Saturday, August 23, 2014

Doing It All

If there's one thing I've learned in life it's you simply can't do it all, at least you can't if you'd prefer to remain sane.

I'm going into my third year as department chair/teacher at a magnet high school, a job I took because I love kids and I love books and writing. It has been a rewarding change, both financially and professionally. For several years I was part-time, an attempt to keep my hand in my profession while also raising young children. Yes, part-time can be very gratifying, but I also found it to be mostly full-time work for part-time pay.

When this position opened up several years ago, I decided to take the plunge and go full-time. This is a decision I have regretted on occasion if I'm being honest. Overall, however, I don't regret it. As a woman in my late forties (at the time), I feared people would stop asking me to do important jobs if I kept saying no. So, I said yes.

As a mother I feel this has been good for my daughters. They appreciate me more. They help out more. They are interested in my work. Hopefully, I am making them think about their own future professional lives. That said, I am glad, so very glad, I had the chance to stay home with them when they were babies, to nurture and love them (not that mothers who work from the get-go don't do this!). I relish the memories of those days. My only regret is I hope I enjoyed it enough.

This blog has been about house stuff and garden stuff because I love those things, too. And I am in awe of all you blogger ladies who have hit the big-time with your blogs. Seriously, you rock! I started my blog for fun and promised myself I would not stress about the writing. As many of you know, I published three books with Penguin several years ago. For the past two years, I've been hard at work on another novel, getting up at 4:00 AM during the week so that I can write before school, working on weekend mornings, etc. Back in July my agent finally said it was time to send said book out. It's currently under "consideration," as they say. Say a prayer for me that it finds its way to the right house and the right editor.

It's important to live your dreams, my philosophy anyway. I believe God wants us to be happy, to contribute to His beautiful world in whatever way we can: class mom, avid gardener, church volunteer, teacher, writer, friend, blogger. I also believe that God wants us to take a breath, make sure we're enjoying IT (whatever that IT may be) enough. For this reason I am in the process of allowing myself to quit certain things and simply say no to others.

Recently, I politely told my priest I could no longer be a vestry member. While it was only one meeting per month, they fell on Tuesday nights, didn't start until 7:30, and sometimes didn't end until 10 PM. I only had a few more months until my term was up, but boy did I wrestle with this decision, like maybe God would strike me dead if I bowed out early. As it turns out, God didn't send a bolt of lightning my way (thank You for that), and my church seems to be perking right along without my vestry service.

Over the summer I have blogged frequently and enjoyed it a great deal. There are some bloggers I have come to know and love. Blogging is yet another thing I'm reconsidering, though. Do people really need to see my new trash can for the bathroom? Or, do they care that I've recently put a partition around my air conditioning unit? Why am I writing about such things? What exactly does this "contribute" to our world? Conversely, why would I put something as personal as this post "out there" for all (realistically very few) to see? And, yet, when X blogger does a post about a trash can, I actually read the post and even like the trash can, think maybe I'll get a similar trash can. Why do I follow such things? Because I like the blogger and her home, and this hobby of mine seems harmless enough.

Last week my husband was looking into travel lacrosse for our youngest daughter. She's a jock. Already she plays basketball and is on the gymnastics team. Her gymnastics team meets two nights per week, which was really the reason I had to drop the vestry. I said to him, "What are you doing? She's committed to gymnastics for a year. She can't do travel lacrosse, too. It's impossible." He replied, "Oh, I'm just looking."

I thought about this, about all the nights I would get stuck racing to east bumble to some lacrosse game because my oh-I'm-just-looking-into-it husband would have to work late. The next morning I said, "Just so you know, you will be solely responsible for travel lacrosse if you decide to sign her up. I won't go. I won't drive. And I won't be guilted into those things, either." I don't think he believes me. I'm not sure I believe me, but at some point I must admit I CAN'T DO IT ALL, which also translates to MY CHILDREN CAN'T DO IT ALL, EITHER.

