One of my Facebook friends recently posted this question:
What would you do with an extra hour in the day?
Although the idea is nothing new, I was shocked that nearly every single reply was a chore or something on the to-do list. Not one of these self-sacrificing moms would do something for themselves in that hour! What?!
(Luckily, my Facebook fans were a little bit more balanced!)
When did this become the norm?
When did we start pretending this was healthy — for ourselves, or as an example for our children?
Is it that if we convince ourselves (and others) that we are non-stop busy, we can’t be blamed for what we’re not doing?
Or, have we genuinely spread ourselves so thin that we are giving our children an unhealthy view of parenthood, and unhealthy expectations of us?
I’m no stranger to the busy competition — the perpetuating belief that you’re only as important as you are busy — but this is a new level.
And, to a degree, I totally get it. I get being so completely overwhelmed with all that there is to do as a parent. I was completely knocked off of my feet when I had Miss G. My pregnancy was horrible, and then discovering the reality of newborn exhaustion as a single parent still in full-time (online) courses started my motherhood journey off on a two-steps behind pace.
I was then knocked off my feet again when Miss G was 16 months old and I was back to work for a few months: I became incredibly ill and after months of losing weight (over 100lbs in total) and several hospital visits, I was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. (While still in full-time school.)
Since then, I’ve always felt two steps behind, even after we’ve completely changed our lives to run Child’s Garden Montessori. Truly, if you were to give me a weekend to myself, I’d spend the majority of that cleaning and doing homework.
But I’d still take a break.
I’ve learned the hard way what being on 24/7 does to a person. I know that I can’t be one giant productive machine without having a human breakdown. For me, that breakdown was with my body, but for many others, it could be mental, emotional, or financial (over-spending as an stress release).
I can’t do it all, all of the time. I’ve figured out what I can compromise on, and also, as much as it pains me — I will now pay or trade with someone to do things that I am completely capable of doing myself. (I trade one of my daycare families a free day of care in exchange for a deep clean of my house that would eat into my free time.)
I work hard so I can have a good life. I can’t live that good life if I never stop working.
And, I totally get it if you feel trapped. You wake up every morning and your to-do list just gets longer. But, be honest, what’s essential and what can you give up without major implications? What items are on the to-do list because you’re being a bit of a perfectionist?
Likely, it might even be something that hasn’t made it’s way onto the list! Maybe there’s a habit that you have that is eating into time that you can use to otherwise relax or be productive?
For me, I find social media overwhelming. I feel like a bad friend when I don’t keep up with my Twitter or Facebook feeds, and I often get upwards of 100 notifications in a day from the professional groups that I am a member of. But really, that’s not essential, and spending even half an hour (ahem, more like an hour…) catching up there when I could get all of the day’s cleaning done, well, it just sets me behind.
Now, I only do social media in timed 15 minute spurts after I have completed a daily task. I enjoy my social media time so much more now, and I’m a lot more efficient with it.
Okay, perhaps worse. I have this habit of constantly re-arranging my kitchen. Even if my system is workable and okay, I am constantly emptying out my cupboards to rearrange them. It makes me feel better to have a slightly better system each time, but it causes me to neglect other tasks and puts the kitchen completely out of commission each time (which is just a little bit stressful when you have six children to feed).
I’ve majorly purged the majority of my kitchen, and now I’m doing a better job of trying to keep my systems maintained and not allow things to become unworkable. (Though I am currently fighting a strong urge to reorganize the baking cupboard now that Christmas baking season is upon me!)
This is the perfectionist in me self-sabotaging. And if that wasn’t bad enough, she’s taking time away from connecting with myself and my family.
It’s starting to become more apparent to be that the “secret” to achieving balance, is realizing what you don’t have to do.
There’s a difference between trying to improve ourselves, and putting undue pressure on ourselves. While I have goals that I want to achieve everyday to make myself a better mom, a better student, a better blogger, a better teacher, a better friend, and so on, I try to center myself first in what needs to get done and then feel good about everything extra that I get done in a day — and keep the time spent on those goals in check.
I’m still struggling. I still get wild ideas of things I want to do with the kids, or the house, or the blog, and they preoccupy my mind and seem so much more important than they really are… so, I keep having to put myself back in balance. I have to consciously choose to feel good about yesterday’s accomplishments, even if yesterday’s dirty floor is sticking to my feet.
So, now, I’m curious: what would you do with an extra hour in the day?