Mary Lavigne joined the Operations team at Care.com after being a SAHM for five years. Now, as the mom of two grown children, she has an important Mother’s Day lesson (or 7) to help all parents manage their workloads.
Here’s the thing about being a mom. We take on too much. We strive for perfection and always find flaws in our houses, our clothes, our spouses and our children. I think there’s a female-factor that always needs to be doing something. “Keeping busy.” We can always find work that needs to be done.
I’ve been a mom for 21 years. And now that my youngest child is about to leave the house for college, I regret taking on too much. I regret that my house had to be picture perfect (“like a museum” as my husband used to say). I regret that there were always projects to be done, laundry to be folded, bathrooms to be cleaned. And I did them – all. I regret that I didn’t sit down, relax, take care of myself, and play more with my kids.
So in honor of Mother’s Day, I urge all the moms to “let it go.” (Dads reading this, help your partner take things off her list). No matter how old we are, we can all get inspired by Elsa’s newfound Frozen freedom, and de-prioritize our priorities. Take time ourselves. Spend more time with the kids. Outsource the necessary projects by asking – or hiring an extra set of hands. Here are the seven projects I wish I had let go of. I hope my regrets can inspire you.
- Doing laundry. With two children involved in at least one sport a season, including a daughter who changed her clothes two times a day, there was a lot of washing, drying, folding and putting away. Doing it over again, I would have a housekeeper do the kids’ laundry, including sheets and towels – or assign it to a regular date-night sitter, once a week.
- Having the cleanest house. I probably spent years of my life wiping, dusting, scrubbing and vacuuming. My house always had to look pristine – perhaps in my head, it represented I was doing a “good” job at motherhood. But because of this, I barely ever rested. This might be the hardest thing to let go of (and budgeting for), but I suggest hiring a housekeeper once a month (or week if you can!), giving kids and spouses more cleaning responsibilities, and living with the rest. If friends and neighbors think less of me because of some mess, they shouldn’t be invited over. Right?
- Making meals from scratch. Family dinner was – and always will be – very important. But what we ate didn’t always need to be homemade. Looking back, I wish I’d bought more prepared foods, rotisserie chickens or hired someone to cook – and freeze – a bunch of meals at a time.
- Accompanying kids to everything. As my daughter’s cheerleading coach, I was always at her practices, but that made me feel the need to be at my son’s practices too. I wish I had let go of this guilt. There was no need for me to be super parent, attending and driving to everything. In fact it just set me up for being the constant carpool driver. I should have done more drop-offs or hired a sitter to work with one child, so I could have solo-time with another.
- Helping with homework. This is where family feuds always began. Did you do your homework? Did you study for the test? Tutoring my own children was a nightmare, adding unnecessary stress on our relationships. Finding a real tutor or a college kid who could babysit and help with certain subjects would have changed my life.
- Going to all family obligations. We have a lot of family nearby, which means a lot of invitations. This was one thing I did back away from, learning to say “we might stop by after dinner,” instead of committing to a full-day event. Weekends as the four of us were precious, and sometimes I needed to put our time as “just us,” first.
- Cleaning and organizing semi-annually. Spring cleaning needs are still buzzing in my ear, and now with my kids (mostly) out of the house, I find joy in organizing closets, cabinets, the basement, garage and laundry room. But back then it was just another thing that I had to do. And it was exhausting. As a gift to your spouse – or yourself -- give projects like these to an odd-job organizational wiz who can spend a few hours at your house – giving you your life back.
This Mother’s Day, I hope you cherish the role you play as one of the best people in your children’s lives. Not because you run a tight ship, keep a clean house, or attend every event. But because you love them with every bit of your being – and they feel it in every bit of theirs. And celebrate the opportunity to let things go, assign them to someone else, and hire extra hands, so yours can embrace those beautiful “babies.”
Or you can just channel your inner Idina Menzel and say “The mess never bothered me anyway.”
Here’s how to find an extra set of hands to tackle these house projects.