Let’s face it. Our lives are busy. There is always something or someone vying for our attention and focus. Work, home, school, chores, errands, play groups, sports teams, lessons, rehearsals, church, social media, emails, family, friends and a million other things cloud our daily lives. We try to take one day at a time and try our best not to overschedule ourselves and our family. I recently saw this quote and it stopped me dead in my over-scheduled tracks:
Stop the glorification of busy.
Note that it doesn’t say to stop being busy. Our lives are going to be filled with whatever we choose to fill them with: including breaks of relaxation and down time. As humans we are wired to work, we are wired to continue learning and growing.
However, I believe that it is incredibly easy for us to keep cramming items into our schedule in an attempt to be everything to everyone all of the time. Need a volunteer? Sure! Can you work that extra shift? Yes! Can you cram just one more thing into this overfilled day? No problem.
There was a time as a stay-at-home mom that I would try to fill my planner with as much stuff as I could because I wanted to keep myself busy. In an effort to want to convince myself that I was still needed by society I quickly heightened my stress level which made me under perform in everything that was keeping me so busy. I have to say that after years of extending my young family too far and stretching our sanity just to attend one-more-thing I had had enough.
Because there is no glory in being busy.
Choosing to seek out busy-ness is different from the natural ebb and flow of a growing family. You have a choice to allow a child to be involved in every activity under the sun and then multiplying that by however many children you have. Wanting the best for our children and giving them a wide range of experiences in life usually ends with everyone being stressed out, exhausted, and unhappy.
As motherhood continues it grows into this beautiful and mature part of our lives that knows when to say yes and when to say no to activities. It knows what is best for your child and that rest and “down time” is a much needed requirement of childhood. It quietly considers the family schedule and knows that refusing to succumb to the pressures of life will only enhance the happiness and satisfaction of the family. Learning to say no is an art form. As a young mom I would worry that I would be asked why I couldn’t attend something after saying no. Then, I realized that the less you say the better. “We have plans” or “We are unable to make it” are perfectly fine responses. Yes, your plans may be that you are doing absolutely nothing but no one needs to know that.
There was a time when I would have to look ahead at the week and make myself block off at least 2 week nights with a big red “X” which meant that I couldn’t plan anything for that time slot. The idea that we have to schedule our off time may seem silly, but it was oh so important for my family and my internal desire to be busy. And you know what? Those nights with the big red marker on the schedule would turn into beautiful and unplanned time with my littles: cloud watching, blowing bubbles, or impromptu kitchen dance parties.
I have found that my family is physically and spiritually happier and healthier when I say no to activities on weeknights. Some items can’t be helped: like when your child is playing a sport and practices and game schedules come into play. Although I do still consider this to be a form a busy, there is an understanding that sports are for short seasons of time. Life will not always look the way it does in the middle of sports season and the end of a season always brings a huge sigh of relief.
And let’s not forget that we aren’t only talking about outside activities here. Honey-Do lists and home projects can quickly muddle up the family schedule and usually bring a countless amount of exhaustion. Just because you are home doesn’t always mean that you aren’t busy. There is a lot to be said for an absolutely “free” night for a family. No schedules. No commitments. No plans. In my household I look forward to have a coveted night where there is nothing fighting for my attention. It is a basic human luxury that many are depriving themselves and their own families from.
So, can we all just stop it? Let’s stop the glorification of busy.
I recently came across one of those life changing bits of wisdom on social media that stopped me in my tracks. The background was of a little boy playing baseball and the white font layered on top of the photo said the following, “A mother doesn’t put her kids on hold in order to pursue her own dreams. She puts her dreams on hold so that her kids can realize theirs.”
I shook my head and wondered why there has to be a winner and a loser here. Basically, the statement says that a mom isn’t a good mother if she pursues her dreams. But are the two things opposite of each other? Can’t a mom be a good mom and also pursue her dreams? The problem with this statement is the idea that it is all or nothing. I totally agree that kids should not be put on hold, no matter whose dreams are being chased.
