“I let go of doing the dishes last night. Now what do I do?” asked a busy mom. That’s the dilemma isn’t it? What comes next? It’s so hard to let go, and once we finally do, we expect some kind of change or at least some relief. But the dishes are still there in the morning, along with everything else, and often we are left feeling discouraged.
Letting go is a practice. When our precious resources of time and energy are stretched to their limits, we have to let go in order to get through. We have to prioritize what’s essential and let go of what is not. We have to regularly practice asking ourselves: What is the most important thing to do or be in this moment? Letting future moments go until we get there, or have the space and time to plan.
Letting go allows us to reflect on what is working and what isn’t so we can be clearer about what comes next. Flexibility is key. What works one day likely will not continue to work on other days. Conversely, what doesn’t work in one circumstance may end up working beautifully in another. Ideally when we let go of the dishes (or whatever “dishes” represents for us), we take that time to regroup, rest, rejuvenate. The more tired we are, the more rigid our thinking and behavior becomes. Parenting requires utmost flexibility as our children’s needs grow and change constantly.
Letting go is much more than leaving things undone until morning. Letting go gives us space to get creative: Maybe partners need to do more? Maybe we need to eat off compostable paper products for a while? Maybe we need to add someone to our bubble (daily, weekly, monthly) to take the load off by cleaning or nannying or both? Maybe each family member is assigned one plate, one bowl, one cup, one fork, one spoon and is responsible for taking care of their own items so dishes don’t pile up? Or maybe doing the dishes is essential and something else, like laundry, gets outsourced instead? Think out of the box! Enlist help from the kids - even toddlers can be awesome problem solvers!
It’s also important to look at what “getting the dishes done” means on a deeper level. It might not be just about the dishes. Perhaps you are missing some autonomy, a creative outlet, or uninterrupted time with your partner and other adults? Take time to be creative with your life. Experiment with different ways of doing things, and become willing to let go of what’s not working in one moment, and willing to try it again in yet another.
Parenting is relentless. It's a never ending cycle of meeting needs, so it is essential to take the time to have fun too. We need to remember for the sake of what we are working so hard. I know it seems impossible when some days feel like years, but the years do go by quickly (I actually said a few choice expletives under my breath when an older woman said this to me when my children were young, but as it turns out she was right.) I remember being frustrated by the things that didn’t get done, but even more remarkable is how much life happened during those precious hectic and chaotic years, giving me the gift of growing right alongside my kids.
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