Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
I had plans last weekend. I was going to write this post way ahead of time and sort through the papers I’ve been carrying around with me for weeks, start working on a webinar I’m presenting next month, and, essentially, get my life organized.
On Friday, my youngest called me right when she got off the bus at school – a bus she just vomited in. While parents know that this sort of thing isn’t totally unexpected, the complication was she had planned a birthday party that night.
So, we postponed the party until the puking stopped, which ended up being just a day later. And taking care of a sick 13 year old doesn’t take a lot of energy and time – not nearly as much as it used to when she was three or four. But still, there is some emotional labor, especially when it comes to the sadness of a party postponed.
You’ve probably had this happen before – one little thing jumps up to the forefront of all the others and, in momland, this often means bumping personal plans. We knew this would be the case when we signed up for this mom gig, and yet, it can still be a little surprising when what we wanted to do gets nudged (or thrown) to the side.
There have been times in my life when this sort of thing has completely undone me. Maybe its selfish. Maybe its normal. Maybe there are moms out there who just embrace this and celebrate the chance to care for their child. But disappointment is real, frustration is a trigger for my depression, and I have to reconcile with this in a very honest way.
One of the things that I have done to try and help is to plan for a setback. It sounds contradictory to meeting goals: why on Earth would someone plan to succeed and not at the same time?
Experience has taught me that I need to break my goals down into two categories:
Goals I Cannot Control & Goals I Can Control.
Goals I Cannot Control:
I cannot control if/when my kids will get sick. I cannot control when a last minute meeting, activity, party shows up that any of my kids want to go to. I cannot control who will relate to my work, or how they will respond. I can’t even control if the kids will like dinner or not. I have no control over how many people follow and engage with me via social media. I can’t control when my boss or dean will need something urgent because someone asked of something urgent from them. I can’t even whether or not I will sleep well from night to night.
Sometimes, when I see the list of things I can’t control, I can feel frustrated. Who wouldn’t? But then I look at what these things are, the category of me that is present in them. These are all related to things I DO. They are NOT related to who I AM, and this is an important distinction that I am slowly (SLOWLY!) learning to make.
Goals I Can Control:
Even while negotiating the uncertainty that comes with parenting, there are some things we can control. I can control the way I respond to my children (this often means taking a walk before responding – no one said goals are easy). I can control taking the medications and supplements that allow my brain to have a chance. I can control what I share and respond to on social media, and I can be intentional about what I choose to share or keep private. I can control what I eat and drink. I can control dedication in my writing (both of this blog, my newsletter, and my books).
In acknowledging the goals I can control, I am able to lay out plans for success, build in habits that will support me in working toward these goals, communicating desires with my inner circle who will help me toward these goals. I can share what I am experiencing compared with what I am doing, and gather insights into how to negotiate circumstances in a manner that is both healthy and supportive of my overall aspirations.