It is my day off, Jack has just woken from a nap and I watch as he plays with his toys. In the back of my mind, however, my thoughts center on my seemingly never ending to do list. I work full time as a veterinarian, and I love what I do. When I am at work, I focus on my patients. It is a busy day, and I love it. When I get home, the pressure of being gone all day hits. In my head, I should be able to work full time, keep the house clean, do the errands, be a fully present mom and wife, while still getting a good night’s sleep and taking some time for myself. I admit my expectations are not realistic.
As I sit on the living room floor with Jack on my day off, I feel that same familiar pressure. There is so much to do. Clean laundry sits in baskets needing hung up. There are dishes in the sink and phone calls to return. As I sit on the floor, I realize how badly I need to vacuum, a common occurrence when you live with four furry pets. I am also not sure when the bathrooms had a good cleaning, and they are definitely due. The longer I think, the longer the list in my head gets. These chores tend to pile up during the week. When I have a day off, I expect to be able to get all of these things caught up and more. I also want to enjoy time with my son.
I am sure all mothers face conflict like this. We live in such a busy world, and it seems that there is always more to do than there is time to do it. We choose how we spend the time we have, but it can be difficult to enjoy the moment when you feel you need to be in two (or ten) places at once. Whatever I choose to do, there is guilt over what I am choosing not to do. I am learning to let go of the guilt.
Watching Jack play on the floor in front of me, I weigh my options. If I let him play with his toys by himself, I can work on at least some of these nagging household chores. He is good at entertaining himself, and I am still technically spending time with him. Multitasking is certainly possible, and there are definitely times when it is what I do. However, doing multiple activities at once means I am not fully participating in any one of them. This is not a big deal for the laundry, but potentially a big deal for my son.
I take a deep breath and remind myself of my priorities. People (and then the animals) come first, laundry and everything else can wait. I pull Jack into my arms and he laughs as I cover him with kisses and blow raspberries into his neck. In this moment, I choose to play with my son. At another time on another day, I may make a different decision.
It sounds like an easy decision to make. Of course, my son is my priority. It does not feel easy to me. I am a busy person and in general, I like it that way. All too often, I over extend myself. I stress when I feel like I am not doing enough or when I am not meeting my own expectations (which I fully admit are usually pretty unreasonable without the ability to control time or clone myself).
Veterinary school was a crash course in too much to do with too little time. I am used to that. What I am learning now, is how to enjoy what I am doing while letting go of the rest. It does not come naturally to me, but practice makes perfect… or at least better. When I start feeling overwhelmed by all the things I feel I need to do, I do the following:
Taking a deep breath allows me to pause and stop the spiraling to do list in my head. I know what my priorities are and my family is always at the top of the list. It seems a bit silly to remind myself that playing with Jack is more important than folding laundry, but it does help me see the bigger picture. Knowing my priorities helps me choose how to manage my time. Taking an action that reflects my decision comes next. It is my way of telling my brain that I have made my choice. I hope that I can then get out of my head and enjoy what I am doing with less internal nagging.
In this moment, I soak up the sound of my son’s laughter and watch as his face lights up. Everything else will still be there later when he takes a nap. The clothes will eventually be put away (hey, at least they are clean), and my husband usually does the dishes and the vacuuming anyway. The bathrooms, however… well, maybe we will hire a cleaning service eventually. Another moment will be another choice, and whatever I choose is ok.
Stephanie and her family moved to Indianapolis from Texas in 2015. She and her husband John have been happily married since 2010. They have a one year old son named Jack. They share their home with two dogs, Torchy and Rusty, and two cats, Timmy and Kit Kat. Stephanie has a BS in Animal Behavior from Southwestern University and a DVM from Texas A&M University. She is an associate veterinarian at VCA Animal Hospital o f Plainfield and has a special interest in veterinary behavior. Stephanie is passionate about being a wife, a mom, and a veterinarian. She loves spending time playing with her son, cooking with her husband, training and playing with their two dogs, and snuggling with her cats on the couch. When taking time for herself, she enjoys yoga, running, reading, and the occasional massage . The views expressed in this article are Stephanie's and do not necessarily reflect the views of her employer.