Monthly Archives: November 2015

Look for the Helpers, They’re Overworked and Bleary-eyed

Me wearing a Cub Scout leader uniform

“Good God, what have I done?”

What do the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man, Baymax from Big Hero 6, and a panda have in common? They’re all overstuffed with cuteness! Want to know what’s not overstuffed with cuteness? My calendar. It is a bloated beast of an overachieving obsessive compulsive need to be needed.

Need me to watch your kids for a couple of hours? Sure! Need me to volunteer for your slot at church? Not a problem! Need me to organize, lead, and recruit for the Cub Scout pack? Why not? I’m already not sleeping much because I’m up at 4 am stressing out about all the crap I have to do.

Before I had kids, I would read “O Magazine” and marvel at article after article encouraging women to just say no to the endless requests to volunteer and host some event or another. What could be so hard about saying no?

Now my Google calendar is packed with the typical swim lessons, martial arts classes, Cub Scout meetings, Girl Scout meetings, and volunteering at school. In addition, the unwritten calendar in my head is swimming with “help kids do their homework,” “practice Zach’s speech therapy,” “get Kaylee to practice sight words and phonics,” feed the dogs, walk the dogs, do laundry, buy groceries, etc. and etc. So naturally, when I read there was an upcoming Girl Scouts ice-skating event, I jumped at the chance to squeeze in one more activity!

Thank God the troop leader told me the event was already full. We do so much for Zach because he’s older and started many of his activities before Kaylee could walk that I feel like I owe it to her to do stuff that’s just for her. She’s oblivious of course. She just wants me to play with her and do pretty much whatever she tells me to.

I realize there’s a certain egotism to constantly volunteering and offering to help other people. Look at me, I’m Mrs. Dependable and selfless as a saint! I still have the email where my friend called me a “rock star” on Facebook for watching one of her kids in the morning then the other kid in the afternoon. It does feel really good sometimes to be helpful. Or to accomplish a ridiculous number of errands in a short span of time. It’s also exhausting and depleting.

Sometimes I overcompensate by playing a word search video game (yes, I’m a word nerd) for an hour or two past my bedtime. It’s like a big (Mike Myers’ Scottish-accented) “Fuck yer!” to the universe. “Ha ha, I am accomplishing absolutely nothing right now! What I’m doing is totally useless and self-sabotaging!” Go, me!

The thing is, other people really do need help. Schools, churches, Scouts, family, and friends often need warm bodies, photocopies, food, or a shoulder to cry on. I’ve volunteered at events before and felt what I imagine is like “being in the trenches,” where you know you’re accomplishing with a handful of people what really ought to take dozens more to do. You know if you leave early it falls on the shoulders of even fewer people to do the rest.

So, what should you do to not overstuff your calendar the way I do? “Fifik.” That’s my friend’s acronym for “fuck if I know.” Just kidding. No, not really. So far, procrastinating helps. Letting email fall farther and farther down the queue to where you forget you ever received it works. Being consistently and reliably incompetent probably works too, but I’m so afraid of failure I can’t bring myself to try it. My friend did give me a good phrase to use whenever someone asks for volunteers, “Sorry, I’m already overcommitted.”

I’ve structured my life so that I’m needed by a lot of people and a few animals. I guess what I have to remember is that I need me too. I need me to go to bed on time. I need me to go to the gym and work out for an hour three times per week. I need me to use my sociopathic charm to recruit more helpers and delegate some of the workload. I need to remember that just because I can provide so many enrichment opportunities for my kids doesn’t mean I have to provide every single one. Sure, they’ll miss out on a fun event here and there, but they already have rich, full lives. Because I’m their mom, and I am overstuffed with awesomeness. Hmm, maybe that’s why these pants feel kinda tight.

How do you keep yourself from scheduling too many things?

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