Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler

Lower Your Standards

  • Natalee Holmes
  • Category Advice Column, Parenting, Toddler

This evening my husband came home and said to me, “Your hair looks lovely!” and while I desperately tried to remember what I had done differently to it today, not sure if I had even looked in the mirror at all today, he continued with, “I like the Bornean thing you have going on.”

And then I remembered. I did nothing to my hair today. The wild, curly “Bornean” look I was sporting was a result of me having to be in about six places at once this morning, while he obliviously fell out of bed and dashed out the door to work. I had to get four kids out of bed – two to their respective visual therapies, one to hockey and one dressed and ready for his mom to collect, looking mildly presentable so that she didn’t wonder if he’d slept, brushed his teeth or even had breakfast today. Did he have breakfast? I can’t say for sure… there was cereal… and there was milk and sugar on the counter… someone had breakfast.

Sometimes people see me in the shop with my three kids and they make comments along the lines of, “Wow. Three boys! How do you do it?” Sometimes I think, “It’s a breeze”. And other times I honestly look at them in my zombified stupor and giggle hysterically, “Wow! This woman thinks I am actually doing it!”

Three is not just one more than two. Exponentially, there are so many more dynamics in our family than other families have to contend with. We have a friend who is a bit of a mathematical freak, and he works out stuff like this.  When they were calmly calculating the pros and cons of whether or not to increase their brood from two offspring to three, he actually worked it all out. I kid you not. (This is his formula: [n x (n – 1)] /2 ) And the dynamics you have to deal with, in terms of relationships alone, are quite something. And who knows what it is for four, five and six kid families! Each family has their own set of challenges, and I am not presuming to be special, nor make insignificant anyone else’s load. But generally, for all of us, I think we do all wonder how we do it. And I think I know the answer.

We lower our standards. It simply is the only way to manage.

If I continued to try have the neat and organised home I would like, and the ‘everything in its place’ at all times dream, I think I would simply go completely batsh!t crazy. It just doesn’t happen. And it’s not because I am lazy. It’s because I just can’t find it in me every day to be that much of a stringent drill sergeant.

This is my formula: Kids are messy + Life is busy + Time is precious = Lower your standards.

I am past worrying about the state of my house when people simply pop in. If we have three sets of school books and homework all over the table, then so be it. Or if we have been baking, (you know, on those days when I wake up with a Gandhi-like patience to have three boys in the kitchen at once) and there is flour all over, then that is just how that is that day. Or if we decide to lie on the grass and come up with cloud animals and pictures, and the beds don’t get made or the dishes just pile up, then that is what the plan for that day is. We are making memories. And memories can be messy.

So I’ve lowered my standards. It took a good few years of me feeling like a lousy everything (mother, business person, housekeeper, wife) but I have finally accepted that my house will one day be beautifully pristine, but ghostly quiet, and then I am sure I will miss the mess and noise. For now, it is noisy and messy and a bit disorganized, but it is how it is.

So if you visit on one of those days, I am unapologetically going to admit to you that I have lowered my standards, to have more time with my kids, to have more memories in their stores, and quite frankly, to just keep myself sane.

Lowering my standards was very difficult at first, but now that I have my head around it, I feel quite liberated. I am not so stressed about how I look on days when the Bornean hairdo has to suffice. I am not overly anxious about how my house looks, if everything is not exactly in its place or the beds aren’t made with army precision. I have lowered my standards to a point that doesn’t make me completely frazzled, but that also allows me to enjoy being mom.

And a happy mom, means more emotional space to be able to cope with the demands of this crazy, busy, messy life.

So join the movement folks. Lower your standards and expectations. Unless you are Martha Stewart donning a SuperParent cape… it’s ok to have off days and messy days, and to once in a while not be perfect. Cut yourselves some slack – we are all doing the best we can and that is enough.

I’m off to look in the mirror and see if this Bornean look actually works for me, because who knows, tomorrow I may need to wear it again.

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