The Plates Do Crash
Sandra Crawford Williamson
As a workplace woman, I should be able to list “Professional Plate Spinner” on my resume. I think that working moms with children of any age will agree with me. And women who aren’t parents, but are pouring their time and talent into volunteer activities or leadership in social, business, and church groups, face the same overload that can lead to occasional crash and burn. We are constantly balancing a multitude of tasks, trying to keep everything moving and not lose focus on any one task. It’s an impressive balancing act when things go smoothly. But as any plate spinner will tell you, sometimes you get overwhelmed or distracted, and the plates crash to the floor. But I’m here to say that IT’S NOT THE END OF THE WORLD! We can clean it up. We are not failures ... EVER. We are human. Instead of panicking and allow negative thoughts to creep into our heads, we need to stop, take a deep breath, and just start picking up the pieces.
Of course, some days will be harder than others. Life as a working mom can seem like a daily episode of Survivor. Facing challenges, difficult people, hard conversations, physical exhaustion, and so on. It is all you can do to make it to 10PM, surviving to live another day on the island of Survivor: Working Moms. The plate spinning and surviving can seem like an isolating task. But there’s got to be a way to make things easier for us and other working moms. Here are some ways that I have found to make the plate spinning a little easier.
IT TAKES A VILLAGE
Too often, we get so overwhelmed by all our plates that we forget that we aren’t the only ones facing the challenges of balancing work, parenting, travel, professional, social, and church group commitments. Find the other working moms, colleagues, and neighbors around you. Seek them out (look for the women spinning all the plates) and PROACTIVELY SUPPORT each other. We are meant for community, so create that community and help share the plates. Find ways to help each other out like trading pet sitting during travel, dry cleaning pickup, trading carpools to make sure all the kiddos have a ride to their soccer games. If you are at Hobby Lobby getting school supplies for the Science Fair project, be proactive and reach out to the other moms and see if you can pick something up for them. Next time there is a birthday party or other social function, offer to take the kids and let the other mom bring them home. These are just a few examples that get me through the week. There are so many ways we can help each other out. Just think of how you would like to be helped out in certain situations and then be that helper for someone else.
ASK FOR HELP
Why do we hesitate to ask for help? For years, I fought the sin of self-sufficiency. I saw asking for help as a sign of weakness. And then God blessed me with three children. Don’t forget that we are not trying to impress anyone other than the Lord. Stop trying to be Wonder Woman and ask for help! No one is perfect. We are all sharing the same struggles. When you have a huge presentation and also need to get your daughter to her Girl Scouts meeting, ask another mom if she can take her. One tool that my group of moms has found to be helpful is a group text. We can reach out to each other almost daily to coordinate rides, discuss homework questions, confirm rehearsal times, and double check game times and jersey colors. Having that support system lightens the load and offers some clarity and sanity when life gets overwhelming. Instead of hiding our broken plates, let’s be honest and real and reach out to one another.
COLOR-CODE YOUR CALENDAR
Organizing your schedule, having a color-coded calendar, and sending your spouse and helpers meeting requests can make a huge impact. We still have the traditional calendar on the fridge that the children can check and know what’s up on any given day. AND my Outlook calendar is color-coded for my work things in red and then each of the three children’s stuff in their own color. When something is critical and I need my husband to be there, I send him a color-coded meeting request with the details, location, etc. It may sound formal, but I KNOW it’s on his schedule and I won’t get that call that starts with, “Mrs. Williamson, are you on your way?” How you choose to color-code is up to you but assigning each family member a different color really works for me. Why not use the awesome corporate system and tools we use everyday in our personal life, too? When we glance at the calendar we can quickly see what everyone has on their plate, where there are overlaps, and then plan accordingly.
We want to be able to do it all. But I have some bad news for you, you can’t. I know it’s shocking to hear, but we cannot do it all! And we’re not supposed to! I remember when my first was in first grade and I signed up for every volunteer opportunity, every field trip, said yes to every client meeting, signed up for every small group and bible study. HA! I WANTED to do it all so badly. I never wanted to have Jenna be the only one on the symphony field trip without a parent. AND I remember the first time I told her I couldn’t be there and her dad was busy too. She was bummed out ... for about 15 minutes. She moved on and wasn’t affected by it. With limited time, resources, and sanity, it is important that we pick carefully. Select what we can do and be fully present in those things. This will lighten our load and allow us to give our best. Quality, not quantity.
DON’T FEEL GUILTY
And once we choose the things we will focus on, we can’t feel guilty about the things we aren’t doing. Satan is smart. He whispers stuff in our ears that makes us feel sooooo badly about ourselves. But that is Satan, not our precious Lord that loves us. Don’t worry about what other people are doing. Don’t feel left out when you can’t make it to something. When I have to skip those super fab evening business dinners for a dance studio dress rehearsal, it bites ... but I have learned to let it go. Life is a multi-tasking balancing act, just like plate spinning. We are all going to have good days and bad days. The important thing is to accept that fact and move forward. When we let go of our guilt, we won’t just be surviving ... we will be thriving.
And yes, I have plates hit the ground all of the time. Currently my unpaid traffic ticket has me in a bit of a bind, but I got my broom, swept it up, and am doing the best I can on the other side of the crashed plate. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been at Walmart at midnight getting store-bought treats for an event, printing things at FedEx Kinkos at 7AM for a meeting because I finished the deck at 2am, or getting a spirit wear shirt blinged out at 3AM because the pep rally is today! But I don’t mind. So when the inevitable happens and we mess up in the things we have to focus on, we can’t be afraid to ask for help or feel guilty! Just fix it. Glue gun, Gorilla glue, duct tape, or bailing wire. I just put the hot mess back together the best I can and keep moving.
| Sandra Crawford Williamson