“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” So says Albert Einstein, but daily life as a mother of small children sure seems to contradict this. It feels exactly like all the events in the universe are happening right in your living room, and sorting out the priorities from the emergencies, the stop-and-smell-the-roses moments from the nose-to-the-grindstone moments, can be a challenge that leaves us feeling pretty helpless.
I recently attended one of the Power of Moms mini-retreats, and I was reminded of so many of the core Power of Moms concepts that really help keep things in perspective. One of my favorites—and one of which I need to be reminded a lot—is the idea that projects need to be broken into steps in order for them to work in the life of a mom.
For those of us with young children, gone are the afternoons in which we can tackle a task start to finish without interruption; no project is likely to be accomplished at all unless it is broken down into steps and unless those steps can be handled around multiple interruptions.
Having latched on to this concept, I developed a plan of having a “15-minute list,” which enumerates all ongoing projects that I would like to chip away at daily for about 15 minutes total. I was already well aware that the 15 minutes for each task might really have to be an aggregate of two- or three-minute chunks spread throughout a whole day. For example, I wanted to tidy up the living room for 15 minutes the other day, but was faced with so many interruptions that I could only manage to carry some books up to the bedroom bookshelves during one two-minute chunk, straighten pillows and blankets during another, and so on, until the room looked presentable hours later.
It Doesn’t Take as Long as You Think
I then started to think about time in even smaller chunks—like down to the level of seconds—and that led me to a very exciting idea.
Do you know how long it actually takes to tie a child’s shoe? About 10 seconds. So why do I moan about it so dramatically almost every time I’m asked?! Do you know how long it takes to refill a child’s cup of milk? About 10 seconds. Yet I do it only wearily with a deep sigh the majority of the time.
Ten seconds really isn’t very long at all. And so much of our lives as moms are made up of these very small chunks of time! You’d be surprised how many things can seem less onerous when you look hard at how long they actually take, and start to tell yourself, “I really can spare just 10 seconds to do this for my child. That’s only one-sixth of a minute.”
Take Ten Seconds for Love
Taking it one step further, I started to build the idea into my life that I could fit a whole lot of intentionally positive and meaningful ten-second intervals into my day for my children. Doing twelve kind things, for example, would take only two minutes total, and each of my four children would get three sure-fire morale boosts per day!
In ten seconds, for instance, I could . . .
Pour a child that refill of milk with a cheerful smile.
Walk over and give a child a hug and kiss, either because she has a frown on her face or just because.
Stop what I’m doing when I’m summoned to come admire my son’s block creation.
Cut a piece of toast into an interesting shape just to put a smile on my daughter’s face.
Ask a child how she’s feeling today and wait for the answer.
Tell a child how I’m feeling today and wait for the answer.
Write my child a love note for her lunch box.
Shout, whisper, mouth, or otherwise get an “I love you” out there to one of my daughters.
Shoot a kind, goofy, or silly smile across the room at my son.
Tell a child about something he did that made me proud that day.
Together, mark a time on the calendar for a mother/daughter date.
Tell a knock-knock joke and share a laugh.
Just as keeping a food diary keeps us accountable for what we eat (not that I have plans to ever do that), keeping a time diary would be enlightening to us, I think, as it would show us how little time it really takes to make an awfully big difference in the lives of our children and still have time to keep up with our own projects. It’s the smiles and the “I love you”s in those fleeting moments that build up in a child’s heart until we’ve managed to shape a sturdy and secure adult. And that is the most important project of all on our to-do lists.
QUESTION: What gestures would take very little time but have a big effect on your child?
CHALLENGE: Try to give each of your children an intentional ten-second gift of love today.
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