By: Sarah Thompson
As a recovering perfectionist, my family’s back-to-school seasons have always been planned to a tee. From schedules to pencil sharpeners, everything is right where it’s supposed to be on that oh-so-anticipated first day. Where I’ve struggled? The remainder of the year. As fall sports rev up and the post-summer work season begins, I watch the perfectly curated image I’ve created in my mind – of us “having it together” – crumble right in front of me. (Dramatic? Maybe. But remember, recovering perfectionist here.)
This year, after we were forced to slow down during COVID-19, I recognized that I want things to be different. I don’t want – nor do I need – to schedule myself or my family to the point of exhaustion. That’s why I’ve created an “emotional” check list, a list of questions to ask myself when the next latest-and-greatest opportunity comes up, for me or my children. So far, it has been a big help in guiding our family through all the options we’re facing this fall.
Before you read ahead, I want to offer a short disclaimer. As moms, we’re trained to believe that it’s our job to put everyone else’s emotions, time, and ease ahead of our own. Creating this list felt selfish before I remembered that my mental health, joy, and ability to thrive is as important as anyone else’s. I cannot prioritize my children, spouse, and others if I do not prioritize myself. And moms, while it might be cliché to say we’re “worth it,” we really are.
- First and foremost, does this opportunity put my child, myself, or others at a heightened risk of getting or spreading COVID-19?
- Does this opportunity give me more or less time with my family? If less, is it something that will nourish and energize me?
- What was my gut reaction to learning about this? If positive, do I have an accurate picture of the time and effort required to take this on? What else can I ask to make sure I have all the details? If negative, what about this makes me feel hesitant?
- Would this opportunity make me, my spouse, or my children happier, healthier, or more knowledgeable?
- Does my child want to do this? If not, is the opportunity valuable enough to get my child involved anyway? If so, is this something our family can feasibly take on from a financial, emotional, and scheduling standpoint?
- Will this serve the community or benefit someone in need?
- If I take this on, do I feel confident that I can contribute my “best” on a consistent basis?
- How do my children or my spouse and I feel after spending time with this group of people?
- Would this opportunity allow my family to learn from people who are different from us?
- In saying “yes” to this opportunity, what in my life would I have to say “no” to? Is it worth it?
- Would this opportunity hinder my ability to rest or be fully present in my job or home?
- Does this align with my values and passions?
- What do I really want to do?
To my fellow moms, I challenge you to unapologetically take care of yourselves this year. Write “selfish” checklists; nourish yourself like you nourish everyone around you; take the moments you need to stay connected the things you love; and say “no” to your inner critic. Remember, this is it: it is your precious life to balance and enjoy as you choose. You’ve got this.