Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The New "Just Say NO!"

The other day I had one of those moments that stopped me in my tracks. My son asked me why I am so mad all the time.


The answer I gave him, was that I am not mad, I am frustrated. There was a lot of babbling about being busy and asking the kids to help out, and there was a lot of apologizing and making sure he knew that I was not mad at him or his sisters.

The truth is I am mad.

I am mad because I am totally out of time. I know this is the mantra of modern living, but it's true. I usually function on about 4 or 5 hours of sleep. Either because I didn't actually make it to my bed before 1 or 2 AM or I got into bed early and then laid awake thinking of everything I was supposed to do and didn't get done, and what won't get done tomorrow so I can finish up today's stuff.

I am a stay at home mom. My job is running the house and keeping the family going. My husband owns his own business and works long hours. At the moment we ( my husband and I and our 4 kids) are living in a house that is going through a renovation. So I have all the cooking. cleaning, laundry basics to deal with in a house that is caked with drywall dust and covered in plastic sheeting. Then of course you have all the extra-curricular the kids are involved in.

Get ready this is where I start to lose my mind.

My mother was fond of saying that a busy kid is a happy kid. I have found this to be true. What is driving me nuts is having a busy kid means that I have to be a totally overscheduled parent. It isn't all the taxi-ing around that I find annoying it's the endless requests to volunteer. It all seems so simple when your child comes home and asks to play soccer or hockey or whatever. Hang-on, because you will barely be finished filling out the registration form when someone will start to tell you how they need parents to help coach the team or be referees or sit on the executive. They all have the same pitch. The only way they can keep costs down and offer this fabulous program to all of these kids is with the help of parent volunteers. It is only one or two hours a week. You are going to be at the field/arena anyway.

This year things have spiraled out of control around here with volunteering. Between hockey, dance, the school's parent council we average about 36 volunteer hours a month. That is above and beyond attending the games or shuttling kids to and from lessons. Right now we are lucky to have one meal a week together as a family. This week the kids will have Valentine's parties at school. They have all asked me to bake either cookies or cupcakes for their classes, so now I need to find a couple of hours beyond the time already spoken for.

My husband usually works from 8 AM-6:30 PM. Two of my kids are in school full time, a third is in JK half days, and the baby is still home. My oldest daughter dances 3 days a week, my son has hockey 2-3 days a week, and has cub scouts once a week, and my 4 year old dances once a week. Now try and schedule in the birthday parties and play dates that every kid gets invited too. Of course there is a lot of overlap which means one parent is home with kids who aren't in an activity at that time, or those kids are home with a baby-sitter who is getting $10 an hour.

I helped out at Cub Camp last month and then last week my son's cub scout leader asked if I would be interested in becoming a leader. "it doesn't take much time, just the meetings and maybe an hour in planning time." That would bring us to 46 hours a month. The hockey people are already making a pitch to have my husband more involved next year. The organizations we are involved with love us. People who know us through our kids activities are always telling us what great parents we are. But my son thinks I'm mad at him all the time.

Here is the plan, I am going to say no to cubs, and hockey is just going to have to find another superhero. There are dozens of kids in these activities, and yet I keep seeing the same few faces during all of our volunteer time. I am stepping down, or at least back. There will be less of my cookies on the bake sale table, and there will be a new face on the bench at hockey games next year. Either some other parent is going to step up and help share the load or the activity will fold due lack of interest ( highly unlikely by the way) and if that happens it means I'm the only one who cared so who was I killing myself for anyway?

Then I can spend more time at home relaxed and happy with my favorite people in the whole world.


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