And so it begins! The day that I tried to avoid as long as possible. We are at the point where all three of my oldest boys are now involved in various activities. Running two kids around seemed manageable, but three might just be the death of me. I’ve always thought I was good at multi-tasking but just the thought of running in 3 different directions every night of the week has me feeling very anxious and overwhelmed. And then I realize that I did this to myself. I sacrificed my sanity so my kids can have different opportunities to have fun, be active and also to develop their talents. Do all moms do that? I think for the most part we do. It’s in our nature to want our kids to be involved in the things that they are excited about and that teach them new skills. I also feel like I have too much to do during the day so that my early evenings can be spent running kids around. So how do I handle this time of my life without ending up in the loony bin?
I’ve done a lot of reading on this topic and have come up with 10 ways to balance out the juggling act of motherhood.
1- Learn to say no!
I’ll be the first to say that I have a hard time with this one. I want my boys to be involved in everything that they like but there comes a time where we have to make them choose which activities they like best. It’s not only important for our sanity but theirs as well. I know my kids have a heavier school load than I did at their age and getting them involved in too much extracurricular activities at such a young age could really stress them out. Also, I feel like I have a responsibility to help and serve not just my family, but people in my church and community as well. And saying no gets me feeling really guilty. We have to be able to be honest with ourselves and others and just say, “look, I really would love to be able to do that but I just can’t right now.” And that answer is okay. Our lives come in seasons and if you are a young mother with busy kids, your main service will be done in your home. (And I’m not saying don’t serve others but know your limits and if things start affecting your health and sanity, it’s time to re-evaluate your commitments.)
2-Prioritize your to-do lists
I am a list maker! Every night I make a list of everything that I would like to get done the next day. I’m pretty good at making lists but not so great at prioritizing those items by most important things or things that have to get done first. It seems like sometimes I check off the easiest things first instead of the most important items. And then it can be easy to get distracted by television or the internet and before we know it the day is gone and we didn’t get our most important to-do’s done. I try to set myself small goals during the day followed by little “rewards”. For example, “If I get this and this and this done, then I will check my email.”, etc. I know a lot of women that will set the timer and only focus on one task during that time. If I am more focussed during the day while at least 2 of my kids are gone to school, then I don’t have to feel so stressed when the evening run-around starts.
3-Schedule in “me” time
Every woman needs time to relax and decompress. For me, once a week I sing with a local choir. It is something I love to do and it gives me a chance to just sit and relax doing something I enjoy. My husband is really great to let me have time to myself. Whatever it is that you enjoy, schedule that time into your week or it most likely won’t happen. Our children need to see that, yes, we are their mom and that’s our most important job, but that we also have other interests and likes besides being their taxi driver.
4-Trust your instincts
All mothers have intuition regarding their family and home. If you start to see that the busyness of your schedule and your children’s schedules is affecting your family, then don’t be afraid to act on that feeling. For me, it meant quitting a job that I loved to be home with my kids once I saw that me being gone so frequently was affecting their attitudes and the general happiness in our home. It was hard to do and I felt as though people really didn’t understand my decision, but it was what was best for our family. If you see your children struggling in certain areas, don’t be afraid to pull the plug on some after-school activities. Trust your instincts and don’t be afraid if others judge you.
5-Don’t schedule your life based on what others are doing
As women, it is too easy to look at what other moms are doing and then get down on ourselves if we aren’t involving our kids in all of the same types and amounts of activities. No one said we all have to be just like each other and I promise your kids will be fine if they aren’t scheduled out with sports, music, art, dance and language classes every night of the week. If that is what someone wants, then that’s great for them. But don’t judge yourself and feel inferior if you can’t keep up to or don’t want to keep up to that type of lifestyle. Remember, you can’t see behind closed doors and maybe that mom is an emotional wreck at night.
6-Enjoy the time you get to spend with your family
Maybe you are rushed from one activity to another, but make the best of that time in the car and the time you have together at home. Play games while you drive, take time for real conversations with your kids about their day, and always try to eat dinner together as a family. I know that last one can be hard, especially as kids get older and into their teenage years (I’m not there yet and not sure I’m looking forward to it), but try to make it happen as often as possible. Also, don’t just rush your kids to get up in the morning, rush them out the door, and then rush them out the door again after school and then rush them home from activities and then rush them straight to bed. (Just typing that had me exhausted.) We need to take the time to have fun and allow not only ourselves but our kids to decompress and relax. Make the most of the time you do have together as a family and try to make it fun.
7-Involve your spouse or ask for help.
My husband is great at helping to run our kids around and getting involved in their activities. But if you don’t have the help of a supportive spouse talk to other moms whose kids are involved in the same activities as yours and find ways to support each other. Set up a carpooling schedule or trade off tending each others other children so you can get everything done you need to do. The chances are good that there are other moms out there who are just as overwhelmed as you are and if we support one another, it can make things seem much less overwhelming.
We need to make sure that as a family, we know what our week is going to involve. Parents need to know what is scheduled each week in order to work around it and kids need to know their schedule so they can mentally prepare for hectic days. Set time each weekend to talk about the upcoming week. That way, if you know certain days are going to be too chaotic you can find the necessary help or have time to rearrage the schedule if possible to accomodate everyone. Keep a family calendar or planner where everyone can see what is coming up. I know for me, just writing it all down on paper instead of trying to keep everything straight in my mind can make our tasks seem much more manageable.
9-Know your activity budget and make sure your children understand it
I’m not sure there is anything that brings more stress into a family then coming up short financially. If we know that we have a certain amount available to spend on extra-curricular activities, then we need to stick to that budget. Older kids can start to understand that, as much as you would like them to be involved in everything that they are interested in, all of their activities might not be in your budget. Our children need to learn early how to be smart with money and not to purchase things that they can’t afford. Sticking to an activity budget can definitely lighten the stress load on parents. Often different church organizations or community centers will offer activities for free. Look into those activities or even start some activities by taking turns with other parents in your neighborhood. If you can’t afford ( or don’t want to pay for) preschool, take turns teaching a co-op with other moms. Offer to babysit in exchange for music lessons. Get dads together and organize free sports games for your kids and neighbor kids. Get creative, but make sure to stay within budget.
10-Make sure your kids are in the activities for them and not for you
If you are dragging your kids kicking and screaming to their activities, then it’s a good sign that it might not be the best fit for them. Find activities, sports, music classes, etc that excite them. I’m all for getting our kids to try new things and we’ve dealt with some nerves and uncertainty on the part of our kids at first , but if they have been playing soccer for 2 or 3 years and still scream and cry before every game, then maybe soccer isn’t for them. I decided that I wanted all of my boys to learn at least the basics on the piano. I had envisioned them sitting on the bench quietly as I taught them the notes and then I thought for sure they would love practicing everyday because they would want to get better and then soon they’d be playing my favorites from Scott Joplin. Well, piano lessons turned out to be a major fail!! Talk about contention in our home. But when the opportunity came up for my son to learn the guitar he was excited about it and anxious to learn. I was the one excited about my kids learning the piano, not them. (I’m still not giving out hope that someday at least one of them will come around. )
And so the juggling act of my life continues. This week, gymnastics, guitar lessons, soccer 4 nights, two days of preschool, scouts, etc and I know we are only beginning with the craziness. My life probably looks like a piece of cake for other moms but I’m hoping to remember some of these tips as I learn to adjust to this circus act that I call my life.