Summer should be a time for fun, family, enjoying the outdoors, and some relaxation.
Yet, it seems that about 95% of the women I talk to are stressed, overwhelmed, and just plain exhausted.
While we can't escape the need to work in this life, whether it's parenting, a job, caregiving, home ownership, etc. we really have more choices than we think in regards to our schedules. The thing that is hard is that there are soooo many good opportunities out there that it is beyond easy to get over-committed. It's a downhill slide into too many activities, too much information, and too many friends and an uphill climb to live within our priorities.
My Mom always said, "If I can't get my dishes done, I'm doing too much."
Even though I do two dishwasher loads a day minimum, I don't know if I'll ever catch up 100% on dishes, so I've tweaked my mom's phrase for myself:
If I can't do our Bible verse memorization in the morning with the kids, then we're doing too much.
If we can't have read-aloud time every day then we're doing too much.
Ladies Bible Study and our mother/daughter Friday Bible study in Ali's room are more important than trips to the circus, the pool, the lake, or a friend's house.
Most days this summer I feel like we are having lots of "down time" and are not too stressed out. Our kids aren't doing summer sports, and I've been evaluating each activity in our week and considering whether it is worth the effort involved or whether it will add stress to our family life. I'm definitely not perfect at this though! Sometimes, without even thinking, I will say yes to something only to realize it wasn't a good idea and I chose the good thing over the best thing. Here are some guidelines that I jotted down to help me stay in line with my priorities of glorifying God as a wife and a mom when considering my children's activities/playdates:
1. Ya Wanna?
Do I want to do this? Does my child want to do this?
Sometimes we get asked to do things that we don't even want to do. Sometimes we push our kids to live out our dreams instead of theirs. Yes, there is a time and a place for sacrifice and selflessness, but if you hate babysitting why do you say yes every time someone asks you if you will do it? It sounds like a no-brainer but so many gals I know are guilted or pressured, whether by friends or their spouse, into doing activities they hate. Keep in mind, I'm speaking of chilren's activities and playdates here. We will all have to do things we don't like to do (cleaning the bathroom, math homework, etc.) but in regards to things we have choices about, it is a question to consider. Better to be honest and tell someone you don't like playing basketball, or hiking or taking care of their dog when they go away, etc. than getting roped into doing it and becoming bitter about it!
Is it during my child's naptime? Though only one of our children still naps, and usually doesn't sleep during naptime anymore, I still enforce rest time and feel it is a necessity in our days....if only for Mama to have an hour of peace and quiet!
3. Housework Happy!
Will this cut into time I need at home to finish chores? Being a homemaker does involve spending time at home (go figure!) and a home is NOT an easy thing to manage. There is cleaning, cooking, laundry, yard work, bills, phone calls to make, etc. etc. to keep a family and home running smoothly.
4. Peace and Quiet
Does it leave margin in my day?
Will being involved in this activity leave me with no "quiet time" or free time in my day? As an introverted person I need a little bit of time each day to have no talking and no people in the room with me. If I don't take that time during the afternoon, I will need some in the evening so that I can recharge...otherwise I get very crabby.
5. Bless or stress?
Will this inspire or teach my child or just stress them out? Will hanging out with that friend encourage them or contribute to bad character? Will this event or opportunity pack their day with too much activity or cause me to have to drive around like a taxi service?
Can I afford this activity? Living on one income in a two-income world takes a lot of careful planning and self-restraint. Contrary to people's opinions that say I'm lucky to be a stay-at-home-mom, I know it takes a lot of saying no to things that the rest of the world thinks are necessities. One of our friend's daughters asked her mom for restaurant pizza and said, "Just put it on your card mommy!" A perfect opportunity for my friend to explain that the debit card isn't magic money and that sometimes we can't eat out, or buy toys at the circus, etc. etc. etc. because we don't have the money to do so.
7. No Rush
A friend and I were talking about the stress of last-minute invitations. Spontaneity can be fun if it's rare, but on a typical day, it's stressful to have a last-minute change of plans. If you are asked to do something or go somewhere, take a little time to think it over. Check your schedule/appointment book/calendar and talk it over with your husband. I once had a young friend who would pray over EVERY opportunity that came her way...down to the most minute thing. She was wise beyond her years! One of my friends has decided that she will say "no" to anything that she is asked to do the day of. I guess I'd better make sure I invite her to things a few days in advance! =)