I just color-coded my family’s calendar for the upcoming school year. It’s a veritable rainbow of work obligations and daycare events and extracurricular activities and birthday parties and playdates and baby showers and whatnot. It’s a masterpiece of organizational skill and professional shuffling. It’s a testament to my commitment to keeping my kids busy, engaged and entertained. It’s my pride and joy. And it’s completely over the top.
The last few weeks I’ve been waking up before my kids (unthinkable)—my body already abuzz in anticipation of the daily chaos (and caffeine) to come. There’s just too much to do, and so few hours to accomplish everything. Work and chores and school and activities and—dare I dream to actually have a social life? Like so many moms, I end up putting my own needs last on the list. But what if I didn’t? What if I prioritized filling my cup before filling our schedules?
I know I’m not the only one shifting my perspective. Search the hashtag #quietquitting online, and you’ll find a sea of frustrated employees, burnt out from hustle mentality, plotting how they’re going to take their lives back. But, really, the phrase is a misnomer. In fact, it doesn’t involve quitting at all. Rather, it means doing what you’re supposed to do—no more, no less. It’s a term that’s trending on social media, popularized by members of the Gen-Z workforce who refuse to take on anything beyond the scope of what they’re compensated for. It’s meant to inspire the quest for that elusive balance between job and life, and help people feel comfortable with not overreaching in the former to enhance the latter. Moreover, quiet quitting has become a movement meant to motivate people to prioritize self-care and foster self-advocacy.
It certainly makes sense. But, as someone who’s quite content at a company where career and family are both prioritized, the revolution doesn’t necessarily fire me up. That said, I can’t help but wonder—while I shovel a peanut butter and jelly sandwich dinner down my throat after work but before daycare pick-up, musical-theater class drop-off and a nighttime PTA meeting—can I quiet quit parenting?
Don’t get me wrong: I love being a mom. And I enjoy the mayhem that comes with juggling all the things for all my people. I’m not suggesting we abandon our responsibilities; I’m not even hinting that we do the bare minimum at home. I’m simply asking: What if we actively choose not to overdo, overbook, overstress, overcommit and overwhelm? What if we rein it all in?
Like distressed employees who feel they’ve been stretched too thin for too long, parents (eh-hem, moms) are also experiencing major burnout at home. We’re exhausted from allowing the role to consume our identities; from making decisions big and small every day; from being the default parent; from playing the part of chauffeur; from feeling guilty about things that are out of our control; from coordinating social opportunities; from making meals; from silently competing with other parents; from scheduling appointments; from going to school functions and from trying to make every moment of childhood special and magical for our little people.
The thing is: We’re not being compensated for any of it. Our kids don’t love us any more because we swap the Elf of the Shelf’s position every night. They don’t gain a renewed appreciation for us when we prepare a themed bento-box lunch. They’re not flooded with gratitude because we DIY’d their talent-show costume instead of ordering one from Amazon. The reality is: we’re just creating more work for ourselves. (And, if you love doing it all, then carry on). But if it just fills your schedule instead of your cup, it may be time to reconsider. What if we tried consciously, quietly quitting the extras, and just got comfortable with the idea of not doing it all. What if we commit to being present and showing unconditional love and being role models that let go of the superficial things to prioritize our own needs? What if we embrace the idea that less really can be more? My guess: We’d all win.