Tuesday, July 5, 2011


My kids play that game that all kids discover when they are about two.  You probably know it- it's the one where they spin round and round, arms splayed wide, head back, eyes closed, giggling hysterically as they turn and turn until they are so dizzy that they fall to the ground, heads still spinning, eyes rolling around in their little heads.  They'll play it over and over, shouting "AGAIN!" after dissolving into a fit of laughter on the floor.

As for me, well, once is enough or else I have to break out the Bonine.

I've been reading Pastor Craig Groeshel's book, Weird, for the last week, and I got to the chapter where he writes about how it is "normal" now to be so overscheduled that we have forgotten what it is like to have down time; to have time to relax, to enjoy the company of our spouse and our children, to even *gasp* have that still time with God.  I had to put the book down and look for the hidden camera...because this is me.  This is my family.

Sometimes I feel like I am playing the Round-and-Round Game.  Where I get so caught up in the obligations and the 'have-tos' in life...I have to get to work, have to shuttle the kids to soccer, to piano, to church, to doctor appointments, camp, and therapies, scheduling time to spend with other couples, with grandparents, with the PTA and the committee-du-jour...Our days become a blur of alarm clocks, eating on the go, shuttling here or there, putting out a couple fires, and then rushing the kids through bedtime routines just to get them into bed at a decent hour so they can be ready to start the same thing the next day.  And that doesn't even take into account the flight-of-the-bumblebee routine that happens after the kids are in bed, which is me trying to do everything that I wanted to do during the day but didn't have time for.  Before I know it, I'm running on 4 hours of sleep and very little ability to focus on anything save for making it through the day.  I'm dizzy, my head is spinning, and I can't focus on anything.

What has happened here?  My kids are 6, 4, and 2...I have a nagging feeling that it is only going to get worse if I don't plant my feet firmly on the ground now.

Overscheduling IS the new normal, and if you are anything like me, you are feeling the emotional and physical drain of the complete lack of down time in your life.  Your spouse and your kids are probably feeling it, too.  This isn't how we are supposed to live.

Sure I want my kids to have opportunities.  I want them to play sports and develop their talents.  I obviously can't cut out doctor appointments and visits to the therapist.  We look forward to church, to volunteering, and to our small group...that can't go.  I've also heard a rumor that you aren't allowed to yank your kids out of school just because you 'need some time'.


What to do...?!?

Clearly, a list needs to be made.  Here are my Five Soluntions to the Over-Scheduled Family Crisis:

1.  Say no.  At least a little.  You don't need to be the PTA president, the room parent, and the hostess of your 2 year old's playdates.  It's okay not to be in charge; there are plenty of other capable moms out there who can step up to the plate.  They may not do it as well as you can (admit your control-freak issues here), but let that go and enjoy your new-found freedom.  Choose one activity that you want to do, and do it well.

2.  Schedule Unscheduled Time.  I realize that sounds backwards, but hear me out. If you don't pencil in your down time, then you won't remember to take it.  Every night (most of the time) my oldest son gets his "Special Ian Time."  As the most independent of my 3 boys, he often gets overlooked because he can do for himself.  Setting aside a half hour after "the littles" go to bed to specifically focus on him is often the highlight of his day.  We do anything he wants to do (well, you know, with limits- no jumping off the roof or sword-swallowing) during that time.  The only rule is that he has to choose something that we can do together.  My husband and I put our phones away, we stay off the computer, we don't clean the dishes or put the toys away during Special Ian Time.  It is special, indeed.

3.  Get good at planning meals.  Oy, how much time do I spend haphazardly throwing a meal together every night?  I bet if I take into account the prep time and dishwashing time, I could save myself 10 hours a week by carefully planning our meals.  If I can double some dinner recipes and freeze half for another night, then I have a good hour free on another night.  I've even been known to make extra pancakes Sunday morning and freeze them for use throughout the rest of the week.  If I am really good, I can set aside a chunk of time once a month with a few girlfriends and bang out 5 freezer meals each, and then we can trade portions to take home.

4.  Sleep, and sleep well.  Make 8 hours a night a priority.  You can make time for anything if it is your priority.  If you get up at 6am, then be in bed by 9:30 and turn off your reading light at 10.  When I get enough sleep, I notice a tremendous difference in how much I can accomplish the next day.  My mind works better, I am more focused, and I don't spend crazy amounts of time trying to accomplish simple tasks, like when it takes me 3 hours to unload the dishwasher.  

Guilty secret:  I've only done this like eight times in six years, but I so strongly believe in it.  My goal is to be sleeping 8 hours regularly by the end of the year.  Baby steps.

5.  Use your vacation time.  Did you know that Americans are the worst at utilizing vacation time?  You need that time to re-energize, to build memories, and to reconnect with your family.  Sure it's hard to leave your job, you know, because you are in the middle of a deal and have so much going on...but at the expense of your mental health or the stability of your family or your marriage?  Not so much.  Go on a road trip.  Take your kids to the Root Beer Stand that you grew up loving.  Sit on a beach.  Hike a trail.  Slow down, for Pete's sake.  You only get one life...enjoy it while you can.

SO.  My goal is to find focus.  Even if my life resembles the Round and Round game, I need to learn how to spot...I have to learn how to hone in on the important things in life, so I don't get dizzy with the details. 

I'll let you know how that works out.


Cate said...

oh, man. yeah. right there with you.

sleep is my downfall. I really really really need to crack down on myself. I stay up way too late. bad cycle.

LeShayne said...

Okay are you writing for something? I mean great post - and all so true! But it's not your usual blog style.

When you have free time (ha!) there is this great book for women called "Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World." One of the best bible studies I have ever done as a busy mom! My favorite example is this - if God says to you pull this wagon up the hill you grab the wagon and go. And along the way you pick up rocks and other peoples loads and maybe some flowers and before you get to the top you are overwhelmed and you say God I can't do it. But God says I asked you to bring the wagon - what is all this other stuff?!? I am super guilty of filling my wagon with other people's stuff and have to remember sometimes to just enjoy the hike and lighten my load! Thanks for the reminder Laurie!!

Cate said...

in a "hmm, recurring theme" -- one of my FB friends just posted this. http://blogs.hbr.org/schwartz/2011/07/is-the-life-youre-living-worth.html

"chronic exposure to relentless demand" seems unavoidable with the small children, though.

Becky said...

Definitely a great post and good reminder. We all get caught up in busyness...kids or no kids. I like your sleep goal. It makes such a big difference in how we see the day and how we function throughout it!

Mom said...

Excellent philosophy. Remember Gananda? Girl Scout leader, church school teacher, outside job? We moved to Florida....to escape!