What I've learned is that if I try to do it all, I won't enjoy any of it enough. My children won't enjoy it enough.  For now, I have a very full plate, and I want to savor each morsel. I wonder, though, why so many women guilt other women for not trying to do it all, for not being martyrs. We shouldn't do this to each other. In fact, when we meet a mother who is off to join girlfriends for a long weekend or getting her nails done or indulging in something we don't, at least not frequently, allow ourselves to do, we should stop and take note, pay attention, and then congratulate this woman who has decided to really enjoy her life. We should also learn by her example. Chance are she looks better, feels better, and is happier, which translates, most likely, to a more balanced, content home life. I'm not talking unabated self-absorption here. I'm talking normal, healthy self-care. The world we currently live in has gotten out of hand.

What this means for blogging, I can't exactly say. Will I have more posts about trash cans? Yep. I love that simple, everyday stuff, too. But in an attempt to have this blog mean something for whoever reads it, I will strive for honesty, not tell-all stuff, just posts like this one. And I will continue to whittle down my to-do list to the essentials, the really important stuff. I will also put my foot down when my husband and children are being unrealistic about what our family can do. To me, the most important thing a family can do is be together, and this does not include racing from one event/activity/commitment to the next because society makes us feel so guilty if we don't say YES to every cotton-picking thing!

Here's my NO list so far: no vestry, no middle school back-to-school night (she's in 7th, and I did it last year); no blogging unless I feel like it, no travel lacrosse. It's a start, right?

My yes list includes a book deal, fingers and toes crossed (and only if it comes from the right person), family time, dinner at the table, the occasional evening with friends, and at least one outing with a close girlfriend in the month of September. I am calling her right now so this doesn't get lost in the shuffle.

One of our American icons died recently, and after learning of his suicide, I scrawled this on our family chalkboard: "Gather ye rosebuds while ye may." One day we really will be worm food, and I fully intend to step off this crazy carnival ride called suburban American life and enjoy IT while I may.


  1. Good for you. I am past that stage in life now. But no one can do it all. Great that you are saying no. Take a little me time and also enjoy your family.

  2. Well said, my dear! We really cannot do it all but why do we always have to feel so guilty?!! I say yes to way too many fact I am in the midst of working on an annual school event that I co-chair each year. Yes, this has been the 6th year I have co-chaired it...but luckily the last! I have enjoyed doing it but it always seems like the same people volunteer all the time! I said no to something recently and restrained myself from giving a long excuse. I felt so relieved afterwards because I know if I said yes, it would have been one of those things that I dreaded! I am getting pickier and pickier about what I spend my time on and who I spend my time with lately. Maybe I am realizing what is important too! So glad to hear of your plans and your goals. You are setting a great example for your girls and you are an inspiration to us all! Good luck on the book! How exciting!
    Take care, Shelley

  3. Great post Suzanne and good luck my friend with the book...that's so exciting!! Yes we all need to say NO every now and then and NOT feel guilty about it. My oldest who is starting HS this year dances 5 nights a week and decided she wanted to try out for a sport in HS this year too...that meant practice everyday after school and one game a week...I can't tell you how I stressed over this!! Well she didn't get picked for the team she felt bad I felt bad for her but in the end I was a bit relieved! We have to set some limits otherwise it's like you said things won't be enjoyable.

    1. I have a daughter starting high school, too! Yes, it is so very stressful, and these years are flying by. I want to actually enjoy them before they are all grown up and far away. I guess having Cassie who is much older has really made me aware of this. Having our kids under one roof doesn't last forever. I'm glad you were able to preserve some sanity in your schedule. Thanks for the book support. Nothing is final, far from it, but to have it be "considered" is exciting. Fingers crossed! I hope you have a great week. xo

  4. With our age group (I'm there too) .. I do PROMISE you will feel less guilty about saying no - NOT at first. But it will come easier.


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