What to Do: Less

What to Do: Less


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At the start of every school year my mom tells me, “Now, Lee, don’t sign up for all those things you usually do; it’s way too much.” She’s right.  Every year I seem to find myself in a needlessly stressful string of to do’s and activities. So today I’m giving myself a pep talk about not overextending myself (and my children!) and sharing some things I’ve learned over the past few years. 

When my daughter first started preschool, I was an eager beaver mommy, itching to volunteer for all sorts of school things and ready to sign up her for soccer and ballet and whatever I else I thought you were supposed to do at age three.

I think a lot of moms are like this for their oldest child, especially the super women of my generation. Many are ready to be part of a community, to get to know other moms, and to figure out their place in the world for the next 12-15 years.

But after having several years of signing up for too many things – for both my children and myself – I have come to these conclusions:

1. There are moms out there who really thrive and get a lot of joy in being the PTA president or the chair of the Spring Carnival, but I’ve learned I’m not one of them. If you are like me, don’t let your guilt complex run your life and sign up for things your heart isn’t in. Trust me, it’s a disservice to the people that really want to be involved. There’s no shame in signing up for the smaller jobs.

2. Volunteer jobs that are so-much-work- you-probably-should-be-getting-paid-for-them-jobs should not fall upon mothers of young children, many with babies at home. once met a mom in a hospital waiting room who told me she  was so irritated that her child’s elementary school encouraged moms to spend 8-10 hours a week at her child’s school, serving lunch, working the library, monitoring play time. She was fed up because she had a one and three year old at home as well and was dragging them up there or having to pay for sitters. 

I feel like working moms get an (understandable) pass from a lot of volunteer jobs, but the moms who have babies and toddlers should, too. They made a choice to stay at home with their children, not to work for free and be needlessly stressed out all the time. It’s kind of like the time I planned the preschool auction while caring with a baby who had severe medical needs…it was totally my decision but, looking back, probably not the wisest one I’ve made.

In my opinion, if the PTA needs to cut some parties or extra events in order to relieve the burden of young mothers, so be it. A mother’s time is be far better spent with their children than hours and hours on some of this stuff. (Unless she just wants to, then by all means, it’s her prerogative!).

3. There is a season for everything.  Expanding on point #2, don’t feel bad if you can’t do what other moms are doing. The moms that are up at school everyday might not have babies and toddlers at home or they might have full-time help. It might be a better season for them.

In a few years, when all of my children are in school, maybe I will want to take on a HUGE job and spare some some stressed-out, toddler-weary mom of the feeling that maybe she needs to fill in that spot on the sign up sheet. For now, I am happy to bring muffins to a teacher breakfast or address invitations at home.

On that same note, one day my children will be in middle and high school doing activities and homework until dinner time. Now is not the season for that either. I want my children’s free time while I can have it. Which is why we don’t’ overload on activities (see #6!).

4. You’re probably not going to meet your best friend on a school committee. I’ve learned that those meetings are the type in which moms just want to get in and out and check it off their morning to do list. It’s all business, very little lingering. I know everyone’s experience is different, but I’ve found the best way to cultivate friendships is organizing a meet up at Starbucks or the park after morning drop off, joining a Bible study, or starting a supper club with parents of school friends.

5. When you do volunteer, choose a job that’s not what you normally do. Just  because you know PR doesn’t mean you should do PR for the school. You burn out easily and you have people telling you how to do a job that you probably know how to do better. Most of these jobs are not rocket science, so jump out of your comfort zone and try something new – might make for a more interesting job!

6. The “one activity rule” never really works. Whether it’s for me or my children, I don’t really like to place broad rules on us. I tried the “one activity per child” rule and then felt like a failure if I didn’t follow it to a tee.

My middle child, for example, will only be going to school three days a week this year so the other two days she will have more time to rest and be at home with me. So she will probably do ballet and soccer (the latter which is only 6 weeks). However, I usually let her do more than my other children because her doctor bluntly told me to put her in as many physical activities as I can to help her muscles…but I digress.

My point is that I just use common sense. And as their mother I can sense when they are doing too much, when they are quick to tears, irritable, etc. I know that their schedules might be overloaded. Maybe one semester they don’t need to do any activities.

And this applies to weekend family time as well. Because my husband often works on the weekend, I try to protect our family time together and this means just one day or night of planned activity if possible. If this means turning down a birthday party or dinner at friends’ that’s okay. We also try to leave Sunday evenings open because neither one of us likes to be scrambling on Sunday evening trying to get ready for the week ahead.

If you think about the refined women you admire, they probably have a quiet confidence about them that is so appealing. They don’t feel the need to be the room mom for every single one of their children to gain any feelings of worth or importance. They can enjoy life because it has a steady, comfortable rhythm to it and they aren’t burdening themselves with an endless supply of to dos. (My mother was like this!).

