Motherhood | Monotony & Mindset during Lockdown

What a hard season to parent in. I have found this past year particularly difficult. Motherhood can seem monotonous on a normal day, but throw a pandemic in there and the monotony can feel next level. Repetitive tasks day-in and day-out, coupled with the feeling of being cooped up at home.; we can’t break away or recharge in ways we were used to.

When we first locked down, I felt immense gratitude. I was thankful for the province-wide restrictions that would keep us safe and homebound. Not long after our first lockdown, we had our third (and final) baby. Having the kids at home for the first five months of Nash’s life, provided for a sibling bonding experience they wouldn’t have otherwise had. I was caught up in the throes of newborn life, still working 20+ hours per week (from home), all the while attempting to facilitate virtual learning and trying my best to provide stimulation and structure for our six and four year old. I found contentment in the challenge of my ability (although not always effective) to juggle it all.

The kids returned to school in September but we would soon lock down again. I felt like I was riding a wave. The light at the end of the pandemic tunnel was unpredictable. I felt like my world revolved around nothing but the caregiver role and domestic tasks and I was not okay with it. I was not okay with it because I could not tap into the traditional, albeit ‘extra’, forms of self-care that would allow me to duck-out for a break; to come back recharged and happy to dive back into the day-to-day routine. Guys, we have been doing so much of the same for so long. I felt bored, frustrated, angry and resentful. It impacted my interactions with everyone under our roof and still does if I don’t manage the monotony. I am incredibly grateful and I oftentimes refrain from verbalizing any struggle right now because it feels so petty, and so small compared to the challenges, pressure and stress that others are faced with. However, I have come to realize that everyone’s experience within this pandemic is unique, and there is nothing wrong with being vulnerable and admitting your struggle. It is worthy of acknowledgment. I want to normalize that is is OKAY to not love the monotony of motherhood in lockdown.

I think you either thrive and enjoy the monotony that motherhood can be in pandemic life, or you don’t fair so well (my hand is flying sky high). I have found that if I only live and breath monotony , it negatively affects my mindset. You too? Then read on for suggestions on how you can reduce your experience of monotony during lockdown.

1. First and foremost, ask yourself what tasks you REALLY need to be doing everyday. Yes, I am suggesting that you let go of any task that does NOT need to find its way onto your daily to-list. There is an element of letting go with this one, but there are things we can all let sit. Designate a particular task to a specific day of the week. You won’t find me wiping bathroom sinks or doing laundry daily. Friday’s I wipe the bathroom sinks, and when everyone is on their last pair of underwear I start the washing machine. Simply put, I divy tasks up.

2. Tap into an outlet that allows you to fuel a passion, learn something new or pursue a side hustle. Think about filling those small blocks of time you have with something that stimulates you. It gives you a break from the seemingly routine daily tasks, and you walk away feeling recharged.

3. This one is obvious but something we fail to do; ask for help, or even delegate. Whatever floats your fancy, offload a few things. Our children? They are so capable, and enjoy contributing to the household. That other partner? I’m regularly reminded that they can’t read our minds, so let them know what they can help with. Helping hands relieve some of the routine tasks, and get everyone contributing.

4. Finally, and this one is must. Schedule a timeout. Either have someone spell you off, or rise a little earlier or go to bed a little later to carve out time for YOU. There is so much value in filling YOUR cup. Read a book, paint your nails, call a friend, move your body. You know what you love, but make this a priority.

Pandemic-friendly options are where it’s at to break-up and offset the monotony. Right now we have to be creative with how we do that. I own my mindset and know that managing it is an inside job. I know the difference between merely living and breathing the monotony OR designing my day to manage it and it’s resulting impact on my mindset. This new normal requires our creativity, and our ability to conjure up different solutions. It means leaning into being a work-in-progress and that is okay!

Be realistic with what needs to be done. Explore an outlet that taps into a passion or interest. Be okay with asking for help, and make taking time for yourself a priority. When the seemingly mundane routine tasks are spiced up with even a smidge of excitement or a brief change of focus, your mindset will thank you – promise.

