For years I've been hearing people tell moms "just do the best you can, and that's good enough." It sounds great at first, but allow me to argue. In my humble opinion, I truly believe that sometimes "doing the best you can" isn't the best option. Sometimes, we as moms need to do the best we want to do. Allow me to explain.
I don't always do the best I could do every day. If I did the best I could, I would spend more time with God. If I did the best I could, my house would be tidy and disinfected from top to bottom. If I did the best I could, my kids would be much better behaved. If I did the best I could, there would be more money in my bank account. If I did the best I could, I'd be thinner and more fit. I could rise at dawn to read my Bible and pray. I could spend the 2 hours the kids are having 'quiet time' scrubbing counters, folding laundry, vacuuming floors, sweating on the elliptical and doing sit-ups. I could fix all the meals from scratch every day of the week. I could cancel all my discount-site memberships, stop paying for blog sponsorships, close my etsy shop, coupon more extensively and comparison shop more exhaustively. I could do all these things - and that would be the very best I could do.
But I don't. And I don't want to. I spent three years doing the very best I could - doing all the things I knew I was supposed to do to be the best wife and mother and housekeeper I could be. I spent all my waking moments changing diapers, feeding babies, playing with toddlers, fixing suppers, scrubbing, folding, tidying, listening, disciplining and waking up in the middle of the night. And at the end of those three years, I stopped for a moment to breathe and realized that doing the best I could had left me exhausted, drained and depressed. I cried all the time. I secretly fantasized about running away to the Carribean. I was very unhappy and my family could sense it. I felt like I didn't know who I was anymore - I'd lost my identity somewhere amongst the piles of laundry and stacks of diapers. All I wanted was a little time to myself to explore who I was on the inside - to chase after a few of my own dreams. And I resolved that I would no longer do the very best I could do. I would do only the best that I wanted to do.
So I instituted quiet time (before, I was with big brother all afternoon) to teach the kids a little independence and to give myself a break. Sometimes I'm very productive with quiet time - I clean, I exercise, I nap - but a lot of the time I'm not. Most days I blog, check email, read a book, make jewelry or lose the time doing goodness-knows-what. Sometimes the laundry piles up, or the sink fills with dishes, or the kids stay up past bedtime so we can goof off and watch silly videos on youtube, or I can take a hot bath, go to a class or work on a play. Sometimes, like yesterday, I'm feeling ill and all that gets done is changing diapers and feeding kiddos. And some days I spend money just because I want to and it feels good to buy something new. But you know what? I'm happy! I find joy in spending time with my kids instead of wanting to escape. I look forward to waking up in the morning and having a whole new day ahead of me. I'm finally starting to feel comfortable in my own skin.
Before you despair completely about the state of my home/family now, I should mention that, quite often, the best I want to do is also the best I can do. In general, I like living in a neat, clean house. I'm a little obsessive about keeping to-do lists and weekly menus and a coupon binder and reorganizing every shelf and room in the house. In general, I do a load of laundry every day, wash the counters and put away dishes after every meal, and keep the bathrooms relatively clean. The kids are usually all in bed by 8, they are usually fed wholesome meals, and I usually don't allow them to swing from the chandeliers or draw all over the walls. We're slowly settling into a very nice routine which lets me 'get stuff done' and spend quality time with the kids all in the same day.
However, I've learned that it's ok (in fact, I'll argue, necessary) to slack off now and then. I don't have to be the very best I can be every single day. My life and my diet are very similar, really. If I fill my belly with nothing but wholesome foods all the time, eventually I'll succumb to my cravings and pig out on hamburgers and milkshakes. But if I pig out all the time on junk food, eventually I'll find myself craving a nice big salad-bar. So it is with life. If I do the very best I can every single day, eventually I'll wear myself ragged, become angry and depressed, and have to take a break or risk a breakdown. But if I slack off for too long and really let things go, I'll always catch up again with a big cleaning day, some extra snuggle time or an especially frugal week.
It's all about balance. Knowing how to take care of yourself in order to take care of everyone and everything else. It's a realization I'm making very slowly, but I cannot tell you what a relief it is. I don't have to be Supermom. I don't even have to be the very best I can be. All I have to do is to seek balance in my life and that will make it the best life I can have.