Yesterday, after an hour’s drive, I spent the day helping a friend clean and organize her garage. Wow, it was a hot day, punctuated by a downpour, in the afternoon. I got to work with her sons which was a treat. They did good. : )
At one point, my friend asked me if I ever got tired of being called on to clean and organize other people’s messes. Fair question. She felt bad for asking me to help her. But I responded with this. “Would you feel bad asking if I played the flute? Would you ask me to play at a funeral, a wedding, or in a parade? Would you be hesitant to ask? No, because it would be my talent. What I do is no less a talent, and I am glad to share it when possible. What I do isn’t any less valuable, just less showy. So, when asked, I use my talent to clean and organize.”
I have thought a lot about this conversation. Here it is in a nutshell. I am excellent at three things that make me a superior organizer and cleaner: consistency, focus, and a sense of order. I can’t take any credit for these three things. I was born with them. I know you will want to argue this point, but I have lived in my skin for over seven decades. I was this way as a small child. I was born with these gifts. I can’t take credit.
Here is what I can take credit for.
I practiced every day, for decades. Sometimes I did better than others but over time, I became a master. I can take credit for that.
That is how talents are. We have a natural propensity for something – fishing, dance, playing an instrument, comedy, gymnastics, football, cleaning and organizing, planning, listening to another’s grief, gardening, cooking, caring for the old or ill, connecting with children, the list is endless. Some take this natural gift, and they use it regularly, they practice, and they become masters. Others don’t and although they have a gift, they don’t become masters.
Case in point
I was a very talented dancer. I thought about going to Europe to study. I read books about dance, and I danced my little heart out. One of my teachers said I was gifted, and I was. I could have pursued this goal. However, I discovered that as good as I was, it wasn’t the thing I valued most. So, I let it go and I’m glad I did. In dancing’s place, I have a family of seven accomplished children. I have a marriage that is filled with love after 51 hard and sometimes brutal years. I have learned much about charity, humility, and a generousness of spirit. It has been these other things that I pursued that have led me here, to who I am today.
What natural gift have you honed? Look closely. If you think you have let your life slip away and that you haven’t pursued your dreams, look again. What gift have you perfected over the years that serves you and others and feels more valuable than what you let go of? Celebrate that! Stop feeling like a failure.
I am a success. I change people’s lives; not in a way I thought I might, decades ago, but in the way that has lifted me and others, that has changed me and deepened my soul.
Let the gifts that you have devoted a lifetime to perfecting count!
When I was sixty-three Don and I lived in a two-bedroom apartment. Jodie and her family came to live with us while they waited for their home to sell and another one to come into their lives. I had forgotten this event until I was reminded while reading an old article I had written. It was hysterical and not a much different story than what my life looks like now, full-time.
Here is a snippet:
“Tonight, I cooked dinner with a baby riding on my hip and a three-year-old helping me brown onions and hamburger on the stove for “jelly” sauce (spaghetti sauce). It was a bit cumbersome trying to keep a three-year-old out of harm’s way while allowing her to help and an almost one-year-old grabbing for everything he could reach.
I did this while trying not to step on anything that would send me crashing to the floor, seeing that the baby on my hip had emptied the utensil drawer, which is why I had him on my hip. I could hear the four year old making lots of noise from the living room. He was running his trucks through the maze he had made in a random pattern on practically every square inch of the living room floor. All’s well here, back to the “jelly” sauce.
Meanwhile, the six-year-old was yelling for help with her iPad. Maggie has cerebral palsy and has a way of letting us all know when her iPad is not cooperating with her limited hand movement. Right now, she was letting me know…loudly.
“Jelly” sauce simmering, noodles boiling, and three-year-old slopping melted garlic butter on a tower of French bread while I helped Maggie with her iPad. I heard Mary say, oops, never a good sign. Seems as if some of the garlic butter has found its way down her chest and onto the fabric-covered chairs. No problem, just mixing with the strawberry ice cream drops from the night before.
Then I smelled scorched bread. Our garlic toast is going to be a bit crisper and darker than I had planned. I holler to the almost-four-year-old, “Jack go tell Grandpa that grandma needs him…NOW!”
I know you are laughing – not at me but with me. You have probably had your share of days just like this one! Back then we had Jodie and her family for a few months but since then our families have combined permanently. We are a four-generation home and trust me, even though the kids are older, we have many days just like the one I described above.
Parenting is no joke. It’s a lot of work, time, and effort, and requires that we learn and practice new skills. I have experienced the good, the bad, and the ugly of parenting and I survived. Better than that our children survived all that we didn’t know how to do and all the mistakes we made. I’m sure you sometimes wonder if you will survive and if your kids will.
A text of great worth!
I received a text from a dear friend. We have mentored together on and off for several years. Every now and then I reach out to see how she is. Often, she will send me a random text letting me know how it’s going. When times get rough, well, we work together again.
As I was saying, I got a text from her that I knew you would all LOVE because it is so how parenting is. I asked her if I could share.
My friend and I had been talking a few months before about taking care of ourselves in ways that are actually manageable when you have kids. She has three boys, five, two, and, a baby.
She sent a photo of her cluttered counter. A candle was burning in the center of the mess. These were her words – ‘I thought you might appreciate this picture. I am home-bound today with a sick child and no car. I got very little sleep But I am still taking care of me. The candle is lit, despite all the clutter. Lol This is life.”
