13: From Super to Serene

13: From Super to Serene

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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From Super to Serene

Nothing is less productive than to make more efficient what should not be done at all.

~Peter Drucker

My goal was to be Super Mom. I cooked elaborate meals and decorated snacks. I made costumes and devised holiday games. I took my little ones to “Mommy and Me” classes and never missed any of our kids’ ballgames, band concerts, or plays. Like most parents, I drove them to lessons, practices, rehearsals, and club meetings, helped with homework, and provided a welcoming atmosphere for their friends. Since I also worked a regular job while finishing my college degree, I often stayed up into the wee hours of the morning catching up on laundry, cleaning, and details for the coming days.

My husband and I spent plenty of family fun time with our children, too, enjoying hiking, sports, and board games. There were also vacations to plan and out-of-state relatives to host so our kids could have time with extended family. Every activity was a joy that I didn’t want to miss.

My “super” mindset extended beyond home. I was a “yes” person, always agreeing to help anytime and anywhere volunteers were needed. Field trip chaperone and classroom assistant at our kids’ schools. Sunday School teacher, summer vacation Bible School teacher, and cook for the seniors’ dinner at our church. Fundraising walk organizer, donation collector, volunteer recruiter, newsletter writer, and public relations associate at one charity after another. I wanted do my part to help people and improve the world. Sometimes I was the one who had to make the calls asking for volunteers, and I knew scheduling people to lend a hand could be difficult. So, whenever I was asked to help, I said “yes.”

I made lists and kept a detailed calendar. The demands on my time were becoming overwhelming. Sometimes I just didn’t have the energy to give each endeavor my best. As a perfectionist, I had a hard time accepting that. I couldn’t stand the thought of letting anyone down. Rather than eliminating some duties, I looked for more efficient ways to get it all done.

“I’ll sleep next year!” became my mantra.

One day, yet another call came from one of the nonprofits where I was involved. “Hey, I need to add somebody to our event planning committee. Wondering if you’d do it.”

This time I hesitated. How could I take on another responsibility?

“You know, I have so much on my plate right now, I’d rather you find someone else for the committee, if you can,” I explained. “But call me back if you have trouble.”

“Oh, that’s okay. I’m sure I can get someone else. You’re the first person I’ve called. I just started at the top of the list.”

It was as if a bucket of water had just hit me in the face. How could this not have occurred to me before? My last name starts with A! Everyone always called me because I was first on the list.

And I always said yes. By trying so hard to do my part, had I inadvertently prevented people further down the lists from being offered the opportunity to do theirs? Should I stop trying to be more efficient, and simply… stop?

From that point on, it became much easier to decline when I felt I was already doing my share. I even realized that there was no need to be Super Mom. My kids would do just fine with Serene Mom.

Sure, my greatest joy is still in doing things with and for my children. But happiness also comes from seeing what they accomplish when they take on some chores and responsibilities for themselves. I also still love to volunteer. I do what I can to help others. However, I no longer exhaust myself by overdoing it. Now I can commit my efforts more fully and energetically where I do participate. And I can enthusiastically appreciate the successes of others.

I gained a new perspective on my place in the scheme of things. Sometimes it’s okay to say no and step aside, so that someone else gets the chance to step up.

~D.S.A.

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