S2E7 - How Lack of Margin Impacts My Parenting

Episode 7 November 01, 2023 00:35:47
S2E7 - How Lack of Margin Impacts My Parenting
Start to Finish Motherhood with Aisha
S2E7 - How Lack of Margin Impacts My Parenting

Nov 01 2023 | 00:35:47


Hosted By

Aisha Jenkins

Show Notes

In this episode, Aisha delves into the crucial concept of creating "margin" in our lives. She discusses how margin refers to making space for unexpected but predictable occurrences like flat tires, sick children, or personal health issues. Aisha shares her approach to balancing social commitments and self-care, especially as a single mother. She reflects on how stress can affect her and, in turn, her children, and offers insights into managing her mood and boundaries to alleviate stress. Aisha's candid and relatable discussion provides valuable tips for parents striving to create balance and margin in their lives, ensuring a healthier and more fulfilling parenting journey.


This is an updated article of the one that is mentioned in the episode: Busyness & The Lack of Margin in Our Lives - Appreciation at Work


Journal can be found here: https://starttofinishmotherhood.com/products

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Episode Transcript

[00:00:04] Welcome to Start to Finish Motherhood, a podcast for those thinking or already single mothers by choice. Just looking for practical advice for navigating life's relationships. When you decide to have children on your own, it doesn't mean that you're completely alone. I'm Aisha Jenkins and I'm partnering with you every step of your journey. [00:00:25] Hi everybody. I'm here today with another solo episode, and the focus of this episode is going to be on margin. So I came across this article a few years ago, and this was prior to me becoming a mom, and I was doing some work related research on languages of appreciation in the office, and I came across this article about the lack of margin. And so the article describes margin as creating space for those everyday things that don't occur all the time, but that you can plan for, that you can anticipate occurring. So some examples might be a minor fender bender on the way to work, a flat tire, or a sick child, or you getting sick yourself. So these are things that, while they don't happen on a day to day basis, if we plan for them, if we have a plan in place for them, then they're easier for us to absorb less stressful, which means bringing home less stress to our home life. And as a single mother by choice, that means less stress to our kids. And the article goes on to explain that some of us get into a lot of trouble when we don't create enough margin in our life for these expected things that occur, but we don't know exactly when they're going to occur. And so I think I've hit that point where I need to reflect more on the amount of margin that I'm giving myself. Because right now I find myself in a position to be retroactively, trying to create space, which means that I'm unexpectedly taking off a day here from work or a weekend goes by where I just don't have the energy to do the laundry or stuff that I needed to get done. And then it kind of feels like it's a snowball, which puts me in a bit of a state, and it doesn't allow me to be the best parent, that I want to be the best friend or even my best self. And so I am kind of in that state as we speak, and I sometimes forget. And I think I'm hitting this state right now because summer is just ending and I was expecting to kind of go back to a normal routine and it's not really happening fast enough. But I think that in all of my planning for the summer, which starts in January, that I did a really good job of creating space and planning time for the kids to get rest. That I think I forgot. To include myself in that process and or the older I get, the more time that I need to build in to buffer and protect my well being. And I don't think that I did a really good job of doing that this year. So this year I planned a few smaller trips and smaller getaways for the kids. But I don't always think that I will be the one who is doing all of the packing, majority of the packing, or the planning for the trip, or trying to figure out how to finance the trip, or what snacks we're going to need in the car if we're going to the airport. Who's driving to the airport? Who's making the plans? What's the schedule for wake up time? So all of that mental load stays with me as well as the physical load of being the one to pack for the trip. So I don't think that I did a really good job of factoring that in this year. Even when my daughter went to sleep away camp, I still played a huge role in preparing and shopping and doing the running around to get her ready for that monumental trip. So I think I am now in a reflective period, kind of like on the go because I don't have enough time to slow down right now. I think I'm hitting a slowdown point, but I'm having to make some kind of critical adjustments in the moment in order to give myself a bit more time. [00:04:34] That's kind of where I am. And so the article kind of takes the reader through asking and answering a few questions about their state of being, like their well being. And I'm just looking through, looking at my notes to make sure that I get the questions