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My week in wellness: A 45-year-old with two young kids in Dundalk who wants to be more active

In the first instalment of our new wellness diary series, we hear from a reader who’s struggling to find time for herself.

TheJournal.ie reader

WELCOME TO HOW I Live, a new wellness diary series on TheJournal.ie.

We’re asking readers to keep a record of their mental and physical routines every day for one week – what their stress levels are like, how much activity they fit in (or don’t fit in), and how much sleep they get.

Each wellness diary will be submitted by readers just like you. When reading and commenting, bear in mind that this is simply an account of a week in someone’s shoes, and their situation may not be relatable for everyone.

If you’re interested in submitting your own How I Live diary, email wellness@thejournal.ie with your name, age, location and a few lines about your current health and wellness goals.

This week, we hear from a 45-year-old college administrator with two young kids who is trying to make more time for daily activity, and wishes she could get to bed earlier.

Option 2A Final

Occupation: Administration in a third-level college
Age: 45
Location: Dundalk
Who you live with: My wife and our two children - an 18-month-old and a six-year-old.

I’ve been working from home since mid-March. This was particularly challenging during the summer with the kids at home but we have a slightly better routine in place now that they’re at school/creche.

I am not nearly as active as I would like to be. I have been working sedentary, office-based jobs for many years. Not only do I need to lose weight, but I really want to get fitter so I can spend more time running around with the kids. I don’t want my kids to see me as an ‘old parent’ as they grow up.

I find I have the greatest intentions but I just can’t seem to find the time to get things done. I feel guilty if I take time off for myself, to go for a walk for example, when there is still stuff to be done at home. 

Daily activity: I’d love to be more active. I’ll usually fit in a few walks with the dog, and spend time playing in the garden with the kids. 
Stress levels: This depends on the day. The more organised we can be, the lower our stress levels – if we have some dinner prep done and have some activities ready for my older son when he gets home from school, all of that helps.
Eating/drinking habits: I tend to snack a lot in the evening and would like to stop that, because I do love eating junk food but I’ve noticed I don’t feel great after it. I do a lot of batch cooking so we eat lots of homemade meals, but there are still days when we grab something quick in the supermarket.
Sleep quality: As well as having an 18-month-old who won’t stay in his own bed, I tend to stay up late myself watching Netflix. The Covid-19 pandemic has definitely affected my sleeping habits. 
Self care: I often feel like every hour in the day is mapped out which is why that time in the evening is so important to me.

Sunday

7am: We’re at Centre Parcs for the weekend. The six-year-old likes to make sure we’re awake! I didn’t have a great night’s sleep thanks to our 18-month-old. My wife is usually the one that gets up with him as he has decided he doesn’t really like me right now (in that lovely way that kids can destroy your self esteem!) Breakfast for the kids, shower, breakfast myself. Get the kids dressed and ready.

9am: We go for a nice stroll as the weather is really lovely, take the kids to the playground and grab a takeaway coffee. We hire a rowboat for 30 minutes. I’m designated rower and it’s quite windy, so that’s a good amount of physical exercise.

1pm: My wife prepares a nice lunch for us all: crackers, cheese, fruit, tea for the grown-ups, milk for the juniors. We’re booked into the swimming pool complex from 3.30pm to 5.30pm – although we predict the kids may not last that long. They end up lasting until just after 5! Definitely a lot more physical exercise this afternoon than would be typical for me – but that’s not a bad thing!

5.30pm: Before we went swimming, we ordered a takeaway from the Indian restaurant in Centre Parcs. So by the time we get the kids back to the lodge our food is almost due. 
After dinner the kids play outside and myself and my wife have a nice time sitting on the patio just chatting and keeping an eye on them.

8pm: It can be a bit of a struggle to get the six-year-old to bed. But there’s some wind down time, usually playing Lego. Then pyjamas, brush teeth and story time. The toddler is a very bad sleeper. One of us will sit with him and make sure he goes down, otherwise he would stay awake until all hours. Everyone is settled by about 8.30pm. I didn’t get any time to myself today, but that’s okay. Today was all about family. 

Monday

7am: Wake-up time. Breakfast for everyone: cereal and fruit, with tea for the grown-ups! We need to get everything packed up to head for home. The kids are happy playing outside, though trying to keep an eye on them is a bit stressful. We fit in one last walk before we go.

12pm: A two hour drive home and empty the car. The laundry begins! Nothing too stressful but the day flies by, there are so many “bits” of things to get sorted.

8pm: Once the kids are sorted in bed, my wife has an early night. I take a bit of time to myself just to chill out and watch a bit of Netflix.

11.30pm: I’ve stayed up too late, but at least it means I’ll fall asleep fairly easily.

Tuesday

7am: We slept badly as the toddler was very unsettled. We took him in to our bed about 1.30am and then he woke periodically through the night (he’s teething). Get the kids up and dressed and ready for crèche/school. We’ve started making a pot of tea every day, using our Michael Tea Higgins tea cosy. My wife and I will sit together and have some tea in a real cup and saucer, which is lovely. I tend to have breakfast a bit later once everyone else is gone, usually cereal or rice cakes with peanut butter.

