A few years ago, when I shared here on the blog that I was feeling overwhelmed by pregnancy, life with small children, and trying to get through the solo parenting season at our house that is income tax time, a kind reader gently reminded me of the 80/20 rule.
To paraphrase, she basically said that it was okay that things were a little bit crazy at my house 20% of the time, because the other 80% things were normal. The majority of the time, things are fine around here. When I realized that she was right, I was able to let go of the guilt.
A messy season of life won’t define their entire childhood.
Things around here haven’t been up to my ideal lately. It has been a bit chaotic, if you want to know the truth. This is a busy time of year for my family, a season I know is coming every year, but one that often finds me a little on the frazzled side by the end of it, clinging loosely to our rhythm and routines but mostly just letting things go and focusing only on the essentials.
In the meantime, there are paper plates on my table, we’ve had cereal for dinner more than I care to think about, and the last time we went to the library I’m pretty sure we checked out more children’s videos than books (and we won’t even mention the Netflix marathons).
We’re in “survival” mode right now. And I don’t feel guilty for doing what I need to do to get through it.
At the end of the day we’re happy and we’re healthy, and that is enough.
My hands are full. If meeting the needs of my kids and myself has to come ahead of time in the kitchen making meals from scratch (or washing dishes) and my older kids are watching more Arthur than usual, well, that is just fine with me.
This isn’t how we live all the time. This is just a break from our normal. This is the twenty percent. (One could even argue it is less than 20% of our year, so we’re ahead of the curve.)
The bottom line: I’m okay, the kids are okay.
To put it another spin on it, and look at it from another direction, I can also apply the original 80-20 Rule, aka Pareto’s Principle to this season of life: 20% of what we do is vital, 80% is trivial.
Therefore, as long as I’m hitting the most important 20% of every day (food, shelter, love) the rest of it is trivial (if we’re still in our pajamas at noon, how many times we’ve had popcorn and apple slices for lunch, whether or not the kids have the Signing Time theme song committed to memory, etc.)
Another way to think of it is to work smarter, not harder: focus 80% of your energy on the most important 20% of the things that need to be accomplished. For me and my household that means that the kids feel loved, we eat three meals a day, and the house is still standing at the end of the day.
The children aren’t suffering, they actually are enjoying this break from routine. I’m okay with being a little loosey goosey with the rules since I know order will return soon and I know the most important things, that vital 20%, are being done each day.
Again, the bottom line is I’m okay, the kids are okay.
In some ways, I think this time of year is good for us.
Would I want life to be like this everyday? Well, no, I wouldn’t. For one thing, I much prefer it when my husband is around and the whole family gets to spend time together. Also, I’m kind of sick of eating popcorn.
But, I recognize that it won’t be like this forever. I know that even a month from now things will look very different.
If I have to make a few concessions on how things are normally at our house in order to keep from feeling overwhelmed, than I’m giving myself permission not to feel guilty about it.
How do you get through the messy seasons of life? Do you have a take on the 80/20 rule that you apply to your own family life?