This is life for moms and dads. But Bethany is in the process of finding ways to nourish herself when there isn’t a way to leave ‘parenting’ behind for a lunch date, a nap, or even a walk.
Self -Care is a skill you can learn
This is a vital skill to learn and practice and it is a skill. Anyone can take care of themselves better. I know because I have had to do this. It hasn’t gotten any easier at seventy-two. I have to keep practicing but I am far better at it than when I was thirty! Yesterday when I sat down to write this article my twelve-year-old granddaughter decided to sew something for her hamsters. Over the next hour and a half, she came into my office at least five times needing help. This is what living with children is like. So how do you manage life with children andtake care of yourself?
You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends. Self-care can be as simple and plain as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!
Self-care can be taking a walk with your children, and pushing a stroller, to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all you feel pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone. When you’re on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable, or feeling resentful, ask yourself what you need to stay in control. Pay attention to yourself.
Do something that feels nurturing to you. Give yourself space to get it together. When you pay attention to how you’re feeling, to what’s happening in your body, that’s self-care. This can be done while you’re in the thick of parenting. On this day, for Bethany, it was lighting a candle just to say,
I want to share a remarkable experience and a dear friend with you. I got an email from Livia Pewtress asking me to take a test online to see my mindset quotient. I don’t do much of this type of thing anymore, as full-time caregiving doesn’t leave much space in my life. So, I almost hit delete but had a feeling I should take the test.
Then I discovered that this test would lead to a call to talk about the results—all free. I wasn’t overjoyed about this, again, a time thing. But Livia is a good friend and an intelligent woman, so we booked a call. I took the test, and we spoke on the phone.
She helped me understand the results, and frankly, they made my day. I have gotten better at a few things that matter to me in my way of being! Then she began asking about my goals. I haven’t even thought about goals for over three years. BUT I was surprised – I had some very concrete goals – mentally, spiritually, physically.
Then Livia asked what was holding me back from accomplishing some of these things. The answer was the same in every case –
I can’t seem to find a space for myself on the list.
And there is the rub for most of us. We can’t seem to get ourselves on the list. I have self-care systems – reading in the bathroom, a hot shower before bed, meditating most mornings. But what I don’t have is a sound system for learning, growing, thinking, taking classes, making plans, being time organized, etc.
I have been giving this some serious thought. The first thing I did was record the goals I have for the next couple of years that came out so easily when Livia asked me about them. I typed them out and taped them inside the front cover of my gratitude journal so that I see and review them each day.
I created my ‘God – To-Do List’ on the back cover. These are a few things that I have no idea how they will come to pass without help and intervention of the Lord. They are BIG. I don’t worry about them at all, but I do look at them weekly, and I send my prayers for assistance heavenward. The amazing thing is that this week I was given a thought on moving forward with one of them. How cool is that!
Ok, so now I have a clearer idea of what I want to accomplish in the next couple of years, but how do I find time to do any of the work? Some are simple because they are a matter of daily practice, like giving my mom more random touches and not judging my husband and his health decisions. But others are far more challenging because they require a time commitment, and when time is at a premium, well, those commitments are hard to make and keep.
For example, one of my goals is to write for thirty minutes daily so that I am not trying to put an article, newsletter, and podcast together at the last minute. I have been experimenting with how to make this work. Unfortunately for me, I have only found one thing so far that works – I must get up earlier. Don’t you hate that!? Me too, but I get my writing done when I do it. Today, for example, I got up at 6 am, and I was able to format my article on the website. I had gotten up early a day ago and got it written.
Of course, it is still a work in progress because sometimes I have to get Maggie ready for school, at 5:15, and there is no time to write. I still have not developed a consistent plan, and consistency is the key to success. Part of the reason I am not yet consistent is that I haven’t picked a consistent get-up time. I haven’t wanted to because I know it will take more of a commitment than I feel able to make right now.
When I was writing my book, I got up six days a week, for six months, at 4 am. Oh man, that was hard, but the consistency is what got the book written. This is the kind of commitment it will take to get 30 minutes of writing time in every day!
As you can see I am still in the experimental stage, and I am also a bit resistant to what I know I need to do. : ) And that is how it goes. First, we look at what we want to accomplish and determine what would make it happen. Then we must honestly tell ourselves what we are willing to do and what we won’t do. Then we begin experimenting and adjusting. It feels messy.
There is another goal I have been experimenting and struggling with – thinking about food so that I prepare what my husband needs to eat. I am so disinterested in food that this is a toughie for me. BUT I have come up with a system that is working for now, although I know it needs some revision. And an interesting caveat to this is that one of my goals is to give away 20 pounds and free up some energy. I don’t even have to think about how to do that. Helping Don is moving me in that direction!
Then there are the two courses I bought and want to finish and a recording of my singing. I don’t know how to make those happen yet, and I am not even thinking about them because I am still working on getting systems that work for writing and meals. Remember that 1% rule. LOL
I didn’t write this article to give you some stellar ideas on how to get your goals accomplished. It was written to show you that everyone struggles with this. There is no EASY when it comes to having goals and making them happen. It is a process.
Here are some takeaways that I hope will be helpful for you busy moms and dads.
