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Time-Saving Hacks for Busy Moms

 

Share with us @tryverima or comment below your best time-saving hacks! 

Last week, I discussed the Hidden Costs of Start-ups for Moms, and came to the conclusion that the biggest cost that we have to pay dearly for is time.  At the risk of sounding cliché, it really is our most precious and finite resource.  So, it made sense to me that I share some of my favorite time saving hacks with the hopes that firstly, it will help some mama find even an extra few minutes in her day and secondly that you will share yours with me!! 

LAUNDRY

Years ago, I purchased two large wicker hampers, each one with two hanging laundry bags inside.  I placed these in a central location (In the kids’ bathroom or in the hallway) and that created four separate compartments for dirty laundry.  I then labeled each section with color squares, my personal sections are labeled: “Whites and Lights”, “Blacks and Darks”, “Red, Orange and Purple”, and “Blue and Green”. This was before my kids were reading, so they are perfectly capable of doing this from a very young age!

First, I taught my kids that whenever they undressed, they had to turn every article (especially the socks!) right side out. This takes maybe a minute for each of them, but I explained to them that doing so saves ME 20 minutes of right-side-outing on wash day. 

Then, they take their dirty laundry and color sort their own into the hamper sections.  After a few days when a certain colored bag gets full, that bag gets brought downstairs (currently by me) and put in the machine.  The plan of course is eventually as the kids get older, they will bring the full bag down and actually start the washing machine! 

 

DISHES

This one I adopted admittedly much later than I should have since young children are capable. But it definitely was a result of the copious amount of dishes home-schooling and working-from-home were dumping into the kitchen sink.  So, the old rule was that after every meal, each child brought their cups, utensils, and dishes from the table, and left them on the counter next to the sink.  I would then scrape, rinse and load the dishwasher.  However, the new system goes something like this:

Every morning before breakfast, the children empty the dishwasher.  The youngest sorts and puts away the silverware/utensil caddies, the middle child stacks the bowls, plates, and cups into like piles and the oldest puts them into the cabinets.

Then after each meal, each child takes their own kitchenware, scrapes leftovers into the compost bin, rinses the plate, and then loads it into the dishwasher.  It is so nice to come out of my office and not see a pile of dishes in the sink!  The same rule applies with lunch containers when my kids restarted eating lunch at school.  Pre-pandemic, they used to just leave the entire lunchbox next to the sink.  Now, they know to empty each container, rinse it out, and then load it into the dishwasher. 

CUPS

OMG, the cups. . . So many cups.  As we sheltered at home, . . . I said goodbye to the cups.  It occurred to me that each child already had their own unique/easily recognizable water bottle labeled with their own names, so why only use them for school?  So now, each morning everyone gets their own water bottle and that’s what they use all day. We do use glasses for beverages at dinner, but going from 20 glasses a day to 5 has certainly saved time and freed up precious top-rack real estate in the dishwasher! 

ON-GOING SHOPPING LISTS

I hung a magnetic pad of paper on the refrigerator door so as soon as we run out of anything, we can jot it down.  This has saved me time as well as freed up the brain space from not having to keep a mental list of things we’ve run out of each day.  This idea came courtesy of my kids telling me they were out of toothpaste.  Not low on toothpaste, but OUT. . . which then required an extra trip to the store to purchase toothpaste (because they all refuse the mint flavor that the adults in the family use). Now they know if they take the last tube of toothpaste, milk, apple, etc. they need to add it to the list.  Also, for myself when I think of something I just write it down straight away, and then I can let go of it.  Later, when it’s actually time to order/buy groceries, I’m not sitting there wondering what it was I remembered I needed yesterday. 

 

SLOW-COOKER/PRESSURE COOKER/INSTANT POT

A few years ago, convinced by my friend Divya’s rave reviews, I purchase an Instant-pot.  The entire box sat on my counter for about a month before I unpackaged it.  It then sat unboxed on my kitchen counter for another month before I actually turned it on.  Fast forward to now, when I use it about once a week.  On particularly busy days, I have go-to recipes that I can essentially just throw ingredients into the pot and come back to a delicious, hot, home-cooked meal.  Divya (my Instant-pot guru) sets hers the night before with steel-cut oats and her children have delicious hot oatmeal every morning.  I have no affiliation with the company and I am sure many companies make equal quality pots.  Some easy family favorites of my family are this carnitas recipe and this delicious bolognese

The other hack for this is to double the recipe or at least make more than you need.  Especially for soups and sauces.  Anything that freezes well is golden because it just saved you even more time two weeks later when all you have to do is thaw and reheat! 

