Sometimes, I feel like I need to be superwoman just to thrive in this world.
Most of that feeling, however, is my own doing. As I said in my first post, I am an INTP on the Myers-Briggs scale. If you have never done a Myers-Briggs typing, do one, even if it’s a quickie internet test. Your type can tell you much about your strengths and weaknesses in all areas of your life, which will help you in making career and life choices. Anyway, I am an INTP, which means that I tend to find a lot of different subjects very, very interesting. The less I know about something, the more interesting it is to me at any given point. Inversely, the more I know, the less interesting it becomes. Which makes it easy for me to learn things I like (languages, history), and difficult to learn things I don’t (math, chemistry). While SuperDad likes to call this quirk of mine bipolar, it is really just an annoying personal trait that comes with my personality type.
[Note: Bipolar disorder is a real condition with symptoms that go much beyond superficial stuff like having many interests. My mother has bipolar and it is not something I take lightly. Please treat all mental disorders seriously.]
This means that I tend to switch up my hobbies from time to time, to keep things fresh. I never permanently drop anything; I merely rotate to keep my interests high. I almost always go back to something and finish it. It also means that I’ve changed my major several times, as well as my jobs. I have nearly 30 credits in various things that are unrelated. I’ve been to school for pre-law, philosophy, and nursing. It’s not to say that any of those things don’t interest me or aren’t viable career paths for me, it’s just that none of them were right for me and my situation long-term. I want to find the best solution. The most beneficial compromise. The clearest answer.
What I have learned, however, is that sometimes good enough really is good enough.
The Dilemma of the Modern Woman
I once went to dinner with Sasquatch’s family. They are nice people, and mean well. But these are people who seem to always have had it together. They didn’t have the experiences I did growing up, and don’t have the same worries I do. Well they do, but not to the same extent. They’ve made the good choices in life. Got the good start, the good education, the good support. Things I didn’t have and can’t really change now. Sasquatch’s mother, for example, has someone to clean her house even though it is spotless. She has always been able to afford babysitting. She and her husband made more money growing up than I will ever see in my lifetime. What struck me was a comment made by Sasquatch’s sister, who I think is one of the coolest women I’ve personally met. They were talking about the arrangement that Sasquatch’s mom and dad had growing up: one cooked, the other did dishes. I made some comment like, “Oh that must have been nice!” and sort of elbow-jerked Sasquatch. His sister came back with a comment saying, “Well, you don’t work. They did.” While I understand the sentiment, it kind of got under my skin. My last marriage was spent, for the most part, working full time, going to school full-time, raising children full-time (including long nights breastfeeding), and keeping the house clean on top of cooking decent meals. My current workload is no different. My guy, while I love him, doesn’t really help around the house even when he only “works” a few hours. That won’t change when I add work or school to the mix…it just means my job gets harder. But I didn’t say it, even though I wanted to.
Fact is, for the most part we women end up taking the brunt of the workload …whether we are homemakers or primary breadwinners. What this means is that as women, we have more pressure than ever to be up to par. We need to not only whittle into our pre-pregnancy jeans in mere months, but we must also not be too vain. You must somehow find time to take care of your children and your parents and your partner. You are cook, chauffeur, and organizer. You must also not look too sloppy doing it! We are subliminally told we must be everything, and in the end, only we lose when we believe it.
What Works for Me
While I still feel like I need to be good at every role I play in my life, I realize that I don’t have to be perfect at everything. Here are some things that help me (other than ignoring my nay-sayers!):
1. Find what matters
Before you set goals, I suggest one thing: Find what matters. What really interests you? What do you want to be doing in ten years? What – and who- really matters in your life? What do you want people to say about you at your deathbed? If people could describe you in one word, what would it be?
For me, the answers to these took me a long time. I’m 25. I’ve been scratching at this since I was at least 12. I am only now really figuring out who I am and what I want out of life. Do I really want to be a millionaire? No, not really, although if it came my way I wouldn’t say no. I don’t need a super high-paying job. Do I want to pay my bills? Absolutely. I enjoy working with my hands, so I want to do something that allows me to get down and dirty. To create something tangible. Automotive technology allows me to be hands-on and solve problems, things I enjoy; it also allows me to work independently at times, which is just icing on the cake. I want to own my own shop in ten years (with Sasquatch), so that is something I have set my sights to. Everything else is extraneous, so I’m not going to put effort into other things. I have learned that I am happiest sticking with what pleases me most, even though many other interests catch my eye. I have to go with the most rewarding, because there is only so much time in the day. I have three children and a busy household to run; I don’t have time for a myriad of pursuits that in the end I may not ever finish. I have to stick with what matters.
