I Refuse to “Do It All”

When did our society decide women and mothers must do and be all the things, all the time? When did the myth of having and being it all begin? I can research and point out several spots throughout history, but suffice it to say, the expectation to do it all is exhausting. I’m sure many of us want to NOT have to do it all. 

As parents and women, we’re expected to do and be so much at all times. Worker. Mother. Housekeeper. Chef. Chauffeur. On any given day I am all of these and more. I wear more “hats” throughout the day than I can count on one hand. And that’s okay, but it can be a lot sometimes. Add in quarantine and cabin fever, and well, let’s just say I’m grateful for screen time more so than normal these days.

So I’m going to let you in on a secret: Just because I’m expected to do it all, doesn’t mean I do. As a recovering perfectionist, this reality was (and is) hard to accept at times. Therapy helps—talking out my expectations helps me break down what must be done day-to-day for me, my son, our pets, and our household. (For those of you wondering where my husband enters the “do it all” equation, right now he works out of state, at least until our house is built there. Then, I’ll move to join him!). 

But what does not doing it all mean when put into practice? It can mean a lot of different things.

I consider not doing it all a form of self-care, and I choose carefully what will help me be my best self every day.

For example, I am not a fan of clutter, so decluttering daily is important to me. Some days this looks like scooping everything into a laundry basket in the corner, while other times we put everything back into its proper spot at bedtime. 

You may find not doing it all means using paper plates and disposable cutlery. I mean, with everyone home since mid-March, my dishwasher is getting quite the workout. Rather than go the disposable route for dishes, I’ve eased up on how much I cook from scratch and choose pre-made meals from the refrigerated section at the grocery store (Market Street has some great options) or order take-out just a little more often than I once did. Not only does this reduce the number of dishes I have from cooking, but it also frees me up to focus on other things, like an evening game of tag with my son, more time to read, or just a few minutes to sit and be. 

The biggest way I don’t do it all is to be selective about what I do and when. There is a daily list of what must be done for health and safety, and then I loosely follow the schedule outlined by Clean Mama for the rest (though I vacuum far more often due to our pets and allergies).

I also choose one larger activity per day for my son and me to do together and then structure the rest of our day around other forms of play. Some of the activities we’ve done lately include going on a nature walk at Arbor Hills, visiting a splash pad at off-peak hours, or taking a picnic to the playground. This gets us out of the house in a safe manner, lets him run off energy, and gives us both something to look forward to. 

Finally, I make sure to take time for self-care. My son wakes up with the sun, so early mornings aren’t my best time for more than breakfast and storytime. Self-care for me these days looks like drinking my coffee hot, reading one or two chapters of a book per day, and taking time out to do yoga or meditate in the evening. Sometimes it can be a bubble bath, or just sitting in silence after my son is in bed for the night, savoring the peace.

Rather than fill all of my free time with the expectations I put on myself, I choose to fill it with the activities that help fill my cup. This ensures I can do everything I need, without doing it all, all of the time. 

How do you work on not doing it all? What do you do for self-care?