Oh, and while I’m on meals, during the early days of the pandemic when days just blurred into each other, I started keeping a food log of sorts just to keep track of what we were eating each day because I honestly couldn’t remember if we had spaghetti for lunch that day or for dinner two weeks ago.  What I ended up with was a list of 25 or so meals that I knew my family would eat, including many that I had forgotten about and dusted off and revived.  Just having this list of go-to meals was a wonderful reminder of not only how much say red meat or veggies we were consuming, but also just having visual access of the list helped me answer the “what’s for dinner?!” question.  A quick glance at the log and I can easily spot we haven’t had roasted chicken in three weeks so let’s have that tonight. 

 

“TO-DO BASKET”

So, if your kids are anything like mine, their stuff ends up everywhere.  Legos, toys, art supplies, socks, Legos, books, did I mention Legos?  So instead of either running up and down the stairs all day every day (though I could use the cardio!) putting things away, or nagging three children all day every day about putting away their belongings, I put a basket at the base of the stairs.  Anything left out for more than a day ends up in the basket.  Then before Sunday dinner, they must go through the basket, and anything they still want must be put away in its proper place.  If not, whatever contents are still in the basket by Sunday night get donated.  This has reduced friction in many ways.  One, I am not constantly out-cluttered by toys on my desk, kitchen table, counters, and let’s face it, any horizontal surface.  Secondly, children understand they are responsible for their belongings. Thirdly, I can see what my children truly enjoy playing with and what they no longer need.  When I first implemented this system, I of course didn’t immediately follow through and donate their things, but I did put them away in my closet to see if/when they would miss their things.  More than once, they never asked for a hidden item again (then it really gets donated).  A few times, there was a child’s momentary panic, which then turned into a teachable moment of responsibility.  Plus when a child yells, “Mom, where is my _______?” I can always reply, “Did you check the basket?”

I hope some of these have helped.  I know we could do an entire article just on time-saving recipes, which we might just do!  And, mind you, my children are not little soldiers and I still have my fair share of balled up socks, day-old lunch containers, and take-out pizza for dinner.  But, once implemented, these little things not only save valuable time but as I mentioned earlier, free up valuable brain space so we can focus on more important things like planning our next family vacation!  Stay safe moms and I would love to hear back with your time-saving hacks! 

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The Hidden Costs of Start-ups: Mom Edition

Share with us @tryverima or comment below the hidden costs you have encountered

A couple of weeks ago, I finished filing my 2020 taxes for both my personal return as well as for Verima. As I carefully typed in each expense and deduction, my brain kept going to all the hidden costs that weren’t making it onto my worksheet.  The expenses both monetary and more abstract that I have paid in 2020.  The expenses that are unique to moms who are entrepreneurs.  I decided to share them here, so we could start a discussion on how we can do better.  

Childcare

When the start-up is not your own and one is collecting a paycheck for a specific scope of work, the math is easier. A typical workday (between 8-12 hours) yields either an hourly rate, or a percentage of salary, and at the end of the day (one hopes) once expenses for childcare have been paid, there is money left over at the end of the day.  But, when it’s is your own start-up, you have yet to collect a pay-check and the scope of work involves. . . . well, everything,  then how is it possible to calculate what one pays for in childcare?  I do not have a nanny, or a babysitter, or any extended family nearby.  And in this crazy year of pandemic home-school and 4x’s/day hybrid school drop-off/pick-ups, I really could have used one.  But, I struggled with how to justify the cost of paying for help when I have yet to bring in my own paycheck.

However, all moms know, our days are easily fully consumed with getting meals on the table, kids to and from school, laundry, dishes, and school work done.  And this is the case even when kids are in school full-time!  And yet, if I don’t make the time to invest and attend to my business, it goes without saying that my business will never take off or be successful.  So my question is, where is the line for “childcare” as a business deduction for start-ups or entrepreneurs? I am aware of the child care tax credit, and this is great for working moms, but again, it requires “earned income” which means, as an entrepreneur/founder, I do not qualify.  Additionally, I love that there is a growing list of organizations that award grants for female entrepreneurs.  But you know what else we need besides extra dollars for marketing?  Extra dollars to off-set the cost of childcare. 

