I feel my shoulders relax as I look around the kitchen on a sunny Saturday afternoon and realize that, for the moment, no one needs me. These moments usually only last 10 minutes at a time, but as my kids have gotten older (9, 7, and 4), I find more and more of these moments in my life. To be honest, I am delighted.
I have been looking forward to these free moments for years, and I don’t want them to slip away in meaningless media consumption or the pursuit of other people’s goals. I want to fill them intentionally.
Here are some of the things I have chosen to do when I find one of these small spaces in my day.
I love reading and have used some of my newfound time to make lists of books to read, and then to actually read them. Most of my reading happens at night before bed, but I downloaded a few library apps on my phone and have been surprised at how much reading I can get done in little snippets throughout the day. It is a much more rewarding use of time than checking social media for the tenth time.
One of my favorite parts of parenting is watching my children learn and grow, and I wanted to deliberately add education to some of these moments. As I come across inspirational thoughts in my reading, I put together short mini-lessons for my kids. Now that they can (mostly) get themselves ready in the morning, I have the time and mental space to add a little lesson to our morning routine. While they are eating breakfast, I read them a lesson and we discuss it. It is a great way to start the day. Sometimes we will do a logic puzzle, riddle, or math flash cards in place of the mini-lesson. These are also enjoyable for weekend mornings over a cup of hot chocolate.
I haven’t played the piano in years so I bought a book at my current level and have been enjoying the challenge of practicing a skill and creating beauty at the same time. I will often hear the kids humming the tunes I play later in the day, and sometimes they sit with me and I am able to teach them a simple song or two. When I play, I am still available to help with homework or to referee a disagreement and my kids are learning to wait until I have finished my song before they melt down.
I worked part-time with my first two kids. But when I got pregnant with my third, I struggled to juggle it all. Now I am feeling ready to use my professional training and skills again. I have used some of these newfound moments to reconnect with contacts and update my resume. I signed up to volunteer in my field and have researched opportunities in my area. I am excited to see where these efforts will lead me.
As I step out of the fog of parenting small children, I realize that I have abandoned all but the most basic meal preparation. Cooking is not my favorite pastime, but without a child crying at my feet, I am feeling ready to try a few new recipes.
My youngest child starts kindergarten in the fall, and I will enter yet another phase of motherhood with even larger spaces of time to fill. But for now, I am focusing on adding meaningful activities to these small spaces, and I am loving it.
QUESTION: What things do you enjoy doing in your free moments?
CHALLENGE: Make a list of things you can do in small increments. Put the list where you’ll see it. When one of these 10-minute moments takes you by surprise, try something on your list.
Edited by Sharon Brown and Nollie Haws.
Image provided by the author.