•Think about what you would like to see happen in your life in the next year or two. A family vacation. A new job. Taking a class or finishing one. Reading a specific book. Being kinder, more charitable. Whatever. Your goals do not have to be earthshaking, just clear. Write them down! •Pick one and work on that. What is required? How can you begin? Do you need a system or just a commitment to consistency? What personal changes are needed and so forth? •Then move. Do something. Experiment. It may feel messy. You may try and fail and try and fail. The try part is what matters. •If you need help, get it.Wise people seek wise help. •Never quit. If you are consistent and keep going, you will be successful. I am counting on that. I have
experienced that. It took me over ten years to stop yelling! : )
This is what was most hopeful and helpful from my call with Livia. I didn’t know that in all the chaos of learning how to care give the last three years, I had any goals floating around in my head. In fact, not only were they there, but they were concrete. I knew them and, when asked, was able to say them out loud.
Maybe you have a new baby, and your life has been upended. Perhaps you have moved to a new state, or you or your spouse has gone back to school. Maybe your job has gone away. Maybe you or someone you love has been ill for a while. Possibly your workload has changed, gotten heavier. Perhaps you have a house full of kids under twelve or a house full of teens and preteens.
All these things can throw you into a state of chaos and the unawareness that I was in. But you don’t have to stay there. No matter how chaotic and unfamiliar your present life is, you can ferret out your goals because they are there, inside you! Write them down, pick one and begin moving.
I usually go to bed between nine-thirty and ten. That is because I have experienced the value of going to bed early and rising early. I have learned that your body works better if you go to bed around the same time each night and wake around the same time each day.
I haven’t always known what I know now about good sleep. I used to be a night owl, and I was very resistant to believing that making these two changes in my life would really matter. But eventually, in desperation, I made the change. It was HARD! It was a whole year of HARD. There were times when I didn’t think I could make myself keep doing it, but I did, and it changed my life.
But things happen, and on this night, I chose to remain up. The next day, doing a simple, close-to-home errand, I had difficulty staying awake at the wheel. Although I had stayed up late, I had gotten up at my usual time, between 5:30 and 6:30. I was TIRED!
I am not a napper! Seriously, I have to be sick or very under the weather to take a nap, but I fell asleep in the chair on this day. When I woke up that morning, I felt worn out, stressed, and frankly, as the day wore on, a bit depressed. Not like me!! My tone of voice, from the get-go, was sharp. It didn’t take much to set me off. It wasn’t easy to get a handle on my responses, even as I worked on my stories and endeavored to think positively.
Now I want you to picture something in your mind.
What if I wasn’t seventy-one but was thirty-five. What if I had three or four little kids to care for. I can tell you what would happen because although I am seventy-one, I was thirty-five, and I did have lots of little kids. I have lived this!
On a day like this, I would yell more often. I might spank. I, for sure, would use time out and lectures in a loud voice. I would have difficulty being present, stopping what I was doing, and looking my children in the eye. Listening would be challenging. I would have many grouchy, angry moments. I would see my kids as naughty rather than as children who need me to pay attention.
Recently, I ran across a site which listed some myths about sleep. Because I have learned the truth the hard way, I knew that they were myths. However, maybe you are still feeling some resistance to the idea that staying up late to get some alone time is counterproductive. If so, I feel your pain. I was in that place for well over thirty years before I finally decided to put it to the test.
Here are some myths. You can get more in-depth information on them HERE.
It matters more when you sleep than how long you sleep, as long as you sleep enough hours.
When we sleep matters! There is no comparison to the efficacy of sleeping in the dark of night compared to early morning or afternoon sleep. Here again, I have put this to the test. All I can say is that in my experience, there is a vast difference in how you feel upon waking, and a considerable difference in how you manage your day.
Your body gets used to getting less sleep.
NOPE, not true. You can train your body to go to bed late and get up early. I did that. However, it made a difference in my ability to respond well, to feel well, to care about the needs of others, noisy, busy kids, for example.
Many adults need five or fewer hours of sleep.
Generally, this is NOT true! One of my oldest friends, Janice Johnson Stauffer, has a unique situation. In her family, some of the members have the ‘short sleep gene.’ They can’t sleep longer than five hours. She tried to force herself to sleep the seven to eight hours that most of us need for years. Then through some testing, the family discovered this gene. It has made it possible for her and others in her family to do what works for their bodies. However, there are members in her family who need seven to eight hours. You can read more about their family HERE.It is a CNN documentary. Advance sleep-phase syndrome is found most often in middle-aged to older adults, with an estimated prevalence of about 1 percent. I wish I had this gene. But it affects only about 1% of us. The truth is most of us, to manage well, need seven to eight hours of nighttime sleep. I, and you, most likely, will just have to suck it up! : )
How long you sleep is all that matters.
Sleep duration matters but there are other, just as important, aspects to sleep. Quality of sleep matters. How do we get that – no blue light a few hours before bed, no food about three hours before bed, sleeping at night rather than in the day, fewer disruptions. I have to laugh at that last one. If you are my age, you may get up often to go to the bathroom. If you are in that twenty to forty-year-old range, it will be babies and kids waking you up. But hey, we can only do what we can do.:)
The ability to fall asleep anywhere and at any time means you’re a ‘Good sleeper.”
NOPE! It is an indication of sleep problems. It could be that you are not getting good quality sleep, and you are just plain tired. It could also indicate sleep issues such as:
-Circadian rhythm disorders
-Narcolepsy and others.
