This is a guest post from Rachel Winter. It is part of the series Choosing to Connect, true life stories from my readers in their own words. If you would like to participate click here for details.
Over to Rachel….
“Busy” seems to be the word I hear from everyone.
When I ask, “How are you doing?”
- Oh, we are so busy..
- I have so much going on.
- We are doing well, but we are super busy.
- We are busy busy busy.
Why are we so busy? Why must we say that we are so busy? Whose choice is it to be so busy? And why? What good does it do?
Is it really that great that you can rush from school and work and soccer practice to piano practice to homework, to the drive thru again for dinner to collapse into bed and do the same thing the next day?
I used to be like that. I have 4 small kids (ages 10, 8, 6 and 3). I have a husband who travels quite a bit. We were involved in activities, rushing rushing rushing.. And getting what results? Cranky over scheduled kids, unhealthy meals eaten in the car, no family dinners, no family time, a frustrated, impatient mother and frazzled kids.
I Had Enough!
I finally had had enough. Why was I trying to keep up with everyone else? Does a 7 year old need to be on a traveling baseball team that does not allow us to eat together at night as a family? Does a 9 year old need to do cub scouts, chess club, football, travel soccer? Does a 4 year old need to take tennis lessons? Spanish lessons? My answer- absolutely not.
So, I started to slow down, I had talks with the kids and implemented some changes in our family. I began to appreciate the ordinary days and the moments, that I would otherwise miss because we were rush-rush-rush, go-go-go, do-do-do…
The result is a calmer mom, a calmer dad, and calmer kids. Yes, initially, it was hard because they were not used to so much unstructured down time, but now, I don’t think we would have it any other way.
My Journey to Slow Down
On my journey of slowing down, I incorporated some easy choices and some hard choices with our family. Here are 3 things that we have done to be less busy.
First I let the kids do one activity a season. ONE. Yes, this was hard as my daughter loves art AND tumbling, but she chose tumbling. The boys play one sport and stopped piano. I also scheduled their activities on Tuesday and Thursday. On those 2 days, I plan ahead with crock pot meals or easy meals knowing that we are going to practices. Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we have no after school activities. Those are my kids’ favorite days. They come home giddy and say- mom do we have anything today? Nope I say! YES, they say!! Can we play outside, have a friend over??, Yes to all. No plans. I find that our whole demeanor is calmer on those days. I have time to prepare a decent meal, the kids are not rushed doing homework, and they have time for unstructured play. I find that I have more time to sit with them, look them in the eyes and be there for them. If something comes up, we can say yes because we don’t have to rush somewhere.
Second I cut down on my volunteering and saying yes to too many things outside of my family. Moms are already pulled in so many directions. I found that if I don’t say “HECK YES!!” when asked to do something, then it was a NO. Plain and simple. At first it was really hard. I thought people would be angry at me because I was that mom who did (tried to do) it all. I work part time, I volunteer, I have my kids in activities. Saying No has been a yes for my family and my health. I have freed up more time to do what I enjoy.
- No, I cannot chair the spring fling.
- No, I cannot make 30 ladybug cupcakes for the class.
- Yes, I can go to career day because I would love to do that.
- No, I cannot teach Sunday school.
- Yes, I can take a Pilates class for myself
- Yes, I will read a story to the preschool class
Third I looked at all the outside influences I have coming at me. Facebook, emails, texts, mommy blogs, cooking blogs, reality tv, etc. For one week I wrote down how much time I spent on those things. It was astounding. How much time I wasted on these time suckers. It was time for a change.
- I gave up Facebook.
- I don’t check my email every 15 min anymore, just scheduled times of the day. I turned off the ringer on my phone. Consequently, I am not stopping every 5 min to answer a text, to see who called, etc. I focus on my kids. I am less distracted, and less busy.
- I stopped talking on the phone in the car. This has been really eye opening for me. I can listen to the kids, have good conversations with them that I would have otherwise missed because I was busy talking, planning, and scheduling, on the phone.
A Few Bumps in the Road
Don’t get me wrong, there are moments, seasons even, where I had too much on my plate and did too much. And then who suffers? My family.
They get a frazzled frustrated mom saying hurry up, Why did you leave that mess there? No you can’t do that. Just go to bed!! ARGGHH!!
Then I go to bed and realize- I was too busy; too busy to notice the little things. Because aren’t the little things the most important things?
I got a Christmas card last week that really resonated with me and my choices to be less busy. The card was late because the parents said they were so busy. They stated in the card that they go somewhere every night of the week- travel baseball, wrestling for one child, running, drama for another child, work, travel, etc. I was exhausted reading it. And then I felt bad for the kids. Do they have any downtime to just be and play?
Reaping the Benefits of Slowing Down
I thought about my life recently.
Because we are not rushing and busy I have had time to
- Bake cookies with our daughter
- Play trains
- Shoot hoops
- Read a book
- Have a family movie night
- Make a good snack for after school.
While these may not be Christmas letter worthy in this frantic, fast paced world, they sure make a difference to my family and me.
Rachel is a wife, mother of four great kids, science nerd, avid reader, and a slow runner. When she is not driving carpool, throwing a football with her boys, doing laundry or building train tracks, she works part time reviewing grants for breast cancer. Rachel blogs at Winter Party of Six where she tries to journal about the little things, because she realizes that one day those are the big things.