Podcast 013 - Your Plate

Today I decided to draw a card from my Family Booster Shots deck and share whatever came up on this podcast. As a result, I'm going to provide you with a tool you can use to create a snapshot of your life and become intimate with where you are putting your time and energy.

This is a wonderful tool if you feel like there is never enough time in the day or that the months are slipping by faster than you can believe AND, this is an important part, you feel like the things on your 'to do' list just aren't getting done.13736825_ml

This activity can be done in a variety of ways – as a craft with young kids; as a creative project to get your juices flowing; or as a reflective exercise with pencil and paper in hand.

Decide which one of these things you need most in life right now, which one sounds the most appealing. Or if this activity doesn't sound like something you'd like to do right now,  just tuck it away as a possible tool for a later time and use this podcast to get your thoughts moving in that direction.

This is an important topic to discuss, because we all need ideas for self-care, especially those that help us get clarity on our current situation. It is so easy for us to get onto the freeway called life and then forget to ever check the map to see if we're even on the right road. Your energy and time are valuable pieces of being a Vibrant, Powerful Mom…so let's use this activity to take stock and see where you are at.

It is also important, because what you are doing right now, if you have young kids, is helping them design their future. Although we are all unique, it's important to remember, that your kids are learning more from your behaviour than your words. So if you are playing the martyr role and putting yourself (and your needs) last because there is only so much you can squeeze into a day…then your kids are learning that's what moms do. Same is true if you are a work-aholic, putting in long hours and rarely ever home; if you work at a job you hate and come home depressed and unhappy; and, happily, also if you're living a vibrant and empowered life.

What's on Your Plate?

This tool involves drawing a circle on a piece of paper about the size of a dinner plate.

  • Inside of the circle write down all the things you do regularly that you really enjoy doing. Since these are things you enjoy, write them in a colour you enjoy. For me it would be royal blue or teal.

Your list might include "work" if you work outside the home and enjoy your job most of the time. If you work outside the home and don't enjoy your job, then you might want to do a plate just for work, so you can see what can be changed. If you don't think anything can be changed and you hate your job, then I would really like to work with you on the limiting beliefs you seem to have around employment.

Finally, if you work outside of the home and have a love/hate relationship with your job you might put work in your 'enjoy colour' with some of things you like about it extending off that word and then include it in the 'don't like' category with some of the aspects you don't like branching off. This too will give you a picture of what you might be able to change so you can enjoy more and stress less.

If your work is being a mom, then break it into pieces and only list the parts you enjoy in this colour.

Some ideas of what you might include here whether you get paid for work or not are: playing with kids; bathtime (remember - only if you enjoy it); going for walks; laundry (not one of my faves, but some people love it!); cooking; showering; gardening; volunteering; exercise (with friends!); TV time

  • Take a different colour (try to find a neutral one) and add the things you do that you don’t mind doing. Examples: cooking; exercising; cutting the grass; packing for lake; laundry...
  • In a colour you don't particularly like, add the things you do that you wish you didn’t have to. Examples: laundry; planning meals; grocery shopping; cooking; volunteering; changing beds…anything you do fairly regularly (at least once/week) that you don't like.
  • Around the outside of the circle in your happy colour write the things you wish you had more time to do. i.e. Golfing; dance; reading; travel; bathing; getaways with girlfriends
  • As a bonus, you might now take another colour and circle the things you might be able to change; trade with someone else; ask for help to get done; stop doing; or change how you do it.

Often we feel trapped in our lives when in actuality we're the ones that have created our own cage. As mentioned you have subconsciously internalized things from your upbringing that you now do because you think it's part of being a (good) mom. This is a cage.

Other times, it's actually a conscious decision that feels right at the time and becomes part of who you are, so you just think you have to do it.

My story…

When my husband and I moved to our first home my in-laws came to stay for a few days. My mother-in-law was thrilled to see I had a clothes line and offered to do the laundry for me, then hang it out to dry (turns out she was one of those people who loved doing laundry!).

I agreed (although my ego did wonder if she was suggesting I was already falling down on the job!) and I was surprised to have this surge of nostalgia thinking about my grandmother hanging out the clothes at the cabin when I was little. I enjoyed the smell of clothes fresh off the line and, because of my nostalgic moment, made the decision to continue this habit after my mother-in-law left. This fit with my 'tree-hugging' sensibilities and my desire to survive on a student's budget.

All was good, except on those days when a farmer would decide to burn a field nearby and our clothes would stink like smoke…or when the cottonwoods decided to release their cotton, totally covering our clothes in little puffs of white forcing me to rewash everything or sit picking off fluffs for hours.

I also found it frustrating when the towels or cloths would dry hard and feel like cardboard on your skin (apparently this has to do with the amount of wind, but I never did figured out the exact formula).

