Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Figuring Out How to Enjoy More With Less Guilt

Our Christmas and birthday season is now officially over. After the busyness and beauty of Christmas, most moms get to take a bit of a break as far as their job as the family coordinator of special occasions after they put away the Christmas decorations. But for me, the special occasion planning and execution just keeps on going! Jared's birthday is December 31st, then Ashton's is January 3rd, then the twins' birthday is January 14th. And this year, all four of these birthdays was a big birthday. Jared turned 40 and I wanted to make that extra special. Ashton turned 15 and his birthday was supposed to be sort of low-key with a nice day snowboarding with his dad followed by a simple party with some of his good friends - but he broke his arm while snowboarding and that made the day quite a bit more eventful! And the twins turned 10 which felt like a very big deal to them - double digits and all. Their birthday was on a Wednesday so we celebrated with lots of family stuff and then did their party on Friday evening since weekdays are hard for parties. So their birthday seemed to go on and on. But they were SO excited about it and it all turned out great.

I love all the celebrating. I really do. I love to really make birthdays special and feel like when you've got quite a few sibings, it's extra important to create a real "king (or queen) of the day" type of experience for the birthday person. They have to wait their turn and be patient and eat whatever is served every other day of the year so it's great just one day of the year to pretty much have everything be just the way THEY want it. But that adds up to a LOT of work for me and can feel sort of overwhelming when it comes right after all my big efforts to make Christmas special. I just wish it could all be spread out a bit more! (For a year or two, we tried celebrating 1/2 birthdays for Jared and Ashton since their birthdays are at such a tricky time, but it just didn't work out that way - we ended up needing to celebrate TWICE since they still needed something on their actual birthday...)

This year, right when we got doing with the twins' birthday celebrations, we went into a 4-day weekend which was great but which meant I had to put off some of my holiday/birthday catch-up even further. And then this weekend, we're off to a wedding for a nephew and that'll be another long weekend which I'm really excited about but which will put off catch-up even further.

But you know what? That's just how it is. I've contempted and tried doing things different ways but ultimately, it feels like the right thing to keep making these birthdays really special and to not work very much when the kids are out of school and I want to enjoy extra time with them and to go to this family wedding and enjoy a little family get-away as part of that. I accept the busyness and the overwhelmed moments as part of the life and priorities I have chosen.

I've got lots of blog posts to do to catch up (I really love writing out all my favorite things about each child on this blog for their birthday - makes a great motherhood journal and perhaps one day I'll gather all their birthday posts together into a special book for them - given that I don't scrapbook beyond some half-hearted baby books, I'm thinking this will be a great thing to give them when they head off to college one day).

I've got some exciting new projects for Power of Moms that I've been moving forward every chance I get.

I've got a house that needs to be cleaned and kids that need to be fed and laundry that never stops.

But rather than doing what I've done in the past - pushing my catch-up into afternoons when the kids could use help with homework and support from me on their chores or into time for quality tuck-in's or into the few evenings that Jared and I could spend together - I'm just going to do what I can do during the hours I can reasonably spend while the kids are at school or while we're driving to this wedding this weekend.

I need to be done with holding myself to a way higher standard of productivity than I would ever expect of anyone else and cut myself more slack. I need to spend more time prioritizing and praying about what is most important to do and saying "no" more often - rather than just rolling up my sleves and working super hard on whatever I've committed to (which is usually way too much). I need to commit to less deadline-driven work. I need to prioritize enjoying over getting things done more often. And I need to figure out how to feel less guilty about the "no's" I have to say to put relationships and enjoyment before accomplishment and productivity.

I certainly don't have all the answers. But I know some of what I need to work on. I accept that life will never be particularly simple for me. I've chosen paths that are essentially complicated and busy. I can stay  on the paths that feel right to me without driving myself forward at a break-neck pace anymore. I can put more focus on the paths that matter the most to me (the motherhood and wifehood paths) while still moving foward on the other paths ata slower pace.

So there are my thoughts for today.


Kris M. said...

Great post Saren!! I live in Beverly, one of your Chicago stops 2 summers ago. Glad you are reflecting on this tough mom stuff. I also have 4 boys and 1 girl, so I can relate to you in many ways!

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ppp said...

I'm curious what the other demands you have that you feel guilty saying 'no' to. Well, I feel guilty for being curious; I don't like to pry. But my curiosity only extends insofar as I'm personally trying to figure out my own personal boundary and what it's ok to say 'no' to. And I'm just curious what lines other people have drawn to gain a little focus on what matters.

For example, volunteering at school takes a lot of time, and sometimes I wish I could say no. On the other hand, I know it has a positive impact on the kids overall (helping to organize book drives for the library, etc), but it leaves me less individual time with them. What to do?

Saren Loosli said...

ppp: I used to volunteer a LOT in my kids' classrooms and loved being such an active part of their schooling but that has had to go in the last few years in order to make time for the work I need to do during the day so that I can be fully present with them to help with homework and their other activities in the afternoons. There are times and seasons when we can be more or less involved with different good things. Just because something is a good thing doesn't mean we always have to do it! I now only help at the school with things that I really enjoy, that I have unique abilities to do, and that make a big difference to my kids - I do special reading time, I helped with planning out the overall school parent volunteer program. If someone else can do it and it isn't something that I'd enjoy or that would directly make a difference to my children, I've learned to say no.

I've learned to simplyfy and suggest alternatives rather than saying a hard "no" to some things. I've committed to helping run the children's organization at our church and there are many times when I say no to an idea that would involve more time or effort than I feel good about putting in, suggesting something simpler that I'd be willing to do or saying I can't help but if others want to do that, it's great.

I've said no to quite a few speaking opportunies and TV appearances for Power of Moms because it just takes away too much time from my family and causes me quite a bit of stress. I've also said no or "let's wait and see" to some exciting opportunities to work on new projects for POM when the timing hasn't been right or the possiblity doesn't fit well with my skills and interests and desires and might not make a very big difference for POM.

I've learned to adopt the mantra "only do that which only you can do" in the case of many opportunites and possibilities. If I'm really the best person to do it and I have the time and the work feels important to me, I try to say yes.

Eyrealm said...

Great post! It's all good in theory and SO hard to really follow through. I think most mothers feel guilt more than they should because you can never do enough! Sometimes "enough is enough" is good to put on the fridge! Love you!

ppp said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
cheryl cardall said...

Some of my very favorite advice I've ever been given is, "Guilt should be reserved for sin, that's all!"

Jennifer said...

Thanks so much for the wonderful service you give through your blogs! I stumbled upon your Power of Moms site not too long ago and recognized your husband. He and my husband, Elton, are cousins. This week I have read several of your posts and have been really touched. You have inspired me to really BE with my kids and not to worry about all the other stuff. Thank you. Maybe I'll meet you one of these days at a family gathering :)


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