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 committments.
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.