Sometimes I find myself lowering the bar in life, so I don't choke myself on it.
I used to be a single mom, and like all single parents, I was at a total loss as to how I would stay afloat financially and mentally while caring for two toddlers. It finally occurred to me that something would have to take a hit in order for me to keep my sanity.
I certainly couldn't quit my job, and I certainly couldn't "take a break" from my kids since I have no family nearby, so I took a long look at my life and figured out how I could carve out more peace with my current situation.
That led me to put a post-it note above the sink that read: "Stop doing the dishes. Go play with your kids."
I was filled with such nervous energy back then, buzzing around the house, constantly in motion to get everything done and plan for the next day. My determination to do such a great job they wouldn't notice I was suddenly flying solo was running me into the ground.
I would flop myself into a chair after tucking them in and just stare at the wall and talk myself into doing it all over again the next day.
That silly little post-it note above the sink helped me seriously change my outlook and find more room for happiness in my life.
You might call it a cop-out or half-assing it. I call it self-preservation.
I realized I had 2 choices: I could continue to feel sorry for myself and live in denial that I was one person doing the job of two people and let that pressure turn me into a scatter-brained mama, or I could let myself lower the bar of my own expectations and see the good parts of life were still there: my kids.
And what's equally important was that I was still there. I was throwing myself into such caregiver-extraordinaire mode that I was neglecting the fact that I was still me, a person who deserved some time to be me, not a perfect single-parent robot.
When I allowed myself permission to stop thinking I could juggle it all, I started to breathe easier. I would find myself doing the dishes while the kids would build blanket forts, and then I'd see the note, reminding me to get back in there and build a fort too because although the narrative of my life was going down a path that was totally unexpected and I couldn't control, this narrative of giggling kids was something I could absolutely get on board with and soak in.
The dishes could wait--life could not--and several years later, I am still carrying that sentiment with me.
I'm remarried to the love of my life who also has two kids. In a house of four kids and two dogs, you'd better believe there are going to be imperfections that could very well destroy a person's sanity if they let it.
Inside of me still lurks the hyper single mama on overdrive, willing to ignore her needs to get stuff done, but I thankfully don't let her run the show anymore. My practice in slowing down and letting in imperfections has stayed with me, and I truly enjoy life more this way.
The other day my husband was saying how the dog hair on the floor was driving him crazy. The old me would have obsessed and agreed, as I would have quickly grabbed the vacuum to remedy the situation. But the now older, learning-from-the-past me, looked at him and said, "There are dogs. There will be dog hair. I need to half-ass some things to be happy."
Women especially seem to have a hard time taking on this mantra, but I've become really good at it. Our kids are worth all the hard work we put into them, and we're worth the gift of not giving them so much there's nothing left for ourselves and each other.