Summer vacation is fast approaching and as the days warm, the more we tend to crave those moments from when we were kids, anxious for the hot days, warm nights, trips to the ocean, lakes and vacations with family. We close our eyes and drink in the memory of when summertime really meant something more magical… something intangible and yet, so precious.
It meant time. Time to bathe in the sunlight, go on walks, read for hours or drop everything and go see a movie or paint a picture or gather up friends and go adventuring at a moment’s notice. As we open our eyes, we lament those days gone by, never to return.
But what if I told you, you could get that feeling back, every day of your life? What if… you could live each day like you were 10 years old again reveling in the wonder and magic of “me” time and the feeling of absolute carefree living? It’s really not as far off as you think.
As a mother, we are challenged daily to educate our children and keep them safe, helping them to achieve adulthood with an understanding of the world around them. Unfortunately, because we are so wrapped up in the business of the day to day and the challenges of balancing life, work, social life, bills, cleaning, etc, etc, etc,…… we forget to teach them that it is just as important to stop and reflect on the value of those tasks, the reason why we do them in the first place and we forget to teach them the importance of respecting the Self. They see our example; a mother who is run ragged trying to meet everyone else’s expectations (including her own) and leaving nothing for herself, they see her hit the pillow exhausted, unhappy with the tasks left undone and they grow up believing this is acceptable. I grew up believing this was acceptable. My sisters did, too.
Well, moms… it isn’t. We are teaching our babies to deny themselves because we are showing them that we think it’s okay through our actions. There HAS to be a balance. Now, I’m not suggesting you should abandon your dutiful parenting and let them do whatever they want while you soak in the tub. This doesn’t mean, drop off the kids at a random daycare and go spend the day in a spa or ignoring your responsibilities to care for them and meet their needs or letting them cry in a crib for hours with the stereo on so loud you can’t hear them while you’re in the bath (a recommendation from a sleep-training book I read a few years ago actually suggested put the baby in the crib and then go do something loud like showering so you can’t hear them cry and it won’t compel you to GIVE IN to your instincts by returning to them-UGH! Disgusting- but I digress…). I mean the deeper sense of Self, not pampering, not “mommy time” with a glass of wine and the kids in bed or “stop bugging me while I’m on Facebook or playing Words with Friends” kind of armchair parenting. I am not encouraging selfishness at your family’s expense. What I mean, is, we need to do better at stopping what we are doing IN THE MOMENT to allow for that important time with them- when it occurs. We need to pay attention to the lessons we teach our children through our example and making time for the Self and the family body is one of the greatest ones there is.
Evaluate your day-to-day; Do you run around like a crazy person 90% of the time and spend the last 10% sleeping, but ONLY because you have to or you’ll die? Do you decline invitations with loved ones and even your children, because you’ve scheduled up your life so much that even a 1/2 hour deviation to just stop and take a walk, or go to the market or play a game is going to throw off your entire week? Is the kitchen cleaning or folding laundry SO important to you that you’ll scoff at your teen’s invitation to sit down with them and play a video game or just stop to REALLY listen, not just “hear” them talk about their day? Do you take time out to meditate, read a devotional, participate in a practice of faith that lifts you up and purifies your spirit? Do you encourage your children to do the same?
Ladies, if you don’t encourage moments of spontaneity and you are too wrapped up in your schedule (even if that schedule is full with only your children’s activities!) to just… breathe and be and remain open to deviate off the path from time to time… well, that’s a problem. By refusing the needs of the self and denying any opportunity for spontaneous action, you’re teaching your children that schedules and tasks are more important than people, rejuvenation of the spirit, fun and play and sadly, what you are teaching through this is not showing them that work is valuable, work is important and dedication to a job well done is a good thing. What they will learn is that they must find others to play with, interact with, grow with- because you’re just not there, you’re too busy finishing tasks and proving you are good at what you do. You are teaching them that your desire to do ALL THE THINGS is more important than they are and someday, they will turn around and teach the same thing to their children.
I have been giving this a lot of thought, and I think where the confusion comes in, is we tend to hear, “make time for your children” and the idea that we need to delay our chores to spend time just allowing kids to be kids and to revel in the wonder of their childhood before it’s over. We also hear “make time for mommy” where we hear over and over and OVER again that we need our “me time” to take long showers, go out with friends, have date nights with daddy and personal reading, hobbies and projects and sewing and crafts and whatever else. But all of these things are activities…. more stuff. More things to do and after a while, the notion of making time for them becomes just another item on the checklist of things you feel guilty about if you don’t finish.
What we really need to do is not MORE STUFF… it’s to create the absence of stuff to do, so after some thinking, here’s what I came up with…
Carve out time each day, not for “me” or, “them” or, “him”… carve out time for time. Time to do whatever seems right at the time. Time to say “yes” to an invitation for coffee or a quick, “hey stop by and say hello before you have to leave for that thing your’e doing today” or, time to bring along a friend on an outing that would otherwise just be another chore on the list or an afternoon trip to the beach just to be near the ocean for a few hours. Time to fill however the mood strikes with whatever opportunity might come your way.
Sure, some days that won’t happen. Kids have appointments and lessons and practice and you’ve got laundry and dinner and maybe a book club or a theatre rehearsal, a voice lesson or a skype meeting for work after a long day. There’s homework and dry cleaning, grocery shopping and mopping and birthday parties… the list is endless, but then, so are your chances to try again tomorrow.
If we can commit to a spare hour or two a day that we WON’T just fill back up with stuff to do, I think we will all find a greater sense of peace, accomplishment and connection with our families by allowing that time to just be available for whatever opportunity comes our way. We will teach our children that yes, work is valuable, but the work we do is for a reason and that reason is love, family, togetherness and to be able to take hold of life, not allowing life to take hold of us. The work we do and the tasks we schedule to complete mean something more than just a check mark on a to-do list. Those tasks create the spaces between that allow us to LIVE.
So as we approach summer vacation and we all crave that time we used to relish in, when summer vacation meant time off, endless play, sleeping in or just doing whatever we wanted and not wearing shoes for a month straight- think about how you can carve out time for LIFE, and see your life take on a whole new meaning. I guarantee you, it will stop being a series of tasks on a list and become something greater for your entire family.