Chores and Housekeeping

My husband constantly reminds me that time is money, and that an hour of my time spent on Verima is worth far more than an hour spent on scrubbing toilets. . . except, someone still has to scrub the toilets.  I’m not talking *Martha Stewart clean*, fussing about specks of dust, or *improperly* folded laundry.  Oh no, I let that go a long time ago after the birth of my second child.  I’m talking, we need clean plates to eat off of and let’s make sure our bathrooms are not petri dishes of disease.  There is no guarantee that an hour of my time will bring in $x in revenue.  This is especially true in the beginning stages when founders pour in thousands of hours of labor before seeing a cent.  So, what formula do I use to determine exactly how much an hour of my time is really worth? And at what point do I say I can *afford* to outsource the cleaning and chores? 

Time

I think we can agree that time is the scarcest and most precious of all resources.  And as moms, we are all too aware of how quickly it passes when it comes to our growing children.  So let’s be real when we discuss the sacrifice of time a mother must make when choosing the life of an entrepreneur.  Similar to a new baby, a new company requires around-the-clock care, and “business hours” are not always adhered to as little fires need extinguishing evenings and weekends as well.   I try to always let my children know they are my top priority, and thus far I believe I have succeeded.  (All moms are very familiar with the “mom guilt” that creeps in regardless of how much we are doing for and with our children.  I can assure you, even when I was at home full-time, and room parent, and on the executive board of the PTA, I STILL wondered if I was doing enough). But boy does it sting when my calls run into the nights and I have to ask my 10-year old to read books and tuck her 6-year old brother into bed. 

 

Additionally, I am a strong believer in being able to unplug and step away.  But truth be told, these days, I find it nearly impossible.  My three children are on spring break this week and it’s the perfect opportunity to spend quality time with them.  So I made a reservation at the San Francisco Zoo and took the morning off to take them.  We arrived and almost immediately my phone messages starting pinging.  My daughter literally took my face in her hands, turned it towards her, and told me she was confiscating my phone.  I mumbled some excuse about having to work and she firmly replied, “Not for the next two hours you don’t! “

I acknowledge that I require baby steps. . . and perhaps some intervention.  I promise, for the next two hours, the only reason the phone made an appearance was to snap pics and videos of the kids and animals.  But as I walked along, it also struck me that I don’t know when in the foreseeable future I will be able to take an actual vacation (as in multiple days) and unplug for the duration.  And quite frankly the idea of that saddens me.  I hope that day is in the near future and I will report back when I learn how to do it! 

 

I won’t make a separate heading here, but for the record, we can throw nutritious meals out the door many nights too, because upon returning from the zoo, I ordered pizza for dinner and holed myself in my room for a 1.5 hour business call followed by another couple hours to finish working on this blog.  The only saving grace?  I love what I am trying to do with Verima.  I love talking to women, moms, customers and learning about them and what wellness means to them. I love hearing what works for them and exchanging ideas.  And I love being able to help moms get one step closer to feeling their best selves. 

So, to all the moms out there, if you are contemplating your next business, it is imperative that it be in a field you are passionate about because the hidden costs are very real.  But if you are able to find that center of your Venn diagram where what you love, what you’re good at and what people will pay for, then it’s full steam ahead because your children will grow up seeing you model passion, grit, ambition and mad multi-tasking skills.  And hopefully, those will be enough to cover for all those hidden costs.  

 

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Moms, STOP with the “Self-Care”

Share with us @tryverima or comment below how you manage to fit in true self-care! 

Back in January, I penned a blog called “Creating Pockets of Breathing Room” to talk about minor changes I had made to try to maintain my sanity while raising three kids through the pandemic and growing Verima.  A friend, after reading the blog, wrote back, “Got to take an uninterrupted shower today!  #self-care “

Moms, I implore you. . . that is not self-care.  Self-care needs to have a set intention and purpose.  We need to be mindful of the fact that we ARE taking a break and our brains can actually let part of our day go, as opposed to rushing the entire shower so we don’t get caught with shampoo in our eyes when a child calls for our attention!  Sure, it’s a win when we do manage to complete the shower without incident, but let’s be clear, that is not self-care and we should not be telling others (especially other moms and our partners) that it is.  Otherwise, we run the risk of normalizing what should not be normal.

