As I grew up, TV and books typically depicted a perfect mom as having 2.5 kids, a dog, picket fence, big house in suburban sprawl, and lipstick that never smears. She has time to workout at the gym, hold down a job outside of the home that always allows her to be there for the kids, and has an unwrinkled pantsuit she zips around town in as she drives her kids to dozens of lessons in her tidy minivan.
She attends every soccer game in her basic sweater and hands out juice boxes for the kids. Of course, her kids always behave, unless they’re learning a “life lesson,” which she handles calmly and often with a smile. Husbands are present tangentially in the evenings, mostly there to coach sports, give humor relief, or at times deliver a heartwarming inspirational speech.
Or maybe I just read too much Sweet Valley High. But I digress.
Sadly, moms across America are expected to derive their value by comparing themselves among each other. Worth comes from within (or from a Higher Power, depending on your beliefs — but that’s still a type of “within”). And if you deviate from the expected script of motherhood, you are subject to the same amount of scorn as a rocking chair in a room full of long-tailed cats.
I have found a helpful way to visualize “where is my life” is not by trying to adhere to this “one-size-fits-all” mom archetype. It’s not individualized; it doesn’t factor in all the variables in your life.
Instead, I present “the wheel,” a technique I thank my doctor for showing me.
Here’s how it works:
Choose any number of criteria you wish, with a minimum of three. It can be of any category.
Example 1: Career, Health, Family, Fun, Finances
Example 2: Mom, Sister, Wife, Friend, Co-worker/Boss, Self (your “titles” in life)
Example 3: Patience, Empathy, Listening, Predictability (your “parenting verbs”)
Draw a line for each “criteria,” and label it from 0 to 10, or any arbitrary number you wish. Mark where you feel you currently feel you are.
Drawing from Example 1, a randomly rated score of “8” in career:
Do this for all your chosen criteria, and then fix them together in a circle with all the zeroes touching. Connect the dots.
Continuing with the random example:
The goal being to get a big, round wheel.
This is a good way to visualize how you are spending your time and resources. This helps see the deficits and know how to more give balance. A round wheel indicates balance. The bigger the wheel, the closer you are to achieving the listed goals.
As you’ve scored yourself on the chosen criteria, you have opportunity to evaluate on your strengths and weaknesses in this area. In this example, a “4” was chosen for health due to excessive fatigue, not getting enough sleep, and recent weight gain. A natural extension is to think on ways you can change this for the better. Less nighttime social media so you can sleep better, pack a healthier lunch, create a weekly evening walk with the family to not only increase “health” but “family” as well. Etc.
Take this opportunity to meditate/pray on five year goals, or at any interval you wish. Come back and revisit “the graph”– perhaps hang it on your bathroom mirror. Repeat at future intervals, especially after major life changes to track your progress. Feel free to modify, delete, or add criteria as you see fit. Let it evolve with you.