Remember what success looked like in high school? In order to obtain that coveted 4.0 GPA, you had to do it all. Complete all the homework, do all of the extracurricular activities, get all the right answers and write all the papers to the exact specifications outlined in the syllabus.
But now, as a married, working mom, when people ask “How do you do it all?” my answer is not “I pull all-nighters.” In fact, I do not reply to every email or attend every event or have every answer. And so most often, my out-loud answer is, “I can’t and I don’t.” This is a statement that I know to be true and have most often ACCEPTED as truth.
But then there are times I resist it.
Listen, I want to get straight A’s in all of life’s subjects: Wife, Mother, Full-time Employee, Daughter, Sister, Friend, Christian. I want it bad. And there are moments I try pretty darn hard to do it all… until a ball drops, a deadline is missed, texts go unanswered. And then I’m faced with a choice. Do I allow myself to dive head first into the shame spiral or do I let the small things slide, have a good chuckle to myself and move on? What if I forgot to send those thank you notes… everyone will get over it. Maybe I left some wet clothes in the dryer (twice)… whoops. Better luck tomorrow. What if I had to say “no” to that friend’s invitation (again!) because the week was already just too jammed… catch you later and you’re still dear to me. Perhaps on a Monday morning, I realize that we are completely out of coffee beans and also out of the back-up instant coffee packets (WAIT, THIS IS ACTUALLY UNFORGIVABLE.)
It would be so very easy for me to list out the ways I got an F this year. We are four (4!!!!) months into a full-on kitchen-turned-home renovation and I’m losing my innovative edge with my toaster oven. My husband broke his arm and just found out he needs surgery (THIS WEEK!!!!) and I am patient and compassionate but only to a point. Addie started at a new school full time a few weeks before I began a new job at the foundation while offloading the job I’ve had for the last five years. As a dear friend of mine says, “It’s a bit of gong show around here.”
But I know I need to redefine what success looks like now. It’s NOT doing it all, getting it all right, being perfect in every which way. It’s getting the right stuff right. It’s picking the important ones and sloughing off the rest. It’s reading my toddler one more book before bedtime (even at the expense of my expanding inbox). It’s giving my parents and my sister a five minute phone call to say hi and I love you and letting the dishes wait. It’s putting on my rain boots, walking outside in the dark up the stairs to the sunroom to get my husband some more ice for his arm (because that’s where our refrigerator is right now, DUH.)
I was exactly the student you think I was in high school… I aimed high. And maybe it’s okay to keep working toward that 4.0… but it’s due time to reinvent our grading rubric.