9am: Once the kids are off to school/crèche, work starts for us both. My wife has her desk for work in the kitchen, mine is in the sitting room.

11am: I’m feeling quite tired. The relaxation from the weekend has gone, as work is very busy and I’ve a lot to get done. My home broadband can be sketchy so it’s a bit stressful when Microsoft Teams won’t connect properly in time for a meeting.

1pm: Busy today, feel like I’m being pulled in 10 different directions. I spent too long sitting at the computer instead of getting up and going for a walk, but my wife and I manage to have some lunch together.

4pm: I clock out of work, collect my son from after-school, and set him up with a snack. Then back to work for a while longer.

6pm: We sit down for dinner together which is something we try to do each evening. It’s pasta bolognese, with bolognese from the freezer that I had batch cooked a while ago. We try to sit down together in the evening for dinner. My only physical activity today was a little while playing with the kids.

Bedtime: Everyone to bed early tonight. It’s nice to have some snuggle time with my youngest while I’m putting him to bed.

Wednesday

6.45am: Up, shower and dress. Not a great sleep again, as the toddler is still teething. Once the kids are washed and dressed, it’s breakfast for everyone. Argue with the six-year-old about why he has to brush his teeth every morning (the indignity of the suggestion!). Sometimes every day just feels like Groundhog Day. We manage to fit in some time to have some tea and a sit down. It’s going to be another busy day so make sure I get some decent breakfast – rice cakes and peanut butter. 

1pm: I put on a nice pot of coffee earlier so we have both been enjoying that today. Busy at work again. Broadband was glitchy, which just adds to the stress, especially if we are both having online meetings. I managed a short walk at lunchtime, and it’s lovely to get out in the fresh air.

5pm: While my wife collects our toddler from crèche, I take our older son to Aldi to do some shopping. He picked a ‘Kookee’ mixture to make cookies with. This turns out to be one of the highlights of the day for us – while I make dinner, he makes the cookies and we put them in the oven to bake while we were eating. After dinner we do some reading with him as part of his homework, which I enjoy. Then bedtime for the kids.

11pm: Another night of going to bed late. The evening seems to be the only time to just sit down and watch a bit of Netflix, so again I end up watching too much.

Thursday

6.45am: Time to get up. Toddler ended up in with us about 2am and managed to push us both to either edge of the bed! We get breakfasts and lunches prepared. With the kids off to school and crèche, the adults are back in the usual spots of the kitchen and the sitting room. I have quite a lot of work on today, so I’m concerned about that.

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1pm: I’m feeling very stressed today. Work is very busy, online meetings are fairly endless.

5pm: I literally sit at the computer from 8.45am until about 5pm, except for going to the bathroom or grabbing some lunch. Some days are like that. My wife does the pickups and spends time playing in the garden with the kids.

6pm: We all sit down together for dinner and even fit in a walk together afterwards, which is great.

9pm: Myself and my wife watch a movie together. The teething toddler joins us halfway through and sleeps soundly in my wife’s arms. Afterwards we take him to bed with us, sometimes that’s just easier.

Friday

7am: Everyone up, dressed and fed. Usual discussion of the merits of brushing teeth with the six-year-old (had to evoke the tooth-fairy and how she doesn’t pay for “manky teeth”).

8.30am: I’m bit apprehensive as I’m going into the office today and I haven’t spent a full day in there since March 12. I treat myself to a nice coffee on the way in. I feel uneasy and just odd going into work. Plenty of hand sanitiser but there is this very “weird normality” about the whole thing. It’s a relief to have no internet connectivity issues, though.

1pm: Very busy at work, but that uneasiness is still in the back of my mind. Everyone has been maintaining social distancing and so on, but it’s still just taking me a bit out of my comfort zone. Which is just odd as I’ve worked there for 18 years and know the place like the back of my hand.

5.30pm: Back home after my first commute in months. We get a takeaway for dinner. Then a bit of time with the kids before bed.

11pm: Bedtime. We’re taking bets on how long before we’re up with the toddler!

Saturday

7.15am: A lie-in! As it’s the weekend, our older son gets to watch some TV in the morning, so we get up too and make a pot of tea. I love just sitting and chatting over a cup of tea.

9am: Football training for the eldest. My wife brings both kids while I head to Dunnes. At this point, grocery shopping by myself is my “me time”.

1pm: Weather is lovely so we’re able to spend time in the garden, picking apples from our trees. We all have great fun playing round the garden and eat lunch outside.

7pm: We have a movie evening all together with some popcorn. Disney+ is great for that!

10pm: Bedtime for everyone after a really relaxing day. Toddler was up again with the teething, but that’s just standard now.

What I learned this week…

  • Keeping this diary has made it glaringly obvious to me that I need to be more organised. I do have time in the day but I need to be more sensible with how I spend that time, to keep stress levels down. I should be planning in a walk at lunch time, or setting out 15-20 minutes to do jobs around the house or in the garden. Right now we’re very adhoc with how we fit in those things.
  • I loved the small moments we made time for, like reading or making cookies with our son, or watching a film as a family. Those were all minutes well spent and were really bright moments in the day.

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