Napping makes up for a lack of sleep at night.
Remember that sleeping in the dark thing? It matters! When we have not gotten enough quality sleep, we sometimes try to make up for it with a nap. Unfortunately, the few times I have tried this, it throws my sleep schedule off, and I wake up sluggish and disoriented. Naps are not bad, but they won’t serve you well if you are trying to recover from late nights.
Here is the hard truth
Most people need seven to eight hours of nighttime sleep with as few interruptions as possible. You will always struggle to parent well if you are perpetually tired. I’ve been living this new way for well over a decade now, and it’s been amazing. I enjoy going to bed earlier and getting up earlier. I can’t even believe it myself! My thinking is clearer. I have time to do things that make my day more productive—prayer, personal study, meditation. My whole day runs better. I remain calm more often. I have more patience, and I feel less stress.
It’s doable even if your kids get up at 5:30. You may not get the quiet morning routine that I have finally achieved. Your day will begin earlier. These are the hard facts. What will make this trade-off worthwhile is how you’ll feel during the day. You may have less alone time, but you’ll find it easier to be Present. You’ll find yourself feeling happier and responding like an adult more often. You’ll like yourself and your children better.
How to Begin
I recommend you begin going to bed at least 30 minutes earlier than you do now, an hour if you can commit to it. Don’t get on the computer or scroll your phone after 9 p.m. This will absolutely help you get to bed earlier!
Going to bed earlier will change your days! Nevertheless, some of you will resist. If you do resist, it will come up repeatedly until you finally get desperate for a way to feel better as a parent, to feel calmer, more in control, more patient, happier, and healthier. When that time comes, you’ll remember this counsel, and hopefully, you’ll take it. It won’t be easy, but if you remember that simple things, done consistently, over time, make big differences, you’ll be able to persevere as long as it takes to make this your new habit.
You CAN get more and better sleep. Just decide and then be consistent!
I have a friend who was also my daughter’s friend in high school. We have known each other for a long time! We talk about stuff – family, running our homes better, being kind, writing, you know, stuff.
Bethany said that she couldn’t understand how you wouldn’t have time for yourself when she was a teen. She couldn’t see the problem. I mean, she had lots of time to do what she wanted to do – take a bath, sit in the sun, read, etc. Even with school and a job, there was time.
Now she has two small children, and she gets it. It makes me laugh because I always say, “You can’t know till you get there!”
One of the tricks I learned decades ago was to turn the bathroom into a refuge. I wasn’t going to get a day or even an hour, but I could read a paragraph or two. Bethany told me that when she read that in my book, she laughed because as a teen, she thought having books and magazines in the bathroom and reading in there was gross! Guess what? The last time we talked, Bethany said that reading in the bathroom is like a resort. You can’t know till you get there. LOL
Another thing I do and have done since I was 15 is lotion my feet every night. It felt good back then, in a home with eight other kids, to sit on my bed, in the quiet darkness and lotion my feet. I suggested it to Bethany, and she reported that it is lovely. She likes how nurturing it feels, and she likes the few moments of quiet aloneness.
A lot has been written about self-care. Recently I saw a headline – Self Care is More than Reading in the Bathroom. I laughed. Reading in the bathroom has been part of my self-care for fifty years. It works. I hope you get away occasionally. I hope you go out to lunch with friends. I hope you take a day off now and then. But I also hope you learn to care for yourself right where you are – in the middle of your busy family.
Four Reasons to care for yourself in the thick of things
There are some stellar reasons to find ways to care for yourself right where you stand, amid family: • You can remain calmer for more extended periods. • It facilitates patience and helps us not take our frustration out on our kids. • It allows us to stay free of resentment, exhaustion or feeling depleted. • It keeps us healthier.
Self-care benefits not only us but also our whole family. It’s an investment in our family relationships rather than a selfish indulgence.
Here are four ways to care for yourself during your busy, child-filled days and nights. They aren’t new. You have probably heard them said many times. But they work. As you implement them, you will feel better and less stressed. I consider them the best kind of ongoing self-care:
1—TALK NICELY TO YOURSELF
You need to be your own best friend, no matter how you’re doing presently. Best friends speak kindly to each other, are honest, and support one another, even if one of them is floundering. It’s self-care when you treat yourself like your own best friend.
Sleep is one of my favorite subjects. I’ve had tons of experience with this one thing! Periodically, over 30 years, I would go in prayer and ask how I could better handle my life. I would always have the same thought, “Go to bed earlier and get up earlier.” And just as regularly, I would dismiss the whole idea. I didn’t want to follow that counsel. I wanted my house in order, and I wanted alone time. I was convinced the only way to get either one was to stay up late. So, I resisted. Years passed, and I got desperate. I asked a final time, but the impression was the same. “Go to bed earlier and get up earlier.” But this time, I didn’t resist.
Going to bed earlier and getting up earlier is doable! It’s possible even if your kids get up at 5:30. You get up when they do and it is early! You probably won’t have a quiet morning routine alone. These are the hard facts. What will make this trade-off worthwhile is how you’ll feel during the day. You may not get much more alone time, but you’ll find it easier to be with your kids. You’ll find yourself feeling happy more often. You will have more energy and lose your temper less. You’ll like yourself and your children better.
