From my earliest days, I knew I wanted to be a mom. I also knew I wanted to take Katie Couric’s spot on The Today Show – hasn’t happened. Wanted to take Sandra Day O’Connor’s spot on the Supreme Court – also seems highly unlikely. And wanted to be the youngest state senator in Nebraska history – my college friend did that while I moved to Washington, D.C. So I guess you could say my penchant to do it all started early and has never left.
While I’ve never done any of those things, I have worked full time, finished law school, clerked for a judge, and worked with a law firm. I’ve developed a teaching career at a Big Ten University and I’ve developed the beginnings of a writing career all while welcoming children one through four into our family. I wish I could say I do it with grace all the time – I don’t. There are days I wish Wonder Woman would give her bracelets back. But here are some things I’ve given up in the drive to do it all:
1) Control TV time. This actually started in law school before kids. When working full time and going to school five nights a week, there is zero time for endeavors like TV. So I allowed myself one show a week – in law school it was ER. That 10 p.m. slot on Thursday nights worked great. When I started writing in 2005, something had to give from my schedule. Now I let myself watch one show a week (plus football). At the moment it’s CASTLE – so the weeks it’s not new, I get an extra hour back, too! It also means we try to control what our kids are watching and how much. I want them outside playing, reading a book, or creating. It’s amazing how attitudes change when TV time is restricted!
2) I gave up my desire for a perfect house. It doesn’t mean I don’t still long for a maid…that would truly be the best gift EVER. But I have recognized that I live in an active household where the kids rarely leave. Because of homeschooling, the goal of a perfect house is really illusive. I also decided a long time ago that I didn’t want my house to be a museum. I want it to be a place where my children’s friends are comfortable coming…a good reminder to stock the snack cabinet!
3) My husband and I have involved the kids in chores. This serves a couple purposes. One, their spouses will thank me later. Two, they are part of the family and need to contribute to the running of our house. While it doesn’t mean they’ve miraculously gained vision to see every out of place item, it does mean they help clean up the chaos they generate. Three, I’m training them to be productive adults. Sometimes they are MAD when I tell them to reclean something, but there will be times they will need to do thorough work for their bosses. This is preparation for an attention to detail. At the same time, I’ve had to be willing to let some of my standards slide as they learn and grow into jobs.
4) Try to control the activities. Some would claim I fail at this. My oldest is a competitive gymnast, so the other kids have taken gymnastics. We’re already there. Our oldest son is on a swim team now, which means the younger two will be swimmers or gymnasts. I can only get so many places. We do soccer through a community faith program where the practice and game is immediately back to back on Saturdays. That way they can play the sport, but we can still keep some margin in our lives. It also means my husband and I are trying to coordinate when we say yes to leading different things. Reality is we can only be so many places at the same time.
What strategies have you developed as you try to balance the dream of perfection with the reality of life?