Our Meltdowns, Our Teachers

If you’ve ever had that morning when your two year old clearly knows you have a 9 am meeting so she decides to throw a fit when you leave and your babysitter pries her out of your arms and you make it to the subway, to the office, coffee in hand with one minute to spare. Then you have that sinking feeling when you arrive and the conference room is empty and you check your calendar again and realize—the meeting was actually at the agency’s office across town. (Cue Meltdown)

How about when you’re running in to pump in your boss’s glass office that you’ve covered with poster board from floor to ceiling. You have 30 minutes until your next meeting. You race to get undressed and strapped into the torture device (I mean, pump) and realize you’re missing one essential part. (Melt. Down.)

Or you hear the date of the final class trip you promised you would chaperone and it turns out, you’re scheduled to present to the CMO. You break the news to your irate daughter and all of a sudden Kindergarten is locked down in infamy, as “the year mommy didn’t go on any trips.” (Ready, set, meltdown)

In these moments, my gut instinct used to be berating myself about doing a shitty job at this whole balancing act. And asking, “How is this ever going to work? How do other people do this? Where’s the ice cream?” I was left confused and paralyzed…with a nasty sugar hangover.

I’m a Type A at heart, so I don’t expect these meltdowns to go away completely, but in the past two years, I’ve been able to consciously shift the way I handle these moments. I may always be pushing the boundaries of time and my finite amount of energy, but I’ve started respecting these red flags and using them as reminders that I don’t have to live like this all the time.

When I work with clients who are dealing with this same struggle, that feeling that they’re “not doing any of it well”—I teach them the approach I use to get back on track. 

It goes like this...

  1. Cheer up your best friend, you:
    Instead of dragging yourself through the mud (you know how that feels), try acknowledging how much you’re pulling off. Believe me, your husband, your boss and your kids are not going to see it, if you can’t see it yourself.  Find what works for you, but I’ve written a little speech that I like. 

    You’re doing/juggling/pulling off a ton right now and you’re doing most of it really well.
    You’re not a robot. (Sometimes it helps to say this 2x.)
    It’s not going to all work perfectly and that’s ok.
    Perfect is boring and people love you because you’re weird…in a good way!
    You got this.  

  2. Create a buffer:
    You’re doing too much. You need to clear the decks and add more space into your life. What are you doing that your husband or other family members can do? What can your children do for themselves? One of the best days of my life was when my 7 year old started showering on her own.  Are you a laundry addict? Try going from 3 times a week to 2, or blasphemy…1.
  3. Write, re-write or pull out your priority list:
    Back when I was single and dating, somebody quite wise told me to write a list of 4 to 5 things I wanted in my ideal guy and to keep that list in my wallet. I thought it was ridiculous at the time, but I was open to trying something new. I did it and my list went like this: Smart, Funny, Doting, Handsome, Creative. Anytime I started dating someone, I would run him past the list to make sure he had everything on it. And most of the time, he didn’t. Until, finally, he did…and I married him.

    Now, I want you to do the same thing with the high level things you want in your life. It’s not a detailed life plan, but it’s a quick barometer that can let you know when you’re out of balance.  Here’s mine: Peace, Courage, Connection, Inspiration, Fun. When I’m doing too much, I run some of the things I’m doing by this list and it helps me filter out the tasks that aren’t bringing me there.
  4. Add something you love back into your life:
    As moms, our creative outlets and our joy often come last on the list of daily agenda items. How’s that approach working for you? Instead, choose something you truly love and do it for an hour a week. If an hour seems like too long, start with 15 minutes. It doesn’t need to be something you’re good at, something you’ll make money doing or something you share with anyone. It simply must be something you love. Something only for you. You deserve it. Refer back to number 1 to remind yourself of all that you’re doing! Not only is it your treat, but the creative fuel will give you the mojo to charge through the rest of the items on your list like a boss.

Now of course, if you’re motivated, you can kick this process into gear without having a meltdown moment. But the next time you (hypothetically) almost miss your client session because the Keyfood delivery is two hours late due to a hurricane that never happened, just know that there’s a way to bring yourself out of the depths and back into a world where you can be your imperfect and authentic self.