Lately, I have been revisiting my definition of myself as a “busy mom.” It’s not that, with four children nine and under, I’m not in a constant state of doing and organizing and drowning and putting out fires. I definitely am. What I now see is that the label I have given myself has led me to slip into the behavior that I associate with that image and move along unthinkingly through the days – and even years.
“Busy mom” to me means a frazzled, unkempt, multi-tasking, confused-looking person. Not surprisingly, that is exactly who I am most of the time. Each day, though, I feel the mom–whom I more deeply want to be–struggling for air, realizing now that I am the one keeping her down, by not thinking beyond my own assumptions.
This is why intention is such a powerful guiding principle. I can’t allow myself to roll along unthinkingly. I can’t live in distraction mode. I can’t feel the weight of the daily busy-ness and let the bigger thinking go. I have to choose not to live at my “default setting.”
I have been trying to bring this concept front and center so that all the important things are brought to the forefront as well. While I’d say my life is still woefully out of balance, I do now wake up each morning determined to be intentional, determined not to the let the day’s relentless pace wash me out to sea. There are two major areas in which I feel the tug of the undertow, so I check in with those things daily:
First, I know that the quality of family life is entirely determined by the choices we make “to do or not to do.” In our family, we are very adamant about “not doing.” We say no to the current trend of having each child participate in multiple sports and other outside activities. We will occasionally dabble in a new area of interest, but our family would not be able to thrive if we were trapped in the “living in the car” lifestyle that four elementary school practice schedules would necessitate.
Rather, our intention is to create a more relaxed and spacious daily life for our kids – time every day after school to play outside, draw, create, get exercise, or read. If I could make all homework for elementary school children go away, I would. We all feel the weight of that daily after so many hours in school mode. So we work with what we can control to create the life we want, which feels both uncomfortably countercultural AND absolutely necessary.
The second thing I check daily is how I am spending my own time. Where is the spaciousness and room to create that I give to my kids in my own life? Nowhere in sight until recently. It took me a long time to see how important this is for me, as I am the primary orchestrator and “visioner” for our family. If I do not have time for my own personal, soulful aspirations – to say nothing of those for the family as a whole – then we could find ourselves sinking in our ship without a captain.
To create meaningful time for me, it is critical to pause. Only by forcing myself to stop can I remember to think about what is most important. I have found several ways to build thoughtful pauses into my life:
Sometimes I take a class. I recently took a 10-week parenting class based on the book Positive Discipline by Jane Nelsen. This not only gave me some regular time out of the house, but also gave me valuable guidance and inspiration.
Sometimes I just leave. I usually go to a nearby Barnes and Noble and don’t buy anything but maybe a cup of coffee. I peruse books in my areas of interest and write in my notebook and let my mind roam free. I usually come home with at least one page of ideas and “brainstorms.”
Sometimes I sit down and grab an inspirational book and just start reading. It’s OK if it’s only going to last for 10 minutes, because at least I put the brakes on and probably even learned something.
My goal is to one day go on a weekend retreat and do some high-powered thinking, dreaming, and planning for myself and the family, but for now, I will settle for the little chunks of time that I never thought I’d find.
Again, everything comes back to intention. The default setting that is a mix of perceived societal signals, our outward circumstances, and our personal history should not be in charge. We are better than that, and too much rides on our taking the time to think twice. I look forward to discovering more everyday about what else my family can create together if we take the time to dream it.
QUESTION: What is one “default setting” or self-definition that is doing you more harm than good?
CHALLENGE: Create an intention that will help you combat and eliminate that limiting label or behavior.
Main Image courtesy of Free Digital Photos.net/Stuart Miles
Family Photos provided by Missy Cochran