Motherhood, This Crazy Life

Finding My “No” in a World Full of “Yes”

“Yes.” I say it all the time. Can you babysit for me? Would you mind helping me with this project? Did you make sure my workout clothes were clean? Is the grocery shopping taken care of? What about that run to Target for dishwashing detergent? Could you take on some extra writing this month? Do you want to meet up for a playdate today? Is the ironing done? Did you get your workout in? Wanna do lunch? Dinner? Yes, yes, and yes.

And I can already imagine the drastic, terrifying evolution of those questions as my kids grow. Room Mom? Head up the PTA? Help out with teacher appreciation? That fundraiser? Plan the Valentine’s Day Party? Make snacks for the team? Chaperone the field trip? Reading group volunteer? Girls Night Out? Host a dinner party? Lend a hand with that charity event? Throw the most epic birthday party for a pack of wild five-year-olds? Coordinate a stellar but perfectly-on-budget vacation?

My brain has already exploded. Tiny beads of sweat have already formed along my hairline. I already had to lie down on the couch and take a nap. Or at least close my eyes and pretend I was sleeping so that the world would stop spinning for just one second.

There are about one million tasks that we moms are being asked to take on at any given moment in time. And it applies outside of motherhood, too, because our world is thoroughly consumed with being consumed. Our society perpetuates this idea that we must be doing to be worthy, that our value lies in how much we can juggle at once.

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And oftentimes the things I’m being asked to add to my already overflowing plate are good, beautiful, and worthwhile. They are things that every ounce of my being wants to do, ways in which I most certainly want to be there for my husband, kids, friends, family, and community. Which makes it that much easier to throw out a, “Yes, of course!” before even realizing what I’ve gotten myself into.

But there’s a cost to my “yes,” because something’s gotta give. It’s impossible to surrender more of myself to these good things without letting something else slide. It’s impossible to commit more time to these tasks without subsequently finding I now have less time for another. It’s impossible to juggle without ceasing, without dropping a ball – or five – every once in a while.

So I watch in ignorant disbelief as the balls inevitably plummet toward the floor. Responsibilities are forgotten, tasks completed inadequately, and guilt creeps its way into my soul. It causes me to question my ability to “mom,” my ability to do what it takes to care for those I love most. I doubt myself as a mother, pondering whether I’m truly qualified for this whole motherhood thing or if I just went ahead and dove right into the deep end before even knowing how to doggy paddle.

It’s certainly not the picture of motherhood that I had painted in my mind. Sure, I counted on being busy and filling my days with tending to my husband and children and their demanding schedules. But I didn’t expect for it to overwhelm me like this. I didn’t anticipate this feeling of suffocation, this drowning sensation – or the shame I’d feel when having to admit to my family, and even worse, myself, that I can’t do it all. I just can’t.

Yet it’s in these deep, dark moments that I sense the Spirit compelling me toward Truth, reminding me that this isn’t at all what was intended for me. This isn’t what God had in store for my journey; it’s not the story He’d written for my life. The guilt, doubt, and all this juggling – I’m the only one to blame. I’m the only one putting this pressure on myself, pushing myself beyond what’s realistic or healthy.

I’ve welcomed with open arms the lie that I must say yes to it all, the lie that if I say no to something that’s requested of me, I’m clearly lazy, uninvolved, and unhelpful. Something must be wrong with me, this mess of a mom, if I can’t do just one more thing without bursting at the seams.

But we were made to have to make choices, Mama. We have been hardwired to crave these options, not so that we would embrace them all, but so that we would be forced to prioritize. These choices allow us to determine what’s most important to us, to deem only certain, carefully appointed tasks worthy of our time and energy. Not because we’re lazy or uninvolved or unhelpful, but because we understand the reality that we were never intended to do it all, so even when our hearts want so badly be to able to say, “Yes, yes, yes!” we must instead say, “Not right now.”

Because there will come a day, in a different season, when the answer just might be yes. So don’t be afraid to look a good, worthy endeavor right in the eyes and say, “Now just isn’t the right time.” Don’t allow yourself to take on guilt and shame because you made the decision to prioritize your family or rest or sanity. Stop apologizing for your discernment in knowing that adding that extra ball to your already chaotic juggling act may very well cause the rest to come tumbling down.

You were not meant to do it all, Mama, despite what the world says. So the next time something beautiful but wholly overwhelming presents itself, try saying, “Not right now,” and see how it feels.

Then breathe. Just breathe.

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