Simpler Times, Complicated - by Abby Herman MotherHustle
“We only have one life. I spent the first 40-something years of mine over-complicating things and striving for perfection.”

I’m totally going to date myself here, but I was born in the early 70s and grew up in the 80s. I graduated from college in 1995 and have taken little time since then to sit back and enjoy life. 

Partly by necessity, and partly by choice.

Growing up before computers and cell phones were a “thing,” I remember the simple days of having to answer the phone on the kitchen wall, not knowing who was on the other end (and then screening calls on the answering machine when they were the only way to leave messages).

I remember having to get up off the couch to change the channel on the television (that only got about 8 channels). I remember warming up dinner on the stovetop and in the oven because microwaves didn’t exist.

And I remember picking up the needle on the record player so I could listen (and dance) to Eye of the Tiger for the bazillionth time.

Life seemed so much simpler back then. But life changes.

We grow up, and our eyes start to open to the world around us. Technology changes, bad things happen to us and the people we care about, we have children–and suddenly life isn’t nearly as simple as we thought it would be.

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When I was in college, I thought that I’d get married, graduate from college, get a great job, have kids, be a super-mom, watch my kids grow up and graduate from high school–and then my husband and I would live happily ever after.

All in that order, and all to simple perfection.

(After all, my parents were high school sweethearts and got married while they were in college — and recently celebrated their 49th anniversary!)

But the reality is that I’ve been divorced since my 15-year-old daughter was 2, so most of what I thought my life would be just never happened. Sure, I graduated from college and got a good job. And I know that I’m a damn good mom, at least 90 percent of the time. But the rest of it? Well…

Being a single mom is far from what I had planned for my life, and not a single day of it has been simple.

From coordinating parenting schedules with someone who doesn’t always share the same communication style as me… to figuring out discipline on my own… to being the primary kid-taxi… to trying to figure out how to have time to myself… to stressing about money and bills, there’s never a dull moment. It’s a far cry from how I grew up and not how I wanted my daughter to grow up.

But here’s the thing: It’s really okay. Because it’s all relative.

In the grand scheme of things, my life is what I make of it. I’ve found ways to simplify life that help me to be a happier, healthier person and allow me to raise my daughter in her own semblance of normal and simple.

  • I eat the same thing for breakfast almost every single morning, because routine is easy. And if my daughter wants to make herself fettuccine alfredo for breakfast? Fine by me, because it saves me from worrying about what she’s eating!
  • I’ve learned to say “no” to (most) things that I don’t immediately want to yell “yes!” to.
  • I’ve put up boundaries in relationships so I don’t lose sight of the most important things in my life: my daughter and my own sanity.
  • I’ve minimized the “stuff” in my life because it takes up too much space (in my head and my house).
  • I no longer argue with my ex (most of the time) about things that don’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
  • I quit my day job to grow my own business because hauling myself out to a j-o-b every day was too much work, too much stress and not enough reward.
  • I think I’m teaching my daughter the importance of family and friends and that the little things aren’t the end of the world. (But she is a teenager, so we’re still working on this one!)
  • I’ve taken Facebook off my cell phone and turned off all email and social notifications, because my social life and business will not implode if I am not constantly tethered to technology. (And seriously, I didn’t get my first cell phone until 2002 and I turned out okay.)
  • I’ve blown off making dinner more times than I can count because dinner doesn’t have to be a four-course event. Leftovers, cheese and fruit platters and a general mish-mash of food is perfectly fine, as long as it’s not junk.

I no longer live in the 1980s (thank goodness–that was some really awkward hair time!). My daughter is growing up in a time that is much scarier and more complicated than I think anyone could have imagined. But taking a step back and really modeling how to simplify, I hope she’s learning that you don’t have to have your whole life figured out. And it’s okay to say “no” to things that don’t quite fit into where you are right now.

We only have one life. I spent the first 40-something years of mine over-complicating things and striving for perfection. Then being angry at myself and others because my life wasn’t perfect.

In my second 40-something years, I hope I can look back at a slower, more intentional time that has more meaning and depth and less busy and stuff. Because it’s okay to cut back and do less — as long as it’s with more feeling and heart. And that’s exactly how I want my daughter to live, so I better model it now. Before it’s too late!


Abby Herman is a content strategist and content coach for small business owners, helping to get her clients’ written message out to their audience, in their own voice and on their own terms. She specializes in working with female-owned, service-based businesses to generate ideas and strategies that help to move their businesses forward with content that attracts the perfect clients. 

When she’s not crafting words or coaching her clients through their own writing roadblocks, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in Phoenix or finding new ways to get her teenaged daughter to take a break from the school books and technology. You can follow her on Instagram, YouTube and Facebook.

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