I’m guessing I’m not the only parent who, from time to time, finds him or herself in a certain situation and thinks, “Wow! This is not what I imagined my life would look like!”

The other day my oldest had a couple of friends over, and the five boys were out front playing basketball. One mentioned that he was hungry, and asked if we had peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We happened to be stocked up, and I offered to make the boys a snack.

Ten minutes later (five of which I spent wondering why no one has invented a no-mess system for mixing in the oil in a new jar of peanut butter) I had an out-of-body experience. I was walking towards the front door carrying a plastic plate piled with freshly-cut  pb & j sandwiches. They were arranged in a circular pattern, the pieces on the top decoratively balanced on the edges of the two sections underneath. I literally turned to my husband in that moment and said, “I never imagined this would be my life!”

It wasn’t a complaint. I was honestly shocked! How did I go from a women’s studies major at a hippie school to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich artist and delivery woman!

I won’t answer that question here. The journey was long. But the take-home message is that I’ve made a success of my roles of wife and mom through a commitment to keeping all my identities alive, and a habit of adapting them to my current situation.

As I move through life as a mom, I regularly take stock of how everyone is doing, and my sense of happiness is a great barometer for how the rest of the gang is faring. My conclusion? Keep myself in good shape! Here’s how I do it.

The strategy is simple. Pull out your journal, grab a piece of scratch paper, or open a google doc. Whatever. Write this at the top of the page: When do I feel fabulous? Alive? Hopeful? Full of energy? Set a timer for 10 minutes (or don’t set a timer) and write.

The next day (unless you’re amazingly lucky and able to find a 20-minute chunk of uninterrupted time) do the same thing, but this time write this at the top of the page: How can I bring X back into my current life?

The implementation is more challenging, but totally doable. I encourage you to think creatively, and to think small.

Here’s an example: One thing that makes me feel absolutely over the moon is going on long bike rides. I like to ride fast, so that the wind in my eyes creates happy tears down my cheeks. Oh, and ideally, I’d like to be next to a large body of water or a huge open field. Enter the reality of my current life, in which I run a business, blog, parent three boys at three different schools, have a committed marriage, handle all our finances…. The list, as you can image, goes on and on.

But here’s what I’ve figured out. Since my boys attend the local school (in this small, safe city I wouldn’t live in if I didn’t have them), we can ride our bikes as transportation. The boys don’t yet ride super fast, but they ride. And twice a day, on the way back from dropping them off, and on the way to pick them up, I get to ride super fast, wind in my face, tears falling on cheeks. No, there’s no ocean or uninhabited grassy field – just rows of cute little houses. But I’m on my bike, I’m riding fast, and I feel like life is good and anything’s possible!

If I were 20 and single would I live in a small, safe city (read suburb) without a cooperative bakery? No. I’d live in my home town with all it’s culture and diversity and yummy restaurants and crime. And I’d love it! But the decision to live where I do makes good sense for a 43-year-old wife and mother of three active, independent boys.

So many of the decisions I make consider the well-being of others. I know that’s true for many of us. And I think that’s how it should be. But these decisions should never come at the expense of nurturing ourselves with things that make us feel fabulous.

What could you bring back into your life that might just put a skip back into your step? Please comment below. Together we can make things better!