I have just realized that I am not Wonder Woman!
For 43 years I was a career woman, master of my fate and my daily schedule. I used four different to-do lists. I was organized. I got things done and loved (still do) the feel of crossing things off my list. Then at age 43, I was blessed with the birth of my son Zachary . . . and everything changed. This change has been the basis for my column, the Mother Lode.
The myth that I was Wonder Woman goes back at least as far as my 16th birthday party. We played the game "Guess the Name Taped on Your Back." My mom personalized these for me and my friends. The name she taped to my back was "Wonder Woman." The concept stuck. My nickname from some of my cousins is "Kimmie the Human Challenge Eater." This should give you an idea of the kind of feedback I've received from those close to me.
Here's the dirty little secret behind living up to those kinds of expectations: It is much easier for me to say "I'll do it" than it is for me to ask "Can you help me?" There, I said it.
And I know I am not the only one. So many of us think we need to go it alone. Well, we can't. We all need to know when to ask for help. I reached that point just after Zachary started school, which I discussed in my September column.
Zachary being in school has opened up a whole new world of opportunities to volunteer. I receive at least five fliers a week asking me to volunteer for some project at his school.
I can't say yes to everything. I've had to prioritize. So in order to reconnect with my sanity, I have taken some time to look at what is on my to-do lists. As I said, I have four lists:
- Things I need to do for Zachary and our home
- Things I need to do for myself
- My work stuff
- My volunteer commitments
On my list of things to do for Zachary, I'm in good shape. I have all his activities listed on my calendar and have worked them into my schedule, going into 2011 at this point. Truly, taking care of my son is first. On my list of things to do for myself, I have 12 personal items to do within the next 30 days. On my work stuff: I have 38 tasks to accomplish by the end of the year. On volunteer commitments, I have 15 tasks to complete by the end of the year.
I am in the process of deciding what to do and what to bow out of. I had a great opportunity to spotlight my business with the Women2Women Program I am involved in with The Washington Mystics. Taking advantage of this would have involved a 45- to 90-minute drive and a 7:30 a.m. start time. With what goes on at home in the mornings, I let the opportunity go. I am mulling over other opportunities and making decisions.
What I have learned from this process:
- I have to harness the drive that tells me to get everything done at once. I need to set realistic timetables.
- I have to know what tasks I shouldn't take on. That means learning to say no or "Thank you for thinking of me. I'm not available right now."
- I need to delegate more to my virtual assistant. But frankly, being really well-organized is a prerequisite to delegating. You see my current dilemma.
- I have come to rely more on my friends and neighbors. If I'm late getting to the bus stop in the afternoon, one of my neighbors will walk Zachary home. We have an unwritten pact.
- I need to ask my husband to take on more of the Mother Lode. In order to do that, I need to be really specific and tell Rob exactly what is needed. That's the best way for him to help.
- I need to lower my expectations of myself. Not everything can be perfect or exactly the way I want it to be. Can you relate?
- When all else fails, I call my mom! As I am writing, my mom is preparing to drive from Michigan to Virginia with her 75-pound dog, her 25-pound cat and my longtime good friend Paula. Paula will fly to Michigan and then from Michigan back home to help my mom and her pets drive safely both ways. Now that's a good friend.
My mom (and dog and cat) will stay for three weeks and help out. She will also remind me that even "Human Challenge Eaters" can, on occasion, walk away and leave a challenge for someone else. She'll remind me daily, if necessary -- whatever it takes.