Ain’t Nobody Got Time for Perfect

My day in a nutshell: up before the sun…because toddlers, 2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 5 snacks, 3 dinners, dusting, vacuuming, washing peanut butter out of said toddler’s hair, picking up countless toys, washing dishes at least 3 times, unloading and reloading the dishwasher, going to the Dr., running to the grocery store and pharmacy, doing some work, sorting and tagging for our local JBF (consignment) sale, taking out the trash and recycle, and working on load #9 of laundry as I type this.

From a distance it would appear that I had a busy and productive day. The crummy part is I don’t feel like it. If you refer back to previous posts, you’ll see that I struggled with “Enough Syndrome” long before having to juggle work-mom-wife life was a thing. As I sit and look around you would never know that I lifted a finger today. There are toys strewn across the living room floor. There are yet more dishes in the sink. There is another bag of trash waiting to be taken out, and despite all I’ve done today I don’t credit myself with the successes of the day but rather beat myself up over the tasks still left to be done.

We are so surrounded with perfection that it becomes all-consuming. There are the Pinterest perfect crafts, the Instagram perfect profiles, the Facebook moms that supposedly have it all together, the professional Snap-chatters that somehow catch their kids doing ALL-THE-THINGS. Once upon a time I strove for perfection. The perfect job, marriage, family, haircut etc. and I look at myself now and just have to laugh! Honey, I wouldn’t know perfect if it was on my front porch. My hair is rarely done, my house looks like a tornado hit it (and that’s after I’ve cleaned), I’m late to everything, my kid doesn’t sleep through the night. I could go on and on, but you catch my drift.

There is so much focus on the picture perfect that we lose sight of all the real life that takes place behind those pictures. One of my favorite quotes from Michelle Duggar is “Practice makes progress”. She taught her kids from day one not to strive for perfect, because no one is, but to strive to be better tomorrow than they are today. Even though I’m not the best at that it is something I wish to instill in my kids.

The long and the short of it is that we need to find a way to celebrate our small successes in the midst of the chaos. If you pick up the same dang toy 35 times tomorrow enjoy the fact that it stayed put away through nap time even if nap time gets cut short. Did you get to drink coffee in peace? Did dinner not burn? Did you get to grab Chick-fil-a? Take what you can and remind yourself that there is always more to do.

“Choose your attitude every day until eventually it chooses you right back.”
― Jon Acuff

 

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Enough Syndrome

Enough by definition is occurring in such quantity, quality, or scope as to fully meet demands, needs, or expectations. It’s synonyms are sufficient, adequate, plenty, abundant. Yet, who defines enough? Who is your boss, your teacher, or your friends to define if you are enough? That is God’s job. We live in a world today that is full of inadequacy. A world where more that 15 million Americans live with depression every day. A world where each person is told they aren’t enough of something. In turn we start to believe it. The moment that you begin to believe that you aren’t enough you begin to dig yourself into a deep dark hole that is very hard to get out of.

I tell my husband more often than I care to admit that I have “enough syndrome”. I question if the house is clean enough, if I do enough, if he’s happy enough. I am ALWAYS second guessing if I am enough. The trouble is that this isn’t just me making things up. This is the magazine in the check out line at the grocery store telling me that I’m not thin enough, tan enough, or my hair isn’t long enough. Then there is the woman doing my nails asking me if I have any kids. When I respond no, she wants to know when I’m going to have babies and why I don’t already. Though she of course doesn’t know that I would move mountains to have kids and that unfortunately it just isn’t that easy. The interview where I’m told in ten minutes how impressive it is that I have my Bachelor’s degree at 21 but that the degree field is too unusual. How having a Master’s degree is preferable but the salary wouldn’t pay enough to recoup the cost of the degree itself.

We live in a world where we do EVERYTHING wrong. A world in which you are feeding your family the wrong foods because organic is the only way to go right? Where breastfeeding is better than formula but then nursing mothers are shamed and formula mothers are too. Where working moms are accused of not spending enough time with their kids and stay-at-home moms are shamed for being selfish and depending on their spouse. Stay-at-home dads spark a whole different level of controversy.

Today we live in a world where you have little girls that are only five or six years old and are already worried about how they look and if boys will like them. There is no childhood anymore. Kids of ten are on social media. This world of Internet brings a million different forms of bullying. If you don’t have enough likes, shares, comments then again you aren’t ENOUGH. Every move you make anymore is criticized. There is never ENOUGH of anything for anyone anymore. People are so obsessed with others perceptions. The few who truly live life for themselves and don’t care what others think are exiled for being different. Those who don’t have a spray tan and designer wardrobe or don’t drive the “enough” car, or have the “enough” house live daily just trying to be enough within their means.

Guess what? I haven’t done the laundry yet, I overslept and didn’t make my husbands lunch for work this morning, I’ve eaten maybe once a day for the last week, my hair has been in a messy bun for several days, I’m lucky that I get my coffee daily because without it I might just be a complete and total mess. At the end of all of that my honey will come home and still love me. I don’t always have the house spotless, dishes done, have my hair and make up done like I did when we were dating but that doesn’t make me not enough.

