Do you stop to lighten to load when life gets heavy? Because life does get heavy. Parenthood, no different. Wakeups, meltdowns, drop-offs, take ons, sleepovers, and feeling under. All the things and routines and to-do’s come with a weight that can shift, break the scale, and knock you down under the weight.
It’s amazing how long we will carry this weight before ever considering lightening the load. It’s amazing how much we will pile on until our knees are weak, our hearts are drained, and our breaths are shallow. It’s amazing how far we will go without stopping to unpack.
It’s amazing – but it’s not wonderful.
I have spent this year intentionally setting out to lighten the load so that I have more room to hold gratitude and feel joy. And I had to be intentional. Because it didn’t unpack itself.
Make Room on Your Plate
Some people consider daily life as a pie chart. What areas take up the biggest sections of your chart? What do you give a sliver to? What are you not able to even squeeze in?
Further, what if we think about life as a dinner plate? Think about things that serve as a common main dish, and what are frequently sides. Most ordinary meals consist of these three things: a main and two sides. This example follows Randi Zuckerberg’s “Pick Three” advice. Unfortunately, many of us want to add a fourth thing – fifth, sixth, and so on.
With the items on our plate being representative of priorities, I have to wonder about the things that exist outside of the plate. What are the appetizers? – the things that prep and satisfy an immediate need for us to be able to consume what is on our plate. And most importantly – what’s for dessert? What do you enjoy, savor, and indulge in?
Bookend Your Day
I’m convinced that a big part of what makes newborn life (and, oftentimes, parenthood) hard, is being ripped out of bed to provide immediate care to someone other than yourself and then being forced to go to sleep just so that you can manage to get rest. It’s hard waking up and being thrown instantly into the drudgery of it. But, what if we carve out time by waking up for ourselves and doing, even if it’s for five minutes, something self-positive to start the day?
- Coffee or tea in a quiet place. Even if the house is already noisy, just sit somewhere and enjoy half a cup without feeling the need to move into action.
- Take a quick walk or, if you have the time, squeeze in a workout.
- Skincare routine. Giving yourself time for makeup. Picking out an outfit that you feel confident in. It’s not about vanity, it’s about doing small things that make you feel your best.
- Read a few pages of a book or write down a few things in a journal.
- Set intentions for your day.
- Don’t even get out of bed yet. Just lay in silent or guided meditation.
And then at night, do the same for yourself. While I love a good show to binge on, it doesn’t typically make me feel as good and can lead me down a rabbit hole of staying up too late. And social media mind-numbing…just don’t. Here are some other ideas:
- Read a book or listen to a podcast
- Look through pictures from the week or this week on previous years (cue the tears of nostalgia).
- Jot down something funny that your kid said or did, or something that brought you joy.
- Girl, wash your face. Better yet: The 10 PM Shower.
Set Boundaries & Let Grace In
The above approaches are practices in boundary-making. Carving out sacred, alone time, as well as setting our intentions for the day and the things that are most important to our happiness are just a couple of ways we can honor ourselves and provide guidelines for the people and engagements in our lives. The more we can begin setting (and sticking to) respectful boundaries, the more we encourage others to do the same so that we can also be a part of honoring them and their well-being.
Setting a boundary doesn’t have to mean saying no – even though, it certainly can. Setting boundaries more often means saying yes to our truest desires and needs. Setting boundaries gives us space to give and receive grace.
Here’s to unpacking and lightening the load (lord knows we have plenty of baggage to drop off after these past 18 months)!