I used to be the mom who enviously asked other moms what they did while their kids were at school all day. As a homeschooling mom, the idea of that kind of freedom to pursue dreams, accomplish goals, think uninterrupted thoughts, and keep a clean house for seven straight hours sounded like heaven! This year, I sent the last of my children off to school, and I found out it was all a mirage.
What Other Moms Said
It’s not like I didn’t get the sense that days without kids might not be as idyllic as I imagined. When I would ask moms about it, they would answer with things like, “Oh, I keep busy” or “I don’t know where the time goes.”
They still had laundry, shopping, meal prep, and housekeeping to do. Some took part-time jobs to fill the time. Others volunteered at school, got in shape at the gym, read books, went out for coffee with friends. Somehow, all of those precious, coveted hours were filled, and many of the moms I spoke with couldn’t exactly explain how.
The “Perfect” Schedule
In preparation for this big change in my life (I have had as many as five children in my home 24/7 for the past 14 years), I made a schedule for myself. First, I had to deal with household responsibilities like: office work for my husband’s business, meal planning, grocery shopping, dinner preparation, and general housekeeping. I also had no excuse to avoid the gym anymore.
Mostly, though, I looked forward to having time to write. I figured I could spend up to two uninterrupted, guilt-free hours a day writing to my heart’s content either at the library or in my quiet house. I couldn’t wait to get started on this well-crafted life I had sketched out on paper.
It’s been two weeks since the last child headed off to school (my oldest is a freshman in high school, and my youngest is in first grade). I have yet to step foot in the gym. The only writing I have done are the daily to do lists I can barely keep up with. I haven’t spent more than 30 minutes in the library, and that was after school with the kids. I’m still behind on office work, and I haven’t written a single meal plan.
The hours fly by so fast, I hardly know where they go, or what I’ve done with them. How does this happen?
I realized that I forgot to factor one important variable into my perfect schedule: People. The reality is, I’ve had a sick kid (yes, two weeks in, and I’ve already had one home three days); an aging parent who needs me to spend time with her and drive her on her errands; a husband/boss who asks me to complete special projects at home or work; and a too-late-to-bed mom (yeah, that’s me) who hasn’t been waking up early enough to spend time with God and schedule the day according to His plan instead of my own.
I haven’t even signed up for anything this fall, even though mom’s clubs, bible studies, and volunteer opportunities at school beckon me. I already feel like I am going in ten different directions, and all of my busyness has been keeping me from what is most important in my life: time with God.
This past Sunday, a friend reminded me about Kat Lee’s podcast, and I tuned into an episode about her project, Hello Mornings. The key is waking up for your kids instead of to your kids. This means grabbing a few minutes (or more) before the day begins to do three things: God, Plan, Move.
Kat makes it very easy, with no elaborate time requirements. In fact, she encourages women to start small and build routines slowly, instead of trying to do everything all at once and burning out by day three. Take a little time to listen to a worship song, read a verse of scripture, and pray (God). Then, plan out the day by at least listing out the top three priorities that must be accomplished (Plan). Finally, do a little exercise. Start with a one-minute plank or 10 squats, she suggests (Move). The whole 3-part process could take as little as 10 minutes as you start out, but it supposedly makes a world of difference.
Making Positive Changes
So, I tried it this morning. I woke up 30 minutes before everyone else and read a devotion and part of the first chapter of Luke. Then, I wrote my to-do’s (I’m good at this part). I didn’t get to Move because the kids were up by then, and it was time to get through the “morning rush.” Even so, my day was SO MUCH BETTER. Just spending time with God made all the difference. I felt more grounded and focused, and I accomplished a lot at the office.
I’ve also been listening to Tsh Oxenreider’s podcast, which is focusing this season on principles from the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s an excellent book; I highly recommend it.
Basically, his main idea is to say no to the inessential things which beckon and distract us, so that we can say yes to the truly important, essential things. In this way, we make the greatest impact with our lives. When we focus only on the most important things, we are so much more efficient and effective with our time.
Still Figuring It Out
I’m still just figuring out my new rhythm in this new empty nest season of my life, but I’d love to hear from you moms whose kids are all in school. How do you order your days and manage your time to be efficient yet available for the people who still need you?
My goal is to have my “work” (office work, writing work, housework) done by the time the kids come home, so that I can focus on them and enjoy the precious few hours I now have with them each day. Please share your ideas and suggestions about what has worked for you in the comments.