I struggle with the open-endedness of motherhood. Diaper changes, feeding, cleaning, and sleep take up a good portion of the day, but there are at least six unstructured hours of time to fill. I often default to just sitting on the floor with the kids, while my mind is wandering or stressing about what I want/need/should be doing.
But fear keeps me on the floor. Fear of neglecting them. Fear of being distracted. Fear of making the wrong choice, as if there is one right way of spending time in motherhood. Paralyzed, I sit there building stress and frustration, all the while trying to be the attentive, engaged, teaching, fun parent. No wonder I feel worn-out.
As I told this all to my husband recently, I ended with, “I have no idea what that time is supposed to look like. I don’t know what I’m aiming for.” With the problem firmly identified, I’ve been searching for an answer. What is time with young children at home supposed to look like for me?
My journey is far from complete (in fact, it is one that probably won’t ever end), but I’m making excellent headway, and I want to share some of the resources I’ve discovered along the way.
Simplicity Parenting: Using the Extraordinary Power of Less to Raise Calmer, Happier, and More Secure Kids, by Kim John Payne & Lisa M. Ross
This book is fantastic. It was incredibly specific in helping me create a vision of what we are going for. It talks about simplifying the child’s environment, embracing the ordinary day-to-day activities, developing our relationship with our children (no helicopter parenting), and introducing them to the adult world. This book follows Waldorf principles of creating rhythms and routines in our days and has a strong focus on building family relationships and unity. There is a large section on toys—a selection process for what to keep and what to part with, and what to look for in a toy. It also talks about embracing slow days, which is something else I have to come to grips with entirely. Another (bigger) resource that I love along these same lines is You Are Your Child’s First Teacher: Encouraging Your Child’s Natural Development from Birth to Age Six, by Rahima Baldwin Dancy. (For more information about Simplicity Parenting, check out Power of Mom’s book summary here.)
Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, by Greg McKeown
While not a parenting book, I read this alongside Simplicity Parenting and felt so much clarity in my mind. I’ve taken notes on the entire book in the back of my planner, so I can refer to the principles at a moment’s notice. I now use, “What is important right now?” as a measure throughout my day to help me make decisions. Really, the book applies to everyone, and I highly recommend reading it.
Reading Essentialism helped create a more defined criteria for what I’m looking at doing, so I can focus my work for the biggest impact. But what really made the book powerful and immediately applicable for me was the Mind Organization for Moms course I worked through at the end of last year. It helped me set up a system for everything that I think about, so I can put it on paper or file it away, and analyze my options before moving forward. This system alone has had the biggest impact on making room in my mind to think about what I need and want to think about, and to stop thinking about everything else. It has created space in my brain and room to be intentional.
Teaching Montessori in the Home: The Preschool Years, by Elizabeth G. Hainstock
This is a short, read-in-an-hour book. My main takeaway from this book is to teach and encourage independence. We’ve been trying to mix things up so our kids have access to food they can prepare and can take more control over their daily tasks by our making changes to their environment. I feel exceedingly more patient when I remember that one of my jobs is letting them take time to figure out how to function in this world. This book pairs nicely with Essentialism, too. A much more detailed book along these lines, with examples and methods, is Montessori from the Start: The Child at Home, from Birth to Age Three, by Paula Polk Lillard and Lynn Lillard Jessen.
Home Education: Training and Educating Children Under Nine, by Charlotte M. Mason
Charlotte Mason was a British educator in the late 1800s early 1900s. She loved children, understood children’s needs and natures, and saw them as divine beings. While she never had children of her own, she spent the majority of her life surrounded by and teaching children, and therefore provides great instruction and encouragement to mothers. When I read her words, I feel I have purpose, I am calm, and I am excited about being with my children. I don’t feel like I did her writings justice at all. I highly recommend reading this one in bits and pieces because it is packed with wisdom. While this book is technically a book about homeschool, it has many beneficial applications for non-homeschooling mothers like myself.
The true mark of success—today I sat down and just ate lunch with the kids. I relaxed in my seat and let them talk. My son started a new game, which continued throughout the day with various objects. He handed me his sandwich, put his palms up and waited for me to put a piece of sandwich in them. We played this game over and over again. He had us all laughing.
My daughter was quietly occupied for almost two hours during rest and read time today. I thought we were making real progress. As soon as she heard me up and about, she ran down covered in make-up. I calmly reclaimed the makeup that she had scaled the closet shelves to obtain. I took her to the store still wearing makeup and singing at full volume, “Let it go, let it go. Can’t hold it back anymore…,” on an endless loop for two hours. We received many, many smiles and comments.
This is what my motherhood now looks like. I feel greater peace and confidence after acting on the inspiration I received from these resources.
QUESTION: What does your vision of motherhood look like? Are there any resources you reference for inspiration?
CHALLENGE: This week, check out one of these books or another that you believe will teach and inspire you in your role as a mother.
Edited by Kimberly Price and Sarah Monson.
Post images provided by the author.
Featured Image from Pixabay; graphics by Anna Jenkins.
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Originally posted on July 31, 2017.