There was a time when I was involved in everything that peaked my interest (and everything that I thought I should be involved in as a mother of school-aged children).
I was on several committees at church, on the parent council at my daughter’s school, on the parent involvement committee for the school district, volunteering with the heritage society in my community, and basically burning out faster than I could stay lit.
All this was to grow I told myself. To expand my horizons, meet new people, get involved and help out. And it was invigorating and exciting for a time.
But the more I got involved, the more I felt I had to be involved.
And the joy went out of the volunteering. I already had a full-time job. And now the volunteer commitments were adding up to another full-time job. My family was not getting my focus. I was rushing from one thing to another. My kids were cranky and reacting to the rushed pace of my schedule. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was cranky, too. I worked late into the night on projects for the various committees on which I sat. Then I went to bed and tossed and turned for hours, going over in my head other things that still needed to get done.
I was also trying to manage a chronic pain issue. I could ignore it mostly. But some days it was so bad that I didn’t want to get out of bed. My husband encouraged me to revisit a specialist I had seen years ago to see if there were any treatment options that might alleviate some (or all) of the pain. Of course, with my busy schedule and “I can do it all” attitude, I put off going to the specialist.
Eventually I caved, or my body gave up and I didn’t have a choice. I don’t really remember what the final straw was.
But after several visits to the specialist, it was determined that something could be done for me, and the surgery that was offered might alleviate most of the pain for a good period of time. (I’m talking years here. I could be relatively pain free for years to come following this surgery.)
In those consultations with the surgeon, I was told what to expect in terms of recovery (very long) and he offered some advice about how to prepare for the time that I would be mostly reliant on others for basic things like meals, help getting dressed, moving around, and other things that I’m still discovering that I can’t do on my own.
His advice was to slow down. Remove myself from some if not all of my commitments. Do only what I have to do (which is work full time).
And so, about 11 months before I had a firm surgery date, I started to cut back. I stepped down from committees. I said no to other, new opportunities. I spent more time just hanging out with my kids instead of shuttling them around to activities, camps and school. I kept them home and did simple activities with them, played games, read books…all the things that I had always wished I’d had time for.
And now that I’ve done that, I’m more focused on what’s truly important.
As much as I’ve enjoyed volunteering and helping at church and my children’s school, my children need me at home. And I need more time to myself. This is what I’ve discovered.
And this discovery has led to another discovery.
My children need more time for the things that they enjoy, the things that spark their interests, things they wish to pursue.
And school and our busy life is not the place for that. I have thought long and hard on this for quite some time. It’s not just about me giving up commitments to scale back and spend more time with my littles. Space needs to be created for my littles, too. What does that look like?
Fewer organized activities; fewer commitments outside of the home; fewer big plans to occupy our time on the weekends, the only two full days we get together each week. More time with family. More time moving slowly, truly absorbing what we’re learning. More time meditating. More time in nature.
Distance from over-commitment has improved my perspective on the need for space to grow and to learn. If there is space, there is room to be together, to learn together, to grow together. This new view is why we are looking for ways to make the simple life our life. It is why we are not enrolling our kids in so many activities this session. (It is also because I cannot drive and it’s easy to be simple and distanced when you can’t get around on your own and create your own busy-ness.) And it is why we are going to bed earlier, spending more time reading and less time looking at screens. It is why we are considering making some big changes along with the little changes.
Distance from it all seems to be just what we need. And with faith and courage, we will follow this new path.