Got Parental Burnout? JBYB’s Carmel Rodriguez on Striking “Perfectly Imperfect” BalanceNov 17, 2021
Trying to juggle work, family time, fitness goals, healthy eating, self-care, and social events can be overwhelming. So how does Carmel Rodriguez — Just Bring Your Body trainer, fitness influencer, model, entrepreneur, and mom of two — manage to strike the perfect balance?
She doesn’t! And here’s why: Endlessly chasing an unrealistic ideal of “perfect balance” just adds unnecessary stress to your life.
And anything that spikes your stress level — including the pressure to be perfect — is “not really the investment you want to make,” Carmel says.
Instead, she embraces being “unbalanced and perfectly imperfect.”
So what does that mean to her? “‘Perfectly imperfect’ means that on some days, you will have it down,” Carmel says. “You’ll get your workout in, you’ll have dinner on the table, you’ll hug your kids a thousand times, the house will be clean, and you’ll be able to relax for a second.”
“And the next day, it’ll all go out the window,” she adds. “And that’s something to be happy about — because it may not be perfect, but that’s what life is about.”
Here are her tips for finding your own “perfectly imperfect” sweet spot.
1. Let Go of Perfection
“I’ve tried to be perfect in all aspects — and I failed every single time, because there’s no such thing,” Carmel says.
Her advice: Let go of the self-imposed pressure to do all the things. “You want to keep going and going, and that’s okay — you need to have that drive,” she says. “But at the same time, you need to understand that we are human beings and we cannot keep going like that.”
“We’re fighters by nature, but we need to just sit back and accept — that pile of laundry ain’t going nowhere for the next day or two, and we’re going to do takeout tonight,” Carmel adds. “The mythical ‘balance’ is that sometimes you have to let go of the things we think we have to hold on to so tightly.”
2. Embrace Where You Are Right Now
When life is hectic, it’s normal to want to regain a sense of calm ASAP — or at least maintain the appearance that you’re handling everything with ease.
“Us moms, we want to look like we have it all together when we head outside that door,” Carmel says. But you may feel less stressed if you stop trying to fight the hectic pace of your life and simply accept that your current reality is not entirely together.
“When I’m overwhelmed, everything is on top of me, my stress levels are high, I’m on the verge of a panic attack, and I just can’t cope — I will sit back, and I will breathe, and I will accept my situation,” Carmel says.
“If we find the acceptance in it, a lot of weight will be lifted off our shoulders,” she adds.
3. Wake Up a Few Minutes Earlier
If you have a hard time carving out time for yourself, try setting your alarm a bit earlier.
“My best and most proven time management strategy is to wake up early,” Carmel says. “Get up as early as you can, and have a little bit of time in the morning for yourself.”
You can use that time to do a breathing exercise, catch up on household tasks, or get your workout done and dusted before the rest of the house wakes up. “When that’s done, it’s finished, and the rest of my day can carry on,” Carmel says.
4. Look for One-Minute Tasks
It can be hard to get motivated to tackle time-consuming tasks when you know you’re not going to have time to complete them. And that means those tasks just keep piling up.
So instead of taking an all-or-nothing approach, Carmel tackles her to-do list one minute at a time — literally. “If you see something around you that you could do in under a minute, get it done,” she says.
“Just do it right away. Get it out of your hair. Even if there’s a counter full of dishes and you can get four or five done, get four or five done, and then you can walk away. And you have little accomplishments throughout the day.”
5. Stay Active Together
There may be days when you really can’t carve out 30 minutes for a full workout. But you can still get movement into your day by making your family time active.
When Carmel’s kids were younger, she says, she would build obstacle courses in the yard using their toys. Or she would push both kids in the stroller, using the hill near her son’s preschool for an extra challenge.
Now that their kids are older and both involved in competitive sports, Carmel and her husband turn practices and games into active family time.
“My husband and I try to attend every single game with the kids,” she says. In between games, they find ways to train together — like running soccer drills with their daughter. “My husband would coach us, and we’d do the drills together and partner up,” she says.
6. Nix the “Parent Guilt”
It’s normal to feel like you should devote every spare minute to family bonding time. But taking time out of your day to do a workout or cook a healthy meal benefits the whole family.
“If I’m not functioning very well — my anxiety’s high, I’m overwhelmed, I’m overworked, unsatisfied, unhappy, angry — my entire family is going to feel that,” Carmel says.
Working out gives her a chance to recharge and relieve stress. “That’s my investment in my family — taking care of myself for them,” she says. “And not only that…I paint a picture for my kids. They’re going to see that they need to make time for themselves.”
7. Minimize Obstacles
“On a logistics level, you have to have your stuff carved out,” Carmel says. “You have to eliminate those excuses because you’re going to have a lot of them. And you’re often tired and overwhelmed and overrun.”
One of her favorite hacks: Lay your workout clothes and sneakers next to your bed to make morning workouts distraction-proof.
“I would pick that up, and my water bottle, and I would leave the house,” Carmel says. “It would already be planned before I’d have a chance to turn left or right to do anything else. It was so systematic, because I knew there was so much else I could get distracted by.”
8. Find a Big-Picture Motivation
After her second child was born, Carmel had a recurring nightmare that her kids were in danger and she wasn’t able to save both. That inspired her to get strong enough to switch into superhero mode if needed.
And more recently, Carmel is motivated to stay strong so she can care for her mother, who’s been dealing with health issues. “These are things I train for now — to be so strong so that I don’t have any issues being able to lift her up and carry her and hold her if I need to.”
Of course, if you’re motivated by wanting to change the way you look, that’s not a bad thing. “I love looking good in a pair of jeans, I love having chiseled arms and abs, and I’m all for that, trust me,” Carmel says. “Some days, that’s my motivation.”
“If you have a real intention and overall picture…it’ll always be there,” she says. “And it’ll get you through those moments where you’re like, ‘I don’t care what I look like today — but I care about being able to be there for my mom tomorrow.’ And that’ll be the real drive.”
9. Master the Mini-Workout
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If you only have a few minutes to work out, Carmel suggests picking three or four exercises you already know and love, and putting them on repeat until you run out of time.
“Keep them as full-body as possible, and execute them back-to-back,” she says. “No matter who you are, you will get an amazing workout.”
One of her favorite moves: the mini-cartwheels you’ll see in Just Bring Your Body.
“It’s playful, it’s fun, and you’re doing a move that is challenging, but it’s doable once you get the movements down,” she says. “You build your upper body strength, you get cardio out of it, and when you start to nail it, you look badass — which is all-around awesome.”
10. Take a Holistic Approach
Overtraining or obsessing over every calorie can cause serious stress. So when it comes to helping her kids build healthy habits, Carmel takes a more holistic approach.
For example, instead of creating strict rules about what they should or shouldn’t eat, she focuses on building mindful eating habits.
“We’re eating casually, we’re sitting down, we’re taking the time to eat, and we’re not overeating,” she says. “We’re enjoying it, and we have the energy now — with the food we’ve eaten — to go and do what we want to do throughout the day.”
11. Cut Yourself Some Slack
“Schedule in movement [at least] three days a week. It’s as important as your morning coffee or smoothie,” Carmel says. “But give it time to make it a lifestyle and routine. Trying to achieve your fitness goals overnight, while trying to juggle dependents and life, will only overwhelm you and cause unneeded stress — and failure of execution.”
“Be committed, but do it with love and intention as an investment in yourself and your family,” she adds. “This is the mindset that someone would need to make it stick.”