I tend to think big picture. I think long term. I constantly analyze, re-evaluate, and calculate next steps. This makes me a great person to have in your board meeting or as your project manager, but it is terrible for being in my own head. The same skills that help me see all the options and make calculated choices make it almost nearly impossible…to be content.
Last week, I posted a link to a TED talk that dealt with the Paradox of Choice. You can find it in my post, Empty Hangers, Full Life. In it, Barry Schwartz shares that having so many choices actually limits our freedom and makes us less happy. Read carefully: he is not against the freedom to choose, but instead, warns against potential downfalls of having too many choices.
Last week was a hard week for me as a stay at home mom. I accomplished very little in terms of normal, run of the mill household duties, and accomplished 0% of the things I wanted to do for myself (work on my freelance projects, workout, shower, etc…). My oldest wasn’t feeling well and when he doesn’t feel well his energy level goes through the roof and his behavior plummets to the depths of hades.
As a goal oriented, accomplishment minded person, it was difficult to not just set my bar low for the week, but throw it out the window. I longed to go back to work where order and to-do lists reigned supreme, and pats on the back were administered for jobs well done.
At the end of each difficult day, the thought that always ran through the back of my mind was, “I could go back to work…It’s always an option.”
Let me back up. I’m not going to tell you my reasons for staying home because the internet can be a cruel and heartless animal and I don’t feel like sharing my personal reasons behind this decision so that strangers can criticize, analyze and judge; I’ve got me to do that.
Suffice it to say that I feel strongly that what is best for my family is for me to stay home right now. End of story.
Yet, every time I have a bad day or bad week or bad month of being a SAHM, I always go through the same re-evaluation process where I question, analyze, and run through every possible scenario. It’s, exhausting.
When my kids were born, I was blessed with the freedom to choose whether to work or stay home. I made my choice. And sure, there is nothing wrong with occasionally taking your emotional, spiritual and mental pulse to make sure what once worked for you is continuing to be the best solution.
However, when I feel like I always have the choice to be doing something else, just like Schwartz says in his TED talk, I end up dissatisfied with the decision I made. I imagine that I could have made a different, better choice. I long for the attractive features of the other option (working), which detracts from the attractive features of my current choice (staying home/working from home). I feel like I’ve missed out. I feel like I’ve made a bad decision.
And there you have it folks: The recipe for discontentment. (You can find it in my cookbook, Serving Up Discontentment, coming to a bookstore near you. You’ll want it for everyone on your Christmas list!)
Where does this all lead me? I’m so glad you asked!
My church, Living Water, has been doing a series on joy. It has been incredible. As I’ve listened to the messages each week, instead of re-evaluating my situation, I re-evaluated by joy.
I realize that I’ve fallen victim to the Paradox of Choice and it’s friends, the fear of missing out, overly-high expectations, dissatisfaction and jealousy. I realized that the freedom to choose to be home with my kids is a gift, but I need to be carful not to be greedy for too many other choices. In reality, I know that I can make a change any time that becomes necessary, but I can’t live for the next change. I have to live for the right now.
This year, I heard something mind blowing in a yoga class I was taking. The instructor told the class that in almost every pose, your gaze should never leave the boundaries of your mat. You aren’t supposed to look around at others. You aren’t supposed to gaze at yourself in the mirror. You are simply supposed to do the poses and focus on what you are doing.
I wish I had heard that advise years earlier. I’ve given myself plenty of neck aches as I craned my head to see what others were doing, or to check myself out in the mirror. What a pain. The same can be said for the choices we are currently living out.
Please hear me. I’m not against change. (Good grief, I’m not a curmudgeon.) I’m not against getting out of a bad situation. What I’m for, is joy. Contentment. Satisfaction. I know that I can’t experience those things if I’m constantly looking for what’s next, regretting my decisions and holding on to “backup plans” just in case my current choice doesn’t pan out.
For me, it’s time I turn my eyes inward and trust in the choices God has led me to. It’s time to take my eyes off others; I don’t need to worry about or be jealous of the things they are doing. It’s time to take my eyes off the mirror; I don’t need to constantly criticize what I see.
I heard today that “contentment doesn’t mean we are happy, it means we are satisfied with God being in control.” I’ve made the choice to be a stay at home mom. Now, it’s time to stop trying to orchestrate my life like it’s a game of chess (I was always a crummy chess player anyways), and to focus on what’s immediately in front of me, and be satisfied that someone wiser, greater and more loving is in control.
It’s your move God.