parenting the one thing i'm not doing by sharon mccutcheon

I realized that it was one – ONE measly thing, and suddenly I felt so much better.

In another installment of “things I know but somehow hadn’t yet articulated for my own benefit,” I just pulled myself out of a months-long funk. Well, not me alone. My epiphany happened over a playground bench-coffee session with Megan. I was describing that thing where, in the late afternoon, as the at home parent of a young child, you are presented with a moment where you can either take the lazy-route that’s probably not as good for your kid (“Mooooooooooom, I want to watch a moooooooooovie.”) or suck it up and walk your exhausted self+progeny to the playground so your kid can work her bad attitude out jungle-gym style.  “I took the lazy route yesterday,” I told Megan dejectedly.

She gave me the look. The look of “are you kidding?” that mothers lucky enough to have great mom-friends know. The one that says “are you going to turn this around and tell yourself the truth or do you need me to spell this out for you?”

That’s when I realized that the lazy-route I was describing included my folding laundry, coordinating childcare via text and email, running lines for the sketch show I’m in, and making dinner without someone actively trying to push me over the edge with the discovery and subsequent insistence on roller-cooking (dinner prep+roller skating with knives = maternal yelling and lots of near-misses with digit-amputation). And that’s when I thought to myself, “wait a minute… I might be being a huge bag of dicks to myself here.” And then I thought about what I’d tell me if I were any other mom I know. And then I broadened this awareness to open a can of whoop ass on my larger feelings of inadequacy.

“I just can’t seem to get anything done!” I lamented. “I mean, I guess I’ve had more childcare and domestic responsibilities since Nate (husband/co-parent) has been out of town working for 2 weeks. And Ida and I are eating, and living in relative cleanliness. And we went on a family vacation right before that, which I needed to plan and pack for. And I guess I do perform in 3 or 4 shows a week. And I rehearse for those shows. And I take 2 weekly classes that are 3 hours each. And I’m on the board of directors for Ida’s preschool. And I’ve had to go to a bunch of meetings for back-to-school stuff for her. And I’m making a baby out of my guts. And I found us a new apartment and am coordinating our move and all the details that go with that…” And. And. And.

And I’m an idiot. Because you know what was making me feel like a failure – like I wasn’t getting ANYTHING done despite the list of obvious evidence to the contrary above? The fact that in spite of keeping up with all of that stuff, I haven’t been writing on the internet. And… and… NOTHING! That was it! The fact that I haven’t been posting rambly musings here or at HuffPo recently had me feeling like a full-on failure – like I was floundering in ALL areas of my life. Idiot!

I bet this happens to you sometimes too, so I want to invite you to either sidle up to that friend at the playground (or in your office, or who sleeps next to you, or whatever) and let them give you “the look” – the look that reminds you that you’re actually doing a really awesome job at an almost overwhelmingly long list of things. Or perhaps better yet, take a good hard look at yourself -at the real work you’re doing everyday and reach that conclusion on your very own. You are accomplishing a shit-ton. Even if the only thing on that list is “I parented.” Even if your parenting hasn’t been going so well because you’ve been swamped at work. It’s a lot, guys. We’d admit it to anyone else lamenting their lack of momentum or accomplishment, but we’re sometimes hesitant to give that grace to ourselves. In either a metaphorical or literal way, I hope you’ll look yourself in the mirror tonight and say, “you are doing a lot of hard things really well.”

Hopefully, like me, you’ll have a luxurious moment of clarity that allows you to let go of that one/those few/whatever it is you’re not doing that’s bringing you down. What you’re doing isn’t nothing just because it’s not everything. And maybe naming it and letting go of it will allow it to come back around – even if it’s something as simple as posting some ramblings on the very subject on the parenting blog you co-write with your pal.

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