My husband loves tinkering with cars.  He enjoys working in the garage, adding after-market exhausts and gadgets to his cars and will happily spend a few hours adding these upgrades.  But, when he takes my mini-van to the station to fill the tires with air and the tank with gas, I would never insinuate that doing so counted as his self-care time.  Similarly, I enjoy baking and decorating the confections, but that does not mean cooking three meals to feed a hungry family every single day counts as self-care.  Again, it’s about the intention, and it’s about the purpose. 

So, the purpose should be to set aside time to mindfully engage in something that fuels us whether mentally, emotionally, or physically.  And of course, this looks very different for each of us.  For me, it would be taking a ballet class, for others it may be going for a run (sprinting to pick up your kid from school doesn’t count!), getting a mani/pedi, or meeting up with dear friends.  Whatever it is, afterwards it should leave you feeling energized, fueled and more in touch with yourself and how you are feeling across the board. 

Below is a *guide* (a bit tongue in cheek!) to help you on the path to finding true self-care. 

If you are a foodie and enjoy trying new flavors:

Scarfing down 4-day old cold pasta (which may suddenly be sporting new errr *flavors*), while standing at the counter is not self-care. Making a reservation at a place you’ve been meaning to try or at a favorite, tried-and-true restaurant and actually tasting your meal is. 

If you enjoy shopping:

Racing to the grocery store (even if it’s without kids!) while trying to figure out dinner ingredients and meals for the next couple days and dumping items in your cart so you’re not late for pick-up is not self care.  Taking an hour or two to visit your favorite shops to see what’s new is. 

If you are a runner:

Running around to get the unleashed dog back in the house, running up and down the stairs getting kids ready for school, running after a toddler who took off across the street, do not count as self-care.  A jog with a running partner, an interesting podcast or some fun tunes count. 

If you enjoy cooking:

Making a pot of Annie’s Mac and Cheese, reheating leftovers or constructing one ham, one turkey and one jelly sandwich (because goodness forbid they actually eat the same thing) in a race against time are not self-care. Picking out a new recipe, shopping for the finest ingredients and slowly simmering sauces is.

If you enjoy reading:

Checking over kid’s homework, reading the kid’s Weekly Reader, reading an instruction manual, and reading ingredient lists do not count as self-care.  Picking up a new title that interests you and engages your mind is. 

And back to that hot shower:

A shower is not self-care.  It’s a basic need that needs to be met.  Self-care would be luxuriating in the bath tub with some bubbles or a favorite bath bomb, listening to something soothing and allowing your mind to take a break from your stressors. 

Are we getting the idea here ladies?  Choose the end result  you want/need after your self-care time (calm, focus, peace, energy, clarity, fitness, beauty, joy, etc.) and then make sure your self-care routine is a mindful practice that leaves you with that result.  And most importantly, actually schedule the time in the calendar!  Bring in any necessary reinforcements (partners, grandparents, babysitters, etc.) and truly engage in your self-care time. 

Tag us @tryverima.com and share your self-care routine with us!

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Supporting Grief in Children

 

Share with us @tryverima or comment below how you supported your child through grief

This past Friday, the world lost a beautiful soul.  Sue Mann was my daughter’s violin teacher and first introduced her to the violin at the tender age of 5 and gently guided her from “Twinkle Twinkle” to Bach’s Double Violin Concerto in D-Minor over the span of four years.  My daughter met every week one on one with Sue for her private lesson, and then spent her Saturday mornings playing with the entire strings ensemble Magical Strings West. The tight-knit group has played together in concert locally as well as internationally. 

My daughter was aware that Sue was dealing with cancer and with as much information as I was given via her Caring Bridge site, I filled Vivienne in on updates throughout the year.  With the upheaval that ensued with the arrival of the pandemic, I suppose it didn’t seem to my 10-year old like such a great leap when Sue had to take a break from teaching.  Without a blip in the radar, my daughter uneventfully switched over to Zoom lessons with a substitute teacher, one of Sue’s colleagues. 

The last update we got from Sue was that she was undergoing chemo and then hopefully, surgery.  She was ever the optimist with limitless inner strength and grit. I imagine the optimism in her posts is ultimately what left my daughter feeling blind-sided by her death.  There was no gradual letting go.  There was no saying goodbye.  She truly thought she would see her teacher again, until the day she learned Sue had died. 

