Monday, October 14, 2013

It's Time.

What’s coming down the pipeline today is the result of months of overcommitment, but it was a simple shoe mishap (I’ll explain later) this past week that finally forced me to pull the trigger.

My experience with PTOs, school fundraising, and parent volunteers is limited – two years of preschool, followed by kindergarten and now first grade for Will (Hallie’s three years of preschool overlapped with Will’s last year of preschool and first two years in elementary school) – but it seems to me that during the four short years I’ve been involved, parent participation has decreased overall.

I don’t blame parents for saying “no” when the PTO calls or when information about yet another school fundraiser comes home in backpacks. Between work and school and sports and lessons and clubs and the daily responsibilities that come with just living, who has time for more?

I have this magnet on my refrigerator. Seeing
it everyday clearly isn't doing me any good.
Apparently I do. Except I don’t.

I want my children to see me in the halls of their schools. I want them to know that their education and  - and by extension, they themselves - matters to me, so much so that I'm willing to invest my time and energy in strengthening their schools' academic and extracurricular programs, supporting their teachers, and raising money to provide them and their classmates with upgraded technology, access to online educational programing, physical education equipment, and the opportunity to participate in field trips. And so I step up.

But I step up for another reason as well.

I step up because I feel like it’s my responsibility to do so. I don’t work full-time outside the home, so I should be the one to work in the classroom, coordinate class parties, and volunteer for school fundraisers. I should be the one to pick up the slack.

Shouldn’t I?

But here's the thing…I don’t necessarily work part-time because I’d rather do that than work full-time. One of the primary reasons I work part-time because my husband’s job requires him to work at least 70 hours a week. If he only worked 40 hours a week he could take on a larger role with the kids and at home (to his credit, he contributes a lot given the amount of “free” time available to him), but he doesn’t and so he can’t. 

My most important job is to keep our family and our home afloat. But because it isn’t a full-time, outside-the-home, paying position, I feel the need to cover every school-related volunteer gap…the number of which are ever-increasing because parents are overworked and stressed and finally saying “no”. I keep saying “yes” to others and falling short when it comes to buoying those closest to me.

I’m not looking for pity – I created the circumstance in which I find myself all on my own. And I’m not looking for free time to sit around at home eating bon bons and watching soap operas. (Though that does sound nice…)

But I do need a little time to tackle a few of the home projects that have been waiting more than a year for me. I’d very much like the time to weed the yard and trim the bushes, to sort through the kids’ winter clothes and figure out what I need to purchase for them before it gets cold outside, to sort and file the three months worth of paperwork sitting on my desk, to start my Christmas shopping, or to just sit for an hour and enjoy a cup of coffee with a friend.  

And I’d love a little time to actually pursue this writing thing. Yes, I write for the American Red Cross and for MomsEveryday, and I post here on Chasing Roots every weekday, but I want to take this very part-time job to the next level and I have absolutely no time to make it happen.

I feel discombobulated, like I did back in March, but now with stress added in. It’s not a good feeling, and so something has to give.

First, I need to say “yes” less and “no” more. This will be particularly difficult in the coming weeks and months, as the period of time between the beginning of October and Christmas is already brimming with school parties and fundraisers, but I worry about what I’m going to turn into if I don’t slow down. (Just last week I committed to three new school-related projects.) At the same time, I worry about what people will think of me when they ask me for help and I turn them down.

Second, I need to prioritize. We don’t have to do everything, be everywhere. Halloween and Thanksgiving and Christmas will still be wonderful seasons and holidays even if we don’t attend every party, parade, and festival.

And third, I need to cut back…here. I really don’t want to go this route, but unless I write less here, I’ll never write more somewhere else. So at least for the remainder of the calendar year, my plan is to post here on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I may periodically post on Tuesdays and Thursdays, or I may throw up links to our family blog (where I post on Tuesdays and Thursdays) or pieces I've written for MomsEveryday and the Red Cross, but I’m giving myself permission to skip those two days in order to work on other writing projects, fulfill my previously-made commitments to my kids’ schools, and enjoy the upcoming holiday season.

Whether this is your first or 500th visit to Chasing Roots, thank you for stopping by. Thank you for reading and laughing and crying and commenting and following (if you don't already follow Chasing Roots and would like to do so, just click on "Join this site" under Followers on the right-hand side of the page) and sharing. I look forward to checking in with you again on Wednesday, when I’m hopefully a little saner.


  1. It's such a hard balancing act! I respect you for knowing yourself and being able to prioritize. I totally understand where you're coming from and have a feeling we could talk for hours about the writing/freelancing/mothering life. It's a great mix we've got, but it's sometimes really hard to find any sense of balance. You're not alone, my friend! I hope you're able to find a more manageable pace that's right for you.

  2. No matter how often you say yes or no the people you help will be thankful that you are even willing to be asked. Don't worry about saying no, we know that even when you can't help you wish you could.