When is the last time you said No?
And I don’t mean no to things like Mom, can I stay up until the Super Bowl is over? or Mom, can I eat chocolate chip cookies for dinner tonight? or Mom, can we get a kitten?
I’ve been doing a lot of thinking, reflecting and evaluating in the last few months, but especially in the last few weeks.
And I know with six school-age kids living at home our level of chaos and crazy is going to be higher than most peoples’.
But the number one thing I find myself talking (okay, complaining) about with my mom friends is how crazy life is.
How it’s non-stop.
Even for moms with one or two kids.
How the weeknights are spent freaking out over homework and squeezing in a meal and coordinating kids driving from one activity to the next, and how the weekends somehow are even busier than the weekdays.
Aren’t the weekends supposed to be for resting? For regrouping? For decompressing from the Monday through Friday pandemonium?
They are defined as the period of time between the end of one work or school week and the beginning of the next.
But for so many of us, they have become the 48 hours, from Friday to Sunday night, that you cram full of as many sporting activities, birthday parties and other stupid and annoying bullshit as humanly possible.
While there are some days/weeks/months that are always going to be busier than others, more often than not I find myself complaining about this pace of life. About the constant activity. About the lack of down time.
But you know what?
I’ve done it to myself.
And it stems from either my unwillingness or my inability to just say no.
Two weekends ago was one of those when it rains it pours weekends.
Number 3 had a swim meet on Saturday and Sunday morning.
Number 4 had a swim meet Saturday afternoon.
Number 3 and 4 also had another swim meet on Sunday afternoon.
In addition, Number 4 had a travel basketball game on Saturday morning and Sunday morning before the swim meet.
I was coaching one of the swim meets, then driving to the airport directly from the swim meet to hop on a plane to get to the conference I attended last Monday and Tuesday.
My parents took the three younger kids for a sleepover on Friday night to cut down on the craziness of Saturday.
My husband took care of getting Number 4 to all her stuff. I took care of Number 3 on Saturday and Sunday morning.
A friend of mine was getting Number 3 from the swim meet on Sunday morning to the other swim meet on Sunday afternoon.
I borrowed my parents’ truck so I could drive that to the airport and leave my car (because it’s the only one that can fit all of us in it) at home for the weekend so my husband had it to take everyone to the swim meet on Sunday afternoon.
I realize upon typing all of this out that this is insane.
Actually, I realized that last weekend. And all of our weekends are not this out of control. But they are definitely busy.
And so on this completely out-of-control weekend, Number 6 was also invited to a birthday party.
And in all of the weekend’s logistical Olympics, I was trying to figure out how my parents could get Number 6 to this party on Saturday.
Because it was actually for a kid I know and a kid Number 6 likes.
But then I snapped out of it.
It was just too much.
And I told the dad of the birthday boy that we couldn’t make the party. There was just way too much going on already.
I felt bad. Number 6 would have had fun.
But there are only so many hours in a day, so many balls you can juggle, and so many places you can drag your kids around to in a weekend.
And I don’t want to set that example for my kids — that there is no down time and every second of every day has to be scheduled full of things to do!
It’s not healthy. For the kids or for me.
This past weekend we ran into the same thing again.
Number 4 had three basketball games — one on Friday, one on Saturday and one on Sunday.
Number 3, 4 and I had to be at swim practice at 7 a.m. on Saturday morning. I had private swim lessons to teach before and after Number 4’s Saturday game.
Sunday morning Number 5 and 7 and I had a swim meet. Later that afternoon Number 4 had her basketball game.
I was trying to figure out how we were going to get to all these places.
In the end, we realized we needed to make some decisions, and we told the coach Number 4 couldn’t go to her game on Friday night.
On Sunday after the swim meet, rather than all of us driving 45 minutes to Number’s basketball game, I stayed home with the younger kids and my husband went to Number 4’s game.
I felt some mom guilt for not going to Number 4’s game on Sunday.
But not as guilty as I would have felt on Sunday night after spreading myself too thin and inevitably losing it on someone for something that wasn’t that big of a deal.
Before you all tell me my kids are doing too much, I am aware of this.
Number 4 and I have already discussed that next year, something has got to give. Playing travel basketball and swimming on the Y swim team and also swimming on the middle school swim team is just too much.
But when you have six kids of varying ages involved in even just one sport, and when you have three kids in elementary school who get invited to birthday parties approximately once a month, your weekends are going to be crazy. That’s life with a big family.
But it doesn’t have to be as crazy.
And that’s the reminder here.
That one, your kids don’t have to go to every birthday party they are invited to. Especially if they don’t really know the kid that well or if the amount of time, effort, planning, and energy needed to get the kid there outweighs the amount of enjoyment he or she will get from being there in the first place.
Two, overscheduling your kids out of the fear that you are depriving them is wrong.
Because while you may not be depriving them of participating in activities, you are depriving them of learning how to make choices. Learning to prioritize. Learning the value and importance of down time and self care and the realization that you simply cannot do every single thing you want to do.
Not at the same time, anyway.
Finally, I am reminded that expecting ourselves to do the same thing is also unhealthy.
There are six kids in this house right now. Five of them participate in sports. One of them is in chorus. One plays the saxophone. Three are old enough to be home alone. Three are not.
I can’t get to every game or meet or concert of every single kid.
It’s just not possible.
And it’s not fair to the other kids in the house.
So the biggest thing I need to consistently remind myself?
Driving myself crazy, spreading myself thin, and physically being in the same place as my kids does not actually make me present for my kids.
In fact, it often prevents me from being in the moment and it causes me to be the very opposite of the mom I really want to be (and the mom my kids really need).
In this case, less is definitely more. Quality, not quantity.
It’s okay to say no.
In fact, it’s not just okay.
It’s a necessary life skill.
And if I’m going to expect my kids to know how to do it, then I’m gonna have to start doing it a little more myself.