For me, writing is also vital to me, so I have started this blog. This blog is one that I can see writing on for the rest of my life, even if no one gives a hoot about me or what I am passionate about (you!). I enjoy sharing my life with others, and want to help other women achieve their goals. If I never achieve all of mine, so be it. At least I will be happy and doing what I love.
“Find what matters” also means spending your time and money where your heart is. People will spend these things on what is important to them. If your children is important, show it in your time spent with them. No, you don’t have to let your house go to the pits in order to do it, but devote a chunk of your time to the people that matter, even if it’s only fifteen minutes. It will pay off in the long run, even if only in memories. Which brings me to the next point.
2. Give 100%
I have learned that multitasking leaves me a frustrated mess. If you can multitask effectively, you are a better person than I am. When I try to multitask, my list doesn’t get done any faster. If anything, I make my work that much harder by making a bigger mess than when I started. My dinner burns, my clothes wrinkle in the dryer, and the one thing I really wanted to get done doesn’t actually get done. I end up losing when I try to do too much at once. What I have found works much better is to set no-interruption mini goals for myself like setting aside fifteen minutes to sew, or completing just one cleaning task (dishes, laundry, vacuuming). Or I will remind myself to do a craft with my daughter like I promised, instead of putting if off until after I finish some other task. When I give 100% to just one thing, I find that I end up being much more satisfied with what I do accomplish, and less frustrated overall. When I am in the moment, I enjoy my life much more, and I am a much happier person to be around. My kids don’t beg for attention because they are getting my full attention often. Things get done because I don’t waste time doing fifteen things; instead I set aside time for what’s important, even if that means setting aside a few extra minutes for Facebook or returning emails. Give 100% of yourself to whoever you’re with and whatever you’re doing, and you will be more content, even if you don’t get everything done today.
3. You can’t do it all. So don’t try.
I am someone who really wishes I could do everything well. I’d love to be the perfect employee, the perfect mom, the perfect student, the perfect wife, the perfect whatever. But I am not. I am far, far from it. There are many people I know personally who are much better at each of those roles than me. I could stress about how much is expected of women – and really, a lot of is expected of us – but instead I try to simply focus on being better than I was yesterday. What can I do better? How can I be a better mom? Girlfriend? Partner? Friend? I try to keep this in mind when I make choices in spending my time, and I hope that eventually I stop making the same mistakes again and again. Part of giving 100% is picking what’s important so that you don’t have to be stretched so thin. There are some things we can’t choose. I have children. I have student loans so I have to finish school. I have bills to pay, so I have to work. I can’t change these things. But I can choose not to take on extra side projects, or take on events that will take time away from the things that I either really want or have to do.
4. Surround yourself with positive
This has been a really big goal for me this year. I have found that no one -not even me- benefits when I complain. No one cares. I don’t even care, really, except that I want resolutions. And complaining doesn’t get resolutions…it just makes me angrier. So I decided to change that, and surround myself with people, ideas, and activities that make me look on the bright side of life. If you aren’t already (you likely are if you are reading this, as so many people in my life have been rocking the positive attitude!), try this. And if you can’t surround yourself personally with people, reach out through the internet or other means. If you can’t do that, keep positive things on your mind. Read positive news. Repeat self-affirmations. Pray. People enjoy being around positive people, and you will be happier with contentment than self-depreciation. For example, I have a family member that I love dearly, but who is always very negative. She constantly complains about her life and the people in it, and then wonders why no one wants to be around her. It’s not that people hate her – quite the opposite. She’s a beautiful woman with a great personality and great ideas. She is kind-hearted and is smarter than she realizes. But her negativity frustrates people who want to help, and no one wants to be brought down. Personally, I find that focusing outward on other people and other people’s needs brings me much more pleasure than focusing inward on my problems, and in the end I am uplifted in the process. “It is better to give than to receive” really rings true. I have my “Women who Inspire Me” posts on Friday for this reason: I want to highlight women who encourage me to be a better person, or who show me what can be done if I stop dwelling on my problems and start moving toward my goals. Find someone who inspires you, and keep that person in mind. If it’s someone in your circle (and not a celebrity or other figure), talk to them frequently. Accept their advice and help. Learn from them. Emulate them.
When you excel at what really matters to you, you will find that the rest is just fluff.