I have a long-standing history of overcommitment.
Though my early childhood schedule of piano, flute and dance lessons doesn't hold a candle to the insane co-curricular schedule of some of my children's peers, I was definitely always busy. And as I grew older, I held on to those commitments by choice, adding new ones that fit my interests.
It didn't pose a problem until things came to a head in the eighth grade, when my choral concert directly conflicted with my dance school's dress rehearsal for its biennial recital. You'd probably think that given this kind of conflict, one would simply skip the dress rehearsal for the show, but generalizations don't account for my dance teacher, who was certain the world revolved around her recital (and to be honest, in my town, she was right).
I had a solo in the choral concert. Not just a piece with choral backup, but my own piece. Which probably made skipping that concert potentially easier, but also harder at the same time. Sure, they could take my name out of the program. But voluntarily giving up the spotlight I'd worked so hard to earn? Not so much.
So I plotted, with the support of my parents, to attempt attendance at both. Dance the first number at the dress rehearsal, hop in the car, drive to the concert and sing, get back in the car, return to the dress rehearsal for the remainder of the evening.
This plan was made more challenging by the fact that my school was about twenty minutes away from where I lived. And I had to change from a tutu and tights to civvies and back to a skimpy little jazz number. While the car was in motion. No small feat for a self-conscious pre-adolescent.
I remember, clearly, sitting in the back seat, all limbs and tuille, trying to angle myself into the next costume with my seat belt on, while my eight year old brother looked on in amusement. I'd done "quick changes" before--that was a standard in dance school once you got old enough to be in several numbers per show--but doing it in motion was something entirely different, something more than a little nausea-inducing. Mastering the art of the quick-change, my dance teacher would tell us, meant understanding that we could do it all.
Body memory goes deep; every time since then when I've found myself racing from one overlapping commitment to another, I've been right back there in the back seat of our ancient tank-like Mercedes, my father gunning the engine through the dense neighborhoods of suburban New Jersey, my mother gripping the door handle and worrying out loud. Occasionally, when I've re-experienced this feeling, the stakes felt high: when my son was born, for example, leaving work on time meant that I only just barely got home in time to feed him, and being stuck behind a slow-moving truck meant a meltdown at home in my absence, and a thirty-minute pumping session at home at the end of a long day, before I could sit down for dinner, if there was time to eat at all. Other times, the stakes were less high, when I double-booked myself at meetings of community organizations, or made promises to two different groups of people, knowing that I could technically get it all done. Still, sometimes, the quick-change works less well than others.
I'm much less overcommitted these days; working full time with a commute makes it impossible to promise my time to much of anything else after hours back home, if I still want to see my family. I've had to come to terms with that, and it's been at the front and center of some of my conversations after the election, since one of the things I gave up to work full time was my position on the school board. I gave up my committee chair position at our fellowship. (I tried to give up the Friends of the Library Board, too, but they refused to take my name off of their executive board roster, so I've decided to take my son to meetings in the future, which would work well for everyone.) There have been less-satisfying sacrifices, like my favorite yoga class. But the most important thing is that I no longer pretend to have it all. The quick-change approach to life is fairly unsatisfying; you're always thinking about the next place you need to be; and, as I learned that one spring, it just isn't practical to put on a leotard in a moving vehicle.
It's been over a year now since Anne-Marie Slaughter's article on "Why Women Can't Have It All" went viral, and it doesn't feel like very much has changed out there. I still get the feeling people wonder why I'm not doing everything I used to do. And it's astounding to me that we'd never most likely never ask that question of a man.
I hope not to overschedule my kids, not just because they "deserve to be kids for as long as possible," but because they need to learn that it's OK to make choices. That adults shouldn't be overscheduled, either. That's it's not a healthy way of life. Sure, we are in a rush to get out the door in the mornings; I'm not sure how else to do it, short of getting everyone up at 4:30 a.m. But there are also days with Legos, and books, and stickers, and a long walk through downtown, with no destination in mind.
Do you do your own quick-change?
Pumpkin Pie Smoothie
One way we try to buy a few extra minutes in the morning before my kids do their own not-so-quick change from PJs to clothes is by throwing breakfast in the blender. Usually, there's some version of mango or strawberry-banana
smoothies; this weekend, I figured I'd try a
pumpkin pie smoothie on them for a change. My son turned up his nose, and my picky daughter licked the glass clean. This could also work as a dessert.
1 banana, peeled and frozen (they are sweeter that way)
3/4 c. pumpkin puree
1 container Greek yogurt (honey, vanilla, or plain)
2/3 c. milk
splash orange juice
1/2 t. cinnamon (or to taste)
1/2 t. ginger (or to taste; I added more as I went)
1/4 t. nutmeg
Toss everything in the blender and whirl until smooth. Pour into a fancy glass, preferably with a fancy umbrella, which will make your breakfast feel leisurely even if you really don't have time to dally, and serve.