By Erin Ewart
For the past week I’ve been on my own. My husband and kids went out of town, and I stayed behind to work and finish prepping for a trip we have coming up.
The cat and dog are staying with family – so I was truly on my own, for the longest stretch in over nine years.
That’s right: for the first time in almost a decade I had a whole week with no one to wake up, feed, take on walks, put to bed, drop off, pick up, or clean up after.
No one else. Just me.
Everyone I shared this with had the same reaction: their eyes got wide and they asked “what are you going to DO?!”
And I did a lot! I checked things off my NYC bucket list, and revisited some of my favorite spots. I took care of some household tasks that were taking up space in my brain (take that mental load!). I went to yoga and took long walks and met up with friends and read a book.
I also had some much-needed space to think, which gave me clarity on a few things:
1. The amount of time and energy I spend taking care of others is staggering.
I knew this of course, but having a break from my usual responsibilities and routine really helped put this in perspective. I was astounded by how much more time it felt like I had in the day – because I did! As anyone who’s a working parent or caregiver knows, caregiving can feel a second job, on top of your “day job”. So even though I was technically still working, this week felt a like a mini-vacation since I was only doing one of my jobs (the easier one!), not both.
2. It’s hard to let go of the guilt.
I coach people all the time about the importance of prioritizing themselves, and I know intellectually that it was good for me to have this time, that I deserve it, and that the situation has been reversed plenty of times when I’ve been on my own with the kids. But still, I found myself having to swat away those guilty thoughts that I should have been with them, and that I didn’t deserve all this free time. I share this because even though this is something I intentionally work on, mom guilt runs deep. I know I’m not alone in this, and that it’s not only moms who feel guilty about taking time for themselves.
3. Life is a constant balancing act.
The word balance gets thrown around so much, I feel like it’s lost its meaning. But it’s a mindset we all need to live healthy and fulfilled lives. And it’s a lesson I need to constantly re-learn: we need to balance action and rest, structure and freedom, taking care of others and taking care of ourselves. Too much of anything isn’t good for us.
As one example: my initial reaction to having this free time was to pack my schedule with activities. But after a few days of running around the city and staying up too late, I was exhausted. I knew I needed to ditch the schedule and focus on resting to balance things out. And while I was SO glad to have this alone time, I was also ready for my family to come back; being away from them reminded me how important they are to me.
I realize that spending a week on your own may sound like a total fantasy. But if you feel overwhelmed by your responsibilities and like you have no time for yourself, you can start to make small changes to reclaim your time and energy.
First, think about what you would do and how you’d want to be if you DID have a week to yourself. And then consider how you might start to make space for some of those things now, even in very small ways.
- Maybe it’s finding time to do something fun that’s just for you
- Maybe it’s taking care of yourself by exercising, getting more sleep, or eating healthier
- Maybe it’s finally committing to figuring out what you want in your career, instead of focusing so much on what other people think or expect
Maybe it’s all of the above! But whatever you choose, I encourage you to think about one small step you can take now toward making it a reality. It will probably require asking for help and making some tradeoffs, but I promise it will be worth it.
And if you’d like structure and support as you seek more balance in your life, I’m excited to share that we’ll be opening up a few more spots in our new holistic impact coaching program this fall.
This 1:1 coaching program focuses on you as a whole person – because your career is important, and so are all the other aspects of your life. If you’re ready to intentionally design what you want next in work and life, instead of letting the current carry you along, this program could be a great fit for you.
If that resonates, let’s talk! Join our interest list and we’ll share more information about the program and invite you to set up a free consultation call.
As I resume my real life, with all its beauty and challenges, I want to leave you with a reminder that we all have the power to find more balance in our lives, even though it can sometimes feel impossible.
What will you do to channel the vision of “week alone you” and start to make it a reality? I’d love to hear from you!