Six years ago I had my first child, a sweet baby boy. We planned for him, prayed for him, and were in love with him immediately after he was born. My son was a good baby, a really good baby. I still had difficulty just like anyone else, but for the most part he did the things he was supposed to do and so did I. Our lives were changed in a number of ways, but it also felt like we maintained a pretty similar lifestyle even after he was born. For the most part, I was able to get done most things I needed to in order to maintain my home and career the way I wanted to. What I missed most were my opportunities to be selfish with my time; like going shopping, enjoying two hour brunches, exercising whenever I wanted, and sleeping in. Although, there were moments where I felt unmotivated to get things done, generally, self-motivation came quickly.
It wasn’t until after my second child, my daughter, was born until I noticed real quickly that things were getting real. Not only did I have a two year old and an infant at the same time, but my daughter wasn’t quite as easy and chill like my son was when he was a baby. She was still a good baby, but a bit more temperamental and stubborn than my first time around. I was more tired than ever. Between working, cooking, cleaning, more cleaning, playing, planning, parenting, pouring into my marriage, family, and friends….all the things….it was A LOT. All the things I just listed needed to be done, but I was breastfeeding a baby, and chasing a toddler. Knocking out a to-do list of errands on a Saturday seemed like the unthinkable, much less scheduling a hair appointment or a pedicure to allow me to feel even half the women I was before I had kids.
I slowly started losing motivation to do all.the.things. I kept tapping into creative ways to increase my motivation, reading “how to” articles for self-motivation- but, it wasn’t enough. I was feeling like something was wrong with me because I didn’t want to do it all. Finally, I realized that I may not always be able to motivate myself to do the things I needed to do. The lightbulb went off when I discovered I could rely on my self-discipline instead. This concept that I had to do things despite my ill desire to do them. Once that clicked for me and I stopped beating on myself because I wasn’t motivated, it was actually easier for me to complete my tasks.
The actual definition of “Self-Discipline” is the ability to control one’s feelings and overcome one’s weaknesses; the ability to pursue what one thinks is right despite temptations to abandon it.
I came to understand and accept that if I wanted to be the mom I had set out to be, the wife I wanted to be, and also continue to grow in my career, I needed to rely on the self-discipline piece of me – something I was taught from an early age. I think being a working mother can sometimes feel like self-discipline on steroids – pure beast mode – kicking butt and taking names. I truly believe that is a big difference in those that become successful adults, and those that don’t. My parents molded, taught, and expected self-discipline throughout my childhood. As I am raising my own children, I hope they are soaking in the importance as well. Next time you hear yourself thinking; “I don’t want to do this, how can I get myself motivated?” Try replacing that with, “I don’t want to do this, but it needs to be done, so Im going to do it.”
Here are a few ways to help your self-discipline thrive
1. Identify what is most difficult for you (your weakness), and make a plan.
2. Small amounts still count. If you want to exercise, but don’t have a full hour to go to the gym, do just ten minutes at home, it’s better than nothing.
3. To-do lists. I have an ongoing to-do list in a note in my phone. When I think of something, small or big, I type it in the to-do note. Then, I usually have a written daily to-do list.
4. Put your phone down. Humans are less productive because of these devices. My love/hate relationship with technology is real.
5. Make time. Don’t give yourself no for an answer on making time for yourself – no excuses. Every mom and dad need a few hours a week, and a day or so a month without work and children to wipe out to-do’s. I schedule either a half day or full day once a month where I don’t have work or children. Sometimes it filled with a hair appointment, and sometimes just a bunch of errands, but none the less, it makes me feel normal and productive.
6. Put your kids to bed at a decent time.
7. Schedule the Saturday morning babysitter, not just the Friday night babysitter. Date nights are important, but so are day-time babysitters. My husband and I love to go to breakfast or lunch and run a couple errands together on a Saturday when we get the chance.
8. Usually the first thing I want to do when I close my kid’s doors at night is go straight to the couch. Instead I spend just a few minutes tidying up….it makes a big difference.
9. Practice appreciation and gratitude
10. Monitor your thoughts. Make sure you are considering good stress vs. bad stress when you are thinking about tasks you need to complete.
Heather Hibbard, LPC-S
Licesnsed Professional Counselor
Director of Education of Work Mom Repeat, a non-profit organization located in Dallas, TX
Find Heather on IG: @work_mom_repeat