I wasn’t always a homeschool mom or a stay-at-home mom. I worked a 9-to-5 job with my children in before-and-after school care programs, in addition to school. I remember the long hours in the car riding back and forth, fighting traffic and pickup lines. I cringe at memories of the utter exhaustion of trying to make dinner when I wanted nothing more than to just go to bed and sleep until the routine began again the next day.
My family has even had the unique experience of having a stay-at-home dad for a short time. Don’t get me wrong, my husband was a great stay-at-home dad, but it always made me laugh that the school still called me first if there was a problem. I still felt the need to manage certain aspects of the home, despite working 40 plus hours every week.
Because of this, as a stay-at-home mom, I have a great empathy for parents who have to or choose to work outside of the home. I understand that their schedule is less flexible than mine and that sometimes they have a harder time than I do when it comes to being places. Unfortunately this empathy often turns into me taking on more than I should.
It Starts Small…
Like most things that spiral out of control, it usually starts off minor.
I offer to take the volunteer shift that coincides with school pick up times because I know I don’t have to deal with the after school traffic. Maybe I fill in for someone who does not have childcare because I have a live-in babysitter in the form of my oldest child. I convince myself that even though it may be a slight inconvenience, I am blessed so I should help out someone else. I agree to do something to ease someone else’s load.
I try to rationalize that some of my volunteer time is tied to my children’s activities. I volunteer with religious education and vacation Bible school and do hospitality at our parish. That isn’t so bad right? I mean, I am there anyway with the kids, so it’s not an extra trip.
But it’s not always my activities. As my kids get older, they want to be involved in more things. As a parent, I oblige, especially when it is something that is a “once in a lifetime” opportunity. As a military family, we try to take advantage of things that come our way. For example, my two older children are in a youth string orchestra. It is a wonderful experience that we probably will not have at another duty station. I have watched them blossom wonderfully in their musical ability. When you add sports, altar serving, religious education, scouts, and more, my plate is full.
Then one day, I start to notice that my calendar has fewer and fewer blank spaces. I find myself having to say way more frequently “Let me check my calendar” because I really do have a full calendar and less because I want to think about it. I have more and more moments where I joke about being a homeschooler who is never home. The DVR is full of shows I don’t get around to watching, and my “to do” list gets longer and longer every day. Sound familiar?
Pay it Forward?
At the beginning of the Advent and Christmas season, I was excited about the free time I would have to write, read and finish a quilt. But instead, I was just exhausted. The idea of doing absolutely nothing was far more enticing and pleasurable. That’s when it hit me: I have too much going on. I know, not quite an earth shattering discovery, but still I needed the reminder.
Of course, I am not alone in this feeling. It’s a common complaint and yet, it seems to be an ongoing one. We all have our reasons for accepting responsibilities and obligations that weigh us down. I don’t have exorbitant amounts of free time, but I convince myself that I have more time than others because I am a homeschool parent. I tell myself that I have to “pay it forward” and bless others because I have the luxury of deciding when I will do some things.
But the truth is, I should not pay it forward if it sets me back two steps or more. I used to feel that in order to truly help others, I couldn’t focus on what problems it caused for me. But then I had a sudden realization after a series of health issues. If I give of myself so much that I can’t take care of myself, then what good am I to others?
I have to remember that leisure time is necessary. Whether that leisure time is spent alone or with my family, it is important. So this year I am learning to say no. Even more importantly, I am learning to say no without guilt.
Unfinished books will be read, quilts will be completed, Doctor Who episodes will be watched.
But most of all, my family will get the best of me and not what’s left after I have given to everyone else in the world.
Cleaning Mom Image © Ines Bazdar / Dollar Photo Club