In my post What is Employee Engagement Anyway, I introduced the topic of employee engagement and its link to motherhood.
Ever since the day I quit my job and became a stay at home mom, I have had this little joke about it being my “job.” In the second week, my daughter asked me when I was going to work and I told her that I quit my job to cook and be the chauffer for two very important children. Her eyes got big and you could see the wheels turning, trying to figure out who those girls were. Honestly, I think she thought I was driving the President’s kids around. Then I told her it was her. Another time, I was reading cook books and told my husband that I was doing research for my job. Again, big eyes, wheels turning. He was trying to figure out what my job was. Oh, they can be so gullible.
Anyway, all kidding aside, it is my job now. And it might be the hardest job I’ve ever had. And I want to enjoy it. Even more, I want to be good at it. And Gallup’s question #1 regarding my satisfaction is “I know what is expected of me at work.” So, understanding the expectations of my new role should help me succeed at it, right?
But what on earth does it mean to be good at “being mommy.” In every job I ever had, there was a written job description. It would describe the skills and education needed for the job. It would talk about essential duties and it would go so far as to tell me how much lifting I needed to do or what percent of my job would be travel.
The challenge is that in a “real” job, there are outcomes. I know I’ve done a good job if I sell a certain dollar amount or get a report in on time. With kids, the outcome is slow. I invest my time every day and I won’t truly see what the outcome is until my kids turn 18, or 25, or (God help me) 40. And at the same time, I know that a lot is out of my control. I could do everything right and my kids could still mess up. Like I did sometimes.
I did a lot of soul searching and considered what it REALLY means to be a mom. What are the expectations of me? Honestly, in a lot of ways, they are set by me. You could argue that my husband has a say, and he certainly does. But when it comes down to it, my husband is supportive and, within reason, will support me any path that I take.
The way I see it, there is a continuum you can fall into. Somewhere between Supermom and Lay On the Couch All Day Mom (okay, couldn’t think of a better term, but if I do I’ll coin it).
For all you supermoms out there, in terms of expectations you set goals that are too high for yourself. I think a lot of us these days lean towards setting expectations too high. I realized a LONG time ago that I will try to cram into my day 3X more than is humanly possible. But that does not mean that I have learned my lesson and don’t still try. I enjoy cooking healthy meals for my family – and sometimes that is a lot of work. And too often I let that get in the way of spending time with my kids. For example, this week, I spend almost the ENTIRE week planning a tea party for my 8 year old and her school friends. Part of the problem is I set a menu that was too aggressive which included homemade doughnuts, cinnamon rolls and garlic bread. (The other part of the problem is my almost 4 year old likes to “help.”) I took a picture of the moment I realized I had bit off more than I could chew (And I don’t just mean the samples of the homemade goodies).
That brings me to the somewhere in the middle of the continuum: Work When You Can, Rest When You Need It. I worked myself so hard getting ready for this party that by Friday, I was exhausted. My younger daughter didn’t have school so we sat on the couch all morning and watched movies. She seemed tired too so I justified it, but honestly it was me who needed the break. And that is okay.
But then there is the far extreme: Lay On the Couch All Day Mom. So, I became a stay at home mom in July and a month later my oldest went back to school. Every day, I took her to school then came home and put on a movie for my 3 year old and went back to sleep. After a couple of weeks, I asked myself what I was doing. I decided that this was not why I was home and that I needed to get out of bed and play with my daughter, unpack a box and cook something for dinner.
My goal is to stay away from both ends of the continuum. I don’t want to be such an overachiever that I work so hard at the “tasks” that I forget about the relationships. And I also don’t want to be so focused on myself and my needs that I lay around all day while letting my kids take care of themselves.
I lean more in the direction of being (okay, trying to be) SuperMom and, frankly, sometimes I get exhausted. There are times when I make a list of the 2 or 3 things I need to get done that day, promise myself I won’t do anything else and then force myself to read in the afternoon. Okay, and if that first example wasn’t bad enough, will you promise not to laugh at this one? Pinky swear? Sometimes once I get into “that cleaning mood,” I can’t stop. So, sometimes when I know I need the rest, I will set the timer for myself (for 20 or 30 minutes) and only “let” myself clean for that long. Crazy, right?
Anyway, if we as moms kind of set our own expectations, we need to keep ourselves in check. We need to know ourselves and our weaknesses and “guard against” them a bit. I also feel like we, as individuals, need to have a standard to hold ourselves to. I don’t mean I need to pick another mom and try to be like her. Because that could drive me crazy. We’re all different and part of “being good at this mom thing” is figuring out our own style and getting comfortable in it.
I have done a lot of thinking about the mom that I want to be these last few years and I will share those topics with you in my next post: Mom’s Job Expectations, Part II: The Throwback Mom. Then (because I think this topic is so important), I’ll explore some more in Mom’s Job Expectations, Part III: The Original SuperMoms.
So, stay tuned.