What More Can We do When Our Best Isn't "Good Enough"?

Work-Life Balance on 11.03.11
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Here at Parentables we talk a lot about being a "good enough" parent. It's about letting go of perfection and focusing on what's truly important. But lately I've been struggling with the concept because I really don't feel like my best is "good enough." I wake up in the morning with my must do list which basically includes getting my work done and keeping my children alive. If I'm lucky a few bills get paid and all the dishes get done. What slips through the cracks are the doctors' appointments that need to be made, the volunteering at school that I always thought I would be a part of, the well-balanced dinners I always envisioned, the cleaning of the house, and sometimes even the homework I'm supposed to be overseeing. At the end of the day, I often wonder how I ended up being this mother instead of the one I envisioned, and how on earth can I become the one I want to be when I don't feel like I have another minute in the day or ounce of energy in my body? I'm doing the best I can...or am I?

I write for three different publications on a daily basis (not including my own blog which ends up being neglected when time runs out) as well as picking up other freelance assignments and design jobs. I only have childcare for my two-year-old in the mornings so I spend my mornings scrambling to get done what I can, and then I have two hours in the afternoon while she naps before my son gets off the bus, and it's back to work around 8 p.m. when the kids go to bed to get the rest of my work day in which usually runs until 11 p.m. or midnight. Yes, it takes me 16 hours to get my eight to nine hour work day in each day. Oh, and while there are many benefits to working from home and being a freelance writer, there is also that ever stressful element of never really knowing what your income is going to be.  I have a hard time saying no to any work as my income is an essential part of our survival, however, I cannot take on any more daycare expenses to offset it. That would negate picking up the extra work and seeing that I'm already stretched so thin, I'm not sure it's either possible or even beneficial.

From Morning to Midnight

The result is increased stress which often translates having very little patience, yelling at my children, and making poor decisions when it comes to things like food. At the end of the day, while I may have gotten my work done, I have not been the mom that I want to be and even though I feel like I've worked my butt off, my best has not been "good enough." I don't care if the house gets cleaned or if there are homemade cookies in the oven. I just want to make ends meet every month and not have my children remember their mother as a screaming lunatic. We have lots of fun and loving moments together, but it always seem to be the negative ones that people remember forever, and I don't want those in our daily routine.

Needless to say, I've been at my wit's end lately and so something needs to be done. Sometimes we have to step back and look closely at the things that we don't think make much of a difference to find where we can make small changes that will create a meaningful difference in our lives. I can't make big changes, but there are still lots of things that I've realized I can do to get another step closer to being a "good enough" mom.

3 Simple Steps to Becoming a Better Mom

1. I can re-evaluate my daycare/work schedule. While I have work that needs to be submitted every day, it's not as though I spend a lot of time in meetings and my schedule is pretty flexible. I'm considering sending my daughter to school three full days per week instead of five half days which is actually more than $100 less expensive each month and provides seven more hours of care each week (go figure) if I leave her until the very end of the day on those days. This will allow me to not have my day broken up which should make me a more efficient worker as well as give me two days at home with her when I can theoretically get some of those things that are falling through the cracks done. I've liked having daycare every day for her, and it will be hard for me to not feel guilty about hitting the computer first thing every day, but I think the trade-off will be worth it even though I'll still have to work during her naps and in the evenings on most days. And it will allow me to have an hour or two with my son a few afternoons when I can focus on things like homework with him.

2. I can ask for more help from my husband. I am a self-professed control freak. I like things done a certain way and the only way to get them done is for me to do them myself. Well, that's not entirely true. I don't have to take on the job of paying all the bills and being in charge of all the school notes that come home. My husband is very helpful and involved, but we don't have a clear definition of who is going to handle what all the time. We can come up with a more structured task list for each person instead of flying by the seat of our pants on most days.

3. I can be more organized. Most nights we're wondering what's for dinner. There is always something in the fridge or freezer, but we don't have a plan prior to 5 p.m. on most nights. If I spend an hour or two on the weekends (which I've tried to reclaim from work and commit to my family and house) planning and cooking meals for the week, dinner won't be an issue and actually a lot of lunches will become easier too. It doesn't take long to make a lasagna or a pot of soup and then you can bake or re-heat them on the nights you're going to eat them, and there are certain to be plenty of leftovers for lunches for a day or two.

I'm quite certain that these three relatively simple things will make a significant difference in our lives and in my feeling like I'm a "good enough" mother. Even when we feel like we can do no more, there's a good chance that there is some little something that will make our lives easier and get us closer to where we want to be. We just need to take a step back for a moment so that we can move forward.

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