Like so many working moms, I “struggle with the juggle”: being a parent, a partner, and an employee fills up my brain to overflowing on a regular Tuesday. Add another commitment in there – even a small one – I need to rearrange everything to accommodate it. Many people seem to be able to handle it. I am not one of those people.
There’s a lot of talk about self-care right now pertaining to educators (and humans in general), and it’s making me an ace at saying no, even though I don’t like doing it.
“Sorry, I can’t volunteer/ chaperone /attend all the things at my kids’ dance/ Girl Scouts/ PTA/ soccer, etc.”
I don’t like shirking responsibility, and don’t like that it makes me look like I don’t want to be involved.
A woman I really respect asked me to serve as a secretary for the Parent-Teacher Organization, expressing that they would really be lucky to have me. My reply: “I can barely remember to put pants on these days, let alone hold a commitment. But really, I appreciate being asked- thank you!” I am using humor to deflect, and to demonstrate one inaccurate message:
“Trust me. You don’t want me involved.”
Yes, that is self-deprecating, and it’s not the truth: I have plenty of gifts I can share with others to help out. I run the risk of not being trusted, large-scale. I just haven’t found a good way to decline.
When my children were small, I barely maintained a schedule of working from home and getting my children where they needed to be: daycare, preschool, to my parents’ house 45 minutes away…whatever. Time shuffling schedules created anxiety resulting in piecemeal hours worked, forgetting important events for both my kids and my work, and me barely able to keep track of what day it was. To say that I was “spinning” is an understatement: I managed to be at about 50% on any given day in any number of my life roles, which falls between “questionable sanity” and “part-time human” on the Juggle Meter.
I don’t consider my commitment-phobia selfish. It’s my way of helping to maintain balance.
The folks who DO show up and get things done have my complete support and admiration. Their hard work directly benefits my kids and all of us in my community. They work long hours to contribute and create and set up and take down because people like me are not available. They carry the weight of everyone and do all the things so that the community at large can boast carnivals, movie nights, PRIDE picnics, neighborhood gatherings, and information nights. I am grateful and humbled to live in a place where these are the norm because of all the wonderful folks who step up.
Sometimes, we as teachers and humans have to own the reality that we are the only person to live our lives and maintain all of the responsibility that entails. Saying no to commitments very rarely means that we don’t want to be involved, that we don’t think our person-power is important and needed, or that we believe we don’t have anything to contribute. It means that we are trying to practice our own sense of self-care by “securing our own oxygen mask” before helping others. For someone like me, not stepping in to help makes my life manageable, and I am forever grateful for those who do the hard and gratifying work of providing so many wonderful opportunities.