Some days my house is spotless, but I’ve barely had a spare minute to do anything else. Other days are packed with fun, but our home looks like a bomb went off. Our family goes through seasons of busyness and periods of calm, and our days rarely feel perfectly balanced. Going through life as a family will always bring extra responsibilities and expectations into the mix. My mindset during this time: embrace the chaos, but don’t invite it in.
Life moves in seasons
From the time babies are born, they constantly move from one phase to the next. Just as you feel that you’ve figured out one new behavior, they continue on to the next. A few days after we brought our first baby home, one of our good friends left us a hilariously encouraging message saying, “So right about now, your biggest question is: where the heck is the manual for this thing?” It was 100% true. Even at 6 and 9, my kids still go through periods that have us wondering how best to parent them. I have no doubt that some of the trickiest phases are still ahead of us in the teenage years.
The good news is that these phases are typically short-lived. A busy time in our family pulls us in many directions, but is often followed by a period of rest. Just as the harvest is often the busiest time for a farmer, afterward he is able to enjoy the result of his hard work. This is never more true for me than during the Christmas season. I put in a lot of extra time shopping, planning, wrapping presents, and decorating our house so that we can enjoy the celebration together. By doing the work ahead of time, I’m able to relish the joy of Christmas with my family.
Make your “yes” meaningful
Ecclesiastes 3:9-10, 12-13 says, “What gain has the worker from his toil? I have seen the business that God has given to the children of man to be busy with…I perceived that there is nothing better for them than to be joyful and to do good as long as they live; also that everyone should eat and drink and take pleasure in all his toil – this is God’s gift to man.”
I don’t know about you, but I don’t always “take pleasure in all my toil.” I’m thankful that we have food on the table, but I’m not exactly thrilled by another trip to the grocery store. These verses remind us that God did not intend for us to sit around all day. After God created the first man and woman, He gave them responsibilities. Our time on Earth is meant to be productive. In order to be joyful about my work, I have to be careful about how I manage my time.
In The Best Yes, Lysa Terkeurst writes, “The decisions we make dictate the schedules we keep. The schedules we keep determine the lives we live. The lives we live determine how we spend our souls. So this isn’t just about finding time. This is about honoring God with the time we have.” (p.23) If we’re constantly running on empty, we’re not honoring anyone with our time, no matter how many commitments or jobs we can check off our list. Being busy may be culturally appropriate, but it doesn’t allow our souls to thrive.
Obviously there are times when we can’t help but be busy. Sometimes my kids have back to back school performances or events scheduled at the same time. I’m not talking about that type of accidental overcommitment. I’m talking about when we stretch ourselves too thin by saying yes when we should be saying no. By turning down commitments that we know will drain our time and energy, even though they might be fun, helpful, or worthwhile tasks, we are saying yes to our own well-being and that of our families. In this way, we’re not inviting chaos into our lives without purpose.
Making purposeful decisions about your time
How can we acknowledge the reality that family life can be busy without surrendering control of our time? By making purposeful decisions about how we use our time. Instead of committing to projects on a whim, we have to think honestly about what it entails. Here are three things to remember before you take on another commitment for yourself or your family.
Don’t underestimate the requirements. How much time will you need to devote to this task, event or activity? I often over-simplify tasks in my head and end up overwhelmed when a project requires more time than I planned. It’s hard to say no to something you genuinely want to do, but if it demands more time or energy than you have to give, it will quickly become a burden rather than a blessing.
Manage your expectations & those of your family. This goes hand in hand with the previous point. There’s a conference I want to attend in a few months, but it falls on the same weekend as a father-son camping trip. Before I make my decision, I need to discuss the timing with my husband, and also plan childcare for our daughter. To make a decision without considering the impact on my family would be disrespectful and potentially problematic.
Count the cost. My daughter takes a dance class once a week. She enjoys the class and rarely has to pass up other activities because the time commitment is minimal. We’re not going to sign her up for a highly competitive dance program requiring several practices a week because she doesn’t have the necessary passion for dance. If an activity or project is going to stretch the demands on your time, you need to make sure it’s worth it.
As a mom, I often feel like I need to be all things to all people. The truth is it’s just not possible. If we want to be able to enjoy the harvest, we can’t be responsible for sowing the seeds everywhere at all times. At some point, something’s gotta give. We have to make decisions that allow the best use of our time for ourselves, our families and for what God is calling us to do.