7 Steps to Reclaim Your Weekends

After coaching many moms through pregnancy, maternity leave, and returning to work, I’ve heard the same thing over and over. Many moms feel more exhausted on Monday morning than they did the Friday before.

It has certainly happened to me. I run my business and have two small children, so sometimes I jump into the weekend without being intentional about how I’m spending my time.

Weekends should allow blank space for relaxation and rest, but they have turned into a frenzied whirlwind for many working moms and dads—though this is certainly not limited to parents by any means.

Here are seven steps to help you get more of what you want out of your weekends. If you follow these steps, I promise that your partner, friends, kids, and co-workers (not to mention you) will be thankful to get this newly recharged version of yourself come Monday morning.

  1. Change your mindset. Instead of focusing on how busy you are, switch gears and remind yourself that you can make time for what’s most important. Whether that’s time alone, working out, connecting with your partner or friends, or helping your child develop a new skill depends on you and what you want to prioritize. It will require saying no more often, as well as coordinating with your partner, but it’s so worth it. Don’t give up and think this is an un-winnable battle. You deserve time for you. And if you feel guilty about spending time on yourself, don’t. According to Brigid Schulte, author of Overwhelmed: How to Work, Love, and Play When No One Has the Time, working mothers today spend more time with their children than stay-at-home mothers did in the 1960s and ‘70s because they’ve given up personal leisure time and time with adults.
  2. Say no. When we’re stuck in the busy trap, our default mode starts to kick in, and we end up only doing the things we’ve unconsciously prioritized. It can be helpful to review your upcoming weekend plans, and say to yourself “I am prioritizing XYZ, and that’s why I’m doing or attending XYZ.” This exercise is a great way to get rid of the “shoulds” from your schedule to free up time for what you really want to do. Remember, you don’t have to sign your kid up for soccer, gymnastics, and music class every weekend. And you also don’t have to attend every single birthday gathering your child is invited to. Once you start to realize that you can choose to make your weekends amazing, it’s up to you to say no to what’s not working for you, and to make time for what you want.
  3. Schedule it. Although I religiously do an in-depth weekly planning ritual for my business, I used to neglect my weekends and leave them a free for all. This left my weekends packed. I’ve recently added a “recharge” step to this planning ritual to make sure I set myself up for an awesome weekend. At the moment, since we have two very young kids, this means having only one set family activity per day. If we have more than one activity, then both my husband and I have to agree that it’s worth it and we are ok forgoing “time off” for ourselves that day. Weekend planning doesn’t have to mean that you aren’t open to being spontaneous. It’s best to balance looking forward to the plans you’ve made, while also being flexible, and having some unscheduled blank space.
  4. Take a break from working. That’s right, actually unplug from your work. Sometimes it can be helpful to say to yourself on Friday evening, “I’m shutting down work mode, and I’m entering relaxation mode.” It sounds silly, but it really works!
  5. Invest in yourself. Make it a point every weekend to do something for you. Many of us, and especially moms, tend to take care of others, before taking care of ourselves. But as they say on airplanes, it’s important to put on your oxygen mask first. The more you take care of you, the better you’re able to take care of your loved ones. It can also be helpful to ask yourself, “What is one thing I can do to make my life easier this coming week?” and then implement that thing. Whether it’s making a meal plan for the upcoming week, ordering groceries online instead of trekking to the store, or hiring someone to help clean your home. Give yourself permission to make things easier and not feel the pressure to do everything yourself.
  6. Practice mindfulness. Once you’ve set up your weekend so there are fewer “shoulds” and more “musts,” allow yourself to be in the moment and savor whatever activity you’re doing. Being mindful can be as simple as noticing the colors around you, and the scents in the air. Meditation is a great way to cultivate mindfulness, as it helps to train your brain to pay attention to the present moment. If you’re new to meditation, a guided practice can be especially helpful.
  7. Don’t end the weekend before it’s really over. Sometimes it’s hard to enjoy the weekend when you’re anxiously anticipating the week ahead. Sunday blues can creep in. I’ve found that doing my 13 step weekly planning process on Thursday afternoons helps me set myself up for success in the week ahead. That way, I don’t have to worry on Sunday night because I’ve already reviewed and prioritized what needs to get done. When you do your weekly planning on Thursday instead of Friday, you have time to course correct and change any meetings or activities that are no longer a priority for you. You can grab my Weekly Planning Ritual here.

I encourage you to give these tips a try—and let me know how it goes! Hopefully you find them as helpful, empowering, and freeing as I have. And remember, the important part is to find what works for you and your family. After all, you can’t be your best self or give your best at work or home if you don’t make yourself a priority too.

Lisa Abramson is an executive coach, TEDx speaker and bestselling author of The Wise Mama Guide to Maternity Leave. She is the founder of Wise Mama and the co-founder of Mindfulness Based Achievement, which teaches high potential women leaders how to create sustainable success.