On the side of the hamster cage there is a wheel.
It spins, and goes nowhere.
It makes a lot of noise, all hours of the day and night.
It would go on forever.
Endless movement while never achieving the goal of moving forward.
I have a confession to make. I have often been on that wheel as a parent.
(and I often jump back on it if I am not intentionally watching out for the signs!)
I am guilty of running around in circles, doing unnecessary things just because they are expected of me.
Saying “yes” to things I should be saying, “no… or not now,” to.
Things that keep me busy, moving, running, without moving me any closer to my most important goals.
I can spend much energy on things that are not high priority.
I can find it hard to do the important job of rest, and miss the season of life I am in… because I feel an urgency in my day.
Just a few more laps on that wheel to go!
There are some natural tendencies and some lenses I see life through that have encouraged me to stay on that wheel in the past.
And to jump back on in the present.
Maybe you can relate to some of these things I have found out about myself:
- I like to obey rules.
- I am competitive.
- I have high expectations for me and my family.
- I find success in getting a lot done.
- I want my days to be full of purpose.
- I deeply care about other people.
- I am moved to action easily.
- I have a hard time saying no.
- I feel guilty for not meeting other’s expectations of me.
- I am stubborn. (If I get something stuck in my head to do… I have a hard time changing course!)
- I find it hard to break habits.
With these tendencies, I am a perfect candidate for a wheel runner.
For about the first 10 years of marriage, I ran like a freaking rat…
trying to do everything everyone wanted me to do…
volunteering for everything under the sun…
not getting enough sleep… not getting enough exercise…
not spending much time with close family outside of volunteering opportunities…
and expecting everyone else to be like me.
I expected an almost perfect house, body, kids, and husband;
and pushed my heart, body, soul and family to the limits.
In a religious and community setting, I was surrounded by the philosophy that I was to be a “good wife” and a “good mom”
… and what those voices were telling me… well, it was impossible to do all that they were saying AND focus on the most important things.
But I sincerely tried.
Each person pointed out another area in which I should be doing more.
I needed a cleaner house. I needed to give more money.
I needed to volunteer more. I needed to teach my children more.
I carried guilt as a third leg. Dragging it into most conversations and trying to hide it from the outside world.
My husband saw it. He heard me almost daily apologize for not being a “good enough wife” or a “good enough mom.”
I wouldn’t go to bed until all the dishes were washed and put away because a “good wife” never goes to bed with dishes in the sink.
(an echo in my mind from a college teacher still 20 years later)
My kids saw it. I demanded a lot from them.
Obedience without question.
They often saw an unhappy momma.
Life was overwhelming.
I couldn’t do it all.
I was angry.
I was exhausted.. and then I would feel guilty for feeling angry and exhausted.
Such a vicious wheel!
I needed help.
I needed grace.
I needed permission to say, “No. I cannot do that.”
I needed someone to look me in the eyeballs and say… “GET OFF THAT WHEEL before you CROAK!”
I needed to STOP listening to people who said I wasn’t doing enough… I had a lot of them in my life.
I needed to START listening to people who could help me set a healthy pace of life.
A pace that could last for years… decades.
Those who could help me use my energy and passions efficiently.
Those who could help me turn my tendencies into strengths that worked FOR me… NOT against me.
Those who saw me as an individual with gifts, personality, and a season of life that didn’t always fit into their way of doing things.
With intentional life change, my husband Mike and I have slowly figured out how to stay off that wheel.
Some of you might relate to some of these things.
Some of you might not have had religious influences push you onto that wheel.
But you might have other ones.
Maybe family members.
Maybe a job environment.
Maybe a way of thinking.
Maybe the culture you are surrounded by.
Whatever it is… I am telling you… you have permission to GET OFF THAT WHEEL today!
Take a breather and do some heart searching.
What is controlling your decisions?
Who is influencing your definition of a “good parent” or “good spouse?”
How do you measure your “success” as a parent, spouse, friend, or employee?
Do you allow yourself time to focus on your emotional, physical, and mental health?
Do you allow yourself to say, “No” to things that hinder you from the most important goals in your season of life?
I hope if you are struggling with this… that you give yourself the grace and permission you need.
You will be a better “whatever” when you are able to chose worthy goals, and make baby steps towards them.
You will be a happier spouse, parent, employee… when you see change for the positive.
You will have time to focus on the most important… when you allow yourself to say “No” to those things that aren’t.
I hope you see that by helping yourself… you really are helping those you care about.
And who care about you.
Life is too short… to waste a bunch of energy on that wheel.