Recently I've been spending a lot more time with younger homeschooling families and observing the way the moms conduct their business, and interact with their kids. It has been a joy to get to spend time with the children and the younger homeschooling moms, but one thing has stood out for me while watching them go about their daily lives.
Homeschooling moms have a really hard time saying, "No".
The world tends to look at these mothers and see someone who has a lot of time to kill, since they are "just" staying at home all day with the kids.
Their church tends to think that they have lots of time to devote to ministerial duties.
Their homeschooling groups and co-ops tend to think they have time to coordinate, plan, and teach classes for other kids, "since they are going to be there, anyway".
Their neighbors and friends tend to think they have time to babysit a few extra kids and/or run some extra errands, because "they don't have a job"...
I've met some moms who have successfully fended off all these extra requests, and other moms who just can't seem to say, "No", and mean it. Part of our problem is that we have all internalized this idea that we are Christian women, who have to put everybody else's concerns ahead of our own...to be of service to all that we encounter.
But our first level of ministry has to be our own family!
No matter what stage of life a woman is in, she has to be able to set her own agenda, and say, "This is all I have time to do. Sorry, but my cup already runneth over...." This is hard to do when the church secretary "just needs one little favor", or the neighbor down the street "can't pick up her child today at school." It takes practice. If you have trouble, stand in front of your mirror and pretend you are a two year old. "No....No....No....NOOOOOOOO!"
It is still important to maintain my own agenda at this point in my life. In one week, I leave for England for my daughter's wedding. I decided several weeks ago that the week prior to the trip, I was not going to work at my appraisal job, and warned my supervisor in plenty of time.
Yesterday, I spent over an hour on the phone with him. Apparently, if I don't accept at least two appraisals this month, he will go out of business! I like my supervisor, but I must say, he is a master manipulator. He told me that it was likely that he wouldn't have any work for me when I get back if I didn't help him this week. He asked me, "Does it really take you a week to do your laundry?" (After all, laundry is the only thing I have to accomplish this week....to prepare for a two week trip out of the country, including a wedding and a backpacking trip to Scotland..really?.)
He said to me, "It must be nice to have the luxury to not have to work"....(how many times did I hear that one while I was homeschooling!), and then followed it up with, "Do you really need to have a vacation in order to prepare for your vacation".
Luckily, I have learned this lesson. MY AGENDA. MY DECISION. Is there a time for flexibility? Yes, of course. But it is MY DECISION when to be flexible!!! So I listened politely, commiserated with him about his problems with the business, and then said, once again, NO. I will not do any appraisals this week. I am getting ready for my daughter's wedding!
Remember, you can't be any good to anyone else if you get yourself all out of whack! And always, always, always, your first ministry is to your own family. Don't let anything, even church work or outside ministry, stop you from taking good care of yourself and your kids. And learn to say, politely and firmly, "NO."