I can say this: the times when I do not over schedule my family are so much better; everyone is all around more pleasant and fun to be around. So I am aiming for less this year. And also because, let’s face it, there’s nothing attractive about a frazzled, stressed out mother!

I would love your feedback on this “what to do.”  (You won’t hurt my feelings if you don’t agree!).  Comment below.

And don’t forget to see my Back to School Checklist from Monday -it’s been quite a hit!


Sources: Day Designer (Read that post here).

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10 thoughts on “What to Do: Less

  1. Oh my goodness, I might need to reread this every month!!! For an over-committer with a toddler and one on the way this was exactly what I needed! Love, Love, Love!

    1. Thank you so much! I remember those days – I know it’s annoying when people say it goes by fast – but it does. You won’t ever regret saying no to “busyness” if that meant you go to to spend more time (and less stressful time!) with your little ones! Please share on Facebook if you want!

  2. Great post, Lee, and especially relevant to my exact season of life. I have been trying to decide how involved to be in my oldest’s new school this year … but with 3 children in 3 different schools and only four hours per week to myself, I think it might be best if I don’t commit to too much upfront. Thanks for making me feel like this is ok 🙂

    1. You’re so sweet to comment. It’s totally ok! There will be a season for that…I am preaching to the choir here but doing something that increases your stress factor a little or a lot is just not necessary in our stage of life…

  3. I absolutely LOVE following you on Facebook. You have the best pics for sales…and have amazing gift ideas and advice. I also like your philosophy on not over committing. I think we are sisters from another mister. I do need help though understanding how to likeittoknowit. I don’t get it…and need a tutorial!!! I think you explained it once in a comment section, but I can’t find it and still don’t understand. #helpmeiamblonde

    1. Ha ha! First thank you so much for saying all that! I love that you love DoSayGive. Second, I am so glad you asked about liketoknow.it because it can be super confusing. Basically some people like to shop on Instagram and if you do, too, then this is for you. So if you see a photo of mine on Instagram with the #likeit hashtag, you can “like” the photo and the exact product details (and links to where to buy) will be emailed to you. So last night with the book thing, people registered with liketoknow.it received the five books (and the tent!) linked directly to Amazon and PB Kids.

      If you want to register go to http://www.liketoknow.it and you can “Sign Up” from their home page. You can still get pretty much everything on my website, too. Again, this just makes it easier for some people. Let me know if you have any problems if you end up signing up! As I said in that blog post, with any affiliate links, if you end up purchasing something I feature or recommend, I do get a [small!] commission. The nice thing about using my links (either on the blog, Instagram, or Facebook) is that companies know that DoSayGive sent you to their site, which helps for future collaborations and potential discount codes! Thanks again for reaching out!

  4. I just stumbled to this blog and love it! I could not agree more with this post. As a stay at home to 4 kids ages 3-13, I’ve always struggled with this same issue. I have felt the pressure to over volunteer for school activities because I’m not working and didn’t earn the pass. It’s hard to juggle a toddler or baby while still volunteering especially when you are required to leave them with a sitter. I have no problem sining up for things that can be done at home, bake sales, or donating to the class basket for the school auction. I’ve learned to let the more capable moms with more time on their hands handle the big jobs. One day, when I’m able I will assume a bigger role but right now it’s just an added stress in a already hectic time. I’m glad you have put this out there. We don’t need to volunteer for every project that comes along to feel validated as a mother.

    1. I am so glad you found my blog! It wasn’t until someone imparted this wisdom to me that I stopped feeling bad about not signing up for so many things! So I am glad this advice was encouraging to you, too. I would love it if you would share this post on your Facebook page so it might be encouraging to other moms this time of year!

  5. #3 is the best advice – not just for volunteer stuff, but for lots of parenting things. If you have multiple kids, there will be SOOOOOOO many years to volunteer! It’s a marathon, not a spirit – do a little job until you have time to do more.

    I will say I completely disagree with #4. Maybe it is how I am hardwired, but volunteering has been the absolute best way for me to make friends and become better freinds with acquaintances. But I am the PTA president “type”, so there you go!

    My motto is a happy volunteer is a good volunteer and if you are stressed and guilt-ridden, you aren’t happy! Volunteering should be a fun “extra” and some people just have more room for “extras” in their life than others…..but it’s still an “extra”.

    1. Thanks, Claire! When I wrote this several years ago that was my experience, and I was kind of disappointed about it because I had wanted to make friends, but I realize ti’s not everyone’s experience! Thank you for sharing your story and encouraging others. Volunteering is a wonderful thing and I didn’t mean to discourage that, just when it’s the right season for moms.

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