As I sat waiting at the doctor’s office for my yearly exam, I knew what was coming. After greeting me, the first thing my OB/GYN asked as she sat down to talk was, “Are you making time for yourself this year?” As a friend, she knows I live a fast paced life what with writing, speaking, running a conference and parenting four kids.
A year earlier when I sat in that office, I must have looked like a deer in headlights. The baby was just a year old with a rare genetic disorder that required her to always have food in her body to prevent severe hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). As a result, I was setting an alarm to wake me every few hours to feed her. I was also launching Divine Mercy for Moms with Emily Jaminet and continuing to volunteer in many capacities. I was tired, functioning in survival mode, and not even thinking about balancing my body, mind and spirit.
In the year since that OB/GYN visit, however, things had been different. I couldn’t help but smile, thinking about how far I had come as far as taking care of myself. As moms, we tend to put our own well-being on the back burner in order to focus on that of our children.
Knowing that I’d done this in the past, my doctor was referring specifically to my unhealthy diet and lack of exercise when she asked about making time for myself. I was happy to say I had gotten back on track with a new exercise routine and healthy eating. However, there were other ways I was working on myself that were even more beneficial than eating right and working out.
- Spend more time with God. I know as a Catholic, the most important thing I can do for myself is have a close relationship with God through prayer. However, when I find myself working on a big project or enduring a major life change, my daily prayer life becomes sporadic. The life of a mother is very cyclical and events like having a baby, getting a new job, entering a new stage of a child’s lives, or battling serious illnesses are going to happen. I have come to realize that when I am off track, I need to work extra hard when life settles back down to get into a good prayer routine. This year my goals have been to get to daily Mass as much as possible, pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy and do an Examen at the end of my day (check out the awesome app, the Examen Prayer App, if you want help with this end of day reflection and meditation). Even if it means the dishes don’t always get done, making prayer a priority has been an invaluable decision for me.
- Work on my relationships. Having children can quickly fill all of our time, not leaving any room for adult friendships. This year, my biggest project was Emily Jaminet’s and my new book, The Friendship Project, The Catholic Woman’s Guide to Making and Keeping Fabulous, Faith-Filled Friends (Ave Maria Press, Fall 2017). Amidst writing on this topic, I realized that being a good, virtuous friend and maintaining deep, meaningful relationships was quite a project. I began to take a serious look at all my friendships. To help us improve this area of our lives, Emily and I launched “Friendship Fridays” in which every Friday, we make a special effort to connect with a friend for a cup of coffee, lunch or even just a conversation over the phone. It’s been the best year ever and I have connected with so many friends that I had lost touch with.
- Set Realistic Goals (It’s okay to say “no” sometimes). I had bought into the terrible, terrible lie that if I prioritized my life correctly, I could do it all. However, that was a far cry from the truth. As my family grew, so did my responsibilities, and no matter how well I prioritized and organized, I was just one person who could only do so much. One of the most liberating comments I have ever heard was from Colleen Tucker Kessler. As a fellow blogger, author and mom she answered the question “How do you balance it all?” by saying, “I don’t. Whatever you are working on is going to be your priority and you are going to drop some balls. Just make sure the balls you drop are not the ones that are going to get bruised.” It’s good for us as women to admit we cannot do it all. For me, that means if I am working on a new book project, I might have to say no to some other writing projects so I have time for work and family. If I want to attend morning Mass, I may have to choose a shorter workout so I can still prepare a healthy meal for dinner. No matter how ruthlessly I prioritize, I am not superhuman and things will get missed. As Emily always reminds me, a “no” to one thing is often a “yes” to something else. By keeping it real, I am a better person and feel much less pressure and stress!
Implementing these changes into my life has been transformational. Take some time today to ponder the question, “How are you making time for yourself?”
Copyright 2017 Michele Faehnle