A few posts ago I discussed how getting out of debt & downshifting had changed my heart. I have seen a process where I’ve become more home centered, more giving and am learning what it means to give my time, money & energy with a joyful heart. Writing the post, plus a discussion with my best friend made me realize that getting out of debt & downshifting has also lead to other changes, so I thought I’d share them.
I think that the majority of modern women suffer from exhausted woman syndrome. While our grandmothers and great-grandmothers before us certainly worked in the home (clothing had to be washed by hand, trips to the market often meant walking for miles in any kind of weather, there was often little to eat and all meals had to be made by scratch) but it was a different type of work, not necessarily easier, but different. Today, there are many reasons why you would think our lives are easier – most of us have cars, or access to good public transport to take us where we want to go, many use disposable diapers & wipes (although personally I’m a stickler for cloth!), we have washing & drying machines plus dishwashers, we have vacuums and microwaves, easy to make meals, take-out, drive through, internet grocery shopping and plastic cards to put the things we can’t afford on. Only the modern life of working 9-12 hour days in offices, living very sedentary routines, rushing out in cars & vans to pick up prescriptions, grab lunch out, hit the bank, go to the gym, drive our children to swimming, dancing, karate, gymnastics and tennis programs, spending hours each day & evening behind our computer screens often means we are spending our lives at meetings, constantly staring at screens or rushing in our cars to buy things and take people places. There was a blog I read by an American woman struggling with debt, but every single entry was about “today after work I took the kids to Kroger, then we had drive through, then we went to the movies” etc etc etc. Honestly reading it made my head spin! Not only was it very easy to see why she couldn’t get out of debt, but her life was simply exhausting. I doubt she ever spent a day at home, or even 1/2 of a day!
The reality is that to function in this world and live a balanced life we do need to partake in activities, most of us have to work and we do have to spend some time away from home, but I would urge us to all take a good long look at our lives, make a map of just how much time you are spending away from home and make some changes. Our homes should be our havens, they should be a place of peace, tranquility, contentment and relaxation, so why do we live so that we are either rarely home or spend the whole time we are home watching tv or sitting behind a computer? When I first began this journey, I noticed that my tv watching increased, then I questions how I could be living the simple life if I was sitting behind yet another screen?
It is hard to make changes, but changing your life to be more home centred, to have less rushing, less driving and more tranquility is oh so worth it. Here is a list of the decisions and changes I made.
1. Look at how often (outside of work hours) you are not home - reality was, often it was 3-4 nights a week and most of the weekend (especially when I had the year with my little inspirations).
2. Make a list of where you are going when you are not at work and not at home – for me it was the shops, activities like the gym etc.
3. Set yourself targets – a bit like no spending days, focus on trying to find times when you can make sure you are at home. I began with Monday evenings and 1 day (either a Saturday or Sunday) where I would be home by 3pm and spend the rest of the day at home, I also started by saying I would only go to the shops 2x a week. What a difference I noticed within a week. Gradually I increased my home time. When I was home with my little inspirations (the youngest 2 were too young for school) I made sure that 2 days a week were home days, those were days we didn’t go to the library, or playgroups or shops, we simply stayed at home making crafts, baking, playing and reading.
4. Find healthy and peaceful alternatives – instead of hitting the gym at the weekend, I started taking a 1.5-2 hour walk every Sunday afternoon either by myself, with friends or family. I leave the music at home and simply reflect on the week, relax, pray, etc.
5. Cut that “blank stare” time- this means computers, tv’s, video games etc. Instead start knitting, reading, doing yoga at home, meditating, praying, talking with your partner or children, playing games etc. I try my very best to limit myself to 1 hour a night of computer time and 1 hour a night of tv time (this includes dvd’s!). We all have the odd lazy day in front of the tv watching old dvd’s or chick flicks and that is fine, but moderation is the key!
6. Prioritize- Discuss with your partner what are the priorities for your family? Maybe the priority is to go out as a family one night a week or watch your son’s football etc. Think realistically about what are the priorities for yourself and your children. Pick 2 or 3 things a week that are must do’s as a family (the weekly shop, a night out together etc) and only focus on those! While I do think children can benefit enormously from activities & hobbies like scouts or music or sport, it should be a piece of their puzzle and your families puzzle not a whole section. Home time, time to discuss things with your parents, learning crafts, cooking, baking, laughing with your parents are just as important and help to build relationships. For me, the priorities outside of work were to volunteer once a week, to attend Church (not something I was doing regularly before, I was too exhausted!), to go out with friends once a week and to swim. So I made a plan. It went something like this.
Mondays – Work, evening at home – try to read, knit, call a friend to catch up etc.
Tuesdays – Work, swim, friend over.
Wednesdays – Work, volunteer evening.
Thursdays – Work, out with friends tonight OR Friday. If not out, then evening at home – knit, read, relax, clean (try to get weekly cleaning done – vacuum, bathrooms, sweep, laundry).
Friday – Work, out with friends tonight OR Thursday night. If not out, then evening at home – knit, read, relax, clean. 1 x a month I have my book group.
Saturday – Swim, grocery shop, try to spend 1-2 hrs in nature walking alone or with friends occasionally meeting for coffee, home by 3pm. Rest of day and evening at home – reading papers, relaxing, yoga @ home, unless a special invitation ;0)
Sunday – Church, try to spend 1-2 hrs in nature walking, listen to Vinyl Cafe, read. 1 x a month I have my knitting club, evening Lark Rise to Candleford & Lost!
8. Learn to Say No – This is very hard at times, in fact this week I decided to say no to a volunteer opportunity because it has changed significantly from what was first advertised and is very computer based and seems to involve daily emails plus the 5 hrs a week work to be done on the computer. After a lot of reflection, thought and prayer I decided it just wasn’t what I needed at this time. It was tough as I enjoy volunteering and like to help out as much as I can, but, I just knew it wasn’t right for me.
9. Get your exercise outside as much as possible- Honestly, I can’t tell you what a difference this made to my exhausted woman syndrome. We are all inside too much, it is stifling. I’ll let you in on a secret, before I started this journey I didn’t really like the outdoors, yes Laura you read that right. But how my heart has changed. I would much rather now spend 2 hours walking in a park, along a canal or even at a push around houses then be yet again indoors, paying money to go to a gym. Yes I do sometimes need to go to the gym especially if we have a spell of bad weather, but I try as much as possible to be outdoors for at least 1 hr a day.
10. Listen to your body – While I think it is very hard to let people down, to make unpopular decisions like telling your children they need to pick 2 activities instead of 4, the reality is we need to listen to our bodies. We need to look at why we are tired, we need to accept when our body wants to be home, we need to acknowledge we are doing too much and we need to see the joy in finding a simpler, home-based life.
None of this is easy, it is certainly a journey, it may involve continual changes until you find the right routine for you. But I urge you all this week to decide to tackle the exhausted woman syndrome by setting your priorities, getting a flexible routine in place, deciding and scheduling home evenings and a home day each weekend (can also be called family day – family based activities at home). It is only by being home and turning off the electronics to we put the energy into healthier eating, peaceful living and simply being. Who knows with the money you save from stopping shopping maybe you’ll be able to cut the number of hours you work too!
What changes can you or have you made? I’d love if you share in the comments!
Photo at the top I took of the Exeter Canal!
p.s. As if by funny conicidence a friend just called, it’s almost 6pm and she’s decided to take her 2 and 4 year old out to visit friends now, hoping they’re bedtime isn’t too late as they’re already tired from the weekend filled with activities and bad temper tantrums. Thankfully she doesn’t know about this blog! ha! Perhaps the next post should be called Exhausted Child Syndrome!