Last night I had a splitting headache and wanted to head to bed early. As I sat down on my bed a load of clean folded clothes looked at me with disdain. “I barely got anything done today. I’ll never keep up with the cleaning.” These thoughts were automatic and took no effort on my behalf but their effect was strong and quickly sent me into self-loathing and disappointment.
I thought to myself, “I’m just going to put 5 pieces of clothing away.” I started and got through about 75% of the pile. When I reached having to hang my partner’s work shirts I stopped and decided I had accomplished something. I laid in bed with those defeating thoughts gone and a sense that I conquered something.
It can be very easy to feel defeated as a mom when it comes to getting things done. Accomplishment is hard to see day to day when tantrums erupt that throw off your morning plans, potty training seems to be going nowhere, clean spaces are messy again within a mind-boggling short period from when you cleaned them. I got myself into the habit of going to bed at night telling myself “I got nothing done today.”
But our expectations are our eyeglasses-the way we see the things we do everyday. A sense of accomplishment comes not from the content of what we achieve but rather from the lens in which we view it. A load of laundry can be your Mt. Everest if you choose to see it that way.
Our productivity feels as if it changes drastically after children. We always seem to be complaining about how children get in the way of us getting things done. It feels that way. And maybe its just me but I feel as if a lot of us moms only see our accomplishments for the day as something that can only be physically seen-paid bills, folded laundry, clean dishes. If you really could see all that we do in a day we may be suprised to see that we do so much more than we ever did before! Tickles and snuggles, changed diapers, cut up carrots, popsicle stick crafts, songs, imaginative play, the “I love you”s and “good job”s and “wow that dinosaur is really big!” …why do these tasks not feed our sense of accomplishment as much as household chores? These are the really important tasks but they are never on our to do list so somehow we don’t categorize them in our accomplishments at the end of the day.
So how do we go to bed feeling accomplished? First by remembering all those tasks above mentioned, the important ones that help our child go to bed feeling loved. Second by remembering that our sense of accomplishment comes from our perspective and sometimes expecting less can actually help us feel capable of producing more.
Most days I start my morning by writing down 5-7 tasks. But within this list I include 2 tasks from two very important categories for me: identity and self-care. An identity task is anything I can do related to my identity outside of motherhood. It could be catching up with an old friend through text, working on a hobby, or doing something related to my career since I’m not currently working. It may be as simple as reading an article or researching continuing education classes but it keeps me in the know. I find following a blog or liking pages on Facebook related to my career are simple ways that I can still feel connected to my work. Self-care is the other important task on my to-do list. This is so important to put on my list because it is easy to not get to and it is so essential to my abilities as a mom. I try to engage in a mindful self-care task each day, something that actually refreshes my energy and lifts my mood. I’ll have a post on mindful self-care activities next week.
Our expectations may change each day and that’s okay. I personally like to take my own mental health temperature in the morning. On a scale of 1-10 how positive and capable do I feel today? On days where I would rate myself in a higher mood (7 or above) I may have a to-do list of about 7-10 items. On days were I’m okay (4-7) I may only have 5 items. On a really bad day (3 or below) where I “just can’t even” that list may be only 1-2 items. I also try to make sure the number of items on my list increases or decreases depending on the projected time each task will take.
The object here for me is to not necessarily to do more. Its about feeling good at the end of the day about what I’ve done so I go into the next day feeling capable and confident. When you start to change your thinking and your perspective your mood and attitude shifts. A byproduct of a more positive mood? Productivity.
So try altering your expectations this week and remember to take your mood into account. And before you shut your eyes at night ask yourself what the really important tasks were and hold on tight to the memories of them because one day those are the ones we will really miss.