The fact that I am told left and right that I’m over or under qualified for every job I’ve applied to doesn’t mean that I’m not enough. It means that there is a better opportunity out there that I haven’t found yet. The fact that I don’t have kids yet doesn’t mean that I’m not enough. It means that if and when the time is right I’m going to get to be the best mom that I can be and that I’m going to receive a ton of criticism for it and that’s 100% OK. I’m not skinny. I’ve never been and probably never will be and that’s ok too.

As hard as it may be we have to do our best to be enough for ourselves. We’re going to screw up, turn in an assignment late, and forget to defrost the meat for diner. Hey ordering pizza isn’t the worst thing in the world. You have to set your own definition of enough. Be enough for yourself. No one is perfect and more times than not those magazine covers and social media pages display the good side. You see a picture of someone on Facebook and their kids are all sitting in a perfect row and smiling sweetly. They don’t caption it as this is picture number 78. They put a cute message about how much they love their kids and what angels they all are. You don’t see the behind the scenes temper tantrums, biting, screaming, etc. You see what people want you to see. Stop being so hard on yourself. Life happens.

The Stay at Home Wife Life

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If I’ve learned anything about life in my 21 short years it’s that life never goes quite like you plan it. Typically, though it might not seem like it at the time it’s for the best. Often times we are so focused on our plans and goals that we don’t leave room for adaptation. I am well-known for this and it has taken a lot of work on myself over the last couple of years to understand that you have to leave room to adapt or you are going to live your life in constant disappointment.

At the end of September last year, my husband and I decided that I would quit my job. It seemed completely crazy but after looking at the financials we determined that we could make it work. Let me give you a little back story here…We both worked for the same company, which was going through a tremendous amount of change and turnover at the time and realized that we were constantly bringing work home with us. We were both unhappy with our jobs, the lack of management was laughable, and no sooner would we get home in the evenings and we were complaining about work. Did I mention that both of my parents also work for that company? So that meant that Sunday dinner conversation with my parents revolved around, you guessed it, WORK. Oh and I may have forgotten to add that there is no such thing as a private life when half your family works at the same place. EVERYONE is always trying to get into your business and if they don’t hear what they want to from you they go fishing with the other family members. Not only did this cause tensions at work, but ultimately in my marriage and in our relationship with my family.

Here is the crummy part…I actually liked my work. The responsibilities that I once had, memberships in different committees, the knowledge I had developed and the skills that I used on a daily basis. There was a time when I felt needed, appreciated, and fulfilled in my work. I used to work some insanely long hours but it was worth it. I often took on more work just for the heck of it. Then new management came into play, the merger happened, and work became a prison. I promise I’m not exaggerating when I say that I would literally go to bed wishing it were already five o’clock the next day. The minute you walked in the front doors the life was sucked out of you. Morale was the lowest anyone I know had ever seen it. We were all unhappy and that translated into poor attitudes, constant office drama, and overall just a miserable existence. Something had to change.

The realization that issues in our relationship were being caused by our work forced us to look very deeply at our priorities. Was the money worth the physical, mental, and emotional toll? The ultimate answer was no. There would be other jobs, other opportunities, not other relationships and we knew that though it would be a difficult adjustment it was going to benefit us in the long run.

So, now that you know where I started on this journey let me share with you what I’ve learned and experienced thus far…

For starters it amazes me how busy I am. I honestly question how I used to go to college full-time, work full-time and part-time, cook, clean, do laundry, and run errands concurrently. Then it hits me how exhausted I was, how stressed and constantly emotional I was, how unfulfilled I was. When your life revolves around tasks you lose sight of yourself and though some may call it selfish you have to make time for yourself to function properly it’s just a fact of life.

After taking a week or two to just enjoy the time off I started seriously looking for new opportunities. The first thing I noticed is that jobs are few and far between and either the economy totally sucks or I was very blessed to make what I did at my previous job. Even with a college degree most jobs pay around fifteen dollars an hour. Some of those even require a Master’s degree. I had kept feelers out the last year I was employed but hadn’t run into that issue at all. The second thing I had to stop myself from doing was looking for a job just to have a job. The whole point of leaving my last job was because happiness needed to be a priority. I needed to take my time and find something I would truly enjoy.

After countless applications and interviews I determined that the economy in fact does suck tremendously. I’m either over or under qualified or they want to pay me less than the local Buc-ees would (and yes I’ve considered it lol). I continued to make a weekly goal for the number of applications I would submit but quit trying to force it and focused on making the most of my time at home. The most important thing is having a to-do list. What errands do I need to run? What needs to be cleaned?

