An Ode to the Balance Between Schedule and Freedom
This coming weekend is The Big Game, the one we wait for ALL YEAR, when our beloved Alma Mater plays our arch rival. Plans are underway and the text messages have been flying. Who’s hosting the watch party? Where shall we go? What shall we do? I think we’ve got a shot at winning this year. We just need them to announce game time…
And then the Game Scheduling Powers That Be dropped the bomb that decimated the entirety of what we had been excitedly planning for weeks: the game starts at 1pm. NAP TIME!!!! Picture me like McCauley Culkin in Home Alone, slapping my face in horror.
What do we do now? Should my husband and son go someplace to watch it while I stay home with Princess Needsanap? Should we get a sitter and go just the two of us? But that’s not really fair to the big brother, should we take him? But that’s not really fair to the little sister, she’s two and she’s old enough to know when she’s been left behind. Do we stay at home and watch it ourselves with no other friends? But that’s not really fair to any of us...
Does that sound familiar to anyone else? The struggle is real when it comes to working our lives around the the s-word that seems to rule our lives as parents: SCHEDULE. For moms of littles, it’s usually all about nap and bedtimes. For moms of older kids, it’s school and sports and activities. For my part, I have had to be at home in the early afternoon Every. Single. Day. For. The. Past. Four. And. A. Half. Years. Because. Of. Nap. Time. Last month I had two days with no kids and when people asked me what I was going to do I told them, “BE OUTSIDE OF MY HOUSE BETWEEN THE HOURS OF 1PM AND 3PM! JUST BECAUSE I CAN!!!!”
Schedules are both the glue that holds our life with littles together and the barrier that holds us back from the freedom we crave. How many playdates and birthday parties have we had to turn down because of nap time? But at the same time, the rhythm of a good schedule is what helps us all feel like the wheels are not AT ANY MOMENT about to fall off of this bus of our family life. Schedules and routine take the guess work out of our days and anchor us as the storms of life batter us about, but at the same time they can feel confining, restricting, and a big like drudgery- particularly for the free-spirit, big picture thinkers like me. It has taken me a long time to admit that I NEED the structure that a good, solid schedule provides for me, but I have accepted it and I’m learning to lean into it.
So how do we balance the need for schedule and the need for freedom- particularly if one is free-spirited and suffers from serious FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) when life is going on while one is stuck at home, at baseball practice, or wherever else the routine of our life necessitates that our bodies go when our hearts would much rather be elsewhere. How do we moms find that balance for ourselves and for our families?
We do a cost/benefit analysis of everything that’s tying us down.
Some of the things we have committed our family’s time to are deeply necessary and beneficial. In my family, our days fall apart if my daughter doesn’t get her nap and my son absolutely adores soccer and is happier all week if he gets that outlet and release. But there are other things that maybe aren’t bearing fruit for our family and we may prune away in the interest of greater freedom with our time. My daughter doesn’t seem to love her toddler soccer class as much as her brother enjoys his, but she is absolutely IN LOVE with her dance class. So I think we will finish this session of soccer and then leave our Wednesday mornings as free time to go swimming or the library or have a play date.
We remember that looking back, these seasons we are in will be a precious flash in the pan.
Our kids are growing and changing every single day and what life looks like changes significantly for us from year to year, month to month, and even week to week. These days of being tied down don’t last forever and if it means kids are getting more out of their days and I’m getting more out of my time with them, then TIE! IT! ALL! DOWN! When I’m sitting alone at home during nap time or on the bleachers during sports, wishing I was somewhere else, I will remember that two years from now I won’t be in this season anymore- and I might wish I was. There are some very good trade-offs such as the precious and intimate nature how much they need me right now, how they love their snuggles, and a little restriction on my precious freedom is a small price to pay for the invaluable and precious gifts that this season with my little ones is affording me.
I’m still not sure what we are going to do about the game this weekend. Chances are good we will end up staying home so that we can all be together. This rivalry game only happens once a year, but by the time it rolls around next year, we will be in a different place as a family. The Princess may have dropped her nap and we will be more flexible. And ten or twelve years from now, they may not even want to watch the game with us. If we do it right, they will have other friends who ALSO love the same team we do (we are trying to raise them with strong values, you know) and they may want to be off and away and on their own and we will have all the the freedom in the world to do as we please- whether we like it or not.
For now we will just throw out our anchor, and remind ourselves that this is a season, a moment we will never get back...and maybe, JUST MAYBE we will have an extra glass of wine, both to toast the moment and to get through it.
Balance came be somewhat of a struggle in motherhood during different seasons like Tori has described. What does balance look like for you? And how do you combat the difficulties when you can feel yourself being pulled in too many directions? Please share below and over on our Community group page on Facebook!