Happy Thanksgiving! And good luck to all shopping Black Friday! I completed all of our Christmas and birthday shopping at the beginning of the month. It’s something I’ve learned over the past few years – early shopping equals more peace during the month of December for me. And along those lines, this Five is about the things I’ve learned since turning 35.
Yes, I’m 35 years old. The age doesn’t bother me. But, the number is entertaining to me because this is the first age where things have felt different from 30 or 25.
So this Five is five things I’ve been thinking since I turned 35.
Learning to do one thing at a time.
Why does this take so long to learn? Why do we think we can multi-task all the time? Why are women worse at this than men are? It’s taken a concerted effort over the past two years to slow down and do one thing at a time. What’s funny is this: the more I concentrate on one task at a time, the more I get done.
Here are some examples.
The to do list. People ask me all the time how I have a family with little kids, a job and a military lifestyle. It’s easier than you think. I set priorities and I do one thing at a time on the to do list. My mind doesn’t function well without a list. The to do items bounce around in my head FOREVER unless I write them down. And this wears me out mentally. So from little to big things, I write them down and I concentrate on one thing at a time. I also pick which one to actually accomplish based on whether it’s a “can do while children are awake” or “don’t even think about doing this while the kids are awake” task.
The kitchen counters. Bless the person who told me this one because it has saved me hours in the kitchen. To whoever gets the credit for this tip, thank you. Here’s the tip: clean one counter at a time in your kitchen. I used to ping pong around the counters trying to move things and clean things, and move things, and clean things. Now I move from one to the next and cleaning the kitchen is quick. It’s a simple, one task system, but it has a huge pay payback in time.
Distractions from charting at work. Who has been caught between email, patient calls, checking labs and the person standing in your office door (without anything really to say…) while you have ten charts to finish? A year ago I decided this was ridiculous. I despise staying at work a minute longer to chart. For other things, sure, the patient’s needs always come first. But there is nothing more annoying than sitting at 5pm finishing charts when you want to be home with your kids eating dinner. Enter my rule: I don’t check email until my charts are finished. This simple task costs me so much distraction throughout the day. So now it doesn’t get my attention unless my charts are done. The beautiful thing is there’s a safety net in this rule. If someone really needs you, they’ll call or text you. If not, it can wait until you open you email next.
Playing with kids. This is a big one for me. You know what time you don’t get back with your kids because you are on your phone? None of it. My favorite thing to do is leave my phone in the house or in my purse when the kids and I are playing outside, reading…or whatever we may be doing. Multitasking with your kids doesn’t help anyone and they can see when you are distracted. So when we play, that’s all anyone is thinking about doing.
I get better every year with doing one task at a time. Laura Vanderkam and Cal Newport are geniuses when it comes to time use. And a little sprinkle of minimalism has helped the household too! When you have less stuff, there’s less to clean, organize and pick up.
Do you guys remember when you didn’t have kids and yet you still struggled to get your run in? (I just laugh now when I think of past Jamie.) But, to give her credit, she did run more marathons too.
Turning 35 was the first point my body really said “I need exercise and strength training” if you want me to keep up with these three littles kids. But my mind said it differently. It as a “there is so much going on, so many plates spinning, and we’re still in a pandemic…if you don’t start managing stress well, then we’re going to have some struggles mentally.”
I heard you loud and clear body and mind. But finding time to work out with three littles is hard. So I fit it in where it fits best for us (right after the kid’s breakfast each morning). And I try to get a workout in every day. And if I miss a day, that’s okay.
Workouts are different too. I’m not in a place where I can run right now outside of a slow job. So I’m working to be content there and also trying to honor what my body has done in the past five years.
I’m trying to see working out as a necessary, non-negotiable part of my day. Other than sleep (and coffee), it’s the best thing for me and my family. I am a better wife, mother, sister, and friend when I have lifted some heavy weights.
I’ve also spent a lot of time working on my pelvic floor. My pelvis went from a gynecoid pelvis to a super gynecoid pelvis with childbearing. It’s my new normal. But it’s also something I have to work on.
Most days I feel like running a family and caring for the littles is a work out enough. But I try to make sure that I see working out as a priority so that I can be better for myself and my family.
Saying no is easy.
This used to be harder for me. Now it’s really easy. Priorities make this easy. But so does getting older. I’ve found that priorities set boundaries nicely for you. When you want to spend time with your family, there’s not a better excuse to decline another engagement.
This also goes for social gatherings. If it’s not something that is going to be fruitful for the kids, the family or myself, we’ll think about declining the invite.
24 hour shifts make this an easy one too.
But there are also so many books to read and so little time.
Rest is more important than ever.
I have always needed more sleep than the average person. It’s in my genes. It’s not from being up at night for many years. My hubby says I’ll live a decade longer than he will from all the sleeping.
But this past year, it’s been a focus of mine to actually rest. Not all rest is sleep. Some is staying off you phone or other screens. Some is being present in the moment outside – looking at the stars, the moon or the sunset. Some of it is sitting on the floor with your kids every chance you get.
And a lot of rest is trying to stay out of the hurriedness that society imposes on our lives.
I try to rest from work. Clinic drains me mentally. Labor and delivery drains me physically.
I try to sit on the couch more and enjoy more cups of coffee with the hubby.
I try not to multi-task (see above…).
I try to stay organized and write things down so that I can carve out more rest around the things that actually need to get done.
I try to sleep on good quality sheets, And I love our sound machine.
I try to make sure there is always time to read when I get into bed. Rest with rest.
I get better at this every year, but this was the first year where it was intentional to look for ways to increase rest, improve rest, and actually rest.
I think a lot about midwifery. More and more wisdom builds every year. It’s harder to be a midwife at 35 than it was at 25. But I’m also better at it. I can diagnose faster, counsel faster, manage a floor better, sew faster….teach better. But sometimes I think because I can do more that there is less rest than there used to be. It takes longer to calm down mentally from a shift. And the sleep during the day gets poorer and poorer.
The reward is more though. It’s hard to quantify that statement. I have more to teach patients and new midwives than I did 8 years ago. I’ve been pregnant and had three babies too. There’s an empathy side there that wasn’t there before.
This blog came out of a lot of the thinking and it’s something I still think a lot about. Should I be spending time on a blog where I could be spending more time with my family or kids? Is it a calling for me to use this platform? If so, how should I use it? I think and pray on these things all the time.
Some things are easier with midwifing – I use charting templates to make charting go faster. I am more organized in the clinic that when I was a new midwife. I have go to handouts for things that I didn’t even used to know existed. These things are very overwhelming to a new midwife.
And I keep coming back to this: this nation needs more midwives. Every single week, I hear stories about too many interventions in birth and birth trauma and birth injury and birth fear. And there’s just not a good reason for any of it other than the system is set up that way.
Women and babies need outstanding levels of care during pregnancy and between pregnancies. The health of the nation depends on it. At some point, women will decide that they don’t like the standard of the system. Until then, I’ll keep blogging about it.
One midwife standing up for midwives and women everywhere.
A Midwife Nation turns two years old this next week. If you’ve been following since the beginning, thank you. And to those of you that continue to recommend the blog over and over to your friends, family and patients, thank you to you as well.
We are better together. I can’t wait to see what another year holds.
Hugs and happy leftovers,
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