There was a time when my calendar was full of social engagements, volunteer activities and to-do list items that actually got accomplished. I was a reliable church committee member, organizer of play dates and never turned down a coffee date.
- 5 p.m. dinners to curb tantrums (theirs) and tears (mine)
- 7 p.m. bath and bedtime to avoid the frightening territory of over-tiredness
- Cramming in work time before falling asleep on the couch
- Cancelled play dates and coffee dates because the night’s sleep was too interrupted, and there is no way I am going to put on real pants
- Unanswered phone calls, text messages, emails because I saw it and then someone screamed “Mom, I need you.”
- Sacred marriage time to make up for the weeks we’re apart due to work travel
My “me time” is filled with super fun things like solo grocery store runs, actually walking INTO a Starbucks and enjoying the beauty of silence. In the evenings, my pregnant body is too wiped, my brain too fried from being mom to speak to anyone else. My personal space bubble has grown so large the dog can’t even be in the same room without causing me anxiety.
There was a time where I looked at those empty spaces on the calendar and tried to fill them. I said yes, and soldiered on for the sole reason of not wanting to let other people down. I’d commit only to feel like I was immediately searching for a way out.
But resisting the season I’m in, only made it seem more never-ending. Because the season of raising little people is mentally tough. Physically demanding. Surprisingly exhausting.
It took being pregnant with our third child (only one month after I stopped nursing), buying a new home with an endless renovation list and having two kids suddenly needing more structured schedules (hello, school exhaustion!) to force me to change. To realize that during this season, my priority has to be at home.
While reading The Fringe Hours by Jessica Turner, I found freedom in the following passage:
“She wants to do all the things she is doing. She is making a positive impact on her family. But those things are coming at a cost—the cost of not just family time, as she states, but also time for herself. Just because they are good things doesn’t mean that they are good for you, for right now (or even ever). To not allow the stress of too many ‘good’ things to invade our lives and steal our joy, we have to learn to say no, prioritize, or eliminate things entirely.”
It seems that peace sometimes comes through quitting.
I quit the weeknight activities that were hard to get to, pushed my boys to their limits and were nearly impossible to attend when my husband was out of town without spending a fortune on babysitters.
I quit forcing play dates and coffee dates where it was, well… forced. I embraced that my monthly walking date with a good friend renews me more than shallow daily interactions. I accepted that friendships maintained over email or text are still life-giving. I focused my interactions on those that gave me energy and avoided those that sucked me dry.
I quit feeling guilty for not being able to do things because I’d rather be at home.
I quit caring that my threshold for stress on any given day is less than some moms. I’d love to say I could keep the boys out til 8 p.m., come home and fight the bedtime battle, all with patience and grace. But I can’t.
Let me tell you what has happened.
First, not everyone understood. And I did let some people down, and still do.
But at home, where the people who mean the most to me are, there has been more peace. Less irritation that my preschooler’s questions about how our soul exits our body are interrupting my Facebook chat with a co-worker. Less urgency to force the toddler to nap so that I can squeeze in an hour of email-answering time. Less yelling about putting on the shoes that are RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOUR FACE so we can get out the door for the fourth activity of the day.
On the weekdays, after bedtime, I have time to shower, pack lunches and backpacks and maybe even do a load of laundry because I didn’t push my body to its limits.
On weekends, we’ve had family time where I don’t feel like we’re keeping score of who needs a break the most. We’ve had leisurely lunches followed by unlimited park time because that was the only thing on the agenda for the day. The time I do get with friends is more fulfilling and less guilt-filled.
I’ve found time to read a book, watch Last Week Tonight, and heck, write this blog.
Recognizing my limits and embracing the season we’re in hasn’t made me more productive by my previous standards. But I’m learning to use a new measuring stick for what’s worthy of my calendar.
“Is saying yes to this project, activity, or commitment going to better me or my family? Do I really want to do this? A friend once said to me, “If it isn’t a heck yes, then it’s a no.” (Turner)
It’s allowed me to find joy – accepting this is a season of mental and physical toughness that demands a family-focused perspective. Just like first months with a newborn, this is my season of endurance. My productive and social seasons will return some day. They’ll be wine nights, couples vacations and plenty of committees needing members.
But for this season, however long it might last, you will probably find me at home.