Pareto Principal for parents

Pareto Principal: You may or may not have heard it called that before, but it's the 80/20 rule, which seems to pop up in every area of life: 20% of your clients give you 80% of your business, you wear 20% of your shoes 80% of the time, etc.

It's a useful tool for prioritizing, because if you can figure out what the most important 20% of whatever is, then you can get 80% of whatever you need to get done done.

I've started using it to think about how to streamline my parenting life. I figured out that 20% of the stuff I was doing in parenting was causing me 80% of the stress I was feeling parenting. Once I was able to identify that 20%, I could decide what to do about it: stop doing it, outsource it, suck it up and keep going while allowing myself to dislike it, or wait it out.

Let me show you how it worked in my life. I identified that my 20% consisted of two things: 1) keeping track of all the stuff (baby wipes, Legos, socks, underpants, socks, sippy cups, socks, mittens, socks, and socks), and 2) having to pay attention all the time and not having enough solitary thinking time to myself.

Right around the time I realized this, #2 started to resolve itself because my kids were old enough to be in school and I had a long enough subway commute that I got enough solitary thinking time in to keep myself on an even keel. (Weekends, though, could be tough, but I realized that so I could deal with it.) So I unwittingly waited it out.

#1 I did a combo of outsourcing and waiting it out and sucking it up. As my kids have gotten older there's less stuff to manage (no wipes, and they're moving to electronic toys and Legos only so there are fewer parts of things around my house in general), and I'm shifting some of the management to them (socks, although not along the whole value chain, which may be a project for this summer). And then I just realized that I am not good at managing stuff and that doesn't make me inadequate, it just means managing stuff isn't my thing. So if I can keep a decent handle on it I can cut myself some slack.

Figuring this out and mentally processing my 20% took a lot of the stress off me. It may be time for another round, in which I look at what the new 20% of stuff causing 80% of parenting stress is, in fact.

Think about it. What's your 20% that causes you 80% of your parenting stress? Can you process that 20% into either stop doing it, outsource it, suck it up while hating it, or wait it out?