Learn to say no to yourself. We’ve all been advised to learn to say no to others, but my problem is saying no to myself! I want to go to every festival, farmer’s market and outdoor concert, hike every family friendly trail in the Wasatch mountains, and fill every waking moment of summer with homemade ice cream, lazing at the swimming pool, and going to drive-in movies. But I also want my quiet time to blog, write these posts, and get those darn classes ready. And I haven’t even mentioned keeping up on the house, the kids’ summer work routines, or the paperwork that seems to dominate my life. Simply put, I want to do it all! But guess what? I have to sleep. And if I don’t get my sleep, I get crabby and depressed, so setting limits on my own ambitions is always the first step to finding more balance. I hate to admit it, but every time I choose to do one thing, I’m choosing to close the door on something else. During this month when my responsibilities and activities are pretty well defined, I would be wise not to throw anything else into the mix. (But I still went to the Harry Potter opening with my 13-year-old! You see? It’s a disease. I’m working on it.)
Go with the flow. This may sound like the exact opposite of learning to say no, because “going with the flow” is essentially saying yes. But we’re talking about balance here, so opposites are good, right? Let me explain. After a particularly busy day this week, my 7-year-old daughter was absolutely determined to do a lemonade stand when we got home after piano lessons–right at the dinner hour. She’s been talking about it for weeks, and I’ve been putting her off for as long. Lemonade stands never fit into an adult’s itinerary, so I knew if I kept promising “tomorrow” it might not ever come. That’s when I decided to go with the flow. We stopped by the grocery store on the way home from piano lessons to pick up some lemonade concentrate, I made a batch of chocolate chip banana muffins with my oldest daughter to go with the lemonade, and the younger children set up everything else and made the sign. It only took about an hour to get ready, and it was priceless watching my kids out there having the time of their life. What about dinner? Have you ever had chocolate chip banana muffins for dinner? Pretty satisfying. When we’re too rigid with our schedules and expectations for how things “should” be, we risk missing out on some of the best experiences life has to offer. Like lemonade stands. And muffins for dinner. Substituting the usual dinner routine one night for the much anticipated lemonade stand was well worth it, because I know there are only so many more summers of lemonade stands. Just because life is stressful doesn’t mean we should stop living it.
Make a time map. I know, now I’m really contradicting myself, but just stick with me. I have a little ritual I like to do every time our family schedule changes: I make a time map. Basically, I sit down with a daily/weekly/monthly calendar and start plugging in all the most important things I want to be sure will happen. Things like getting enough sleep, date nights with my husband, and other rituals and routines that ensure my sanity. Then I plug in all the classes, appointments and other obligations that show up on a regular basis. I even include time slots for things like making dinner and doing the bills, because household chores take a big chunk of time, right? There’s always a little time left over here and there, which I understand will be filled with those “go with the flow” moments that family life demands. In other words, when you have a time map, you can see clearly where you need to say no to yourself as well as where you can fudge and go with the flow. See how that works?
You’d better believe that this month I’m going to have to say no to a few of my recreational darlings, and I’ll probably make breakfast for dinner more than once (muffins anyone?), but once I get over this hump I’ll be on kilter again. That is, until the start of the new school year. And then the holidays . . .