At the end of last year in the Expat Mums Mastermind group we spent a lot of time delving into the topic of staying on top of it all. How do we manage to keep juggling all the balls that we’ve got in the air and not let ‘too many’ drop.
It was really interesting listening to the different perspectives, especially as each of the group are in different stages as parents, but also in their journey. Nonetheless, the question continued to pop up… how do we keep on top of everything?
Whether you live abroad or not, as a parent there are multiple demands on you at any one time. For many of us, we are also trying to establish ourselves with work (volunteering or paid) or something that gives us a higher purpose.
The underlying key is managing our own mental and emotional state. Providing ourselves the time, space and energy to keep mentally on top of things. In addition, being aware of looking after ourselves, making sure we eat well, get enough sleep and exercise.
But alongside that, we have to manage our time, not just for ourselves but for our family. I recently listened to this podcast which made so much sense. Taking a moment to understand how our energy flows and building our routines around that flow. Do the more difficult tasks when the energy is at its best, and leave the basics for when your energy is low or ebbing. There is so much we can do to organise our time as parents, such as meal planning, do this when energy is ebbing and keep the high energy times for quality interaction with your kids.
But, planning your time and organising yourself, it’s all well and good, until something goes wrong. It’s these moments which make getting and staying on track so difficult. It can be relatively simple things, such as a sick kid, that throws everything off. The fact is, once we are out of sync, how do we get that groove back… and fast!
I think the first key is not to beat yourself up. Stuff happens to everyone, it’s our own mindset that affects what impact this stuff has on us. So don’t dwell, don’t poor me, don’t look to blame others. Pull your chin up, literally shake it off (and I mean physically get up and move your body around), and then move forward. One step at a time.
If you’re not doing it already, start journaling. Develop a deeper understanding of yourself, of what pushes your hot buttons, what makes you feel good. Write down what you’re grateful for, also what opportunities do you have to show compassion or empathy for others. If journaling is new for you, aim to be consistent once a week – maybe a Sunday evening is a good time to reflect? Maybe twice a week is achievable? Don’t put pressure on yourself to do it every day, but give yourself the opportunity to journal and the benefits it provides your mental space.
The better you understand yourself, the faster you can pull yourself out of the rut and get yourself going again.
If it’s continually the same issue that pulls you off track, think differently about the problem. Can you outsource a component of your life? Can a friend help you? Can you hire someone to help? Can your spouse do more? Can your kids do more? Maybe it’s just a physical change to the way you do it that makes it easier?
Is there an opportunity to plan differently? Can you allocate a particular day to do all the mundane errands that life requires from us, but keep a day or two just for yourself to focus on whatever your project is. Don’t let the mundane infiltrate this time, try and keep the two separate. I haven’t got my ‘Auckland routine’ sorted yet, but in Taipei I worked from school drop off to pick up three days a week, Monday to Wednesday. Thursday was my day to do fun things with friends and Friday was my day to clean, shop, and get ready for the weekend. I sometimes had to slide things around, especially if there was a school show or something else that week, but generally speaking this worked well for me.
Whatever it is that you decide to focus on, the key is to take it one step at a time. Don’t try and change your whole world overnight. Choose one, small thing. Focus on it, make it work for you. Then you can add another small thing. Gradually, over time, you can and you will reclaim your life.
In this juggling act, do you feel that you stay on top of everything? Or do you feel that life just keeps happening? How do you move yourself forward? Please do share in the comments, I would love to hear from you.