BEYOND BUSY? - Learn To Avoid Over Committing Yourself This School Year

by Shannon M. Dean

If you’re a mom, chances are you can relate to a scenario like this:  Short on time, you’ve skipped the gym, and are stuffing envelopes for the PTA when you remember that you promised to bake cupcakes for your daughter’s brownie meeting tomorrow.  When your son asks for homework help, you snap at him, and you mumble under your breath with every envelope wondering whether you will ever be able to get a good night’s sleep again.  Many experts say you should vividly remember your frustration when your children come home with a fresh batch of requests for your time in their back-to-school backpacks.

Moms can be selflessly available to our families, our friends, our work, and our communities. But rarely do we care for ourselves with the same intensity. Sure, most requests fill a legitimate need, but if you find that because of your inability to say no, you haven’t been to the dentist in a few years, are making payments on a gym membership you never use, and can’t remember when you last took time for yourself, you’re probably over committing. You may not even realize that saying yes too often can mean saying no to the things you really care about.

Pamela Peeke, M.D., author of “Body For Life For Women,” (Rodale Press) says women need to avoid what she calls “helium hand” (your hand automatically goes up every time there is a request for volunteers). Instead, she says, carefully define your top priorities and evaluate all requests against them.  Seek out volunteer opportunities that align with your priorities.  If spending direct time with your child is a priority, agree to be a story or home room mom, not the PTA Treasurer.

What if you’ve carefully evaluated a request and decided it just doesn’t work for you right now? "Saying no is not impolite or disrespectful," reassures Wright , "it's being honest about your priorities." Dr. Peeke says that a simple “I’m so sorry, but that doesn’t work for me right now. Maybe next time.” is really all that is needed.

Experts agree that valuing your own time is by no means selfish and actually makes you a better parent. By fulfilling your own needs, you’ll be more cheerful, focused and someone your family will both enjoy and benefit from being around. You’ll have the time and energy to be fully present for the tasks you choose to take on.  Think about it. If you’re constantly answering your child’s pleas for attention with “in a minute, honey,” or “after I’m done with this,” while completing everyone else’s requests, what you’ve got is a frustrated child, a scattered mom and you’ve allowed avoidable stress into your home.  If you’re volunteering because you want your children to have a wonderful, rich experience during their school years, look closely at your schedule and make sure you’re giving your them enough of yourself so they will have exactly that.

Tips To Avoid Becoming Over Committed

1.       Always meet your physical needs first. Enough sleep, eating right and finding time to exercise are essential if you are going to be efficient and focused on extra tasks. Consciously fill time you would normally spend over committing to your own self care.

2.       Request time to check your calendar before committing. Then ask yourself if you can comfortably complete and be enthusiastic about the request.

3.       Generally overestimate the amount of time a task should take and then ask yourself if you’re still willing to do it.

4.       Make sure you’re comfortable with what you are giving up to commit to the request.

5.       Whether you accept or decline a request, define what you intend to do in the future: “I’m swamped right now, but will be less busy for the fall festival;” “I can help set up, but I need to leave by 11:00.”

6.       Make a list of all the things for which you intend to volunteer and the things for which you already have. Refer to it often and realize that you’ve volunteered before and will again.

7.       Don’t let guilt have a place in your life. Only you can define what contributes to your unique and necessary life balance.

Shannon Dean is a freelance writer, a wife, a mother of two and a reformed over committer.