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Is your life an endless cycle, revolving around work and taking care of the kids? If so, you’re not alone. In a recent study by the Families and Work Institute, ½ of American women say they don’t have enough time to spend on themselves and to choose the activities they enjoy. We all know that saying ‘yes’ to more responsibility can make us feel safer with the boss and help us avoid conflict in the family. But too often ‘yes’ is our default mode with just about everything.

In a world of relentless demands, saying ‘no’ is highly underutilized. Of course, you can’t abandon the never ending to-do lists around work and domestic duties. But don’t you think you also deserve to identify your other, more personal priorities? Start now with these practical GEMS - Give it up, Evaluate, Move ahead, Savor - can help you put more sparkle in your life.

Give it up: As the gatekeeper, are you sometimes frustrated, stressed out or resentful about your workload and home chores? Recognize that some of the barriers are in your own head. And learning how to shift your standards is critical. Let go of the idea that you can do it all. And don’t beat yourself up about it. Guilt is a prevalent emotion for those who worry that they're not doing enough. Remind yourself that it’s ok to do less or to delegate, given the realities of your situation. Know that you’re dancing as fast as you can.

Evaluate here and now: You’ll make better choices if you step back and assess what you’re doing. Are you already exhausted by volunteering in your kids’ classrooms, coaching their soccer team and heading up the school fundraiser? Decide what makes the most sense for you and then prioritize. The same holds true with chores around the house. As long as you’re willing to do it all, others likely won’t step up to the plate.

Move ahead: Think about what you wanted to do today but couldn’t find the time to enjoy. It can define your priorities for tomorrow and help you stay on track in the face of the inevitable distractions. Mark this as the beginning of creating new rituals. Figure out specific activities to integrate into your regular routine - taking a walk during your lunch hour, meeting a friend for coffee once a week, writing in your journal or reading before bed. Carve out this time just for you and keep it sacred.                       

Savor your selfhood: Society sends mixed messages when it comes to taking care of yourself. On one hand we’re taught to go after what we want, yet if we fight too hard we’re seen as selfish. Integrate your self-fulness as you practice saying ‘no’ to what may be presented as greater opportunities. Because yielding to outside pressure and taking on more responsibility can amount to ignoring what may be in your own best interests.

The time-frazzled woman has become a common archetype. We’re socialized to be available to our spouse, children, parents, friends and boss. And the price we pay to please others is high. At what point do we learn that charity begins at home? Self-esteem comes from having the courage to make tough choices, even if they’re unpopular. After all, if a long-term goal is to have our kids find personal fulfillment, shouldn’t we lead by example? Put yourself at the top of your to-do list and act as if you’re the person you love the most.

© HerMentor Center, 2013

Phyllis Goldberg, Ph.D. is a consultant in family dynamics. Whether you're coping with marital stress, acting out teens, aging parents, boomerang millennials or difficult in-laws, she has practical solutions. Log on to her website at and sign up for a free ezine 'Stepping Stones,' and complimentary eBooks, “Reaching Your Goals” and “Taking Control of Stress.”


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