You know those days when nothing seems to go right? That’s the day I was having. No sleep the night before and after working all day, I decided to make a “quick” stop at Wal-Mart. Except that there’s no such thing as a “quick” stop at Wal-Mart. It’s actually a lie I tell myself to avoid driving by the exit and instead opting for pizza AGAIN. “It’ll be different this time. I just need to get a few things. In and out. I promise,” I mutter to myself as I pull into a parking spot. All lies. Wal-Mart at 4 p.m. on a weekday is always short on cashiers and abundantly full of frustration when you just want to get in and out. Between my job, the kids, and school, my working mom life is also abundantly full of frustration at times.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my working mom status and have devoted tremendous energy to my career. Actually, I can’t imagine not working. It gives me a sense of purpose, accomplishment, and I absolutely love helping others in my role as a nurse. Working presents complex challenges which are amazingly fun to solve. Trips to Wal-Mart on the other hand are about as fun as bringing your two-year-old and your four-year-old to the doctor simultaneously. There’s boogers, screaming, and you know it will end with fighting. Or at least an icy stare at a stranger blocking the item you’re clearly trying to grab off the shelf.
Go for the Goals!
On this particular day, I select a cart and race to get the items on my list. Anytime I’m grocery shopping, I find small ways to make it into a game because it makes the task slightly more tolerable. Sometimes I play the “I don’t need a cart. I will carry these three gallons of milk and plastic baggies without one” game. Other times I play the “I’m too lazy to make a list. I will shop without one and cross my fingers that I come home with everything I need” game. Today I decided to play the “race around the store like a psycho” game, hoping to beat last week’s personal best record of ten minutes from door back to car. After all, working mom life requires goals, both personal and professional.
I absolutely adore setting goals! Whether the goals revolve around mom life, work life, or my personal life, it’s easier to see progress with solid goal setting. My current mom goal relates to supper. I have slid into a habit of getting takeout way too much, thus my decision to pull into Wal-Mart despite my long, tiring day. There was a time in my life where I actually enjoyed cooking. This was also a time where I had no small children and didn’t have graduate school work on top of actual work. Although they were simpler times, thinking back to those times helps remind me of all the wonderful things in my life right now. I do love occasional silence and the ability to fully process a thought, however I love the three little rascals who interrupt those thoughts even more.
Just as my fully processed thoughts have been stolen, so too has my joy of cooking has been stolen by those three little rascals. They also happen to be the world’s tiniest food critics. “This is too spicy!” “This is icky!” “We always have spaghetti!” “You never make spaghetti!” “Why can’t you make it like grandma makes it?” And my personal favorite, “This tastes like sock.” I’m starting to think that I should look into paying food critic gigs for those kiddos. It seems that someone should benefit off their creative ways to insult supper. Unfortunately for them, I’m incredibly persistent and will continue serving it up even as they throw it down.
Stick with the Plan!
Tonight, my plan was to serve up tacos, a favorite dish of all 3 children and my hubby. It also scores well on the messiness scale, especially when I conveniently “forget” shredded lettuce. Somehow, my floor is constantly messy. I have actually started keeping the broom right next to the kitchen table so that I don’t have to walk all the way to the closet to get it multiple times a day. It’s still not a guarantee that I’ll use the broom consistently but at least it’s not “out of sight, out of mind.” Cheerios crunching under my feet are also a constant reminder that I despise cheerios crunching under my feet and is a prompt to use the broom. I actually wrote this post on cleaning hacks for busy moms because of my constant struggle in this area!
Working mom life has challenged me to create systems and a plan within an ever-changing framework. You simply can’t leave anything to chance when you’re juggling a household and career. Nothing would ever get accomplished! Despite the need for systems, balancing expectation with reality in this realm and in that of goals is particularly difficult for me. I tend to overestimate the amount that I can accomplish in a given period of time and then feel frustrated when I don’t accomplish what I expect. I’m also terrible with spontaneity and do NOT enjoy surprises. Have I mentioned that the word “relax” isn’t in my vocabulary?
My hubby often subtly (and not-so-subtly!) suggests that I learn how to relax. Not worrying about supper after a long day at work or letting my kids crack eggs without the intense fear of salmonella poisoning sounds intriguing. I definitely like the idea of spending the day in my pjs watching the latest season of “Orange is the New Black.” I’m pretty sure the world wouldn’t fall apart if I did relax. But not 100% sure. Part of me honestly believes that constant worry and over-analysis has kept me functioning this long and to give up now would result in failure. As if relaxing would all of a sudden make me into a horrible mother, nurse, and student.
My rational side doesn’t believe that relaxation results in disaster but it’s tough to convince my subconscious otherwise! Much like my rational side knows how long a Wal-Mart stop will actually take. And yet, mindset has everything to do with perception. Sometimes, you really do need to “fake it ’til you make it.” I was actually working on mindset while catching up on celeb gossip in the checkout line, cart full of taco fixings. And toilet paper. Somehow we are always out of toilet paper. Two other people with carts stacked full of groceries were in front of me. Needless to say, I was going nowhere fast, a tough place for someone who doesn’t have the word “relax” in their vocabulary. Suddenly, I heard a voice behind me saying, “I can help you over here ma’am.”
I raced to the next lane and found myself face-to-face with a cashier who actually cared about customer service. He was polite, helpful, and got me out of there in time to break my record by 2 whole minutes! Never in my history of Wal-Mart grocery shopping have I had such a cashier. And suddenly it dawned on me. Working mom life is tough but much of the pressure actually comes from me. I am the one pressuring myself to try to get more done in a day than is humanly possible. My husband is constantly telling me that I am a great mother but instead, I choose to see the imperfections. The dinners no one eats. And the messy floors.
It’s Your Turn
Much like my Wal-Mart trip. I choose to see the people standing in the way and the carts stacked full in front of me in line. Instead of the extremely helpful cashier who was truly concerned about my experience and helped me beat my record shopping time. And this is where my struggle as a perfectionist lies. It’s in making a conscious decision to look for the positives, the lessons learned instead of the failures, and the beauty that is working mom life. Because there really is so much beauty! The creativity of my kids and the support of my husband are both priceless and focusing on these, instead of everything else, is key. What about you? Are you a working mom who struggles with perfectionism? I would love to hear about the strategies you use to thrive in your career and mom roles!