On Not Doing All the Things

I celebrated telling you that my son thinks I’m as big as a 450-pound mountain gorilla by having cowboy pizza and beer for dinner last night. I did not have any of the chocolate chip cookies, though (because I’d had 2 for breakfast and then my kids finished them off while I wasn’t looking), so I’m counting that as success and moving on. Onward and upward! And a little bit outward, thanks to the pizza and beer.

I got on the scale this morning. The same scale I’ve been avoiding for a couple months. I half-expected the display to read GORILLA, but it didn’t. My scale has no sense of humor. He’s a Strictly The Facts, Ma’am kind of guy. I’m like, “Can we please, for once, make light of this?” And he doesn’t even smile a little when he’s all, “Nope.”

Despite the gorilla / pizza / beer / cookies situation, though, my weight is unchanged. And by unchanged, I mean I’m heroically maintaining the depression gain. Plus the 20 years of incremental but steady weight gain before that. Next time someone asks me about my ability to commit and follow through, I’m going to mention how dedicated I’ve been to these extra pounds. Some people treat them like they’re unwanted. Me? I’m downright hospitable. Nurturing, in fact.

But wait! There’s more!

Butt weight! There’s more!

(My husband is from a punny family. I’m not. After 18 years of marriage, “butt weight, there’s more” is my very best pun. You’re welcome.)


Do you ever have moments you’re pretty sure you’re carrying stuff you don’t need – or even stuff that’s harmful – but you just don’t have the energy or time to identify it, focus on it, dig it out, and eliminate it?

Yes. Me, too.

It’s just that living life, doing our best, sometimes not doing our best in favor of doing our mediocre, and being this tired take time. All of the time. In the world.

I’ve found I can do 4 things in my life:

  1. I can be internally healthy. Write. Read. Nurture my heart and my spirit. Treat my depression. Be kind.
  2. I can be physically healthy. Work out. Plan meals with whole grains and green leafy vegetables. Log what I eat. Go to bed early.
  3. I can spend quality time with my family. Bike rides. Movie nights. Family meals. Conversations that include eye contact.
  4. I can keep my house clean.

Yes, I can do 4 things. Problem is, I can’t do more than 2½ of them in any given week. And lately the weeks look a lot like numbers 1 and 3, faking 4, and not so much 2.

photo (66)Once upon a time, it really stressed me out that I wasn’t able to do all the things. After all, other people seem to do all the things, and they seem to do them well. But, you know; I’m not other people. I’m just me. And I’m coming to terms with that. So now it just sort of stresses me out. But I’m also able to relax sometimes about the things I can’t do right now. To stop beating myself up for not doing all the things.

It appears as though life is a series of cycles. I’ve focused on my physical health in the past. I will focus on it again. Maybe even soon. But I find it difficult to regret spending the past few months on my mental health and on trying and failing and trying and succeeding and trying and trying to be kind.

I admire people who can simultaneously maintain a high level of physical fitness, mental health, investment in relationships and an orderly environment. I’m just not that person. So I’ve decided to lighten up. (Get it?) To just wait. Just weight. With pizza and beer in hand.


What about you? Are you able to do All the Things? If no, which Things are on the back burner right now? And how do you treat yourself about that?


ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
  1. Thanks again, another great post. Sometimes I need help remembering it’s okay. Luckily for me walking helps my mental status so I get to kill 2 birds with one stone. Unfortunately cleaning the house does nothing for me but make me wonder how the kids can mess it up again so quick.

  2. To all moms I just want to say relax, love your children, spend time with them but take a vacation away from them periodically. I never really needed vacations until I had kids. Once the kids came along my husband and I agreed that if we didn’t make time for each other we probably wouldn’t have a relationship by the time the kids got older. Every year we went somewhere together without the children for at least a weekend. It was truly a lifesaver and definitely a marriage saver. We also gave each other a break even if just a few hours every few weeks so we didn’t lose ourselves. Whether it was shopping with a friend or getting a haircut, didn’t matter, I did something for me and he had time to do what he wanted. Don’t feel guilty about not taking the kids. The best gift you can give them is happily married parents because the will feel that love and learn how to have loving relationships by watching you. Just do the best that you can with the rest of it.

