The Backward List...
I’m a wake-up, sit at the counter and make my list kinda girl. I like to sip my coffee and daydream about the superhero level of productivity I’m gonna crush today. There are categories. If I’m feeling extra, there’s color coding. There are cute little symmetrical boxes in front of each item. And ooooooh, the satisfaction of checking those boxes!
But then, there’s life.
There’s the Mama Life.
And my day often goes a little something like… Ambitious early morning list making. Run around doing all the things (none of which are on my list). Put out all the fires (just the symbolic ones). Afternoon comes and the frustration is creeping up like a too tight turtleneck. But there’s still hope! My brain is hard at work putting together scenarios of ‘If I can get this to happen, then I might have 10 whole minutes in a row – and I can still nail that entire list!” Evening turns up. Feed the troops. More firefighting. Juggle. Juggle. Run. The feeling of defeat is starting to cling with the intensity of an overtired toddler. The night takes over and I can hear myself saying it, again….
“I got NOTHING done today!”
And it feels awful. I feel awful.
So, I’m gonna let you in on a little secret that has saved my burned-out mama mindset over and over.
My friend, it’s the ‘Backward List.’
I started doing this years ago when my twins were infants. My ENTIRE day was feeding, changing, soothing, switch babies, repeat. I never managed the whole “get them on the same schedule” thing. My daughter had terrible infant reflux and feeding her was time intensive and complicated. I had no ability to align it with her brother. So instead, back and forth, baby to baby, the entire day… and night.
One evening I sat on the couch and tears ugly cried their way out. I was exhausted. I felt defeated. We know it was so much more than the unchecked list that was staring back up at me. The big cries always have layers. I acknowledge the layers. But still that list, the one with not one single check mark was the tangible thing pushing me right off the mama sanity edge. I had my cry. But then came that point after the cry, when you begin to feel a little defensive and feisty. I started to think of all the things I DID do that day.
I flipped that paper over to it’s blankness on the back side and went to work. I listed every.dang.thing I did that day. Because there was no bonbon eating. There was no manicuring. There was not one bless-ed thing for myself. I poured it out all day long. And still I was all out of sorts that “I got nothing done.”
No! Give a girl some credit! Give yourself some credit!
I listed every diaper I changed. Every feeding. Every feeding re-attempt. Every burping. Every spit-up cleanup. Every soothing. Every baby blowout outfit change. Every time I settled two babies, got them both sleeping, and ran to flip the laundry. Every time I walked the floor singing to and gently swaying with an uncomfortable colicky infant. Whatever it was. Every time. I wrote it down.
It looked pretty d**n impressive, that list. That LONG list.
I took a deep breath.
I didn’t “get nothing done.” I did a whole lot. A whole lot of everything. A whole lot of loving.
And please don't assume that this applies only to the newborn/toddler season. Those twins turned thirteen last week. I can’t even begin to guess how many times the Backward List has saved me since then. Continues to save me.
That we’re NOT “getting nothing done.”
We’re doing all the things. All the most important things.
So my friend. If you’re having a day. The kind that has you feeling all….
“I got nothing done.”
Flip over that to-do list RIGHT NOW.
And make yourself a Backward List.
Write down everything you DID today.
And I think your mama heart just might feel a whole lot better.
Well done Mama.
Just look at that list.