How to Find Joy in Life’s Little Burdens
I think I speak for all working women when I say that sometimes it all just feels like too much! Working (this includes SAHMs working in the home as well), commuting, cooking, shopping, bill paying, caring for the kids, caring for hubby, cleaning, doctors and dentist appointments, etc. can seem oppressive. I mean, how can we possibly do it all? And if by some miracle we are doing it all, how do we keep from becoming burnt out and resentful?
For many years I struggled with this. I had such a strong sense of responsibility toward my work and my family. I didn’t want to let anyone down but the pace was overwhelming. It got to the point that every task I did to serve my family came along with self-pity. Didn’t anyone notice how hard I was working? Why do I have to do everything around here? Would it kill someone else to pitch in or at least say ‘thank you’? Can a girl get a little appreciation?
This whoa-is-me attitude was not helping my emotional balance one bit. It is strange; we have ‘light bulb moments’ and when they happen a real shift from within can occur. I can recall whining one day about all the food prep I had to do to enable my husband to just ‘pop in’ the near-fully prepared meals I put together for him (he gets home from work an hour before me so he usually starts dinner). Suddenly, it occurred to me that no one was making me do this. It was, in fact, a self-inflicted chore. So what does that mean? It means I have a choice. If I don’t like it, I don’t have to do it, simple as that. Sure, my family would most certainly fall victim to multiple fend-for-yourself nights which inevitably meant cereal or Ramen for dinner. But it was still my choice to do it or not.
That’s when I realized I needed to really take a look at my priorities.
- Do I want to save money on groceries? Yes
- Do I want my family to eat whole foods and not processed junk? Yes
- Do I want to save time during my week by just popping in a pre-made freezer meal and avoid big clean up by just tossing the foil pan? Yes
- Do I want to eat with my family and not have to prepare something separate for myself in order to eat healthy? Yes
So, in order to achieve each of these things I had answered ‘yes’ to, I was going to make a choice; a choice to meal prep once every 2 weeks. Yes, it is a big job, yes, I dirty every pot and pan in the house during my prep session, yes, I’m still waiting for that undying admiration from my kids and hubby, but it’s a choice that makes me feel good. I’m getting a break from cooking for 13 days, we all eat together, my food budget is kept in check, and I am providing my kids with proper nourishment (I hope the people at Ramen don’t take offense!).
This has proven to be the case with every one of my daily ‘burdens’. Instead of complaining and feeling unappreciated, I take comfort in that cupboard I just organized or the clean toilet and bathroom that allow me to relax. I enjoy going into my room and seeing my bed made, pretty pillow in place (even if it is going to get messed up again at night). I feel proud that my kids think I’m a ‘great cook’.
Whoever said “attitude is everything” was onto something. Here are the attitude changing tips I use every day to keep me centered:
- Don’t think of it as a burden. Having a family to care for is a blessing. The amazing thing is, as you start doing acts of service for them without the expectation that they’ll reciprocate in some way (or throw a parade in your honor) they do start to give back. Dishwashers get emptied without any prompting, long-cluttered garages get re-organized, litter boxes get scooped, and compliments and thank-yous start to happen.
- Don’t go it alone. Listen, I’m sure you’re amazing and can handle the chaos of your home all by yourself, but why try? Everyone should contribute to the household. My kids have been doing chores for most of their lives. As they get older and have more capabilities, their chores get bigger. They do their own wash (trust me; teenagers either have a wardrobe change multiple times a day like a rock star between sets OR their clothes are a bit funky and best not to be handled without a hazmat suit), they empty the dishwasher and clean the kitchen after dinner, they take care of their cats’ litter boxes, and (sort of) clean their own rooms and bathroom. They also take out trash and recycles. My hubby does his own wash (he was banned from doing mine anymore for continually shrinking my shirts into ‘Barbie’ clothes), helps to cook dinner, pool and spa maintenance, household repairs, and all exterminating needs. I have budgeted for a housekeeper every 3 weeks (I’d have her weekly if I could afford it) to help me with the heavy cleaning. She is wonderful and as long as I can scrape up the extra money she will be a part of my sanity plan!
- Find time to nurture yourself. I have found that doing my household chores early, bill paying, shopping and menu planning, batch cooking only once every 2 weeks, and delegating what I can has freed up much more time when I’m home. I also run all errands, except grocery shopping, on my way home from work as I can easily adjust my route (without tacking on extra miles and using more gas) to be able to make a quick stop. This prevents me from spending my weekends running around. I make sure to do the things I love in my spare time now in order to reboot myself. This part will be personal and different for everyone but think hot bubble bath, reading a good book, writing, watching a movie, exercising, game night with the family, or maybe going out on a date with your spouse.
Since giving up the pity party, I am so much more relaxed, centered, and energized. That energy allows me to do more, not less. The difference is I’m doing what I have chosen to do, whether that is cooking, cleaning, shopping, or simply kickin’ it on the couch with my Kindle. Believe me, pity parties aren’t a lot of fun and nobody else wants to attend. Dump the pity party for a real celebration; one that includes gratitude for all that you have and genuine joy in the gifts all around you!