Am I doing enough?
The question lingers in my frontal lobe and plagues me periodically, I say plagues because when the question arrives it sticks around until I run myself ragged to prove to ‘it’ that I am. An internal battle. I wash the baseboards; make cookies, while melting crayons and folding laundry. You. Will. Not. Win. I am super human. “Watch this”, I say to the thought, as I make tea for the week, polish the counters, make dinner and perfectly fold the kid’s pjs (a totally useless task). “Oh you’re not gone yet?” I watch the kids, edge the lawn, and learn Spanish through my headphones aaaaand it’s gone. Yes, I am doing enough. I collapse from exhaustion and start the whole thing over again days later.
I realize that the question itself is primarily based in guilt, a feeling that I would prefer didn’t make its way into any part of my body, but it exists. Before kids I certainly had guilt, and most definitely asked myself whether I was ‘doing enough’, but it has taken on a different form now because I am not asking whether I am doing enough for me, but whether I am doing enough for them, for us. Prior to having kids it usually took on this form – I sat on the couch Sunday morning, noon and night watching nine hours of football and consuming three thousand calories of garbage, all the while wondering why Monday mornings were so tough. Monday morning as I cleared the sleep from my eyes the thought would slowly enter my mind “Am. I. Doing….ennnnufff”, I told it to wait until Tuesday because I was tired from Sunday, I would work all week at school, and then reward myself Friday for having such a productive week. Rinse and repeat.
Being at home with the girls and not having a something that charts my ‘progress’ and shows me that I am ‘doing enough’ is not easy for me. I have been trained my whole life to judge whether I am ‘doing enough’ by my grades, pay raises, and other outside indicators that would let me know if I was slacking or excelling. I am very good at performing beyond expectations when I am certain of what the expectations are. Now, I know what is expected of me, or what I expect from myself day in and day out. The girls should be ‘let out’ of their room by 9:00, get at least two meals a day (three packs of fruit snacks doesn’t count unless it’s Monday), and they should have the ability to go outside from time to time. In reality, no, if you are reading this for the first time or have no understanding of sarcasm, I understand my job as a stay at home parent well. I understand the need for structure, education, nutrition, and all the other necessary components and hard work that actually make the days pleasant and seem further away from a ‘have to’ to a ‘I get to’. Now, I can say I have never looked at cleaning the poop off of h.’s finger and wondering where the rest of the poop is as a ‘I get to’, but you take the ups with the downs, and try to laugh.
I read today that blog readers need a picture every four hundred words for a break from a lengthy read. We’re at 549 so you are long overdue.
So, how do we know if we are doing enough? How do we know when we are “done for the day”? before we collapse from exhaustion. How do we know? How do we know? How. Do. We. Know? We don’t. We don’t get to. It doesn’t matter. Better said, it matters and I will never get away from asking myself the question (just trying to be realistic), but it isn’t something that should drive me to do certain activities or complete certain tasks. My desire to do things the right way for my own progress, and the betterment of those around me, should be ‘enough’. As much as I understand “my desire to do things the right way and for the betterment of myself and those around me should be enough.” (I just quoted myself two sentences later) it doesn’t necessarily measure whether I am doing enough, and what am I wondering if I am doing enough of. Enough work? Enough loving? Enough, well, enough? I have found that the more I have to do, the more I do, and the happier I seem to be. Enough? There is never enough. I am not saying that you shouldn’t relax, no, I am suggesting that there is no ‘enough’. Keep pressure on yourself to continue to be uncomfortable and challenged, but don’t unrealistically try to live life as if there are two of you. ooops. It’s that old balance thing again.
I am realizing that there is no way to measure, as a stay at home parent or any kind of parent, whether I am doing enough. quite frankly, the question shouldn’t even exist. When it comes to raising and being a part of a family, the concept of ‘enough’ should be a foreign country with guilt as its language – a place not to visit. When I get caught in this cycle of wondering whether I am ‘doing enough’, I am really wondering what else I want to be doing. I am doing enough, perhaps we should try doing something different. do I need to put six hours into cleaning, or should we spend more time in the ‘tickle chamber’. Am I doing enough isn’t the question, it’s what else do I want to be doing. what else should we be doing to be, well, to be happier. It’s the old ‘have to’s’ that get in the way of all these great concepts.