Updated: Dec 20, 2018
Hi! My name is Jacque, and I have been asked by the fabulously fabulous Jess to do a guest post here at Hoodlum Stew today. So, first a little bit about me. I’m a jam-making, pie-baking, sarcasm-spewing, trivia-loving, nerdy wife and stay-at-home mother of 3 awesome little dudes. And I’m like a non-stop pop culture reference, so if that’s not your bag, then sorry.
My college roommates and I try to get together once a year just to reconnect and catch up on each others’ lives. The conversation wanders, but since all of us are mothers, we inevitably slip into conversations about Mom Life. As we were talking this past spring, one of my friends made the comment, “I get up at 5 am, and I still can’t get it all done.” We all commiserated in the moment, but it got me thinking. Why do you have to get it all done? Let me rephrase that: Why do YOU have to get it all done?
This question was rattling around in my brain when Jess suggested this blog post, and I thought it would be a great topic. Why do we moms feel like we have to do it all? (*Please note, I know there are dads out there who are the primary care givers in their families, and I am addressing them here, too. However, it’s just easier and more succinct to say “moms”. Much love and admiration to all primary care givers out there. <Fist pound to the chest>) Back to the topic at hand. Why do we feel that WE are the ones who have to do it all? I feel like we are all driving ourselves crazy to be the perfect parent—whatever that may look like. Our mental image may come from tv, movies, social media, that perfect b*&@h next door, or somewhere else entirely. And, in our minds, being the perfect parent involves doing it all ourselves. Over the past decade (gah! Did I really say ‘decade’?!) of being a parent, I have come to realize something important: We’re all in this together, folks. We need to help each other in order to stay off the crazy train. So, forgive me if I get a little preachy, but I feel very strongly about reclaiming the sanity in our lives.
In my life before kids—ya know, back when I had free time and disposable income—I worked as a retail manager. It was a job; never something I considered my life’s ambition. But, little did I know that being in a managerial role was actually great training for being a part of a family. Not to mention, since I was in middle management, I had firsthand experience seeing how different people responded to different management styles and how they reacted to bad management (from others, not me of course <cough>). The same thing goes in a family. I’ve realized that if I view the things in my family life that need to get done from a manager’s perspective, it gives me a lot more clarity and a clear plan of attack. The easiest way to do this is to evaluate skill sets of each member of my family and delegate tasks accordingly. When faced with a task, I ask myself, “Is this something only I can do, or can someone else do it?” Then—and here’s the key—I allow someone else to do the things that fall into their skill set. This is the hardest part. This is also where the “Don’t be a bad manager” bit falls in. I give someone a task and then let them do it--their way (within reason when dealing with kiddos).
Don’t get me wrong, in my brain, I’m quoting Lord Business from the Lego Movie: “All I’m asking for is total perfection.”
However, if I want some sanity in my life and not have to spend every waking hour and then some doing Every.Single.Thing. for my family, then I’ve got to look to my friend Elsa and let it go.
*Sorry if you now have that song stuck in your head.* Anyhoo, here’s what this looks like in my life: Does my husband change the dishwater as often as I would like him to? No. Is it worth nagging him so much that he stops doing the dishes? No. Does my 6-year-old clean the bathroom countertop as well as I do? No. Does he do it well enough each week so that I only have to go in and deep clean once a month instead of once a week? Yes. No one—including the members of your family, whom you love the most—likes to be micromanaged. So, I don’t try not do it. The other important thing here is to give them some grace. The job may not be done perfectly, but it’s done, and I now have the time to do the tasks that only I can do—the aforementioned jam making, trivia answering, etc. Not to mention, there are some behind-the-scenes effects of this, too: my kids learn life skills, gain a good work ethic, and will be more likely to not live in my basement someday; my spouse grows in his confidence as a care giver; and on and on.
Now that I’ve got help and freed up some time and sanity, I try my best to not go and fill it up again! We as Americans have bought into this idea that a lack of busyness means there’s something missing in our lives. We want the best for our kids, so we sign them up for every activity they (or their friends) have ever shown an inkling of interest in, we spend countless hours of our days shuttling them to and from said activities, we volunteer for every PTA board and coach position there is, we work more hours to pay for these <not cheap> activities, and then wonder why we’re exhausted.
I’m gonna go all Debbie Downer here and burst our bubbles: Statistically speaking, our children are most likely not the next Tom Brady or LeBron James.
So, we need to accept the fact that it’s totally fine to pare down a family’s activities and even <gasp> tell our children “No” when they ask about activities that would overextend our families. When my boys are grown and looking back, I am guessing they’re not going to focus on the fact that I didn’t let them do karate and more on the fact that I spent time with them. Or maybe they’ll show me the latest move they learned in their adult karate class. Whatever.
The last thing I do to avoid the crazy train is remind myself of the old adage: If Mama Ain’t Happy; Ain’t Nobody Happy. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but it’s totally true. I know I’m not a great parent (or wife) when I’m stressed, and I doubt I’m alone in this. As moms, we know we’re supposed to take care of everyone, but a lot of times, we forget that we’re a part of everyone. We need to take care of our physical and mental health in order to be the best moms we can be. It isn’t selfish. Figure out what you need to do to keep yourself in your happy (and healthy) place and do it. We need to set clear boundaries and stick to them as our kids (and maybe even our spouses) will push back at first. But, stay strong, Mama. It’s how we get to be the best version of ourselves that we can be. They’ll see the benefits in the end.
One final thought: Remember the bit about giving grace to our family members? We need to give ourselves some, too. No one is perfect. If we showed outward signs of how we mentally beat ourselves up over not being the perfect mom, the world would look like Fight Club all the time. Don’t listen to that negative little voice in your head. She sucks. You don’t.
I hope my little TED Talk here has helped. If not, I’m sure people will choose the old “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” That’s how the internet works, right? Right?!?
So, Jacque out. <carefully sets the mic down, because mic drops cause crazy expensive damage to sensitive electronics>