I'm constantly evaluating and re-evaluating what I'm doing and what I should be doing with my time. And I keep thinking I've got things figured out but then I get off-track time and time again as I say yes to too many things and that forces me to say no to things that matter more.
This school year is going to be different. I think I've finally really learned to accept that I simply must have margins and boundaries in my life in order to be the mom and person I want to be. I've always known, logically, that no one can do everything their heart yearns to do and that we have to say no to a lot of things. But I've allowed myself to think that I can somehow sneak a whole lot more onto my plate than most people and it'll somehow work out.
And you know what? Sometimes it does work out - sort of. Sometimes, like last year, I can squeeze in planning and conducting TEN Power of Moms Retreats across the country and in Australia, creating and revising several major programs on Power of Moms, editing our new Power of Moms book, overseeing the work of our great volunteer board members, and tons more Power of Moms work alongside helping five kids with their homework, keeping a home relatively clean and stocked with food, having a somewhat decent amount of quality time with my kids reading books and telling stories and going on little dates one-on-one as well as some big family trips, cooking pretty solid and tasty made-from-scratch meals daily, exercising three times a week... But you know what got squeezed out? Time to relax and enjoy life. Accomplishment after accomplishment doesn't stack up to much when you never have time to enjoy any of it. Hurrying through everything you do sucks the fun out of everything. Anticipation and reflection bring great joy but when you're so busy you don't have time to anticipate or reflect, much of that joy is lost. And I'm feeling old and worn out after such a packed year. I don't like feeling so used up.
So this year, I'm slowing things down - for real. I'm going to schedule better and add in extra time to get ready for things and to record and reflect on things. Our family theme for this year is "be prepared and enjoy." We're going to be ready early for things because we're going to plan better. We're going to enjoy things more because we're going to spread things out more. And we're going to embrace the idea that less is more.
So here's our plan of what we're going to do and not do this coming school year:
- Wake-up time: I hate getting up early. I've struggled with it and tried to change my mindset and become a morning person all my life. I've finally come to terms with the fact that I don't like getting up early and I never will but I LOVE having time to get myself ready (exercise, get dressed) before the kids need me, having time to help the kids get ready, and being on time for things in the morning without rushing people along so much (often in a not-so-nice way). So I'm going to get up early. When that alarm rings, I am not going to waste time thinking about how tired I am or whether I may actually have a few more minutes to sleep if I streamline things a bit for that morning. I'm just going to get up and get going on the morning routine that I've spelled out to the kids again and again but that I haven't been that good at following myself... (more about morning routines here: The Beauty of Routines)
- Bed time: I'm going to get dinner on the table on time (6pm) so we can get kids to bed on time (8pm) so I can have time to enjoy story time for the younger kids and talking with the big kids more (they always seem most keen to talk just when I'm most keen to be done for the day so we need to pad bedtime a bit more to allow for this). Then the little ones will be ready to go to sleep at 8:30 and and doing stories when I tuck them in and they can be going to sleep or
- Music: I'm going to turn on music in the mornings to get us all going and after dinner to help people get their after-dinner jobs done in a fun way. Music really helps at specific points in the day (but I like quiet too). We don't have enough music around here. (whole post about this lesson I learned a while back but obviously didn't fully take to heart here: The Power of Music)
- Protected time for mothering and being the wife I want to be: Last year I worked on Power of Moms stuff pretty much the entire time my kids were in school and tried not to work when they got home but there was always some pressing project and I was always falling into the trap of thinking I could get a little more work done once I got them settled and doing their homework. But it was silly to think they could just do their homework on their own while I took care of a few emails here and there. It ended up being "wait just a minute" whenever they needed help - and those minutes got way too long. I need to be fully available from 3pm until bedtime and I'm not going to let other stuff creep in so much. I plan to belong entirely to my family before and after school and my later evenings will be reserved for time with Jared. One night a week, when Jared has other stuff going on, I'll catch up on some Power of Moms stuff. But I'm protecting time to just hang out together when the kids are in bed. It's so important - and has been so neglected. I'm also protecting - and calendaring - weekly date nights - something we really haven't been good about and something that makes a real difference when we do it regularly.
