Things I Don’t Do

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Have you ever heard of Shauna Niequist? She’s one of my favorite authors ever, and she wrote a book called “Bittersweet”, that is SO GOOD. I read it several years ago, and was super intrigued by one of the chapters titled “Things I Don’t Do”. In the chapter, Niequist describes a lunch date she had with a friend of hers….an older friend, with grown children. She was asking this friend for advice…how she had managed to successfully juggle kids, career, relationships, grandkids, etc…and her friend replied with this statement (oh, it’s good)….“it’s not hard to decide what you want your life to be about. What’s hard, is figuring out what you are willing to give up in order to do the things you really care about”. This bit of advice inspired Shauna to go home and make two lists. The first list was, “Things I Do”. On that list, she listed out some of the things that she was passionate about and committed to doing. Things that basically made up the core of who she was, and that weren’t ever going to change. Here are a few of hers:

“I do everything I can to make my marriage a deeply committed partnership”

“I give the best of my day to raise my son”

“Our home is a place of celebration and comfort for people we love, so I cook and entertain a lot, because it makes me feel alive and happy”

You get the idea? Go make one of your own….it will really help you to prioritize and simplify your life.

But now onto the second list she made. The second list is the list that will be SO freeing to you, if you make it. This is the list of “Things I Don’t Do”. These are the things you are willing to NOT do…to be OKAY with not doing..in order to DO the things that really matter to you (the things you wrote on your first list). I thought this idea was genius, so I made one of my own. In the spirit of being transparent, and for the sake of giving you some examples, I will share a BIT of my list with you….

“Things I Don’t Do” (Or, “Things I Am Not”)

I don’t do Room Mom: I want to be that mom SO BADLY. I have entertained the idea for three years in a row now. But the fact of the matter is, I’m simply not organized enough, creative enough, cute-sy enough, or thoughtful enough to be a room mom. I’m just not. Done. Decided. Crossing that dream off my list.

I don’t do “logical”, and I don’t do “common sense”: My husband is the most logical, analytical, strategic person I know. I admire him SO much. His brain fascinates me. Me, I try really hard to  just summon up a shred of common-sense, but folks, I’m here to tell you, I don’t have any. I remember in the first or second grade, I was nominated to be in the “gifted program” at my school. I was smart..I AM smart (I swear, I am), so my teacher thought I would be a good fit for this program. I took this test to determine if I was, in fact “gifted”, and guess what? I failed the “common-sense” portion. I probably still would, and…I’M OK WITH THAT. I’m creative, I’m philosophical, I’m a dreamer, I figure things out as I go, and go about things in a way that most people would probably find bizarre. I’m like a mad scientist. People are smart in different ways, and I don’t have to be smart in a logical, analytical way. I’ve tried to make my brain function that way for a long time now, and it just doesn’t. Crossing it off my list.

I don’t do “24 Years Old”: 3 kids + 35 years old = LOOKING LIKE 3 kids+35 years old. I’ve found myself a lot lately examining my face in the mirror and thinking, “Ok. Ok. This is still workable. I can just start putting eye cream on the puffy eyes, a really great face lotion on the smile lines, maybe change to a makeup with a bit more coverage, remember to take my vitamins and drink a BIT more water, and I could totally still look the same as I did when I was in my 20’s. And then the other day, I thought, “No you can’t”. So….that’s that.

I don’t do Pinteresty birthday parties (or anything pinterest-y): I tried. I tried for the first three years of my first sons life. Every pinterest-y thing I attempted looked like the “Pinterest Fail” pictures that you see on Facebook. And what’s more? I didn’t enjoy doing any of it, and it all just seemed incredibly silly to me. My son was turning 1. He had no idea it was his birthday. Why do I need a “theme”? What interest did he even have yet, to turn into a party theme? He liked milk. That was about it. I let Pinterest-y parties go a loooooong time ago, and I’ve never looked back.

So there’s four, for you. I’m feeling better already. I have so many more. I don’t do gardening, or keeping plants or flowers alive at all. I truly have wasted a good portion of time and money trying to be a person who DOES garden and keep plants alive, and I’m DONE.

I don’t need to waste any time, energy, or angst on room mom-ing, stressing out that my brain isn’t wired the way I wished it was, trying to look some way that I don’t, or scouring Pinterest. I’d rather spend my time playing with my boys, going on dates with my husband, building into relationships that matter, and curling up with a good book, because reading is what I enjoy doing more than just about anything else.

