Do you feel like you are constantly playing catch-up with your to-do list? Like you are never done?
Do you feel guilty when you do something fun, like playing with your kids, because you have this list of chores at the back of your mind?
This is because to-do lists keep you busy by design.They never end because in our busy mom life, there’s always something else to add to the bottom of the list.
To do lists are addictive.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I was the student who loved getting those little gold stars. I liked nothing better than being told I had done a really good job. It gave me a sense of accomplishment, validation, and pride. So it’s unsurprising that I used to be really into to-do lists. They made me feel productive, efficient, and valuable. Ticking things off my to-do list always gave me a little kick. Like someone telling me,“Job well done!”Is there anything else that is quite so satisfying? Yes, to-do lists are addictive.
We live in a society that glorifies busy. In our academic and work life we are fully immersed in a culture where being valuable equates to being productive and busy.
No wonder we have adopted this attitude in our mom life, too.
Parenting is hard. A lot of us moms, me included, are insecure about it. Doing a good job of parenting isn’t measurable in the same way our accomplishments at school or work are.But at least we can DO tasks, right? We can manage our homes, do the day-to-day routine stuff, housework, appointments, feeding our kids…and if we are really busy doing that, it means we are at least doing our jobs as parents.
And let’s face it: There IS a lot to do. Constant preparing of meals and snacks, cleaning, laundry, getting our kids to appointments, daycare, school, extra-curricular activities …and maybe you are a working mom or have other commitments. And let’s not forget the things we need to get done for ourselves.(Somehow they always end up at the bottom of the list.)
Create habits and rhythms for your day-to-day routines.
Here’s the thing: The day-to-day stuff doesn’t have to overwhelm you. You might not believe me if you are right in the thick of things, but it is true.
To overcome the pressures of day-to-day tasks, think about creating habits and rhythms to get these things done. I have written a blog post on this topic and created a free PDF you can download here. It gives you a few easy steps to get chores done around the home with your kids. Once you have created these habits and rhythms,everyday jobs won’t need to appear on any to-do list anymore. They won’t need to get checked off and you won’t have them hanging over your head. Instead, they’ll have become second nature and most of the time, at least, will just get done.
Now, back to your toxic to-do list.
Here are three easy steps for how you can ditch your to-do list and enjoy motherhood.
1. Re-examine and define your priorities
Whether you are aware of it or not, you prioritize things in your life. If you haven’t defined your priorities, someone else will have done this for you.
I encourage you to take some time and free write about what is important to you. Spending time connecting with your kids and your husband will probably be on that list. Maybe making healthy meals might be, too. Or do you take pride in your home and love cleaning and housekeeping? Maybe your whole family is into a certain team sport and going to games and supporting your family’s team is your jam.
These are your priorities. They are not what you think you should be doing or what society tells you that you should do.
One of my priorities is to write every day. I need to write and promote my books because I am a writer. It’s my calling and it’s definitely a priority in my life. But there are people who might judge me for being a work-at-home mom instead of a stay-at-home mom.
Don’t be discouraged by other people’s opinions.Define your own priorities, write them down, hang them up where you can see them and own them.
Learn how to be okay with doing things that aren’t on your list of priorities imperfectly or even not at all. This might involve saying no to others more often. If you are a recovering perfectionist like me, this can be really tough. Just keep reminding yourself that nobody should have the power to decide what your life should look like except you.
Don’t think about all the things you need to fit into a day. Think about it the other way around. How much time do you have every day? Block time for certain tasks or activities and do what needs to be done in that time block. Once that block of time is over, stop.Move onto the next scheduled block of time. And remember to block whitespace, too, for the rare occasions when you really do need to catch up on something, for emergencies, or to relax. 🙂
3. Do three things every day
Every morning,decide on the three most important things you need to do that day. I say need but bear in mind that whatever you “need”to do is just in your head. Sure, sometimes we have appointments, deadlines et cetera, but this is because we have agreed to them in the first place. Becoming conscious of the fact that you are in control of what you need to do every day makes a big difference.
You can of course write these three things down if you must, but the difference between this and a to-dolist is that you don’t tick things off and you don’t add things to this list.
Three things every day should be manageable, but if this still overwhelms you, start with just one thing and then try more.
Lastly, I would like to circle back to the beginning, to the WHY: Why we moms let ourselves be overwhelmed by to-do lists in the first place. This is for the mom who just can’t quite let go of having to feel super-productive and can’t bear the thought of letting standards slide and not trying to do everything as perfectly as possible. I get it.
We do it because we want to be the best mom we can be, right? Here is the thing, though: We can’t do our kids any bigger favor than spending time with them. That’s what they want, and that’s what we find joy in, too. So make it a priority and ditch the to-do list that keeps you from enjoying motherhood once and for all.
Freya writes about her journey as a mom of a spirited child and how to find joy in motherhood on her blog https://www.freya-spiritedmom.com. She is on a mission to encourage other moms to redefine motherhood on their own terms. Take her quiz to find out what your biggest hurdle to enjoying motherhood is or connect with her on Instagram.