I was intrigued by the recent New York Times article that reported, in simplistic terms, that millennials are more supportive of “traditional” familial roles than in years past. After reading the article in full (and getting past its misleading headline!), the concept made a lot of sense to me. As a full-time working mama to two young kids and a third on the way, I can definitely appreciate the appeal to focusing my responsibilities on a few areas and doing those things well. And, while I’m grateful for and proud of the work I do, sometimes I can’t help but find myself daydreaming of a less stressful, more enjoyable way to live. But is a stay-at-home partner the dream I see?
That’s when I realized a key issue the article (and studies) missed entirely: even if you and your partner prefer to divide roles over sharing them, that doesn’t mean your life is any easier. On the contrary, the “slog” seems to be a common experience for many parents; it can be easy to lose sight of having fun in your quest to get through the day, no matter what your day consists of.
That’s when my rabbit-hole of a brain led me to the question: how does one find joy? Here are some simple strategies that can help you bring a little more life to your day without overhauling your routine:
Mix it up: Sometimes a simple change can be rejuvenating. A few weeks ago, I worked from a coffee shop for a few hours instead of the office, and those few hours had such a positive impact on my outlook that I’m now reserving remote-work time on my calendar a few times a month. Can you work remotely or even at a new space within your current work environment for a day (or even a few hours in your day)? What if you swapped childcare duties with a partner or friend once a week, or found someone to handle carpool?
Reflect: Think about what you wish you could do more of or what you miss doing. What did you love doing as a kid? Now, how can you integrate more of that activity into your day? Is it something you can request more accountability for with your job or at home, or can you set aside extra time for it (even 20 minutes can feel restorative)? I started bullet journaling to meet my need to be creative, and it’s had the added bonus of helping me stay better organized, too.
Practice: It’s also possible to lose passion for activities you once loved doing. One way to reinvigorate that passion is to practice. Can you set a new goal and train toward that? Or, better yet, can you practice your passion with someone else? I recently trained a new colleague, and I was surprised to find that teaching him renewed my interest in my job.
Explore: Learning something new is a great way to find joy, especially if it’s something you can incorporate in your daily life. There are tons of class-based opportunities in Madison, ranging from private companies (crafts! cooking! music!) to community-based organizations. The internet can also be a beautiful thing when it comes to exploring your interests, as there are no shortage of how-to videos and blogs. I taught myself to knit by watching online demos! And, don’t forget, some colleges and universities (like MIT) offer free classes online.
Surround yourself: The uplifting game gets much easier when you’re in the right environment. Try – or take advantage of – your mentors and networking groups, set up your home and work spaces in a way that makes you feel happy and refreshed, and steer your social-media activity toward accounts that are positive and related to your goals. Madison is also flush with community- and humanitarian-based activities and organizations where you can find like-minded people and contribute to causes that are particularly meaningful to you.
Lastly, ask for help. With any task or goal – whether that’s simply getting through the day or exercising any of the ideas here – can require time or support you may not currently have. Your loved ones want to support you, so just ask!
Now it’s time to share the joy! I’d love to hear how you find and incorporate joy in your daily routine, or how any of these strategies have worked for you.
After spending most of her life insisting she didn’t like babies, Gretchen became a doting mama to two little ones, ages 5 and 3, and is anxious to meet their third sometime this August. She and her beloved partner of 12 years enjoy taking the kids to the many parks and splash pads in the area, building with Legos, taking short road trips, and being goofy together. Gretchen currently serves as in-house counsel for a local molecular diagnostics company after working several years in Big Law (preceded by a brief career as a high school English teacher). She loves writing, reading, practicing yoga, knitting, watching movies, and eating all the desserts.