I recommend you begin going to bed at least 30 minutes earlier than you do now, an hour if you can commit to it. Don’t get on the computer or phone after 10 pm. Staying tech-free an hour before bed will absolutely help you get to bed earlier! Some days it just won’t work out but do it as often as you can. Going to bed earlier will change your days! It won’t be easy to make this shift, but if you remember that simple things, consistently done over time, make significant differences, you’ll be able to persevere as long as it takes to make this your new habit.
Can I say, stop eating over the sink! Stop calling the crusts of your children’s sandwiches lunch. Stop. Make a better choice. Fix your food and sit down with your kids and eat. Have a mini conversation. Laugh a bit. Savor that sandwich. It takes five minutes! Value yourself enough to sit down with a plate and eat even if it is with kids and only for five minutes.
If you work away from home, take a lunch. This was a hard lesson for me to learn, but if I can learn it, you can learn it. It’s a decision, and I’ve made it, to care for myself by eating well.
Don’t eat at your computer, either at home or at the office. I know you’re busy, but if you want to feel cared for, leave your desk. Turn on music as you eat. Sit outside if the day is warm. Even the break room and a coworker trump your desk.
Eating well should be at the top of your self-care list. It’s something you can do while in the thick of parenting. Taking time to eat is one way you maintain the energy to do the job you’ve taken on—the job of raising a family.
Oh man, I don’t like to exercise. I can’t think of any exercise I like except swimming. But that requires a drive in the car and wet hair. Ick! Frankly, I also believed I didn’t have the time. But as I’ve said, when we take full responsibility for our lives, we stop using the time excuse.
I know half a dozen women who walk their kids to school daily. They’re in a big group talking, laughing, and making it work. I can think of another three women who get up early and walk together. They’ve made deals with their husbands to get kids fed so they can have this half-hour before they need to send them out the door to school. They walk five days a week. I recall one mom who did her exercising in front of the TV with a child on her back. You do whatever it takes. : )
None of this is easy. You just need to decide to do it. It’s a choice that, when made, feels nurturing. Talk to your spouse. What can you do? How can you make it work? Now do it.
You’re going to spend far more time with your children than you’re going to spend without them, so it’s imperative to learn how to self-care while you’re in the thick of parenting. It’s simple, it’s doable, and it takes small amounts of time and virtually no money; but it can and will pay huge dividends.
Self-care can be as plain and straightforward as having a cup of herbal tea while you read to your children. It might be taking a few deep breaths while soothing a screaming child. You could turn on your favorite music and dance in the living room with your kids. Add laughter!
Self-care can be taking a walk with your children to take the edge off the day. Sitting in the swing and watching your children play can give you fresh air and a breather from all that you’re feeling pressed to do. Go to the bathroom more often if that’s what will buy you a few moments alone. When you’re on the edge of losing your temper, getting irritable, or feeling resentful, ask yourself what you need to stay in control. Pay attention to yourself.
One of my oldest friends had licorice drops hidden in a drawer. When she needed a break, she would sneak to her room, grab a licorice drop, and then head back into the fray with a smile on her face. Hey, you do whatever it takes. : )
Do something that will feel nurturing to you. Give yourself space to get it together. When you pay attention to how you’re feeling, to what’s happening in your body, that’s self-care. You can do this while you’re in the thick of parenting.
When you care for yourself, you care for your family. Share the truth with someone you care about.
My alma mater has a Facebook page. Recently someone asked this question: What life hacks are helping you kill it right now. For me, at this busy stage of life, as a full-time caretaker, I find that a morning and evening routine makes ALL the difference.
I use my morning routine to get myself on track for the day and my evening routine to slow myself down for sleep. Much of the content of these routines is about caring for myself. They are, for the most part, things that fill my soul.
What my morning routine looks like –
• I get up as close to the same time each day as possible. For me, that is between 5:30 and 6:30. The later I get up, the less likely I will be able to do my thing.
• I make the bed (at least my half of it. LOL)
• If there isn’t any activity in my room, I pray. If Don is still in bed or dressing, I head to the bathroom for prayer.
• I dress and get ready for the day in the bathroom. My clothes are already on a hook, ready to put on. No distractions here!
• I read my affirmations/truth statements. I begin every day by reminding myself what a spectacular person I am and what a wonderful life I have! Some days I know I’m really going to need the reminder. LOL
• I read from my spiritual cannon.
That’s it. I take about 30-40 minutes on a good day, and if the day is going south already, it gets fifteen. But it fills my heart and sets me on a positive path for the day.
Here is my night routine –
• I have a set time to STOP. Otherwise, I would work till I fall into bed. It’s my way of being. : ) I STOP at 8:30. 8 pm is better but, again, I do what I can.
• I plan the following day using a simple form I created after a few years of trial and error. It is working for now. : )
• I take a shower. I have been doing this since I was 16, and it isn’t about getting clean. It feels nurturing to me. While showering, I think, I sing, and I get warm enough to sleep.
• If we didn’t have family prayer after dinner, I make sure that happens.
• If I have stopped soon enough, I read. Reading is my favorite pastime.
• Then prayer and bed. My bedtime goal is 9:30 pm, but I don’t always make it. It is a work in progress.
Here is what these routines do for me on the crazy days, and I have plenty of those. When I go to bed, if I have done my morning and evening routine, no matter how many other things are still undone on my list, I feel satisfied that I have done my best.
