I went to the office supply store for printer ink and also a few things one would think a normal family would have on hand, but apparently we do not. (Sharpies, tape, a stapler, and paper clips. How did we not have those things?)
In the center of the main aisle, right by a tower of on-sale, store-brand copy paper, was a display of 2020 calendars. The first to catch my eye was a unicorn-and-kitty calendar. I stopped to have a closer look in case it might be time for my daughter, the Queen of Kindergarten, to have her first calendar.
Right next to the unicorns and kitties was a calendar for the “Do It All Mom.” On the front was a cartoon rendering of this Diva of Domesticity, a Figurehead of Femininity, the pinnacle of what society and the media, social and otherwise, shout at us that we should be. Just look at her standing there, looking so serene and also a trifle smug. She is clothed in strength, dignity, and an outfit that is not sweats. She is crowned by accomplishment and a coiffure that is not a messy bun. She’s wearing blush, mascara, and earrings for crying out loud. Her infant is asleep in her arms despite the fact that the dog on her leg is most likely making a racket. Her mini-me is similarly dressed and coiffed, neat and tidy, and looking just as smug as her mama.
In past years, I would have looked at this calendar with longing and been tempted to snatch it up. “I need to be her,” I would have thought to myself. “I need to get it together. My family would be so much happier if I were this ‘Do It All Mom.'”
Not this year. This year, I took one look at that calendar and one word popped into my head:
2020 will most assuredly not be the year of the “Do It All Mom” in my house. No, in our family, 2020 shall be the year of the “Do Some of It Mom.” That’s me, the loud and proud “Do Some of It Mom.”
The truth is I’ve spent most of the past eight years of motherhood chasing the dream of being the “Do It All Mom.” Sometimes I’ve succeeded, and sometimes I’ve failed–and to be honest, neither result felt all that great.
When I failed, the outcomes were exactly as you might expect. The house was chaos, other people had to handle “my stuff,” and I was left chiding myself over my failure while gazing longingly at others’ Instagram feeds, thinking how happy their families must be with their totally organized and efficient selves.
When I succeeded, however? That’s where I found the unexpected. When I somehow managed to do it all, when I remembered everything, and when nobody else had to lift a finger around the house, I was just as unhappy as when I failed–sometimes even more so. You see, the more I did, the more my work became invisible to others. The more I did, the more others expected me to do. The more I did, the more those around me checked out of family life and started to consider other things more worthy of their time and attention. The more I prioritized the well-being and happiness of others over myself, the more they let me.
Like most moms, my own happiness was not my main goal, so my own feelings of satisfaction were a barometer I could have ignored. The weird part, though, was my family seemed happier as a whole when I was failing at being the “Do It All Mom” than when I was succeeding. Still, I convinced myself that was a fluke, and kept pushing on toward The Goal.
Last summer, however, I pushed myself so hard that a little cold turned into a lingering cough, which turned into bronchitis. After a stern talking-to from both my mother and my aunt (never make The Sisters worry about you, if you know what’s good for you), I forced myself to slow down and stop trying to DO IT ALL.
I let my husband handle the dishes for an entire weekend. I let my kids struggle to clean their rooms all by themselves, with no motherly matching of their efforts. I said “no” to friends and (gasp!) grandparents who asked to see us during our few free moments. My children’s random stuff languished on the floor of the living room until someone other than me tended to the tidying. (I’m still not entirely sure who.)
I’m not going to lie; it was terrifying. I am a raging and rampant Enneagram 2, which means my gift and passion for serving others is matched only by the depth of fear that if I stop serving them, they will stop loving me.
But guess what? We all ended the summer and rolled into fall happier and in better shape as a family than we had ever been. My kids started to assume more ownership for the running of the house. My husband was tuned-in to the daily routines and chores, which allowed us to function more as a team and be better-connected. And what’s more, they seemed to appreciate me more than when I was doing everything. Not only is that important to my heart, it’s also healthy for them to learn to build an appreciation for those who serve them and make their lives work.
So, in 2020, I will be the “Do Some of It Mom.”
I’ll be the “Pick and Choose Mom,” who chooses activities and commitments for the family-based not only on the husband’s and kids’ levels of fatigue and enjoyment but mine as well.
I’ll be the “Let Others Do It Mom,” who doesn’t feel guilty if the household members do some (if not most) of the housework some days.
I’ll be the “Speak Up For Myself Mom,” who doesn’t sigh and move on when my requests and stated expectations go forgotten and ignored.
I’ll be the “Remember It Yourself Mom,” who encourages (and expects) family members to make their own lists, mark their own calendars, and set their own alarms and reminders in their own phones, watches, clocks, or whatever tools they have at their disposal.
I’ll be the “We’re All In This Together Mom,” the “Shared Responsibility Mom,” and the “My People Love Me For Me Mom.”
Check back with me in 2021, and I’ll let you know how it went. In the meantime, I will not be buying that calendar. I think maybe I’ll go with unicorns and kitties this year.
Tori Rask is a writer, wife, and mom living in the Pacific Northwest. She loves Jesus, music, reading, watching sports (but not playing them), drinking Jasmine tea, and connecting with other moms any chance she gets. Tori writes about life, faith, family, and friendship on her blog, Grace for the Real Stuff.