Right now I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my own car, riding shotgun as my 16 year old twins take turns driving from Cairns to Townsville. It felt like only a moment ago that I was forever driving my kids around and only knew the view from the driver’s seat, now 80% of the time I’m travelling on the opposite side of the car. Life can change so quickly and time stands still for no one.
I think the more kids you have, the busier life can get and the faster time seems to fly by. It feels like such a short time ago that my boys were entering high school, now they are driving, have girlfriends and have just over 1 year left before they finish school and are old enough to leave home.
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Keeping Busy, Feeling Productive
For the last 8 months or so I’ve been keeping myself frantically busy. Finding myself single once again and with 5 kids, all with individual needs, it has meant that parenting is my more than my full-time job. Various outside influences and my own insecurities and fears told me I needed to be more than this though and so I began spending every spare second I had, and then some, on creating a home business. I’d read that in order to be successful one needed determination, perseverance and dedication. Procrastination and an “I’m too tired” attitude was not going to cut it.
So began, the balancing act of work and family life. Rest and relaxation was something I squeezed into short intervals over the weekend with my older kids. Watching one movie with them on a Friday or Saturday night was my break but I would be nervously tapping my foot half the time, thinking about how I needed to get some work done and as soon as the movie finished, I’d be doing just that.
Keeping busy to me meant I was being productive. Watching Netflix or spending time on social media (if it wasn’t business related) felt like a waste of time and any time that the little ones were gone with their Dad was an opportunity to get some work done. I did spend time with my older kids too but a part of me always felt guilty that I wasn’t working, even though I knew time with my kids was important.
As the months went by, I became more and more exhausted. I’d stay up tapping away at my computer till 1 or 2am some weekdays just to get something finished, then be up with the little ones not long after dawn. If I kept busy I didn’t notice the fatigue too much but I was seriously starting to feel the Mum Life Burnout. The notion of taking a few days off seemed like insanity but I decided to book a few days away with my three older kids over the school holidays, planning to get some writing done while we were away.
Sometimes our plans don’t quite work out the way we expect though.
Forced To Take A Break
Each day over the last week and a half, I’ve had a pang of anxiety about how unproductive I’ve been. For the past 10 days I haven’t written or posted anything on the blog, not because I didn’t want to or because I had writers block but because I was forced into taking a break. It was unexpected, awesome and despite my anxiety about being unproductive, just what I needed.
I got the best surprise ever last Friday night the 13th. There I was, at 10pm sitting on the couch chilling out for the first time in a week, with my 3 older kids and the boys girlfriends, when I heard a knock on the front door. I freaked out a little as it was rare to get unannounced visitors at all, let alone late at night. I cautiously opened the front door and heard a familiar voice say “hello” from the darkness of the front porch. I couldn’t believe it, my sister whom I’d not seen in a year and a half had flown across the country to spend time with me and my family. I was beside myself with joy that night.
I’ve always been close to my family, we’ve lived together on and off throughout the years, or always lived close by and spent holidays, birthdays and special occasions together. The Last couple of years since we moved away from WA have been difficult. Life has taken some testing twists and turns and flipped me upside down and I’ve done my best to hold it all together but it’s been hard and I’ve failed at times. I’m so blessed to have my kids but sometimes I just need that adult conversation, a shoulder to cry on, some encouragement from someone else who’s lived life and come out the other side. My family has just been a phone call away but nothing beats having them there in person.
Naturally I wanted to spend as much time with my sister as I could. Writing went on hold and life got lived. It was an amazing time of catching up, reminiscing, filling up on family support and not being the only adult in the house for a while. All in all, it was great. Of course it was sad to see her go a week later, but the next day the older kids and I were off on a few days away, which we were all looking forward to.
Taking A Break Vs Laziness
I don’t know when it happened but at some point in my life (I’m pretty sure it was within the last 10 years) I became conditioned to believe that taking a break meant I was being lazy. If I wasn’t constantly moving or being productive then I wasn’t reaching my full potential and my future was sure to reflect my inability to persevere and be successful. I felt like if I stopped pursuing success for my business even for a moment, then I may have to start all over again or ruin my chances of success all together. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
The first night after we drove all the way to Cairns, me being the passenger instead of the driver for a change, I felt completely exhausted. 4 hours in the car had meant that I was forced to be still, to stop being busy and just relax. My body didn’t seem to know how to handle it and I finally noticed just how worn out I truly was. My body almost completely shut down and I couldn’t even think about writing.
I ended up in bed earlier than usual and woke up with a migraine, a stiff neck and feeling completely drained. I refused to let it ruin my holiday though and we spent the day exploring the rainforest on the skyrail. I’d been pushing through for so long, my busyness distracting me from the shockwaves of fatigue that never had a chance to subside before I hit my body with another long day or late night. Now that I’d stopped, it hit me like a 747 in mid flight.
I ended up with another early night (no writing) and didn’t wake this time until 9.30am the following morning. I felt more refreshed this day, no migraine, no exhaustion, even the sore throat I’d had from a viral infection for the last month, was feeling better. Seems that getting to bed at a decent hour and sleeping through the night actually makes a difference to how I feel, imagine that. I realised that staying up late to get more work done was probably becoming counter productive. I might get more done in that moment but I was setting myself up for a bad day the next day which would in turn make it harder to be productive.
Taking a break isn’t being lazy, it’s part of taking care of your family, because if I don’t take a break sometimes, I will get burnt out and then I (the head of my family) am no good to anyone. If I don’t function to the best of “my” ability, it affects everyone’s mood, perspective and ability to function. I have to look after myself in order to look after them plus taking a break is part of the creative process that will help me become a better writer and business woman.
The Benefits Of A Break
Sitting in the car thinking about the last 10 days, I realised that I had gathered a tonne of ideas about what to write. Getting out into a different environment, away from the routine of life had cleared my head of all the noise that was beginning to block my creativity. Stress was starting to become my life “uniform” and that’s not something I want attached to me in any way. Letting go of all the things I felt I had to do, opened up opportunities for me to spend time with my family, to grow in relationship, to rest and restore my energy and motivation and to see things from a different perspective, gathering new ideas that would refresh my goals and direction.
I’ve learnt that taking a break is not only ok, but it’s necessary, to my health, my peace of mind, my family relationships, my success as an artist/entreprenuer and mostly my success as a Mother. Being a mum is my most important role and if I keep failing to look after myself, then I am failing to 1. look after my children and 2. teach them how to look after themselves. They learn by my example, not only how to work hard at chasing their dreams but how to balance that with their family commitments and their own physical and mental health.
Now I am home again, I’ve collected my little ones, they are finally asleep and I’m sitting at my desk finishing off this blog post, staring at the clock that reads 10:52pm and telling myself I really should go to bed now so I can get 7 – 8 hours of sleep. I’m hoping my new resolve to get more sleep, take more breaks and balance everything better will last more than a few days, so do me a favour? Check in with me next week and I’ll let you know how I’m going.
What kind of things do you do to re-energize and get that break? Let me know in the comment section below.
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