Have you ever looked around only to discover you are drowning in the chaos of your own making?
“Chaos” is the word I’d choose to describe every summer, Christmas, Thanksgiving and Easter vacation. Oh, and let’s not forget 3 day weekends. Oops, can’t fail to mention those early dismissal days either. And how can I forget every day that ends in “y”? I guess it would have been easier to say, “I live in chaos all the time.” I think I have mastered the art of “controlled chaos” but we all know that’s just code for “a hot mess with a pretty package.”
For a long time, I convinced myself I was the victim of the madness. My kids are high energy. I work from home. We don’t have any kids on our street. Our street is too busy so the boys don’t like playing outside. I’m PTA president. I’m a Room Mom. I’m the Room Mom Chair. I write a blog. My husband works late. I have to exercise to stay healthy.
I can conjure up an endless list of reasons why this whirlwind of a life which, more often than not leaves me depleted, is not my fault. The simple truth, however, is that my list of reasons is simply rational explanations for why I’m overwhelmed, angry, frustrated, exhausted and generally in a bad mood. And just so we’re all clear, I define “rational explanations” as “plausible excuses.”
And excuses they are. Because when I when look at my life, I see it is the result of a myriad of choices I make on a daily basis. Of course there are some choices that really aren’t choices. When I “choose” to feed my kids, I’m not really “choosing” to feed my kids. I know that. You know that. And we’re all pretty irritated by it. But I DO choose how to schedule my day- when I wake up, when I go to bed, when I eat. I choose when to say yes and when to say no. I choose where I want to invest my time and my money. The end result of those choices might be chaotic, but it was my chaos born from my choices. And I need to own that.
I decided this summer would be different. After last summer, loving labeled “The Summer My Wife Cried More Than She Had in Our Entire Marriage”, I knew something had to change. And in order for things to be different, I had to take a good long look at what wasn’t working and why.
I find the biggest problem with self-discovery is the amount of self I discover.
And what I discovered wasn’t so pretty. The busyness of my life was the product of those choices I mentioned. I’d like to say those they stemmed from a desire to serve, a willingness to volunteer, a strong work ethic or the desire to be healthy.
But the honest to goodness, low down dirty truth is that my choices were fueled by the amount of things on my To Do list, meetings on my calendar, and the amount of “Wow, how do you do it all’s” I received. I thrived on being Super Mom, Super Wife, Super School Volunteer.
The only thing fed by my chaotic Super life was my pride.
My family suffered. My psyche was strained past its limit. My heart was continually heavy while my mind was never at peace. The do-do-do begot more do-do-do. It was never enough because pride is like an adolescent boy… It’s always hungry, never full.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned over my almost-40 years, it’s that timing is everything. I believe in Divine Timing. Others believe life is simply Good Timing. Although it was good, it was nothing short of divine that the following post from The Hands Free Revolution showed up in my Facebook newsfeed on our very last day of school.
“Exactly two years ago, I had an epiphany. I wanted summer to be different than it had in the past. I wanted to use that time wisely, doing things that mattered with the people who mattered most. As I was figuring out how to go about it, I discovered a powerful list based on 16 years of research that revealed what kids most loved their parents to do…” (read full post here)
iscovered a powerful list based on 16 years of research that revealed what kids most loved their parents to do. I took that inspiring list and paired it with some photos of what I hoped my “Hands Free Summer” was going to look like. But let me warn you, it’s not picture perfect. It’s not too organized. It’s not efficient or productive, but I can breathe, laugh, play, and feel joy—which are impossible to do when I am tethered to a device, constantly trying to pick up the mess, and stressing over details that won’t matter five years from now. As we head into the weekend, I invite you to read (or re-read) this post. Be reminded that it’s the little things we do as parents that mean the most. Be reminded that the things our children will remember are a lot easier to do than we are sometimes lead to believe. In fact, you may already be doing some of them. May a Hands Free summer begin this weekend! Thank you for walking beside me on this journeyAt that very moment I made a decision… Our summer would be different. I would not be Super anything this summer. Vacation was going to be about Work and Family. Everything else was sidelined. And I created my own Hands Free Summer Contract to make sure of it. I gave up working out for 2 months. My floors had more dog hair than normal. And more than once I told my kids to grab a pair of shorts from their dirty clothes basket because I just couldn’t get to the laundry between beach trips and adventures with friends.
This summer I was not super… but I was my kids’ hero and that was more than enough.
My kids returned to school 2 days ago. Unfortunately Work and Family have to share the spotlight with a few others- Lunches, Homework, Football, Soccer, Chores & Permission Slips to name a few. This doesn’t lessen the value of our Hands Free Summer. In fact, it’s because of my lack of Super that I am entering this new school year more relaxed, refreshed and renewed than ever. Will life become chaotic again? You bet it will. Will it become as chaotic as it’s been in the past? I sure as heck hope not and all that self-discovering better not have been for nothing!
My hope is that as the chaos starts to build and the madness begins to swirl all around me, I am able to step back and remember what matters. I will strive to remind myself that the only people I need to impress are the ones who will see me as their hero whether I have 2 things or 20 things on my To Do List, regardless of how many hours I volunteer or how brightly my floors shine.
I’m not so super but I’m still someone’s hero.
That’s just my normal.
Lillian Connelly says
This is such a great post. I love the idea of making a contract too. It seems like when summer ends there are so many things we never got to do. I definitely need to make a list for next summer.
Debra Cole says
Loved this, Vicky.
Tarana Khan says
This is such an important point you make. Sometimes our chaos is a result of our own choices. I’d like to remember this!
Lilian I can’t encourage the contract ENOUGH!! It was so fun! And my boys loved saying, “That’s on the list” every time we did one of those things. I truly helped me stay focused on what mattered this summer. More importantly, though, was learning just how much my kids want to BE WITH ME! Truly, I thought they loved the way I always planned fun stuff for them and their friends. It was so eye opening to learn they liked those things but want to do them WITH me, not just with me planning. Best summer ever!!
Thank you, Debra! Thanks for reading. It’s so great to “see” your face and name. Miss you on the interwebs!
Hope you’ve had a great summer!
That was a definite epiphany, Tarana. As much as I was so disappointed to find I’ve been the one to make my life crazy. It was eye opening because I am also the one who can make it UNcrazy! Very empowering.
Thanks for reading and commenting!