The season of ‘no’: You don’t have to sign up for all the kid’s activities, mama

For now, saying ‘yes’ to a brave ‘no’ has been a very good option for us.

The season of ‘no’: You don’t have to sign up for all the kid’s activities, mama

Soccer sign-ups approached and I did what I always do—waited until the last minute. That’s probably not entirely true. In the early days, with my firstborn, I hunted these things down. I researched ahead of time.

How early can they start? What are the age requirements? When does registration begin?

I knew these answers well in advance back then because it was finally our turn! A cute little soccer player, tiny shin guards and cleats. Cleats! For a 5-year-old. Does it get any cuter?

I sent my kid out onto the field, all shiny and new, and our initiation as soccer parents, our season as parents with kids in activities, began. We progressed naturally from there. Fall soccer season. Spring soccer season. Next kid turns 5? Add new player. Repeat cycle.

And it was good. Kids love the snacks after the game...I mean, playing soccer. It’s fun to visit with other parents, meet new families, make new friends, chat with old ones. We all enjoyed it.

So we did that for a dozen or so seasons.

Each year, though, I became slower with the process. Slower to sign up. Slower to dive back in.

Yes, of course, we would still play soccer (not to mention ballet, co-op, piano, choir), but being gone from home a couple evenings a week isn’t easy. We needed to strategize and figure out how to make it all work.

We puzzled our schedule together carefully—figuring out how to add all the activities in, plus squeeze in the one evening a week I needed to work or that meeting either my husband or I needed to attend. Season after season we were (somehow) making it all work.

But questions began to linger, causing me to pause before I robotically signed up yet again. Is “making it work” what I’m really after here? Is this really good?

Dinners were often (always?) rushed and processed on soccer nights. Conversation and connecting with each other sounded something like “Shoes on! In the car!” Or, “Hurry up, we’re going to be late!”

There are seasons of motherhood that are inherently busy. There is probably a degree of crazy I signed up for by bringing four children into the world. But too much of this sort of connection leaves a metallic taste in a mother’s mouth.

Is this really how it has to be?

My husband and I recently took a hard look at our schedule and our home life. We asked tough questions and put it all on the chopping the block. Sports, church activities, music—it was all fair game.

What is truly serving our family well in this season?

We sat with that question. And began to sift things out.

We dished out more no’s than ever before. No soccer. No piano. No co-op.

A few weeks into our “Season of No,” I’m noticing a few things.

1. Blank space is life giving.

Truly. I’m not being dramatic here. The life I wish to see in my home is regenerating. More time to read books together. Slow dinners that don’t involve hot dogs or a drive-thru.

2. Conversations need space.

The real and true conversations that I want to have with my kids, the organic ones that land on bigger ideas, morality, character issues or faith don’t naturally squeeze themselves into rushing moments. They come in the lingering, the waiting, the unscheduled.

Questions are coming out of nowhere—I think they needed more space to breathe. My kids need slower and quieter minutes to wonder.

3. The thing is never just the thing.

Not just in this season, but in this broader season of my life I’m learning—the thing is never just the thing. Profound, I know, but let me break that down.

Soccer is never just soccer. Soccer is washing water bottles and extra laundry. Soccer is getting dinner on the table extra early so the kids don’t lose it all on the soccer field. Early dinner means rushed afternoons. Rushed afternoons mean, “Sorry, mom doesn’t have time for a story today.”

Will less reading time together be detrimental to my children’s health? Of course not. But soccer is never just soccer. What we choose to do and not to do, impacts our family life far beyond the activity itself. Choosing wisely means acknowledging that fact.

4. There are other options.

This one is most surprising to me. Too many activities has been fraying the edges of my family for a little while now. It has been eroding what we value, what we truly want to prioritize. But I had somehow forgotten there are other options.

Soccer is what we do here. If registration is open we sign up. How had I forgotten that ‘no’ is always an option and sometimes, it is the very best option we have?

More and more in this season of motherhood, I’m learning that my battle is not against the evils of the world, but against the good. There is an eternal list of good things available to our children these days—ice skating camp and voice lessons, art classes and science clubs. You name it and it’s out there. And it’s good.

But the bigger question we need to ask ourselves is—is it good for us in this season?

This fall we have bought back blank spaces on our calendars, evenings of slower and healthier meals. We traded rushing out the door for stories on the couch. I’m sure this season won’t last forever—this won’t always be our best yes. But for now, saying ‘yes’ to a brave ‘no’ has been a very good option for us.

As much as I love fall, it always feels like the season when my family's routine gets kicked into overdrive. With our oldest in (homeschool) kindergarten, my youngest on the brink of entering her twos, work, housework and *all the things* filling my day, it's hard not to feel a little overwhelmed sometimes. Did I mention we're still in a pandemic? (Yeah, it's a lot.) And while I try to take a positive view as much as I can, now more than ever I definitely jump at the chance to take anything off my busy plate.