  3. Beth, your words always hit the spot. I’m just so thankful for you. You always give us all permission to just be real and accept ourselves where we’re at. Who doesn’t need that? God bless you!

  4. Thank you for this. It resonates for me so much, even though my circumstances are very different than yours.

    I’m not a Mom, and never plan to be. I currently take care of other people’s children for a living, and I adore the time I spend with them, but I could never do it full time.

    Depression? Check. Plus chronic fatigue and pain. I’m pretty much permanently overwhelmed by the basics of keeping my own life in some vague semblance of order (by which I mean really basic things, like managing to pay the power bill and have clean underwear on a regular basis).

    I’m also an avid reader, artist, and disability rights activist. When I have the energy to stand up and keep my eyes open for more than a few hours at a time.

    It’s hard not to judge myself when I see how much other people accomplish– like mothering children! But the important thing is for each of us to do what we can– and to do it with love.

  5. […] of my adult life–and, sure, my high school and college one too–trying to do it all.  All the Things.  All the Things Well and […]

  6. I have a sign in my kitchen that says “a clean kitchen is a sign of a wasted life.” Not because I have anything against kitchen cleanliness. Not because I want to insult anyone who keeps their kitchen spotless. Not even because my kitchen is never clean (it is, sometimes). But to remind me, when my kitchen (and everything else in my house) is a wreck, that it just means that I have chosen other priorities. Sometimes that is reading ANOTHER book to my son. Sometimes it is peeing by myself for two minutes. Little victories, today’s priorities, and the kitchen will get clean when it gets clean. Or never. Possibly never.

  7. I sat in bed weeping early this morning with a uni exam tomorrow, assignment due today and teenage kids home on school holidays making the house look like a pit. I haven’t got one nice thing to say to the little buggers and it’s just depressing. Then I found your blog and it all seemed a bit brighter, knowing I am not the only one who sometimes (often) struggles with my role as a mother.
    I can’t do all of the things!
    Sometimes I can’t even do one.
    I skipped out at 8am and left them to it, came here to uni to study and so far the day is going great.
    Okay, so I am dreading going home…but I don’t feel isolated like a did a few hours back.
    Thank you.

  8. You are actually quite stunning!
    Just read this on FB and just have to say…
    There is a bible verse that says “I can do all things through Him who gives me strength”, but if you look it up, it’s about “I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation” and that’s the ONE thing!
    You’re amazing.

    A fellow mom

  9. […] On Not Doing All the Things: In honor of all of us who are plugging away and still Not Doing All the Things […]

  10. Thanks so much. Have just discovered your blog, and it is a breath of fresh air! I am 50, going through menopause, and raising three teenagers on my own. I started out with fine ideals, attachment parenting, homeschooling, healthy diet, and trying to be a good Christian Mum. After raising kids for 18 years, 13 of those years on my own, and one of my kids having special needs, I feel exhausted and overwhelmed a lot of the time. If raising kids is a marathon, I’ve hit the pain barrier, where every step is agony. I know it will turn out okay, and it will all be God’s grace. It just hurts a lot right now, and I’m longing to see a finishing post, and to have freedom to do other things I feel called to. I could never even hope to do that list of four! I work in cycles, too. In the past, I’ve invested lots of quality time in my kids, but right now, the main thing I do is PRAY! I pray because that is my special time for me, and my relationship with God is everything to me, and keeps me from completely losing the plot. And I pray because I’ve had to let go of any crazy notion that I can be Supermum, and I trust that God will do a far better work in my kids’ lives than I ever could!