Parenting is a commitment. And an all encompassing one at that. You are forever changed once you have a child: some changes for good and some changes for bad but changed nonetheless. But should I, as a mother, have to put my dreams on hold because I have a child? (And let’s not even go into the fact that dads are not mentioned in this lovely little nugget of wisdom.) Don’t get me wrong, dreams are good to have and I am a proponent of reaching beyond the norm, but should a woman have to sacrifice her mind, body, and soul once she is a mother?
I guess that this statement frustrates me because I was that mom. I was that stay at home mom that stayed at home because I thought it was the right thing to do but it wasn’t necessarily what I wanted to be doing. I don’t deny that it may have been the best choice for my family, but I do know that I suffered because of it. My identity was wrapped up in playdates and Sesame Street and enriching my children’s lives through at home crafts and science projects. But my own self was dying inside. I felt that I was slowly losing all of the knowledge that I have worked so hard to retain through school and I didn’t know who I was other than the title of “mom”.
It wasn’t until I finally woke up inside and realized that I needed to fight for myself that I felt like a human again. I realized that taking time out of my day, just for me, to follow my dreams was a much needed component in the equation of motherhood. It started with me taking time to do a hobby which led to me signing up to be a direct sales consultant which led me to have the courage to start my own little business. I graduated to being a working mom to back to being a stay at home mom.
I’ve seen it all.
But it is statements like these that flood social media that make mothers question themselves. That imply that dreams need to be put off in order to raise a child. That do their best to convince mothers that both can’t be done: it has to be one or the other.
I don’t know if I would have done it differently if I could go back in time. I do know that I would have given myself permission to pursue my dreams earlier if I had realized just how much of myself I was losing on a daily basis. Some women dream of being at home with their babies. Some women dream of having a career while also starting a family.
Why can’t both of them be correct?
Both of my boys have summer birthdays. They are one of the youngest, if not the youngest, in their class. My oldest went to preschool when he was 4 years old and my full intentions were to send him to Kindergarten in the fall after he turned 5. I had fellow moms in my life who were surprised that I would even think about sending my child to Kindergarten at such a young age.
The unwanted opinions of the other moms started in the spring of his preschool year. They would chit chat for a while and then slyly ask how old my son was as we discussed the upcoming Kindergarten year, “Oh, why don’t you hold him back until next year?” and “There isn’t any rush to start school, another year would be good for him.” And of course the ridiculous one that I heard multiple times, “He has a summer birthday AND he’s a BOY so you should hold him back.”
I started to question my child. I started to question myself. Was there some merit to what these moms were saying? Was I pushing him into Kindergarten? Should I hold him back a year because of his age? Should I hold him back because he’s a boy with a summer birthday and not a girl with a summer birthday?
In addition to my husband and close family, I ended up sharing these concerns with my son’s preschool teachers who assured me that he was more than ready for Kindergarten. I knew his teachers well and I also knew that they had a history of sharing their concern with parents when the child in question really wasn’t ready for Kindergarten-no matter when their birthday was. When it came down to it I had to block out the advice from other moms and go back to why I thought he would be okay to start Kindergarten as the youngest in his class.
Because I knew my child best.
I have a summer birthday as well so I was glad that I could look back on my education to see if this “young summer birthday” theme held any water. And it doesn’t. Yes, I was always the youngest. Yes, I was the last one to get a driver’s permit and the last one to get a license. I was also 17 when I graduated and a very young and naïve 18 when I left for college. But I am so thankful my own mother didn’t hold me back.
Now, that my oldest is entering Junior High, it is comical to think that other moms advised that I hold him back a year. When it came down to it, I knew my kid. I knew what he needed and I knew that he was fully capable of keeping up with his classmates intellectually. I totally understand other moms who do hold a child back for whatever reason, and that is great for them. My point is that a parent knows their child best. When the world tries to convince you on how to parent always come back to the fact that you know your child.
You know your child best.