As a lot of us know, Friday's are saved for questions from parents and today I have a chosen a difficult one. A mom I'll call "Barb" asks, "How can I not feel guilty as a mom because I can't do it all?" Barb is married, works full time, and has 3 children. She feels she never has the time to accomplish all the things she wants to do in her professional and personal life.
Barb's story and general question is all too familiar for a lot of us- not just moms. Some of us struggle to put in the time needed at work with the time wanted at home. Keeping the house clean, maintaining a social life, and spending quality time with our children/spouse is hard. Oh, I almost forgot that some of us would like to do more volunteer work in our places of worship or communities. The burden can feel very heavy at times.
The first thing I want Barb to know is "doing it all" is a myth. Seriously, how many people does anyone know who can really "do it all?" I can't think of one. While I'll admit some of us do a better job than others, no one is perfect.
Placing pressure on yourself to do it all is an exercise in futility. I do believe though placing a little pressure on yourself is a good thing so let's redirect that pressure into something a bit more manageable.
For example, let's say you don't think you are spending enough time with the kids. I would challenge you to know exactly how much time you DO spend with your kids. If you would like more time, here are some ideas.
1. Pull your kid out of school during your lunch break. If this idea doesn't appeal to you, how about eating lunch at their school? Clear it with teachers if you pull your kid out of school so you can figure out the best time to do it (as not to interfere with quizzes- tests).
2 Another idea is to schedule kids similar to meetings at work. Many of us have a calender which is typically full. Block out time purposely to know what you are going to do with your kids and how long it's going to take. Unless there's an unavoidable crisis at work, don't reschedule your kids. Take this as seriously as you do any other meeting or you may not be as likely to follow through.
3. Keep your kids involved in activities with you at home. Instead of you making dinner for the family- let the family work together to make the dinner. This creates more family time and saves you from having to do it all.
I could go over countless problems overworked and overstressed moms and dads have like Barb; but here's another piece of advice that may help. On a piece of paper, prioritize what is important to you right now, what can wait, and what you can delegate.
For example, my wife and I are having a New Years Eve party. The problem is I am raising and educating my kids, marketing a book, and writing this blog. I don't have time to do (above and beyond) cleaning. Regardless, I wrote a small list this morning of simple things I could do while the kids were occupied.
At 12:00, I decided to bake the boys a pizza for lunch. The plan was to clean some things while it was baking and while they were eating. Sound easy enough?
Well, it was easy until I glanced over and saw my oven on fire! Although I didn't write it down, I knew the priority was to drop the cleaning supplies and put the fire out. I am thankful I caught the problem in time. My house is fine and no one was hurt. Thinking about this story, here is my question. What fires are going on in your life that have to be extinguished? It's simply called prioritizing. When you stretch yourself too thin, you'll feel like you've accomplished little and the fires will still roar on.
Here's a final thought to illustrate the point. There were only two things I really focused on as an elementary school teacher in the public schools- reading and math. If everything else in the day didn't go well, I could accept that. I didn't have the same attitude about weekly faculty meetings, didn't care about the state (of Kentucky) and what they do to teachers in bottom tier schools with low test scores, and didn't care about what other teachers gossiped.
When children can read and perform math problems, they can do almost anything academically. But if kids can't do those two things, they won't make it in the classroom or in life. Low reading and math skills were the fires I tried to put out every day.
To Barb and all of my guilt filled moms and dads: please lighten up a bit, prioritize what's important, and have a fantastic 2011. Now, if you don't mind, I have some cleaning that needs to be done.