It was dinner time again, and my four kids were all around me, asking me a million questions. Meanwhile, I hadn’t prepared dinner. I was frantically gluing little decorations to the “Pinterest perfect” handouts I had created for my scout meeting that night. I’d spent an hour pouring over pictures online and another two hours gathering supplies and gluing them together. My brain hurt.
I looked at my oldest son and said, “Make everyone sandwiches. I’ll be back in two hours.” I gathered up my adorable handouts and left. As I backed out of the driveway, I let out a sigh of relief. All was silent.
Then I heard it — a tiny voice in my head. “What are you trying to prove? Just give it up!” I bristled to fight back, but I knew the little voice was right.
With my adorable handouts in hand, I marched into the meeting. It went perfectly. Everyone was impressed. As I left, someone mentioned how great I was with the committee. Guilt flooded that secret place in my heart where tears are stored. I barely made it to my car before those tears rained down.
“How great I was with the committee.” More like how not great I felt about all the time I spent putting everything together, the time my family spent suffering as I went overboard. I had just left my family high and dry for another night while I tried desperately to convince some committee that I was totally put together, on top of everything. What was I trying to prove?
At that moment, I realized that if I’d let my family down, there was no point in succeeding anywhere else. When I let my family down, I let God down, He who entrusted me with such beautiful spirits.
When I got home, I apologized for my misdirection. I promised I would put our family — and myself — before anything else. Though I will always have responsibilities outside my home, I promised to always give my family my best effort.
Here is what I learned
Do not compare your life to anyone else’s — not your house, your hair, your amazing baby shower invites or the amount of crumbs collecting under your couch.
No one should expect you to ignore your family’s needs, including your employer, your best friend or your church.
Saying “no” isn’t letting someone down; it’s giving someone else the opportunity to serve.
Putting your family first and putting your home in order creates peace in your soul and decreases anxiety.
Simplifying — not complicating — assignments outside of the home actually helps you learn more, focusing on what is really important in the assignment. Simplify your social obligations, your church obligations and your job.
Here is what I vowed to change
I will make sure my responsibilities at home are taken care of first.
I will make sure my needs are met before I volunteer to help others.
I will not create more work for myself by going “over the top” on assignments I have been given.
I will simplify my lifestyle and live within my means.
I will choose a job that respects my first and greatest responsibility: my family.
I look back at my working mother. Our house wasn’t always clean, but my mother was at every baseball and football game. If I was singing, her face was in the audience. She balanced the “have to’s” of work with the “need to’s” of family.
My mother shared something with me that, as a child, I had been unaware of. She’d had many difficult discussions with employers, taking jobs with less pay, less glamour, even ending her education early so that she could be home with me and my siblings. She worked her schedule around ours in every way she could.
Let’s all take a look at ourselves — at our Pinterest boards for school Halloween parades and church Christmas parties — and ask, “What are we trying to prove? What is really important? What is manageable? Are we going overboard?”
Then, let’s take a breath, and start finding things to give up.