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Can’t Do It All, Not Even Trying

Pulling Hair Out

It’s times like these when I realize that parenting is a life-time lesson in letting go. It’s easier said than done, but life is always better when I accept those things that I cannot control, and focus instead on making deliberate choices about how I spend my time.

At this moment, the piles are high on the desk around me, the hour is looming late, the children will soon arrive in need and want of my attention and time, and there is a finite deadline of a plane to catch tomorrow.

I cannot possibly “get it all done.” In fact, I can’t really get most of it done. All I can do is the best I can with the time, and energy, I have left. So what am I going to do about it?

Well, I’m going to write a bit. I’m lucky that writing actually brings me a bit of peace and calm. Some people like to organize, but I like to write. It organizes my brain. Then I guess I’ll look around and determine what would make me feel better if I handle it before I leave. I don’t mean cleaning out the mystery jars in the refrigerator, though certainly that would be nice. But what will make it easier for me when I get back? What will best support my family and me?

The subject of how to make choices between difficult or conflicting options, and how we choose to spend our time, has come up several times this week, with a friend and a client. Each was deliberating about a challenging decision in her life. Each felt obligated to do something optional that they did not really want to do. For each, I asked, “how would it help you?” to make one decision over another. Both responded quizzically. They’d never really thought about it.

We get caught up in “the shoulds” of life, don’t we? I should invite this friend over, I should make an appearance at that event, I should volunteer at my kids’ school, I should, I should. What makes it so hard to ask myself, “What do I want to do?” Perhaps more difficult for many of us, what makes it so hard to answer?

I find that many of my peers have a hard time feeling comfortable ‘wanting’ for themselves. I understand this intimately, because I think I lived the first 40+ years of my life trying to fulfill everyone else’s expectations of me. At some point, through coaching, I realized that my expectations are just as valid as everyone else’s. In fact, this is my life! Maybe my thoughts and feelings are even more important than what others think I should be doing! At first, that was a pretty radical realization.

My life changed when I decided to spend a year making an effort to do what I wanted, and to stop acting purely out of obligation. Okay, so I’m not a big fan of cooking and cleaning, but I do really have a strong motivation to be a good mom and create a safe, healthy home for my family. I stopped making appearances, and started paying attention to that inner voice when I found myself compelled but not excited to do something. Was I doing it for a good reason? Was it my reason, or someone else’s?

So what’s this have to do with my getting out of town tomorrow?

In the limited hours I have remaining, I plan to take a few moments (when I’m done writing this blog) to get clear about what will help me feel settled when I return. I’m not going to ask myself, “what should I do before I leave?” because that puts me in a place of obligation and pressure. Instead, I’m asking myself, “What will help me leave with a sense of comfort?”

For example, bedtime with my kids is a top priority, as I want to leave them in an emotionally strong place and there is nothing quite like snuggling and routine to offer that. I also want to have a family dinner. Again, can’t beat the value of that!

What else matters? I don’t really care about the clothes I bring, so the laundry I was hoping to get done probably won’t happen. As for arrangements for child coverage, I do want to double–check that. I may not be much for logistics, but when health and safety is in order, it’s a priority.

Getting the package sent to my daughter in California? Wait. Figuring out what to read on my trip? Critical. You get the picture. Letting go of the need to “get it all done” gives me the gift of being able to choose what’s important at the moment.

Now I’m still likely to try to fit more in than I have time, and I’m guessing I will ‘lose some sleep on it’ with a delayed bedtime. But when I get on that plane tomorrow with my husband, bound for parts unknown to celebrate our 21 years together, I can guarantee one thing: I won’t look back at what I didn’t get done, and will look forward to what’s in store for us! And that is my idea of getting it ‘all’ done!

Elaine Taylor-Klaus and Diane Dempster, founders of, teach/write about practical strategies to parents of “complex” kids with ADHD and related challenges. To help your kids find the motivation to get anything done, download their free parent’s guide, The Parent’s Guide to Motivating Your Complex Child.

This article was originally published at ImpactADHD. Reprinted with permission from the author.

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