I am one of those people who tries to carry all the grocery bags in one trip, who wants to ride every ride at the theme park, and who can’t sit still and relax when on vacation.
I thought everyone was this way, until I met my husband. He likes to do a few things thoroughly, rather than a million things half way. If you are more like my husband, then this post is not for you, maybe he can guest post about something on the opposite end of the spectrum. But if you have caught your self tipping over from the weight of a gallon of milk, then read on.
The world is full of wonderful ideas, and adventures, and the internet oozes with suggestions for ways to live life. I see these great and beneficial ideas and immediately think, hey I could do that too. Because as my mom taught me, I am a woman and I can do anything. My mom was right, I can do anything, but what I am learning in every season of my life is that I can not do everything. Despite my best intentions, I am limited, and I continue to get stuck in a pattern of stuffing more and more things into each day, causing my 24 hour days to bulge at the seams.
We live in a generation that instead of feeling like we can do anything, we feel we have to be good at everything, and of course, accomplish it all, with effortless perfection. I scroll through social media and despite the post-ers best intentions, I read that I need to travel more, work harder, spend more time with my daughter, spend less money, be more creative, make healthier meals, exercise more, pray more, watch more tv, watch less tv, be outside more, read more, develop crafty hobbies, and the list goes on and on. Not only do I need to do all of these things, but I need to do them effortlessly, with sunglasses, naturally perfect hair, and picture ready lighting. I want to be clear, my attitude, not the social media platforms, is creating this tsunami of messages. Each person’s life, passions, and sacrifices look different, I need to adjust my expectations and realize that I truly can not do it all.
I am relatively conscious of my tendency to overload, but every few months there will be a night where I am crying on the floor to my husband, telling him I am overwhelmed and can’t do it all. He plainly sees and names the problem, by encouraging me to let something go. But isn’t that the crazy part, I get so intrenched in what I am doing that I feel all of it is necessary. I am the only person putting this pressure on myself. There is a difference between going to bed tired because you have given of yourself that day, and going to bed overwhelmed because you feel you can’t get everything done.
I do not need another system or a plan, but rather a thinking shift. Below are the tips I am trying out.
1. Something has to give
Much like creating a family budget, when you choose where your money or time is going, it doesn’t sneak away from you. Adding more to the budget and exponentially dividing our limited funds, will leave us overwhelmed and in time-debt.
It doesn’t matter how many kids you have, how old your children are, or if you even have one at all, the pressure is real. I am realizing more and more, that motherhood is a marathon, not a sprint. I take that back, motherhood is like a race with no finish line. We need to pace and take care of ourselves for the long haul.
Maybe you are like me, you took a course, read a book, and talked with experienced moms and still feeling overwhelmed? No matter what tricks we learn, we are going to come up against limitations. So what then?
2. Pick 2 and 2
It is time to prioritize, and stop expecting ourselves to do everything every day. I am a firm believer that parenthood does not mean my life is over, there is time in our week to reach towards our goals and passions, we just need to juggle fewer balls. We need to decide what is the lowest priority and what is highest, and be okay with letting some tasks go.
The priority level of a task or relationship may change day-to-day, so I’ve started picking 2 things I want to do every day and another 2 that I want to focus on for this particular day. The number of items we focus on is not important, it will depend on what tasks each of us are choosing and the level of multitasking we can handle. The goal here is to choose fewer things to focus on each day.
Hopefully focusing on a fewer things will help us do them with passion and excellence, and diminish the number of days we crawl into bed crying. Below is a list of things I wish I could do every day, that instead I am attempting to prioritize.
- Make healthy meals
- Tend to garden
- Spend time investing in the kiddo
- Outside the home job
- Decorate and/or clean the house
- Develop productive hobbies
- Plan or host for a celebration
- Manage family finances
- Work towards fitness goals
- Spend time in prayer
- Write on the blog
- Invest in spouse
- Prepare creative activities for child
- Spend time reading
- Developing liturgical year traditions
3. It is okay
Making choices about what needs to get done in a given day, is okay. Letting go is okay. (I need to repeat this to myself everyday). Yes, it means you and/or your family may miss out on something wonderful and valuable, but your family will make it. More than any fabulous birthday party, or perfect meal, your family needs a healthy mama. With the best of intentions, we need to let go of mom guilt, and trust that this is what is best for you and your family. I need to work on not apologizing for the decisions I am making in my life, and give others permission to do the same.
In practicing the art of prioritizing, I have found that I am able to enjoy my day more. For example when deciding to make a pizza with my daughter today, I was not thinking about my job, the dirty dishes, or how I want to reorganize my bathroom, I was able to give myself totally to the one messy and joyful task. I have been surprised by how much weight has been lifted, in the simple acknowledgement that I can be a great mom, without getting everything done.
In our family I take on a lot of responsibility because I have some control tendencies. By allowing someone else to help you with, grocery shopping, paying bills, or picking up the mail, you are allowing them to serve you while making room for other priorities. Almost every successful person will tell you that outsourcing and delegation is the only way to increase your reach as an institution or individual. So, join me in swallowing your pride to allow or invite a helping hand.
5. Pray about it
Ask God to help you use your time well. Ask for the guidance of the Holy Spirit in the moments where you have to choose between two good opportunities. You may not receive a clear answer, but you can move forward in confidence, knowing you are seeking to be most pleasing, which in fact is pleasing.
Here are a couple of examples of ways I will be putting these tips into action.
- I haven’t got my hair cut in over a year, so within the next two weeks I am leaving the kiddo with my husband and taking myself to get a cut…and that’s ok.
- If I close my laptop and forgo writing this post, I could bake homemade cupcakes for my daughter’s birthday celebration at school. But I am feeling passionate and energized by my writing, so store-bought cupcakes will have to do (I did put them on a doily though).
- The toys are scattered across the floor and dinner dishes didn’t make it into the dishwasher, but tonight I’m opting not to clean so I can lay on the living room floor with my daughter and husband as they wrestle and make the mess a priority tomorrow.
- If I stay at my desk all day, and work an extra hour I may be able to finish my to do list, but today I’m choosing to meet my husband for lunch because it is the only time available for a date…and I’m not going to feel bad about it.
Hopefully coming to terms with our own limitations, can help us extend grace when we see instances where others have done the same.
What peace there is in knowing that my purpose in life is to simply glorify God, and this can be done on the nights when we eat hotdogs, skip the bath, and leave dishes in the sink. Can I get an Amen to that?
“With great affection I urge all mothers to keep happy and let nothing rob you of the interior joy of motherhood. Your child deserves your happiness. Don’t let fears, worries, other people’s comments or problems lessen your joy at being God’s means of bringing a new life to the world.” -Pope Francis
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