I’ve heard this one before, but I never took it to heart. The saying goes something like “you can’t fill everyone else’s cup when your own cup is empty”. I’ve heard this over and over and over. If you are a homemaker, and you frequent the media geared toward homemakers, you have heard this too.
I never took this one to heart, because I didn’t believe my cup was empty. When I was working full-time, I had literally zero time for myself. I got up, hit the gym, went home to get the kids out the door, worked all day, grabbed dinner, volunteered, and slept. My cup wasn’t empty. It went from being full of coffee all day to being full of wine all night.
When I quit my job, I had 30 hours each week when I wasn’t pouring my energy down the corporate drain. I thought, how can my cup be empty? For six hours a day, I’m not interacting with anyone. No job, no kids, no husband, no friends. My cup can’t be empty. I had 6 hours from the moment the kids left for school until the moment the kids came home. I spent that time well. I cleaned, I cooked, I ran errands, and I got to choose what I did and when. It felt great to be in control of my own schedule. I was listening to audiobooks while I cleaned. Watching movies while I ironed. Spending Wednesday mornings at knitting club. Taking trips to the used book store every week. Attending monthly book club. I was totally filling my cup.
Ya, I was wrong. While I was not actively pouring my energy down the drain, I was not replenishing it. While I was doing my best to make my chores bearable, and in some cases enjoyable, I was not allowing myself any time when I was doing something just for fun. If I watched tv, I was ironing. If I was reading, it was an audiobook so I could walk or clean or something. It took me a while to realize that the problem here, is that I didn’t think I deserved 2 hours of free-time. That’s the first problem. I wanted, 2 full hours of me time each day, and I thought that was selfish.
The second problem was that I was not planning for pop-ups. I kept trying to apply a formula to homemaking. It’s the engineer in me. 10 hours of cleaning +5 hours of laundry +5 hours of volunteering + 5 hours of errands + 5 hours of cooking = 30 hours of homemaking. Wahoo, I can get everything done while the kids are at school! Ya well, throw in a 2 hour school delay and the whole week falls apart.
So, what’s the answer? Acceptance. Like it or not, I am me. Whether or not I like it, I have certain requirements to function in the world. For example, I require 2 hours of my own time every single day. Is this realistic? Nope. Do I care? Nope. I’ve learned that it’s non-negotiable. How do I know that? If I don’t get my 2 hours of me time, very bad things happen. It starts as slight irritability, grows to full blown martyrdom, and explodes into severe depression. So, as selfish as it is, the alternative is worse. Truly, it is.
Phew, that was the hardest part. Now that I have accepted who I am, I can plan for it. I spend up to an hour each day, just planning my day. It takes longer at the beginning of the week or month, but I enjoy planning, I find it fun. I look at the list of chores I should do, and figure out which ones I have to do and which ones I want to do, and how to fit them into the day. Now, I stop and look at the day. Where will I fit some me time in. When will I take a break. What will I do to make this day feel good?
Ok, the final thing is recognizing that I need recovery and planning for it. Often, Girl Scout meetings do not go well. The girls are often WILD. There are 12 of them, and they can get quite out of hand. I am coming to terms with what this says about my abilities as a girl scout leader. That’s a whole other post. For now, I just need to deal with the overwhelm I feel right after the meeting. I’m still working on it, but being able to recognize opportunities for overwhelm, and scheduling coping time around those activities is what I am working on.
It still feels awkward, silly, and selfish to focus on making sure that my “cup is full”. I’m hoping that as I practice, this skill, I will have less irritable outbursts with my family. I’m hoping it will help empower me to improve my boundaries with other people. I’m hoping that it will help me to feel more comfortable with enjoying my life.