After the flood, we moved to a different house without a clothes line. I requested a line be put up and after about a year of reminders it happened. But my new line wasn't long enough or high enough off the ground to keep things from touching. I requested another line – higher this time and longer.

My husband decided I was being silly and suggested I use the new dryer we had bought when we moved. I argued that the line was better and very necessary – even though in the back of my mind I knew I breathed a sigh of relief when it rained on laundry day and I had to use the machine. Now that I was doing clothes for 4 people instead of 2, putting everything on the line was a lot of work.

39088592_sWhen my mother-in-law moved in with us just a few years later, she supported my desire for another clothesline and a much higher and longer one was put in. But this line was attached to my deck and was causing trouble because the weight of it was pulling my deck apart. I did not like that at all!

As well, the dust from the road was a problem because of the lines location and sometimes our clothes would get dusted causing me to have to 'fluff' the clothes in the dryer after hanging them on the line.

Overtime, I started to hate laundry day – it was so much work. One day I was complaining to my mom about a storm coming in after I'd just hung everything out there… which lead me into a rant about how many times the wind had picked up unexpectedly in the last month ripping clothes off the line and nearly destroying my deck.

My mom asked me why I used the line if it was so much work. "I never liked the line when I was young," my mom said. "The clothes always felt hard and stiff, the sun sometimes bleaches things. I was so happy when dryers were invented – other than at the cabin I've never used a line since."

Listening to her I suddenly realized that what had been a good idea at one point in my life, was no longer working for me. Instead of just cutting it out – taking it off my plate – I had continued to make myself do it, because somewhere in there I had decided it was part of what defined me as a person.

I stopped using the line for regular laundry the next week and when my mother-in-law passed away a few years ago we took down our line and I'm not planning to ever have it put back up.

I'm not saying using a clothesline is a bad idea…what I am saying, is that it's really important we don't get stuck in ruts of our own making.

Take a look at your plate… what's on there that doesn't need to be? Or, what did you decide at one point of time was a good idea, but that is no longer serving you. Things change, we change, our family dynamics change. It's okay – in fact it's good if we change with it.

As well, you might reflect on your own upbringing and become aware of what pieces you subconsciously inherited from that. That's a tough one because they are subconscious, yet they are reachable. For example, maybe your mom did major bake-a-thons or canned vegetables…and now, despite the fact that you could buy many of these things – and your family doesn't even seem to notice the difference - you force yourself to do the canning or the bake-a-thon because you think that's what makes a good mom.

If you're working outside of the home and your mom was not, is it really fair for you to try and do things the way she did them and believe you can keep up?

Perhaps even more importantly…what about those things that you don't even enjoy doing, but you do them anyway because that's what a mom did?

My mom has a really green thumb and her yard produced lots of fresh produce and looked like a park. She loved doing this, and every year would nearly cripple herself getting everything done. I tried to model this for the first 10 or so years of married life. I do not have a green thumb and while I love fresh, organic produce, it turns out growing it myself is just too much.42131697 - female stall holder at farmers fresh food market

Now, I buy from farmer's markets and other local opportunities and leave the growing to people who actually get pleasure from it.

Another possible scenario is, you might have a child who takes a lot of your time and energy – which means you might have to give up some of the things that you have connected with being a good mom. Maybe you don't get to shower as often as you used to think was necessary, or maybe your structured exercise program has to go. Maybe supper has to wait until your hubby is home or maybe your grass is going to have to look long and unruly for a while.

One of the things I did (and enjoyed too much to take it back) was give up on the idea of always having a supper plan. I find it really difficult to come up with supper ideas, but I used to believe that was my job as the mother. Giving it up was hard – it created a lot of guilt for me (sometimes it still does), but this feeling is one I bring on myself – it's not something my family has put upon me. It's really important I'm honest with myself about that.

So, be truthful about where the different things fit on your plate and work at it until you get an accurate picture. Rather than judge yourself or adopt the martyr role, look at your plate with compassion – as if it belongs to a dear friend – and modify it from that place of love and objectivity.

If you are feeling pulled in too many directions, think about what things you might change, especially those you have inherited. This simple act of awareness can change how you feel about things and also can help you identify where you might be overdoing it.

Share your plate with relevant people (i.e. family) and talk about ways everyone can help each other out to make the plates more balanced. If you created a work one, you might use the knowledge you discovered from this exercise without actually showing anyone the plate.

This simple activity can help you become aware of where you are putting your energy and whether or not it's allowing you to stand in your power on a regular basis. It will help you see where you are taking on too much, allow you to practice delegating and open the door to conversation about how others can help you. Opening yourself up to receive that help – letting go of the guilt, releasing your desire to be perfect, etc - is a whole other story, and one that I'm happy to help you with if needed.

With much respect for you and the journey you are on… I wish you a vibrant and powerful day.

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