  11. I am trying to do ALL the things right now and it is *not* going well. Maybe I should re-assess the situation(s) and just try One of the things for a while? lol I keep dropping balls. If I could just get caught up on laundry and organize the house (HA! hahahahahahahahahaaaa!) maybe then I’d feel better? *shrug*

  12. hahahahaha oh beth i missed this post till now- um, i think i was maybe able to do Some of The Things before kids…and especially when we lived in an apartment with almost no furniture and were completely, utterly broke and therefore owned almost nothing…did you know keeping nothing straight is awfully easy compared to keeping things straight? haha.

    but, um, now that we have a house and two kids and two jobs and lots of CRAP in the house which never, ever seems to put itself in order despite my most desperate pleas, yes, um, i pretty much almost always feel like i do None of The Things. or maybe just One of The Things.

    in fact, i have told my husband on several occasions (when he has DARED to complain, i mean “discuss with me,” about Things I Have Failed To Do As The More-At-Home-Than-Him Parent), that i can only do One of The Things on any given day. so, hey, i made dinner? HOORAY! that’s all you get for today! or, hey, i washed laundry? sorry, no dinner! ha. i’m only kind of kidding, which is to say not at all.

    am i being clear enough that you are NOT ALONE? 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 xo

  13. I’m happy to do any of the things. I do get to hold my sweet little (enormous) ravenous baby girl and try to keep my two year old boy from mauling her with affection. I guess that counts for #3?

  14. […] Will my house be clean and organized?  Probably not.  Will I get to cook and exercise and have playdates as often as I do now?  Unlikely.  Will I take on more stress?  Yep.  (I loved this other post from Beth Woolsey about Not Doing All The Things.) […]

  15. Beth, I been thinking about this post all day. I guess it’s not so much trying to hit those numbers, but, it occurred to me, I would almost rather be depressed, because for me it was not depressed, it was just a rushing insanity sort of anxiety that I am only now fessing up to in public (because you fess up so well, you make it look sexy) that made life just sort of nuts.

    I was happy, so happy in fact I would knock your block off if you prep that garlic wrong. And why is our yard/house the only one that looks like Appalachia in the neighborhood? And who cleans the tub with windex? 15-year olds do, BREATHE!

    I have long since given up, things just got way too hard, death of children, new teen family members from dysfunctional backgrounds with alpha personalities and precipitant adjustments/refocusing from all these things. Who cares if the kids didn’t get bathed for 8 days, are they healthy? Are they *feeling* loved? Are mom and dad ok in all the ways that matter?

    You have really hit a spot though, the over the top nature of being parenting, wanting to live this little idea of perfection that exists only in ones head, and being overwhelmed when, whoa, surprise, reality!

    I guess I would rather be depressed than have people surprised (and me too) by the intensity of my own personality that comes when all the adjustments come along (YES EVERYTHING IS FINE! AM I YELLING? SORRY!). Grass, it’s always greener… (over the septic tank)

    thank you for your candidness, your honesty and the permission it seems to give all the rest of us to be real too.

  16. I just want to say for the record…Most people see me from the outside, and look at me, and say, “she has it ALL together.” But on your list of 4–I can usually only do 1 1/2 of those every few days. Right now, my 2 1/2 year old is watching Mickey mouse over and over again. I used to feel really guilty about this. But she has learned a lot from Mickey, Daniel Tiger, and other PBS shows. She has learned the sequence of a lot of numbers, and a lot of other useful skills.
    My point is, as bad as you feel about how you are doing some days….I’m sure you are doing better than you think. Keep focusing on the items on your list that you feel are most important that week, and the others will get their attention later (when you have the energy to focus on them).
    Good job momma!!

  17. I’m one of those annoyingly organized people and up until about 3 weeks ago I was managing to do all 4. But then I was introduced to Candy Crush on my iPhone. And now I do just one thing well …

  18. 2 1/2 sounds about right!

    Right now, I’m mainly doing 2 & 3, with a bit of 4 thrown in sometimes for good measure. 🙂

    I found #2 to be _much_ easier after doing a toxin cleanse (hey, I’ve heard it can also help with depression…). I know consultants who do whole-food cleanses with people; I did a whole-food cleanse by following the advice in a book. The really cool thing was, for me, (and ymmv), that after the 8-week cleanse, I had released the chemicals that my body had gift-wrapped in balls of fat, and once the toxins were gone, the fat slowly drifted off, all by itself, without any “dieting” _or_exercise_ by moi. (40 weeks of 1 pound per week, followed by 40 weeks pf 1/2 pound per week.) And I’ve almost totally kept it off, too, for 6 years (despite 2 pregnancies in that time).

