“I don’t know how you do it.” I can’t tell you how many times I have heard people say that to me. I get it. I work, I go to school and I raise two children under the age of four. It seems so overwhelming and someone who isn’t doing everything I’m doing might struggle to picture themselves doing so much. Let me let you all in on a little secret…
It is overwhelming.
Many days the anxiety makes my brain feel like it’s splitting in two. At the beginning, two years ago when I first started bringing school into the chaos of working while raising children, I had set a goal. We were required to take a readiness course that had us map out our success to online college. My goal was to spend 100% of my time with my oldest, actually with him, focused. Then spend 100% of the time I spent on homework, on homework. When I shared this with my academic coach, she expressed very thinly veiled doubt. You know, for a while, it wasn’t actually that hard. I am capable of quite a lot and I’ve always loved challenging myself.
However, it didn’t last for forever.
It depends on the season, the schedule and the amount of help that I get, how hard it hits me. This year has been the hardest. This time last year, I was [very] pregnant and raising a two year old, working, and doing finals. At the beginning of the year, I did a quarter of school with a brand new baby. Now I have two little people who need me. I divide my time in the morning between them and homework (so no 100% committed to each happening there), then I head to work, not long after daddy gets home, until the evening. My homework is now done in the late hours of the night and I drag myself out of bed every morning at 5am when Sonya wakes up for her first feeding.
How do I do it? A whole lot of “carry on, carry on.” This is life, and I’m reaching for goals. Not for myself but for my kids and their future. There are days where I break down; I cry about how unfair it all is. Then I pick up the pieces and keep going. No one told me life would be easy, in-fact, my parents told me my whole life that it would be hard.
Now life isn’t meant to be like this for forever. It comes in seasons. For our family, facing what we do, we look at it as temporary. It won’t last forever and this hard work has a goal, that goal is to not be in this season for forever.
That being said its not impossible, even during a time like this, and there are ways to help you on your way. If your season is in any way similar to mine, or maybe even if you just have a really full plate, here are ten points I came up with that have helped me.
1. Have a support system.
My main source of strength is my husband. He is my cheerleader, my supporter. He does chores, encourages me, watches the kids, takes initiative wherever he needs to. I would hands down, not be able to do any of this without him.
2. Motivate yourself.
Motivation is surprisingly easy for myself. Between how much my brain loves learning and the fact that I’m doing this for my kids, I find moving forward not something I necessarily have to think about. However, you might need to find what motivates you and work on keeping that within focus.
It’s an idea that basically goes without saying when it comes to facing adversity in life. But if you don’t have it, you can get it. Discipline takes practice and sacrifice. Start with something simple and learn how to build discipline. Pick something you want to do everyday and start figuring out how to rewire your brain to get yourself to do it everyday, “practice makes perfect.”
I started out with waking up in the morning. My friends over the years who have spent the night with me, have told me that I am like bread in a toaster when I get up in the morning. One minute, I’m laying there, the next, I am straight up! That is because I have taught my brain how to wake up, and when I’m up, I’m up! (Another good one is making the bed).
4. Time management.
This is another skill I have built over time. If you struggle with it, a good planner is your best friend. You have a lot more time in a day than you might think and if you learn to utilize it correctly, you can get the most out of it.
5. Have a vision.
You need to see the end. Visualize it, remind yourself that this isn’t going to last for forever. Make sure you have a goal in mind, somewhere you are going to get to.
6. Swallow your pride
and ask for help. The first year, I had a lot more help and it made a big difference in what I was able to accomplish. I am someone who loathes asking for help. It makes me feel incapable. However, being in a season where I don’t have the same help I had before, I have definitely learned to ask. The more help you have, the more you can do and the better parent you can be afterwards. Don’t underestimate what burning out will do to your parenting.
7. Don’t allow self pity.
Its pretty tempting to feel bad for yourself, and you are justified in wanting to. I mean, you are giving up all of your time, that includes whatever you enjoy doing, taking care of yourself, spending time with friends, all your energy, brain power, etc. But negativity never helps a situation. If you need a good cry, you deserve one. Just don’t mistake finding an outlet for emotions as the same thing as getting into the habit of complaining or self-pity.
8. Learn self-care.
Learn to have an awareness of your current state of mind. A little healthy emotional intelligence can go a long way. When you feel self-pity welling up, recognize that as a need for self-care. Instead of finding someone to complain to, find something to relieve your stress. Get someone to watch the kids and go on a date. Skip homework for a night and watch a good movie. Grab your partner and just have a good cry. Take a nice hot bath. Listen to music. Some of these things seem so simple, but if you are in a season like mine, you probably haven’t done any of these things in months.
9. Ignore the world.
It’s incredible how many voices I have to tune out or filter as I hear their words being spoken to me. And it could be anything, from disapproval, to someone judging you for whatever reason. I’ve even had to endure being reprimanded when I took a spare two hours to watch a movie as my down time. Tune it out. Do what you need to do for you. Find supporters, people who believe in you and know how to push you forward.
10. Remember that you are amazing.
What you are doing is incredible. You are raising the future, providing for them and investing into their future by investing into yours. Well done, I see you!
This is reality for us. It might be hard, it might not be life as planned, but its beautiful, and its temporary. No one is meant to live like this long-term. For me, I love my kids and I love my family, I wouldn’t trade them for the world. As hard as it all is, its worth it. If you are here too, let me just tell you, you got this.