Getting Beyond ‘Making Do’
“You deserve a good bike.” It was with these words from her husband that Becky finally convinced herself to purchase a new bike after the last one was stolen. Her bicycle is her primary mode of transportation and she uses it daily for several hours per day. Prior to her husband insisting, she could not justify buying such a big ticket item for herself. The bicycle wasn’t an extraneous expense. It was something she needed and used daily. Was her resistance to buying a new one just about the bike?
The bicycle that Becky used to have was a hand-me-down given to her by her mother-in-law. It was never the right fit for her frame and wasn’t really comfortable. Some things on the bike, like the gears, didn’t quite work right. But she made do. I think a lot of us women make do. Not just with practical things but with ourselves. You might be the mom who devotes all her time and energy to scheduling your family’s activities but doesn’t schedule time for yourself. But you make do. You might be the mom who wants to carve out a dedicated space in your home for your craft but the kids have taken over every inch. So you make do. All of us ‘make do’ with something — that’s the nature of having a family. We give up things and compromise to take care of those we love.
After Becky’s bicycle was stolen, she kept ‘making do.’ She borrowed one from a generous neighbor while scouring the pages of Craigslist for something inexpensive… something with which she could make do. She looked at used bikes but couldn’t find one that was the right size or had the components she wanted. I asked her why she didn’t consider buying herself a new one right away and she talked about how her husband was the primary breadwinner and she felt guilty over spending money. She felt she wasn’t contributing enough to her household so couldn’t justify spending so much on herself. She also talked about how she likes to make do with things because it’s just easier for everyone else.
As mothers, we plan for everyone else and their needs so it’s hard to include ourselves in those plans. You inevitably end up putting yourself last. I know in my household, I need new socks but make do with what I have because my son seems to constantly need new ones. He’s growing fast and wears his shoes and socks hard so we have to replace them often. It’s something minor and doesn’t really affect my life in a negative way so I don’t mind. Of course, we can make do with little things like this. But then you realize that it’s a lot of little things on a growing list of bigger and bigger things and we make do with all of it.
After Becky purchased a new bicycle, which was semi-customized for her specific needs, she realized how much better her commute was and it improved one small but significant aspect of her life. After the purchase, she said she felt good and stopped feeling guilty and questioning the decision. It also made her realize how much she was unnecessarily making do with other things. She looked in her closet and realized how most of her clothes were old hand-me-downs that never quite fit right or was unflattering. She went out and purchased a new pair of pants for herself. Becky sews quite a lot and her sewing machine started smoking. Instead of settling on a mediocre brand, she decided to buy herself a Bernina sewing machine, a high end Swiss brand that she always wanted. She didn’t buy new because they cost a lot but she did buy a used one.
Becky’s experience with her bicycle and realizing how much she does put up with is a metaphor for our lives. We put up with so much and give ourselves so little. In our endless pursuit of taking care of others, we put ourselves last and forget about what we need.
We put up with a lot of shit. And we feel like we don’t deserve better.
If we can’t stop making do with the little things in life and make ourselves a priority sometimes, how are we ever supposed to do it with the big things? I’m sure some of you are familiar with Marie Kondo’s The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up. If you’re not, she basically says we will be happier if we surround ourselves with only the things that bring us joy. She says clothes are a good place to start and talks about how one of her clients finally had the courage to divorce her husband after clearing out her closet. It makes sense to me. If you can’t give up that old sweater that’s now ill-fitting and no longer serves you, how are you going to let go of the big things? The big things… like your fears that are stopping you from pursuing what you really want out of life.
We are so wracked with guilt over wanting something for us, feeling like we’re undeserving, and waste so much time and energy over it. We have to justify wanting things and look for validation and permission from others. There is something inside of us always telling us that we’re not deserving, that we’re not worth it. Things don’t have to be that way. Pick something small that you’ve needed and give it to yourself. Give yourself permission to stop making do and be kind to yourself. Start small and little by little, you will realize that you don’t have to keep making do and putting up with all the shit that makes your life harder.
We know we want more out of life. We want to feel fulfilled. We want to be happy. It’s a long journey to get there but that’s never going to happen if you spend your life just making do. You have to start somewhere and you can start small. Next time I’m at the store, I’m going to buy myself some new socks so I can stop putting up with the discomfort of them sliding down my ankles. First socks, then something else. And eventually… who knows what will be next?