When I broke the news to her, she handled it very matter-of-factly.  She was more interested in the logistics of who would take over the music ensemble, who would be her violin teacher. She didn’t want to talk about it and she didn’t have any questions for me.  I reached out to May, the director of Social-Emotional-Learning at my children’s school and she explained an analogy to me like this:  “When kids eat an apple, they take many small bites, while attending to other things, and then return for another bite when they are ready for more. They will seem normal again and then think of something that might stir up more emotions. “   I took the advice to heart and didn’t push my daughter to talk and we had a fairly typical weekend. 

Yesterday morning (five days later), we received the surprising news via email that her ballet teacher of the last two years (who my daughter sees five days a week usually for two hours at a time) had given notice and would be leaving in 9 days. The school had already hired her replacement. My daughter had just seen her teacher on Sunday for a private lesson, and there was no mention of her plans to leave the school. I understand it is up to each person (or sometimes the contract they are bound to) to decide how much to divulge, but at only a decade old, my daughter felt misled and once again blindsided.  After 20 minutes of stunned silence, she sat down at the breakfast table and just broke down in tears and quickly retreated to her room.   I quickly put food on the table for my sons and ran upstairs to find the floodgates had opened and her grief pouring out.  “Why are my teachers all leaving me?” She tearfully asked.  I tried to gently explain to her how life changes and as one thing ends, it makes room for new beauty to come into our lives. 

Over the years, I have spoken with experts, read books, had many conversations with friends who have dealt (or more precisely are still dealing) with grief, and reflected on personal experience as a mother of three. Here is what I have learned works to help support children. I thought I would share them since this entire year has been filled with such heavy loss. 

Allow Them to Grieve in Their Own Way

I was heavily impacted by the news of Sue’s death and I couldn’t hold back the tears as I conveyed the news to my daughter.  Her response was so unemotional, I was left wondering if she cared! But, as I mentioned above, children take little bites that they can handle, and their grief looks very different from an adult’s.  The majority of the day, children may appear completely unaffected, but also expect that their feelings and behavior can and will turn on a dime in a myriad of directions.  Anger, fear, anxiety, sadness, etc. are all fair game.  And then, just as quickly, children will return to laughter.  Laughter and play are important *breaks* in grief for children, so do not misinterpret it as their not being impacted. 

Let Them Say Goodbye and Give Them Choices

As I wrote above, I think part of my daughter’s grief with Sue’s death was feeling that she never got to say goodbye.  I would have liked that too.  All mamas want to shield their children from pain and suffering, but in doing so, we may inadvertently send them the message that we don’t believe that they are strong enough to handle the situation.  Additionally, children may feel deceived or misled if we hide or sugar-coat the truth.

Next Saturday is the Zoom memorial service for Sue, and some of the parents of Magical Strings are organizing a recording of the children playing a piece to accompaniment to edit together and show at the service.  I asked my daughter to run through the piece a few times to familiarize herself with the accompaniment before we recorded it at home, but she refused.  When we started to record, she played half-heartedly.  I stopped the session and reminded her this was a way to honor and remember her teacher, but if she did not want to participate, that was perfectly okay too.  I gave her the choice to participate or not. Though she didn’t answer me right then, but this morning I heard her practicing the piece on her own.  This past week, she has felt a lack of control in her life; a feeling that so much was happening around her and to her that she had no say in.  So, I am consciously giving her as many choices as possible.  I backtracked even further and gave her the choice whether to attend the service or not and also whether to participate or not. 

And while her ballet teacher’s leaving does not have the same permanence, some moms at the ballet school have decided to compile a scrapbook where each child gets their own page to decorate, write, express feelings and in a way, say goodbye. 

Answer Their Questions As Honestly As Possible

This is a piece of parenting advice my friend Art gave to me over 10 years ago when my three-year-old asked me where babies come from.  And it’s the same advice I followed when our dear family friend was diagnosed and then died from brain cancer at just 10 years old, the same advice I followed when Daddy was hit by a car while bicycling, and the same advice I will continue to follow.  Of course, answers need to be age-appropriate as my then 3year-old was not asking for a biology lesson in human reproduction.  But I stuck to the basics and importantly, I used the correct anatomical vocabulary. Accurate vocabulary is true for all scenarios.  Using phrases like “lost my friend” or “passed away” can confuse young children and they need to understand the concreteness and finality of death to avoid confusion or more hurt. 

