Guard Your Time

I am republishing this as most of us are sending our children off to school and going to parent meetings and facing sign-up sheet-just a little reminder!

A couple weeks ago I had to go to a quick meeting after school for a first grade activity that involved a family feast.  I was assigned to make a part of a meal and we volunteers all met with the teacher for a quick "go over".  I sent my older kids home on the bus, just for routine sake, and because they are old enough to be home for a few minutes.  Of course I had my trusty helper Patrick by my side.

One of the moms there had a little baby in a car seat, 2 little ones, and was picking up her first grader. The baby had been peacefully sleeping, and some of the other kids (like kids do) woke him up to "see the baby".  Her little toddlers were being little toddlers and she tried to keep track of them and attend the meeting at the same time.  She look frazzled, tired and overwhelmed.

It brought back SO many memories, because that was once me.

I remember the amount of work it took to organize naps and nursing times, to show up for a meeting at school or someone's house, or to drop off a snack that I was signed up for, or to show up in a classroom.  It hardly ever seemed to go smoothly for me and never as easy as I thought it would be.

It often meant that the entire nap/nursing/snack/dinner schedule was thrown off for the rest of the day, or sometimes even days.  It meant I had to find something decent to wear, and find the time somewhere to put on some makeup and brush my hair.  It meant that I had to make sure each child had a snack in him/her, to prevent breakdowns. It meant I had to look at my watch all morning long.  It meant that I usually ended up sweating buckets carrying a 40 pound car seat, and a toddler who refused to walk, into a stuffy classroom, or drive across town to someone's house. 

I always felt very obligated to do all I could to help...I didn't want anyone to say, "Oh she never does anything."  I felt like my kids would have this huge gap in their childhood if I wasn't participating regularly at their in-school activities. 

As I added my 4th and 5th child to the family, I let ALL of that go.  I gave myself permission to NOT sign up for things, I gave myself permission to be OK with letting school be school, and not a parent participation contest, I gave myself permission to know myself, and know my babies, and know my family...what I can't handle, what is too disruptive for our little thriving schedule, what I just don't want to do...it's all OK. 

Here's what I want to tell my younger self, and all of you who may be experiencing the same struggles I did:

1. Whether you have one child, or two, or five, remember that their are times and seasons of your life, where you are "allowed" to step back and just survive day to day without adding more to your plate. 

2. Be confident in having the knowledge that only you and you alone can decide when your family can handle any extra commitments. 

3. Learn to say no without guilt.  Offer to do what you can do easily...that means with no stress.

4. Don't compare yourself with others.  What one person seems to handle with ease (notice the "seems" part), is maybe not what you can handle.  We all have different talents, and we all have different stresses and thresholds.  We also all have different support systems behind the scenes.

5. Be kind to yourself and in spite of what the world tells us all today, do not underestimate how much work it is to be a mom, just by itself, without all the extra things we feel pressured to do today. 


  1. It's easy enough to say no and just a few people end up helping, but it's SO much easier if many people would just take on one event/project for the year (and even have a committee to share the load). I don't think agreeing to one thing will hurt, even though life is busy. It always will be and it's okay/good to help at the school.

    1. I understand NaDell-it does seem that there are a handful of parents sometimes who get caught up in doing everything and it's easy when you are that parent to get resentful of those who do nothing. Life is busy, but there are years that are definitely more busy than ever, and years where it is much more difficult to get away from home. It seems like there is almost always a way to do a little something, like send in the snack for a party etc. I think it's important to pick and choose what works best for your family each year. Committees equal meetings, I have found, and that gets much more cumbersome.

    2. Nadell, i have 4 children myself 6,5,3,1 and i was room mom, helped with softball team, involved in church responsibilities, serve others, provide items that teachers request. Yes sometime activities get thrown on a few people while others dont do everything. I dont know what your dynamics of your family are but trying to help on the classrom or do after school functions with all four by my side (or crawling all over me) my husband travels and it is impossible to do it all. I love love love this article and she hit the nail on the head, there is a season in life that i cannot give to school functions without my family suffering.

  2. I love this post! It rings true with me as a mom of 4, 9 and under! It is EXACTLY how I feel and how I operate and it feels great to know I am not the only one who thinks this way!

  3. As my little caboose, 8 years behind 9 older siblings, begins first grade, I needed this reminder. I thought surely at this point I "can do it all". But now I have the opportunity to tend to my aging mother in law as she lives with us. My "all" is invisible to the outside world, but very full at home. So I'm passing those sign ups right on to the next mom or dad in line! Thanks, Sarah.

  4. Today is our first school day and this couldn't have come at a better time. I'll have a 3rd, 2nd, 1st, kinder, and peschooler this year- school is definitely an adventure all its own! (let's all revisit this at Christmastime when the sign ups start flying faster than I can catch a breath!)

  5. Wow, thank you! I have a 3rd grader and a kindergartener who just started yesterday, and a little one due any day. I purposely didn't sign up for anything yet, knowing it would be a hassle, and I did have some guilt!

  6. I actually read this in your archives a couple weeks ago whenI need some inspiration. I have 4 kids with 3 in school and was trying to figure out how much I wanted to undertake this year while feeling involved but not overwhelmed. I think we put so much pressure on ourselves by thinking we have to sign up for everything to be a good parent when in reality for ME too much makes me too stressed and frazzled and that does the opposite effect on my parenting skills:) It is all about finding what is best for you!

  7. I think what's important is to know your limits. Some people really thrive on doing lots of things. I am not one of those people. I love volunteering in my younger kids' classes-but I won't do PTA type of stuff: too many meetings, and "stuff". I am happy to send in snacks, project supplies and go on the occasional field trip. Soon enough your kids are in middle school and they don't want to see you at their school!

  8. ...and this is exactly why I was never too involved with participating in a lot of activities when my daughters were in elementary school especially when Noah was a baby (he's five now), and signing up for pta, classroom help, bringing treats to the art shows, etc. because I had family, my health, and sanity as a priority. With no immediate family close by to help there was no one to rely on except members from my church, and even that was sometimes hard because most of the moms had 2-3 kids as well! Now that Noah is in kindergarten, (and my last baby to go to school, tear) I will make the time for those things because I'll actually have, and make time. Regardless I will help when I can without getting overwhelmed. It's not a contest, and I personally have never, ever tried to up with other moms! Don't have time to worry about that. Maybe it's because how I was raised, and how my mother was...humble. Just ridiculous if you ask me! ;-)

  9. Love this post Sarah and I couldn't agree more! I was just thinking about this same thing when I was signing up to help in Kole's class this year. How now is a season in my life when I finally have time to be more involved at school. When the girls were little and Kole was a baby I volunteered, but it often left me exhausted and overwhelmed. There really are times when you can give more and times when it's in everyone's best interest that you cut back. xo