The wee hours of the morning, late nights and kids' nap time can be the greatest gateways to productivity and private time for a work-at-home mom. But, are you spending your downtime in ways that develop, or deplete, you?
In this issue of Working Mom 3.0, writer Stephanie Taylor Christensen explores how to maximize your free moments.
Like most work-at-home moms, I treasure the times when my house is quiet. Personally, my mindless activity of choice is catching up on reality television, where I can think about, literally, nothing. The trouble is, however, that it ultimately depletes me. I get sucked in to one DVR'd show and then another. Before I know it, a half hour turns into two lost hours of sleep. I wake later the next morning, feeling cranky and groggy, and lose the opportunity to seize what is normally my most productive work time. We've all got our vices, whether it's BRAVO, booze or a BlackBerry. But when downtime is depleting, we ultimately create more harm than good. Here's how to get the most out of your downtime.
One happiness study, published in the 2011 Journal of Consumer Psychology, indicated that how we spend free time, versus how much of it we have, is the tipping point of life satisfaction. Time is a valuable commodity, says the research, and should be prioritized by real value. Instead of devoting all your downtime to your pending chores, researchers suggest asking a simple question to increase the likelihood that you'll "behave in ways that are more in line with what will really make you happy." Ask: "Will what I do right now become more valuable over time?" In my case, guilty as I may feel for closing my eyes for 15 minutes while my son naps when there is a lawn waiting to be mowed, the nap has more overall value; I'll work more efficiently toward my writing deadlines once I arise.
Most work-at-home moms are hardwired to be realistic and responsible, but forcing yourself to "snap out of" daydreams and fantasy-thinking is a missed opportunity to self-nourish. The researchers also found that the brains' pleasure center (technically called the mesolimbic dopamine system) can be activated by merely thinking about something pleasurable.
Our wants and needs are ever-changing, and honoring that aspect of ourselves is the key to restoration. In "The Shifting Meaning of Happiness" study, it was revealed that people report feeling happy after an exciting event in youth, but value peace and tranquility more as they age. Feed your spirit with what feels right, right now. It's OK to trade in that long run you've done for years in favor of a soothing yoga practice, if that's what your spirit needs in the present.
The modern woman is redefining what it means to have a successful career. Rather than feeling torn between climbing the corporate ladder and having a happy family life, many women are choosing to merge the two and transition careers from a traditional role to a more flexible one. Working Mom 3.0 is reinventing the definition of "working mom," as office hours are held at home and revolve around nap times.
This column begins by chronicling the experiences of Stephanie Taylor Christensen, a former marketing professional turned self-employed stay-at-home mom, writer and yoga instructor, as she strives to redefine "having it all" on her own time and terms.
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