Balancing It All
September is here, which means for many of us, the onslaught of school, homework, practice, games and performances are upon us.
My husband very rarely weighs in on this whole blog thing I’ve got going. However, the other night he came and told me, “you need to write a blog on how we balance it all- the kids, their activities, work, life and marriage. Guys ask me all the time how we do it all.”
When a man of few words speaks, you listen. And he is right, we all need real tangible practices to put into play in a world that expects us to just do it all! We didn’t just wake up one day with four (then five) kids and have it all balanced and cheery. This well-oiled machine took LOTS of recalibrating and prioritizing. Consider this your official warning; I’m going to be very honest and real in this post. I have no more hours in my day than anyone else and I want to give a realistic lens into how this “picture perfect” life really runs day to day.
We now have four kids in the house. (My nephew left for college last month). All four are in sports and activities. Competitive club teams, school teams, recreational teams, dance and gymnastics. Plus, church commitments, school obligations and various other things. The schedules collide and intersect regularly. Often times the games overlap.
Many people would argue that we are crazy for even allowing all those activities. Fair enough. My husband and I are both sports nuts so saying yes to our son who wants to play every sport imaginable, comes natural to us. It truly brings us joy.
With that being said, we can’t do it all. For a few years I really did try to do it all! And then I realized I was coming up short in so many categories and had to recalibrate. It dawned on me that it’s ok to just cry uncle and say “sorry, we’re gonna miss that one”. I pulled that card for the first time with my oldest son’s club soccer a few years ago. They announced a traveling Thanksgiving tournament. You read that right. A tournament that would require us to take the whole family out of state for Thanksgiving weekend to watch my son play soccer. It went a little like this…
“Hi Coach, this is Kelly, Xavier’s mom. We won’t be making the thanksgiving tournament, we already have plans.”
SEND!!! oh my gosh. So freeing! I felt… liberated!! Because the reality is, you can’t do it all, you don’t have to do it all, and if your kid is going to be the next Christiano Ronaldo, that will happen regardless if you attend the Thanksgiving tournament or not.
More real talk: I don’t do birthday parties. I don’t throw them, and we rarely attend them. It’s just one more thing for me and something has to go- and it can’t be my sanity! We always celebrate our kids birthdays privately as a family and often we have been able to do a special occasion trip or cool experience in lieu of a party. With this many kids you can imagine how many birthday party invitations come home. If we can swing it, awesome, but I’ve accepted that usually we can’t. When I took birthday parties out of the equation of things I MUST do to be a good mother, my stress level immediately went down. The kids don’t seem to notice what they missed.
Another truth: I cannot be at every game. I really would like to be, but the reality is, I’m one person with a lot of spinning plates. What’s more? I don’t really think it’s the worst thing in the world for the kids to know and accept that the world doesn’t revolve around them. I think understanding that truth will help them in life and shield them from a lot of disappointment later. Mom and Dad will make every effort to be there, but sometimes, you just have to play because you love it, not for accolades or an audience.
So, on that, “the world doesn’t revolve around you” note, I’ve found that for me to have any kind of life or marriage, my kids need to be as self-sufficient as possible. Read: I don’t do their laundry, dishes or anything else they are physically capable of. Additionally, they help around the house, A LOT. Why? Because it’s good for them, but also because I am only one person! I often default to Lisa Terkeurst’s point, “any yes to one thing is a no to something else.” So, for me, a “yes” to folding other people’s laundry in my free time is a “no” to having the night to relax with my husband. When you start filtering through this lens it becomes instantly easier to see what needs to be left out of the equation.
Speaking of time with my man and our marriage, my husband and I have one point we make very clear to our kids; our marriage comes first. It is vital to the health of this family that we not only protect it but invest in it. Date night is critical. Trips and vacations sans kids are rejuvenating. And since the marriage is the top priority, if the kids have a function, play date, or other interest to attend- sorry baby cakes, marriage comes first. Believe it or not, this includes if we have scheduled our older kids to babysit the younger kids and then they get a better offer… sorry. One, you never call off on a job after accepting it, and two, your parents’ marriage is more important than walking the mall with friends this one time or attending that classmate’s birthday party. We are a family and as much as it may bum my kids out to miss an activity or get stuck babysitting, those little kids have sat through hundreds of hours shuttling big kids to activities, never ending soccer games and so on. Since we are a family, we all make sacrifices to make this operation run.
Finally, have something for yourself. Between career, parenting, marriage and general life responsibilities, it’s easy to become a slave to it all. We all need something that is just for us. If your husband wants to join a basketball league that has him out past the kid’s bedtimes once or twice a week; support him, you will get the kids to bed and then binge watch something he hates. If your wife has a mom’s night out, yoga class or any other activity that she looks forward to- move mountains to insure she doesn’t miss it. Not only is it a selfless act of love, your spouse will be better for it. None of us should be slaves to our responsibilities if we can help it. Usually, with some reorganizing, we can help it.
I suppose my answer to “how do you balance it all?”, is to do less. And don’t apologize for it. Figure out your top priorities and work backwards from there. The kids are going to be alright.
Keep on keeping on,