woman doing dishes illustration
There is nothing that makes me happier than a clean house. The smell of bleach, the look of a cleared-off counter and carpet with freshly raised vacuum lines all make my heart sing. But with three kids and a very busy schedule, like most moms, my house is not in that state very often and this used to frustrate me on a regular basis.
After a long day, when everyone else was retired to the couch relaxing, I would still be picking up, folding laundry and doing the dishes, all the while simmering at the lack of help I received from the rest of the family. Maybe this sounds routine to you too?
Moms are notorious for working themselves to the bone and sacrificing themselves for the sake of others, which results in frustration, anger and ultimately resentment. So if you are feeling overwhelmed, over-worked and under-appreciated, it’s time to give yourself a break this Valentine’s Day. Here are three ways you can show yourself a little love all while leaving those dishes in the sink.
1. Figure out what works for you. When I was 24 and had my first daughter, I followed suit with what I thought a mom ‘should’ do. I became an at-home mother and took it upon myself to provide all the services for my family that I thought were required. I didn’t consider what my options were or realize I had any other options. I know that sounds silly but it’s true. By the birth of my third daughter five years later I was frustrated, to say the least. This simply was because I did not deliberately create a life that worked for me. I didn’t give myself any breaks and had lost myself in my life.
Self-Love Step #1: Slow down. Ask yourself: Am I happy? If not, what can I do to create some time for myself, change my schedule to reflect my needs, and do those things that are important to me on a regular basis?
2. Forget perfection. Part of my dissatisfaction with my life choices at that time had to do with my obsession with perfection. I have a natural bent toward organizing and cleanliness. But having three children under five years old did not lend itself to this type of living on a consistent basis. So I fought the current of the stream and continually tried to maintain perfection, much to everyone else’s chagrin. I thought that the state of my house was a reflection of my competence as a mother and as a person, so of course I was consistently upset. It wasn’t until I learned to forget perfection that I was able to show myself some love by slowing down, taking better care of myself and enjoying life with kids a little more.
Self-Love Step #2: Realize that nothing outside of you gives you your value. You are valuable just because you are you! A mess with love is better than perfection with stress.
3. Be flexible. Flexible plants weather a storm. Flexible gymnasts are less likely to get hurt. Flexible minds are happier. Being flexible is the key to maintaining a happy attitude. I used to believe it was imperative to have a clean sink every night before I went to bed. In fact I learned it in my quest for perfection from a great organizing site called “The Fly Lady” (www.flylady.net) where she teaches to ‘shine your sink’ before bed so you can start tomorrow off on the right foot. This may be partly true, but back then I was overly rigid and even if I was extremely tired (and crabby) I would still force myself to ‘shine my sink’ and complain the entire time. Now that I have become more flexible, and often leave some dishes in the sink at night, I see that my day still starts out just fine. A client of mine told me just this week that one night she ‘skipped baths’ because it was getting late and she and the kids were too tired only to find she was pleasantly surprised that everyone survived, and her home was more peaceful to boot.
Self-Love Step #3: Recognize schedules and systems are good if they serve you. But flexibility is the way to go almost always and you’ll find more peace in the process.
Show yourself some love this Valentine’s Day. Create a schedule that works better for you. Find happiness in life’s imperfections. And go ahead … leave your dirty dishes in the sink.
April O’Leary is a Certified Life Coach who helps busy moms build stronger, more peaceful relationships at home. In her first book, Ride the Wave: Journey to Peaceful Living, April shows you how to systematically diffuse frustration and anger in just 90 seconds. Sign-up today for the free video e-course “Find Time for You and Be Happier Too” at UofMoms.com and get Chapter 1 of her book free at AprilOleary.com.