Chicago mom asks: Are chaotic lives the new normal?

We have two kids in elementary school (1st and 3rd grade) and two “babies” (2 ½ and 8 months) and I will be the first to admit that we run a pretty tight ship in regards to schedules and routines. My husband and I both value education and family and we have focused our time, energy and talents on that. We are strong believers in Benjamin Franklin’s mantra of early to bed, early to rise, and are usually in bed no later than 10 p.m. A normal evening in our house is dinner as a family between 5 and 5:30 p.m. and lights are out for all kids by 8 p.m. on school nights. We know this is not a schedule that works for everyone but it has worked for us.

This past week I had a PTO meeting after school so our normal routine was thrown out the window. While we tried to minimize the impact – slow cooker dinner, daddy at home with the little ones – not getting home until 6 p.m. ruined our night. The kids (of course!) had a rare night of homework. Getting it done was a battle, dinner was a battle and bedtime was the worst. Defeated and exhausted as I re-cleaned the dining room due to spilled milk and the after school tornado I tweeted:

I don’t know how other families do it. We had a MTG after school so home at 6pm. Homework+dinner, kids r a mess. So much fighting.

 The answers varied from "I wish I knew!" to "routine" but one stuck out: "most are wondering the same. modern family life is chaos." 

If chaos is the new modern family routine then get me my DeLorean, I’m going back! This can’t be good for any of us to be running around like mad, exhausting ourselves and our children.

 And for what? 

When I look around and I see stories on the increase in anxiety and anger issues in children I can’t help but wonder if it’s the frenetic pace we are pushing on them as being normal life. I know my kids are not themselves, lash out in anger or get anxious when my husband and I are rushing around barking orders because we’re late (again!) or we have something to do (again!) or some place to be (now!).

It seems that every other week a post is going viral on stay-at-home moms being burnt out, tired and over extended. Do you think that these are being liked, shared and tweeted simply because they are phenomenally written? No, they are being shared because parents everywhere are connecting with the sentiment underneath. That life has gotten busy, chaotic and demanding, and we want off the train!

Imagine if instead of making these posts and these words go viral, we made the notion of it all go viral? What if we started doing the very thing we claim to desire: a slower life, more family time and meals at a table. What if we made that desire go viral in our heart, our home, our neighborhood and the world? We all keep doing so many things and scheduling so many things because we all keep showing up. We run from one end of town to the other before collapsing at home in a fit of exhaustion.

Parents, we need to step off this chaotic train and stop glorifying being busy. We need to set the example for our children by saying no and modeling boundaries for our family. It’s not easy, trust me. I volunteered almost 40 hours last month. I am not a good example. But I try. I keep practicing saying no, cutting back and only doing the things we really love.

I fear what the future will look like for ourselves and for our children if decide to run them into the ground before they are even old enough to choose to run themselves. I don’t want to be know as the generation of chaos that imploded from the stress of self-imposed competition to do it all.

 I want to take back my family, one slow step at a time.
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