- Time for myself and for non-POM projects: Rather than giving all my school-time hours to Power of Moms, I'm going to grant myself a lunch hour to read a book, go for a walk, do things that fill me up and energize me and make the rest of my day more productive. And I'm going to have regular errand time and house-project time each week while the kids are at school as well. I'm going to have specific Power of Moms "office hours" and whatever can't get done during my "office hours"will just have to wait. I plan to belong entirely to myself for small chunks of every day as I take the time to read, eat, think - stuff that has been crammed into the cracks for too many years. To allow myself more family time and more me-time, I'm going to have to get better at letting projects wait and pushing back deadlines and I'm learning to be much less of a perfectionist.
- School Involvement: I'm continuing to serve on the board of the parent organization at my kids' school. This means I'll go to one parent meeting a month, offer ideas and help with basic stuff at major school events in a minimal way. I will continue to decline getting involved on committees for events and that sort of thing (I've learned my lesson on that - I was putting in way too many hours at my kids' old school and it was causing too much stress on my family). I'll do a monthly story time in Liza and the twins' classes. I've been doing this for years and my kids LOVE it and I love it. It's so great to know their friends and see how they interact in school. And there's nothing like the huge smiles they get on their faces when I walk into their classrooms.
- Church work: I have a "calling" to help run our children's program at church. I work with great ladies, enjoy our weekly planning meetings, and love being with my kids every Sunday, teaching some of the lessons, hearing the great comments from the kids, seeing my kids in action, etc. I'm going to plan the lessons I need to give earlier in the week rather than cramming the planning into late Saturday night like I usually do. I'm going to be much better at my visiting teaching (we're all assigned a few other women we're supposed to visit monthly to see how they're doing and give them a little lesson - such a great way to uplift each other and watch out for each other and I feel so great when I get my visits done but I'm a terrible procrastinator a lot of months on this one...)
- Extracurriculars: Eliza's continuing to do a creative dance class at the art center 4 doors down from our house. She LOVES it. It requires no carpooling or driving from me and just an hour a week from her. Isaac and Eliza were doing swim team 3 afternoons a week last year. It was great exercise to get them through the winter and we had a carpool so I was just driving and watching them swim one time a week. But as soon as it got warmer and the kids could play outside and the kids were sick of swimming, we quit. Homework got done better. Life was calmer. I'm not sure if we'll do it again this year. Ashton and Isaac both do scouts one night a week. Ashton also has a youth group meeting one night a week at church. Isaac and Eliza both want to do soccer this year but oops, I didn't look up info on how to sign up until it was too late. I found out Isaac can play on the school team this year so he's happy and that'll likely involve practices right at the end of the school day which is much less invasive to family time than evening practices are. Eliza's OK to wait until spring for soccer. Ashton wanted to do tackle football this fall but we missed the deadline on that. And tackle football scares me a little. Plus I've heard the football around here isn't that great and we've realized that we've wasted way too much of our precious time being involved in sports teams that weren't stellar. I'm not going to waste any more of my time or my kids' time participating in sports teams that are poorly organized and poorly coached. It's just not worth it. Once hearing that football was out, Ashton got excited about playing with Isaac on the school soccer team. The twins just do their small amount of homework and build forts in the backyard and read and play with the neighbor's dog plus I do special reading time with them most days. I love having them around and don't think they need much as far as extracurricular activities. They did basketball on a fun little team right up the street last year and want to do the same this year for a nice short basketball season.
- Cooking: I'm going to keep prioritizing cooking time because I really believe in good food for my family and I like to cook on my own and with my kids. Some of that cooking takes place while the kids are at school but mostly I like to have a "chef of the day" and have one of the kids help me make dinner - great one-on-one time together and they learn important things.
- Individuals and Relationships: I'm going to make more time for the "trees" this year and focus less on the "forest." I'm going to focus more on individuals who need help and relationships that are fun and mutually beneficial rather than devoting such a huge percentage of my time to the "forest" of moms involved in Power of Moms.