I think “lifestyle creep” has been taking its toll for some time and COVID has shown us so many things just don’t work well for us.
When regular life is a huge struggle, something is wrong.
We are not training for the Olympics, after all. We’re just trying to get the kids to their next game, help them with their homework, have dinner, do dishes, and get ready for bed. Parents have been doing these same things for quite some time, and I don’t think it was as much of a strain as it is now. What’s changed?
- increased unrealistic expectations, and
- overestimating our resources.
It used to be that with one phone call, you could take care of a problem. Now, that same problem might take several emails, a couple of phone calls, and a couple of hours in line at the phone store. That’s our new reality. It used to be that if we had to take our elderly parent to the doctor, the same doctor saw to most of the issues. Now, there are so many specialists, treatments, etc. that what used to be one trip has turned into at least 5, many of them 2 or 3 hours out of town, and many, many hours of waiting, and frustration with records, etc. WE ARE STRETCHED. Because of technology. I appreciate some of the benefits of technology, but I also know it has turned into yet another JOB.
Many of us are also suffering from increased unrealistic expectations. Mothers used to cook the same 5-6 meals over and over. They made birthday cakes from a mix and put candles on top. Birthday cakes were not in the shape of The Starship Enterprise. They did not feel like if they didn’t enroll their children in every enrichment opportunity that their kids would not be accepted into Harvard. They carpooled. They got their hair done on Fridays. They got a lot done, but they took time for themselves also. They certainly would never have thought of signing up for a hot yoga class at 4 in the morning. Their schedules made sense, and they had pleasant activities to look forward to on a regular basis.
We are also vastly overestimating our resources. We have two incomes, so we must have two people who can take care of the business of the household – right? This is almost never the case. There is usually one spouse who does quite a bit more than the other spouse as regards household tasks. If you know this, you can simplify what you are doing. Live below your means as it were. You are not going to have two adults who are constantly on call for household and child-raising tasks. One of you is going to have a headache. One of you never learned how to boil an egg growing up. One of you has ADD and can hardly remember where his/her socks are. One of you has a demanding project at work and has fallen off the edge of the planet, leaving you to pick up the slack. It’s actually easier to take care of things if you don’t depend on always having “help”. If you have it, great, but you can still keep things moving along with a minimum of resource allocation.
For some reason, now that we can do so much more, we feel like we should do so much more. But the fact is that we really can’t do it, at least not over the long haul. We are living on fumes. So, what’s the solution? Simplify. Even if we can do something, that doesn’t mean we have to. And frankly, there are a lot of times, I just flat out don’t WANT to.
What?! You mean you can decide not to do something because you don’t WANT to? Yes, you can. I don’t want to chauffeur my kids to yet another activity, even though it would be great for them. It would also be great for them to have a parent who is not about to have a nervous breakdown. I am able to do it, but I don’t want to. I want to sit down and read and have coffee. It’s a sad state of affairs that this is such a radical concept. But I so want you to have the concept that you don’t have to if you don’t want to. Obviously, this does not apply to everything. We all do things we don’t want to do because it just has to get done. But there are a lot of things someone else has convinced us is necessary that is NOT necessary. Those are the things you can bow out of. Life is about so much more than getting more and more and more stuff done. Sitting and doing nothing is not wasted time as we have been led to believe. We all need to have some down time, and the only way that will happen is if we realize we can’t do everything, and even if we are able to go, go, go, we simply