And that feeling is worth a thousand bucks!!
Who do you know that needs to feel like a thousand bucks? Pass it on!
It has been three weeks, and you haven’t heard from me. “Did Mary Ann fall off the planet,” you may have asked yourself. Well, I did, sort of. It has been a long and busy spring and summer.
My daughter began working, as well as her regular teaching and mentoring. I have taken on the role of caretaker for the grands. It isn’t a challenging job. They are good kids. I clean a bit and break up a fight now and then. I track who is home or where they have gone and with whom. It isn’t a hard job. But it reminded me of what it is like to be responsible for children. There is a weight to that, and I have felt it this summer. And kids take time. They need questions answered, need help finding shoes, getting lunch, and making decisions. The grands need reminding to get off of tech, to do chores, and to do them well. Parenting, even if you aren’t the parent, takes time and energy.
My husband’s health is and poor. Surgery is on hold. His medication has made him grumpy and has messed with his ability to “do.” That makes him grumpier and me busier helping him out.
My mom’s Alzheimer’s is progressing. She has forgotten how to do a few more things. She has had more health issues. Not life-threatening ones. But it has necessitated a morning and evening routine of caring for her legs, face, eyes, and head. It takes 30+ minutes. She doesn’t recognize thirst or hunger and needs constant monitoring.
I work producing a podcast page for a small company, and that has its deadlines. I still write and post consistently. It takes effort and energy to be consistent when life is a bit chaotic and full. I’m still mentoring and that requires focus and presence.
One Saturday in July I couldn’t get up.
The vertigo was overwhelming, and it caused severe nausea. It lasted all day, and I knew what was up. My body had said, “Enough. We are done. We need a rest.” I was bugged with my body. My spirit hadn’t signed on to this plan. As far as I could see, it just put me a day behind. However, I have learned to listen and talk with my body, so we had a heartfelt conversation. I knew that I had to find space in my days for rest. After all, it’s one of the things that I coach moms on when we work together.
So, I took a good look at my schedule, and I asked myself, “What can go for a time. Where can I make space.” I cleared out several things, including writing and all of you. I did, figurately speaking, fall off the planet, at least the social media planet.
I planned to give myself a week, but then I took two. Then I willingly granted myself three, three glorious weeks with few deadlines or commitments. I was still caretaking, and kids don’t go away. I had a garden to care for and harvest. Working didn’t stop. My mom and husband are still here. Here is what stopped – most of my deadlines and commitments. I had cleared space, and it made a HUGE difference!
Parenting doesn’t go away. The need to make a living doesn’t go away. We will always have to do laundry, clean our homes, fix meals, kiss owies, etc. BUT we need to make space. We need to find room to breathe, sit still, think, plan, rest, and meditate.
I have a morning routine that includes quiet time, study time, and meditation. It gears me up for the day. I also have an evening routine that helps me wind down for the night. So, what happened. Why did I find myself in such a crazy mess? I let these management tools slide as we moved into summer, and there is a cost to allowing what works fall by the wayside to make room for busy.
Five Simple Things To Help You Make Space
I know this and my body finally reminded me of what I know. I am back on track. If you find yourself stretched too thin, feeling angry or resentful, or falling ill, you are too busy. Here are a few, simple things you can do to lighten your load and find space to breathe. You will be a better parent for it.
•Even if you need to get up a bit earlier, have a morning routine. It may only last 15 minutes but have one. Some days you won’t get to it because little kids don’t live on a schedule, but you will get it often enough to make a difference.
•Have an evening routine. Set a time to end your workday and then do something you love: sit, color, sew, read, rest, visit with family, watch a movie. Give yourself time every evening for yourself. As I said above, with kids, you won’t get it every day, but what you can get will make a difference, even if it is only 15 minutes. Simple things done consistently make a difference.
•Take a good, hard look at your calendar. What are you doing out of obligation? What can someone else do just as well as you? Let it go, reassign. Make space for family and self.
•Take social media breaks daily, weekly, monthly. Put the phone and computer away. You may think you will miss something important, fall out of the loop. I just took off three weeks, and I am OK. You will be too.
•Get enough sleep. Staying up late to find time for self isn’t wise or successful for most of us. Getting enough rest and using some of the above tools to carve out time will pay dividends in your ability to parent better.
I am back, and I feel much better. Some things that I dropped from my calendar are staying dropped. I liked the social media vacation and will do it again. : ) My morning and evening routines are back in place, and I am ready to rock and roll into the fall. Thanks for still being here, friends!
Do you know someone who needs to ‘fall off the planet for a while?”
This article was written by a wonderful woman and friend, Laurisa Paul. She is an RN, a writer, homeschool mother of five, and an aspiring midwife. I felt that the topic hits so close to many women’s hearts and experience that it had to be shared. Read, enjoy, and learn.
“I don’t know how you do it.”
I hear this statement (question?) from women all the time. What I hear them asking is, “how do you live with so much peace and calm and joy?” (while a full-time mom to five kids, wife of an ambitious entrepreneur, committee member of a youth ministry, and taking on the great task of home school). “How do you find time for yourself?”
After thinking about this question for years on end, I have finally got an answer. The answer to how I take care of myself as a woman is easy: I meditate and pray. I assign my youngest out to the care of others so that I can exercise alone. I pursue topics that fascinate me. I set goals for myself and enjoy the challenge of achieving them. I think back to what I did for fun when I was single, and I DO IT!
