About six months ago, I blogged about not knowing how to fill my days once both daughters were in school full-time. I wrote about having 25 more hours in the week to do something, anything I wanted. If you recall, I bought a dog. But after I got puppyhood under control, I realized that I still needed something to do. So, I jumped into every volunteer position I could find, and now I find that I’m on the brink of being in over my head.
In case this blog is read by my fellow committee members or directors of organizations, remain calm: I do not plan to quit. However, I do plan to quit saying YES to everything presented to me. Saying “NO!” to my children comes naturally; saying “NO!” to friends and business aquaintences isn’t as easy. Being self-employed is worrisome at times, because I feel as though every connection might turn into a billable project. Freelance writers are everywhere, and if I can’t do the work or can’t be reached (especially if it’s an emergency deadline), someone else will be called. Their ability to turn something around upon request means that I’m not as valuable anymore. Relationships are the lifeline of my small business.
But being an active parent means that early morning breakfast meetings and after-hour cocktail socials aren’t possible. I can’t mix and mingle and swap stories with decision makers at popular networking events and local watering holes. I can’t go on retreats and sign up to attend business summits. Being a mother is my job; writing is my income. I have to find alternate ways to meet people and to develop work, and the only way to do so is by volunteering my time to get my foot in the door.
This year, I’m serving my daughters’ elementary school as first vice-president of the PTA, a position that requires me to plan or coordinate at least two major functions each month. I’m also assisting an area preschool as a member of its advisory committee, and filling in as a substitute teacher. I recently became a board member of a literacy non-profit organization, and I’m handling some of their marketing needs. And then I’m writing for The Mommyhood. Contrary to popular belief, I am not a paid staff member of The Daily Mail. I am a volunteer blogger.
Why do I do it? Because my time is spent on good causes and for good people, and we are expected to serve others in this world. I am active in PTA programs because I care about my daughters’ education and their elementary school experience. I give back to my church’s preschool because the staff gave my youngest daughter a solid running start toward kindergarten. I owe them for that. I wanted to be a substitute teacher because I secretly regret not getting my English certification when I had the chance. I joined a group that focuses on adolescent reading because I love books and feel that one-on-one time with children is absolutely precious. I blog for the newspaper because it’s a great by-line, and I want to share my mistakes — one of them being spreading myself too thin.
A good friend told me that she’s searching for a red tee-shirt bearing Nancy Reagan’s face; a JUST SAY NO! slogan printed across the chest. Indeed, I need to let something go…starting with my children. They’re growing up, moving out of my grip, and I’m holding on to anything I can. I’ve tried to fill the void of a semi-empty nest by distracting myself with special projects, and I’m determined to do a good job and to see things through, because my girls are watching. Backing out of obligations is not allowed.
On a lighter note, I turn to the wisdom of a character on an old TV show — Designing Women’s Suzanne Sugarbaker — who warned delivery man Anthony to stop being so agreeable.
“Do you know what happens when you burn the candle at both ends? You end up with a very short wick!”