Dear Moms: Sometimes It's OK to Drop a Ball (or Two)

Part of our job as a mother is to be chief juggler for our family’s interests. There are bills to pay, groceries to purchase, carpools to run, more ballet shoes to purchase for those feet that just keep growing—and on the list goes! In our family, I am the organizer of almost everything that impacts our day-to-day living and, like most moms, some weeks the to-do list is longer than the hours-in-a-day list.

Our church hosted a conference a few weeks ago. My husband is a pastor, so he had important roles to play, and I spent a good chunk of the week helping in the nursery. I realized my priorities for the week had to change when the hour-long dinner break began on the first day. The morning was so rushed that I did not get any food in the crockpot. The laundry pile was threatening to leave us all naked (literally!) the very next day, and at 15-weeks pregnant, I desperately wanted a nap! Something had to give, so we marched ourselves to McDonald’s for a quick and cheap dinner and I threw in a load of laundry with enough clothes to get us through the week before I went to bed that night. Phew, week salvaged!

I am sure you have had that kind of week before—maybe that is your normal schedule. Moms today all feel the pressure to keep spotless homes, feed our families only organic food, recycle, get our kids to a million extra curricular activities, and look perfectly put together while doing it. Pinterest engages us in a constant battle of one-upmanship, forcing us all to be crafty (or pay someone crazy money to make it look as if we are), just to keep up with others.

So, here is your permission: Sometimes you have to drop a ball. We are only human and we are all confined to mere twenty-four hour days.

Next page: Some guidelines I use to decide what gets to be neglected on our busiest of days

1. Overhaul your monthly commitments

The first step in taming the calendar is an assessment of everything on it. I find it is easy to commit to things because they sound like something we should be doing, but later realize those activities are just causing stress. One great suggestion (from Joanna Weaver’s book, Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World) is to make a list of every item on your calendar. Write it all down: soccer league, book study, story time, volunteering as class mom, etc. Then write down how important each activity is using a scale of 1 to 5 (1 being most important, 5 being the least). While mom and dad make the final call on what stays and what goes, ask the kids about their interest in each activity as well. Then eliminate anything over a 3 on the priority-meter. You are probably involved in a few things that are not really important to you.

2. Decide what things at home matter most

My husband is, by nature, extremely laid back, but I have learned there are limits to his carefree spirit. One thing that matters to him is having a picked up living room at the end of the day. I do not need to vacuum, dust, or go crazy—simply having my toddler put his toys away at the end of the day is a huge encouragement to my husband because then he can really relax during an evening at home. Wiping down the bathroom sink is one of the things that makes me happy, so that is a priority to me. Our family is happy with a clean living room floor and a clean bathroom sink, so if I cannot make the rest of the house spotless every day, I can stop worrying about it. Find out what encourages your family the most and make those things the priority.

3. Know where your budget can stretch

Our family’s daily schedule is often changed at a moment’s notice. One of the ways we stay on track is by being familiar with the monthly budget and knowing where there is wiggle room. During our busy conference week I did not have the energy to make lunch and dinner every morning, so we decided to use most of the month’s eating out budget to get us through the week. Identifying where there is flex room can help fill voids when the pace of life creates them. Some weeks I need to stay up late to wash some laundry, other weeks the clothing budget is in good shape and I can just buy new underwear and ignore the laundry heap for another day. Keeping a running tally of your finances can help to keep you from extra stress when a few extra dollars could easily pinch hit.

4. Recruit accountability help

My sounding board when I need to decide if we can fit one more thing in the schedule is my husband. My mom set an amazing example of keeping up with a full calendar, but I did not inherit her ability to function on minimal sleep. I have limitations and my husband has witnessed the stress I get when I try to stretch myself too thin, so he helps me realistically analyze if I can take on one more thing and tells me when something has to go. You need to find that person who can look you in the eye and tell you when you are doing too much.

5. Take your schedule one week at a time

My last guideline is the best to keep from getting overwhelmed. Write everything down on the calendar and know what you need to plan ahead for (instead of forgetting you need a pet sitter over Thanksgiving less than a week before the holiday … oops), but focus most on what is happening on this week’s agenda. I can get overwhelmed easily, and looking at an entire month’s worth of plans can quickly take my mind off of what needs done right now. Every Sunday I review the calendar, make sure rides are established, groceries have been purchased, and bills have been paid. Pick a day to plan for the next week, and then rest confidently, knowing that the week will take care of itself.

So, now is the time to decide which of the juggling balls you need to put down for good and which ones get a rest for the week. Then spend the extra time soaking in moments with the ones you love the most. Those are the memories you will treasure years from now, not whether the house was spotless or dinner was takeout again.