Niequiest ends this chapter of the book with the following paragraph, that I thought I would share with you:

“I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life. There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with. The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”

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10 Responses to Things I Don’t Do

  1. Dana C March 30, 2016 at 11:18 am #

    Thank you for the Pinterest refusal – thought I was the only one!

  2. Katie B March 31, 2016 at 9:31 pm #

    This sounds like a book I need to read!

  3. karen April 7, 2016 at 1:47 am #

    Great post. Do what you’re good at, and don’t stress about the stuff you’re not. Simple, yet profound. Too many people these days think they have to do it all, and do it all well or you’re somehow a “failure.” Sounds like good common sense to me! 🙂 I do take a little umbrage at the book’s author where she states that she has to “stand before God and account for what I did with my life.” I would disagree. The Bible says “for God so loved the world that he gave his only son, and whomever believes in Him shall have eternal life.” I can’t see God shaming anyone for not being “good enough.” Just my two cents!

  4. Kylie April 21, 2016 at 9:51 am #

    Thank you thank you thank you!! I just found your blog (today…just now, literally) and am so overwhelmed by how accurate this is. I see so many articles of “how to be the best mom” and “organizing to a T” and “gardening and going organic”…and it’s exhausting. Just reading them makes me tired. In a world of trying to be perfect in the eyes of everyone else, it’s hard to remember to be, well…normal. We all forget to just be. Some days the house is spotless, some days we binge watch Netflix. And there is nothing wrong with either or any of the possibilities. I constantly remind myself to just be, though it’s hard. I wear sweatpants to drop off my kid at school. Sometimes I’m still in my pajamas at pick up time. Some days I surprise my kiddo and meet her for lunch. Or I spend the day cooking ridiculous things that probably no one will eat. I start projects and sometimes (rarely) finish them. I over organize and under clean. Some days, meals are made from scratch; Some days, we have fishsticks. And nothing is wrong with any of this. It’s life. It’s hard. We struggle. We fight and make up. We cry and we laugh, and sometimes at the same time. It’s hard to forget we are human and we were never designed for perfection. My husband and I have a saying for our marriage…but I think it translates to each individual self as well. “As long as you’re trying, I’m staying” No one is perfect, but I’m perfectly okay with imperfection; It adds character. 🙂

  5. Kelly April 21, 2016 at 12:27 pm #

    I LOVE LOVE your blog!! Thank you! ?

  6. Leah April 21, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    I love this. I will have to bookmark it and reread during the holidays. I’m getting ready for a garage sale (because I’ve decided I don’t do crap I haven’t used in five years, even if it’s pretty) and on the top of the pile is a stack of ironically titled magazines with articles about all the things you MUST own or MUST do with/for your kids, followed by pieces on how to make time for what really matters, which is impossible if you’ve been brainwashed into thinking all these products and images are what life’s about. If it’s good enough for you, it’s good enough!

  7. Marcy April 21, 2016 at 3:29 pm #

    Good article! My husband was a 20+ year school teacher, and he always wished moms would stay away from their kids’ school….there is nothing for you to do there, that’s why they have teachers. If a teacher needs help with an event, trip, etc, he/she will send out a notice. Even PTA is generally more of a social place for moms than doing anything very beneficial for the school. Once kids are in school, especially as they get into Jr High and High school, mom’s job becomes more manageable, especially if you let go of the anxiety about going above and beyond. Refocus on yourself more; read, pay attention to what’s going on in the world; make sure you’re able and willing to discuss topics other than the kids’ stuff with your husband. If you want to go back to work, figure out what new skills can get you there on a schedule that works for you and your family.
    I do have to say though…if you’re not out of PJs by the time you pick up after school, you could probably use some help simplifying and organizing your time!!! 🙂

  8. Debra Fales April 21, 2016 at 4:19 pm #

    Hmmmm never heard of this book but it sounds worth reading!!
    I have 2 preteen boys and currently stay at home- past life lol I was a mental health therapist and still working towards my PsyD in Clin psych! What that lady said is very true! We do not have to please every single person!!
    I like your blog- u seem very genuine- not phony like many are!!

  9. Tatiana April 21, 2016 at 6:31 pm #

    Clearly I don’t do “keeping up” because I have no idea what you mean by room mom. What’s a room mom? ::clueless::

  10. Dana April 26, 2016 at 3:50 pm #

    Love Shauna’s books! So down to earth and definitely speaking to me. So does your blog. Just discovered it today via a friend. Thanks for your candor. A lot of us moms can relate!

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