Out-of-Control Freak


Out-of-Control FreakIf you’ve known me for any length of time, you’ll know that I have some control freak tendencies. They’re not over-the-top (in my head, anyway), and I’ve let go of a LOT over the years, but I’m also the kind of person who has little patience watching my son try to zip his hoodie, or who sometimes still rearranges the pillows, even after my husband has made the bed. I have to resist the urge to do all of the things myself, if they’re not getting done fast enough or just the way that I like them. When I was a new mom, not that long ago, I wrote this piece about showering daily, because I felt like I had zero control of anything else.

In spite of all of the polarizing views out there at the moment, I think we can all agree that 2020 has been a doozy. The world is literally burning right now and so much of life seems to be out of our collective control. There are decidedly few things I personally seem to have control over these days — yet, they’re all generally things we each have control over.

You may need a reminder of what those things are. Bear in mind that my ideas are coming from a stay-at-home perspective, whether that’s parenting at home, working from home, or schooling in your home.

You can control what you wear.

I know, I KNOW. The official mom uniform is leggings and maybe a zip hoodie with pockets. I get it. There is no shame in the leggings game. Mine is strong. However, if you find yourself reaching for the same pair with holes and see-through knees, and a sweatshirt that makes you feel floppy, it might be time for an upgrade. I am decidedly far more productive on the days that I get dressed in actual clothing AND put makeup on.

This might seem silly, especially if you don’t have any video conferencing calls, or you’re not even leaving your house. However, I don’t know about you, but I pass by several mirrors in my house throughout the day, and catching a glimpse of myself, bare-faced with ratty hair and a stained shirt has never done me any favors. It actually makes me feel depressed about myself, which then spirals into despair about the state of the world. Somehow, putting on a cute outfit with jewelry and some bright lipstick gives me a little boost of confidence throughout the day.

You can control your diet.

I realize that early on grocery stores were sparse and it was the Hunger Games out there just to get bread in some places. Grocery stores now seem better stocked, so you no longer have to be tempted to throw a box of cookies or an entire cake into your shopping cart (physically or virtually) simply because you can’t find the healthy food you were looking for.

Also, I am notoriously bad about meal planning and menu prep. I like to fly by the seat of my pants by opening the fridge an hour before supper, to figure out what I can make out of leftovers. This doesn’t bode well with the Sailor or our budget, so I’ve had to make some adjustments. My meal planning is a work in progress, but for the sake of simplicity, we have theme days, like soup or stew on certain days or Fish Fridays. Breakfast made the cut too — ‘Sugar cereal Sunday’ (a real treat), ‘Toast Tuesday,’ and ‘Pancake Saturday’ have all made their way into the rotation. I’m not at all a morning person, so it’s just one less decision I have to make in a day.

You can control screen time.

<Collective gasp.> Admittedly, we don’t have a lot of screen time over here — not because I’m a great mom, but because my child literally goes bonkers with it and pulling the plug is a better option for us. Even he understands this, somewhat. But I will utilize it here and there when I need a break. However, we have declared that Sunday is screen free no matter what. Naturally, Sunday seems to be the day that my son whines about playing an iPad game he hasn’t played in months (probably has something to do with the aforementioned ‘Sugar Cereal Sunday.’) But we’ve stuck to the no screen policy. We might play a real game instead or just go for a walk. I have personally been more mindful of how often I’m on my phone in front of my son. Kids naturally mimic whatever we do.

You can control exercise habits.

My husband has to quarantine in a hotel room overseas for two weeks before he returns to a ship at sea. One of his colleagues walked 34 miles during his two week stint, so the Sailor feels particularly challenged to keep moving, even in a small hotel room. There is no shortage of workout videos online these days. Even a few minutes of yoga each morning or before bedtime can make you feel more grounded.

You can control your friend list.

Now more than ever, we need our friends. My true friends aren’t always a reflection of my Facebook feed. Pick up the phone, send a text, write a real card. If you find you’re commenting more on social media on someone’s post whom you hardly know, or a group you’re not super interested in anymore, or you’re wistfully staring at someone’s supposedly ‘perfect life’ on the ‘gram, it’s time to logout and actually be present, even if it’s from a distance.

Above all, you can control your own attitude.

Admittedly, 2020 isn’t a great year for anyone to work on their attitude, but I know if I don’t make the slightest attempt, I’ll turn into the Grinch even before any of the fall holidays hit. Thanksgiving will be here before we know it, and while that seems to be the one day out of the year Americans are collectively grateful, I think we can all do a little better during the remaining 364 days. The Sailor and I have been working on our attitude of gratitude, even if it’s for seemingly small insignificant things.

How about you? What things would you add to the list?

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Brenda Steffen
I spent my twenties and a good chunk of my thirties living and working in various countries. I met and married a South African sailor and I was quite content to keep traveling without kids. We landed in Chattanooga in 2013 and our son arrived over the summer of 2014. We haven’t really slept since. Sometimes jet-lag gets the blame. Or Daylight Savings, or even a good book. Usually though, it’s the Peanut. You can often find me charged up on caffeine, chasing after my son at Coolidge Park, the zoo or the library. You can also find me online on my blog.


  1. This is really good, Brenda! I, too, am a control freak by nature, but 2020 has kind of halted that. Love this list of things I can still somewhat control. 🙂

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