I was watching an episode of Modern Family and the funny ‘broke.’ That’s how I describe my favorite thing about sitcoms – how quickly funny can turn to serious. I related to the truth they were telling through the humor as I watched Claire try to do it all.
Claire, a wife and mom on the sitcom, began working full-time. She started having an assistant at work help her pick up errands without her family knowing. He bought a dress for her daughter, packed sandwiches for lunches, and baked and decorated cupcakes for school. It was all very funny. However, by the end of the episode she excuses him out the house and says,
“I’m so … busy trying to be the perfect mom and the perfect boss, but I’m outsourcing the one job that means the most to me and I miss it, I miss being a mom. Even if I’m the so-so mom that barely has time to make a soggy tuna fish sandwich.” (You can watch the clip here.)
The so-so mom.
I’ll admit there are moments I embody super mom. When I put two toddlers to sleep without tantrums before 8:30 pm. (Insert emoji muscle arm here.) When I get them both to finish their vegetables at dinner. But many times, I relate to the so-so mom.
The so-so mom. The so-so wife. The so-so woman. Somewhere in our heads is a pretend list of what qualifies someone and we believe we are perpetually falling short. I love the title of this Modern Family episode – ‘I Don’t Know How She Does It.’ The answer is and always will be: She doesn’t. None of us are doing it all.
I had the privilege of hearing Tiffany Dufu speak at a conference about her book ‘Drop the Ball’ and the advice has stuck with me. She invites women to ‘drop the ball.’ On purpose. She talked about not doing things, so you can do other things on purpose. My mentor, Jeanne Mayo, has language for that similar concept that I have been living out for years – choose to fail. We can’t do everything perfectly. But we can choose to release the guilt of thinking we should.
For Claire on Modern Family, choosing to fail meant she wasn’t going to make gourmet sandwiches for her family with fancy cheese. But it did mean that she was going to take the time to make her family lunch everyday.
Once the self proclaimed coupon queen who never paid full price for anything, sadly now I don’t use coupons at all.
Here are 11 other things I’m currently not doing:
1) I don’t regularly go grocery shopping.
2) I don’t go clothing shopping. (Subscription boxes for the win!)
3) I don’t go to the gym.
4) I don’t cook every night.
5) I don’t decorate for holidays.
6) I don’t dust.
7) I don’t make homemade Halloween costumes.
8) I don’t keep house plants.
9) I don’t pick out gifts. (I buy gift cards.)
10) I don’t keep up with new music and tv.
11) I don’t throw Pinterest-worthy parties for my kids.
I’m choosing these things. They aren’t just not happening accidentally. I’m making a conscious choice to not do them during this season. This doesn’t mean I disapprove decorating for Valentine’s Day or running every morning. I like all these things and I especially LOVE when people I know do them. They are just things I’m choosing to release the guilt of ‘not doing it all.’
If we are naming what we don’t do, I think it’s vital to acknowledge what we do. That’s the reason for choosing to fail after all. I make time to write (mostly) every day. I spend time cleaning our home, so my family can have a place to unwind well. I spend time running the kid’s ministry at my church to serve the children and parents well. I take lunch hours to visit my daughter on special days at school.
This is a message about community. It’s a message about the power of knowing what you are designed to do. What are you not doing, so you can do what matters for yourself and those around you?
You don’t need to tell others what you are not doing. But I encourage you to name them for yourself. If you are anything like me, the expectation in your head of how to fulfill the role of woman, wife, or mom is a pretty loud voice. We need to make decisions for ourselves of what we do and don’t do, before enviable guilt will make the decisions for us.
Whether you ‘choose to fail’ or ‘drop the ball,’ my hope is that each of us begin to notice what matters to us and our families, and release unrealistic expectations we put on ourselves to ‘do it all.’