Young kids are never going to look at you and say, “Mommy, you look like you need some time to relax.” If you’re trying to parent by the positively punishing 21st-century standards, you’re probably checking your phone, your kid’s homework, and the laundry at the same time right now. That spa day Groupon is not getting used any time soon.
Doing Less an incredible tool to cultivate if you’re a perfectionist or prone to overachieving. (Especially if, like me, you’ve found a way to even be a perfectionist at yoga.) It is the opposite of our culture’s expectation to always do your absolute best. It involves doing something well, but with no investment in the outcome.
At one point, in the midst of a deadline, running two extremely demanding client campaigns, recovering from a bad cold, and managing three children, I cooked Beef Bourguignon for a Tuesday night dinner party. Now, I would just order Chinese food, and call it a day. Because I’ve learned to Do Less.
How can you bring Doing Less into your life? I have some quick check-ins I use for anything stress-related, and it has even made it easier to skip that whiskey (and be bad at yoga).
What if you only gave 89%? A work project or a homemade cake for your kid’s birthday may not need you to pull out the big guns. The key is to acknowledge the outcome. Will what you do be good enough for them? Will what you achieve be good enough for you? The answer to both is, almost surely.
Remember that the challenge of being always on is universal. 43% of highly skilled women with children leave their jobs voluntarily at some point in their careers. Sheryl Sandberg wrote “Lean In” with the benefits of a staff, I’m sure, something most of us can only dream of. You don’t have to be Sheryl Sandberg.
Compromise between caregiving and work may be unavoidable. Your kid is throwing up at school. You have to look into nursing homes. A sister far away is getting chemo. Listen, you’re in good company. Don’t torment yourself about taking time for the other important things in your life. The world won’t disappear if you’re away for two weeks, and if people in your workplace make you feel you’re slacking off, remember the bigger picture.
Reality bites. Sometimes, you will need to do less — far less, in fact, than you’re comfortable with. You will get tired. You will say no. You will fuck up. You won’t get a promotion or you will lose business. If you’ve been conditioned to achieve, this will make you feel like a failure. Know that it’s okay to make your dreams a little smaller in order to keep healthy, because when you burn out, you won’t be able to do anything at all.
Remember: Nothing is forever. Giving yourself room by Doing Less — whether it’s to spend more time with a kid or finally getting that degree — doesn’t necessarily mean leaving the work you’ve mastered forever. You’re not out of the game, you’re re-calibrating.