Editor's note: This article was originally published on Power of Moms. It has been modified and republished here with permission.
Progress. Isn't that what life is all about? When we don't feel any sense of progress, isn't that when we get down on ourselves or even depressed? I think progress is intrinsically connected to happiness.
Before you stop reading this, thinking, "Progress? Seriously? I'm just barely treading water here," let me share a few simple thoughts and ideas that can help make progress and motherhood seem less mutually exclusive.
In some phases of our lives, progress is almost built-in. When we're in school, we get a definite sense of progression as we pass off one level and move on to the next, see our grades improving or master a new skill. In most paid professions, we can see our progress through promotions, raises, positive performance reviews or increased sales.
But in our lives as mothers, a sense of progress can be evasive. As we meet the needs that pop up right and left from our kids, much of our "to-do" list remains undone at the end of the day. We often feel like we're treading water and that our attempts to actually move toward a goal are always thwarted.
But we CAN progress. And we CAN feel the joy of moving forward and learning at least a little every day. Here are three simple keys to progress for moms.
1. Define "success" for this phase of your life
When I had five little preschoolers, I learned to define a successful day as one where I'd found a few minutes to read to my children, spent a few minutes of "floor time" playing with them, completed one small cleaning job around the house, and found 30 minutes to take care of a few e-mails and phone calls. During that phase of life, progress involved seeing my kids learn their colors and seeing their attention spans increase while seeing my own little projects move forward inch by inch.
I found that when I expected to make more progress than was realistic, I was frustrated with my children and with myself. But when I expected too little and just moved into "treading water mode," I felt depressed. Expecting and working towards an appropriate amount of progress is vital.
2. First things first
As moms, we're always busy. But are we busy doing the right things? It's important that we take a few minutes every week to establish what is most important to accomplish that week.
During the precious free time we may have as moms, it's so easy to get sucked into TV or the Internet. We sit down to check one favorite blog or watch a show to unwind, and sometimes, two hours later, there we are, watching some show we don't even care about or doing something on the Internet that isn't really meaningful at all.
Try using your discretionary time to do things that give you a sense of progress before you turn to activities that are simply relaxing. You'll be able to enjoy your relaxing activities much more if you get a little progress under your belt first!
Saren adores her five energetic, adventurous, precocious children but doesn't totally adore the mess and busyness and bickering that comes with them! She grew up all over the world, did her B.A. at Wellesley College and her M.Ed. at Harvard, did humanitarian service in Eastern Europe, and conducted training programs for teachers and enrichment programs for kids. But after she got married and had her five children, the real education and work began! When she's not trying to answer five different needs and questions at once, she writes and puts together programs for moms for the website she co-directs, Power of Moms. She currently lives in Ogden, Utah and loves reading, hiking, and biking with her family (or by herself when possible!). She often struggles with balance but finds joy in being involved in many things that are meaningful to her.