Be like a duck. Calm on the surface, but always paddling like the dickens underneath. – Michael Caine
I’ve been “quacking” up a bit the last couple of weeks. I even posted a pitiful facebook status about not knowing how in the world I was going to get it all together. I’ve since deleted it, though, because last night, my kids asked if I ever threw temper-tantrums, and I realized that I pretty much had.
There are a lot of folks in my immediate circle who are way more over-extended than I am. But I’m starting to realize that, even though they seem to be handling it all, I am starting to believe that maybe they are over-extended, but are better at hiding it.
I also have to admit that quite a bit of what I’m dealing with here is of my own doing. I do think that a lot of our activities and extras are worth doing, but sometimes their opportunity cost gets a bit high. “I really need to do xyz, but instead, I have to…” If I’m being perfectly honest, I don’t “have to.” The world is not going to end if we don’t do ballet, tumbling, Girl Scouts, volunteer work, blog posts, homemade sugar cookies, etc, etc, etc… Would our lives be richer if we didn’t do those things, but had a simple schedule and a well-organized home? No – it would probably be weaker for it. That doesn’t mean we have to do it all, all the time, though. I am learning to let stuff go. It’s taking practice, and sometimes, I let the wrong stuff go (and I’ve been called on it recently!), but I’m learning, and I think I’ll be a better human for it.
I’ve seen this before, but I’m going to go ahead and add my voice to the chorus. There are only 24 hours in the day. If I decide to play with the Girl Scouts instead of folding my socks and underwear, so be it. Besides, if someone is close enough to my underwear to notice that it’s wrinkled, then they better be thinking about something other than my housekeeping.
But we have to have it all, don’t we? And not only that, but it has to be perfect. I’m starting to come to the conclusion that we don’t live in that world, anymore. Sure, quite a few of the ladies I know hire housecleaning assistance – several ladies I know ARE housecleaning assistants – but who has live-in maids or housekeepers anymore? We have someone who comes once a week to mow the lawn, but, like the cleaning services, that’s not comprehensive. Those old movies, with the “ladies who lunch?” They had maids. Regular maids. Who also cooked. And from what I hear, complicated schedules for kids is pretty much a new phenomenon. Let’s just put this out there, too: whether you are a work-at-home parent or not, you are probably not, strictly speaking, a STAY-at-home parent. None of the “stay at homes” that I know actually stay home. Professional organizers, professors, photographers, saleswomen, models, students, artists, volunteers – so many folk I know have held on to their identities outside the home, whether for income, sanity, or enjoyment, but all do more than focus on exclusively home and family.
So that leaves us, where? In a world that has changed, but with expectations that haven’t. We are going to have perfect homes, yards, and schedules, and make it look easy, but without the staff to do it. Sure, you argue that don’t need staff, but in that case, we need time. Shall I drop my volunteer work with the elementary school, or have the kids drop their dance classes? Oh, wait – then we don’t have that perfect schedule anymore. Hm. Okay, so we’ll drop folding underwear. Oh, but that’s not the perfect housekeeping. Hm. Okay, so we’ll drop – free time!
It turns out, there is an actual medical diagnosis for this: Relaxation-Induced-Anxiety. This is the condition of feeling anxious when NOT under stress. A Women’s Health survey reported that 55% of responders felt guilty about taking downtime (October 2013 “the young & the restless”[sic]), and a survey of 300 college students reveal that 15% of them suffer from RIA (http://psychcentral.com/news/2012/12/13/for-some-relaxation-triggers-anxiety/49051.html). Besides robbing us of the ability to relax, constant stress is bad for us in other ways, too. I know we’ve all heard it: auto-immune diseases. depression. obesity. heart disease. skin conditions. sleep problems. Most of which feed each other. Our quest for perfection, and the stress levels that go with trying to maintain it, actually make it physically harder to keep ourselves in the condition necessary to keep it up, thus increasing stress….
So, that’s it. Maybe we would all be better off, if we admit that sometimes, these ducks are paddling a little too hard, and it’s time to float on the current for a while. I am making the declaration right now: Being imperfect makes me a healthier woman, a happier human, and a better mom.
It’s going to take a while to learn what to drop, what to keep, what to obsess about, and what to just let unfold on its own. But that’ll be its own type of adventure, won’t it?