This mindset hack is gold

Handling daily transitions properly is a must. TBH it’s not something I was ever conscious about nor was I good at. But as a mother, and certainly in the pandemic era… I find this really key! Of course we can only control ourselves, but this seriously helps ‘manage’ the way YOU move from, and show up FOR tasks, responsibilities, interactions and activities throughout your day.

My biggest pain-point had me searching for solutions…. that vicious cycle, of constant resistance to what seemed like everything under the sun with my kids. Morning or evening routines did not discriminate. My reactions not only depleted any energy stores I had, but would only fuel the fire between our interactions, and set the tone for what would happen next.

When searching for a solution I came across a practice that has been a COMPLETE game changer (when utilized), and is directly related to the way in which we handle daily transitions. I need to get back to using it; it is so effective. Everything else I had tried previously was not. For almost a year I was grasping at anything to try with my kids. Praising good behaviour, incentives, consistent discipline techniques, a structured routine, the list goes on. Finally I opted to accept the resistance was not going away anytime soon, and I could either suffer or move through it. I resolved to the fact that there are some seasons of life that you just need to accept and honour, regardless of the challenges and frustrations they present to you.

I love personal development. I enjoy consuming content that makes me a better human, that challenges a current perspective, or that exposes me to the benefits of being open to another way of doing things. I’m all over takeaways that I can implement.

Low and behold one of my favourite influential personal development and achievement leaders held the answer! After all, handling the seemingly never-ending resistance with my kids was going to be an inside job. Brendan Burchard you are a lifesaver! His “release tension and set intention” technique is EXTREMELY applicable to instances where we lack control and become easily impacted. It’s so simple: start by viewing your day as a series of activities. I’ll run you through a real-life example. The morning weekly routine with kids. Now let’s say breakfast was a crap show, all because I didn’t make a star with the icing for the toaster strudel. How was I supposed to know a happy face would lead us down this road first thing? Motherhood with little people is 80% walking on eggshells I swear. But it didn’t end there, it rarely ever does. I forgot to wash my sons “preferred uniform” you know, the same sweats they insist on wearing day-after-day. The old Ashley would have allowed this to impact every single subsequent interaction I had with them until school drop-off and then I would show up frustrated as heck for my workday. Of course there were times where I would only let something like the above scenario affect a smaller portion of my day, but the point is, you don’t have to!

So here is the skinny. Release the tension IMMEDIATELY! That way there is no flow over into the next activity. Then ask yourself how you want to show up for what is next on your list. Put another way, to feel your best, what are you going to make sure you do? What are your intentions?

Real life example? And yes, this happens pretty consistently. My kids are fighting over who gets to sit in the same row as Nash on the way to school. One always ends up upset regardless of how delicately I address this. Things usually don’t simmer down between them for the commute either but I KNOW what my intention is going to be at dropoff. Love each kid up, make them feel six feet tall, give them a hug and mask kiss, and send them on their way. I leave feeling good and they go to school feeling happier.

So when a daily interaction, task, responsibility (AKA activity) goes completely opposite of the way you envisioned and is likely to negatively impact your day (if left unmanaged), release the tension, and set your intentions for what’s up next for you. The way we (as moms particularly) handle our daily transitions affects everyone else. It’s why I have found this technique so important! Try it! It’s such an effective mindset hack!

Late starting? Me too, and that’s okay.

Truthfully, I’ve been majorly procrastinating with writing this. One of my goals for 2020 was to start a blog. I did that. I purchased a domain. I came up with a name that I am passionate about, I published several posts, and then it died. In fact, every single one of my goals died last year. I could blame it on pandemic life, I could blame it on the arrival of our finale Nash, I could blame it on the kids being home from March to September. I could blame it on a million things, but really, it’s because I didn’t take action. I did not carve out the block of time daily required to MAKE that goal a reality.

So here I am, mid-February and I am JUST putting the final touches on my first quarter plan to make sure my goals are realized this year. I’m okay with that. When I really grew up and realized that goals take preparation and planning, I almost immediately became that person who doesn’t wake up on January 1st and get to work taking action towards their goals. Instead, I’ve always opted to take a good chunk of January to concoct a viable and realistic plan, one that excites me. So now I’m priming myself to get to work.

