The ups, downs and overall delights of parenthood
Jun 23, 2010
I Hate Over-Commit-itis
What happens to SAHMs and WAHMs when the youngest kid starts first grade and we have all those extra hours in a day? It seems that we over-commit ourselves – to the point of insanity
Much is written about Empty Nest Syndrome and the difficulties parents, especially moms, experience when their kids go off to college. It's actually considered a psychological condition – and no wonder. It's a time when moms have to decide what to do with the rest of their lives.
I've never read about the precursor to that: The time when your youngest child enters first grade, and suddenly you've got all these daytime hours to fill. I call it Half-empty Nest Syndrome. Some women go back to work and that's great. Others find work to do inside the home. And others just continue being homemakers, figuring if they did work, childcare would take most of that check anyway.
Many of the at-home moms I know deal with this by getting involved in school and in the community. We start filling up those hours with paid work, volunteer work, more critters to care for and all sorts of craziness until we're busier than we ever wanted to be. That's when you know you've caught Over-commititis.
I have only a moderate case of the dreaded disease, compared to other moms I know, but I'm still about to go out of my mind.
Here I thought my days as a work-at-home mom would be all about lunches out with girlfriends and afternoon naps curled up with a pet or two. And while chillaxin' most days, I figured, I could pick up a little work and spend a few hours at the school.
Did I stick to that wondrously luxurious plan? Oh no. Instead, I overcommitted.
In the soon-to-end school year, with Suzi in first grade, I've managed to become the co-chair of a school committee, get a weekly blog, run our school's Culture Night event, join a city committee, become co-organizer of a local political group, join and quit another local group's steering committee, agree to be a precinct delegate in my city and then, in April, I got a new puppy to add to our three cats and lone surviving goldfish (why – because I needed more responsibility!?).
My to-do list gets longer and more stress-inducing every day. And the one thing at the bottom of that list that hasn't seen a checkmark since last August, is the names of women I planned to have all those relaxed, chatty lunches with!
So why do we do this? I'm guessing that not having a job makes some of us at-home moms seek more purpose in life than cleaning can provide. And perhaps there's the need to find a new outlet for our nurturing instinct that's no longer needed by our little baby birds who fly the coup seven hours a day. At least I believe that's the method behind my madness.
Ultimately, there's no harm done. The real bonus is that many of us end up over-volunteering, which is a great thing.
My friend Kelly Jones was just named our city's (Troy's) Volunteer of Year. She's unbelievable. She's in twice the number of committees I am, but also volunteers on a very personal level – working overnight at homeless shelters, driving a neighbor without a car to and from work EVERY DAY for three months, and taking in four kids from the African Children's Choir when they toured Detroit last year, to name just a few. And she has two small kids.
In her speech at Troy's Flag Day Celebration, Kelly said simply, "Help people. Just help people."
If that's a symptom of Kelly's Over-commititis, I guess the world would be a better place if we all caught the bug.