By learning to live one day at a time we can lead a happier, more fulfilled life that is more focused for today.
(This is a series of blog posts featuring tips on living one day at a time.)
I won´t tell you that I am the most organized person, and I certainly won´t wear it like a badge of honor, but I will tell you that I do my best. Once I put my head on something, I deliver more than a hundred percent, which means not sleeping and not eating until the project is done. I´m not exaggerating.
Just to give you an overview, when I was working as a high school Math teacher in an international school in Thailand, I built up a debate club from scratch. All by myself. I picked the brightest students in the school, taught them how to debate using the British Parliamentary Style of Debating, and trained and prepared them for national level tournaments. I also served as an adjudicator in those tournaments. All these I did on top of my 27 teaching units per week. Think about the lesson plans and the paper work that I had to complete for my classes + the long hours of research I had to do for each motion that my debaters would debate for practices. Add to that the long hours of the training itself.
But I was able to produce great debaters. My school made a name at the national level in the debate society. Once unknown, my school demanded respect from other high caliber international schools and universities. Awesome promotion for my school. The bad news? I wasn´t paid for all those overtime.
When I left to join my husband in Europe, they couldn´t find anyone who could do what I did, even if they were willing to pay big only to continue the debate club. The badge that I carved for the school for four years died when I left.
I´m one who can juggle. And I`m good at it.
And juggling is all that I do now that I´m a full-time mom. Haha! I say all moms are good jugglers. I didn´t really arrive at this level of respect I have for mothers until I became a mother myself.
Could you believe it? I´ve been doing this for 6.5 months now as of this writing!
Being a full-time mom in Europe means having to do everything myself without a help. My husband does help me, but he works long hours + he jogs in the evening twice a week. He´s mostly able to help in the kitchen – cooking, cleaning + boiling bottles – after he comes home from work. But for the evenings when he jogs, I do the cooking after I finally put the baby to sleep at seven. (I encourage my husband to continue running to offset his long sitting hours in front of the computer, if only a bit. Also, I like it when he stays in shape. Hehe!)
And that´s why at the end of the day, I´m spent. But instead of going to bed early, I still stay up late to fold the laundry or do some ironing. If I were in Asia, I would have already hired a help to do the house chores. But no, this is Europe!
I noticed though that if I try to do everything within a day and deprive myself of rest by getting some sleep, my patience is thinning and I easily get irritated. I also lack the energy I need to be a happy mom to my bubbly baby.
But if I go to bed early without finishing the many pending chores, I wake up the next day stressed from seeing all the piled up work. I hate a messy house.
So I decided that I have to choose. I have to prioritize.
Thankfully I got this little book that was gifted to me by a close colleague in Thailand – One Day at a Time Therapy (Elf Self Help). Whenever I feel frustrated by my inability to do everything within the day, I pull the book for some good, short reminders.
One particular advice that I love and found helpful goes:
- Tip #1: Keep it simple. Only do today what you can do today. ~ Christine A. Adams
This is spot on. Why do I try to do everything? Is there a competition of who can mother an amazing baby while maintaining a spotless house and losing the pregnancy weight in just three months?
Unlike my teaching days when I could work and work until I drop and then call in sick for an acute bronchitis right after every debate tournament, I just can´t call in sick now that I´m a mom. Even if I´m sick, I still have to do the things that I must do.
The keyword here is MUST. I prioritize the things that I must do for the day, sick or not.
I learned to set tiny (specific) goals for the day and then celebrate their accomplishment at the end of the day. For example, if I want to vacuum the floor, my goal for the day would be to vacuum the bedroom and the living room. I put the baby in his crib as I vacuum the living room (because he hates loud noise and cries from the sound of a vacuum cleaner), and then put him on his mat on the floor in the living room as I vacuum the bedroom. The kitchen and the restroom would be vacuumed the next day.
Technically, it looks like there´s nothing to celebrate because I haven´t cleaned the entire house. But because I focus on the tiny goals I´ve set for the day, I already feel accomplished and happy when I hit the hay. Every time I call it a day, I always … and I mean I always … utter a “Thank you God for helping me complete the day.”
Since I learned to keep it simple and to do only what I can do for the day, I no longer feel resentful for not having enough physical support. I no longer feel inadequate or overwhelmed. And to be honest, I feel happy, proud (in a good, humble way), and thankful that I have made this far with the help of God and my husband. It´s been quite a journey!
How about you? How do you keep your day simple?