Let the struggle be gone

If you’re anything like most of the mothers I know, you have entirely too much on your plate, and it can be paralyzing to constantly have to pick between how you should be spending your time.

After work tonight, should I go to the grocery store or should I fold the laundry? Next Thursday, should I go on my daughter’s field trip or attend the staff meeting at work? And, in order to relax, should I go to a yoga class at lunchtime or attack my overflowing email inbox?

So many damn decisions.

It seems like life would be so much easier if we didn’t have to decide and debate our every move constantly. And of course, in true motherly fashion, hiding behind most of our decisions is a steady stream of guilt and a condescending voice in our head suggesting what we “should” be doing.

In the words of Carrie Bradshaw from Sex and the City, “We’ve got to stop shoulding all over ourselves.”

In order to stop shoulding on myself, I’ve developed a quick and easy litmus test for breaking the tie when I can’t decide between 2-3 pressing options for how to spend my time.

Let’s say, for example, it is 7:30 pm on a Tuesday night and this is the scene in my house. Dinner is done, and I only have 30 minutes standing between me and the bedtime countdown, which means I’m getting closer and closer to calling it a day, crashing on the couch, drinking red wine and binging on Netflix.

I could choose to spend those final and productive 30 minutes of my day in a number of ways – clearing out my email inbox, starting a new load of laundry, sorting through field trip permission slips or throwing out school artwork without getting caught.

In order to make a decision, I ask myself, “What am I uniquely positioned to do right now?”

Truth be told, what I want to do is use that time to send the handful of emails I promised to send before the end of the day because I know I cannot relax until that’s done. However, what I’m uniquely positioned to do is see if my daughter wants to play two rounds of Go Fish before bedtime so I can fish for clues about what’s going on in her life right now.

In that example, I was uniquely positioned to spend those 30 minutes with Layla because, technically speaking, I could catch up on emails after she went to bed. If I wanted to be able to chat with her and catch up on emails, I had to do them in that order.

Here are a few other examples of this decision-making tool in action.

  1. While on vacation in Mexico earlier this year, my husband and I were so obsessed with a Netflix series that we stayed in our pajamas most evenings watching it instead of going out. Finally, one night we realized that we were uniquely positioned to go out for a great, authentic Mexican dinner and we could watch the series another day.
  2. Some days it’s hard to find the will power to break away from work to attend a lunchtime yoga class. But then I remind myself that noon is the only time of day they offer my favorite class, so I’m uniquely positioned to take advantage of it…and I’ll figure out how to get the rest of my work done later.
  3. If I’ve been traveling a lot for work, I tend to make a laundry list of the things I need to do around the house over the weekend. However, when Saturday morning rolls around, sometimes I realize that I’m uniquely positioned to get two extra hours of sleep so I can keep going.

It’s important to note; this technique isn’t designed to help you do the “right thing” – meaning spending quality time with your partner or child instead of working. It’s designed to help you figure out what you’re uniquely positioned to do in one very specific moment.

Sometimes, I realize that I’m uniquely positioned to get work done because I’m on a deadline and I can play with my kids another time. And in the last example above, I realized that I was uniquely positioned to stay in bed and do nothing because that opportunity simply wouldn’t exist later in the day.

All decisions and all options are not created equal.

Some opportunities are unique to the moment you’re in, and it’s important to take advantage of them – regardless if those opportunities are sleeping, drinking red wine, nailing an assignment at work, watching TV or playing cards with your kids.

Sometimes choosing can be the hardest part. I hope this helps!


Join the discussion and tell us your opinion.

A Loving Nanareply

Maybe in Mexico you were both “uniquely positioned” to cuddle in bed for the evening without interruptions from the little ones. So your choice for some nights was intuitively the best. 🙂

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: A Loving Nana

I like your thinking. Thanks for reading! I appreciate it.


When I first read this, I didn’t connect with it as much as your other posts but alas, within the next 24 hours and almost every day since, I have used this question to help make conflicting decisions. Thanks as always for sharing your lessons with the world!

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Ashley

Happy you found it helpful. Thanks for reading!


Really needed this piece of advice today. I am overwhelmed with moving to another country end of this month. I got lots of things to figure out. And sometimes I think I’ve been neglecting my kids. I feel guilty. But i need to figure out so many important things, that I feel tired most nights when the kids are home. So right now, I am positioned to figure out how to move to another country with a family of five with joy.

Katherine Wintschreply
– In reply to: Aliah

So glad to hear this resonated with you. It is so important (and hard!) to give ourselves grace. You are capable of hard things — whether it be giving yourself grace or moving to another country with your family of five! Just remember, this is all new. You’ve never done this before. You’re a rookie, and rookies don’t always get things right the first time.

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