“Life’s just out of control, that’s all,” she said.
Three days earlier she had experienced a melt-down. After volunteering at a local food pantry, she took one child to gymnastics. Then she picked another up from school and drove her to piano, ran back to her oldest daughter’s school, and picked her up. She went back to gymnastics, back to piano, then drove her oldest to a birthday party at 5:30 pm. After that, she had planned to swing into the grocery store, find food for supper, go home, and make dinner. But her melt-down disrupted the evening.
“While I was driving to the birthday party, one of the kids began to complain. I snapped. I pulled the car into the nearest driveway and started screaming at all three girls in the back seat. My 7-year-old told the 9-year-old to ‘shut up,’ and my 12-year-old started yelling at my 7-year-old because she said that she should never say ‘shut-up.’
“Suddenly, I burst into tears. The car became stone-cold quiet. I turned the car around and went home. No birthday party, and we had canned soup for dinner. Do you think I’m turning into a child abuser?” she finished.
No, I reassured her, she wasn’t a child abuser, just an overcooked mom like the rest of us. But here’s my question: why are we moms compelled to live so frenetically?
Let’s face it. We’ve all been in Lisa’s shoes.
If we peel away the excuses we make for over-scheduling ourselves and our kids, we’re left with the real reason we do this: fear. We are too afraid not to be busy.
Adding complexity to our lives and raising our anxiety levels has become a past-time for mothers—particularly conscientious mothers. We sign our kids up for tons of things (most of which they don’t want to do), fret about which school to send them to, stuff their lives and ours with too many things, and then worry about how we’ll pay for it all. I think we’ve all gone a bit mad (myself included).
So I have a radical proposal: let’s simplify our lives as moms.
Deep in our hearts, we hear a small voice beckoning us to slow down and let go of the madness. Usually we ignore it, but I think it’s high time we heed it. We can do this.
Learning to live more simply means learning to let go of things, activities and even relationships that make life too muddy. It means setting priorities for our lives and our days and living like we mean it.
Simplicity occurs on two levels. First, there is an inward simplicity, which occurs in our hearts. In this inner simplicity, we do some soul searching to figure out what we purpose to do on this earth the short time we’re here. It means establishing real goals and focusing on them.
The second form is external simplicity, which means putting feet onto what our hearts have decided. Here, we remove activities and things that prevent us from living our priorities. External simplicity means going into our closets and giving clothes away so we have less to wash. Maybe it means switching jobs so that we have more time with our kids, or cutting our kids’ extracurricular activities in half so they can come home and play board games in the afternoons. The working out of it is different for each one of us.
I propose that we have at it. I am going to grab my calendar and a pen and start deleting things that stress me. Then I’m going to start getting rid of stuff.
Yikes. This feels scary.
There’s that fear again telling me that my kids and I really need the stuff we have and the activities we do. But I’m not going to bite. I’m going to move ahead because I don’t need to be afraid.
I suppose the reason that simplicity is a discipline is because it requires a bit of back bone. But I have it, and I know that you do, too.
Dr. Meeker is a pediatrician, who has practiced pediatric and adolescent medicine for 25 years. She is the author of six books including the best-selling Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: Ten Secrets Every Father Should Know; Boys Should Be Boys; Your Kids At Risk;, The 10 Habits of Happy Mothers: Reclaiming Our Passion, Purpose and Sanity; Strong Fathers, Strong Daughters: The 30 Day Challenge and Strong Mothers, Strong Sons: Lessons Mothers Need to Raise Extraordinary Men, (Ballantine) April 2014. She is a popular speaker on pediatric health issues and child-parent relationships.
Dr. Meeker is co-host and physicianin- residence of Dr. James Dobson’s Family Talk Radio. She is also Assistant Clinical Professor at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine and currently teaches medical students and physicians in residency training. She is board certified with the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Dr. Meeker serves on the National Advisory Board of the Medical Institute. She has been married to her husband, Walter for 32 years. They have shared a medical practice for over 20 years. They have three grown daughters and a grown son. She lives in northern Michigan.