One of my favorite tag lines in my bio is I'm a 50%-er giving 75%. It's silly, self-deprecating, totally embellished, and pretty much the opposite of who I am. The ironic thing is that I am a 125%-er in everything I attempt, but end up struggling to get there every step of the way. More irony - the title Underachiever. Those who know me, know I go above and beyond, and that I'm constantly jogging, though out of breath and near exhaustion, on the Extra Mile. As Bill Murray says in What About Bob - - I'm doin the work! I'm not a slacker!
Here's the BIG problem.
I'm not giving 100% to anything.
When you spread yourself too thin, nothing really gets done to the fullest potential. When you are burning the candle at both ends, the flame is going to go out eventually, and someone is going to get burned. That someone is me.
I've been struggling since I've gone back to work. Don't get me wrong. It was my idea to go back - and I love it, I truly do love it, but things are suffering. Housekeeping, hobbies, little things here and there are not getting the attention they once did, and that bothers me more than I can articulate. Maybe things aren't suffering. It's me that's suffering. My psyche. My desire to please others. My need to be all things to all people. This is the curse of being a pleaser. Guilt and the need for admiration and pats on the back from others end up being a heavy burden to carry through the day. It's hard to un-do that kind of personality, the only thing you can do is be okay with what you do accomplish and focus on the good stuff.
As kids, we're taught to aim high - go for the A - or as my Dad always preached "the difference between an A and a B is just a little more effort." Always doing the right thing and putting a little extra elbow grease into it - a little more effort than the average makes you above average. Feeling like I'm not giving 100% to anything because I'm too busy trying to balance it all has been hard for me. I've been going in 5th gear for so long, never stopping, because you know once you slow down or stop, all of the momentum you gained comes crashing into you and you fall on your ass from exhaustion.
We look at this celebrity or that public figure or that woman of power or CEO or whoever it may be and think I don't know how she does it...or there's someone who's doing it all! I don't know if I necessarily believe that - I just think women are really good actors. The really successful ones have a nanny and a chef and a maid and are probably still falling apart behind the scenes! So many of us give a convincing show of having it all under control when really we are all just holding it together with caffeine, humor and some Hail Marys here and there. Our best work is done in the 11th hour. We wing it much of the time - sometimes we pass with flying colors and occasionally we fail - hopefully not miserably, but it can happen...and it will happen.
How do we prioritize? It's a constantly-shifting method of juggling and multi-tasking. Sometimes you have a sick child that needs high-priority. If you're lucky, you have an understanding boss at work that will tell you to take care of them, stay home, do your thing. If you're not so lucky, you know that your boss is rolling his eyes and hoping this isn't going to be a 'habit' or a problem with hiring a mother. It can be so unfair sometimes - trying to be all things to all people. Unfair and pretty much impossible. We are pulled in so many directions, and expected to be the chameleon that quickly changes colors to adapt to the demanding needs of life with children and jobs and husbands and families. If I had a dollar for every time someone during the day, whether it be a friend, family member, neighbor, etc said "I'm just doing the best I can..." I would be a billionaire. When is our best ever going to be good enough?
I was grading my performance in my head last night and here's what I came up with:
Loved, fed, clothed, bathed, entertained, encouraged, etc. - A
Can get them out the door without using bribery, force curse words under breath, raising voice, etc. - C
Negotiation tactics - B
Developmental milestones met - A
overall performance summary - The kids are loved, healthy, happy and only have the most basic gripes of most children. Grade - B
The cycle of laundry continues on a somewhat regular mode - clean clothes are available. B
Clothing is removed from dryer in a timely manner. D
Clothing is pressed and ready to be worn. D
Cupboards and fridge are stocked with healthy choices and fresh foods. B-
Shopping is done efficiently, regularly, and with budget in mind. C
Shopping list is brought to grocery store to ensure list is fulfilled. F
House is tidy. B
Dyson canister is Lego-free. C-
overall performance summary - The house remains somewhat tidy, clean clothes are available albeit slightly wrinkled, food is available, toys are accessible, Legos sets are incomplete. Though HGTV will not be by anytime soon for a tour and feature on their channel, the Health Inspector won't be condemning the house either. Grade - C-
Arrives on time - B
Stays on task - B
Entertains other coworkers - A+
Distracts easily - What was the question again? Oh. Yes. C-
Gives 100% - C
Competes work in timely manner - A-
Work completed outweighs dicking around time - B-
overall performance summary - Arrives on time for the most part with a cheery disposition. Pays close attention to making other coworkers laugh, organizing office birthday parties, food and other distracting office events. When actually working, completes tasks in a somewhat-timely manner yet still has time to give to other non-work related ventures. Grade - B-
Birthdays are remembered. A+
Ability to take a compliment. F
Time allotted to spend with girlfriends. C-
Time spent on phone. C
Returned emails. B
overall performance summary - Friendships remain in tact for sanity retention purposes. The inability to carry on a conversation due to children interrupting with five alarm fires every time you are on the phone is a problem. Time spent with girlfriends needs some improvement. Taking a compliment is problematic. Answering a compliment with an insult like "Are you blind or need a new prescription for your glasses?" is not acceptable. Grade - C-
Blogs often - F
Creates funny memes and ecards for FB page - D
Gives quality time blocks to nurturing hobbies - D
Has focus, direction and dedication to hobbies - D
overall performance summary - This area is in danger of extinction. More time and effort must be given to keep hobby in tact. Purchase tickets to BlogHer 2013 to be surrounded by other more successful, brilliant bloggers to light a fire under your ass. You are failing. Nice job, dummy. Grade - Big Fat F...and if there was a such thing as an F- you would have received it.
Looking at this report card I realize that if I were in school, I'd be sitting outside the Principal's office waiting for a come to Jesus with him. If this were college, I'd probably be hungover, sleeping in last night's clothes on my dorm room floor while drooling and snoring. Alas...this is real life...and though I can still laugh about it and make fun of my need to overachieve, the truth is simply - I cannot be all things to all people, a perfectionist, an overachiever, and a rational, kind, contributing member of society. That is an impossible feat and one that I am understanding is just plain old silly. I know that many of you reading this feel the same way no matter what stage of understanding you are going through. Being a woman is hard - being a mother is hard - being a decent human being at this point can be difficult, too. Are we all doing 'the best we can?' or has that just become an easy one liner to throw out to people when really we've checked out of the game because we can't keep up?
Lucky for me, at this point in my life, I have no teachers or Deans of students to grade my performance. Instead, I have my boys, who although they are incredibly generous in their weird compliments (Mommy you are the best cooker, Mommmy I like your red, crackly eyes today, Mommy your fluffy legs are so soft, Mommy your hair looks nice with the white hairs in it!), won't hesitate to let me know of what I'm doing wrong. (Moooommmm..you forgot to put a juice box in my lunch! Mommy you forgot this, you forgot that...you didn't do this, you didn't do that!) The nice thing is, they are quick to forgive and allow me to retake this test of Motherhood as often as I need to, and for every A they give me more love than I thought imaginable. If only I could be that forgiving to myself. I'm a work in progress - I'm a Master's project waiting to be done, a doctorate degree in the works. All in good time.
Until next time, and who knows just when that will be...keep up the good work!
Cheers and love...green lights and blue skies,