correct. And so one of the questions is, are you frequently stressed out and irritable when participating in social commitments? [00:05:03] How often do unexpected but predictable occurrences happen? Do these occurrences create stress for you? And as a single mother by choice, you and your children or your child, what can you do or what's in your power to alleviate this stress? And so these are some of the questions that I refer back to. So I paraphrase some of these questions to frame them for myself and my listening audience as parents. But I think the underlying premise is that sometimes these occurrences cause us stress. And if we are not aware or if we're just caught up in that moment, that stress that is ours can sometimes become stress to our entire household. And being aware of that might help us to plan better. So just asking these questions and reflecting on these questions, and I've been doing that because when I get stressed, I can feel it in my entire body. And right now I'm dealing with a lot at work, but I'm also trying to juggle, trying to maintain stability at home, and trying to keep my temper at an evil level. Keel so to answer these questions, I sat down and I thought, are you frequently stressed out and irritable when participating in social commitment. So I would say even before I became a mom, I was accepted to being irritable or feeling stressed out if I overloaded my social calendar. And so what I tried to do with the children was to kind of space out their commitments, whether it's on the weekends or during the week. I rarely do things during the week just because our routine is kind of set and without them going to bed at their correct time, it just throws the next day off. And so I try to limit what we do in the seven to 07:30 P.m. Hour. So anything that we have to do, any wiggle room we have, is between 530 and 630 in the evenings, and that's when we do, like, Girl Scouts. Or we might make a mad dash to a grocery store for some dinner ingredients, but I try to keep our Monday through Friday fairly structured. And that goes for myself as well. And then on the weekends, I try to limit activities to one activity per weekend. And so that has become a bit more of a challenge now that I have two children and they each have different activities. And so I'm working on that now that my four year old is at the point where she has an opinion about the different activities that she wants to do. So I'm trying to accommodate both kids in my schedule. [00:07:55] I think I decided pretty early on there was a dire need or there was some exceptional talent that I wasn't going to be the mom who does away sports events and things like that. I just can't give up my weekends like that. And then I have two children, so one child is going to be tagging along and I just did not want to do that. Okay? So I knew going in to being a parent that I was acceptable to not being able to be extremely extroverted. So I lean, introvert, and so I do have my moments where I enjoy being around people I like. [00:08:34] Now, what that looks like for me as a single mom is that while I'm trying to balance activities and social calendars for the kids, I also factor in myself. So I see my friends maybe I'd say three to six times a year. These are my friends that were friends of mine pre becoming a mom. I'll see my high school friends probably once a year, once every other year. I do a lot more with my single mom by choice, village and friends because we've got kids. And usually the social activities gives me a one two punch where I get satisfied, my kids get satisfied, and then we all go home happy and content. [00:09:17] And then since I was the last person in my family to have kids, I don't have a lot of family obligations to go to because my sisters are now grandparents and so holidays look vastly different for them as well, as for me, their kids are older, they've got grandkids, their kids are doing their own thing. So I don't have a lot of pressure of family commitments. So that means I get to move at my own pace during the holiday season, which I thoroughly appreciate. [00:09:48] That's kind of one of the ways that I try to balance and build margin in one weekend day is just for family and just at home. The other weekend day is for social activities. Occasionally, we'll get visits from family and friends. Occasionally, we'll get two birthday parties in one day, which stresses me out, but we do it it's occasionally. We don't do birthday parties for all of the little friends. I do birthday parties for named friends. And so if one of my kids is really interested in this other kid, they name them by name and they're able to say, can we go to so and so's birthday party? I know it's meaningful for them. And so then I try to make sure that we go or we send a gift. Okay, so that's the answer to the first question that I've been really reflecting on what social activities are going to cause me stress? And for those, I just say no. And then for the ones where if I say no, I have to give a reason, I know what priority those people fall in my list of priorities. Okay. The second question is when you've stacked too much on your plate, does it create stress for you and then inadvertently create stress for the kids? I will say that I am self aware enough to know