This was not an easy blog to write, but I hope in some way it can help you and your child(ren) navigate grief.  Just try your best to give honest, thoughtful answers and remember, it’s ok if your answer is, “I don’t know. “  Show empathy, and give them a judgement-free safe place to express their feelings and thoughts.  And lastly, don’t be afraid to seek outside support/counseling if you feel you are in over your head.  Our children are resilient and strong and capable and with support and help from us, they will emerge stronger and wiser. 

Tag us @tryverima.com and tell us what suggestions work for you. 

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To Work. . . Or Not To Work

 

Share with us @tryverima or comment below how you decided what worked best for your family. 

I recently came across a 2014 study in the Journal of Labor Economics which concluded that there were long term (well into high school) positive effects on children’s educational outcomes in families where the mother stayed home with her children.  Top that with two studies from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development and the Institute of Child Development of the University of Minnesota which clearly conclude that placing children in full-time daycare leads to higher levels of stress and aggression in these children.  My heart came to a screeching halt while my brain raced.  I quickly searched for studies to show the positive benefits of working moms on children and breathed a sigh of relief to find the 2015 Harvard study which found, “Women whose moms worked outside the home are more likely to have jobs themselves, are more likely to hold supervisory responsibility at those jobs, and earn higher wages than women whose mothers stayed home full time.“   Additionally, it seems men whose mothers worked also participated in more household duties and had a better division of labor at home as adults. 

 

And so, typical of all parenting questions of the ages, the answer it seems is: There is no right answer.  I was a full-time stay at home mom for 11 years until I started Verima so the internal war rages on in me.  On the one hand, I have to believe that the years I spent at Gymboree, MyGym, music classes, the executive board of the PTA, the school library and serving as room parent had to have SOME benefit to my older children. . . . and yet paradoxically on the other hand, I have to also believe that my NOT doing it for my youngest does not detract from his well-being or education either. 

I struggle daily with the balance of working on Verima and what I see as my duties towards my children and family.  When it’s your own company, there is always an endless amount of work to be done, and let’s not even start with the guilt regarding the endless amounts of work I *could* be doing to grow more/faster/better.  And all moms know the same holds absolutely true with children.  We are constantly left wondering should we be doing more? I could always cook more nutritious/balanced meals, get out and exercise with the kids more often or sit-down and catch-up/reinforce/get ahead in their school work. 

The thing is, no one else is telling me I’m not doing enough.  There are no emails/phone calls coming from teachers to discuss behavioral issues or failing grades. There are no angry vendors chasing me down for unpaid invoices and there are no angry customer complaints.  At least that’s the case for today.  Trust me there have been days where my time is spent putting fires out all around me because kiddo didn’t hand in an assignment (or two), I didn’t print out the worksheets in time for Zoom math and Verima shipments didn’t make it to their destinations.  And I am keenly aware that my son’s autoimmune PANS/PANDAS can flare and take everything off the table in a blink.  But I take each week as it comes, and sometimes it’s each day or each hour as it comes, and thankfully only rarely is it each minute.  So really, the harshest critics are my own voices in my head questioning if I am making the right choices and if I am doing enough.  I suspect this is the case for the vast majority of us moms. 

So for today, I will hush the critical voices in my head and remind myself that regardless of which set of advantages (stay at home mom or working mom) my children benefit from, they will benefit from a mom who loves them and is doing all she can to be her best self for them. 

Tag us @tryverima.com and tell us what suggestions work for you. 

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Creating Pockets of Breathing Room

Share with us @tryverima or comment below how you are creating little pockets of breathing room in your life.  

My children and husband have been home for 24 hours a day for the past 7 weeks since California re-entered the purple tier of this pandemic.  As much as I love them, and as much as I lament how quickly time passes and their childhoods are speeding by. . . it is a lot of time together.  And a lot of cries for “Mommy/Mom/Dawn” all.day.long.  Add to it a 13-year old whose bedtime has shifted to 10:30pm, and a 6-year old whose rise-time holds steady at 6:00am and that leaves precisely zero time for me-time.  Things are further complicated as a company founder where it is my own equity on the line and up to me to decide when the workday is done.  That nagging feeling of the work I put in never being enough, has at times become so overwhelming and I have spent many nights with my head swirling and heart pounding unable to capture much needed sleep. 

