If It Were Me | July 2016

By Elizabeth Oates

Got questions?

Dear Elizabeth,

I am so overwhelmed these days. I work 50 hours per week, chauffer three kids to five different sports and manage the house. My husband travels a lot, so I can’t rely on him for help. I am stressed and take out my frustrations on my kids. I can’t find any downtime and feel like life is spinning out of control. Any advice on how to handle my hectic schedule? — R.W.

Dear R.W.,

Sounds like you are living the American dream — marriage, career, kids. Yet sometimes the dream feels more like a nightmare. It’s time to take stock of what is necessary and unnecessary in your life.

Start with your job. Is it necessary for you to be a two-income family? Do you work for self-fulfillment? Or do you work because that’s just what you have always done? If you need or want to work, that’s valid, but you might need to create more margin in your life and protect your family time.

Next evaluate your kids’ activities. Many families abide by the one-kid/one-sport philosophy. I admit our family has violated this rule in the past and regretted it. Setting limits on our kids is not punishment; it is actually a blessing. It puts less stress and fewer demands on their already hectic lives.

Finally, you mentioned that you couldn’t find any downtime. I challenge you to set aside 15 minutes in the morning, evening or even during your lunch hour. Then dedicate those 15 minutes to something you enjoy: reading, scrapbooking, taking a bath or calling a friend.

Dear Elizabeth,

My sister, brother-in-law and their three elementary-age kids are coming to stay with us. My husband and I have four young children of our own, so with four adults and seven young kids, you can imagine the chaos under one roof.
The problem is we parent our children very differently from my sister and her husband. My husband and I believe in order and structure, while they let their kids stay up until close to midnight. We believe in simple, family-focused activities, like swimming and hiking, while they want to overindulge their children at places like Chuck E. Cheese’s. How can I survive this visit and keep my relationship with my sister intact? — Already Stressed

Dear Already Stressed,

I am already stressed from reading your email. Like you, I enjoy order and structure as much as the next mom, but summer is time for even the most regulated moms to loosen the reins a bit, especially when company comes in town.

Have you ever thought that the problem might have something to do with you? Despite your inflexibility, your sister is still making the effort to come see you. Wake up! It sounds like your sister is a gracious, patient and kind woman.

What is the worst thing that could happen if your kids stay up past their bedtime? They might be cranky the next morning? My guess is they would have so much cousin fun they would forget about their lack of sleep. Does Chuck E. Cheese’s cause any long-term damage to a child’s psyche? Not to my knowledge. Is the food gross? Yes. Is it overpriced? Definitely. Is it a petri dish of sensory overload, cheap toys that instantly break and candy that causes cavities? Of course! That’s why kids love it and why going with their cousins will be something your kids talk about for the rest of the summer.

I encourage you to ask yourself what’s more important: your rules or your sister?

If you need some practical advice on how to handle the weekend, here are some ideas:

  • Allow your sister to plan two days’ activities and you plan the other two.
  • If they are staying four days, they are probably only spending three nights. I advise you to let the kids stay up late the first and last nights their cousins are in town.
  • Set aside some time for just you and your sister. Let the dads handle the kids while you and your sister take a walk, grab a cup of coffee (or a glass of wine) and just catch up. Some quality sister time might do you both some good and remind you of why sisters and family are more important than routines.