It was almost with a sense of glee that I erased events off my calendar when my children all came down with the flu this winter. I only felt the tiniest bit of guilt as I thought about how great it was going to be to just sit around and read books and watch movies together and not go anywhere. It crossed my mind that those feelings might be an indication that we were over-scheduled, but it wasn’t until sometime in December that I realized we really had a problem. In between an insane amount of running around, I was spending more time daydreaming about having a mental breakdown than I was enjoying the Christmas season. When the thought of losing your mind, so you can get out of your commitments, seems like a good idea, you know something’s got to give!
Everyone kept telling me, you need to learn to say “no”. Saying “no” wasn’t the problem; I could say no to lots of things: I said “no” to my exercise time; I said “no” to sitting down and eating a healthy breakfast; I said “no” to sleep; I said “no” to my visiting teachers when I didn’t have time for their visit; I said “no” to devotional when our morning was just too crazy; and I even said “no” to the sign-up sheet at church asking us to make center pieces for the ward party.
The problem wasn’t that I couldn’t say “no”, it was that I kept saying “yes” to my kids: “yes” you can take dance lessons, yoga and piano; “yes” I will drive you to swim team, theater practice, robotics, book club, and scouts; “yes” you can get another new pet, and I will drive to the pet store every week to get it fresh crickets; “yes” I will spend hours every week volunteering at your co-ops; “yes”, my little one, you can crawl into my bed in the wee hours of the morning; and “yes”, my teenagers, you can keep me up talking half the night.
I want to give my kids everything. I want them to have access to every educational opportunity, to be exposed to great ideas and great people, to have friends and time to socialize with other kids. I want them to feel that my time and attention is always at their disposal. I also want them to have a mother who is sane, one who doesn’t wish illness on them so she can have two minutes to breathe.
So, we started to cut things out. It was a painful process for all of us. We dropped out of dance lessons, book club, theater and one of our co-ops. I’m working on enforcing how early and late my kids can demand my attention. Overall, life has been much more peaceful and mom has been a lot less grumpy, but I still alternate between feeling grateful for the space on the day’s schedule and feeling like there’s enough room to squeeze something else in. I just have to remind myself that every commitment I make is taking away opportunities for spontaneous activities, family bonding and peaceful reflection. I need quiet time in my life to be the mother who can say “yes” to the most important things in life.