I recently read Essentialism – The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. I devoured it whole in one sitting last evening.
Even though it is a business book, I think our current culture of supposed harried moms who eat this concoction we refer to as “mom guilt” would benefit immensely from reading it.
Take for example this nugget I found.
An editor is not someone who merely says no to things. A three year old can do that. Nor does an editor simply eliminate; in a way, an editor actually adds. […] a good editor uses deliberate subtraction to actually add life. […] Likewise, in life, disciplined editing can increase your ability to focus on and give energy to the things that really matter.
I might be an editor at heart.
I find that moms who know their number one priority on any given day seem happier in general and are less likely to say they suffer mom guilt.
So how do you avoid mom guilt? Here are some suggestions.
Discern what’s really important
McKeown suggests setting aside some time to discern what’s most important. As moms, we are bombarded with decisions every minute and they all can seem vital. Add to that the pressures of social media and each day seems to evaporate before it even begins.
Set some time aside periodically to think, not just about the daily or weekly to-do and grocery shopping list, but the bigger picture. What are you trying to achieve? What do you want to teach your children? How do you want your home to look?
Be realistic. Be concrete and then ruthlessly eliminate everything else that takes away from those goals. And suffer no mom guilt for it. Mom guilt stems mostly from feeling like you should do something when you have no desire or inclination to do so. It is a result of letting others decide for you.
It is easier to eliminate mom guilt if you have consciously chosen one thing over another.
Don’t downplay the trade offs
These are inevitable because we’re human and we cannot do everything. But I don’t think we realize that.
As moms, we think we must do everything and do it right away. Not true.
When my husband and I decided to homeschool, I knew there were certain things we were going to have to give up – things like me having a job outside the home, or being able to go places during the day without children.
When we decided to unschool, there were certain assurances we were sacrificing – things like whether the kids would in lock-step academically with their public schooled peers. When we decided to save money to pay off the mortgage, to never be in debt, there were consequences to that – the budget had to be maintained, there were no long vacations, we had to live frugally and make the most of it.
Everything has a trade-off. If you haven’t taken the time to think through these things, guilt will likely follow and you will be right back running from one form of mom guilt to another.
Hang on tight!
Choice, says the author, is not a thing, it’s an action.
We don’t have choice, we choose. But there is an art to choosing. His criterion is that if something isn’t an absolute yes, then it’s an absolute no. (He says that if your reaction is not a Hell, yeah! you should go with No.)Tough, but effective.
Thought about this way, every decision is put into perspective against your (limited) time, your (short) life. I think mom guilt assumes we have more than twenty-four hours in a day, that we have no need for sleep, that we have unlimited room in our tired bedheads, and no need for any other human contact but the kids. All are fallacies.
When you choose, hang on tight; chances are you will be required to continue choosing the thing you have chosen.
Which brings us right back to the quote about editing above. Moms without mom guilt are great editors.
I have been teaching my kids subtraction lately and I can’t tell you how nervous it makes my daughter. Even though she is good at it, she wants to jump straight to multiplication.
I think we’ll stay here a while, subtracting, removing, eliminating. It could be the best thing she has learned all year.