How to Give Back When Your Plate Is Full
It’s 8:15 p.m. and you’ve been up for 16 ½ hours. Your day started with coffee, Bible, packing lunches, showers, makeup, actually making yourself presentable, signing agendas, looking over homework, ironing, dressing, brushing, constantly “motivating,” maybe even a little wrestling. In the car, you give a run down of the day, quizzing, reminding, praying, consoling, and encouraging. You drop the kids off and are filled with anxious emotions: “Are they okay? Will they do their best? Will they make good choices? Will they….” You fill in the blank.
At work, you assume the position of friend, advisor, encourager, listener, decision-maker, supporter for people you spend more time with than your own family, and leave over 8 hours later with the exhausted and overwhelming feeling of “I’m leaving one full-time job and heading to another but I don’t know that I have anything left.”
Driving off from the pickup line, you once again review, console, praise, brag, listen, encourage, prepare and if you’re being honest, you’re not even listening that well because in your head you’re desperately trying to decide what to cook for dinner and how you’re going to help them get the materials for that project that is due tomorrow! You’re also making a mental note of food you have at home because who wants to take elementary-aged children to the grocery store after a long school day?
Whether you’re on your third bag of popcorn as dinner at the ball field this week or sitting down to thank God for these nuggets, hotdogs, mac and cheese, and a can of green beans, you also ask Him to please cover your bases in the nutrition department for your children because your menu choices aren’t found on any South Beach Diet.
And now it’s time for homework, bath time, and cleaning up from dinner—literally all at the same time. You hand one a toothbrush instead of a pencil; put one in the bath with his diaper still on, while the other is painting her nails all over your kitchen table because she “asked” you and you absent-mindedly said “yes.”
At bedtime, you say all the prayers, tuck in, read, sing, get water, answer the questions, start a load of laundry, get lunch boxes back out, lay out clothes for tomorrow, sign the field trip forms, and fall into bed.
You pick up your phone to check for signs of adult life. Post after post, texts, and emails are full of baby announcements, birthday reminders, calendar notifications that it’s your week to bring snacks, your ladies’ group is asking for volunteers, and of course there’s a Pinterest ad suggesting five ways to love on the public servants in your community and you are immediately overwhelmed with guilt and shame because you haven’t done that in a while, so you think, “What a great thing to do with the kids in between birthday parties on Saturday.”
Whew! How in the world will it all get done? How can you be everywhere and everything for everyone?
I’ve said before that I need about nine versions of myself to be everywhere I need to be. There are also times when I feel like I’m doing so many things that I’m not doing any of it well. It’s taken me almost 40 years, 15 years of marriage, and three kids to learn how to either say “no,” or sometimes to say “yes,” but it might not look like everyone else’s “yes.” I’ve learned to prioritize loving on my own family while giving back to my community when my plate is so full.
Giving back can range from serving at church and loving on others in need in your community to making sure your kids have the decorated holiday boxes and snacks for the team. Whatever it is, it’s extra, it’s sometimes inconvenient, and it can feel overwhelming, but it needs to be done.
So, from one busy mom to another, here are a few ways to give back even when your plate is full!
1. Buy an assorted card box to keep on hand for a quick way to drop a card in the mail to let someone know you’re thinking of them.
2. Utilize your online resources. Send an e-gift card, or order a gift card online to be delivered to the recipient. You’re in the season of life where “online” is your friend and your other friends get it and appreciate the thought!
3. Are you running out of something or did you get a list of needs for an upcoming event? Go ahead and put all of it in your cart of your favorite online delivery service! I love the Walmart, Amazon, and Ibotta delivery services. Plan ahead and purchase items you may need when they’re on sale.
4. Send pizza or have food delivered when a friend has a baby or if there is a death in a family. Honestly, I’ve been on both sides of this, and sometimes time doesn’t allow for me to go and sit with a friend or even prepare a meal but I also know what it’s like to just wish dinner would show up or magically be taken care of in a time of need.
5. Go in with a friend. Spread out the work load or burden of a need. Chances are she needs some help in sharing the load, too.
6. Turn some family time into serving together. This way you’re still getting to spend quality time together with family but you’re also giving back to someone in need. Bake cookies together to give. Go shopping together for the friend in need and let your kids have a part in the gift. Take the kids to the outreach organization. There are also practical lessons your kids will walk away with too when you serve as a family!
Still do, just do it differently. Before kids and the business of life kicked in, I was the person to sign up for everything and would bring as much from the list as possible. Now, I might be the “plates, cups, and cutlery” person. Or, my donations might be store bought and still in the bag.
No matter the stage of life, it’s obvious that our hearts and plates are full of life happening to us and all around us. We are being pulled in a million directions by trying to do it all and still somehow we allow guilt to creep in and convince us that we’re not doing enough. Wherever you are in life, take some time to re-evaluate. It’s probably not that you’re not doing enough. It may just be that you need to change how you’re doing it.
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