School starts this week. I have a second grader and a full-day kindergartener in two different schools with one homeschooled preschooler still at home.
I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for nearly eight years, and I’m now adjusting to the change of mommy seasons. It seemed like not long ago, I had nothing but babies and toddlers at home, and every day was like summer break with endless trips to the library, zoo, and mommy playdates. My daily schedule was ruled by play time, housework and PBS Kids programs, while our activities were planned around nursing schedules, naptimes and potty-training.
During those years I had time to read books for learning and leisure, surf Facebook unashamedly, and had hours of solitude and quiet in the middle of the day during naps. But, on the other hand, I also yearned for adult conversations and any excuse to get out of the house to break up the domestic day-to-day of mommy monotony.
Now, there are no more naps, no more quiet, suckling infants. Baby food and bottles have been traded for macaroni and cheese or chicken nuggets. Quiet hours of nap time replaced by loud sibling rivalry or Disney and Marvel characters blaring on the TV. And while I have a great, solid group of mom friends built upon those years of weekly mom’s groups, I now rarely get to see them because school, dance classes, art camps and swimming lessons have me driving for hours all over town.
Not long ago, I signed up for every volunteer opportunity. I took tiny, minimally-paid work-from-home jobs to fill in the gaps and keep my resume updated. Yet today, I feel stretched in so many directions, I am realizing that for my family and my own sanity, I need to quit a few of these commitments.
Between chauffeuring kids, keeping up on housework and getting some personal time in for myself, there are just not enough hours in the day to do everything. So how do you decide what should stay and what should go? What can you use as a measuring stick to determine something’s value or waste? How can I balance the things that are important to me like my own vocation and hobbies, while still investing time into children during these precious and formative years? And when someone asks if I can take on more, how do I say no after saying yes for so many years?
I firmly believe that even for a stay-at-home parent, we all need some time each day to spend, for lack of a better word, selfishly. Whether it is reading, exercising or as simple as browsing Pinterest for a few minutes, fulfilling my needs allows me to take better care of my family. For me personally, I love to write, so if I have time to write either a guest post or take another small paid job, I have decided that I will choose writing.
When it comes to volunteering, now that my kids are heavily involved each day in school and activities instead of home with me all day long, I want to spend as much time with them as I can. Therefore, I will sign up for coaching soccer or volunteering in class rather than with local nonprofits or community groups.
The support and connection I receive from spending time with my mommy friends is still super important to me, but not in the same way it was when I was a new mom caring for infants and toddlers. So I find myself now choosing to develop relationships with just a few, closer-knit gals, over attending large play groups and MOPS meetings.
If you’ve got too much on your plate, take some time and think about your ideal level of activity. From there, you can come up with your own measuring stick to decide the best use of your time. When you are asked to do more than you’re comfortable with, don’t be afraid to say no, but be honest with the requesters about your reasons and stick to your guns. Then repeat, repeat, repeat until your commitments are more manageable. If it means a better, less stressful life for you and your family, it is worth it!
Are there things you need to let go of? How do you decide what is the most important use of your time? What do you need to say no to?