Take it from a somewhat-recovering-approval junkie.
This working mama thing ain’t for sissies.
Particularly for those of the approval seeker tribe.
I want everyone to be happy. All the time. I don’t want anyone to be disappointed. Ever.
That’s right. I’ve managed to construct an entire life goal from two completely impossible paradigms.
I’m an optimist like that. Or crazy.
In my family life, my kids are sometimes not delighted when I head out the door to a meeting or speaking trip. It’s very tough for me to leave the house with a sad child watching me from the window. And in my work life, I don’t want to have to say no. I want to be on top of every email, every deadline, every opportunity. I want everyone in my swirling globe to feel seen and connected and cared for. Which sounds noble. And has some of that in it.
But I also don’t want anyone upset with me. I don’t do ‘upset with me’ well. I’m the oldest child in my nuclear family. I strived to bring home perfect report cards. I wanted to make my parents proud, my teachers proud. And I also managed to come away with the idea that I was responsible for everyone’s feelings, that if I could perform well enough and show up early enough and soothe any social situation, well, then, everyone could be happy, happy, happy.
I love being a mom. I love being a mama to a whole bunch of kids. I love being present with them.
I love working. I love ministering. I love writing and I love speaking.
I love my friends. I love supporting them, being there for them, spending time with them.
Sometimes, all those loves head precariously into collision courses.
I’ll be doing a pretty good job focusing on my kids…and some of my friendships will begin to wither. Sometimes work will be going extremely well…and my children aren’t getting the best of me because it’s all been poured out on an urgent project. And sometimes I’ll raise my friendship game…and work and kid world start having some details go missing.
People get unhappy. And my approval-mongering self gets panicky.
And based on the conversations I have with lots of working moms, I know I’m not the only one out there wrestling the predictable keep-everybody-happy-plate-spinning-crash. Because, eventually, it all comes down. The day the work item goes sideways is also the day a kid acts out in an unexpected tantrum and is also the day a friend texts her frustration that you haven’t called her back yet.
In trying to keep everybody happy, happy crashes to the floor, as does our self-esteem. Splinters of effort and best intentions glitter gloatingly from the floor, shards of failure and doubt staining the path. Trying to scoop it all up slices our worker bee hands and the sting of having disappointed those we care about is lemon juice to the soul.
Familiar, uncomfortable territory to our tribe, this approval-junkie, over-committed, career mommy clan.
There’s just one antidote that I see.
Which is this.
I’m getting okay(er) with not everyone being happy with me all the time.
And I’m striving toward getting okay with it, no er or ish involved.
I want to do it all. I want to be a great mom. I love my work. I adore my friends. I love having a very full plate and I want to carry that plate with full diligence and heart. But that very full plate will sometimes have some things unintentionally slosh off the side. And as long as my motives stay right and my integrity intact, then it’s going to be okay.
And I can be okay. Er. With not everybody being happy all the time.
And so can you, my approval-junkie sister. We can be okay(er).