This is the ninth entry in “I Don’t Know How She Does It,” a series of guest posts about the working mom/stay-at-home dilemma. It’s written by Britt Reints from a wonderful blog called In Pursuit of Happiness. Britt is also a freelance writer who writes about traveling around the country with her family in an RV. I met Britt last summer at BlogHer and it was one of those IRL connections that I cherish.
When Holly first emailed me and asked if I wanted to participate in this series, my first thought was that I was woefully unqualified to discuss being a woman who does it all. I almost always feel like I need to be – should be capable of – doing more. But I suppose that’s the big secret, isn’t it? Even the most productive among us imagines that there is even more we could be doing.
While I might not be doing everything, I am consistently doing enough.
More than that, I am doing the things that mean the most to me. That, I think, is the key to a life that feels happy and successful to the one to whom it belongs.
My sister-in-law, a 25-year old mother of three who is pregnant with her fourth and working a fulltime job in healthcare, recently asked her Facebook friends how she could do it all. She expressed a frustration that I find so common among women: a lack of balance and a fear that important people and obligations in her life are getting short -changed.
My suggestion was to lower her standards and stick with the basics.
She didn’t respond, but I imagine she hated that advice. I know I would have hated that advice when I was at a similar place in my own life. Being told to lower my standards would have been tantamount to being told to give up, to settle for less than what I and my family deserved, to admit that I wasn’t as capable of doing it all as those other women I saw who were handling so much so smoothly.
Giving up was probably the best thing I ever did for myself and my family.
I gave up trying to be super mom and focused on being a good mom. I decided that my kids didn’t care near as much about home-baked school treats and well-organized craft time as they did love, time, and attention. They’re wants and needs are pretty minimal and amount, in a nutshell, to a mother who is kind more often than stressed and affectionate more often than perfect.
So, too, did I give up on the dream of being the ideal wife. I have chosen, instead, to focus on loving my husband in the small ways he prefers and to trust that he will take care of keeping himself happy. His happiness is his responsibility; effectively loving him is mine. My husbands standards for love are even lower than my children’s; the challenge is that we speak different “love languages” and so I have to constantly remind myself to love him in his own language of touch and time, instead of the one I prefer of words and service.
In my mind, I’ve chosen to add on very little to the priority list after my family and friends. I have my work, which is also my passion; my health, which is a necessity more than a pleasure; and my obsession with personal happiness, which is really at the core of every other priority.
That’s really not much. It’s not all that I do – occasionally I find myself with extra time for incidental items – but it’s all that I need to focus on in order to feel like I’m doing enough.