Written by: Jackie McNamara, Director of Wellness Strategies
My entire life I knew I wanted to be a mom. I was the little girl who had all the cabbage patch kids and baby dolls, who sat at the dinner table with us. In grade school I was a mommy’s helper to my younger cousins, in high school babysat in the summers, and in college I nannied while taking classes. I even nannied for a family with quadruplets +1! Nurturing children and babies always came natural to me. I imagined being a stay-at-home mom one day while my husband worked.
In college, I was lucky enough to have Dr. Ken Kambis as my passionate professor and mentor at the College of William and Mary. Ken’s love for science was contagious! As a competitive athlete I became fascinated by the human body and its invisible powers and obsessed with seeing how much my own body could do if I ate well, moved right and hydrated properly. Sleep came later in life – I was too much of an extrovert to be willing to miss out on any fun with the kids on my hall.
And so, my passion for science took me into a career that I adore and love. I was driven in a way I didn’t expect, and before I knew it, I was well into my 30s before I became the mother to my first of now three boys. Having an established career and a beautiful baby boy, I felt like I had it all.
But with each of my 3 children, my own health slowly took a back seat. In 2020 I was working long hours at home with two boys during a pandemic, excited about the arrival of baby number three. Because I had focused on my health for so long and even taught others the way, I found myself taking that for granted. Skipping meals was a regular habit and I felt satisfied with grilled cheese crust for dinner. Movement meant running from the computer to my kids who were over-screened. When my kids went to bed, I found myself catching up on missed work until 2 or 3am. Just a week before Thanksgiving my unhealthy habits contributed to the loss of our 3rd baby 8 weeks into pregnancy – an eye opening moment for me. But like most things, this experience would serve a meaningful purpose in the coming months.
Being a lifelong athlete and now in the wellness industry, I needed self-accountability to stay healthy. Nobody else was looking to remind me what health was. And frankly, nobody was paying attention. So, resetting and refocusing on what health and wellbeing meant in my life as a career driven mom, with a partner just as committed to his career, meant hard work. Luckily, this focus allowed us to carry our third baby boy full term and today we are the lucky parents of 3 healthy boys.
Nearly three years later I would like to share my top takeaways from this experience, and how to practically apply meaningful wellness in the life of a working mom. The best part is this list will not add anything to your “to do” list unless you choose but will bring health and happiness your way.
- Live Your Purpose
Yeah, yeah, we hear about purpose all the time. But do we actually live up to it? There were MANY things I did that did not live up to my purpose and my excuses got in the way. No sleep, drinking too much alcohol, using screen time as therapy, you name it. When I was gifted the opportunity to take another look, I realized my purpose was to be happy and healthy for my family, coworkers, and friends. It was that simple. Every day I would ask “Does this decision make me happy and healthy?”
- Know & Hold Boundaries
Again, healthy boundaries. We hear this one all the time. But for me, what this meant was saying no to alcohol because it didn’t allow me to be my best self and live up to my purpose. It meant confidently saying ‘no’ to the same invitations because those relationships were toxic or not serving me. Unfortunately, we live in a world with increasing demands and no extra time so I have learned to be protective of mine. Saying ‘no’ to things and people meant giving more of my best self to the things and people who meant the most to me. My relationships are richer, and I am able to give my full attention with my time.
I used to think that nutrition and movement made up ‘all things wellbeing’. It wasn’t until I really wasn’t getting sleep with baby #2 that I started to do some research. It turns out, not only do we need 6-8 hours of good quality sleep, but there are ways to recover properly if you do not get enough sleep. I used myself as a case study and began manipulating my sleep schedule and daily activities to make the most of my time in bed. It turns out when sleep is on par the rest falls into place. I was missing out for WAY too many years.
- Rely on Resources (Grocery delivery for me)
As a working mom, I have realized that some things are just not worth my time. As a nutrition therapist healthy food is important to me. But how that shows up every day is something I have decided to invest in. I utilize InstaCart, an annual grocery delivery subscription. This includes weekly regular items (eggs, cheese, fruit, veggies, etc.) and three prepared foods. My go-to meals are coconut breaded chicken tenders (kids love these too), veggie shish kabobs and spaghetti with turkey meatballs. My local grocer includes the ingredients, so I know what is in them. This gives me three planned meals for the week that I know everyone will eat, and I am left to my own creativity the rest of the time. Just be sure to show up in-person to select the foods you are sure you will like, then add them to your InstaCart “favorite” list.
- Become friends with the Sun
Cortisol is a stress hormone that wakes up when we do. But also like us, if we let it slowly roll out of bed it’ll do just that. For Cortisol to serve as our friend and get going bright and early, give it some sunshine. If you step outside within 30 minutes of waking up (yes, even on cloudy days), photon light energy will encourage cortisol production and jump start your circadian rhythm. This also means it’ll slow down when it’s bedtime, helping you fight the craving to Netflix rather than hit the pillow in the dark. When the sun is setting, step outside again to allow that (orange) photon energy hit your eye receptors, acting as a gentle reminder that the day is winding down and that our bodies are robots waiting for the next indication!
- Temperature is your Friend Too
This is one that I love sharing, because most people do not think it works. But put it to the test and you will see! A cold shower in the morning will warm you up, giving you energy for the day. A warm shower before bed will cool you down, creating just the right body temperature for a healthy sleep environment. Forget your kids waking you up and let the cold shower (or a cold plunge if you become addicted like I have) do that. My biggest takeaway with this one is that every time you do it, no matter how many times, your brain will always tell you that you cannot do it. Consider this your reminder that you can control your thoughts and even your response to stress. Ignore your brain and be patient with your body. It’s usually around one minute that your body will adjust, breathing will slow, and you can enjoy the sensations.
These simple tricks do not require any more of your time will not only support your physiology, but also consistently remind you of your commitment to your own health and wellbeing, and ultimately your longevity.
For more information or coaching on any of the above topics, reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.