I’ll never forget the day I finally admitted to myself that I was overextended. It was an average Sunday morning. My husband and two sets of twins were still asleep and I got up early to wrap the Christening gift that I had run out in a frenzy to purchase the day before for a friend’s baby. The Christening was in a few hours, so I had a lot to cram in that morning before we left… a soccer game for my big twins and Coach Dad, laundry, dishes, not to mention showering, packing up shin guards and cleats… the list went on and on.
As I sat at the table sipping my coffee and wrapping the gift, I casually checked my Facebook page. Staring me right in the face were several pictures taken the day before of my friend’s adorable baby in her pretty, white Christening gown. Yup, the very same Christening for which I was currently wrapping a gift. I gasped and grabbed the invitation. Saturday at 2:00, not Sunday at 2:00. We had missed it. I was horrified. Who does that? Well… apparently I do. “This is so unlike me!”, I thought to myself. “I don’t FORGET important things!” Then I thought back to the swimming lesson the previous weekend that we never showed up for, the bag of groceries I forgot to put in the cart after check out, and the holiday treats I’d stayed up until midnight making for my son’s class, the night before he needed to bring them in. Ok, so maybe things like this had happened a few times before. And maybe, just maybe, I was overextended.
I knew we had to make some changes if we wanted to survive. Here are a couple tips I’ve picked up, after I finally reached my “Aha” moment:
- As a busy mom of 4, time management is key. But, as I’ve realized, so is keeping a good, REALISTIC schedule. By realistic, I mean one that I can safely, effectively, and sanely keep, without missing or forgetting things, or feeling like I’m running a marathon with no end in sight. I’ve learned that I need to write everything down – meetings, birthdays, parties and practices- have my husband write everything down, and go through the millions of notices that come home from school and write down those important dates. And if a scheduling conflict arises, I need to deal with it immediately, instead of waiting until the last minute.
- This also means that I need to know when to say WHEN, and when to say NO. Both are difficult things to do. It’s so easy to say yes and get roped into all sorts of things like volunteering, sporting events, and social obligations, because deep down we wish and hope we had time to do everything we want to do. But, the fact is, we don’t. For example, my older son loves sports. He’d play every sport if we’d let him, but of course we can’t let him. We’ve come to an agreement that he needs to pick the ONE sport he enjoys the most per season, and we work out a schedule to get him to and from practices and games, sometimes carpooling with other families. On any given weekend, my kids could have separate practices for separate activities, as well as two different birthday parties they’ve been invited to. As tough as it is to pick and choose, we obviously can’t attend everything, so we need decide what we can and can’t attend. Obligations take priority, like a work meeting or team game, and then we prioritize to see if we can incorporate anything else. Sometimes we can, sometimes we can’t, and whatever the outcome may be, we all need to be ok with it. There are times when we can get creative and carpool with friends, get a babysitter, etc., but my whole family needs to be on the same page with prioritizing our time.
- And then comes the guilt. We had to say no to so-and-so’s birthday party, we couldn’t sign up for the next session of art classes, we could only get there to see the second half of my niece’s recital. The guilt has to go. It’s not helpful or healthy, and it really serves no purpose. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I have big family that’s just trying to get through day to day life and meet everyone’s needs, and I don’t need to apologize for that. If I can’t help my friend move furniture into her new home because of other obligations that same day, then I can’t help her. But I’ll be sure to bring by a bottle of wine when she’s settled to congratulate her on her new home. If my son misses a soccer practice because he’s been fighting a cold all week, then he misses a practice. It’s not the end of the world. We need to be OK with the decisions we make that are in the best interest of our family.
- Most importantly, I’ve learned to slow down and be sure to keep the fun in life. I refuse to let a sport or hobby overtake my child’s life (or my own life) so much that I’m dreading the next few months of games and practices. I make sure not to miss the big things that I’d regret missing later, like family milestones (anniversaries, big birthdays) because I was “too busy” to slow down and enjoy them. And I know that I need to be OK with the idea of saying no to an event/invitation so that I can have a family movie night or quiet dinner with my kids.
I think in the long run, it’s all about balance. Too much of something usually isn’t a good thing, so spreading yourself thin and overextending yourself will eventually backfire. Slowing down, getting a grip, scheduling, prioritizing, and communicating are all ways to keep yourself and your family in check.
(I probably shouldn’t mention this, but I did wait until the last minute to write this article… it’s due tomorrow. But don’t tell anyone.)
Caroline Todd is a stay-at-home mom of two sets of twins: Eliza and Zachary, 8, and Henry and William, 3. She and her husband Erik live on the south shore of Massachusetts. When she’s not up to her elbows in the chaos and excitement of daily life with 4 young kids, Caroline enjoys running (for her sanity’s sake!), reading, spending time with her family, and enjoying adult conversation with friends once in a while.