On Cute Baked Goods, Folding Thongs, and Perspective

by Abby on March 20, 2016

Marie Kondo folding clothesSomewhere along the line, women’s perspectives got majorly messed up. I’m not naming names (Sheryl Sandberg, Marie Kondo), but somehow we have absorbed the barrage of information and opinions coming at us and emerged with the idea that all successful women are killing it at Fortune 500 companies and folding their thongs. (Seriously! There’s a how-to video about it.) And also making adorable, creative treats for school parties. (Bear with me.)

It was the thong-folding and the treat-making that finally cut through my cluttered brain and gave me a perspective check. I know, I know: it’s impossible to have it all, or all at the same time, anyway. Who even wants to? It sounds exhausting. No one really does it all, all by herself. Work/life balance, blah, blah, blah …

I know all this. And still, I find myself consumed with shame when a contractor shows up at the house unexpectedly and I have to kick laundry piles and Lego towers out of the way to clear his path to the hot water heater.

Still, I feel guilty about not volunteering more at the kids’ school since I “only” work part time.

Still, I fumble for an explanation when my kids ask why WE can’t go to Disneyworld for spring break too, like so-and-so’s family who also went skiing over Christmas break. ($$$?!)

I know we all make different choices and have different priorities and all want the best for our families. And yet, it was still a wake-up call when I heard Gretchen Rubin and her sister Elizabeth Craft discussing these matters on their podcast recently.

Quick aside here to say that I am a recent podcast convert. For years I thought, “Who has the time?” Then I realized that podcasts are, in fact, the perfect use of my time since I can listen to them when I want, like on the treadmill, before bed, or waiting for my kids at the bus stop. Now, I’m obsessed. I have about 4 or 5 that I listen to regularly, and several others if the topic interests me.

Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier” podcast is one of the more practical ones I listen to. In case you don’t recognize her name, she’s the author of The Happiness Project and a new book on habits, Better Than Before, among other nonfiction books. She’s very sensible and down-to-earth, as opposed to many of the other “woo-woo” spiritual, self-helpy podcasts I listen to where chanting and crystals are required.

Anyway, Gretchen and her sister Elizabeth fascinate me because they seem to really like each other even though they are polar opposites personality-wise. In this particular episode they discuss competitive parenting, among other things.

Elizabeth talks about how because she’s a working mom, but also because it’s not her thing, she doesn’t bake things for her son’s class. So at a class Halloween party, she sees these adorable treats another parent has made and goes into a shame spiral: “I’m a bad mom, I didn’t make anything, I work too much, etc…” before she checks herself and decides to just enjoy the damn treats. Not everything has to be a competition, or a reflection on your own parenting, the sisters conclude.

This was fascinating to me, because I AM THAT MOM who makes cute treats. Check out these BB-8 cookie pops that I made for my 7yo’s Star Wars birthday party:

Star Wars BB8 cookie pops

It never, ever occurred to me that my cookie pops could instill self-loathing in other parents. If anything, I was worried about them judging me for having too much time on my hands and pushing sugar on their kids!! We moms are so messed up.

In this same episode, Elizabeth and Gretchen also talk about how they tried and abandoned meditation, and how they rarely cook and so they don’t have a need for a recipe organization system. This was also fascinating to me, because I DO meditate and cook and organize my recipes! (On Pinterest, FYI.)

I ROCK! I’M WINNING!! Oh, wait … I mean: how great of them to admit they don’t prioritize certain things, and for me to recognize and give myself credit for those things I DO prioritize and do well. Whew! This deprogramming takes some effort.

It was new for me to listen to two successful, likeable, very different women discussing these topics matter-of-factly. They were not justifying, judging, or defending. They were not falling back on self-deprecating humor. (My default setting. Can’t look like I’m bragging about going to the gym regularly, must joke that I mainly go to read magazines and shower in peace. Also true.) They were simply talking about what works for them and what doesn’t.

Similarly, I adored this post by the Lazy Genius Collective on “The Magical Key to Doing it All.” Hint: you don’t. You define YOUR “all.” In this case, she has just 6 items on her list.

My list includes:

Exercising 4 to 5 times a week because I always have and it makes me feel better.

Eating nutritious food and cooking healthy meals for my family most nights. (I am resisting making a self-deprecating comment about their reactions to my cooking.)

Getting 8 hours of sleep a night, and doing my best to ensure my kids get enough sleep, too.

Building downtime into our schedule. This means not signing up my kids for too many activities and not accepting every social invitation. This sometimes results in boredom and sibling squabbles, but that leads me to …

Creative pursuits. It’s been proven that boredom breeds creativity. Having regular downtime allows us to build impromptu igloos with our neighbors, invent board games, make our own spring wreaths, and yes, figure out how to make cute cookie pops. Being creative and making stuff is definitely part of my “doing it all.”

Spring wreath featuring plastic eggs and yellow chicks

What’s not: I do not care much about spend much time cleaning. I am not good at doing my hair, returning phone calls, helping my kids with their homework, or keeping up with the laundry. I don’t fold thongs; I try never to wear them.

I care a little about home décor but you would not know it to look at my house. I care a little about fashion and not at all about nail art. I would rather go to a park or an art exhibit or out for coffee than garden or watch a movie or make a scrapbook.

There are some things I wish I cared about more (having a clean house and a garden), but not enough to spend the necessary time on them. On the plus side, I rarely complain about not having enough hours in the day because I mostly spend them doing the 5 or 6 things that are most important to me.

What about you? What do you make time for in your life, and what do you intentionally avoid or not worry about? Help give me some perspective, please. 🙂

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{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Stacy B March 21, 2016 at 10:08 am

High five on the podcasts! I will check out the one you mention. I like Story Corps and a genealogy podcast. Oh, and book one called “What to read next.”

I also listen to Audiobooks for the very reasons you mention about actually having time while doing something else (I can walk circles around our park while my son plays lava monster on the playground!) And yes – I get the comments like “that’s cool that you read so much. I wish I had time to read.” HuH?!

No baked goods here! If I make a meal that’s more than spaghetti and a jar of sauce, I feel exhausted. Since I work full time away from home, I have decided that if it doesn’t “count” in my mind as time well spent, no one else is going to give “credit” for it. So no, I won’t be volunteering at school.

And I don’t like cleaning house in my free time. Why do something I dislike if I am bringing in a paycheck?!


Abby March 21, 2016 at 2:44 pm

Thanks, Stacy, I will check out those podcasts. Funny, I use those same words like “count” and “credit” when debating my priorities! And when my workload increases, the domestic stuff is the first to drop off my list. Sadly, so is reading but maybe I need to reconsider audiobooks.


Angie Mizzell March 23, 2016 at 5:34 pm

That’s the key – “what works for them and what doesn’t.” It’s a mental switch I have to keep reminding myself to flip… As Shawn and Russell Simmons say, “Do You.” The truth is, I’m interested in figuring out the clever folding. Not sure if I need to fold my thongs (ha, just confessed that I wear thongs), but I’d love to get some other drawers in my house under control. I’m actually happier living in a decluttered, tidy space.. but prioritizing the work to make that happen is still a challenge. Like you and everyone else, I do what I can! But seriously, what is up with all of the shame and guilt and comparing? I wonder how we as women can finally evolve beyond that. Your post offers a nice perspective… just learning to catch our own selves in the act, and feeling confident about what’s truly important to us.


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