Posted in Keeping your sanity, Parenting, Practicing, Working Parent

The 4 Ways I Keep Myself Balanced

Between teaching at a university, playing in an orchestra, taking on freelance work, blogging, and being the mother of three active children, life gets a little hectic. And by “a little” I mean a lot. (Did I mention I am trying to continue building my French fluency, as well??) I love everything that I do, so I certainly don’t want to give anything up, but that means that I have to be on top of my time and organization. So, how DO I juggle it make it work? Here are the 4 ways I keep myself balanced and focused.

1. Prioritize. I set morning, afternoon, and evening goals for myself. My mornings that I don’t teach are almost always exclusively set aside for working out and practicing. It’s all that I do. I avoid setting appointments for this time block. It is sacred space and jealously guarded for that particular purpose. My afternoons are slated for grocery shopping (if needed), laundry, blogging, and/or cleaning. If I can arrange it the night before, I do try to use the grocery store’s pick-up service, where they will do the shopping for you. I definitely recommend this! It’s such a time-saver. If I don’t have rehearsals or a concert, my evenings are devoted to family: either taxiing kids around, making dinner, having special time, you name it. Prioritize your blocks of time, and stick to it!

2. Do your work in small chunks of time. Occasionally, life will throw you some wrenches in your plan. Your kids are home sick, or school has been cancelled due to weather, or you are called away unavoidably. Whatever the issue, stay calm and stay flexible. When I find I’m suddenly home with kids during the school day, I try to work in small chunks of time, grabbing 30-minute practice sessions here and there as I am able. It does interfere with my “block scheduling” as described above, but I find that it is much more efficacious to stay flexible and do work as I can manage it, while still being available to my children at home. Children are much more agreeable to their parents working in small batches of time, as opposed to all day, if they know their needs are going to be met sooner rather than much later. It works well for everyone.

3. Manage your time well. This seems an obvious one, right? Let me explain. On the days I am home (not teaching at the university) I decide what I am better able to accomplish while the children are at school, and what items are still manageable when they are home. For example, if I need to run errands, be on the computer for a while, practice, — work that needs my attention to be absolutely on the task at-hand — I work hard to finish those while the children are at school. Other tasks like laundry, dishes, a quick check at email, and the like, where I can have my attention diverted for a bit to help with the children if needed, those I save for after the children return home from school. I want to make sure they know that I am always available, and they can have my attention immediately if necessary, but I am realistic enough to know that they don’t want me hovering over them constantly and can continue with whatever I was doing previously.

4. Meditate. I can’t stress this one enough. Find time to meditate. Lately I have switched to meditating at night, which has greatly helped my sleep (I have blogged about it earlier), but there are definitely merits to meditating during the day. Meditating greatly reduces stress and anxiety, as it helps to put space between your mind and your day-to-day worries. It helps you to focus on the here-and-now and puts your body at ease. This is great for helping you to stay balanced and focused during your day. The more you practice mediation, the easier it gets to calm your mind and ease your body, so you can continue on with your day in a more relaxed and focused way.

This is just a small snapshot of how I stay balanced and focused as a busy working mom. Yes, my house may not always be perfectly tidy. Quite the contrary at times!! There is no hiding the fact that I have three busy and active kids running around. But, to me, an overly tidy house is not what is always important. Maintaining my professional level of playing, raising good kids in a loving and nurturing way, and keeping my relationship with my family and work healthy are important to me. I hope I have given you, my lovely readers, some good ideas to help you find that balance that works for you. What are some things you do to stay balanced? I want to hear about it!

Posted in Parenting

Laughter is The Best Medicine

My little guy has been getting a bit bored lately. We live in a cold-winter climate, so going outdoors isn’t always an option, and it’s cloudy and wet more days than not. Also, he’s not as involved as my other two children are in after-school activities, and his favorite spring sport hasn’t started back up yet. He does entertain himself well with Minecraft and Geometry Dash online, but as soon as his allotted screen time is up, well, you know the drill: Mom! There’s nothing to do!! Of course, I give the usual list-making of all the games we can play and toys he can build with, but as I am saying this, I can see that he is crossing his arms and plopping himself moodily on the couch (read: gearing up for a “power struggle”). Uh oh. Here we go.

That day, I decided to try something different than my usual tactics to avoid or work around these kinds of power struggles — that dogged, “I’m going to say no to everything you suggest” attitude. I had just read earlier that laughing helps increase oxytocin (bonding hormone) and reduce anxiety and stress (Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings by Dr. Laura Markham). I wanted to put some of what I had read into practice and see if it actually worked — to see if laughter could make a child go from being grumpy about his screen time ending to his normal happy, relatively compliant self. I have to admit, I was a bit nervous that he would just tell me to stop and then his mood would be worse. I do love our special time, which I have blogged about before, but when these kinds of moods strike — and we all know what I’m talking about! — it just feels rather forced. Still, I wanted to give it a try.

He looked up at me while sitting on the couch with his sweet but pouty face, and his arms crossed and eyes narrowed, and I looked back at him. But then I smiled, and I said, “look at this new bump on the couch [meaning him]! I’m going to sit on it and see if it’s soft!” As I turned to “sit” on him (gently, of course), he immediately started laughing and pushing me away, during which I said, “Oh wow! This couch grew legs and arms!” And we started laughing hysterically from then on! He immediately started suggesting other things we could do, like riding horses (I was the horse), and flying, with him on my feet in the air. We had so much fun. I hadn’t laughed that hard in a long time! It was one of our best special times together, and all of his previous grumpiness and defiance melted away.

I am looking forward to using this trick a lot more often. It does come with a caveat: if the child isn’t having it, if he isn’t playing along or the situation starts to deteriorate, then you’ll obviously need to turn to another tool in your parenting toolbox. But, I am going to use this as much as I can. What a fun way to turn a mood around! Next time you see that little rain cloud start to follow your little ones around, try some silliness and laughter to chase away the clouds. Laughter really is the best medicine.