Ask Scary Mommy is Scary Mommy’s new advice column, where our team of “experts” answers all the questions you have about life, love, body image, friends, parenting, and anything else that’s confusing you.
This week… What do you do when you’re doing so many things that you feel like you’re failing at all of them? Have your own questions? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Dear Scary Mommy,
I’ve been a work-at-home mom since the middle of March when my office went remote. Since then, I’ve struggled every day with the feeling that I’m not giving 100% to anything. The demands of my job cause me to neglect my kids for a huge chunk of the day (they’re old enough to entertain themselves, but they’re still kids and they still need me), and I feel massive mom guilt. The demands of my kids mean that I’m interrupted a million times a day from my job, and I’m in constant fear that I’m close to getting sacked. My house is a disaster, we can’t socialize in person like we used to so I feel like my friendships are suffering, and my husband and I have no alone time or date nights so I feel a bit disconnected there too. How can I either get a better grip on my life or stop feeling like I’m failing at everything?
Let me just start out by saying this: You are all of us. Whether it’s in regard to work or family or bills or friends, we’re all too familiar with the sensation of barely keeping our heads above water. I don’t know a single person who has said, “Gee, I’m just on top of everything these days!” We’re living in unprecedented times, my friend, and everybody is just trying to cope. We can still barely wrap our heads around the circumstances of our “new normal,” let alone be productive and thriving.
So no, you aren’t failing. You’re coping with a massive life change that has left us all reeling in many ways. You’re grieving the loss of the life you left behind. Maybe it was chaotic at times, but it was predictable, and you felt like you had certain aspects down to a science; now everything seems up in the air. Give yourself some grace. How could you not be floundering a little bit? That’s like expecting to stay firmly on your feet as a towering wave sweeps over you. It’s just not gonna happen.
When you’re working, try making a checklist of even the smallest tasks you have to do. There’s something satisfying about marking something as complete, even if it’s just something simple like answering an email. And that thing you’re dreading? Tackle it first, while you’re just beginning “work mode.” Mark Twain famously said, “If it’s your job to eat a frog, it’s best to do it first thing in the morning. And if it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.” Meaning if you get the hard stuff out of the way, everything else on your to-do list seems infinitely easier.
Your kids are adjusting, too — and even though they may not have your full attention for the duration of the workday, they didn’t when you were away at the office, either. Just because you’re there doesn’t mean you have to be actively engaging them the whole time. If they’re old enough to understand the concept of “work hours,” maybe let them know that as long as you can have a certain time period uninterrupted (or at least relatively, because kids), you can all eat lunch together. Put your work aside and your phone away, and use that lunch break as a time to chat with your kiddos. Even if you have to feign interest about Roblox or Minecraft the whole time.
Staying connected with the people in your life is definitely more of a challenge these days, but remember that it wasn’t the girls’ nights out or the lunch dates that made your friendships strong, it was the opportunity to talk about your problems and laugh at the same things. And bless technology, because it gives us many ways to do that virtually. Never underestimate the power of something as small as texting a relevant meme — little gestures to stay in touch work as well as bigger ones. The same goes for your husband. Just making a priority to wake up a little earlier and have coffee together in the mornings or watching an episode of something on Netflix every night after the kids go to bed can go a long way.
Finally, don’t compare yourself to anyone else who seems to have it all together. If Brittany from high school is posting photos of clean kids doing educational activities against the backdrop of a spotless living room, it just means that she has a “laundry chair” just out of sight in the bedroom and she told her kids she’d give them more screen time in exchange for this one photo. Social media is a liar, and everybody’s life is a shitshow in some capacity right now.
You’re doing just fine, Mama.