Friday, July 9, 2010

Learning to STOP!

I am always going; if not physically, then at the very least, mentally. In my younger years (prior to husband and children) this was exciting and a lot of fun. For example, I never lived in any one place for more than a year (actually a year was doing quite well) and my furniture moved around in said location at least quarterly. You can ask my Mom and Dad because even as a pre-teen I was constantly moving things. I called it cleaning; most people call it re-organizing or re-decorating.

While I do still move my furniture around about quarterly, my location has been pleasantly fixed for the last 7 years. I do get the itch to move from time to time, but I am coping. The itch I've had most recently is to move out of the city into much more spacious places. This will be itchy for a while because there are too many details still brewing in my brain (more on those to come) that God isn't finished with just yet. For now I have learned to be very content with what I have and where I am, after all there is still so much to keep me "going" here. It's also where God wants us to be right now, so this journey is made much more fun knowing we are walking through it with His guidance.

With three children in the home and the 4th child on the way, slowing isn't always an option. Children and a home do keep me busy. It's this busyness that I am learning to control, delegate and quite frankly just stop. A good example of this is when Owen was a baby I found it hard, like many young moms, to nap. There was so much to do; I had no time to nap (never mind the guilt) so I would push through, often exhausted by the end of the day. Slowly I learned to cat nap (10 -20 minutes at a time). Then there were two... and we all had a nap (even if it was just 20 minutes for me and a few hours for them). I learned that it was okay to get refreshed and I wasn't being selfish or lazy.

Did you know that planes don't fall from the sky if your kitchen is a mess all day? I didn't and even now my messy kitchen makes me crazy from time to time, but I am much better equipped to handle things after a nap or at least a proper break to rest my feet. This is where I am learning to STOP. No one is going to die if my dishes aren't clean, or the vacuuming is a few days behind, but my family will suffer if I don't rest. I will be miserable, short tempered and quite frankly a nasty little thing (just ask my husband). Just stopping everything I do in a day isn't the answer either and this is no easy task when you're used to doing it all (and more).

Here are some of the things I do to STOP the busyness:

1) Prioritize: What is really important and what can wait?
This is different for everyone. I used to be able to do it all, but the all that needs doing can grow too large for just one person. The biggest lesson I could encourage all married couples (or anyone really) to learn would be that, your way isn't the only way if the job still gets done. Sure, it takes my husband longer to do some things, but the end result is I didn't have to do it! No, the kitchen isn't as clean after he cleans it, than when I do it, but I didn't have to clean it; I got to play a game with my sons or just tickle them silly. That is way better than a "perfect" kitchen any day.

2) Organize: A good routine always helps.
It helped me to write down everything I did in a day on the calendar for one month. I got a visual picture of how busy our home was and to see where things could be adjusted. I found that Mondays can often be my most productive days of the week. The children have usually had the full attention of their parents (mostly Daddy) and their "love tanks" are at their most full. When they were itty-bitty I was able to get in little chores like emptying the dishwasher if I spend a solid hour playing or filling their "love tanks" first. They will now play very nicely on their own for the longer periods of time. By Friday this is the exact opposite. They are feeling deprived of affection or attention and just need me to be available to their every whine or cry. I don't plan much for Fridays.

Mondays, I will do a really good kitchen cleaning and prepare the meals/baking for the week (more on this in the future). The children have already learned that they can go play outside when Mommy is done in the kitchen and the toys are cleaned up.

Tuesdays and Wednesdays, are the best then for play dates and appointments outside the home. The children are just as eager as I am to get out and are therefor much better behaved! Because the babies nap, I will often go out in the AM so they can nap well in the PM. I can then do the "easy" little chores like folding laundry or dusting, while enjoying some quiet time.

Thursday, is for heavier cleaning (vacuuming, kitchen clean) and playing outside if we can. We often have friends with children over this night so a bigger clean is sometimes needed. I will usually need a bigger rest by this day myself, but sometimes the heavier cleaning will give me enough of an aerobic workout that I will get a boost instead.

Friday, as I mentioned earlier, is just a day of maintaining order and since the children are to bed early, tired from a busy week, it's also the best night for a date.

Weekends, are often unplanned or left open for yard work, family & friends.

While these aren't routines I've written on my calendar and follow exactly, this is a routine that just seems to work well for our home, planned intentionally or not.

3) Delegate: My husband is an amazing man who will gladly help around the house (even before children). We have always shared the big household responsibilities. Since staying home, more of the daily ones fall to my plate, but that's only natural, it's my workplace now. He will wash laundry, clean bathrooms (all 3 of them, minus the main bathtub), wash floors and clean up after supper. The biggest help thus far is that he will tend to the children's needs from super to bedtime, freeing me to enjoy them in play or take some time to myself.

Owen, being 5 years old, can also help out more. He will clear the table after meals and use the hand held vacuum to clean under the dining table as needed (so I don't have to vacuum as often during the week). I can even get him to put away his laundry or empty the dishwasher (on a good day). He is always an extra pair of eyes to keep watch over the two troublesome 2 year old boys when Mommy is out of the room. He might not always be the most eager to help, but truth be told he is a huge help.

If ever I am feeling overwhelmed, we sit down as a couple (and Owen as well if needed) and see where we can better distribute the responsibilities, even if for a short time.

4) Say "NO": This one is still the most difficult of all for me. I love serving others. Seeing someone blessed fills me with immeasurably joy. It is also much easier to know when you have taken on too much than it is to say no in the 1st place. My calendar can get so full with doctor appointments, play dates, babysitting, swimming and church commitments that it leaves less room for the daily stuff that needs doing and before long, my husband and I are looking around saying "grrr arrrg" because we haven't left enough time for things.

To break this bad cycle, we purposefully went through a season where we committed to nothing extra outside the home and even kept as many things inside the home to a minimum as possible. I call it my busyness detox. It really helped. Once I had a nice clean slate I found I was able to add things back slowly. I started with one thing per week and then lived with it for a month before I was able to add more. The idea was to see where was the limit (not just for me, but my whole family). It also allowed me the time I needed to ask God what He wanted me doing. His plans are always better than my own. For us, 3 extra activities inside or out of the home a week was enough (swimming lessons, crafting or parenting groups). These days (7 mo. pregnant) I would say 1-2 things, but I need to have a nap on those days or forget it!

Ultimately, you can't get anywhere with an empty tank of gas. I can guarantee you, no one is blessed by a burnt out mother. It's an ongoing process that involves a lot of planning and prayer to make it work and since each household has such unique needs, only you can know when the fit is right. I know it's right when each new day feels more like a joy than a chore. Let me know if any of this helps you out and feel free to post some of your ideas, I would love to know what others do to reduce their busyness.