Do you need to cut down on your commitments this year?
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Today’s episode is the fourth in my mini-series on Family, where I’ll be chatting about ways to nurture and show love within our family relationships.
Today is the first day of school for my children, and many other children in Australia. As we all get back into our school and work routines for the rest of the year, I thought this was a timely occasion to talk about reassessing commitments.
As I mentioned in my last episode, What I’m looking forward to in 2023, our family hit the ground running at the start of 2022 when all the kid’s extracurricular activities and In Real Life events resumed. Because so much time had been missed over lockdown, it felt like we were playing catch-up all year, and didn’t stop until we screamed to a holt in December for the Christmas holidays.
One of my biggest learnings from last year was that I completely over-committed and overscheduled our little family, which is something I want to avoid this year so we reach the end of this year with some fuel still left in the tank.
As a parent, you want to give your children the best opportunities in life, which in addition to academic education also include extra-curricular activities, such as sport, music, drama, arts and craft. The challenge is where to draw the line on activities. Obviously most of these activities cost money, although we’ve found there’s a big difference in the cost of team sports versus one-on-one activities such as individual music lessons, which obviously restricts how many activities you can do. However, the challenge we had this year is that the kids signed up to a couple of activities (Guides and Scouts) which require an annual commitment, so when you layer a couple of other activities on top of that, life suddenly becomes very hectic!
And it’s not just the kids that get caught up with commitments either – parents are prone to over-commitment too. I talk more about the drain of over-commitment in my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time. Here’s an extract from the book that I’d love to share with you now:
“As soon as children start school, and sometimes even earlier if they attend Playgroups and daycare, the ‘obligations’ start to drift down onto unsuspecting, enthusiastic parents’ shoulders. Fundraising events, volunteering for the school fête, the canteen, classroom reading, chaperoning school trips, coaching, etc. You name it – you’ll be asked to do it.
It’s a slippery slope that becomes all too easy to slide down, thanks to the dreaded ‘parental guilt’ that mothers are particularly vulnerable to. Don’t get me wrong – volunteering is an essential service in our community, without which many organisations and initiatives would not exist. However, the more activities children are involved in, the more parents are encouraged to get involved or help out.
In The Brendon Show podcast, Brendon Burchard recalls talking to a friend’s wife at a social gathering. This lady was involved in a lot of community organisations and felt overwhelmed and stressed all the time. She explained to Burchard, “I don’t have time to focus on myself”, to which Burchard responded, “You don’t have time to focus on yourself because you just haven’t chosen to focus on yourself. You haven’t given yourself permission. You don’t have to be on any of these things.” She was exhausted all the time, and her health was suffering as a result. “If you actually cared about your children, you’d stop all of those,” said Burchard. The woman looked at Burchard in shock, and he continued, “Because your children don’t want to see you wiped out all of the time. You’re going to be more compassionate, more fun, more playful with your kids if you’re not wiped out all the time. Get rid of those things, and focus on the kids.”
Burchard fervently believes these things aren’t essential. “What’s essential in your child’s life is you present, energised, positive, focused, imparting good life lessons – all the other stuff is the architecture of society making you feel obligated. You have to question those things.”
The trick for parents is determining where we can add the most value, and this doesn’t have to be volunteering or leading every committee. If you have the time and want to be involved, select the activity you believe you could contribute to the most – through your existing skills or simply passion and interest. For example, I love craft and sewing and feel passionate about helping kids learn these skills. I also recognise many parents don’t have the time or skills to do these activities with their kids at home. I have happily volunteered to lead craft activities with my daughter’s Girl Guide unit before. The kids are thrilled with being able to make something themselves. I love seeing them learning new skills like using a hot glue gun while developing existing skills, such as using scissors to cut out intricate shapes carefully. Win-win!
First, establish if you have any time to commit to additional activities. Then decide how much time and how frequently. Rather than a regular weekly or monthly commitment, it could be volunteering in the school canteen once a term, umpiring a soccer match every three months, or going on an annual Guide camp for a weekend. Contributing something is better than nothing, and not at the cost of our energy and sanity. Our volunteering efforts for our kids should benefit them – not hinder them because we are exhausted from spreading ourselves too thin.”
For sure, there’s a fine line between giving our kids as many opportunities as we can, and supporting our community organisations by volunteering our time and skills without burning out.
The key is monitoring the energy levels of yourself and your family. As soon as the levels start to fade, ruthlessly review what you need to stop doing and cut the commitment or commitments!
For our family, I’ve learnt that the sweet spot is two activities per child, MAX! However this will vary for every family and child. Because my work hours are flexible, I’m available to ferry kids to and from activities after school, which I prefer so our weekends are free to relax and spend time together as a family. However, I understand this routine would be challenging for families with less flexible work hours.
This term we have reduced the kid’s extra-curricular activities as much as possible because it is the first school term. I know the emotional load on the kids will be high as they adjust to their new year level, teacher, and classmates. I’m aiming to keep afternoons after school as relaxing as possible by building in some down-time. I like them to have at least 15 minutes quiet reading or relax time before they flick on the TV or jump on a device to decompress for the day. This also gives me a few peaceful minutes to make them afternoon tea!
This week I encourage you to take some time out to review your calendar for the next quarter or term ahead and honestly asses if you have overcommitted yourself or your family in any areas. Consider what you need to stop doing (or at least postpone) until next term or quarter to give yourself some time and space to focus on the activities you enjoy the most.
If you’ve enjoyed this episode, I’d be so grateful if you could leave a rating and review. Each review helps others find this podcast, and it absolutely makes my day reading them. I’ll share a beautiful one with you now:
“Wise, humble and humorous. Courtney’s voice has intelligence and wisdom. She is widely read and conveys her thought-provoking wisdom with humanity and humour. I love her.”
Thank you so very much for these kind words – this review made my month! It also inspires me to create the best content I can to share with you!
I’d be delighted to assist you further on your journey of personal development and growth. If you’re looking for more inspiration, check out my book, A Year of Love: Finding peace one day at a time, or if you’re looking for a little more morning motivation, take a look at my FREE course, Magical Mornings.
If you’d like to learn more about journaling, my course, Joyful Journaling Journey could be just what you need.
In the meantime, if you want some inspiring journaling prompts to kick-start your journaling practice, you can grab my free Journaling Guide with 100 prompts. This Guide also includes some super helpful info on the benefits of journaling, along with tips on how to establish a consistent journaling practice. Links for all of these helpful tools and resources can be found in the show notes.
I’ll leave you with today’s mantra: “I edit my life ruthlessly and frequently to make space for the activities and people that fill my cup”.
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