One thing first in line at the chopping block? Cooking. To be fair, I like cooking. I cooked most of our meals long before I had ever even heard of social distancing. But there's something about the pandemic that suddenly made cooking every single meal feel exponentially more draining.

Enter Daily Harvest. They deliver nourishing, delicious food right to your door. Daily Harvest's mix of smoothies, bowls, flatbreads, snacks and more provide a balanced, whole food options that are as satisfying as they are nutritious. But my favorite part? When we're ready to eat, I simply pull the food from the freezer and it's ready in minutes—without any chopping, measuring or searching for a recipe. Even better, they're incredibly tasty, meaning I'm not struggling to get my girls to dig in. Not cooking has never felt so good.

Here are my 8 favorite products that are helping to lighten my load right now:

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

Mulberry + Dragonfruit Oat Bowl

One thing that actually helps break up the monotony of quarantine? Trying and introducing new ingredients to my family. I love this overnight oat bowl (add milk the night before and let it set in your fridge overnight—easy-peasy!) because not only does it not compromise on nutrition, but it also helps me bring new whole fruits, vegetables and superfoods to the table with ease.

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

Mint + Cacao Smoothie

I kid you not, these taste exactly like a mint chocolate chip milkshake. (Just ask my 4-year-old, who is constantly stealing sips from my glass.) What she doesn't know? She's actually getting organic banana, spinach and chlorella with every sip. #momwin

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Kabocha + Sage Flatbread

Our family's eating habits have been leaning more plant-forward this year, which often means a lot of veggie washing, peeling and chopping every time I cook. That's why these flatbreads are my new best friend come lunchtime. This Kabocha + Sage Flatbread is made with a gluten-free cauliflower crust topped with kabocha squash, fennel and sage for a taste of fall in every bite. (Missing the cheese? You can add it before baking for more of a pizza feel.)

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

Kale + Sweet Potato Flatbread

There's something about the combination of sweet potato crust topped with red cabbage, organic greens and an herby-cilantro sauce that is so delicious… like surprisingly delicious. I polished off this bad boy in seconds! And unlike other "veggie" crusts I've tried, these are actually clean (AKA no fillers, preservations, partially-hydrogenated oil or artificial anything). Plus, it couldn't be easier to throw in the oven between conference calls and homeschool lessons.

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Cacao + Avocado Smoothie

Any time I get to serve a breakfast that tastes like chocolate, it's a good day. (That goes double when it's *my* breakfast.) This rich, chocolatey smoothie is packed with organic zucchini, avocado, pumpkin seeds and pea protein for a nourishing mix of healthy fats and muscle-building protein so I can carry that baby all day long. And did I mention the chocolate?

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Vanilla Bean + Apple Chia Bowl

Maybe it's just me, but after a long week of cooking, the last thing I want to do on Saturday morning is...wake up and cook. That's why these one-step breakfasts are saving my weekend. I simply add our favorite milk the night before and store the bowl in the fridge overnight. Come morning, I have a nutritious chia bowl that powers me through even the busiest day of errands. It's also Instagram-ready, which makes me feel like I'm out brunching (even if I can't remember the last time I was in a restaurant).

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

Cacao Nib + Vanilla Bites

My kids have turned into snack monsters during quarantine, and I'm often struggling to find a wholesome option (that doesn't require a lot of extra cooking or else I resort to something ultra-refined and shelf-stable). These bites are the hero I never knew I needed. For one, they taste like cookie dough, but they're actually packed with chickpeas, pumpkin, dates and flax seed (among other whole ingredients). But unlike actual cookie dough, I don't have to go anywhere near my mixer to whip them up—all I have to do is pull the container out of the freezer, let them defrost a bit and we can all enjoy a treat.

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Cauliflower Rice + Pesto Harvest Bowl

Sometimes I have a little more time to cook, but I still want a quick, stress-free solution. (Especially because it always feels like I just cleaned up from the last meal.) I love these Harvest Bowls because they warm up in under five minutes on the stove top (or microwave!) but pack tons of flavor. The Cauliflower Rice + Pesto bowl is one of my favorites, with basil, olive oil and nutritional yeast for a hearty dish reminiscent of a mouth-watering Italian meal. When I'm feeling extra fancy, I add leftover grilled chicken or a fried egg.

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Strawberry + Rich, Rippled Berry Compote Scoops

Who doesn't want to end the day with a little something sweet? This creamy and decadent frozen treat from Daily Harvest is swirled with sweet berries and tropical dragonfruit for an antioxidant burst you'll feel good about—but that your kiddos will just think is ice cream. Go ahead, take credit for being the best mom ever.

Want to try it yourself? You can get $25 off your first box of Daily Harvest with code MOTHERLY.

This article was sponsored by Daily Harvest. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas

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