Well, something has to change, so I decided to take a page from my friend Rochelle’s playbook and do what she calls “defensive calendaring” to re-establish some boundaries and claim some time for myself.  What’s more, I have started to “invite” my husband to my blocks of time so he knows that he is on duty and I am not available.  Here are some things I am trying that can hopefully inspire other moms.  And while they might not all qualify as “Me-time”, they do create small pockets of breathing room. 

Getting Fit  Slowing Down the Decline

A couple of weeks ago, I convinced my husband we had the space and the money to buy a treadmill which I would use fairly often as more than just a clothing rack.  I live in a gorgeous part of CA where the weather cooperates for outdoor activity 350 days of the year.  So why do I need a treadmill?  Because some days, I do not have the time to be physically gone from my house for an hour.  I do not have the bandwidth to plan my routes/walks, calculate distance, speed and track my progress.  The treadmill was my compromise so I could get my heart rate up and my endorphins flowing each morning.  Sometimes it’s a quick 15-minute jog while other times it’s a 45 minute *hike*.  And let’s not forget the 15-minute walk interrupted by 10-minute kiddo IT support, flanked by another 15-minute walk.  At least it’s more consistent and more overall minutes than the one hour once a week I was averaging.  (But seriously, do try to get outside as often as possible because there’s no replacement for fresh air and sunlight).

The treadmill certainly takes up a sizable chunk of Bay Area real estate and the day it arrived, my husband turned to me and said, “Now you can get fit!” 

Let’s get real here for a minute. This school year. . . . the year of the pandemic/homeschool/hybrid/shelter-at-home model, this mama is not getting fit.  I am merely trying to slow down the decline.  And for now, that will just have to do. 

Create Art Take An Art Class

A few of my friends came to the decision that 2021 was going to be a year of growth and exploration.  Sounds amazing in theory until one friend suggested we take a painting class together.  My stick-figure challenged self initially balked at the idea. . . . until I realized that it would be a chance to try something new, spend time with friends learning and growing together and there was zero pressure because no one (and I mean NO ONE) expects me to create anything remotely beautiful.  So we will make a night of it and for two hours on Friday I get time in my room, door closed, (Dad on dinner and bedtime duty) to learn, create and bond with my friends. 

Ask For Help  Share The Emotional Labor

Prior to establishing Verima, I was a full-time, stay-at-home mom and my husband was the breadwinner.  Our division of labor fell along stereotypical gender roles with my taking on all of the emotional and physical labor of our family’s needs.  Once Verima started taking up significant portions of my time, I learned to ask for help with the physical needs.  I asked my husband to pick up a child or pick-up the dinner I had ordered.  Well, I am happy to report that as Verima continues to grow, our relationship is evolving yet again.  I now ask that he share in the planning process and execution of our family’s needs.  In other words, share some of the emotional burden with me.  For example old-new me used to tell hubby that kiddo needs new glasses and ask him to take kiddo to the eye appointment.  But new-evolved me tells hubby that kiddo needs new glasses and then expects hubby to find the doctor that accepts our insurance, call the office, make an appointment and then take kiddo to the appointment.  I’ll definitely report back the day hubby is the one who notices kiddo needs new glasses. 

I know it doesn’t seem like much, but asking your partner to do more than just errands really takes a huge load off.  I find that not having to think about what to eat for dinner actually frees up so much brain space for me and allows me a few precious uninterrupted hours of productivity. 

Going Back to What I Enjoy

Earlier, I talked about exploring new areas of interest with zero expectations, but I don’t want to forget to return to the things I enjoy.  I love teaching my adult students ballet at a small studio each week. Unfortunately, we had to cancel our annual spring and winter performances due to the pandemic.  As much as I love ballet and teaching, admittedly, when the studio owner approached me to choreograph a piece for a new Zoom performance, my first thought was, “With what time?!”

But, it didn’t take long to remind myself that not only do I love to choreograph, set, and rehearse pieces, but I miss the entire process.  So, I agreed.  And now, each night when my brain is swirling with the hundreds of tasks to be done, I can turn them off, turn on Bach and let my brain interpret the music into dance.

My dear friends.  It has been a crazy year and though we can now get glimpses of the light at the end of the tunnel, there are more months of the tunnel left.  Be gentle with yourselves and hopefully, you are somewhat inspired to make some small changes to make those months just a little bit better and a little bit easier.  Stay well. 

Tag us @tryverima.com and tell us what suggestions work for you.