced it wasn't strep and I just had to wait it out. I had to reschedule clients, some of them twice.
I’m someone who lives and dies by my to-do list. Not in a good way (is there a good way?). I generally feel most worthy on days that I’ve accomplished a number of tasks and feel productive. When I’m driving, I’m planning what my next task should be. While I’m playing with my son, I’m thinking about what task I could be doing at the same time. I don’t like this about myself. While being sick, not only did I feel bad physically, but I felt bad because I wasn’t accomplishing anything on my to-do list.
Since my son was born, I’ve been cobbling together work hours by trading off with my husband and hiring babysitters when needed. He goes to a Mother’s Day Out program three days a week for two and a half hours at a time, which I quickly realized was only enough time to fit in my pelvic floor physical therapy appointments (thanks, pregnancy) and other random errands. I have so many ways I’d like to develop mindful closet, but there has just only been time to actually see clients, no time to work on the business (or blog for that matter!). Neither my husband or I have any personal time to ourselves, only work or childcare. Any work email, research, or accounting happens in random spurts here and there, usually while Sesame Street is on (which is how I’m writing this blog post). On top of being sick for most of the month, we’d also been trying to find a preschool for our son to solve some of our childcare issues. Like most things with raising kids, choosing a preschool is more stressful and confusing (and expensive!) than it should be.
Last week I started to feel better and booked a babysitter so I could take a day for myself: go to a yoga class, get a pedicure, and go thrifting (odd, but relaxing for me). If you know me, you know this is a huge deal - spending money to get time to myself causes all sorts of guilt. I get out of the yoga class, totally blissed out and ready to head to the nail place. I opened my phone to find frantic messages from my husband that the babysitter hadn’t shown and he was going to be late for work. So much for that day to myself. Then my husband got sick again. This is not a joke.
So I’ve been overwhelmed. At the same time, I beat myself up for being overwhelmed because in reality I am so lucky. I have a true partner who shares childcare and household duties with me equally. I have the ability to reschedule work when I’m sick. Losing some income isn’t going to make or break us. How can I possibly be overwhelmed?
I remembered hearing an interview with Brigid Schulte on NPR a few years ago about her book Overwhelmed: Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time. I checked it out of the library. I was worried that it would be another book about how I really do have the time for everything if I just wake up earlier and stay up later. The Fringe Hours and I Know How She Does It are two of those books and they just stressed me out. I started my own business to create the life that I want, and the life I want does not involve “hustle” or sleeping four hours a night. It involves having time to spend with friends and family, eat and prepare real food, exercise, and take care of myself emotionally, things that haven’t been happening lately. And yes, I feel guilty about wanting to have all those things. Indulgent, maybe, but that’s the goal.
Luckily, Overwhelmed was helpful. It turns out there are reasons that I feel as overloaded as I do, even with as much help as I have. Turns out a lot of other people feel the same way. Other people have that constant to-do list looping in their head. Schulte says, “it’s so common among women it even has a name. Time-use researchers call it ‘contaminated time.’ ” If you do happen upon some free time, it’s common not to know what to do with it. It’s common to feel guilty for not being productive in these small windows of time. I’m lucky to be able to technically work part-time, but this can overload our brains even more. We’re constantly switching roles and tasks, one minute answering email as a business owner, the next cleaning yogurt off the wall. A big part of not being able to switch off either part of the brain is our addiction to technology, which leads to mental exhaustion. I check email constantly on my phone, and when I receive an email that requires a response, I’m anxious until I get the time to deal with it. I also check social media way too much. Somehow, just having it validated in print that these things can be stressful (I'm not crazy!) was soothing to me.
There were a few helpful tips that I’m going to try to implement: attempt to check email when I actually have time to reply, maybe only two or three times a day. Realize that in this season of my life, sleep, food, and family have to come before working on my business. Try to set realistic expectations for what I can accomplish in a given day. Most of all, try to be present in whichever role I’m in at the moment.
Does any of this resonate with you? How do you handle it?
P.S. If you want to reward a stressed out momma, head over to the the mindful closet Facebook page to vote for one of the giveaway finalists. Read their stories and "like" the photo of the mom you want to vote for!
P.P.S. One of my masterminders wrote an awesome article with collected advice for mompreneurs.
P.P.P.S. The quote above is from Francine Jay, who writes the blog miss minimalist.