The impossible standard
Over the weekend, as I was scrolling through Facebook in an attempt to ignore the eleven thousand things on my to-do list, I saw a fellow mom in a "Mommy Group" ask the question I've seen a million times before.
At first I thought it must be rhetorical, but then I realized that she truly was seeking advice on how to make this happen:
I went on to read dozens of comments with suggestions from "time-boxing" to waking up before the sun to hiding from your kids in the closet as you sob into your dirty clothes. They were well-intentioned (and funny) suggestions, but I couldn't help feeling that we moms are completely missing the mark.
We truly think that if we just wake up a little earlier or better manage our time that we can conquer it all, and with a perfectly fed family, clean house and booming business to show for it. Not to mention navigating this new normal of homeschooling and keeping your family healthy in the middle of a global pandemic. Moms think they should be able to do it all.
But we can't.
My top four
What we can do is reset expectations of what is and is not possible for one person to handle while staying sane. But why settle for just staying sane?
Each of us deserves an enjoyable life that fulfills us, not just getting through the day. (Though some weeks, it absolutely is a miracle to just get to Friday.)
When thinking of how I would answer that mom so desperate to get it right, I came up with these four suggestions for any working or stay-at-home mom, who may be feeling pressured to do it all.
1. Shared Responsibilities:
Yes, I'm going there. The number one thing you can do is have a "come to Jesus" meeting with your spouse, partner, significant other, and/or roommate. I understand there are many single moms out there managing all this on their own, and this point sadly won't help them much.
But if you do have someone at home, you must force the conversation and come to an agreement on shared household responsibilities. It is a proven fact that women do the bulk of housework even when working full-time and caring for their children.
This recent Lean In post stated: "This pandemic is pushing women to their breaking point. And it's no wonder women feel this way.
Consider the conronvirus-era schedule of at typical woman who works full-time and has a partner and kids. She's now spending 71 hours every week on housework and caregiving, including the new responsibilities of the pandemic, according to survey data. That's nearly two full-time jobs-- before she starts doing her actual full-time job.
Meanwhile, men in the same situation are doing 20 fewer hours of labor every week. For women of color and single moms, the demands are even greater."
How can you improve your situation? Work with your partner on a plan that sets you up to succeed while sharing household chores and caring for the kids.
One of the most overlooked facts when discussing women's equality is that we will never be fully equal in the workplace until we have equal responsibilities in the home.
This one may not always be possible depending on your situation, but one of the greatest things you can do when you are spread too thin is to ask for help.
Is your house too much to handle? Hiring a housekeeper can be a game-changer, if you can swing it. Even if it's only on a monthly or bi-weekly basis, not having to worry about deep cleaning can allow you to focus on other priorities like your business or kid's schooling.
Don't have time to cook healthy meals? Look into meal prep services in your area or explore options that are delivered to your door; the same goes for grocery store pick-up or delivery services.
Can't keep up with your business website or social media? There are tons of consultants out there with expertise at doing this very thing, and usually aren't too pricey!
While outsourcing may not be an option for you, asking for help from friends or family when you're at your breaking point is something you must do when it all feels like too much. It's because it is, and you are completely normal for feeling that way.
3. Delegate to your kiddos
Unfortunately, my toddler is a little too young for chores, but we are counting down the days to when he can start pulling his own weight around here by emptying the dishwasher and dusting the furniture.
If your kids or roommates are old enough, make sure they are pitching in by giving them tasks to complete on a daily, weekly and/or monthly basis. There are plenty of chore charts online like on Pinterest here.
Not only will this help you out around the house, research has shown, as discussed in this article, that kids who do chores tend to turn into successful adults.
4. Give up on the idea of Work-Life Balance
While I do believe moms can "do" most everything they put their minds to, it doesn't have to be done perfectly, and especially doesn't have to be perfectly balanced. Many people consider the term "work-life balance" to mean that they must do all the things every single day. For me, it comes in waves.
For example, last week I put in a solid 70+ hours working my full-time job. I was up before the sun and burning the midnight oil every single night to meet all my deadlines after taking some days off the previous week.
While I was working full-time, I was also still a mom. But you wouldn't find me doing fun activities with my son or even playing with him for more than ten minutes at a time-- I knew I had work to be done and that was my priority last week.
This week, while I am still working all day and again when my son goes to bed, I am spending quality time with him in the evenings. We even worked in a few craft projects over the past few days-- but you should know this is definitely an exception to the norm around here.
But my point here is that last week, my job was my priority. And this week, my son is getting more of my time. Does that make me a bad mom? Hell. No.
That makes me a sane, happy, and extremely fulfilled mom, who is driving incredible business results at work AND making magic happen at home with her baby boy.
So while I may not spend quality time with my son every hour or even every day, the time I do get with him is that much more special and real and memorable. When he grows up, he's going to remember the times we did have together and when he looks at me, he will see one badass woman, who in his eyes, "can do it all."
If you get anything out of this article, I hope it is the realization that the standard we as women and moms have set for ourselves is just not achievable.
The crafty mom on Facebook who is always taking her kids on fun adventures? She is struggling. The stay-at-home mom who is out-touched and hasn't had a break in three years? She is struggling. The single mom who just got furloughed and is worried about how to care for her kids during this challenging time(or even when we are not in a pandemic)? She is struggling.
If you find yourself struggling, too, I hope you will remember this list and lean on those around you. We aren't meant to do it all alone, but we are meant to get through it together.
How do you "share the load?" Comment what works for your family below!