I often get my writing ideas in the car and they usually come to me in analogies – when I compare my life to something else. The other day my schedule was packed and I mean jam-packed. My four kids were at three separate schools and as usual, Monday was early release day for all but one child. Thankfully my husband works from home and we can often tag-team on school pick ups. But this Monday felt full, very full. My two girls were starting lacrosse for the first time that evening, and I had my kids’ tutors for math and spelling falling on the same day, at the same time. It was a mental exercise to figure out which kid was going to sit down with which tutor at exactly what time. Needless to say, my life that day (and most days) felt like a three-ring circus.
Do you remember as a kid going under the big top and being mesmerized by all the colorful activity? In one ring the circus clowns stuff themselves into a small car, and in the center ring the lion tamer shoves his head in the lion’s mouth, and then in the third ring the trapeze artists swing from one side to the next. And above it all a tight-rope walker is suspended in mid air. It’s too many good things happening at once! You don’t know where to focus and you’re afraid if you look away from the lion tamer to watch the clowns, you’ll miss some incredible death-defying trick. Your eyes bounce around to take it all in and it’s thrilling, but at the same time visually exhausting and usually frustrating if you’re trying to watch it all at the same time. It’s beautifully impossible.
Sometimes our lives as moms can feel like a three-ring circus. When I google the definition of a three-ring circus, Merriam-Webster.com states the obvious which is a circus that has three separate areas where performances occur at the same time. But it also says it’s a place with a lot of busy and confusing activity or something wild, confusing, engrossing or entertaining. I don’t know about you, but I can certainly relate to busy and confusing activity. Did you know the circus didn’t start out with three rings, but with just one ring? In reading some of the circus history, rings were added to give the audience “more bang for their buck,” but even in the late 1880’s when the first-ever three ring circus came to town, not everyone was a fan. On the site, History-Magazine.com, it says, The New York Herald called the three rings a drawback because “the spectator was compelled to receive more than his money’s worth; in other words, that while his head was turned in one direction he felt it was losing something good in another.” Sometimes more isn’t always better.
How often as moms do we feel like our kids are going to miss out if they don’t get to do a certain activity? But who is really missing out when we’re doing too much? I think we’re all missing out. Just as it’s hard to fully take in all the fun things in a three-ring circus, it’s hard to take in and enjoy a life that’s a three-ring circus. So how do we scale back? How do we go from a three-ring circus back to a two-ring or even a one-ring circus? Do we even want to go back to a one-ring circus? Can we make three-rings work? Moms are expert jugglers and only we know the capacity of our kids and of ourselves. We have to get good at assessing our time, our kids’ time, our capacity and understanding the season we’re in and what we can handle as a family. Every school year is different and comes with it’s own challenges. We have to decide how much challenge we can handle.
The circus, as coined by P.T. Barnum. is the Greatest Show On Earth. But you know what, life with kids is OUR greatest show on earth. Even though at times it feels like a confusing, wild, three-ring circus, it’s still a freaking circus and circuses are suppose to be fun! Let’s remind ourselves to have fun and if we miss what’s happening in ring one, who cares – focus on ring two or ring three. So grab your circus popcorn, cloud of cotton candy and refreshing Coke and enjoy the greatest show on earth – your life with kids.