It was a job I loved. Mostly, I worked from home, editing amagazine written for mothers at home, by mothers at home. Though I was one of the youngest women on the staff, I had considerable responsibility and creative license. I loved the writing; I loved the once or twice monthly meetings in the office. And I was ever so grateful for the wise, thoughtful women who were personal mentors as much as they were professional colleagues.
So, it was with considerable regret that I resigned. I remember the moment of that decision. I had a new baby—my third—and we were camped out on my bed. He was nursing, propped up on my lap as I spread manuscripts into piles all over the bed and reached for them as best I could without detaching. It didn’t take much for the irony to strike.
I was working so hard to promote mindful mothering, to encourage smart women to choose home, and yet here I was shortchanging the most basic of all mothering experiences. I was leaning over my nursing baby to get to my work. I was wedging conversations with my young children between phone calls to writers and publishers. I was making all my editorial deadlines, often at the expense of the relationships under my roof. Some women were able to juggle all that and more with love and grace, but not me. Not well. It was time to acknowledge that I could do one thing well, but not both. There just wasn’t enough of me. I learned to say, “I’m sorry, I can’t do that.”
And I’ve said it again and again in the years since then.
I’m sorry, I can’t speak at that conference, though it would be a dream come true and I’m so honored that you thought of me. [Y'all please go and tell me all about it.]
I’m sorry I can’t work on that project, though it tickles every creative bone in body.
I’m sorry, I can’t go to the homeschool support group meeting tonight.
I’m sorry, I can’t take that phone call, even though it’s a good friend and a chat would be a nice diversion right now.
Do you know about the rocks, the pebbles, and the sand? Go read it; I’ll wait.
I’m sorry, I just can’t do that thing that looks so good. I have to put the big rocks in first, and I have more big rocks than the average bear.
My son and I had a talk about time management recently and it forced me to sit and evaluate my “big rocks.”
I am committed to a life of prayer.
I am committed to nurturing a marriage of grace.
I am committed to raising nine faithful children.
Big, big rocks.
The rest is pebbles. And frankly, there’s not a whole lot of room for sand.
Living commitment to the big rocks is a decision.
Sometimes, as when I left the magazine or an online haven that had been a second home, it’s a big, huge decision.
More often, it’s a series of small decisions, like reading email but not stopping to answer it right away (or sadly, sometimes not ever) or forgoing lots of daily conversation with other women in order to save my words and my heart for the man who comes through the door at night.
Or the God who waits for me to talk with Him.
People often ask “how I do it.”
All too often, the answer is “not very well.”
But those are always the times when I haven’t said it.
“I’m sorry; I can’t do that.”