Decision Fatigue: My Hardest Mom Life Problem
Working from home has been the answer to so much of what I was unhappy about in my life. I no longer feel as if I’m missing too much of my kids. I don’t feel that work dominates too many of my resources. Yet there’s one thing about being home that gets me: decision fatigue.
I have never made so many constant, unending decisions in my life.
It wears me out. With kids, there is no shortage of decisions to make from clothing to activities. I didn’t realize how many decisions I was leaving to someone else when I used full time childcare. Now the full weight of my child’s development rests upon me which is both awesome and exhausting.
Take a typical weekday morning for example. It looks a little something like this:
So many little questions. So many decisions. So many opportunities to get caught up in the minutiae. I make so many decisions in a normal day that by the end of the week I can barely decide what chair to sit in.
But there’s still the house work, my editing work, and of course meal planning.
At its best, meal planning saves us the money so I can be at home, and it makes it so much easier to eat healthy. Though honestly, planning every breakfast, lunch, and dinner for myself, my husband, and our 4 year old is the hardest thing I do. From reading the grocery ads to figuring out which stores I’ll go to and what recipes I’ll use, I devote a huge amount of time to meals with, usually, zero input.
I’m lucky in that my family almost always happily eats whatever I place in front of them, but some days I am just done. My husband comes home. Dinner is not ready. It hasn’t and it won’t be started. There are no leftovers ready, and when he asks me, “What’s for dinner?” I don’t know. I have run dry. I don’t even want the burden of choosing a restaurant.
I just want someone to make some decisions for me.
I didn’t know what I was dealing with until I read that Nick Saban eats the same thing for breakfast and lunch every day just to have two fewer decisions to make each day. Turns out he’s not the only one.
President Obama explained during a Vanity Fair interview that he had to remove the day-to-day distractions that absorb most people throughout their day: “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make. You need to focus your decision-making energy. You need to routinize yourself. You can’t be going through the day distracted by trivia.”
Am I letting trivia rule my life?
Obama cited research showing that “the act of making decisions degrades one’s ability to make further decisions. It’s why shopping is so exhausting.” For someone who hits regularly three to four grocery stores a week, this spoke to me.
I realized at work, I had a running to-do list and calendars. I had standing meetings. I had deadlines. I had supervisors. I had structure that helped direct my days, so I’m trying to create more of those positive boundaries for me at home.
The result is I’m now working toward a pretty solid schedule.
I have somewhere for us to be Monday through Friday where my kids do directed activities by someone other than me. While that might overwhelm some to have to be out of the house each morning for various storytimes and dance lessons, it anchors my day and starts me off somewhere I don’t have to think about.
Instead of setting out my son’s clothes for him, I let him choose as long as it’s mostly seasonally appropriate. Luckily, we live somewhere where socks with sandals is only a fashion faux pas, not a health problem.
I’m keeping meals pretty simple.
I used to love involved recipes with lots of steps, but these days I’m much of a baked sweet potato, roasted broccoli, and side salad person. When I’m feeling especially tapped, I even buy bagged salad. I’m pretty sure that’s the only way I made it through the holiday season. I can put the energy into the main items, and my sides don’t vary much throughout the month.
I used to feel bad for offering yet another baked sweet potato, but now I realize I’m just decision making like the best of them.