Sunrise during one of my early-morning runs

Like most moms who work outside the home, my days tend to be very full, very busy, and fraught with the kind of anxiety that comes with wondering just how I will get everything done before I collapse into bed at night.

A while ago, when I was trying to figure out just why I never seem to have enough time for everything, I wrote down a timeline of my typical day.

It goes something like this:

6:00    Wake up; stumble semi-conscious to the coffee-machine which is programmed to have my coffee ready for me.
6:05    Check emails, see if anything exciting is happening on Facebook, wash up and put on makeup so I can pretend to be pretty.
6:30    Wake up my younger son, get him washed up and dressed, get myself dressed, pour coffee into my travel mug.
7:00    Take my son to his before-school program, then commute to the city centre by bus and subway.
8:30    Arrive at work.
5:00    Leave work.
6:30    Arrive home.
6:35    Make sure everyone’s fed, get lunches prepped for the following day, lay out clothes for kids.
8:00    Create situations designed to encourage my son with autism to converse. Celebrate every word he says.
8:30    Kids go to bed. Hopefully they stay there.
8:35    Clear and reload dishwasher, work on admin for the husband’s business, pay any bills that need to be paid.
10:15   See if my older son is completely asleep. If he is, conduct a stealth haircut session.
10:30  Have a cup of tea while I’m emailing my mom and hanging out on Facebook.
11:00  Go to bed.

That’s on the days I don’t run. And this can be a problem. Running is so much a part of who I am. It is vital for my sanity – without running, my mental and physical health start to get patchy.

But with my day already so full, how do I carve out time to go out and pound the pavement? Where do the hours come from?

With a little bit of time and practice, I have worked out a system that involves planning, sacrificing a little sleep, and sneaking around in the dark. If I follow these steps to the letter, most of the time I will be able to get my run in.

Step 1: Lay out running clothes the night before. The trick is to do this after the kids have gone to bed. If they see me laying out my running clothes, they will be clued in to the fact that I want to go somewhere without them, and they will plot ingeniously to sabotage my intent.

Step 2: Wake up with a jolt at three in the morning and realize that there’s no power left in my training watch. Ponder the fact that running without my training watch is like running naked, and after a brief moment of horror, get out of bed and plug in the charger. Go back to bed, safe in the knowledge that my watch will be juiced up by the time I need it.

Step 3: At 3:45 a.m., repeat Step 2 with my iPod.

Step 4: Wake up at 4:15 and check the time. Worry about whether my alarm will wake the kids when it goes off at 5:00, and resolve to be awake before then. Sleep fitfully, waking up every seven minutes. Sneak out of bed at 4:57 and turn the alarm off.

Step 5: Quietly, quietly, get dressed in my running clothes. Make sure the kids don’t wake up. If they wake up before I can leave, I can say goodbye to my run for the day. Sneak around like a burglar in my own home, gathering training watch, water bottle, and during the winter, hat and gloves.

Step 6: Tiptoe to the front door, put on my running shoes as fast as I can, and leave. Restrain myself from cursing out loud when the front door squeaks.

Step 7: Go running, relish the sense of freedom and accomplishment, and let the endorphin rush give me a lovely buzz. It’s OK for me to briefly hope that the kids haven’t woken up, tied the husband to a pole, and lit a bonfire in the living room. However, I shouldn’t dwell on it.

Step 8: Get home, make sure the silence in the house is because everyone’s still sleeping peacefully and not because the kids are quietly plotting world domination. Breathe a sigh of relief and go on with the day.

When I have to pick running over sleeping, I really do feel like I’m running on fumes – at least for the first ten minutes or so. But then the endorphins start to flow and I get a glorious rush of energy that carries me through the day. And ultimately, it all makes me a more productive person and a mom who’s less stressed and more fun to be around.

How do you carve out time in your busy day to do something for yourself? How important is the role of “me-time” in your life?

This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Kirsten Doyle of Toronto, Canada.  Kirsten can also be found on her blog, Running for Autism, or on Twitter @Running4autism. You can also connect with her on Facebook.

Photo credit to the author.

Kirsten Doyle (Canada)

Kirsten Doyle was born in South Africa. After completing university, she drifted for a while and finally washed up in Canada in 2000. She is Mom to two boys who have reached the stage of eating everything in sight (but still remaining skinny). Kirsten was a computer programmer for a while before migrating into I.T. project management. Eventually she tossed in the corporate life entirely in order to be a self-employed writer and editor. She is now living her best life writing about mental health and addictions, and posting videos to two YouTube channels. When Kirsten is not wrestling with her kids or writing up a storm, she can be seen on Toronto's streets putting many miles onto her running shoes. Every year, she runs a half-marathon to benefit children with autism, inspired by her older son who lives life on the autism spectrum. Final piece of information: Kirsten is lucky enough to be married to the funniest guy in the world. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Be sure to check out her YouTube channels at My Gen X Life and Word Salad With Coffee!

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