This Friday finds me thinking about the upcoming school year that starts next week, reflecting on some of the little changes that I’ve been trying to make this year, and how to apply those concepts to this shift in schedule. This also coincided with me listening and connecting to this podcast, particularly when Grace speaks about the unlikelihood that everything will come crashing down if we’re.not.always.there. What a moment that was. It seems as if there is so much emphasis on “being present”, that it seems counter intuitive to actually make the effort to step outside of the frame occasionally – to not be present. I don’t think that this is more applicable to those currently in the trenches of parenthood versus those that aren’t, but since those are the trenches that I inhabit these days, I clearly see the expectation for performance that is implied by the title of “mom”. Working full time, and often more than full time, exacerbates this feeling that I should be even more present when I’m with my children, more present in my home and at school and at church and with family. Can I be the parent that I want to be, (and even, yes, that I’m supposed to be) if I’m not there? Or can being more selective about how I choose to spend my time make me a better person? Or at least a more relaxed one?
I started out this year with a few simple goals and having recently passed the halfway point of the year, I can say that I’m both pleased with the results, and encouraged to take it up a notch or two. I battle (within myself) for my own time. And before this year started I was really starting to feel as if my time could be one thing or the other – but never both. I could selflessly give my time over to others, or I could selfishly take it for myself. Looking at it that way, I’m sure you could see how I so easily fell into the handing over rather than the guarding close. Looking at things as all or nothing only made me grouchy and resentful. And I didn’t want to be either of those things; I certainly didn’t want others to think of me that way. Starting to let go of those expectations I (wrongfully) assumed were there – and making decisions that were based on what I could physically and mentally muster the time and energy for – well, that was the turning point for me.
Stepping back and setting some simple goals for myself helped me to start to merge these two concepts of time management into one. Including my children in projects around the house, gift giving and making, school projects and baking projects – and, more importantly – knowing when their inclusion would make the work harder and more stressful, and making my own time to get those things done by kicking them out… well, that really started to change the way that I looked at my to-do list. I am also more mindful of where I concentrate my time resources. I’ve been blogging for over five years now, and I find the process beneficial to me in so many ways. I love it at the very core of what it is – an online journal – but I also love the ritual of the process, and how it channels my time and energy into positive directions. I think it encourages me to follow through on projects and ideas that I have spinning around in my head at all times, and it keeps me honest with myself about how life can be messy and sweet at the same time. I’m still not on Facebook and can’t see myself there anytime soon. I do not feel any sort of desire to be overly connected in real time with the world around me and so I guard the time that I spend on emails or on the phone very closely. It’s not that I don’t like to connect with others – I just like for it to be meaningful and not a habit. I’m not always available, and knowing that (and being okay with that) is very, very important to me.
I’ve found myself making to-do lists a lot more and sharing them with my husband. I usually do this in the form of an email – a list of things coming up in the next week, things that need to be done to get everyone where they need to be, dishes that need to be made, food that needs to be eaten before it spoils, special deals that should be taken advantage of before time runs out. The dialogue that follows is always such a good one for me. He bounces ideas off me, takes on an equal portion of those items, and suggests time saving or cost saving ideas I hadn’t considered. Do we hit everything we need to do? Not quite. But I’d say we’ve drastically reduced the amount of frantic last minute run-arounds that we have. Perfect? Well, I still haven’t found that book I bought for my dad’s birthday in July (it’s in the house somewhere!), but we have a system, and for the most part, it works.
I plan to spend part of this upcoming weekend making some goals for myself for this school year, and then sharing them with the family. I’m going to approach it in this way – what do I like about the way I use my time now, and how can I continue to use time that way during the busier school year? How do I wish I used my time better, and how can I make that work this fall and winter? Lately I’ve been less than thrilled with our morning routine – it feels rushed and oftentimes a little bit grouchy. I also haven’t been working in as much physical activity as I’d like to – and I find excuses at the end of a long, hot day to not get out again and get moving. I might start with a different plan for what I’d like our morning to look like, and see if we can’t get up a little earlier and slow things down a notch – take advantage of the fact that we live so close to school and that it won’t always feel like the outdoors is an over sized sauna. I also want to enjoy the fact that my daughter enjoys and is good at soccer. Which just might mean not attending each and every game if the schedule – not the sport – makes me less enthused about the whole thing. And in writing that I see now what my overarching goal might just be. Most of what we do with our days we do because (at the core) we enjoy it. Trying to structure our lives so that we can better realize and appreciate those aspects of the everyday that we enjoy just might reduce the amount of time we spend wishing we were doing something else (or nothing at all). Finding ways to be present for that kind of enjoyment – and knowing when to step away before the stress and resentment set in – well, that’s something I’ll be trying to find as we roll into this new season.
I hope this Friday finds you all well – I’ve loved the comments and all the sweet emails about our recent projects. It’s been so much fun and I’m truly, truly glad you’re here.