I get up every morning and repeat this mantra: “Be gentle on yourself.” I want to be present, savor the moment, smell the coffee, and give my kids a squeeze without letting all the things that need to be done pick me up and swoop me out into the future.
Being a Type-A mom has its perks, yes. I get shit done, and it may appear on the outside that I have it all together, that I know exactly what I am doing. But the truth is, I go to great lengths to achieve this, and it isn’t just fun and games. My mind never stops, I overthink every detail, I beat myself up when I make mistakes, and it is a constant struggle for me to believe I am good enough.
My ever-growing to-do list, how I could get more done each day, or how I could work harder is a driving force in my head that never stops. I fight it. Every single day, I fight it because it robs me of joy and moments during which I should just be present without the nagging voice in my head reminding me of all the shit that needs to be done.
If I don’t do it, what will happen? If I can’t get to it, who will? What if I forget? These thoughts creep in and grab ahold me, and their grip is tight.
I want to be more laid-back. Like I really, really want to walk by a scuff mark on the wall and not feel like it is screaming at me. I don’t want to start thinking about things that need to happen next week while I am cooking breakfast. I want to think about cooking the damn breakfast, but by the time I crack the eggs, I have already left the building and it’s a struggle to get back to the present. My mind and eyes flash around, taking in everything that needs to get done, and instantly I have added more to my plate even if I know it is too much. I tell myself I should be able to handle it. I am my own drill sergeant.
If you are a Type-A mom, especially one who is anxious like me, I know you feel me. You are self-critical. You get told all the time you are hard on yourself, but you don’t know how to function on another level. You hold yourself to a standard you would never set for anyone else. But you — you should be able to do it. You can figure it out.
You always try to be as efficient as possible. Time is of the essence, always. You rarely do one thing at a time. Multitasking is your jam. You rarely ask for help because deep down, you want it done a certain way, and you are positive that you are the only one who can make it happen. You know how to move your ass around like a motherfucker. Even if you’re exhausted and ready to throw in the towel, you keep moving.
You can be anxious and impatient, especially when you are trying to do too much and have told yourself you should get all the things done in a certain amount of time. It’s a fun game we like to play with even though it makes our heads spin and can lead to irritability and moodiness over the unrealistic expectations we’ve set for ourselves.
It is extremely hard for you to relax sometimes. Okay, most of the time. Even if you have worked your overachieving ass off, you still have a voice telling you, “You know, you could be doing this instead.” Suddenly you feel lazy and unworthy of taking some much-needed downtime even though you know you are better when you do. You have a tendency to think you don’t need it and often power through your life until you reach the point of complete overwhelm.
If you are a Type-A mom, it isn’t going to disappear. We aren’t going to morph into a laid-back person any more than someone who is much more easygoing can suddenly be high-strung and anxious. We wish we could, though, because from the outside we may seem to be in control, but it comes at a high price. We never let ourselves off the hook.
Nothing has helped me reel in my Type-A personality like being a mom. And I have tried it all: yoga, meditation, wine, journaling, therapy. Motherhood reminds me that life doesn’t go as planned, especially when you are a parent. I need to ask for help, even if things don’t get done the way I want. I need to be able to appreciate and feel that certain things are done out of love, and honestly, who the fuck cares if all the food labels aren’t lined up just so. (My eye is only twitching a little at the thought of it). That stuff is not what’s important. My family’s happiness is my first priority, and my family is happier when I can loosen up a little bit.
The times I was able to let go of trying to be the perfect mom have been the best life lessons for me. I still worry, as all moms do, but I am learning not to concern myself with stuff that doesn’t matter, like if my kids’ clothes match, or their hair isn’t always combed, or how you see me as a parent.
My kids remind me to do this every day when I see them lost in their thoughts, or they just want my undivided attention, or they are so excited about something that is right in front of them that they aren’t thinking about what they need to do next Tuesday. We all know time with our kids is fleeting, and I don’t want their childhood filled with memories of me organizing drawers, making to-do lists, and being frazzled more often than not.
Yes, Type-A moms get shit done, but it’s okay if we don’t. Nothing horrible will happen. And I am learning to loosen my grip, a little at a time, so I can live a little bit more. It feels like freedom.