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Seriously Moms, Let’s Stop Canceling Our Plans

Afro american woman in a home office taking notes

Remember Filofaxes? Mine was my bible. I would enter all my plans in ink, sometimes weeks ahead of time. I would carry the green leather book with me everywhere I went.

“8 p.m. at Tiramisu with Avery,” I’d input.

The crazy part is that, on the appointed evening, Avery and I would both show up, on time, at the restaurant. It was that simple! There were no last-minute cancellations; there wasn’t an endless email or text chain debating the plan. We just showed up. And sometimes, when we were wrapping up our meal, we’d even pull out our Filofaxes and and nail down our next dinner. And chances are, we’d show up at that one, too!

I could rely on my schedule. Things were predictable: I knew what I was doing, and when. Making plans only took a quick conversation. Remember conversation?

Now, as a mom of four in our increasingly harried and “mobile-optimized” world, nothing in my six color-coded iCal calendars is a sure thing. Canceling plans has become completely effortless.

Like my coffee date with Dana, which I just realized is later today.

“Sorry, let’s reschedule!” I type. “Teacher meeting.”

Click. Gone! And, just like that, the shape of the day changes. Hers, too.

The irony is that, even with plans as tenuous as they are, it takes even more time to make them. One recent attempt to have dinner with another couple took 24 emails (I counted!) back and forth. The date changed twice; the place, three times. The dinner itself only took about two hours, while planning it probably took three.

Last weekend, however, I received what I think of as a little gift from God. I’d made plans with another mom to have her family come over on Saturday for brunch. Only six emails later, we had a plan. Amazing!

But then, Friday afternoon, I realized my daughter’s theater tickets were for Saturday, not Sunday. (Whoops.) So, another six emails, and we switched the date to Sunday morning. And you won’t believe what happened next: On Sunday at 10 a.m., they actually showed up. On time. They didn’t cancel, and I couldn’t believe it.

As I kissed my friend hello, I even said, “Thank you so much for not canceling!”

“To be honest, I debated canceling so many times, even in the cab up here,” she admitted. “But I just powered through.”

In addition to our brunch, that day she was juggling her three kids’ swim and tennis classes, a birthday gift return, and another playdate later in the afternoon. But she’d set a plan with me and stuck to it. Over bagels and lox, we marveled at the morning’s success.

I’m not pointing fingers at anyone in particular here — I’m just as guilty of canceling as the next person. I’m ashamed to admit that sometimes I cancel plans out of mom guilt. What was I thinking? I’ll wonder about my dinner plans, as I survey the kitchen strewn with baking supplies, cocoa powder, and half-made chocolate cake, three of the four kids so covered in flour that they resemble ghosts.

“Don’t go, Mama!” they plead.

And so I don’t. I whip out my phone. “Sooooo sorry!” I type. “Can’t get out. Can we reschedule?” And seconds later, I’ve canceled on someone else.

Instantly, I’m flooded with relief. But as that first rush abates, the guilt takes over: Why did I bail on my friends? That’s not cool! Plus, I feel defeated knowing I’ll need to exchange another 20 emails to make the new plan. Which will probably get canceled, too.

Sometimes I think it’s just not worth making plans. But then I think about those last minute invites — “You guys free for dinner tonight, by any chance?” — and realize those are usually the most fun nights of all.

Yes, I miss my “book,” my trusted Filofax. I miss predictability. I miss not thinking that every appointment in my calendar app has a question mark next to it. I wish I could control the elements of mom life enough to be reliable, the way I used to be — no sick kids or teacher meetings or last-minute changes to the sports schedule. Now, making plans feels like playing a game of whack-a-mole; just when I’ve figured out one element, something else always pops up.

But that’s just it: Life with kids is an ever-changing landscape of making mistakes, doing your best, changing on the fly, and just forging ahead, one moment at a time. Squeezing in a few social plans along the way is just a bonus.

Still, friends, watch out: From now on, I’m making last-minute plans. So when you look at your phone and see that I’m calling you — and I’ll actually call you, not text — know that I’m calling to make last-minute plans. Remember phone calls?

The opinions expressed here are the personal views of the author. Comments are moderated, so use your inside voices, keep your hands to yourself, and no, we're not interested in herbal supplements.

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