I recently posted a thought to Facebook:
This sentiment seemed to strike a chord; responses of solidarity began streaming in immediately from both mothers and fathers alike. And though it was helpful to find out others knew this feeling, I started to realize the longing I was trying to communicate might be even more universal.
Yes, it’s tough being away from my child for most of the day, even though I love my job and am truly happy with this balance. And yes, it’s frustrating to throw my ambitious plans for enriching, adventurous activities out the window because it turns out I’m too tired to do much more than sit on the floor in a daze while my child strews toys all over the house.
But what I was really trying to get at is a bit deeper. It’s not even specific to being a parent. I was trying to describe the feeling of juggling a few too many plates, ALL THE TIME. The nagging sensation that I can only have my crap together in a few areas of life at one time, leaving everything else that matters to me in a heaping pile of anxiety in the back of my mind. If I’m doing well at work, rocking my exercise plan, and getting lots of sleep, I feel like I’m not spending enough time with my family and friends. If I’m being a really engaged mom, frequently connecting with friends, and pursuing my personal writing goals, those successes seem to come at the expense of work and my health. It’s like there’s a finite amount of mental energy available to me, and it always seems to run out just before I get everything done. It basically boils down to this:
And I know it sounds like a logical problem to fix: I just need to let some of the plates fall, and vow to be okay with leaving them in the pile. The issue is that all the plates need to come together to make me feel whole—to complete my own, highly-specific vision of what makes a good, fulfilling life.
I started a blog post a few months ago titled, “Dear Everyone in My Life: I’m Sorry I Suck.” I didn’t finish that post because I decided it was too negative, but the feeling remains. There’s always someone or something I’m letting down. I’m split into a few too many pieces right now, and it’s tough getting the priority hierarchy right every single day without losing my everloving mind because CAN’T I VEG OUT WATCHING GREY’S ANATOMY FOR JUST A LITTLE BIT??
It doesn’t help that our culture glorifies the overscheduled side-hustlers, the people who give 100 percent at work, stay up late working on a groundbreaking project, and then get up at dawn with the kids. That model is completely unsustainable for most of us. But it’s the false notion that we all theoretically could be operating at this level of efficiency that creates so much guilt for me.
To help deal with this problem, I’ve created a few commandments to keep myself from drowning in the stream of endless to-dos:
- Done is better than perfect. I often struggle with feeling like I simply can’t give anything 100 percent. Rather than endlessly puttering around obsessing (“But is this my ABSOLUTE BEST work????”), I give it whatever effort I can afford and call it done. It turns out that my 70-percent-effort work is actually pretty great most of the time.
- Rest isn’t wasted time. I function MUCH better when I take time to sleep and care for myself. The whole machine starts to break down when I sacrifice in this area.
- I am already enough. Sometimes I’ll catch myself feeling like my worthiness depends on meeting or exceeding every expectation that is placed upon me. It helps to remind myself that I am inherently loved and valued just for being who I am. That fire comes from inside, and it doesn’t extinguish just because I forgot someone’s birthday.
Do you have any tips on how to deal with the pressure of adulting?