It's the only way I'm going to make it through this.
I am an overachiever.
I wish I could say it's based on wanting to be the very best I can be every day or some similarly positive and industrious sentiment, but really, overachieving is just my way of keeping anxiety at bay.
When self-doubt rears its ugly head, if I can throw enough 'look at this amazing thing I did!'s at it, I can usually quiet the noise, at least temporarily.
I plan elaborate Pinterest-themed birthday parties. Because I enjoy it—I think? I think they spark joy? I'm honestly not sure anymore.
I menu plan. I plan weekend trips. I plan home declutter bursts.
I plan a lot in an attempt to prove to myself—and to the world—that I am a good enough mother.
Well, one thing I did not plan for was this pandemic.
And the only way I am going to make it through this is to lower my motherhood standards, dramatically.
If I am being honest, the standards and all my attempts to reach them are not providing any benefits to my life, pandemic or not.
Ironically, I didn't set the standards. They were created by our culture (and yes, the patriarchy). These unattainable standards for mothers were established by a society that doesn't even see fit to give us the basic support that we need to survive—and now they want us to go after some lofty and idealized vision of perfection that is impossible to attain. I think I'll pass.
I've realized that when I reach for those high standards, I'm not doing it for myself. Rarely am I the beneficiary of reaching the standards. Yes, my child had a gorgeous party and my family lives in a clean home.
Me? I'm left with a shell of myself—depleted and exhausted.
We are experiencing collective trauma right now and the last thing we need is to add the pressure of striving for perfection. Mothers are carrying so much of the societal burden right now: We're giving birth without support, homeschooling kids, being driven out of the workforce in droves, caring for ailing parents, worrying about paying bills, worrying about our family's safety, worrying and worrying and worrying.
We have reached our worrying capacity, and so it's time to lower our standards—a lot. And I invite you to join me.
Here's what lowering my standards looks like for me:
It's going to bed with a sink full of dishes.
It's peanut butter sandwiches for dinner.
It's the email to my child's teacher telling them that we couldn't get all the homework done.
It's not freaking out when I find that my kid has covered themselves in marker.
It's closing my computer and sitting in the sun while my children play.
It's not checking social media as frequently.
It's buying everyone the same Christmas present this year.
It's letting the day happen naturally rather than scheduling every minute of it.
And you know what? It's so much better.
Because my kids do not care about the dishes in the sink (they put most of them there in the first place). They love peanut butter. My child's teacher is exhausted, too.
And in so many other ways, I am learning that the only person who actually cared about the unachievable standards was me. Well, I officially don't care, anymore. And my family is thriving because of it.
Because an empty sink isn't what comforts them when they're scared. I am.
What we have for dinner isn't what shows my children they are loved. I am.
One day's worth of homework isn't what teaches them to be compassionate global citizens. I am.
I am lowering my standards because I am enough—I always have been. So have you.
So here's to sleepy lazy mornings in pj's, and simple birthday gatherings that are about the person and not the theme, and less time cooking with more time eating, and all the hundreds of ways that we can be gentle with ourselves.
It's the only way we are going to make it through this—and mama, it's so much better.