Recently, my small group of 16 women agreed to help with childcare at our Bible study. On the day, though, only two of us showed up on time–a huge bummer for the coordinator who needed our help. She was depending on us, and we collectively let her down. Sadly, I’ve observed similar situations far too many times. We need to be women of our word, especially when others are counting us. That’s hard when we have multiple little people in tow! I regularly have to miss events because one (or four) of my children is sick–there are certainly times when events out of our control may prevent us from following through on a commitment. But my group’s recent volunteering fiasco has gotten me thinking about how we can still act with integrity with our kids in the mix.
- First of all, let me clarify that when we or our children are sick, we need to stay home from our commitment. I can think of very few situations in which people want a sick mom or sick kids around. It is not poor character to have sick kids.
- Our habit should be to be women of our word in all areas. Do we tell people we’ll pray for them and then not? Do we say, “let’s get together!” and then neglect to set up a time? Do we say we’ll come to a friend’s event and just decide to stay home? Do we commit to help in the nursery and then not show up? Do we promise our kids to read to them after we’ve read one last email, then spend another hour on the computer instead? We should not take any breaking of our word lightly.
- I do think that all of us (and especially young moms) need to be careful about what we commit to in the first place. In a group volunteering situation like my small group’s, anyone who knows right away she can’t help should let the group know she’s unavailable. There is nothing to be gained by agreeing to something you have no intention of doing. I am the last person to guilt anyone into doing any and every ministry opportunity that comes her way–we need to use wisdom in how we allot the time God has given us. I have to thank my Titus 2 mentors for reminding me of this repeatedly! On an individual level, I currently do not teach Sunday School because I so often have to stay home with sick kids that I could not be as dependable as I’d like. I spent the decade before I had my own kids constantly involved in Sunday School or nursery, but right now, it’s better for me to just be on the sub list. Don’t commit to something you know won’t be able to do.
- This one seems obvious, but…when something comes up and we can’t make it to the park/friend’s house/church nursery/piano recital, the respectful thing to do is to let someone know! As soon as I realize my kids are too sick to come to ballet class, I email our teacher. If my car won’t start or I have a flat tire on the way to a playdate, I call my friend and tell her. Almost all of us have cell phones, and most have a smart phone. It is now easier than ever to contact people in emergency situations.
- Another thing I’ve learned the hard way is that overscheduling my time makes me late for commitments or miss things altogether. Maybe it should only take me 10 minutes to get to the pediatrician, but I need to allow 15-20 minutes so that we can make sure we’re at the appointment on time. If I book my Saturdays back-to-back-to-back, chances are we won’t make it to ballet class in the afternoon. I’ve found that if I do less, I can actually do it well–and keep my word to my friends and my kids. This year, I cut back all our scheduled activities to one Bible study for all of us, soccer for my son, and ballet for the girls. Play dates or field trips happen when we are healthy and able. It’s been so nice to have more breathing room (and more home days).
- Lastly, as a former children’s ministries organizer, I know firsthand how helpful it is when volunteers who can’t make it find their own substitute. Obviously it won’t always be possible when your child is up in the night, vomiting, or when there is a death in the family (yes, both things have happened to me the night before nursery duty), but when you know you’re signed up to work in church nursery every second Sunday, it’s not too hard to switch with someone when you have company in town. (And this is where those of us who can’t make long-term commitments can still step up and be a sub for a friend who has something come up last-minute.)
How do you do with following through on plans and commitments? Is it harder for you with little ones in the equation?