that when I am stressed out that it does create an environment where I'm less patient with my children. I'm more snappy, I'm more sarcastic. And so what I try to do to counteract that is I think I give more hugs, more snuggles, more love. I breathe a lot. So my kids, if they ever had to Imitate me, they would just Imitate me, like doing deep breathing. And then I'll sometimes get down to their level and get really closer to their face because I need to see them as much as they need to see the love that I'm trying to radiate from the inside, trying to go above and beyond. Because I know that my temperament at that moment is very kind of, like, bland, and my mood is dark. And so if they let me tickle a little bit more but I try to go above and beyond because I know that as the single person in the household, the single adult in the household, that my mood can impact their mood. And so I try to really be aware of that. And so if I don't want to talk, those would be the times where we do movie night and we'll do popcorn so that I can just kind of be in a laid out position, just relax and just chilling while my thunderous mood just kind of rumbles. But there are times where I have to apologize because I have been snappy and because I have just been really short tempered and short with the kids. And so sometimes the baby will look at me like, did I do something wrong? And I'm like, oh honey, no, you did not do anything wrong. And then I have to give more snuggles. And when you give love and you show affection, it does impact you. It softens me. It brings me back into the moment to let me know what's really important. And then I try to stay in that moment. Okay, so what can you do and what's in your power to alleviate stress? I think that there are periods in my life where I'm really good at creating strong boundaries around work and other initiatives that I've taken on. And so whenever I feel really stressed and really overly emotional, when I feel overemotional, that is a key indicator that I'm stressed and I'm overwhelmed because there is really nothing else in my life that's going to make me feel like I want to cry and boohoo. And so that is my indicator. Okay, so you're overwhelmed and then I backtrack from there. What just happened to make you feel overwhelmed? And then what can you do to shape this mood? So sometimes I have to get up and I have to move. Sometimes I'll put on music because I have to dance, I'll watch a funny show. So I have to do what I can to shake the mood. But I'm constantly in those periods working backwards to see what triggered my change in mood. And then what can I do to change that? Sometimes for me, like this morning I woke up just kind of out of sorts. I was just tired and it was slow going. And so when I feel that way and I really have to get involved in my day, I treat myself to coffee and I will go to my favorite coffee spot. I will just get a nice twelve ounce of coffee. I load it with creamer that I like. And so for me in that moment, that is just a gentle treat and a nudge. For me, other things that I can do besides setting strong boundaries at work and with my other commitments, I also set strong boundaries for friends. So sometimes I will get a call or a text message and I will look at it and I'm just like, okay, I'm not in the headspace to respond right now, I have to do it later. Or I'll see a message come in and I'm just like, okay, I see that message and I'll just leave it there so that I can still see the alert. And then when I'm in a better headspace, I can respond. And sometimes my go to is like, oh, okay, that sounds great. So just to kind of respond or acknowledge that I've seen the response. But really, I try to go at my own pace for things that don't really involve the kids or don't really involve deadlines at work. Other things that are out of my control are family interactions and family drama that I don't have to be privy to. And I think one of the things I really did well at the beginning of becoming a parent was I really set a strong boundary for what I'm not going to deal with in terms of I don't want these types of phone calls, I don't want to receive these types of text messages. I don't want to be a part of the conversations that are just drama filled. So I don't do a lot of drama. I love my family, but my immediate family and those two little girls that I have are my primary concern. And so I've really had to pull back. I think I was lucky to have graceful outs because my parents, unfortunately, are deceased. And so I don't have those overarching obligations or someone with expectations of me. And like I said, my sisters and my brothers, their kids are starting to be grown ups. They're entering the grandparent stages. So I don't have a lot of obligations that are pulling on me. And so those are some of the things that I did to alleviate stress, things that were out of my control. So what's in your control? What's out of your control? So there was also the pandemic, which gave me an opportunity to see who, of all of these people who wanted things from me, who were relying on me for things, allowed me to see who of those people are reciprocal in their relationship. And so my situation was pretty critical at the beginning of the pandemic, when everything hit, I had an eight month old, and