For about the last year, I've been feeling like I need some way to express my individual identity. It is so easy to constantly label myself and my actions in the context of my relationships with others, since all day long I am taking care of my girls, cleaning up after them, and teaching them all the things they need to know. And that is NOT a bad thing! Today (Nov. 3, 2015) I found a lot of satisfaction when Charly grabbed her applesauce spoon out of my hand (not that unusual) and then actually used it to eat all of what was left in the bowl (This is a first! Normally she sticks her fingers in instead of the spoon.). And I loved it when Lizzy Jo asked if we could have a dance party, turned on the demo music on our keyboard (with a little help from me), and then involved all of us in the dancing.
However, I know that the times I struggle most with my parenting role are the times when I am wishing for more time for myself and I feel like I can't get it. I've been slowly making changes to address this problem, and I've had a few thoughts about it. I read a book earlier this year, 168 Hours: You Have More Time Than You Think. The author, Laura Vanderkam, made me think a lot about how I choose to spend my time. It is an amazing book, with lots of examples of how people prioritize what is really important to them. I think one of the most important messages of the book is that we all have the same amount of time, and if you choose to spend your time on what's important to you (not what you think everyone else thinks is important), you'll find a lot more satisfaction in what you're doing.
So, applying that idea to my situation, I first had to honestly acknowledge that my choices about how I spend my time are my choices. Sometimes I feel trapped by being a mother. Ouch! Does that square with my happy feelings about my children that I already wrote about? Yes, it does. I'm mostly happy as a stay-at-home mom, but there are always going to be frustrations and things that I can't control. These have lead me to feel trapped, and they will until I acknowledge that I chose to have these beautiful children, I chose to be a stay-at-home mom, and I continue to choose it each day that I am a stay-at-home mom. I could get a full-time job and put my kids in daycare. I'd still have to deal with the many frustrating aspects of parenthood. That is not what I have chosen to do, so it's important that I focus on the positive parts of what I have chosen, or decide to change if my priorities change.
Second, I had to appreciate the time I have each week. I have a lot, whether I choose to spend it on myself, my children, my husband, my church attendance and service, my work, or wasting time on Facebook and TV. I don't need more time. What I do need to do is decide what is most important (and why, so that later I remember why I prioritized it) and then minimize, ignore, or pawn off to another person everything else.
Part of implementing this idea is deciding on the time of day that I do things, so I can fit in the things that are most important. Starting in April 2015, I had been getting up and running with a friend at 5:30am several mornings a week. Running is important to me. It’s satisfying, it’s challenging, and it gives me some much needed exercise. But later in the year an opportunity came up to tutor two Russian children online, from 5-7am. I decided to change my focus at that time of the day, since that was the only time that I could tutor these kids, I wanted to get some different work experience, and the weather was cooler (this was in October 2015) so I could run during the day with the girls.
And when our tutoring sessions ended a few months later, I realized that I liked working earlier in the day. I could get a lot of work done before the girls woke up so they weren’t bored while I was working, I began the day productively so I felt accomplished and like I had purpose, and I could still get my running in. I have been working very part-time scoring the TOEIC English test online since before Lizzy Jo was born, but always during the day. So from January to April of this year, I decided that I would score the TOEIC from 5:30-9:30am as many days as they would schedule me. It was a great arrangement, allowing me to work about half the shift while the girls were still asleep. The girls were happier because I wasn’t working a whole shift while trying to keep them entertained. And I was happier that I was earning more regular money, since ETS seemed to schedule me more frequently for that shift than for later shifts. This one change in my thinking about what was important and when to get it done made a huge difference in my life.
Now, as I'm finishing up this post months later, I realize that I haven't been applying these thoughts to my current situation. More details to come in a later post, but I have a new job coming up in the fall, I'm not scoring at ETS anymore, and I've felt a little directionless and dissatisfied this summer. So finishing this post has prompted me to think again about what things are important to me right now and what specific time can/should I devote to accomplishing them.