Monday, September 12, 2011

Lupus goal setting: the art of working backwards

Every mother knows - if you want to get your kids to bed at a certain time, you have to eat dinner at a certain time, in order to allow enough time to eat, wind down, and do the nightly routine.

And if you want to eat dinner at a certain time, you have to bring the kids in from playing outside at a certain time.

And if you want the kids to come in from playing at a certain time, you have to put the kids down for a nap at a certain time, so that they wake up in time to get in some good playing time before you call them inside.

And if you want your kids to go down for a nap at a certain time, you have to eat lunch at a certain time.

And if you want to eat lunch at a certain time, you should have your morning snack at a certain time, to ensure that lunchtime isn't spoiled.

But before that? From the time the kids wake up until about 10 o'clock in the morning? Sky's the limit! You're free and clear to do whatever whenever - no set plans at all. Not a one. Just relax and enjoy. That is, of course, as long as you fit in eating breakfast and getting dressed.

Okay - so that's not exactly how rigid our days are in the Gorman household. But there is a bit of truth to all that. When you have a goal in mind, as a mom, you know you have to work backwards. You have to allow enough time before said goal to get the kids positioned (dressed, fed, "played", "peed", or what have) to enable yourself to even shoot for said goal. You have to make choices along the way so that you set yourself up to succeed - choices that involve picking one activity over another, or cutting one activity short in order to fit in the next.

This summer offered a perfect example. About three times a week, we headed to the pool about 10 minutes from our house. I learned very quickly that we couldn't just "hop over to the pool for a quick dip." We had to prepare, and plan, and strategize. Turns out, it takes almost 35 minutes to get ourselves dressed, ready and to the pool. It just does. Yes, I had a pool bag ready to go at all times. And yes, the kids' suits and swim diapers were right by the door for a quick get-away, but I clocked it, and we just couldn't make it happen any faster. Not only that, but once we got to the pool, we only had so much time to swim in the baby pool, eat lunch, take a plunge in the big girl pool, shower, and be home before naps. I'm telling you - I had to start working backwards from about 9:30am, just to make sure our 2pm nap time happened!
 
Thankfully, I spent almost 8 years before having kids figuring out how to "work backwards." With lupus, that's just what you have to do - whether you're trying to fit in a nap, cut down on errands, or fit in a healthy exercise routine - you have to plan the day so that it fits in with life with a chronic illness. If you're going to enable yourself to live well, you have to set yourself up to live well, and make choices that allow you do to so. You may not be able to accomplish what you used to - or it may take you more time to accomplish them. Thus, you have to account for those changes, and work backwards so that you don't compromise a nap, downtime, or just "you" time.

For me, it was always harder to "work backwards" and "choose wisely" when it was just for myself. With my girls, I can see how they thrive on routine. As parents, you realize you're doing them a favor when you keep to a pretty set afternoon nap, bedtime and eating schedule. But as adults, we give ourselves a heck of a lot more leeway, don't you think? We think we can get away with pushing ourselves a little bit here, or cheating a little bit there. But in the end, we really are sacrificing our health and wellness, something we hardly ever do to our kids! (Oh sure - just try and push a 3-year old beyond her limits, or cheat a little 11-month old out of her morning nap - we all know how THAT turns out!)

Truth is, maybe if I'd been diagnosed with lupus after I had kids, the idea of working backwards to reach my wellness goals would have come easier. Maybe yes, maybe no.

But the good news is that now, my worlds are colliding. Practically everyone in the family needs a nap, everyone in the family does better on 10+ hours of sleep, and everyone in the family benefits from a healthy diet, a little exercise, and some good old fashion down time. I have no excuses not to follow suit.


 There's a story that's been told in the lupus community for many years, called the "spoon theory", written by Christine Miserandino. It speaks to the point of making choices in an effort to manage your life with lupus. Read about it here - and here's to working backwards!

2 comments:

Sadaf Shaikh said...

Well said! Wait till your girls have after-school activities! I went a little overboard when my son went into kindergarten and signed him for a different activity every night. I realised very quickly that one activity in total is MORE than enough for him. Keeps me happy and he appreciates the "free-play" time by not having (as many) meltdowns.

Sara Gorman said...

Good advice for now, and the coming years! I'm always amazed at how much Dee and Bee enjoy their free time. It's usually when I catch them being the cutest - when I overhear them pretending, or talking to themselves, or making up a scenario. I'm sure you feel the same - with both kids!

Take care!