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An Open Letter To My Mother
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The Mother's Day Story
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"God could not be everywhere and therefore He made mothers."
— Jewish Proverb
One day when my son was barely 3 years old, he came running into my room where I was attempting to fold a mountain of laundry.
The conversation went like this: “Ummmm, Mom? I think maybe I have something up my nose…” “What do you mean; you THINK you
have something up your nose? Either you have something up your nose, or you don’t! Do you have something up your nose?” “
Ummmmm…. Yeah.” “ Well, what do you have up your nose?” “ Ummmmmm… I dunno… maybe a rock?” “ WHAT—? You have a ROCK
up your nose? How on earth did a rock get up your nose?” “ Ummmm… I dunno. Maybe I put it there?” At this point, my
patience is long gone. “Did you or did you not put a rock up your nose?” “Ummmm… yeah.” One hour, two phone calls to the
pediatrician, and several attempts with a pair of tweezers later, I had possession of the rock. Being quite frazzled and more
than a little cranky, I wondered how I would ever manage to maintain my sanity long enough to finish raising my children.
Being a mother is perhaps the most difficult and rewarding job on the planet. There is always more to do than time within
which to get it done. We wear so many hats: doctor, caregiver, friend, disciplinarian, therapist, cook, laundress, teacher,
cleaning lady, fashion consultant, school volunteer, the list goes on and on. When our children make good choices or get good
grades, we take great delight and comfort from knowing we are raising them well. When they suffer, we suffer with them. When
they go astray, we wonder where we failed. I don’t think there is another job on the planet that carries such awesome
In light of all the responsibilities and chores, it isn’t any wonder that many of us are stretched too thin, exhausted, and
neglecting ourselves. With Mother’s Day right around the corner, what better time to stop and consider the importance of
taking time out for ourselves. After all, we have to take care of ourselves in order to take care of our children. There is
a reason that the emergency instructions on airplanes dictate putting your own oxygen mask on first. So why do we neglect
ourselves? Very often, it is because either we feel guilty about taking time away from the family to address our own needs,
or we are so overwhelmed that we simply cannot find the time. Children will receive much better care if we are energized,
motivated, and enthusiastic. Planning our time wisely and eliminating the guilt are the keys to taking better care of
ourselves, and our children.
When it comes to time, all of humanity is on a level playing field. It is the only resource of which everyone has exactly the
same amount. Even at that, some people manage to accomplish so much and still have time left over. Others run around at a
frantic pace, day in and day out, and never seem to finish what they intended. The first group has mastered the technique of
time budgeting. Budget and spend your time as wisely as you would your money, and you’ll be amazed at the extra hours you
suddenly find in your day. Most of us wouldn’t dream of spending money on shopping and luxury items until after the bills are
paid. We know that the mortgage and utility bills are greater priorities, so we take care of those first. The same concept
applies to budgeting time: take care of the priorities first. Naturally, the first step is determining those priorities.
What are the most important things in your life? Whatever they are, plan the time to take care of them. Once the big things
are taken care of, the worst that can happen is that some of the less important tasks may be left undone.
While you are working on scheduling priorities, don’t forget to schedule time for yourself. Planning time for you to relax
and recharge your physical and emotional batteries is every bit as important as planning time for a doctor’s appointment or
Junior’s baseball game. Taking an hour a day or an afternoon a week to pamper yourself will give you more energy and patience
to accomplish everything else in your busy schedule. Think of it as an investment in your long-term efficiency. It is
virtually impossible to be a great mother when you are tired, frazzled, and overworked. While you may be taking the time for
yourself, you are really doing it for the ultimate benefit of your entire family.
Another important aspect of time budgeting is learning to say “no.” As nurturers, we often work very hard trying to make
everyone happy. In the process, we end up over committing ourselves, and our time. We all know that the reward for doing a
good job is always more work. “Your cookies were the best sellers at the last bake sale, would you mind making twice as many
this year?” Frequently, the reason we are always asked to take on extra work is because the person doing the asking is
confident they will get yes for an answer. If the request is something that adds value to your life or supports your
priorities, by all means, say yes. If it doesn’t, or will create unneeded stress, politely but firmly say no. Resist the
urge to defend your response. Explaining your refusal sends a message that you could be convinced to change your mind. In
sales, this is called overcoming objections. An objection is a signal that indicates you don’t have enough information to say
yes. Simply say “No, I won’t be able to participate this time.” If you have been in the habit of always saying yes, expect
the requestor to be surprised. The individual may ask again, pressuring you to say yes. Hold your ground. Assertively, but
calmly, repeat your response. Saying no does not make you a bad person; in fact, it will make you a better person by
eliminating a great deal of excess stress.
The next step is setting realistic expectations. I don’t know where the notion of “Super mom” came from, but I’ve yet to meet
anyone who is capable of holding down a full time job, single-handedly maintaining a perfectly kept house, and cooking gourmet
meals every night, while being president of the PTA and volunteering at every school function looking like a page out of a
fashion magazine. Somewhere along the line, we’ve bought into the notion that we have to do everything. While I honestly
believe that we can do anything, it just isn’t possible to do everything. Consider what can reasonably be accomplished in a
day. There are only 24 hours in a day; 30 hours worth of chores just won’t fit! While a messy house creates stress for some
people, there is a big difference between livable and perfection. Consider giving yourself permission to lower your
standards. If that isn’t an option you can live with, think about outsourcing and/or delegating some of the work. Hiring a
housekeeper to come in periodically or dropping the laundry off at a wash, dry and fold service may be well worth the money
if it affords you time to do more important things.
Finally, unload the guilt. Guilt is a paralyzing form of negative self-talk. Being capable of feeling guilt is positive; it
means we have a conscience. Feeling guilty means, we have acted in a manner inconsistent with our values. Why feel guilty
about taking time to improve our ability to care for our family? I’m certain that my daughter would rather have two hours
with a relaxed and attentive mother than three hours with a tired, impatient, and harried mother. It’s funny how we would
never feel guilty about taking a few dollars out of the budget each week to save for college for our kids. After all, that is
a worthwhile investment. Likewise, there is no reason to feel guilty about investing a few hours in you. What better
investment can we make in our children’s future than being the best parent we are capable of being? In my mind, that is the
most worthwhile investment of all.
Happy Mothers Day.
Jo Cordi Sica
SPHR Organizational Development
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