Calming Calendar Chaos

We’ve almost made it to October and in my little part of the Midwest we’ve actually had decent weather for sideline sitting so far. And we’ve been doing a lot of sideline sitting! I wrote about keeping perspective on your kiddos and sports here. Today I thought I’d write about how we determine priorities when we have schedule conflicts and how we try to maintain sanity with three boys who are all involved in sports year round.

Some days, the dropping off and picking up for practices can be a little hectic and I have to remind myself why do sports. (They love the activity, it teaches them teamwork and how to take direction from coaches, it helps them with time management, they build friendships, learn how to handle losses, etc.) I’m pretty sure sports could overrun our lives, though, if I didn’t set a few ground rules.

The first ground rule is to follow our family priority list. I read somewhere the importance of making a priority list for your family. (And honestly, I can’t remember where, but if you’ve heard this before, please let me know and I will give proper credit!) You don’t have to hang the list on the wall in some fancy Pinterest frame, but you do have to talk about it with your kids and explain your reasoning. And no, I didn’t get my kids’ input on it. We’re not a democracy. We’re a benevolent monarchy…So, our family’s list looks like this:

  1. God
  2. Family
  3. School
  4. Sports

When there’s a schedule conflict, we hold it up to this list. For example, for some reason, Sunday mornings are no longer off-limits for meets and practices. This annoys me. Anyway, if a Sunday meet or practice shows up on the calendar, we hold it up to the list. Is it higher in importance than their Sunday School class? Nope. So they don’t go to the meet or practice. Here’s how it’s helpful: we are being consistent with our priorities as a family. If I had to make a decision every time we had a schedule conflict, there would be so much whining, arguing, and inconsistency. When I use this list, I’m not making a decision. We are just observing where things fall on the priority list and proceeding accordingly. I don’t think I could handle having to make the call every time.

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Recharging Your Batteries Isn’t an Option, It’s a Necessity

by Susan Silverman

Motherhood—and parenthood in general—is hard. Period. End of story. I know this isn’t rocket science. We have read countless books, articles, blogs, and websites that say this. In this 24-7 unpaid career (I am referring to financial payment, not the payment we get in wet kisses and too tight hugs), we put our families first—first comes our children then our significant others. In last place, we put ourselves; but only if we have enough energy, time, or even willpower.

I have said to my husband regularly, and unfortunately to myself, “I can’t go to the gym because Little One needs dinner.” Or “LO won’t let me out of her sight. How can I go for a manicure/see friends/take a walk around the neighborhood?” Yup, these are common statements for the last two years. Much of it has to do with not trusting my husband with our child (which is my fault); but as parents—and specifically as a mother—it is engrained that we come last to the needs of everyone else.

But I’m here to tell you that taking care of yourself is more important. Without having a healthy you—physically, spiritually and emotionally—you don’t have a healthy family. Period. We all need to make time for ourselves. And believe me, this is so difficult, which is why I’m holding up a mirror as I write this. The fancy-dancy term for this is “recharging your batteries.”

As I have written previously, I live in the United Kingdom due to my spouse’s civilian job with the Department of Defense. The most challenging part of this life is the lack of family, friends or mom’s group to rely on to give me a hand, especially when I need just an hour to myself.

Last summer I was lucky to find that our military base had a daycare spot available for the summer. (As background, children at this daycare are enrolled full time and parents are charged for it. However, if an enrolled child goes on vacation, their spot can be made available for others to rent.) My husband and I jumped at the opportunity.

Before I continue, let me address the elephant in the room. Yes, I am a stay-at-home-mum and yes, my husband and I put our child in daycare for the summer. As a woman who chose to give up her professional career and is part of the United States military life overseas, I am seen as my husbands’s wife” or LO’s mother”—nothing more. When our family followed my husband’s career overseas, I gave up my professional identity to being a full-time-mum, a job I love but it is just not all of who I am. There is more to me than being a mum.

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Love & Load-Sharing or the Art of Communicating about Dirty Laundry

With the smell of wilting roses and conversation hearts still permeating the air, it’s time to talk about love. Not the Hallmark kind that inspired your partner to present said tokens of affection. Not the pheromone-induced kind that led to the progeny with whom you spent the last week cutting out hearts or addressing valentines. I’m talking about the nitty-gritty daily affection you show (and hopefully receive from) those other humans with whom you share your life. Love made visible every day via 1000 acts of service, small and large, manifested in meals served, toilets cleaned, cars serviced, groceries purchased, papers filed, trash taken out, schedules managed, errands run, laundry washed, folded, and (in cases of extreme adoration) put away.

There is no measure for love. It’s impossible to say with any degree of certainty, or at least with any scientific backing, that one person’s love for someone is greater than another’s. And hopefully you and your partner love each other equally. Yet, when you consider those 1000 acts of service rendered in the name of love, do they divide as evenly?

If not, you’re not alone. How many couples have you heard complain about the same thing: one partner ‘nags’; the other is ‘lazy.’ Yet, I’m willing to bet that few of these relationships began with these troubles. At one time it was Hallmark moments and pheromone-induced highs. Now both sides feel trapped by perceptions. And as they say at the CIA, “perception is reality.”

Because whether you both work full time, part-time, from home, or not at all, the issue of divvying up chores is frequently more loaded than the washing machine. All you have to do is type “load sharing” into your browser’s search bar, and you know right away you’ve hit a hot-button issue. There are sites that offer practical charts or lists designed to make it easier to  more evenly distributing the load. Faith-based family groups and feminists address roles within a household, frequently seeking to redistribute the mental or emotional loads more equitably.

Forget about balancing the load for a minute. How do you even discuss it when the topic is so fraught? Religious or feminist perspectives aside, figuring out who’s putting in how much effort around the house can feel like comparing apples to bananas. Cleaning the toilet may be grosser than tossing the towels in the washer, but it takes less time than sorting, washing, drying, folding and putting those towels away. Vacuuming and lawn mowing may look similar to some, but when you check out frequency and duration of time spent, or total surface area maintained, there may be some big differences. Does staying on top of car maintenance equal staying on top of sports schedules? Is filing equivalent to meal prep? What about the dishes?!?

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