I stay up until 3 a.m. most nights. It’s when I get my best thinking done, my best dishes washed, and when my best around-the-house puttering happens. During the day, my hours are consumed with picking up, feeding, shuttling around, and loving on my babies. It’s a really full life, but it’s a really beautiful one too.
The only thing? I get only about three hours of sleep at night.
I wake up exhausted and chug a few cups of coffee to really get into the rhythm. For years, I told myself this was the norm. All new, young working moms are harried and pushed to the limit, right? There was almost a glory in the busyness. It was a pact that I shared with the other women at preschool pickup or the ones with their hands wrapped around a mug and their hair in a baseball cap at the playground.
A few months ago, however, I reached a breaking point. It was 6:00 a.m. and my son was whimpering upstairs, ready to start the day. When you go to bed at 8:00 p.m., that’s a totally logical time to wake up. Yet, I’d gone to bed only a few hours earlier, and my body was still really deep in REM sleep mode.
My husband was getting ready for work and was almost out of the door. I rolled over to get up and my entire back and neck were locked tight. I could barely move my head to the left and every time I tried to pull myself up, it sent a shock up my spine and I was quickly jolted back down.
I called for my husband, and he came to help. Together, we lifted my weary body off the bed and I positioned myself on the couch with a heating pad, Tylenol and plenty of pillows. For the rest of the day, my family had to intervene and take care of the children. It reminded me of the account I’d read about Arianna Huffington. In 2007, at the height of her career, she was so exhausted, she fell from her office chair and broke her cheekbone — and promptly set out on a path toward wellness and self-care.
That night, my family intervened some more – this time on me. They (rightfully) said I was taking on too much work and pushing myself past normal limits. There has to be some give and take, they reasoned. Even my mom, herself used to keeping strange hours and working too hard, said I needed a change.
It’s not in my nature to sit back and relax on the sidelines while things need to get done around me, so I’m not writing this to tell you I totally gave over the reins and I’m now sipping a Mai Tai while my kids are in preschool.
Rather, I’m instead taking baby steps to relinquish some of that grip I’ve held over so many areas of my life. One of the easiest and most freeing ways I’ve discovered how to do this? By trusting that there are professionals able to do some things much better, quicker, and adeptly than I could ever dream.
In other words, why run myself into the ground and in circles trying to accomplish some tasks when there’s someone out there who would happily do it for me in half the time, with a better outcome? That equation just doesn’t add up. Here are some tiny ways I’m learning to let go and let the experts:
1. With my yard. My husband is a good man, and he loves the outdoors. If he had it his way, he’d be working in the yard all day, every day. The only problem? He works a full-time job Monday through Friday and when he gets home, it’s already dark. That leaves the weekends for family time, and we’ll be danged if our precious Saturday is going to be spent raking leaves and mowing the field behind our home.
We tried to juggle that for months this year, and it looked like him on the riding lawn mower for three hours, while I stayed inside and tried to occupy our children all afternoon. We weren’t spending time together and we weren’t making the most of our precious moments as a family. So, we hired a lawn guy. He’s incredible and affordable and came highly recommended by friends in our community. He comes on Wednesdays and blows our driveway off, trims our shrubs, puts out fertilizer, and cuts the grass. It’s worth far more to me than he charges, and I’m forever grateful.
2. With my finances. One of the reasons I used to stay up so late? I was writing checks to pay bills, balancing our bank accounts, and juggling my personal IRA that I’d built after leaving my full-time job and the 401(k) it carried. It was exhausting and for an English major like me who never really liked math, it was very overwhelming.
I always felt like there was probably some huge mistake I was going to make and we were only one decimal point away from bankruptcy. So I installed an online savings program after reading an Investormint Acorns Review. It helps me keep track of my portfolio and my investments, so I don’t have to second-guess where my money’s going. I also set up automatic drafts to eliminate the monthly headache of preparing bills in the kitchen. Turns out, the less I’m stressing about money, the better it seems to flow. I’d had enough of pulling my hair out over nickels and dimes.
3. With my home repairs. Again, my husband is a superhero and could build us a brand new house if we had the time and resources. Yet, we chose to invest in a little fixer-upper a few miles from my parents. We spent two years on it and completely gutted it, doing much of the renovation work ourselves. Then, our second baby came and suddenly time was so much scarcer than it was before.
We first realized we couldn’t do it all when the caulking around the kitchen sink became holey and worn. I went to the hardware store and bought a caulking gun and some caulk to fix it, but the tool sat on the counter for about a month, unused. It became a running joke in our marriage – “Hey, I’ll make you supper if you finally fix that caulk for me,” or “Our kids will be in college before that sink gets fixed.” Finally, I called one a nearby contractor to come fix it. He used my equipment (saving me money) and got the job done in 20 minutes. Since then, he’s fixed our squeaky floorboard, repainted the living room wall after my daughter attacked them with a permanent Sharpie and the old rubbing alcohol trick didn’t work, and even installed new siding on our garage. We haven’t had to do any of that, and guess what? It looks so much better.
Giving it Over and Giving Yourself Grace
I write all of this not to encourage everyone to become a lazybones and let someone else take over the dirty work you don’t want to mess with. Rather, it’s a plea to be good to ourselves and give ourselves grace when we need it – and freedom to know when enough is enough. We weren’t built to do it all, and we’ll drive ourselves crazy trying to. If there are any areas of your life that could use a little relief, consider if there’s someone out there who can provide that support. Then, don’t hesitate to ask for the help. It’s not a weakness you’re portraying – it’s a fortitude of spirit and an awareness that life is too short to spend it spinning your wheels.