One trait common to all working moms: we have too many things to do and too little time to do them in. We are over-committed, over-scheduled and over-whelmed. In her book, Too Blessed to be Stressed, Debora Coty suggests that maintaining this frantic pace of life completely saps our ability to experience joy.
I was frazzled – far too busy, allowing my frantic pace to hijack my happiness and steal my joy. I became chronically weary, trudging through my days, keeping my eyes glues to my to-to-list, driven to check off the next item. Never living in the moment but always looking ahead to the time when me schedule would magically slow down and I could finally rest.
But it didn’t happen. I continued to take on new projects, worthwhile activities, ministries that needed me. Each worthy task required planning, meetings, creative energy, and time I didn’t have.
Sound familiar? When I first read this, I felt like Ms. Coty was holding up a mirror right in front of me.
She goes on to suggest decluttering your calendar by removing any commitments you have over the next month for which your motivation is guilt or pleasing other people; anything “other than furthering your God-ordained ministry.” I am a firm believer in fulfilling any commitment I have made, so while I can’t embrace the idea of removing commitments from my calendar, I whole-heartedly agree with not taking on any new obligations that do not align with my current priorities.
A couple weeks ago, I wrote about learning to say “no” to commitments as a way to reduce working-mom guilt. Here is my three-step process for identifying what to say “no” to.
Step One: Identify Your Priorities
Each season of life is different and God calls us to focus on different things during each. Spend some time in prayer and ask God to tell you what He is currently calling you to (no more than three areas) and then write them down somewhere for future reference. For me, these are:
- Serving in the Church
- Connecting with my family
- Advancing the mission of TCU in my current role
Step Two: Consider Opportunities Before Committing
I’ve recently discovered something funny: it’s ok not to respond right away when someone asks you to do something! In the past few weeks, I have been offered two incredible opportunities which would have included a) travel and b) the opportunity to build my resume. A year or two ago, I would have simply said, “yes!” to both and asked my family for forgiveness later, but this time I asked for time to consider the prospects. I spent some time in prayer, talked to Matt and considered the areas I know God is calling me to above. Both opportunities were in direct conflict with priorities 2 and 3, so I politely declined them. It wasn’t easy (I love to please people, I have always been driven to add to my list of accomplishments and I LOVE to travel), but I know that I will be glad later when I am not struggling to balance so many commitments and can find room for some down time and some fun.
Step Three: Get Comfortable With Saying, “No”
I am the quintessential Type A personality. I have always placed a lot of value on accomplishing things; not just doing things, but doing them perfectly and on time (or early if possible). I have always believed that with enough determination I could do it all! I viewed anything short of being Mother of the Year, named to a 40 Under 40 list (running out of time on this one) and achieving world peace as some sort of failure and I do NOT fail. But I am slowly learning that a life lived for accomplishment is empty and meaningless, completely devoid of joy. It leaves me no time to look for birds with my daughter or do puzzles with my son; to just sit outside and read a book without thinking about the eight million things still on my to-do list. So instead of weak and unaccomplished, I am choosing to re-frame saying “no” to opportunities as wise and discerning.
I’m going to leave all that conquering-the-world stuff to the twenty-somethings who don’t have kids yet.