Wednesday, May 11, 2016
A church friend who is the mom of four, ages three to 15, made a post on Facebook that first started with appreciation for her children's teachers. That came through clear, but then a lament that sometimes there are unrealistic, short notice demands on the parents. Apparently one of her brood had a single night to have a parent review and make corrections on a research paper, and get it turned back in today. This was added to her plate on top of getting one kid returned from a track meet, other homework help for all three, tending to a toddler, and a spouse recuperating from surgery. She's a great mom, but not superhuman. I remember some of the overnight turnaround parent required involved things with my kids over the years and feeling the same stress.
DH isn't scheduled to work Thursdays. I started noticing a pattern for a while where a certain family member of his would need him to help her on Thursday mornings to meet a repairman, accept a delivery, attend an appointment, or other last minute, same morning or night before requests. I thought it was an odd coincidence that these things kept coming up when the person themselves had a conflict until I realized she was intentionally scheduling for Thursday mornings. Then, if something else came up, she would simply ask DH to step in. She assumed if he didn't have a specific thing on his calendar, it meant he was free to help her out. He did finally speak up, super nicely, stating he is happy to help out, but even if he is around, he is trying to get his own things done and would appreciate advanced notice. He comes from a family where busy is a badge of honor, so if you don't have a ready made list scheduled, it means you are not as busy.
In the workplace, unless you own your own company, and even then you are meeting demands of clients and customers, your time is never your own. But in my personal life, I want to call the shots of where my time is spent, even if I created the insane busy calendar. I hate having other people coercing me into how I spend my time. I've gotten more disciplined in responding back when I get the open ended questions from people, his family in particular, about time, with "why do you ask?" It has helped derail the hidden agenda in the question,"What are you doing tomorrow?" Even if I have nothing planned, I am not always willing to spend my hours doing someone elses plans because they decided that date worked for them, or they overbooked themselves.
I know teachers want parents involved in their children's education. Family members need help sometimes when true things of urgency come up. No one can plan for the unexpected, but I hope my unexpected isn't throwing other people's timelines off kilter, and I really try not to make my decisions dictate a friend or family members day. I've also really appreciated the teachers that have given a heads up that a heavy duty project will be coming my child's way. I think part of my friends frustration is the request of parental involvement came with no notice and she was already on frayed nerves. Likewise, my reaction to said family member might be different if the conversation started with, "I need to have the service guy come out. If I need your help, when might be good for you?" With favors, while a quid pro quo is not needed, reciprocity goes a long way, and those that ask for the favors need to step up on occasion and be the givers.