So I guess I’m right on time for this blog post. Let my late start be a reminder that it’s OKAY if you haven’t really started yet either. Don’t let that be your reason to call all of your goals off. Or, if you are feeling guilty because you never really thought of any goals or intentions for this year, that is okay too! Sometimes we just don’t know where to start.

If I could give you ONE tip that is SO helpful in terms of moving the needle, it’s to reflect, and audit your life from a fulfillment lens. I picked up a goal setting book a few years ago that really focused on this; on particular areas of your life: finances, family/friends, professional life, personal life, hobbies, etc. It was SO good! It got me thinking that that life audit doesn’t need to take annual seat. Do it more often so you can readjust when things get a little off track.

Think of the above various areas. What is your highest vision for each of those areas? Where are you currently? How do you close the gap between where you are, and where you want to be? What timeline are you going to set for yourself to start? What resources do you require? How will you feel once you accomplish that particular goal? Who will hold you accountable? Seriously, take the time. Write out that plan. Break it down into actionable pieces identifying what you need to do each week to maintain momentum. This practice gives you a really good base for taking action. My last piece of advice, check-in with yourself often to evaluate how you are doing. The life audit can be the difference between living your life in default and being more intentional about your actions.

The most action-oriented statement right now

What is the NEXT right action for me to take right now? Let that one marinate for a bit. It’s a question that Brendon Burchard poses in his book High Performance Habits.

This season, this period of physical distancing woven with stress, anxiety and disconnect… it’s a hard time. Although there is so much gratitude to be found in the stillness, moments can be difficult.

We have added responsibilities and roles that have the potential to keep us busy and occupied, but yet it’s inevitable to fall into moments of reflection and worry, lack of productivity and boredom. Easy to let the downward spiral get the best of you.

Moments of complete stillness are MUCH needed. Our entire routines and normalcy as we once knew it, have been turned upside down. All the small things we took for granted are so evident now. Understandably we feel scattered and lost.

We have no idea when this will end. All we know is that we must continue to live this way. To stay home, not expose ourselves physically to the social ties we once found solace in. To limit our outings to purchase only the necessities.

It goes without saying that we must adjust. We need to find our new normal, and create new routines.

Some days are hard, but when you face that moment, ask yourself… “what is the next right action for me to take right now?” What can you do to distract yourself? What can you do to create momentum? What can you do for YOU? What can you accomplish to create a small win, or that feeling of completion? What are the best actions we can take while we navigate the unknown?

Well here are FIVE:

1. Use Mel Robbins 5-Second Rule and make a move. Haven’t heard of it? Count backwards from 5 to 1. When you arrive at 1, you need to physically MOVE. Just make the decision to go and do whatever it was you were contemplating. It’s a good technique to use when you feel yourself hesitating about something you know you should do, and that would serve you.

2. Re-frame that Mindset – It’s SO easy right now to say things like “I have to stay home.” “I have to home school my kids.” “I have to limit my outings to purchase essential items.” “I have to fulfill all these different roles.” Replace “I have to” with “I get to!” Honestly, I say “I have to stay home” a million times a day, because it cramps my style BIG time. I don’t feel independent right now. I feel confined, and essentially like my moves are controlled. But in all honesty, “I get to stay home,” when those who are serving us must expose themselves to risk by working. I get to stay home because our government has implemented measures to keep the broader public safe. I get to stay home and have all this extra quality time with my kids, which I never would have had.

3. Practice Gratitude – This simple SIMPLE daily habit is SO profound. Start. Grab a notebook, and list three things you are grateful for each day. When I was leaving the house for work, to take the kids to school, it was MUCH harder to find something different to be grateful for each day. Yes, the obvious things to be grateful for are easy to identify; your health, your kids, your job, your spouse, clean water, etc. But I have taken note of SO many other things during this time of stillness, that went totally unnoticed before.

4. Develop a new routine – All we have is time right now, so insert other habits, rituals, etc., into your routine that you have been wanting to for a while. Home workouts are SO popular right now. YouTube has lots of great videos and there are a handful of really great apps as well. Moving every single day has so many benefits that affect every single faucet of your life. Instead of cruising social media or surfing the net for the latest Covid-19 update while you are eating breakfast, listen to an uplifting and/or motivating podcast, they are FREE! Have a topic you always wanted to learn more about? Set aside 10 minutes each morning to do a little research and accumulate some new knowledge.