    Anyway, the book I totally recommend to everyone is The Great American Detox Diet by Alex Jamieson.

    Oh, and I get the kids (oldest is 14.5) to help with the cleaning!

  19. Thank-You!! I always feel this way and it is definitely the clean house category that suffers:) It is so much higher on the priority list to spend time with my two little kids and, you know, occasionally feed them good food even if it means that I will clean the kitchen “later.”

  20. This is great!

    Yesterday, my 1 year old learned how to climb to the top of the kitchen table and it looks like her next trick will be to jump off. She is quite excited, me less so. As a result of this exciting new development and the speed in which it is accomplished, I will only be working on goal 3 (and by “quality family time” I really mean “keep all the children alive”).

  21. Along with the 5 kids, we school from home, I run a ministry that is also a business and we try to do extracurricular activities like plays and music lessons.
    Because my ministry brings other things such as my excellent children (no really, they are fantastic! I’m pretty close to doing that well.) to light, and the fact that we homeschool and work from home people ask me the loaded question, “How do you do it all?”
    I laugh and tell them the truth, which is that I don’t. Something has to give, so it was housework. We are lucky if we all get dressed in the same day, let alone clean clothes. We settle for ‘ish’ clothes and matching shoes. Your linen closet is basically how the entire house is organized. We rarely invite anyone over.

    It’s mercy. We have to allow it for ourselves as much as our loved ones, so this… “After all, other people seem to do all the things, and they seem to do them well.” Can we just call bullsh*t? Having it all together, and having it all is a lie.

    My house is a mess, if it weren’t for frozen meals my family would starve, as long as we have laundry that is clean ish and we aren’t naked it’s enough, and we practice mercy for ourselves and others. We are just muddling along doing life the best we are able, thanking Jesus for mercy and grace, which we apply liberally.

  22. AMEN, SISTER! (I’m a Catholic Wisconsinite, we don’t talk like that EVER, but whatever, it fits…)

    Ironically I had this same conversation with my husband just LAST WEEK. I can be a good MOM, I can be a good WIFE, I can be a good HOUSEKEEPER (jk, I can’t, but I can try…), I can be good to ME. But I can’t do them all on the same day, certainly not all the time. I also have an on-again-off-again dance with depression, and I have to say there’s something very comforting about knowing there’s someone else going through the EXACT same thing. As always, your post hits close to home and brings a ray of sun-shiney hope into a day that’s overcast. 🙂

  23. This is exactly why I love you.
    I have found by commiserating with other women that nobody can do all the things. And if by some miracle they seem to be doing all the things, then they are not very stable, and I don’t want to be their friend.
    Your scale and mine are related. No sense of humor whatsover.
    And I had pizza last night too. I wish I’d remembered to have a beer.

  24. Nope. No way. Nobody does all the things. I refuse to believe it. There must be something they’re skipping, you just don’t know about it yet! I think I’m handling #3 okay, which is good because it’s my personal priority #1. The others just have to rotate. This week we’re incorporating some mental health due to extreme exhaustion. Next week something might get cleaner. We’ll see.

  25. I’m 58. I’ve raised 4 kids mostly living in a very hot tropical climate that zapped my energy by noon. We started off with high ideals of family life like eating meals together, limited tv and definitely no computerized games. That’s when life happened! The last 10 years of parenting (going through menopause, teen issues and travelling husband) I gained 20 pounds, went through depression, we ate more meals in front of the tv to the point when if I set the table my kids would ask if company was coming. But guess what? This year I lost those 20 pounds after keeping them for a decade plus. And we have great family memories and like each other most of the time. Life is hard enough without putting demands on ourselves that just make us feel bad and all the while the people who really care about us could care a less what we weigh or how clean our sink is!

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