I have heard all my life how important it is to see something through. Honor your committments. Never quit. Yada yada yada. So, of course I used to think that as well. Add that to the problem I had of never saying ‘No’. The end result, I ended up doing way more than I wanted to, and it literally drove me to be so stressed out that it made me crazy.
I think it all started when my girls were little. To get out of the house and make a little money, I quit being a stay-at-home mom, and became a preschool teacher. It was part time. Klara went to “work” with me, when Virginia went to school. I loved it. Then we moved to our current state of residence. Hoping to pick back up the happy setup I had, I obtained another similar job. The difference this time was that the preschool was actually a daycare as well. A tremendous difference. Originally I kept my hours to a minimum, only working while Virginia was in school. But when summer hit and I no longer needed to pick her up from school, I was asked to work full-time, “just for the summer” I was told. I thought, what could it hurt if it was just for the summer? Well that summer we bought a house. One we wanted to “fix up”. (Famous last words?) By the end of the summer, I couldn’t quit working full time. I needed the extra income to work on our house. I was sucked in. I continued in full-time status at the daycare another two years. I became miserable. I didn’t feel like I was teaching any longer. No, it was more like babysitting. Even worse, I learned that some people should never be parents, especially when they think it is funny when their three-year-old curses like a sailor and likes to bite the teacher. So when Klara started Kindergarten, I decided it was time for me to return to the corporate world, where I could make way more money and not get bitten – literally.
Just before changing jobs, I allowed myself to get talked into becoming a Girl Scout leader. I thought it would be a fun thing to do in my spare time. No one really tells you until it’s too late that this is having another job. In fact, it’s like owning a business. You have to keep tax records. You have to attend adult meetings and training. Add that to my girl’s various lessons — dancing, ice skating, piano, bowling — and there was no spare time. I was in essence working two jobs. I was running myself ragged. After one year of that, my Girl Scout co-leader quit, leaving me hanging on my own. I did the sensible thing. I quit as well. I had to cut back. My girls joined another troop.
During this same time, the girls were taking ballet at the Nashville Ballet. There was a strict dress code. I spent every Saturday morning arguing with Virginia about wearing tights. Why was I torturing myself? Will my child’s life be drastically different when she grows up if she does or does not take these lessons? Of course not! Was something as stupid as a pair of tights worth ruining my relationship with my daughter? Hell no! Surprisingly, when I asked her if she wanted to quit dancing, she said yes. She was just as happy to let those stressful Saturday mornings go as I was. But I still hadn’t learned my lesson.
Someone nominated me to be on our school’s PTO. I didn’t want to join, but I was still elected into the position. I went along with it, because, well I can’t say why I went along with it. Was it because I thought it was the right thing to do? Was it to be nice? I am not sure myself. I guess I just had a hard time telling people no. I didn’t really see this until I went to counseling. On the verge of a breakdown because I had to do everything, be everywhere, take care of everyone, I sought out help. I have written numerous blogs about it. As I told my counselor about my life, she asked me if I had a hard time saying no. I didn’t think I did. No, I said. But then I started thinking about it. Every event I was asked to help out with, I did. Even if i didn’t want to. I didn’t want to run around every day of the week, but I wanted “the best” for my children, so I did. I suppose there was some truth to the fact that I couldn’t say no. So I started saying no. At first I had difficulty. It was hard to tell people I didn’t want to participate any longer. So I took the easy way out. I sent emails. I didn’t want guilt trips. I didn’t want them to try to make me change my mind. I wanted out. I NEEDED out. If something in my life didn’t change, I was going to go off the deep end. My girls willingly quit everything. I was surprised how happy they were to accommodate me. Maybe they needed a break too.
I had a successful, peaceful, activity free summer. I had time to stop and smell the roses. Time to relax and reflect on my life. Time to breathe. Then school started up again. I was doing so well, that when I was asked, I decided it couldn’t hurt to give my children a little of their activities back. But now I am starting to see these activities actually have a little of the same effect on them as well. With all the homework and school demands, even leisurely activities are starting to become chores to them. I had a choice on whether or not to participate, but felt I had an obligation so I couldn’t say no. Look where it got me. I don’t want them to ever feel that when the world is weighing down on them, that they can’t change their minds.
So when Virginia asked me if she could quit band, which involves being at the school for evening events, I said yes. If they come forward and want to stop doing anything else they currently participate in, I will support that too. As a parent, I feel it is my job to guide them to open doors to new experiences. However, should they determine a particular experience is not for them, I don’t want to trap them in it. Doing so may make them not want to try new things, for fear they will be forced to stick with anything that does not fit their life. For now, they are enjoying the activities that they are still participating in and what free time they have. There is nothing permanent in life, so there is no reason to stay trapped in something you don’t want. So do I condone quitting? You bet. It’s better to quit the little things, than to let the little things get so intwined in your life that you feel there is only one way out —and not the good way.