I had maybe a six year old. They're five years apart, so almost a six year old. And so when the pandemic hit, it was me trying to juggle work, kids, family life, keeping us alive, filling out my legal documents where something happened to me. Because with the pandemic, you don't know. And it's a very real reality that people were dying. And so, unfortunately, people were not being spared. And so I really called on family and friends, both virtually and in person, and some people came through for me, and some people really ghosted me. And so now with the pandemic in play, it gives you a perspective that, yes, we're all trying to survive, and, yes, we're all just doing the best we can. But in an opportunity where I was looking to scale back and reduce the number of commitments and people I owed, responses to the pandemic, while it was out of my control, it did offer me an opportunity to really reflect on who and what was important and mattered in my life at that time. And I don't think that I've ever looked back. I lost some people shedded some friends and just kept it moving. The pandemic is like that. My girls are healthy and they're here. I'm healthy and okay. I'm still employed. Thank God. [00:18:57] And now I'm just moving with a lighter weight, a lighter load, and I have no regrets. And so what also was in my control, and one of the things that I decided also a while ago was to pick my battles. And that comes into play with my kids as well. There are some things that I just let slide because I know it's not important in the grand scheme of things. I look at my kids and I'm like, they're entitled to have a childhood. They get to talk back to me in a way that is respectfully pushing back against boundaries. And so I'm not going to fight with them about what they eat. I try not to wrestle with myself about what we have for dinner. Some days it's breakfast for dinner three times a week because my little one will look at food and be like, I want oatmeal. And the big one will be like, Well, I want what she's having too. But then I saw the bagel and cream cheese, and so I want bagels and cream cheese, and so what I try to do is I just look at the food pyramid and did we have protein, did we have starch? Did we have fats? And did we have fruits and veggies? And then I'm good. And so there are just certain things that I don't stress out about anymore. And so I try my best that when I slight a friend or when I hurt someone's feelings, I try my hardest to apologize in the moment, and then I forgive myself and keep it moving. If you want me to peel back a layer of skin or you want me to run through a burning crucible, that's not going to happen. I mean, we're adults, but I try not to make those gaffes that require me to make these large apologies. But when I do commit a slight or I just forget something or I drop the ball, I do try to make up for it. And so also, I have a therapist. Therapy is a lifeline for me. It's a safe space for me to talk through what I'm feeling. It feels like a lightweight girlfriend conversation, and that's a credit to my therapist. Even though we're peeling back the layers and we're helping me with coping mechanisms to get through the week and the day, for me, that's been a mainstay. And fingers crossed I always get to keep my therapist has been tremendously helpful. Other things that I do that are in my control, solitude is important. I like to do a lot of self reflection. I'm in my head a lot. And so as I'm reading these different books and I'm consuming different things, I like to process what I'm feeling. And for some people, it frustrates them, it frustrates them because I'll say I need to wait for the dust to settle and there's no guaranteed time frame for the dust to settle. And so I try to live in the moment, but I also try to peel back the onion that informs how I'm motivated and how I move in the world. And ultimately I try to be at peace with myself. And so solitude is my friend and it's something that has served me very well in my life. And so the last thing that I will say that is in my control, that I am able to do to manage and create margin in my life, is that I have a lack of FOMO. I lived a very good life before I became a mother. And now as I enter mid age, there's not a lot that I look back on like I wish I had done, or trying to keep up with the Joneses, or I'm trying to rush to be in all of the different places. I think by having a life that is well lived, I am able to settle into just being in the moment and going to the parks with the kids know, baking a pie or baking bread or just really slowing. Down, having Netflix and chill weekends and not necessarily feeling compelled to be out in the city or out in the streets and trying to keep up. [00:23:13] One thing I could be doing better is I used to love being outdoors and running. So I might actually try to build some hiking or outdoors activities in the fall and winter months into my schedule. So that might be something that I feel like I'm missing out on. But I think by not feeling like I have to be everywhere at a certain time for this trip, or that trip, or this event or that event, I think creates space for me to be intentional about creating margin in my life. So if I have a crazy morning, that means that if on a Friday I don't have