A few months ago, we were driving home from church when my husband leaned over and whispered, “I-C-E?” (code for, “Shall we surprise the kids and stop by the ice cream place?”).
I considered it for about three seconds before nixing the idea. I alluded to the fact that we hadn’t had lunch yet, but the real reason for my negative response? Spontaneity is just not my forte.
I like schedules, routines, and sticking to those schedules and routines. It’s not that I’m a completely boring person. I actually plan and incorporate a fair amount of playdates, hikes, picnics, and other extracurricular activities into our weekly schedule (keyword: “plan”).
But last-minute affairs? There’s a 99% chance I’m going to say no—even for things that sound appealing—because it will interrupt the kids’ nap time, I was in the middle of washing dishes, I was hoping to get caught up on laundry, my drawers need to be reorganized, I don’t really feel like driving anywhere, and I would need to be home in time to cook dinner.
And I just hadn’t planned on it.
When I spell it all out like that it makes me feel kind of ridiculous. Like, duh—laundry, dishes, and reorganizing can wait, the kids can nap in the car, and I could just throw a pizza in the oven for dinner. It’s the getting my booty in the car and loading up my kids and their 50 personal effects part that’s the hardest. That, and the mental baggage that tags along for the ride.
I’m no longer carefree as a bird. Grown-up responsibilities seem to have a way of weighing down wings, and guilt tends to set in if I let diversion trump duty. I am working on it, though.
A few weeks ago, I texted a couple of girlfriends suggesting we take all of our kids sledding. It was a gorgeous snowy day and the past couple of weeks we’d been talking about how we should get out there and just do it.
Since it was a somewhat last-minute text, I joked about how I was trying to be a more spontaneous person. In reality, it was the truth.
The responses that came back confirmed I wasn’t the only one who struggles with spontaneity. We didn’t go sledding, and the kids didn’t even know they were missing out. But it did make us think about our ability to be spontaneous (or lack thereof). It seems we moms in particular find it challenging to drop a pre-made plan in favor of a new one although we admittedly wish it weren’t the case.
For some of us, our more free-spirited natures gave way to a more grounded stance when we started a family. Personally, I’ve taken upon myself the role of “Family Scheduler Enforcer.” I like homeschooling to be completed by lunchtime, dinner ready by 6:00, kids in bed by 8:00, and all the phone calls, emails, cleaning, and cooking done in between those times.
I like being on top of things. Deviating from the schedule results in a feeling of overwhelm, knowing the to-do list is only going to get longer.
But I also know it’s not the end of the world if things don’t go exactly as planned . . . which is why I need to stop using my routine as an excuse to not embrace impromptu activities, and why I should “just plan on” being more spontaneous.
Maybe that plan can include having snacks at the ready, a change of clothes for each kid already in the car, and a few meals stocked in the freezer. Maybe I can do an extra load of laundry on those rainy days when I actually do have time and put myself ahead. Maybe when I truly can’t afford to be spontaneous, I can plan something fun without telling the kids and surprise them with it.
And maybe, just maybe, I can reclaim some of my pre-mom spontaneity that I never meant to kiss goodbye.
I’m a firm believer that planning ahead is definitely a good thing—necessary even, especially for moms or kids with special needs. It helps keep everyone sane and safe. But when a plan becomes the authority that has the final say and I bow to its every directive, it is no longer just a plan; it’s an idol.
If you, like me, are working to achieve a balance between having both a plan and the willingness to ditch it when God-given opportunities call for a little spontaneity on our part, know you’re not alone.
Whether it’s changing plans to go sit with a grieving friend or simply leaving the housework to go outside and enjoy a blue-bird day with the kids, it’s not always easy to get out of comfy scheduled mode. However, I’m realizing that just as being physically flexible is beneficial to my muscles, being flexible (without stretching myself thin) in day-to-day activities reaps benefits, as well. And my family is all in for this more spontaneous version of me. No excuses, no regrets.