But there is a real problem here: that answer doesn’t solve the dilemma for anybody. Women, both with and without children, are still perplexed (and sometimes irritated) with the idea of self-love, self-compassion, and self-prioritization, even given my quick and easy solution. The struggle continues because… the wrong question is being asked. It turns out, women don’t need to know how I actually go about doing it.
The more definitive question would be, “why?”
I grew up in the care of a deeply loving mother. She was the product of a broken home where she was not provided a model of parenting that met her standards. And so, when she became a mother herself, she gritted her teeth and gave her all. Quitting her job, giving up her own ambitions and dreams, she became only “Mother”. Even sleep became secondary to adorable birthday cakes, neighborhood preschools, incredible Halloween costumes made to order, Girls Scout cookies and badges, service in the classroom and church, play-dates, sports teams, piano lessons, and hand-sewn matching clothing for the whole family. We, of course, took advantage of all that was offered, leaving in the end, only a shadow of a woman we called Mom. When the door closed at the end of each day, all that was left was a hollow frame. She was exhausted. Unfulfilled. Angry. Overwhelmed. Depressed. Resentful. The mental hospital became the only place she could go for respite. I don’t have a single memory of my mom laughing.
I am grateful for this experience. Deeper-than-words grateful. Because of where I came from, I feel surer than ever that, as a woman, an individual, I matter. Just like every other mother on this earth, I want my children to have a great childhood and grow up to be successful, joyful adults. This is why I prioritize time for myself.
I prioritize time for myself because I know that when I am well-rested, I am more patient and kind.
When I exercise my body first, I have the energy to physically engage in their active lives.
When I prioritize time for connection with God, I open the door for grace to light my way.
When I make time to study my own topics of interest, I am mentally available to hear about theirs.
When I eat what I want to eat, resentment doesn’t follow me to the dinner table.
When I play regularly in a way that feels fun to me, it is easier to play in a way that feels fun to them.
I am the integral part of the livelihood of our family. I am that important.
Our children become who we are. More than anything, I want to raise empowered adults who take ownership of their own happiness. And so, I must teach them about boundaries. I must be a model of someone who says YES to things that matter most and NO to things that don’t. I must teach them that they are ultimately responsible to create the life they dream of. That it is not anyone else’s responsibility to do this, nor is it reasonable to expect that. I must teach that selfless sacrifice is a vital trait of a loving parent, AND that it does not have to be at the expense of one’s own joy. I teach my children these things by clearly setting the example for them. It’s worth carving out time for. It’s worth making a way!
I see nobility in the call to motherhood and I feel great reverence for its importance. With the endless to-do lists that accompany family life, for what sake am I willing to keep honoring me as my top priority? For the sake of the highest aspirations that I hold for myself, and the dreams I have for my children and my grandchildren. For my sake, and for their sake. That is why I do it. It is that important.
I am sure you know a woman who needs this message today. Send her the link. : )
a post by an old and dear friend. It was beautiful and sad. There are so many areas where we, as women and mothers, struggle. We struggle because we think we aren’t doing a good enough job as a parent. We strive because we feel we aren’t filling our mission; we don’t have enough education or aren’t attractive enough.
Listen to the words of Laurisa Paul, a midwife:
I was sitting beside the pool the other day, and the most beautiful woman caught my attention. There she stood, in her bathing suit, resting a tiny baby in her arms. The baby perched contentedly on the protruding belly that had just created its life—beauty– in the deepest, holiest way that I’ve ever seen. I wanted to stare forever and kept this woman in my heart for days. This scene caused serious reflection for me.
We all agree that baby girls are beautiful and perfect in every way. This adoration continues as we grow, through every stage of our changing body… but then we reach early adulthood, and what happens? Quite suddenly, we halt the adoration of the continued growth and change and strive— for the rest of our lives— to achieve the young, thin, pre-maternal body.
I could not stop thinking about how fundamentally CRAZY we are as a society! How crazy we are to miss the breathtaking beauty of a postpartum body- with stretched-out skin and worn-out breasts, and sleepy, baggy eyes. The 45-year-old body, feeling tired of life’s marathon, and yet, still hopeful of the possibilities ahead. How absolutely crazy we are to overlook the beauty of a 60-year-old body! Its edges softened by growth, innumerable acts of service and courage held in its hips and thighs. And what about the body of a 75-year-old? New pains now reveal the many sacrifices and stories written along the way. I visualize the skin that hangs low from my 92-year-old grandmother’s face, her wrinkles marking the sage wisdom held in her eyes, and I ask…HOW IS THAT NOT ABSOLUTELY STUNNINGLY BEAUTIFUL?!?
It is pure insanity that we overlook ALL of it– all of the beauty that is resplendent in every stage of growth in a woman’s life– simply trying to reach for one very narrow ideal. It is shocking how irrational it is. And yet, we all go on doing it.
Her words went straight to my heart because of an experience I had just a few months ago.
I was sitting in church with my family. The meeting ended; I placed my hand on the back of the chair in front of me, ready to stand. I’m not sure why what happened next did, but it stopped me in mid-stand. I realized how beautiful my hand was. I was shocked by the sight and the feelings that came with it. I asked my granddaughter to take a photo. I wanted to remember the gift I had just received.