5. Maintain some normalcy – Yes, despite what you are thinking you can maintain a lot of the normal things in your life. Get up at your usual time. Get ready as you normally would in the morning for work, but maybe forego the dressy attire, but hey, if you want to shoot around the house dressed to the nines in a pair of heels, power to you! Eat as you normally would throughout the day. Do all the little things that make your little people happy. I have always enjoyed being a short-order cook for my kids in the morning, making whatever their little hearts desire for breakfast. If you used to see your parents once a week, replace it with a FaceTime call… even if that was NOT the normal way of doing things, you can still find normalcy with the contact.

So there are FIVE simple, no-cost action oriented items to get you started. No one says you need to find your new normal overnight. Start with small changes, and once you master one, habit stack another. It’s about finding JOY right now – and taking ACTION in moving toward whatever that positive RIGHT thing is for you in the moment.

New Year, BRAND New Decade

“Declare your intentions”

So many lessons in 2019 that have primed me to catapult into a New Year and Brand new decade.

Historically, I was a resolution setter, it always involved the usual…losing weight or going to the gym more. My resolutions were repetitive and lacked creativity. They were often driven by some upcoming event…a hot vacation, Christmas parties, another impending summer. You know how it is.

Once February or March rolled around, I was often disappointed. I would have either slipped up, or just decided to throw in the towel, and that was it for the resolution. Those kind of New Years resolutions usually always meant failure for me.

Last year I chose a guiding statement that would affect the behaviour, actions and inactions I had hoped to take ALL year; “to do the things that make me feel the way I want to feel”. I was not relentless in my pursuit of following through on that. I allowed other things to get in the way and severely demote those priorities.

This year, I chose a word for 2020. It is PROUD, and I am declaring it. I want to feel proud about every.single.faucet of my life, as a parent, a partner, as a friend, in every single relationship I have with others, as an employee, etc. Choosing a word to guide your ENTIRE FREAKIN’ YEAR is pretty awesome when you think about it, because it’s so distilled it can be applied to so many things. It will sit in the back of my head so I am conscious about every single behaviour, action and inaction. The best part? Each day is the opportunity for a reset if needed.

So whatever you want for this year, declare it. No year is going to be any different than the previous if you don’t make changes in your life. And the changes don’t have to be executed perfectly. Instead embrace the practice of consistency.

Start by auditing your previous year…EVERYTHING! What made your year awesome? What affected you in a positive way? Those are the things you need to see MORE of this year. What was a waste of time? What kinds of things sucked the energy right out of you? Was there anything you wished you never took on? That made you stressed or anxious? Omit as much of that as you can this year.

Gosh, as I reviewed my 2019, I took note of SO much. I want to see more focused one-on-one time with my kids and Brian. It is so easy to get caught up in what we perceive needs to get done, that we often make those important to us wait.

I want to lean into reciprocal relationships and away from those that are one-sided. What a simple way to protect your energy! I want to reserve more of that for the things that are important and impactful for me, and waste LESS of it on situations, realities and outcomes I can’t control.

I want to pursue more interests and passions without feeling the need for approval, because it is important to be YOU.

This year I want to be proud for making all of the above a MASSIVE priority in my life. For a good part of January, I’m going to map it all out. My intentions, and the actions that will support those intentions, so I’m ready to rock 2020.

About HER

Mom of three small humans; 7, 5 and a 1 year old. Living in beautiful Northwestern Ontario with my life partner, kids + yellow lab Joey with no intentions of every relocating.

Health and fitness enthusiast, personal development junkie, lover of early mornings who values ME time, and self-proclaimed introvert. All qualities of the Taurus astrological sign are BANG on here!

The beginning of a new decade was my ultimate cut-off for starting a blog. Her ‘A’ List represents all the things that top my list of musts for pursuing your best version in motherhood. All through the lens of a real, honest, and grateful mama who will never sugar-coat a thing.