Six years ago, three weeks after giving birth to my fourth child, I was in charge of a dinner evening for a group of women. Unfortunately in the days leading up to it, one-by-one, those on the committee had other obligations creep in and declared they would be unable to help or attend. Fortunately, a dear friend stepped in, and together she and I set up tables and chairs for the 40-50 women that would attend. My friend then left before the event began, to attend to another commitment.
I remember very little about the remainder of the evening, except the final few minutes of clean-up in the kitchen. While deciding what to do with the leftovers, a woman, seeming to wonder why no one else had thought of it, emphatically stated, “We must take it to _______. She just had her FOURTH baby last week.”
Although clearly tired, worn-out, and anxious to get home to my three-week-old (fourth) baby, I was not offended. Though I would be lying if I said I didn’t have to bite my tongue to keep from giving a run-down of all I had done to carry out the evening–practically alone, while the food was being packaged up and readied to deliver to the two-weeks-behind-me-post-partum lady.
I like to think back to the evening when the leftovers were declared a necessity to a mother who had just had her fourth child. (Despite the fact no one thought twice about the lady serving the food to the 40+ women who had also just had her fourth child.) That evening, I learned a lesson that, although I think I already knew, I internalized it in a much more lucid way.
I’ll share it with you.
It rang clear to me that night that we each have varying abilities to do different things at different times. Maybe right now you’re serving on a PTA board, exercising every day, pinning AND doing all your pins on Pinterest, and you still have time to sip lemonade on the back patio with a friend. Maybe other weeks in your life, you’re lucky if you kept your kids fed and yourself showered.
Some of us can be in charge of a large social gathering three weeks post-partum. Correction: NO ONE three weeks post-partum should be in charge of anything except feeding and changing a newborn.
Get what I mean though? We are all capable of handling different things, to varying degrees, at different times in our lives. Sometimes we see other mothers doing things that seem above and beyond the basics we are barely getting done. Other times, we are the ones doing more than others and we find ourselves questioning why someone else can’t quite do so much.
Ever heard the expressions, “I have a lot on my plate” or “My plate is full right now”?
During a recent conversation with a friend, I heard a ground-breaking idea: We all have different size plates!
Imagine that!? The reason why there are times when I wonder why I can’t do/handle as much as you can, or the times I wonder why you can’t handle/do as much as I can, is because our plates are completely different sizes.
Some periods in my life my plate is a platter, and I can take on more assignments, more activities and with more energy. And of course there are times my life more closely resembles a saucer. Without a doubt, our plate sizes change over time. There’s a lot of plate sizes out there…saucers, dessert plates, salad plates, dinner plates and platters.
Our plate size isn’t the only thing to consider. What is filling our plate?
I love parties. I especially love the type of parties where there is an assortment of food like finger appetizers and desserts. I love taking small amounts of some of my very favorites, and ignoring the things that I either don’t like or don’t appeal to me. Sometimes I’ll try something new, but more often than not, I stick to my favorites. You’ll rarely find a cookie on my plate at such an event, but you can bet if there are Rice Krispie treats or brownies to choose from, they’ll certainly have a spot (or two) on my plate. I bet in a social situation like that, you’ll rarely find two people in attendance with their plates filled with the same exact choices and portion sizes.
It’s the same with our real life. Our plates may be different sizes, or the same, but what is on your plate and my plate are going to be different. Are you choosing the cookies or the Rice Krispie treats? The chips or the veggies? PTA or employment? A personal hobby or a room mother? Training for a marathon or sewing a quilt?
What fills your plate?
I have never forgotten that evening six years ago, three weeks post-partum, when either my plate was a platter, or some people (including me?) assumed it was. One of the reasons I clearly remember that night is due in part to my dear BFF who frequently (tongue-in-cheek) says the line, “Well, we do need to take dinner to the person who has just had her fourth baby.” She means it metaphorically, anytime our own plates are full, yet we’re asked (or we volunteer) to add more things to it.
I’ve wisened up over the last six years…I’m starting to more closely guard the size of my plate and what fits on it. If I was at a party, I would never dream of piling my plate so full it spilled over. Why? Calories, health, social etiquette and general politeness. Neither would I ever dream of asking the host if I could upgrade to a platter to hold more of my favorite choices.
Let’s treat our “life plates” the same way. Unfortunately, a lot of what fills our plates we can’t change or control, but there is some we can. Too often we try to pile on choices and commitments that aren’t necessary, or we don’t like, etc. What is filling your plate? Guard it closely. Consider your plate size and its contents and only put on it what will be best for YOU and YOUR family at this time in your life. Don’t look at anyone else’s plate. Don’t think your plate has to be bigger. And DON’T, I repeat, DON’T be in charge of a social event when you are three weeks post-partum.
Question: What size is your life plate currently? Could or should it be bigger or smaller?
Challenge: List the assignments and activities you allow to fill your plate, carefully consider if they are what you really want taking up space.
Image courtesy of rakratchada torsap / FreeDigitalPhotos.net