anything scheduled, I can just look forward to having a glass of wine, pizza and just relaxing with the kids or without. So there are certain things that I can do to build margin and to create this practice of slowing down in my life so that I'm better able to handle the expected, but the expected things that happen at unexpected times, so I'm better able to handle that. And so the key thing, I think, to how I'm able to make quick decisions and shifts and decide what's important is that I have a list of five priorities and if something doesn't fall within those five priorities, it's a no, and if it does, then it's a yes. And so this allows me to be able to make decisions on the spot fairly quickly. And so my top five priorities, and I'm not making any apologies for it, my first priority is my health. I can't pour from an empty or broken vessel. So I try to keep my health in shape. And so I'm trying to make sure I make those doctors appointments, that I eat well, that I drink well, that I have rest. And my kids will say pretty much starting this year, now that they're able to get up and pour cereal in a bowl for themselves, that I told them, go play, go watch Saturday morning cartoons. Mommy needs more rest. And then I will take the rest that I need. Sometimes I take a nap because I can't pour from an exhausted vessel. Second in my priority are my children. I love my children and I want them to be healthy and safe. And so if it's something that they need, you know your kids and you know what their needs are, I make sure that I give them quality time and that each kid does get a little bit of time with me. And so my time is valuable, and I get to decide how I spend it. And so if I find that people are scheduling rescheduling or just not respecting my time, there's no big fuss or mus about it. [00:26:04] These requests just end up being secondary, tertiary. They're optional requests to me. They might be required for you, but they're optional for me because my time is important, my estate. So anything that impacts my estate, like my job, my home, my retirement, my savings, that's a priority. So that's something that I get a notice in the mail. I'm going to sit down and take a look and run the numbers and see what it is that I need to take care of. Now, my chosen family, I'm at the stage in life where my chosen family will rotate and certain people will rotate up in priority, and some people will rotate out of priority. And so my chosen family is also in the top five. And so there are some people who I know will show up for me and some people who will make these requests once or twice a year, and I know that I have it within me to do that. So then I will go ahead and make sure that I take care of that need for that person for this time. So anything that comes out or comes up that does not fall within those top five priorities is really something that I can easily say no to, like, yeah, no, I'm not going to do that. Okay, yeah, I'm going to skip that this time around. I would love to do it, but maybe next year. And so it becomes an easy no for me. Okay, so wait, if you don't have my journal, these questions are things that I help users or help customers to reflect through in my journal. So if you go to my website, Starttofinishmotherhood.com, you go under products, you will find the journal and I'll put a link in the show notes. But that's where I typically capture a lot of this information. So even as I was going through the thinking phases of trying to conceive and become a mom and just life, I had always kept a journal. I've kept a journal since I was 13, and it's just been such a cathartic habit to be into, to get things out of my head, out of my body, onto paper just outside of me. And so the Reflections Journal, I put it together because it really does help someone to break down what's important to them in these different doctors appointments. As you're thinking about how you want to parent, the type of parent you want to be, how you want to break generational cycles, the different traditions that you want to build into the life that you're going to have with your children. And so it's just a nice way, and it's a single mother by choice journal to just capture thoughts in the moment. And so the questions that I would ask you to write down in your journal is, what are your top five priorities? What are the things that, you know, every day you wake up are things that you need to take care of? And I think that that will help you in saying a hard no and then a yes to different things that come up in your day to day life. Are you frequently stressed out and irritable when participating with social commitments? If your answer is yes, go back to the top five priorities and reprioritize the list of commitments that you have, what things do you need to do? And what things can sometimes be relegated to once a year, twice a year, I mean, I will get some people that are just like, I have five birthday parties. There are 30 kids in the class, and I have to attend. And it's just, do you really have to attend all of those birthday parties and then all the things that come with it, the travel, the schlepping, the getting, the gifts, and all of the stuff that comes with 30, 25 birthday parties. So if you narrow it to who are your children's friends? I