Monday, February 6, 2012

guild guilt

Quilt guild is tonight, which reminds me that I have four voicemail messages on my home machine, two or three of which are about taking an office with the guild for the next two years.  One of those people called back and actually caught me at home and I guiltily managed to decline the treasurer position, but then someone else called back and asked me about taking a less demanding role like vice president.  I never called her back.  We were away seeing the kids all last weekend, and between getting married and that cold I had last week that put me in bed early every night except for Friday, when I finally managed to work out and spend some quality time with my new husband, I had no time.  This weekend was all errands, laundry, trying to do some cleaning and straightening (including the cat's overdue litter box), and, I admit, working on the Jacob's Ladder quilt so I could stay on schedule for the challenge deadline.  I finally thought to return calls right before the Super Bowl started and thought better of it.

Why is there so much guilt associated with just saying no to people who ask for your time commitment?  Am I the only person who wonders, "why me?"  I don't want to discount other people's lives and activities, but at least half of the guild is made up of retired people who don't have young children.  I work at least 40 hours a week to earn a salary, I volunteer as a court appointed special advocate and also have continuing education requirements to meet as part of that in addition to court time and meetings with the child, family members, social services, school officials, legal counsel, and writing reports.  I handle all my great aunt's legal and financial matters as her power of attorney.  Although our kids don't live with us, we are with them every other weekend and they spend summers with us, so I don't even make it to guild meetings then.  I try to work out twice a week, get a decent meal on the table at least a few nights a week, pay some attention to the animal members of our household, do the laundry and some basic cleaning, and honestly, it's not easy to do in the ~3 hours I have at home each day when I'm not sleeping.  Fortunately I have most of my bills automatically paid and I can handle some things from my office, but I fail miserably at anything that needs to be done during daylight hours beyond a phone call.  Going to any government agency to get my name officially changed, getting the dog the surgery on his leg, participating in my son's school teacher conferences, having a contractor come to the house to do some work, meeting with professionals about our investments, taxes, or wills ... all falling hard by the wayside right now.  I hide in my quilting at night to give me some sort of solace that I can accomplish SOMETHING for ME, but taking on one more thing for someone else would mean giving that up.

My mother was one of the original superwomen.  She held down a full-time job, volunteered at school for my brother and me, led my girl scout troop, served on the PTA, timed our swim competitions, got an advanced degree at night (with all straight As), entertained the neighbors as hostess for various things, sewed my clothes, cooked dinner every night, and then did this also for various exchange students, distant cousins, and others living as part of our household over about a ten year period.  I don't ever remember her saying no to anyone for anything, but I do remember her frazzled, frustrated, and snapping often at home, at my brother and me who kept the machine running.  I did all the family laundry by the age of 12; my brother and I were in charge of all housecleaning during our after-school times.  TV was off-limits except for one half hour while mom made dinner if we had no homework, and if I missed a bus, I walked to or from school (1.6 miles to the high school).  I don't know how to say no without guilt, but I don't have a model for saying yes without resentment and forcing others to spread as thin as you are.

Adult life is a very carefully crafted balance between doing things for yourself and doing things for others.  I think that I have found that balance for me right now (even though it means I get together with friends only about twice a year), but whenever I get a call like these, I think I'm not doing enough to pull my weight for the organization, and consider resigning my membership.  For a long time, I avoided participating in any of my sorority's regional alumnae organizations because I could not take on another leadership role.  I was burned out after taking on several after college, and  I would only join organizations that were big enough to run smoothly without me.  I thought that the quilt guild - with about 150 members - was one of them.  I love being an AOII, I am proud to be a University of Delaware alumna, and I get such creative stimulation by being in a quilt guild.  But I cannot take on one more obligation to someone else, and so we do not have a local UD alumnae chapter (I turned down the request from the alumni office to start one), I am not part of an AOII alumnae chapter, and I wonder if I should leave the guild.  It's not that I wouldn't love to help out, but I can't quit my job, I need to take care of my body (sleep and exercise), I already spend too little time with my son for my taste, my great aunt would be in deep doo-doo if no one acted on her behalf, and there are abused children in the system who need my help.  The quilting can fall by the wayside, but honestly, if I don't have time to quilt because I'm part of a quilt guild, what's the point?

I used to suck it up and say yes and deal with it because, let's face it, everyone else is busy too.  But then I saw the People I Want To Punch In The Throat post today about people who are busy who aren't really busy (not that this describes any of the women in the guild because I don't think it does) and I wonder, why am I considering giving up my few moments of peace and sanity in my day to day world when people like this are out there claiming to be too busy also?  Why can't I just say NO and be okay with it?

How do you handle another "can you please consider committing your time to ... " request?


  1. Your time is your time. I have no problems with the word 'NO' - not because I am not a volunteering person - but my time is my time to chose what I like to do. And the word NO should come without the need for explanation. A guild of 150 people should certainly have someone to fill the bill - if not, then purhaps a change of venue is in order. I read the "people' post - yeah everyone has their concept of busy, so don't explain your busy time - just say no and feel good about yourself.

  2. Kristen - I've been in your spot. I used to think that saying "no" meant that I was inadequate, that I was a failure somehow. It was hard for me to learn to say "no", but I am getting better at it the older I get. I still sometimes say "yes" when I shouldn't, but I have to force myself to shut my mouth and take a few deep breaths. lol You and your family come first. Don't feel guilty about saying no to requests for your time. Enjoy the guild as a member. You are giving of your time and friendship just by being a member and attending meetings and interacting with other members. Sometimes that is enough. Sometimes that is a lot (you just don't always see the scope of your influence). I'm retired and still feel overwhelmed at times, but am learning to scale back, both with time commitments and with possessions. Your guild participation is a selfish thing and we all need selfish things in our lives. As women, we tend to give, give, give. We feel selfish if we do something for ourselves. We need to stop that. We need to nourish our relationships with our children and spouses. That's #1. Often we need to work. Some jobs are more demanding than others. But we still need to carve out some "me" time. Quilting is that for you. Don't let anyone turn that into an obligation. Bottom line - DON'T FEEL GUILTY FOR SAYING NO!!!!!!! Ok, I'm off my soapbox. lol

  3. I sew agree with what the other 2 ladies have said here. One has to balance everything on one's plate and saying "no" doesn't mean you'd like to if you could, it means that right now I can't agree to that commitment. Stand up for what is right for you. I'm sure other members of your guild would do the same.

  4. Thanks everyone.

    I agreed to take over the newsletter. Sigh. At least it's one of those things that can be done in the hours I already sit in front of a computer and I don't have to call anyone.

    A compromise but hopefully I can find the time for it!