The Secret to Finding Peace in Your Day

seeds that you plantI don’t know about you, but I think I need to tattoo this quote on my forehead! I get so caught up in judging my days by what I accomplished, what I checked off my to-do list, what I have harvested. I often forget that the value of my day is not measured by how many tasks I managed to rush through. The seeds that I plant for myself and my family are far more important than the number of check marks I accrue. I often feel inadequate to the task of raising these 6 kiddos. Do you ever feel that way? Ever wonder how it is that you were chosen for such an awesome responsibility as being a parent? I do. Almost every day! But then I come across quotes like this one and heave a sigh of relief. It really isn’t about pouring knowledge or virtue into them, but lighting a fire within them that they seek it on their own.

This got me to thinking. What seeds am I sowing? How can I be more intentional with the hours of the day so that when the harvest does come I can be sure it sprang from good seeds? Basically, what are my priorities?

Here’s what I’ve come up with…

  1. Close Relationships
  2. Caring for the Body: Exercise, Time Outside, Healthy Eating, Sleep & Rest
  3. Caring for the Mind: Reading, Thinking, Communicating, Problem Solving
  4. Caring for the Soul: Prayer, Meditation, Music, Art, Play

This is not a definitive list by far. It is more like a work-in-progress, but I share it because, as parents, we often carry too much guilt over what we feel we aren’t doing well enough. Shifting our perspective to the planting of seeds rather than the harvest reminds us that it is the daily, small ways that we tend to our children that make the most difference. The harvest will come, but it takes time.  Can you hear me sighing with relief?  Knowing that I don't have to do it all or be it all brings me so much peace.  Instead, I can rest in the assurance that seeds well planted will reap a beautiful harvest.

So what would be on your list? What seeds do you want to sow? Will you leave a note in the comments and so that we can encourage each other to look not only to the harvest but to the quality of our seeds?  Or you can pop on over to Facebook and join the conversation there.  Can't wait to hear from you!

February Slump

It’s February. Mid-Winter. It’s that time of year when many homeschoolers really begin to feel bogged down. The newness of the year’s studies have long worn off. The excitement of the holidays and the new year have ended. And if you live where there’s snow this time of year, you’re likely buried, stuck inside. Your house, no matter how large, doesn’t seem to be able to hold the massive amount of energy even one child brims with each day. This is the time of year when homeschoolers start looking at the next learning cycle, the school year to start in August or September. The curriculum companies must have tuned into the February slump years ago because the beautiful catalogs full of inspirational ideas and new learning materials begin arriving almost daily. The pictures of smiling children and calm parents offer hope that if we buy the right products, the right books for math and spelling and writing, we, too, will find peace.

I am not discrediting the need to offer our children learning materials that inspire and encourage them, but what if the answer doesn’t lie in anything in a catalog, or even outside of our home. What if the answer to that peacefulness we seek is not outside the chaos but within it? What if the chaos is an invitation to be ever more present, to put aside distractions, and to enter into a closer relationship with our child? What if the chaos is a call to love? A call to take a break from the regular day-to-day and create a space of solace for our families.

But how can we do this when the days just keep racing forward and our hopes for the year seem to be buried in the snow? The answer is simple: nourish. Nourish ourselves and our families. Our hearts and minds and bodies. Take a break from the regular day, even when anxiety of what is left unfinished begins to creep in. Take time to create. Paint. Draw. Cook and bake. Dance. Laugh. Listen to music. Make some of your own.

And read. Read a lot. Read to each other. Listen to books read by professional readers. Let the beauty of language well-written soak into you. Snuggle close. