My wonderful sister-in-law, Jen, wrote this post for us today! She writes over at On The Night You Were Born, she has three beautiful girls, and she’s super awesome. Show her some love for me!
Long before we had three kids, I remember saying to my cousin (who’s like my sister), “I have what I think must be the perfect job situation — I work part-time, my kids aren’t even home when I work, and yet I still can’t find time for some things. Other moms work full-time, and still have to cook and clean and do laundry and all the same things that I do. How on earth would I do it all if I had to work full-time when I can’t even do it all now working part-time! Something would have to give, but I don’t know what!”
I don’t remember specifically what I was even disappointed about not being able to fit into my life.
And my cousin, who has a very big job that she absolutely loves, said to me, “You do things that I don’t do. You make more meals than I do. You go out of your way when you buy people gifts. I click ‘buy’ on Amazon. You spend time planning events and hosting gatherings. You bake. I don’t do those things.”
And I just kind of shrugged, unconvinced, because I still wasn’t seeing all of these “extra” things that I was supposedly doing that other moms with more responsibility in other areas weren’t doing.
What I’ve come to realize though, is that I have been making tradeoffs all along in exchange for things that are more important to me — buying gifts, planning parties, baking. And the key is not necessarily figuring out how you can fit MORE in your life — it’s figuring out what is and isn’t important to you, making the tradeoff, and then not feeling bad that you’re not doing MORE.
Having three kids definitely helps you lose that MORE inferiority complex. It’s pretty dang near impossible to maintain any sort of long-term status as a superhuman mom who does EVERYTHING AND MORE when you have three kids.
I think this was honestly a revelation for me — I could come really close to doing EVERYTHING AND MORE with two kids. So close that I would (sometimes) kill myself trying. But with three you can’t even come close to pretending that you can do it all and you just say f&ck it and embrace ENOUGH. At least that’s been my experience.
And ENOUGH is liberating and freeing. There’s happiness and satisfaction in the subpar status of ENOUGH. ENOUGH has much less anxiety than MORE. ENOUGH is comfortable in its wisdom.
For sure one of my “gives” is housework and laundry. My house is not fastidiously clean. We don’t have a toy room, so our living room — which we do not use for any other purpose — has become our defacto toy room. Our living room doesn’t have a door, as living rooms are reckless and carefree like that, and you have to walk through it to get to the other side of the house. And while our kids are generally pretty good picker-uppers if we’re overseeing them, they’re otherwise kind of sucky at it since the two oldest are 5 and 3. Therefore, more times than not, there are itty, bitty, teeny, tiny pieces of Strawberry Shortcake doll clothes, squinkies, Barbies, princesses, play food and dress-up clothes vomited all over the room. I think this not-so-secretly drives my mom crazy because she often comments about how the room “just needs some more organizational storage.”
Me, on the other hand? I don’t care.
I’ve given up caring. It’s one of my “gives.”
I used to care when we just had one baby and the toys were still fairly well contained, and it appeared to be an actual achievable goal. But now with three? Just forget it. Game over. I don’t care. It’s just not important to me. In another 5 years, ALL those toys will be gone and replaced with tiny electronic gadgets.
For me, I would rather cook or bake or plan something than make myself crazy over cleaning up those toys every night. Not that we don’t ever clean or organize — every month or so I go on a spontaneous and crazy toy organizing spree where I bark orders at everyone in the house and I don’t rest until every last shape block is found and in the shape clock, every last dress-up shoe is in the designated shoe bag that I’ve showed them for the umpteenth time, and the bin for baby clothes and accessories contains only those items instead of the pretend can of green beans and random drum souvenir from Punta Cana — and then .3 hours later it’s back to the same.
Oh and the laundry.
These FOUR wash baskets of clean clothes sat right here for an entire week, until my MOTHER-IN-LAW came over and folded them for me.
With two kids I would have looked at those wash baskets and thought, “Oh my God this is embarrassing. These have been sitting here for a week. A WEEK! There’s no excuse.”
With three kids, I’m like, “Meh. I have three kids. Eventually this will become a problem for me, and then I’ll be forced to deal with it.”
See what happened there? Having all my laundry promptly folded and put away is not important to me. So it “gives.” Maybe that’s not what gives at your house, and that’s okay.
There’s an ebb and flow, too. Sometimes I have to make “gives” even for things I like doing. My BFFs aren’t getting the favorite dessert I make for them nearly as often because I just don’t have the time.
And around the time of my three-year-old’s birthday I was managing an extremely heavy workload. I was THRILLED when she decided to have a Hello Kitty-themed party instead of a Daniel Tiger party after my not-so-subtle “LOOK AT ALL THE HELLO KITTY BIRTHDAY SUPPLIES!” hint at Target. Because I knew a Hello Kitty party would be a hella lot less work for me than producing from-scratch Daniel Tiger party supplies.
Gee, pre-made birthday banner, plates, napkins, table covers, stickers, and goody bags on one hand … versus … NOTHING on the other hand. NO BRAINER. And I TOTALLY took the easy way out of planning the dinner by ordering pizzas and just making salads.
Thirty-six hours before the party, I was the most utterly unprepared I’d ever been for a party in my life, ever. The house had not been cleaned, there were toys everywhere, there were three baskets of laundry in the kitchen that had been sitting there since the prior weekend and we had been foraging through them all week, both of the girls’ hampers were overflowing again, I had not been grocery shopping yet and still needed to buy the rest of the party supplies and wrap the present.
I had to decide right then and there — was I going to sleep that night and be relaxed and enjoy my daughter’s party the next day? Or was I going to stay up all night and make myself and everyone around me miserable trying to hold onto my imaginary self-anointed Perfect Party hostess status.
There were lots of “gives.”
I distinctly remember carrying those clean baskets of laundry back down to the basement. We decided not to scrub the floor before the party, because … why? It just got sticky and trampled with cake. We focused on what was most important in that critical time period and let go of the rest. The bottom line was that I knew my daughter would still love the party, even with my shortcuts, and she did.
Wanna know another thing I’ve learned? The things that are important to me, are not necessarily important to others and vice versa, so there’s absolutely no value in comparing or using others as our yardstick for how we’re doing. Because as Theodore Roosevelt said, “comparison is the thief of joy.”
My neighbor and good friend has a daughter in 4K like my daughter. My neighbor loves to go all out on these intricate and painstaking snacks when it’s her daughter’s turn for snack day. I think she’s nuts (and that’s said with great love). I will happily bake healthy breakfast cookies or muffins for my daughter to take for snack — if time allows that week — but I am not about to run around town looking for round orange cheese sticks that I will somehow magically turn into pencils with the help of bologna and raisins. That would pretty much make my head pop off. I don’t have a problem throwing down apple slices or plain ‘ole string cheese and calling it a day.
But that’s not my friend. My friend would rather “give” in other areas because she really likes going all out for snack day. When I saw the Hungry Caterpillar-themed snack she put together with grapes and strawberries, I had a momentary pang of “That’s totally doable. I should really do something cooler for the next snack day.” But then I remembered … it’s just not my thing. I don’t want to spend time on that. I would rather do something else. It’s so cool that crazy intricate snacks are what she loves doing, and it’s okay that it’s not what I love doing.
Whatever it is you’re doing, however you’re doing it, it’s ENOUGH. YOU’RE enough. You’re DOING enough. Because you’re likely making those “gives” based on whatever is most important and critical to you at the time. And it doesn’t matter if someone else’s talents are not your talents. It doesn’t matter if your ENOUGH is less than or more than someone else’s.
Let those things go and live in ENOUGH.
And please don’t think that I’m living this perfectly. I’m not.
The bottom line is that I still think I could use my time more efficiently and productively. I still want to fit in time for MORE — more personal reading, more blogging, more exercise and a gratitude journal. I haven’t figured out how to do that just yet.
And I still vacillate between wanting to do MORE and cutting myself some slack and being okay with ENOUGH. The reality is that I have three kids and I’m feeling pretty rockstar that we’ve been weekly meal planning and making weeknight meals and make-ahead breakfasts. I was struggling to keep up for a long time, and even though we throw in a frozen pizza twice a month, and make tacos quite a lot, I’m feeling good about it and it’s ENOUGH.
I hope you find yourself embracing ENOUGH, more than you condemn yourself for not doing MORE.