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Today I’m welcoming another friend of mine, Dr. Jen Riday, to share her story on the blog. I know you’re going to be moved and inspired by Jen’s story. I have learned so much from her over the past year, especially about how to create time for the things you love.

I remember the day clearly, probably because it was a defining moment in my life.

I was suffering a complicated miscarriage and my husband had to drive me 1 hour to the nearest hospital. It was Christmas Day and we had left 4 of our 5 kids at my parents’ place, and 1-year-old Jane was asleep in her carseat behind us.

And we fought. We fought the entire way to the hospital…during a miscarriage, on Christmas day.

It was a nightmare. Fighting, missing Christmas morning with the kids, and feeling dizzy and lightheaded from the loss of so much blood was horrible.

But if that wasn’t enough, the doctor didn’t think I was pregnant at first (she probably thought I was a drug addict because who has a miscarriage on Christmas day, after all…). It took them an hour to get the IV in, and my husband didn’t even come into the emergency room with me. I felt so ashamed, angry and sad.

It was easily the worst day of my life.

That day became a landmark in my life, a day of “before” and “after.”

Before that day I was a stay-at-home mom who had tried to do everything to be the “perfect mom.” I baked homemade bread, I kept a pristine house, I hosted elaborate birthday parties.

I gave and gave and gave… and GAVE… until I was EMPTY.

How to Create Time for the Things You Love (Even if You’re a Busy Mom!)

Until my inner light was so dim that I was only a shell of the vibrant, happy woman I once was.

After that nightmarish day, everything changed. Or, I should say, I changed everything. That’s the beauty of “rock bottom.” You gain perspective and insight you never had before. And with that new insight, I vowed to start living a life I LOVE.

I began noticing the things that made me happy and I did MORE of those things.

I also noticed the things that drained me and did LESS of those things.

I figured out the free time available in my week using my Week-at-a-Glance schedule and I started filling those hours with things that energized me. Things like yoga, time in nature, eating out with friends, and lying in bed with a book.

And I did those things – without guilt.

And I realized something HUGE: before that hellish day in the hospital, I might have been doing those “perfect mom” things, but I wasn’t giving my children the most important gift of all: showing what it looks like to live a happy life.

How to Create Time for the Things You Love (Even if You’re a Busy Mom!)

I recognized If I wanted my kids to grow up to be happy adults, I had to show them exactly what that looks like.

I realized something that’s true for every mom: The greatest gift you can give your family is your own happiness.

And we can CHOOSE happiness by CHOOSING to do the things that make us feel good, that energize us, that relax us, that make us smile and laugh (and for me, that meant doing WAY LESS housework and WAY MORE of what I love).

You might be thinking, But how do I even find time? I’m stretched so thin and juggling all the demands of work, kids, the house… I don’t have any time for myself!

Trust me, I know that place. I know that hollow feeling that comes with giving and giving and giving and never quite finding the time to recharge.

But I also know how you can fix it. You absolutely can find more time for the things you love – the things that leave you feeling energized and fulfilled.

7 Steps to Create More Time for the Things You Love (Even if You’re a Busy Mom!)

  1. Let go of guilt and the “shoulds.”
  2. Spend way less time on mundane household tasks that drain you.
  3. Figure out what is really means to be a “good mom.”
  4. Let go of perfectionism and control and get your family to do way more around the house.
  5. Pinpoint your priorities and make sure you’re spending time on what’s truly important.
  6. Create a crystal clear vision of what you want life to look like.
  7. Establish a simple, but powerful time management system that is flexible enough to grow with your constantly changing needs and schedule.

If you take the time to do each of these steps – and BONUS points if you write your answers in a journal – you’ll start to get insight on little things you can change in your life that will move you toward your goal of more free time.

You’ll start to gain confidence that you absolutely can make time for the things you love. You’ll learn to let go of some of the “shoulds” you’ve been burdening yourself with (i.e., “I should make gourmet meals” or “I should spend my free time with my family”).

You’ll discover that being a “good mom” doesn’t always mean what you thought it did.

In short, you’ll reduce the pressure and guilt that have plagued you in the past and start finding more free time for your priorities and passions – the things that energize you when you do them.

You’ll start to thrive rather than simply survive.

And you’ll be so much happier, productive and fulfilled.

You deserve that. And your family deserves that, too. Because – and don’t ever forget this – the greatest gift you can give your family is your own happiness.

How to Create Time for the Things You Love (Even if You’re a Busy Mom!)

How to Create Time for the Things You Love (Even if You’re a Busy Mom!) - Guest Post by Dr. Jen Riday Dr. Jen Riday is a Women’s Happiness Expert, host of the Vibrant Happy Women podcast and a mom of 6. She and her family live in the woods just outside of Madison, Wisconsin. In her free time Jen enjoys yoga, hiking with her family, and kicking back with a great book. You can find Jen at jenriday.com.