Ah, the cycles of military life. You finally get settled in your new community, make a boatload of friends, get your family in a rhythm, and PCS orders show up. In some sense (at least for me), this is a relief, for between Scouts and swim team and PTA and work and school and everything, we are pretty busy. A move is a chance to start fresh, to clear out your calendar for the stuff that is really important to your family. No more taking on volunteer work that you don’t want to do. No more overscheduled kids. Just a peaceful family with nice dinners at decent hours, and calm people who live in tidy rooms.
We arrived at our new duty station in June, and moved into our new house in August. The swim team was full, so things remained pretty quiet until late September, when Girl Scouts started meeting. Yes, four girls in four different troops is a challenge, but we’ve worked out a sometimes carpooling system that seems to work. One really crazy afternoon each week and the rest of the days are ours.
Then band started. There is no instrumental instruction provided as part of the school curriculum, so one daughter is staying after one day for band. Not too bad. As long as we are on base that day, two others want to take ballet at the same time. I’m still feeling pretty confident that this is a schedule that we can happily sustain. Two days out and five days home sounds good.
And then there is church on Sundays. There is a youth group that meets during the week, but we are trying to keep our lives quiet, right? So, no youth group. Mom volunteers one or two days each week, during the school day so it doesn’t have too much impact on the overall family schedule. And Mom has that wacky online class (yes, 7-9 pm in Boston is 1-3 am in Italy.) Our calendar is filling up fast, but we’re still doing pretty well.
And then, in comes a storm. One child is often ill, and I’m spending a ridiculous amount of time at the doctor’s office. Said sick child is having school issues due to her absences, and I’m dealing with the school situation. My family arrives for a visit. Four troops worth of Girl Scout Cookies arrive and we have approximately 24 booth sales scheduled over the next two weeks.
My poor husband claims that he could feel my stress when he walked in the door last night. I don’t doubt it…I was not in a good place.
We SpouseBUZZ authors don’t get to see each other often, so we use email to communicate the details of our lives. This mornings emails brought the sharing of lots of serious issues: parenting, medical, and general life. I pretty immediately realized that while I am overstretched, at least all of my issues are relatively minor. There is nothing (other than the sick kid) that I couldn’t ditch if necessary. Nothing life threatening. Nothing life altering. I should stop whining.
And then I had a second thought. Yes, I am extremely thankful that my life is so good, and I am worried for my friends who are dealing with more challenging issues. However, a family stretched by good things can be just as hard as a family stretched by bad things. It doesn’t matter whether my kids are getting to bed late because we are selling cookies or visiting a sick family member, they’re still getting to bed late. It isn’t particularly relevant whether Mom and Dad are beyond exhausted from serious financial stress or just too much driving – beyond exhausted Mom and Dad is not good.
I keep hoping I’ll learn that overscheduled is bad, and it doesn’t happen. I know my husband is feeling frustrated right now, and I am as well. Of course, in another week our guests will be gone and the cookies will (hopefully) be sold. I’m thinking we have a schedule we can actually maintain. Where is the balance? I’m not sure. Should we give up something so that these moments of stress never happen? Or should we try to sneak those piano lessons in somewhere?
Every family is different, in their issues, and their needs, and their ability to juggle. We can’t all do everything, no matter how hard we try. Finding the sweet spot between busy and bored is a constant balance. Let me know if you find it.
photo by lululemon athletica