As an unapologetic Type-A working mother, I frequently get overwhelmed by how much I have to do and how much I want to do but can't--and these ostensibly opposite thoughts often cross my mind at the same time. Just last night I was complaining to my husband about how I wish I spent more time with my increasingly curious daughter, but at the same time I am frustrated by how much I have given up for her, especially in the way of fitness and community work.
But then I remembered the 80/20 rule. It goes something like this: if you are doing your best 80% of the time, forgive yourself for the remaining 20% of the time that you are not up to par. Let's say you're on a diet--that would average out to a "cheat" day one afternoon a week if you were sticking to your veggies and healthy proteins the rest of the week. If you've been working 60 hours this week, it's okay for you to space out during your third evening meeting in a row. You get the picture.
This rule especially hits home when it comes to motherhood. My daughter was screeching in the car seat a few days ago because her singing puppy had fallen on the floor for the seventeenth time as I was trying to navigate the Highway 80/5 junction. I took a moment to breathe and remind myself that I was in the 20% zone. I've spent countless hours making homemade baby food from locally-grown organic produce, even despite the fact that I hate to cook. I bring her hiking and to the zoo and to the beach and to the river. If I spend 80% (and maybe even 95%) of my time being a good mother, I can let her cry over spilled puppy for 5 minutes. I'll still be a good mother.
Honestly, I don't feel like a good mother all the time, but I am fortunately blessed with wonderful friends, whether they are mothers or not, who remind me in ways big and small that I am indeed doing a good job. At her little boyfriend's birthday party I spent a solid 2 hours running around after Zen. She had only just turned 1 year old herself and yet there she was doing the craziest things, namely stepping on paper plates of food an unsuspecting guest left on the lawn and climbing the giant inflatable slide--yes, I said CLIMB, as in she was scaling the nearly vertical slide while school-aged kids tried to slide down. I went home pretty exhausted that evening. The next day a pregnant friend told me that she watched me play with Zen at the party, and that she hopes to be a mother just like me when the time comes. A teacher friend who was at the party commented that she loved the freedom I gave her; I'm pretty sure that she was the one whose plate Zen stepped on. Yet another guest saw me nearly a month later and told me that her husband said that he wanted to have a little girl as beautiful as mine--the same one scaling the slide, believe it or not.
Back to the 80/20 rule. I don't remember 100% of the things my parents did. In fact, in the grand scheme of things I probably only remember a few snippets of my childhood. But what I do remember really sticks with me. I remember the big breakfasts my Dad would make on weekend mornings. He would play acoustic music on the radio and fling giant pancakes across the kitchen like frisbees. He called them "Uncle Buck" pancakes because he got the idea from the pancakes John Candy flipped with a snow shovel in the movie. I remember my Mom, who was arguably the most popular parent at my elementary school. She was the Girl Scout troop leader for probably 50 girls, and for our world heritage celebration she taught my schoolmates how to dance the tinikling, a Filipino cultural dance with giant bamboo poles.
I figure that if I am an excellent parent (or project manager or runner or friend, for that matter) at least 80% of the time, chances are that one of Zen's few early memories will be of being awestruck by the flamingos at the zoo or fascinated by the Chinese lion dancers at the Pacific Rim Festival--or maybe simply snuggling into my arms as I read "The Very Hungry Caterpillar" to her yet again. I know those will be some of my favorite memories in 20 years.