Before I became a mom (even before I became a wife), I read a book that impacted me in countless ways: Boundaries by Cloud & Townsend. I read it at a time when I was allowing my teaching position in the classroom to take over my life – a little too much in ways – and Cloud & Townsend’s book challenged me in a handful of specific areas. As a result, I was inspired to make some much needed changes in my life, and I am still reaping the benefits of how the truths in that book grew me!
In my current role at home, the day-to-day scenarios are different, but my basic struggles are still the same:
I want to say YES to everyone!
I want to be DOING…constantly!
You would think that – over time – I would have realized that it’s impossible to say YES to everyone (and keep my sanity), and when I’m always DOING, I’m not at my best; but I am still learning and growing in these areas, and if I’ve learned anything about personality, it’s that I will probably always struggle with these things.
Different stages of motherhood have required different things from me, but each season has required me to reevaluate – setting thoughtful boundaries. Left unchecked, I’ve found myself in a mess, but when I’ve given intentional consideration (and prayer!) to my specific situation at the time, I’ve been able to enjoy a feeling of balance…and sense of peace. Yes, that is actually possible in a house full of kids!
I’ll let you in on a couple of scenarios from recent years.
When I had my first baby, I struggled to settle in to what the day-to-day would look like for me. Becoming a mother was a dream come true, but I had difficulty adjusting to my new normal. After a handful of months, I began to be more considerate of what I was going to need for myself as I journeyed into a different stage of life.
First of all, I realized that I needed to be more willing to ask for help (I’ve never been good at that! Remember, I’m naturally a DOER!), and I also found myself craving more interaction with people (Oh, how I missed the day-to-day banter with my co-workers!). So, I started spending more time in the grocery store – talking to all the elderly men in the produce department (I’m not kidding.)…I began taking my little one to Story Time at the library…I started meeting friends at the park…and I signed up for a couple of morning programs where there was a class for my kiddo and a class (and freshly made coffee) for me. It didn’t take me long to realize that these kinds of things were going to be incredibly beneficial for me AND my little tyke, and I started really enjoying our new day-to-day rhythms.
I loved our little outings together.
I was grateful he was getting to attend fun programs designed just for him.
And I LOVED that there was freshly-made coffee designed just for me.
Life flowed this way for a few years! Even after our second little one joined the family, we continued with:
Community Bible Study on Tuesdays
Library Story Time on Wednesdays
Morning Grace on Thursdays
Play Dates at the Park on Fridays
(and chatting with elderly men at the grocery store in our spare time)
But things are a little different now! Now there are more kids in our house. We’re in a bit of a different season now where I’m homeschooling multiple ages, staying on track with therapies for my oldest daughter, juggling extra-curricular activities for everyone, etc.
The boundaries that I’m currently having to be mindful of look a bit different these days, and I’ve found myself asking the following question before I commit to something new in our schedule:
Does saying YES to this commitment benefit everyone?
And as you can imagine, the answer is oftentimes no.
Like I said, seasons change. We’ve gone through various periods of time when we could say YES more than others, but honestly, we’re pretty knee-deep in a NO season right now. How about you?
This is going to look different for each family:
There is no one-size-fits-all approach. So much depends on the ages of your children, the number of children you have, your needs, the needs of your kids, your homeschooling style, and on and on and on our differences go – but this will give you a glimpse in to our current day-to-day:
Outside Programs: The morning programs we attended when my boys were little are not a good fit for us right now: the travel, the time commitment, etc. Would saying YES to them benefit everyone right now? No. Might that change in the future? Maybe, but for right now, we’ve opted out of them, and while it was a hard decision to make, it was the best one.
Every time you say yes to something, you are saying no to something else. Choose Wisely.
– K. Hadyn
Story Times/Play Dates: It’s not that we don’t ever do these kinds of things, but they’re not something we’re consistently able to work in to our weekday plans. Our mornings are filled with school lessons and chores and music practice and playing outside – with sports activities and fun field trips being reserved for evenings and weekends when Dad can be involved.
Ministry Opportunities: My current role is one of full-time ministry at home. At this time, that is where I have been called, so that is where I can expect to find the fulfillment and joy that comes with serving. There can oftentimes be a lot of pressure for at-home moms to commit themselves elsewhere – over-extending you in ways that are not a good fit for your life with little ones.
When I give in to saying Yes! to a plethora of additional ministry opportunities, I am forced to pull away from where I have been called to serve right now, so for us, the best approach has been to pray about opportunities where David and I can serve together as couple (co-teaching a class at church) or where our whole family can minister together (delivering meals to the local Hospice House or gathering donations for our closest Crisis Pregnancy Center).
Not every opportunity is meant to be your assignment.
– from The Best Yes
Communication: One of the best things I’ve ever done is silence my tech notifications – all of them (except for the one that tells me hubby is calling my phone). Doing so has gifted me with the opportunity to be present with my family – especially during those morning hours when I’m homeschooling. My family and friends know that I’m probably not going to be available during the day, and communicating this to them has been so helpful in my being able to establish boundaries for when I am going to be available to talk, text, answer e-mail, etc.
When you say yes to something, these is less of you for something else. Make sure your yes is worth the less.
– L. Giglio
Questions to Consider:
Are you involved in an outside program that requires more than you’re able to give right now?
Do you find yourself filling your schedule with fun activities that pull you away from being able to accomplish the things you know you’ve been called to do at home?
Are there ministry opportunities that you’re saying YES to, but maybe they were actually designed for someone else to do right now?
Is there a specific someone that needs to know you’re not available during the hours you’re learning with your kids?
I once heard someone say, In order to homeschool, you actually have to be HOME. I don’t fully agree with that statement, but I understand what they were attempting to communicate. We have experienced loads of fantastic learning opportunities outside of the walls of our house, but I do think that being a home educator requires you to be present as you learn with your children, and the above boundaries that I’m personally focused on maintaining for our family right now have made all the difference in our being able to actually enjoy our homeschooling experience.
Is boundaries a harsh word? I hope it doesn’t sound that way – It’s probably just my go-to word after the Boundaries book left such an impression on me!
Moral of the Story: I don’t want to feel pulled in a million different directions. I don’t want other people’s expectations filling our calendar up for us. I don’t want my inability to say NO to impact the quality of the time I’ve been given to invest in my family. I don’t want to give my best to everyone else – leaving the leftovers for husband, my children, and my home.
Is there an area (or two) where you need to set some boundaries?
The decisions you make determine the schedule you keep. The schedule you keep determines the life you live. And how you spend your life determines how you spend your soul.
Here’s to balance (and peace) in our homes this year as we commit to saying YES to what is best and saying NO where we need to let go.