It’s funny and humbling when your Chief Visionary Officer (aka Teri) asks every few weeks about productivity while being a mom. The conversation usually goes something like this: “How are you actually getting anything done with two kids and a dog, don’t you have to always feed them, clean your house, do your laundry, and wait, you ran today? 11 miles??? Do you even sleep?”
I’ll be honest with you, I need sleep. I am one crabby piece of toast if I don’t get sleep. I’d love the usual 7-9 hours that all doctors recommend for that bright, shiny complexion, lowered risk of heart disease, and to avoid all the other sleep-deprived diseases.
My CVO wanted me to talk about how I manage to be productive while having to take care of all the little living things surrounding me, and all the other life obligations that I have on my plate every day. It’s not easy and sure, some days I drink way too much coffee and chew too many B12’s, but it’s not impossible.
No matter what you are doing, when you are a mom, know that you are pretty much a hero. This isn’t about working moms versus moms who work from home, versus moms who stay at home, versus moms who wore the same clean smelling pants from yesterday, versus moms with an amazing wardrobe their husband ironed (Do you exist? I want to meet you.) It’s simply hard work to be a woman taking care of something that can talk back at you.
First a disclaimer: If you have a real medication condition that your doctor or healthcare provider is currently treating you for that affects energy levels, mobility, and/or any aspect of health (mental, emotional, physical) that affects any level of life, the below may not be the most appropriate guidance for productivity. If you are otherwise healthy, with an equally healthy family, the hope is that this article will be somewhat helpful to increase your productivity and get more done during the day.
Here are some things that motivate me to be productive:
Definition: “Intrinsic motivation occurs when we act without any obvious external rewards. We simply enjoy an activity or see it as an opportunity to explore, learn, and actualize our potentials.” (Coon & Mitterer, 2010)
I’m not saying that I don’t like some external rewards like coffee, blush, or a new dress. I’m only human. But, a large part of why I want to do anything more than I have to, is because I find certain things that do require extra effort very rewarding in and of itself. When I run or workout (even when I’m tired), or when I stay up late to write fun things like this, I feel a sense of accomplishment, personal growth, and happiness. The action itself is rewarding.
Accepting That “I’ll Sleep When I Die”
Morbid, I know. More of a passive quote that suddenly became truth for me (especially while I was completing my Ph.D. program). I use to whine and text my friends horrendous things when I wasn’t sleeping. I started accepting that I would “sleep when I die” in order to obtain my Ph.D. degree. It first came as a negative way to cope since I was bitter and jealous of people who got to sleep in on weekends. But now, my perspective has changed. With so many people losing the battle to cancer, both young and old, and seeing current family members with 5 years left to live. I see them making the most of life, and getting tons of sleep isn’t at the top of their current priorities list (since with a diagnosis of having 5 years to live, they are trying to do everything they wanted to in their lives but in only 5 years). I mean, sleep is a big deal (for health, obviously) but sometimes, when the action is worth it and personally fulfilling, sacrifice can truly be rewarding.
Now, when I say “I’ll sleep when I die,” I mean it in in the most positive way. There’s so much to do, so much to accomplish, so I choose to prioritize feeling fulfilled through meaningful and purposeful actions (such as working out or writing) more than getting 9+ hours of sleep.
You have to trust in yourself that you can do it. If you find something you love, you will love doing it. And, you will need to find someone who trusts you enough, that you will do it all when you have time. I’ve gotten a combination of luck, timing, trust and drive. If you have a fire in your belly that’s similar to that of the aftermath of Indian curry or spicy Thai food, then that means you’ve got a drive for something more. Try brainstorming and see what that drive will lead you to.
Feed the Drive that’s Inside of You
Do you remember a time you felt so motivated and driven to pursue something? There was a fire in your belly, sparks were flying in your brain, and no one was going to stand in your way? We are all driven towards something. We all have dreams and goals and bigger aspirations to become the best version of ourselves. Sometimes it’s not the right time in the present, nor do the circumstances make it possible to pursue them (newborn baby anyone?). But, that doesn’t mean those dreams just die out because “real life” is happening.