  • Food
    • Meal planning has been a new love of mine. Over the weekend I make our menu for the following week. This includes my husband’s lunches and snacks for work everyday. Just the fact that I can have a grocery list of only what we need and already know what we’re having for dinner in advance has been a tremendous life changer. No more buying things at random and wasting money. No stress of trying to decide at four pm what we’re having for dinner. Food in our house has just gotten so much easier. The best part is that I can either A) Use Kroger Click List which is just about the best thing since sliced bread or B) I can go to the store in the middle of the day during the week when it’s not packed. This saves substantial time on shopping just getting to avoid the weekend traffic jams that occur from aisle to aisle.
  • Laundry
    • The beauty of laundry now is that it can be done a little at a time. I VERY RARELY find myself trying to cram in six loads in one day anymore. Even if this means that I do one load a day it is much more pleasant and the task just doesn’t take on the daunting nature that it used to.
  • Cleaning
    • The same principle applies for cleaning. If you plan it out correctly making a list of daily cleaning tasks keeps the house just about spotless and it takes so much less time. Even if its only fifteen minutes a day it makes all the difference in the world. For example:
      • Monday- dust & vacuum
      • Tuesday- Toilets & Sinks
      • Wednesday- Showers
      • Thursday- Mop
    • I will say that scooping the litter box daily has helped along with the investment in a Litter Genie.
    • Also doing dishes twice a day and wiping the kitchen counters daily has turned out to make my cooking life much more pleasant. Being home has given me the luxury to leave dishes in the sink over nigh (oh the horror!) but it’s the first thing I do when I wake up. Start the coffee pot & do the dishes. It works.
  • Sleep & Self-help
    • Sleep has become an interesting thing since I’ve been staying home. I used to be up late trying to complete house chores and then up early getting ready for work. That has changed significantly.
    • Since being home I generally get 8-10 hours of sleep per day. Some would call this a luxury but I’ve found it to be a necessity. My health and state of mind have thanked me for it for sure.
    • I now generally go to bed when my husband does. It’s so nice to be able to snuggle up and rest together. This is all thanks to the ability to leave those dishes in the sink 😉 I now wake up around 2am to make his lunch for work, which allows him an extra half-hour or so of sleep every morning. Before this just wasn’t doable. Sometimes I’d make his lunch before I went to bed, many mornings he’d make it himself, but me having the ability to get up and see that he is fed and seen off to work is honestly a pleasure. I love knowing that I can take care of him and provide for his needs even if it just means making sure he’s fed.
    • Some mornings I go right back to sleep and others I do devotionals, blog, or watch TV. If I need a nap I have the ability to do that later in the day.
    • I now have time to focus on me. Not in a selfish manner but whether it be working on my book, blogging, exercising, looking up new recipes, or organizing I get to do things I enjoy and that makes me overall happier.

 

So here’s the part I didn’t prepare for… judgment, loneliness & social withdrawal.

  • Judgment
    • When you’re 21 years old, newly married, have a Bachelor’s degree, and three-year history of working in a corporate environment there is a TON of judgment about staying home. I can’t tell you how many dirty looks I’ve gotten from family when asked what I do. The best part is when you’re told that you’re wasting your talents, your parent’s investment in your education, what if the relationship doesn’t work out you wont be able to take care of yourself. I’ve heard the works. What is so sad to me is that there was a time when this was the cultural norm. The husband worked and the wife (until she became a mother) took care of the home. I completely understand how long so many fought for women’s rights, equality, etc. I’m not discounting the value of that and I’m also not denying that for many women they are all about their career. Though I have a degree I feel like I’ve had to lie about my life goals for years. When asked what you want to be when you grow up a wife & mother in this day and age just isn’t an acceptable answer and that is sad on so many levels. I see how moms are constantly shamed for their life choices and I find it completely despicable. It is hard to defend my lifestyle and in a way I don’t feel as though I should have to.
  • Loneliness & Social Withdrawal
    • This lifestyle can be lonely and challenging. The fact that my dear husband works anywhere from 12-14 hours a day is so selfless. He’s exhausted all the time and my focus is to make sure that the second he walks in the door he doesn’t have to lift a finger. I want him to be able to relax, eat, and unwind before the hamster wheel starts again.
    • There are days/ even weeks where I may go without any contact with anyone. Weeks like this week I’ve hardly had any contact with my husband because of the hours he’s been working. I never realized how important social interaction can be. I’ve always been one to have limited friends and pretty well keep to myself but outside of talking to the woman who is ringing up the groceries I don’t get a lot of contact with people anymore. There were so many times I complained about the countless calls and emails I would receive daily but I’ve realized that that little bit of interaction is vital.
    • Though I still haven’t completely found the solution to this I can say that blogging, Facebook, and spontaneously texting friends just to check in has helped. Even having a five-minute conversation with the mail woman helps.

I love my new life and I love my job. Despite the challenges it is so valuable to be able to be fulfilled in what you do. I hope that though this is a long post it can help some other people understand that staying home isn’t something to be looked down upon or judged. We don’t sit around watching TV all day twiddling our thumbs. There is a LOT of work that goes into running a household and if you are fortunate enough to be able to do that then you’re very blessed.