I clearly remember it when it happened, almost exactly this time last year. I approached another mom, who is also a friend, on a field at our sons' soccer practice. As our eyes met, I felt like I was staring at a reflection of myself. Heads tilted and shoulders drawn up to our ears, we forced half-hearted smiles.
"Hey, how are you?" I asked.
"Fine," she replied. "You?"
"Oh, you know, BUSY," I said sarcastically.
"Yep. It's that time of year. Good times!" she sighed.
And it had been a couple of hectic weeks. School was back in session, sports schedules were in full swing, and I felt like my head was about to explode. But at that very moment, it wasn't the to-do lists, calendar scheduling, or the hundreds of miles I'd driven my kids around that was making me ill—it was me. I was suddenly so sick of hearing myself squawk about being busy, I started to laugh. I imagined me and my friend continuing our conversation where all we said to one another was "busy, Busy, BUSY!" back and forth like two crazed cockatiels. Crap. Maybe I really was losing it.
But as I thought more about it over the next few days, I started to see things more clearly. What right did I have to act so deflated about being busy? Wasn't it me who had signed the boys up for these activities? And with three kids—two of them entering their upper elementary years—it wasn't my first back-to-school rodeo. Get a grip, cowgirl! So, over the past year, I've made a conscious effort not to complain as much about being busy. Sure, there are times when I think to myself, "This is ridiculous," or "What are we doing?" But I've also been more selective in what I take on, and I have asked for more help.
If you, too, feel like you're being swallowed whole by the busyness of life with kids, you aren't alone. Before you get sucked into the vortex of lessons, carpools, and extracurricular activities, consider these tips for keeping life sane.
Your childhood was probably different from your child's. Times were simpler; there weren't as many pressures, blah, blah, blah. But unless you're planning to go off-grid, it's just the way it is. It's tempting to want to keep up with the Jones, but let's be honest here: Most of the things we take on are choice-based. If you feel the need to simplify, start by reflecting on when you are most happy and relaxed. Is it during Friday-night pizza and movies at home, baking cookies with your kids, a night out with some friends? Whatever it is, my guess is that it's not when you and Mr. Jones are screaming at your kids from the sidelines. Life with kids is busy, but busy equals boring when you aren't also making time to recharge by focusing on the important things.
Ask For Help.
You already know you can't do it all—and if you haven't figured that out yet, you will. There should be no shame in asking for help, especially from your spouse or friends. Car pooling, volunteering as a team instead of alone, or trading off hosting play dates can make the madness more manageable. I recently read an article about raising more self-sufficient kids. This is where I personally struggle: I know I should be requiring more of my kids, for their benefit as much as mine.
Let Go of Perfection.
This is a tough one for many of us. Spotless homes, stellar reviews at work, perfect scores on spelling tests, flat tummies ... It's exhausting. Stop comparing yourself to those who seem to have it all together—because they don't. Again, it's back to making some big-girl decisions. Maybe a clean and well-organized home is what makes you more at peace. Or maybe it's time spent reading as a family, albeit surrounded by dust bunnies.
I've never met a mom of school-age kids who didn't care about her child's education, health, and development. It's our job, after all. To share the joy with your daughter when she finally nails that double back flip, or watch your shy son's confidence bloom after making a new friend in karate, or chat with your tween about first kisses ... Who cares if it's while shoveling down Subway in the car in between drop-offs? This is the good stuff, people, and there will come a day when POOF!—it's gone. All that will be left will be memories—of smiles, talks, hugs, laughter, celebrations, and togetherness.
Today, you are busy. But forever, you are full.
Written by Jill Carroll, a joyfully busy mom of three and a marketing manager at West Michigan Woman magazine.