“How many e-mails do you have in your inbox right now?” my friend asked one day. I didn’t know off the top of my head, so checked my phone. “22,432,” I answered. “But that’s for four e-mail addresses,” I added quickly, as if that somehow made the number more swallowable. My friend just shook her head. “I really don’t know how you live like this, Annie.”
I live like this quite happily, actually. My Type B self is not bothered in the least by thousands of unopened, undeleted, or unarchived e-mails. Just like I’m not bothered by my kids’ messes and mayhem most of the time, not bothered by the dishes not all getting done before bed, not bothered by my pantry items not being lined up and alphabetized. My internal life is summed up in the sign that sits above my desk in bold letters: “IT’S ALL GOOD.”
Type B people are usually characterized in contrast with the ambitious and perfectionistic Type As. We are the flexible, easygoing, low-stress folks. As a mom, this personality has its good and bad points, its trials and triumphs.
On one hand, the Type B psyche is uniquely suited to the ever-changing nature of motherhood. I can’t imagine trying to parent three children with three different personalities and three different sets of needs, without the innate ability to “go with the flow.” Motherhood is full of unexpected surprises, interrupted plans, and unintended setbacks. Being low-key about things not going according to plan is definitely a plus.
On the other hand, I admire my Type A friends with their color-coded calendars and rotating meal plans. I love walking into their tidy homes, with their made beds and clear counters. I gaze at their clean car interior with awe and amazement. I wonder what it would be like to always know what we’re going to have for dinner before 5 p.m. rolls around. I wish I could have a taste of that other life for a week, to see what it feels like to have it all together.
And admittedly, it would be nice to have a natural inclination toward order and time management. Kids thrive on structure and routine, and that’s something that we Type Bs struggle with. We have a hard time sticking to a schedule for very long. We’re spontaneous to a fault. We can feel smothered by rigidity, so implementing a strong sense of order goes against our grain.
I sometimes wish I was more Type A, but then I remember the times I’ve tried it. The pressure of trying to keep it all going, constantly hounding my family to conform to my new and improved standards. I recall how it sucked the life out of me—not because there was anything wrong with those standards, but because they weren’t me. I love order, but I’m not willing to fret over it. I love organization, but I’m not willing to stress when it falls apart.
I have a few things that I’m perfectionistic about, so I know what it’s like to have high expectations and a drive to meet them. I just can’t be perfectionistic about motherhood. There are too many constantly changing variables to make that even possible, much less desirable.
So I’ve learned to embrace my Type B-ness, to go with the ebb and flow of order and routine in my life. I schedule and get organized, and it eventually all goes to hell. I let it go, and then I start the cycle all over. I’m OK with that. I may not have a perpetually clean house, but I’m fine with my kids making creative messes. I can give them the freedom to explore and discover without fighting an urge to control what they’re doing. I stay up with my girls long after bedtime having conversations that could probably wait until tomorrow.
So my busting-at-the-seams inbox, while perhaps a bit daunting, is a symbol of sorts for who I am—a person who lives an overflowing, abundant life, who doesn’t let things get to them, who manages to get along fine without things being perfectly in order. My kids may not learn the most efficient habits from me, but they will learn to be flexible and to roll with the changing landscape of life. They’ll learn to say, “It’s all good,” and mean it—even with 22,000-plus e-mails in their inbox.