What makes a good mom? A bad mom? How do we know if we are doing a good job or a bad job?
We define it.
We all have our own ideas of what a good mom, good wife, good friend, good housekeeper, good employee, etc. looks like. Each of us has a combination of roles to play in our lives that always seems to be changing as time goes on. Personally, I have always had high expectations for myself. I want to do everything 100% and give it my all. It’s always felt unacceptable to me to do anything less.
But I’ve learned through experience that sometimes life piles on the responsibilities so high that meeting my own standards and expectations is simply impossible.
During my most recent bout with post-partum depression, my reality and my expectations were so starkly different that it was crippling me.
I see a counselor to help me manage my depression. Once during a session she asked me, “Let’s come up with a phrase that you can remember to help motivate yourself when you are feeling bad. What do you think that could be?” I thought about it and replied, “Do a bad job.” She laughed and asked me to explain. “Well,” I said, “when a task seems completely overwhelming, sometimes I just allow myself the leeway to not meet the standards that I have for myself in my head. That helps me to calm down and reduce that overwhelmed feeling so I can at least start on the task. Usually when I get going, I end up getting more done than I originally thought I could. And even if I don’t, I’ve at least done more than absolutely nothing which was the alternative.”
My counselor was fully supportive of my mantra since it did the job of motivating me. Since then, I’ve become accustomed to repeating this phrase to myself time and time again. And you know what? It totally works. And it applies to so many areas of my life.
Of course, doing a “bad job” isn’t really my goal, but letting go of my expectations gives me so much more freedom so that I can eventually do a good job in the areas that are most important to me, and let go of the guilt in the areas where I can’t or don’t do a good job (according to my standards).
My productivity, and more importantly my personal satisfaction and self-esteem, has increased so much since I had this mini revelation. It’s okay to do a bad job! Awesome. If I don’t have time to clean my boys’ disgusting bathroom how I’d like, but something has to be done, Clorox wipes are my friend. It takes less than two minutes to wipe down the important stuff. Is it the absolute cleanest it could be? No, but at least it doesn’t smell like pee (as much as it did before). I got it done.
Sometimes it takes stuffing the clean clothes into drawers unfolded. Same goes for juggling the responsibilities of meal planning/cooking, extracurricular activities, getting the kids dressed, family activities, exercise, and many other things. Boom. Done. The End.
If we try to wait for the perfect conditions before working on something, we may never start. Our efforts may not be as strong as we hoped for, but even if we can only give 75%, that is a heck of a lot more than zero. For most things, I’ve discovered it’s really just fine to let go of what I should do, and replace it with what I can do.
Maybe doing a “bad job” is actually…doing a good job.
It all depends on how you define it.
So…repeat after me: It’s okay to do a bad job. Got it?