I used to be the mom who enviously asked other moms what they did while their kids were at school all day. I was a homeschooling mom, and 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 to me. This year, I sent the last of my children off to school, and I found out it was all a mirage.
It’s not like I didn’t have a sense that it might not be so idyllic. When I would ask the moms, they would answer with things like, “Oh, I keep busy” or “I don’t know where the time goes.” There was still laundry, shopping, meal prep, and housekeeping to be done. 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 that precious, coveted time got filled up, and for many, they weren’t even exactly sure 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. There were the responsibilities of life: continuing with the office work for my husband’s business and keeping up with meals and housekeeping. There was also now no excuse not to use my gym membership (which has laid dormant for the past four months). Oh, and the best part of all: time to WRITE! I could spend up to two hours a day, uninterrupted and without guilt, writing to my heart’s content 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 is 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 (you should see the bin of paperwork I have to file!) The hours fly by so fast, I hardly know where they went, or what I’ve done with them. How did this happen?
The Missing Element
I realized that I forgot to factor something into my perfect schedule: People. Sick kids (yes, two weeks in, and I have already had one home three days), a mom who needs transportation to weekly appointments and the grocery store, a husband/boss who asks for special projects to be done at work, and a too-late-to-bed mom (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 (mom’s clubs and bible studies and volunteer opportunities beckon me), and I still feel like I am going in ten different directions. It has become an extension of this summer, which I began with a blog post about simplifying summer, only to discover that it became the busiest, least enjoyable summer to date (with some exceptions, of course). All of my busyness has been keeping me from what is most important and necessary in my life: time with God.
Resources to Help
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 points include 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. She 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.
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, unless making lunches counts, 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 (not the filing, though; I keep putting that off).
I’ve also been listening to Tsh Oxenreider’s podcast, which this season is based on the premise found in the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown. It’s an excellent book, and I highly recommend everyone read it. The 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 and 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. I am definitely not there yet, but I would like to be.
Open to Suggestions
So, no magic cures or amazing transformations as of today. I am still just a mom trying to find her rhythm in this new empty nest season of my life, but I will be exploring this topic more in the coming weeks as I get a better handle on it (hopefully!) If you are a mom with all her kids 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. I’d love any suggestions to help make this a reality.