People often ask me how many kids I have. Although the correct answer is two, the more appropriate answer on most days is more like 450. This is because I am in charge of coordinating and providing medical coverage for nearly 450 student athletes on a daily basis.
I’m a high school athletic trainer and mom to two boys. Day in and day out I attend practices and games, evaluate injuries, provide first aid, create injury prevention programs, help parents make doctor and physical therapy appointments, and, on top of all of this, take care of my own children.
I never live the same day twice. This is something I love about my career and about being a mom — but it isn’t always easy. I know you can relate. Here are six ways I’ve learned to juggle it all:
1. Refill your cup. One of my favorite sayings is “You cannot pour from an empty cup.” If you don’t take the time to refill your own cup, and I don’t mean your third cup of coffee (well, maybe sometimes!), then you will drain yourself completely by giving to others. This is especially true with health care workers. We are so focused on always helping others we forget to help ourselves.
Find something you like doing alone and do it. Run, sew, meditate, craft, bake. Find a hobby away from work and family. This gives you a chance to center yourself and let the important people and actions float to the top.
2. Build a solid support system. On an everyday basis, most of my support comes from my husband. When both parents work, both parents have to be willing to cook, clean and change diapers. If my husband left all of that to me, we would have been on an episode of “Hoarders” by now.
If you work outside the home, it is likely you leave your children in the care of someone other than family. Take the time to find someone you trust, feel comfortable with and can have an open line of communication with. This makes it easy to focus on work when you are at work.
Finally, find a work best friend. This is a person you can call, have coffee with or run to for work advice. They do what you do. They know the people you know. They are someone who can give you solid advice or just listen because they have firsthand experience of what you’re going through. This keeps you from bringing work problems home to your support there and bogging them down with it.
3. Leave the dishes. I’m really good at this. Probably too good. But as they say, “The days are long and the years short.” So when you are choosing whether you should sit your kids in front of the iPad so you can do the dishes or take them to the zoo, go to the zoo. Leave the dishes. The dishes will wait for you and someday the kids will not want to go to the zoo. (Note: When the house reaches aforementioned “Hoarders” status, do the dishes.)
4. Learn to say “no.” We’ve all been there — at church, at our kid’s school, at work, and Debbie Do-Everything wants to sign you up for “just one more thing ….” You think to yourself, “Sure! I can make 275 cookies by tomorrow! Forget that I have to work until 7 p.m. and meet the basic needs of my family!” That’s when you learn to say “no.” Do only what you can without impeding your already precious time with your family.
5. Learn to say “yes.” Wait. You just told me say “no.” This is different. Say “yes” to ice cream for dinner (occasionally). Say “yes” to jumping in mud puddles. Say “yes” to your kids staying up past their bedtime to watch the end of the movie. Make memories by saying “yes.” If you live your life the same way day in and day out, you won’t have any memories when you are done.
6. Schedule one-on-one time. I enjoy more than anything being able to have individual time with my kids. Being able to sit down to lunch with just my 4-year-old, without interruption, is such a treat. I can really listen to what he has to say. I like to think these are the moments he is really going to remember, too.
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