I know that not everyone would think my hand is beautiful because it’s the hand of a 70-year-old woman. The skin is looser than when I was young. There are age spots; the proverbial veins are showing. I didn’t see any of that.
I saw babies diapered. Children hugged. Hundreds of thousands of dishes washed. Mountains of laundry folded. I saw hundreds of hours of service rendered to friends, neighbors, and community. I saw articles written and paintings completed. I saw phone numbers dialed to cheer up a friend or counsel someone in need.
I saw love!
I don’t know how this happened in a split second, but I like to think that it was God showing me how much I matter in the world.
I posted the above to Facebook, and I was shocked at the response I received. There were over 40 comments. It was repeatedly shared. A few hundred people responded in some way. Why the considerable outpouring? I have thought about that. I am convinced that it’s because we are all searching for our worth.
As women and mothers, we need to embrace the journey. We need to embrace the difficulty, the challenges, and the learning. We need to embrace the growth and all that comes with it. We need to know that what we do as women matter more than how we look. Recognizing our value, our worth is a choice. Let’s choose to give ourselves a break as we grow and learn, as we give birth, serve, and age. Let’s choose to see the beauty in our hands, our bodies, and our hearts. Let’s choose to see ourselves as beautiful!
As a parent or grandparent do you ever feel you don’t measure up? I think we all have those feelings. Here are four examples that will help you STOP playing the comparing game, which isn’t fun, and which no one ever wins.
Don and I have 14 grandchildren and one on the way. We love these kids. But Don and I grandparent differently. He does a lot of snuggling. He is round and soft, and the kids come and climb on his knee and lean against his ample chest. He chats quietly with them. They tell him fantastic tales and share their thoughts. He has a candy jar which he keeps on the dresser in the bedroom. He fills it with sundry candies and makes sure it doesn’t run out. He also has an air gun and has taught the kids how to shoot. They loved that activity.
I don’t cuddle although I do hug. If I sat down, I might cuddle but I’m never sitting. I’m bustling about all the time. The kids come to me when they need anything. They know that whatever they need I will have, batteries, food coloring, pencils and paper, cornstarch, a box of mac and cheese. I rarely disappoint. One day Mary said to me, “You are the best and most prepared grandma I ever had.”
I’m a bit stern but I still get hugs and kisses. Ben reminds me that he has a billion and I can have one any time I want. I can be counted on to take them to their friends and pick them up, to wash a football jersey or send regular letters with gum inside.
When we went to Seattle to see out newest grandchild Tessa jumped up and down and said, “I couldn’t wait for grandpa to get here because I want to snuggle.” While we were there, I helped the kids pick blackberries and make tarts. We walked to the corner book cupboard, got books, and then I read to them. I held Gus a ton and changed diapers. I helped Tessa and Elliott and their friends make crafts.
I used to worry because Don snuggled, while I did stuff. I worried that I wasn’t as good a grandparent. Then I remembered my grandparents. They were so different, and I loved them all. I never compared what they brought into my life. I just loved them all and accepted what they gave.
Don and I don’t do big presents. We decided a few decades ago as a family that we didn’t want to spend lots of money on gifts and so we don’t. When our grandkids have a birthday, they get a few dollars and a stick of gum. I am known as the gum grandma. There is a stick of gum in every card and letter.
My daughter Marie’s children have grandparents that send big gifts. I worried that the grands would feel we were chintzy because of our choices concerning gift giving. I asked her about it, and she responded with vigor. “Oh mom, they LOVE getting your gifts. They love the gum. They love you and dad.”
The four grandchildren I live with have a woman who we all consider grandma. She isn’t related by blood, but they adore her, and she adores them. She takes them to the planetarium, the zoo, the fair, and other wonderful places. On their birthdays the birthday child gets to spend the night at her home. It’s the highlight of their year.
I LOVE Cindy for her good heart, her friendship and because she loves my daughter’s family so much. But I have had to settle myself because what we each bring to the grandparent pool is so different. Our grands sleep on our living room floor many weekends. They love it but it isn’t the highlight of their year. It’s part of their daily life. We help our grands get to their friends’ homes, get homework done, supply them with stuff they need, we are there. I worried that it couldn’t compare to the planetarium and the zoo. However, when we are gone for a week or two they miss us and can’t wait for us to get back.
This last June when my youngest daughter’s son turned four, I wanted to get him a book. He LOVES being read to and it fits my gift-giving budget. I found a board book about dinosaurs, currently his favorite animal. Even though it was a bit young for him each page made the sound of the dinosaur. I knew he would like it and he did.
His other grandparents bought him three rockets that shot high into the sky. His grandpa is a pilot. Man, how do you compare a board book to three rockets? Well, you don’t, and Elliott didn’t. He loved the book. He loved the rockets.
What’s the Point!
We need to stop comparing ourselves to others whether parenting orgrandparenting. We need to stop measuring our efforts against someone else’s. Children are amazing. They take what is offered and they hold it dear. They love their parents just as they are. They love their grandparents just as they are.
Each adult in a child’s life brings something different. It’s a blessed child that has many loving adults in their life. Kids embrace them all and accept what they give.
Do your best. Bring what you can. Keep adding to your skills and it will be enough.
Enjoy the stories? Please share them with someone who needs to hear. : )
Mary Ann Johnson | Relationship Transformations for Busy Parents, 2017