Reevaluating priorities can be a daunting and somewhat humbling task. Coming to the realization that what you had thought was in your best interest and your family’s actually might not be, or basically admitting that you got it wrong, is quite humbling. But did you actually get it wrong or have circumstances simply changed?
As I sit here filling out kindergarten registration for my son and Child’s Day Out (program that gets children acclimated to the idea of being away from mom and dad, not like preschool, but rather the step before preschool, it is only one day a week for 2-1/2 hours) for our youngest I can’t help but reflect on how much my life is going to change next year. I am going to have 2 children in elementary school! Go figure, I feel like I am just getting this having a 1st grader, preschooler, and toddler thing down and now things are going to change in less than 6 months! Part of me wants to scream’ BUT I DON’T WANNA!!!’ but where would that get me? Denial, that’s where. And while denial can be soothing at times it only delays the inevitable. So I am going to force myself past the all-inviting state of denial and venture towards reality.
And the reality is that I need to reevaluate my priorities. I have to be honest; I thought life was going to get so much easier once my kiddos were in elementary school. I mean, hello, they can dress themselves, bathe themselves, help make their lunch, etc. That sounds like a vacation compared to parenting a baby, toddler, and/or preschooler, right!? Wrong!
The truth of the matter is that yes, elementary aged children can do more for themselves with regard to the physical tasks. However they require so much guidance with the remainder of their lives, from homework, to helping make sense of friendships, and everything in-between. And since they are in school all day the only time left are those few hours between after school and bedtime. Of which often include an after school sport or activity, and homework! So you get about a solid hour if you are lucky. And that solid hour is often fragmented between driving to and from activity, dinner preparations, cleaning up before bed, and getting ready for the next day. And you know what, those really deep questions; they often arise during this fragmented time. If only children would talk and bring up serious questions when it was convenient for us parents, say between 6 and 7pm, how much easier life would be. Can you imagine? That would be awesome. I could then make it to Book Club, MOPS, Zumba, Dinner with the Gals, Dinner Co-op, Ladies Night Out, and Trivia Night, score! But they don’t. So what is the solution? Be present. Model the life lessons you want your children to learn. Reevaluate Priorities. Which can be really difficult especially for us social butterflies, there I said it!
So, in an effort to truly reevaluate my priorities (because, to be honest, this past year after being with a preschooler and toddler all day and 1st grader after school I gladly welcomed a couple of evenings out for book club, dinner co-op, and dinner with the gals)But there isn’t enough days in the week for date night, two ‘me nights’, hubby’s night w/the boys, and still maintain a solid family foundation) and be MORE present now and in the future I have come up with a list of questions that I have been asking myself in order to determine which activities I should invest my time that is away from my family.
I ask myself these questions:
Does it correlate with my morals and values?
Will this have a neutral, positive, or negative influence my life?
Will it have a neutral, positive, or negative influence on the life of my children and husband?
Is it worth the time, the time I put into it, and the time away from my family?
Afterwards will I feel renewed, rested, peaceful and ready to be the best me I can be? Or will this be something that is draining?
Is there a long time commitment?
If after answering all these questions the conclusion is positive I then discuss it with my husband, and we will then see where the activity fits into our family’s schedule. We both firmly believe that family is of utmost priority but that in order to be the best spouse that we can be and parent it is healthy to have a day, evening away. So we have come to the conclusion that we will have no more than one evening a week away from the family. Then the next difficult task, trying to squeeze that evening in-between, the kids’ school of religion, soccer practice/games, t-ball practice/game, kiddos clubs, etc. And I suppose one day I might actually have to come to the realization that maybe a phone call with a friend will have to suffice as my ‘night out’.
One day my children will be grown and out of the house. At that time I will have all the time in the world to join clubs, co-ops, classes, etc. But I will never be able to get this time back, to get my children’s childhood years back. There is no redo. This is not a dress rehearsal so it is important that we do our best and be the best parents we can be. And yes, that does mean sacrificing things in the short-term, but oh, the abundance we will have in the long-term will be well worth it!
Did you think life was going to get much easier once your kiddos entered elementary school? How do you determine which activities are worth your time away from your family? Do you have a technique that you have found helpful? Please share.