Why B Minus is my Favorite Grade

Why B Minus is my Favorite Grade

I once saw a gorgeous American datebook made especially for mothers. On one side of each page was the mother’s hourly schedule illustrated with delicate flowers, and beside that was an hourly daily schedule for her child so the mother wouldn’t forget that on Tuesday Max has little league, and on Saturday at 11 AM he has a birthday party at the roller rink (wait, are there still roller rinks? Or is that soooo 1988, Chana Jenny!)

When I saw that date book I thought how with one child, it’s maybe still possible to have things completely under control. But quite a few kids ago, I realized that there is NO WAY that I can stay on top of everything going on in this family.

Three weeks ago my 9-year-old Yoel came home with only one lens in his glasses. The other one had fallen out, it appeared, during a recess soccer game. I called the school secretary, but nobody had brought the missing lens to her. So I ordered another lens, and Yoel’s glasses were fixed, until a few days later when he lost the glasses entirely, and for the last week Yoel has been walking around without glasses.

Don’t worry, Yoel sees pretty OK without his glasses and my 16-year-old WILL take him very soon to get another pair from the health fund.

But what I have discovered is that this is always the way it is.

There is always something missing, something broken, something lost in the mail, something forgotten behind…

And for years, this essential imperfection of my mothering life bothered me immensely.

Around a decade ago my daughter left a bathing cap at the swimming pool (see what I’m saying?), and it was found by a girl from Kiryat Belz who called us to come pick it up. When I went to pick up the bathing cap a few days later, I knocked on the door and found a spotless chandeliered abode, the only hint of mess a small pile of laundry folded as neatly as a pile of shirts at the GAP by a teenage daughter.

And for years the image of that house stuck with me, haunted me, made me feel slightly sick to my stomach whenever anything was missing, broken, lost in the mail, forgotten behind….As there ALWAYS was.

But a year or two ago, out of the blue, I had an idea.

I decided that instead of kicking myself for not being as together as that woman with the chandelier and the GAP shirts, I would set a more realistic expectation for myself.

I would aim for 80%.

A house that is 80% clean.
My kids’ not-urgent needs 80% met.
A to-do list that is 80% finished.

And this new lowering of expectations has added a new positivity to my life and how I see my home.

And my home seems to function quite well, but with a lot less guilt– B minus style.


  1. 80 percent of a to do list conpleted is excellent!

  2. Vicki Belovski

    In the UK (certainly when I was at school) 80% was an A, or at worst A-… I tend to function on that level as well – eg cleaning up the kitchen – my level is “not too embarrassing”. I reckon – 1 set of clean clothes, 1 hot meal and food available for the others and the house “not too embarrassing” and you’re doing well. Anything else is a bonus!

  3. So loving this post!!!

  4. wise words, Chana Jenny

  5. It all goes back to the problem with comparisons. We make ourselves feel lacking. Perfectionism is toxic. Yes, we all want to improve and be the best we can but we can’t demand perfect performance 24/7/365…..

  6. grannieannie

    a house that is too clean and “in order” is not a happy house where children live and grow and develop.

    I love a spotless home… never had one while the children lived here. Today they are all married and the house is clean, but defi not spotless. There are always some things out of place and that pleases me, because I know that a house that is lived in is not an A, nor does it rate 100%

    • I love this post! I do want to point out to all you people that think clean houses are not happy houses: NOT TRUE!!! It’s just that maybe our level of keeping house is not where we need to be “80%” because we are naturally organised people. My areas of letting go are in cooking everything from scratch, afternoon schedules, and house rules (that go with the flow of life)….. I let go a lot of things I used to think were very important. Letting go of tidiness wasn’t necessary for me because it’s easy for me to maintain. I call myself “the basket case” because I have so many baskets for things!!
      Anyway, please don’t judge us naturally organised and tidy people for having unhappy homes. We are just working on ourselves in other areas where you all probably excel!! We each have our strengths and weaknesses and need to go easy on ourselves wherever we need it the most.

      • i am a very organized person and my house is still a wreck. i’d love to watch u in action…

  7. I think Hadassah hits it on the nail regarding comparisons. We all have our strengths and our areas that leave something to be desired. What’s important is not whether we get an A+ or B-, but that we value our strengths and do our best to work on the areas that need work. Plus, we don’t know everyone’s stories behind the scenes. Maybe with the Belz family, you happened to knock on their door just minutes after the cleaning lady left. I would venture, too, that the mother of that family also isn’t a BT American with no family in Israel. Different societies grow up with different standards and halichot they are accustomed to. Just because her house was spotless doesn’t mean her kids aren’t happy and well adjusted. There are simply different people with different lives and different things they emphasize.

  8. I love your post, and the comments too.
    Yes it’s about lowering our expectations of ourselves, AND about not comparing. Those are two big nisyonot of mothers and wives, and it never ends, no matter how old your kids get. 🙂

  9. Chana Jenny, we are living in parallel countries! My Yoseph is on his 3rd pair of glasses since Pesach! Our latest solution is the sports strap (thank you to my old sports goggles I had lying around) so the glasses at least stay on his face and aren’t taken off and on the floor to be stepped on or falling off… 😉 You are an inspiration and 80% will be my goal for this week. Thank you!

    • JewishMom

      lol! and you are my inspiration, I will try to get him a sports strap– again….

  10. I love this concept of aiming for 80% instead of 100%! So much more realistic than aiming for perfection…

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