Sometimes people ask me how I get so much done. And I have a dirty little secret — I am a Type A mom.
My mind works like this: How can I get more done each day? How can I be better? How can I top yesterday? It’s a driving force in my head that never stops, and I fight it every moment of every day.
I fight it because it robs me of joy and moments when I should be present without the nagging voice in my head reminding me of all the shit that needs to be done. I fight it because it’s soul-sucking. I fight it because it’s not how I want to be remembered.
This Type A mentality didn’t change when I became a mom, either. In fact, there was a time when it manifested itself a little deeper in my veins. If I was holding my baby I would be thinking about when I was going to get the laundry done. When he slept I would go through the house to see how much I could get done. If my kids were engrossed in playing, I felt I should be cleaning out a closet or doing something productive.
Type A tendencies rob me of being present. It’s lonely. And one day I’d had enough.
I started getting up every morning and would repeat this mantra: “Be gentle on yourself.” I put effort into slowing down, turning off my mind, and savoring the moment. I’ve realized over the years that smelling the coffee, so to speak, and giving my kids a squeeze without letting all the things that need to be done bog me down will always be the most important way to live my life.
In other words, becoming a mom made me feel like I had to be the best mom in the world, but my kids made me realize that all they need for me to be a mother — not a super hero.
The more I practice giving the voices in my head the middle finger, the easier it gets; but still it’s a constant struggle. I have moments when I am able to let go and forget about the dirty dishes in the sink. I have weeks where I feel lighter because I am able to look at the dirty baseboards and not feel like they are screaming at me.
But this Type A shit always comes back, begging to be seen. Kind of like the ex-boyfriend you know is bad for you but still turns you on enough to make you pay attention. Before you know it, you are lost in your old ways. It’s easier to go back to what we know than it is to change, even if changing feels better.
Some days, I don’t just run around trying to get it all done; I sprint: The cleaning, the cooking of healthy meals, the double-checking the homework, the connecting with my kids, work, looking like I have my shit together. And it never fails, I usually fall in the process.
I don’t talk about it though. Because the thing about having a Type A personality is that you don’t allow yourself much room for error, and that includes airing your dirty laundry about the lengths you go through to “get it all done.” It makes you aware of your shortcomings, and it’s not what I want to showcase.
But the things is, we all have shortcomings. We are who we are, and there isn’t a personality type out there that doesn’t wish they could change something about they way they think or how they get through their days. No one is nailing it. We all struggle. We all fall. We all have things we push under the rug in hopes no one will find out — it’s called life.
I wish I could shake the Type A out of me. I wish I could change. I don’t want to be a Type A mom anymore. If you struggle with always thinking you have to be everything, if you are self-critical, if you get told all the time you are hard on yourself but don’t know how else to function, you are not alone.
If you are so used to holding yourself to a standard you would never set for anyone else, you probably understand why I want to change — it’s exhausting. And my kids are aware of my behavior too. A few years ago, my youngest stopped my while scrubbing the baseboards and said, “Mom, why does everything have to be perfect?” He was 7, and that was a huge wake-up call for me.
But if I let go of just getting it all done all the time, if I change, who will I be? What will I be known for? That thought is scary as hell, but not as scary as racing through my kids’ lives trying to do more, be more, and get it all done. I need to put down the to-do list every once in a while and shift my focus. Because those are the things I’ll remember, and those are the times I regret if I don’t make more of an effort.
I’ve been working on this a lot over the past few years, trying to understand why I am the way I am. The key to bettering ourselves is understanding why we act the way we do in the first place, and I realized that I would probably always be a Type A person. This is who I am. And according to Psychology Today, “an individual’s personality remains relatively stable over time. The traits you exhibited at age seven are likely to predict much of your behavior as an adult. You can, of course, change some of your traits—it takes hard work and effort to make big changes, but most researchers agree that it is possible.”
So I might always have these objectives and tendencies, but I can try to change how much emphasis I put on the details. I can change how important I think it is to have a clean home all the time, or beat my last finish time when I enter a race. I don’t always have to get it all done or take control. I can embrace my Type A personality — and then I let myself off the hook. Because I really am so much happier when I don’t give a fuck if my closet is organized or my kids’ rooms are spotless.
And even if we can’t change entirely, there’s always room for improvement.