Today, I stopped to consider that perhaps I had been measuring my accomplishments all wrong. What if the reason I never felt that my work was “done” was because I wasn’t spending my time on the things that really matter?
Time can be our friend, or it can be our worst enemy.
Both of my girls, ages 8 & 2, are in school during the week.
My husband & I work demanding jobs.
There is always more on our to-do list than can possibly be done. But, like many of you, I gave myself the responsibility of trying to do it all anyway.
Start the laundry, wash some dishes, hurry the girls off to school, run to the grocery store on my lunch break to avoid cutting into family time, work late to make up the extra few minutes it took to go shopping, hurry Alyssa into the car at pickup so we aren’t late to get Callie, bring in the groceries, rush through homework, speed through dinner, a quick bath, and then bedtime. For the girls, at least. Whew!
Say hi to my husband, put the laundry in the dryer, set out clothes for the morning, & realize that somehow I have stayed up too late yet again. Promise myself to do better tomorrow.
Rushing through tasks, cramming more into our day than ever before, & waking up exhausted yet bravely attempting to do it all again. Sound familiar?
I read the same articles that you do- the ones that tell me to slow down before I burn out. It makes sense, & I tell myself that I will slow down. Later. When I am finished with all the things that have to be done.
Today in between checking items off of my to-do list, I try to take a break like the articles suggest. But then I see those beautiful homes on TV & in the glossy covered magazines I don’t normally stop to read. I browse through my newsfeed & see those adorable snapshots of my friends’ neatly groomed children & spotless living rooms. I look around my house- at the toys scattered carelessly & dishes left in the sink, & get to work.
“Mommy, I want to paint.” Alyssa comes to the kitchen holding a pad of paper almost as big as she is, and I give my standard reply. “Ok, just a minute, let me finish (insert task of the moment here).” She goes off to play with her sister, and I tell myself I will get her paints after I finish loading the dishwasher. One job turns into another & I find myself moving the art supplies to dust the table.
I forgot to get Alyssa her paints. I am a terrible mother & have probably scarred her for life. I hope she doesn’t think that I forgot about her. I know I would be letting the girls down if I didn’t do as much cleaning as I can on the weekend since I work during the week because they deserve a tidy house like the ones I always see. That’s just part of being a good mom.
I quickly set up the paints & go find Alyssa. I get her situated so I can head upstairs to do some laundry.
“Mommy, will you paint with me?”
I stop- I stop walking, I stop checking off items on the list in my head, & I look at her. She has gotten so big. So independent. I wonder how long it’s been since I sat in the floor & played with her. She’s almost 3 now, & doesn’t need me to keep her entertained like she did when she was younger. But she still needs me.
You should have seen her eyes light up when I sat down on the floor. Callie heard the giggles & joined us almost immediately. We spent at least an hour sitting in the floor together. The girls were having tons of fun, & so was I.
I didn’t think about my to-do list once during that time. I was fully present, simply enjoying the moment with my girls. I understand what those articles about slowing down were trying to say. I felt it today, & I want to feel it every day. Time stood still for that moment.
Earlier I told you about my impossibly long to-do list; all of the things that have to be done. And how, like many of you, I gave myself the responsibility of trying to do it all anyway. After today, I am done with that way of thinking, & I want you to release this burden in the same way that I did.
It isn’t about the painting, or sitting in the floor. It is about the choice.
The choice I made when I gave myself the responsibility to do it all. The choice you make when you do the same. That is the choice that will make or break us all- & it depends on whether you can bring yourself to stop.
Just for one small moment.
Stop & feel time stand still.
When I put Alyssa to bed tonight, I knew this would be one of the best choices I have ever made. As she snuggled in with her lovey & started talking about her day, I asked what was her favorite part. Her reply?
“Mommy, when you played with me.”