We have all been there. Over committed. It could be self-imposed—we said yes too many times, or it could be circumstances out of our control—when it rains, it pours, after all. Or, worst case scenario, it could be a terrible combination of both.
That’s where I found myself last week. It’s where I’ve been living for the last month or so. I had stretched myself too thin then life dropped a myriad of difficulties on top.
The truth is that I do like to help. I like to volunteer. I like to be a part of my kids’ lives and know what is going on. If I have the time and ability, I take pleasure in being able to share it. The boys want me there. The teachers appreciate it. As a family, we have been extremely fortunate in that we have had wonderful teachers. I genuinely enjoy spending time in the classroom helping them.
I worry about Yoshi. Other adults (read: parent volunteers) being responsible for Yoshi makes me nervous. You have to know what to expect, and how to handle him, and with Yoshi that is something that only years of experience can give you. I worry about how they treat my son and what they are thinking of him. I like to be a buffer, but I often feel like I have to be there.
It’s not only school, of course. I loved teaching Sunday school at church. I served on the steering committee (not well) for MOPS. I was on the board of directors for my neighborhood’s HOA (I really don’t recommend that, even if it was an educational experience.)
That is why I constantly say yes. But it gets hard. It becomes a duty. Not just for me, not just because of Yoshi, not just for families with special needs children. We are all pressed with an obligation to give. Not merely pressed. Shamed.
I have heard other moms defending themselves for not putting their names on the sign-up genius. I felt the need to defend myself these last few weeks when I wasn’t “performing” up to my usual standards.
Confession time: I have crippling anxiety. The more stressed my situation becomes, the less likely I can breathe. This past weekend when I was driving home from the grocery store I almost had to make a pit stop at the hospital. I wish I was using this as hyperbole to make a point, but this an honest example.
I could say that I am imagining the judgment I feel because of my anxiety, if it wasn’t for the conversations that I have had with other moms. I know I am not alone in feeling judged. I also know that I am not the only one giving more than I actually can and still feel like I am not doing enough for some people.
I look at certain people and wonder how they do it. How do they manage their time? How do they fit all of those things in? Surely they have unexpected things come up in their lives like I do. What do they do when that happens? How do they make it work?
Yoshi is not an excuse. Sometimes people try to tell me that our lives are crazier than others’ because of the extra care he requires. I don’t like thinking that way. Everyone has things in their lives that are hard. They can handle it. The middle school PTA president has three kids who play sports, she works, and I see pictures on Facebook of her having a life. The elementary school PTA president has four kids, she works (two jobs)—these ladies can do it. Why can’t I?
This is why people judge. This is why their judgment gets to me. I can hear the truth in it. As much as I wish it wasn’t, it is part of the reason that I put my name on those sign-ups as they come around. I worry about what people will think if I don’t.
The truth is that I shouldn’t have to worry about it. We should be adults and keep our thoughts to ourselves (it’s more than our words, our eyes too—don’t look at me like that!) I shouldn’t have to explain to you that my husband’s grandmother died and we were at her funeral when you emailed. That’s why I didn’t sign up to work at the core values breakfast.
I shouldn’t have to explain that my in-laws came into town and had to stay three days longer than we expected because my husband’s stepfather is in our hospital. Why do I have to give you a reason? I’m sorry that you don’t have enough volunteers for the seventh grade party, but I’m tired.
I shouldn’t have to explain.
Do I have to give you the list of reasons why it won’t work for me right now? It’s a long list. I have heard the words, “I don’t understand why she doesn’t go in,” come out of a mom’s mouth before. She was referring to another mom, who happens to stay at home and does not volunteer. Does it matter that she has good reasons for that? Should she need those reasons? Should she have to share them?
I didn’t write last week and this post isn’t all that great. I wish you could hear the humor in my voice as I consider defending myself. I don’t have the time or mental energy right now. I’m sorry. There are a lot of things going on. Please don’t judge me.
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