think that that helps you to figure out which events you need to attend and then which events are optional. [00:30:01] I'm not going to 25, 30 birthday parties over the next five years. I'm just not. How often do unexpected but predictable occurrences happen? And so in the budgeting world, they have a term that's called sinking funds. And so sometimes you can prepare for the expected but unpredictable occurrences. And so I say, do the same thing. Have a sinking fund of emotional reserves for these things that happen. So if a car wreck happens, it doesn't destroy your whole day. You take a deep breath and it's like, okay, I have insurance. No one was hurt. Okay, I need to get a rental car. And you're able to think, clear reserve, emotional reserve for. These unexpected but predictable things that can occur if you've got a potty training toddler, there could be an opportunity where you're leaving the house and somebody has an accident or needs to run to the bathroom. Does that make you later? So what are some things that you can do to prepare for this unexpected in terms of when it happened, but fairly predictable because you're potty training type of an event. And then do these occurrences create stress for you and your child or your children? Okay, so then what are some coping mechanisms that you have for dealing with stress, dealing with it in the moment? I know if we take the potty training example, if your kid has an accident and you're trying to get out of the house and you have to get them dressed, there is nothing you can do to change that event in the moment. You have to stop. You have to change the child, put on warm clothes. And so at that point in my head I'm already late or I know I'm going to be late. So there is no real need for me to rush and be harried and have to accidents happen. Literally accidents happen. And so it's just you let the person know I'm going to be late, I'm sorry, baby had an accident. It is what it is and that's the best that you can do in the moment. Okay? And if it's creating stress for your children, then okay, you have to find coping mechanisms that allow you to make sure that the kids are taken care of without them suffering the impacts of you being stressed and overwhelmed and harried. Take a deep breath. I do a lot of deep breathing. And then what can you do or what's in your power to alleviate the stress? So I mentioned the car accident or the fender bender. So you've got insurance, you have insurance for some of the things that are unexpected but could be huge financial impacts if you don't have insurance for them. So estate planning, always being on the lookout for a job. If finances are an issue, periodically keep that resume up to date so that you're able to go so looking at the different resources that are around you that you can use for the what ifs in life, right? So there are certain things that you can do. Put up strong boundaries so that other people's anxiety and angst does not become yours. Other people's dramas and other people's heartaches don't necessarily become yours. So put up those strong boundaries sometimes. Don't answer the phone, don't respond to every text message. I will look at things and it's just like I am just not in the right headspace to deal with this. And I'll come back to it and I do so. Those are just some of the things that I processed and I asked you to process as you're thinking over your life and what you can do to create more margin. I think if we have more margin and we are better prepared for the unexpected but predictable things that can sometimes happen. So just create time and space to slow down. And going back to what I discussed at the beginning, I thought that I did a good job of that, but I have to keep reminding myself to factor in and to factor in time for me to rest and recover. Because while I'm doing all of the planning for the household, I sometimes neglect to plan for how I'm going to feel after having driven 3 hours in traffic. So I think taking that step back and asking myself, okay, and putting myself on the know, you have Noel, you have Camille, you have Aisha. Is everybody taken care of? And there you have it. I will put a link to the article in the show notes and then I will also put a link to my Reflections journal. You can get it from Amazon, you can get it from my website. But until next time, thanks for hanging out with me. I've been in a bit of a state for the past couple of months and so being able to come and talk to you has been a godsend. And so I thank you for your support and I thank you for following me on Instagram. And if you want to see what I look like as I'm talking through, I do have a video up on YouTube of this episode as well. [00:35:10] Thanks for listening. To start to finish motherhood with Aisha. If you want to keep the conversation going, follow Start To Finish Motherhood on Instagram or email me at [email protected]. If you love this episode, please share it with anyone who's thinking of becoming a single mother by choice, anyone who's already parenting as a single mother by choice and just looking for advice on navigating it all, or a friend or family member who's looking to support someone else's single mother by choice journey. Until next time. Bye now.

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