Thursday, March 29, 2012

Keeping Score

We live in a world of competition.  We grew up in it, and many of us thrive on the system of requirements, approval, and promotion.  However, in motherhood, there are no quarterly reviews, no promotions, no pay raises, no awards, and very little recognition.

I remember as a new mom feeling lost because I had no way to "score" myself.  How would I know I was doing a good job without a grade?  Things that used to take doing for granted, suddenly became a challenge and a chore.  Let alone, somehow going above and beyond like I was so used to doing.  All the milestones seemed so far away.  And the problem with grading yourself by the milestones and how fast they are reached is three-fold.

First, as mother you can train, and encourage, and discipline, but you can't control.  That sweet little baby has a personality and a mind of its own, and will not always turn out just as you want, despite all your hard work.  That is a risk we all take as mothers.

The second risk is that "grading" yourself by milestones only encourages you to hurry your children down the path of growing up, and there is always a bittersweetness to those first steps into toddlerhood and out of being a baby.

The third risk is one I have faced personally, and why I had to change my mindset.  Sometimes our children come to us with a learning struggle or disability.  Both of my children have had to see a speech pathologist.  One for a mild processing issue, and the other for delayed language development.  I felt that because both of my children were behind and needed help meant that I had failed as a mother.  I must have been doing something wrong.  I must not have been talking to them or stimulating them enough.  It took a lot of pep talks from my sweet husband and mother to get past those feelings, and they still sometimes creep in as guilt.  Don't make my mistake!

There are numerous ways that we grade ourselves as mothers.  Most of them end up leaving us feeling more like failures than successes.  Clean house. HA!  Good behavior.  Tried that.  Looking perfect.  Always someone who looks better.  Nicer stuff.  Have fun with that debt load.

Do you notice the problem with all these ways of grading yourself? It all requires a comparison to someone else!  Milestones, behavior, cleanliness, it doesn't allow your family to be who they are, only how you think they should be based on someone else's performance (and even then, only what you see of it).

But we are still left with the problem of feeling like we are moving forward in a profession filled with very similar days and seemingly, at the time, slow development and growth.  How can you tackle your need to "make the grade"?

I can tell you, that has been one of my biggest challenges as a mother, to let go of that competitive drive as a mother, or even at need to have results in order to feel productive.  No matter how hard I work, there will always be more laundry, more cooking, more discipline, more tears, etc.  I have had to take joy in the more simple ways of measuring my efforts.

As a new mom, I took to writing down every single thing I did that day, no matter how small(showered, got dressed, did dishes, made dinner, tummy time,etc), just so I could see that I was really doing something.  Nowadays, I give myself a high-five for staying on my grocery budget, being able to count on one hand the number of processed foods in my cart, learning a new recipe, turning out a good loaf of bread, a decluttered space, a giggle, a hug, a game played, a song sung.

It isn't easy to change our way of looking at "results".  But these little "grades" are a much easier and positive way to look at things.  Perhaps one day I won't feel the need to give myself a score at all.

Have you had difficulty needing to grade or compare yourself?  How did you overcome it?  How do you keep a positive "score" for yourself?


  1. This has always been hard for me. Blogging really helps, actually. Having pictures and explanations documenting our lives helps me to step away from it and see the beauty it is unfolding. I think giving yourself mental "high fives" is a great idea. I do that for after nap snuggles or sick days when I just held the child. Reasons I am proud of my decision to be a stay at home mom. In a college business class our teacher encouraged us to keep lists of the "little victories" each day in our business. This easily translates to home and would be good for blog or journal. Little victories for me would be Finally scrubbed toilets when it started looking like a men's room at 7-11...or clipped everyone's nails (that's 100 nails counting my own!). So I guess I wrap it up to realize I still feel compelled to keep score, this is just my own way of doing it :).

  2. I am a big list person and I do feel good when I can cross off what I have done for the day- and if I finish something and go to cross it off and find out I hadn't added it to my list I just add it right then and cross it off : ) I try not to compare myself to other Mothers by the way my children act because that will only bring upon me guilt or pride....I count my day a success if I took time to teach my children rather than order them around and if I get the basics done for the day.

  3. I found this talk to be especially helpful. I remember when it was delivered during General Conference a couple years ago, and it couldn't have come at a better time for me. I was considering going back to work just so I could feel appreciated again.

    The quote from Sister Eliza R. Snow was a slap in the face and the section on how to measure success was what I needed. Read it. It's wonderful.