Simplify – that word has as much buzz right now as essential oils. Maybe it’s winter. Maybe it’s that a good number of people are actually admitting that they are exhausted. I admitted my own exhaustion 4 ½ years ago when I stopped teaching my kids at home and filled out the papers for public school. At the time, I felt like a failure. I looked around me and there were all these other moms that could pull it off – along with swim team, club soccer, traveling baseball, dance team, etc… And of course, many of them were growing organic food in their backyard or raising chickens or dashing off to foreign lands to adopt children or build clean water sources for African school children or some other mind-blowing venture. I couldn’t get my kids to finish their math workbooks, and all the plants in my house were dead or dying.
So, I stopped, or at least i slowed WAY down. I still had stuff going on, but I can’t begin to list how many things I cut. If most moms saw the empty space on my calendar today, they would either die of envy or sneer with scorn at my obvious laziness. Believe me when I say my empty calendar is not a source of pride. I am confessing that I just can’t do it. I don’t have the energy – physically, emotionally, spiritually. And honestly, my days are still quite full, just not full of lists and set activities.
Every now and then, I’ll hear it from my son that he wishes I had put him in tennis at 7 because he would be higher up the ladder. And there are nights when my daughter mumbles at me under her breath because I am not willing to drive her 30 minutes away for volleyball skills training 3 times a week. But I think my kids need this time and space too. Maybe they just inherited this need from me, but I think it’s more than that. They have so much thrown at them at school and from the media and from their own developing brains that they desperately need room to unwind it all and to process. Sometimes, we need to be free for those big conversations that require a lot of time and space. When I realize it’s been a while since I really talked with my kids about something significant, I know it’s time to step back and see what’s crowding us.
Sometimes it is lonely. There are many days when I am free to enjoy a walk or lunch with a friend, but it is really hard to find anyone else with time for that. My kids often have time to play at the park or hit tennis balls on the weekend, but the rest of the world is booked solid. It’s good to keep that in mind if you intend jump on the simplify bandwagon. You won’t fit in the stream of things, and the quiet can be a little haunting at times.
There is no moral to this story. I watch some of my friends from afar and they seem to be much better at juggling than me. Some families seem to be thriving while fitting 10 times the activities that we do into any given week. What I would say is that it is a good thing for everyone to evaluate every now and then.
If you do feel that you are drowning, try being absolutely ruthless for a season. By ruthless, I do not mean that each of your 2, 3, or 4+ kids gets to pick one activity (on top of their obviously vital music lessons). I mean go for the calendar kill – NOTHING that is not necessary to core education and basic health. Maybe just for 1 semester – just to see – just to breathe. Check out Bill Hybel’s book Simplify: Ten Practices to Unclutter Your Soul. Also, read this fantastic article by Louis M. Profeta MD. If you live around here and things get too quiet, maybe we can go on a walk!
A note to my NJ friend Roslind. Thank you for modeling a simpler way for me and showing me the joy of doing life with a friend. I still miss you – 6 years later! Can you believe it? Still hoping we get to be neighbors in heaven.