In recent weeks I have had at least three conversations with friends about knowing one's limits and not being ashamed of them. I think I am finally realizing that it is ok to protect one's sanity, family time and say no to some things. I have spent so much time comparing myself to other women. "Why can't I juggle more activities, like J?" "Why do I get so stressed when I multi-task? D can do it with ease." You get the picture.
I have a friend who is constantly taking on more and more. She, at one point, was working full-time at night, while taking college classes during the day and caring for her family, which at the time included 2 kids (now it includes 4). Sadly, but not surprisingly, the stress and schedule took its toll physically and mentally and she had a bit of a breakdown. The really scary part, at least to me, is that she didn't really come away from the experience any wiser about her limits. She still seems to be trying to prove that she can do it all.
Though I can clearly see how unhealthy her attitude is, when I talk to her for any length of time, her thinking starts to rub off on me a bit. I begin to wonder why I can't handle more. Why I can't put more on my plate and cope? Of course, I remind myself that she ISN'T really coping, but still, it bothers me that I have that tendency to measure myself by how much I can get done.
Just tonight, it was brought home to me once again that I need to trust my instincts and honor my limitations. Months ago a friend asked me to teach the teen girls some really simple jewelry-making. I initially said no, because the activity would take place on a Wed. night and I would have to bring my kids, since Bil is working nights now. This would not only be stressful for me, but it would push their bedtime back an hour. And my kids don't do all that well if they don't get adequate sleep.
Yet, still, I said ok. I decided it wouldn't be too big of a deal. I could handle it.
And I did, but in the end it didn't seem worth it. Tommy fussed for the better part of the evening. It was well past his bedtime and he was exhausted. Danny and Charlotte were ok, but I was worried the whole night, because Danny and another boy there don't always play that well together. They are very much alike and tend to get too rough with each other. The whole time I was showing the girls how to finish off their bracelets, I was trying to soothe Tommy, while also periodically peeking outside to make sure no one was dead. I was stressed. I was tired. I just wanted to get the kids home and in bed where they belonged so I could relax. Have some peace and quiet.
I know it wasn't something that would stress some other people out, but this is exactly the kind of activity that is hard for me. This is also the reason why I rarely have people over for dinner. It is too hard for me to juggle the kids, converse with the guests, make the food and actually have fun.
This was a bit of an epiphany tonight: I can do these things. I am perfectly capable of juggling multiple activities and chores, but the likelihood of me enjoying myself while doing so is practically nonexistent. I get overwhelmed and frustrated and then often take the stress out on my family.
And, you know? That's ok. This is who I am, and as much as I am trying to change and become a better person, I just don't think this part of me will change anytime soon. I don't think I will ever be the kind of person who thrives in a really hectic, noisy setting. I like peace and quiet and calm. I don't like chaos.
Obviously, as a mother, chaos is part of the job, and again, I can handle it, but it is definitely not my state of choice. I like to make plans and be prepared. I like to have down-time and days where I am not expected to be social. I like to be alone sometimes. I really like some semblance of order and work so much better in that type of environment.
While I used to think these attributes were signs of weakness, signs that I can't handle enough, I am beginning to recognize that a mature person knows her limits. A healthy woman can say no to things even when her reasons seem totally insignificant to other people. It doesn't matter that any other person at church could have dealt with tonight with ease. I get stressed at these things. I know this and I need to start acknowledging it.
I know a certain amount of stress comes with life. I am not recommending eliminating it completely. I guess what I am in favor of is really considering whether the stress is worth it. Is it worth it to my family or my sanity to do a particular activity? Sometimes the answer would be yes.
And other times, like tonight, the answer would be no. And, you know? That is OK.