I was starting to get comfortable in my role as a mom. The one who tried cutting her kids sandwiches into trains and dinosaurs to emulate and be like other really awesome moms I saw in the neighborhood. You know those moms, who always were on time, put together, with plenty of snacks on hand, clean clothes, and a perfectly packed diaper bag.
But, I had this annoying, nagging, depressing feeling that I wanted to do more. Not that I wasn’t happy “just” being a mom; please don’t misconstrue this statement, but I wanted more. Being a mom is the epitome of fulfilling the meaning of life- to create a family, to grow it, to nourish it, it’s not an easy task. But, just because you become a mom, that doesn’t mean your own personal dreams must die completely, especially if you still have that feeling of wanting to accomplish other big goals for yourself (like using your formal education that you spent hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt on, or pursuing the next level of your professional career that you left to start a family).
And it’s perfectly fine to be multiple things at the same time, such as mom, wife, daughter, professional, business owner, etc. If it’s normal for men to have thriving careers and families, and play golf on weekends and have beers with friends at poker every Thursday night, then why can’t women do the same and wear multiple hats, too? Not to get into a men vs women debate here, but it’s interesting to think about how gender roles and expectancies are still alive in our modern times.
The truth is that I wanted to do something with my life on a professional level, but I also couldn’t bear to leave my kids. After all, I have a Ph.D. and went through all the schooling, so it’s obvious that I’m passionate about my professional field and industry. But, being between a rock (e.g. wanting to pursue a career) and a hard place (e.g. trust issues with leaving my children anywhere but with me, even if some days, I want to!) was my problem. If you have a drive, don’t let go of it. Keep that fire burning and when opportunities fall into place, you will know that your time has come.
When an Opportunity Arises
When an opportunity is offered to you, one that you’ve been seriously dreaming of, you take it and you don’t mess it up. Being a mom is not an excuse to slack off on your personal dreams while growing those of your children. Sure, you are more tired and cranky than you were pre-children, but I honestly think that if you can handle kids, you can handle anything. Kids see their moms and dads as role models and being a strong person as a mom will also instill that same strength in our children. Just because kids are young doesn’t mean they don’t notice your strength of character.
Opportunities don’t just drop into your lap because you ask for it. You have to show your desire, your drive, your need, and your want to excel and do something with life on top of being a decent mom. The rest will follow. Someone will see your potential and when they give you that chance to fulfill it, you run full speed and never look back. You just need to find the time to fit everything in, 20 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes during nap, or 2 hours after everyone goes to bed.
Find Something that’s Worth Your Precious Time
When you are a mom, you barely have time to use the bathroom or eat unless you are not at home. My friends who work in an office get lunch breaks and they are always humble for the pure fact they got to properly chew their meal.
When you get an opportunity to do something for yourself, there are a few things to consider. Is it worth your time? Would you rather be using that free time to sleep? Would you rather take a hot bath with petals? Or, is this opportunity so exciting, something you’ve been waiting for for years, something that is absolutely worth all you free time and then some?
In my case, being Manging Editor for TERIMIYAHIRA.COM is worth my free time so much that I feel excited and happy to be losing sleep #worthit. I fit in some work during any free moments I have during the day and then wrap up each night. I still run 11 miles or do some random workout, and that’s usually in the mornings. With 2 kids under the age of 4 years old, it’s a fine balancing act of making sure I’m focused 24/7 to make sure I’m spending time with my kids, cooking, being present with my husband, going to vet appointments for our pup, and working. You can have it all if you really want it.
I got really tired of making excuses for myself and then whining to my friends about it. Your life is your own and you can still control most of it, even if you have kids running your day (especially before your kids wake up and after they sleep, if they aren’t sick, if they aren’t having nightmares, if they aren’t being vampires, or if they aren’t thirsty)!
Coon, D. & Mitterer, J. O. (2010). Introduction to psychology: Gateways to mind and behavior with concept maps. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.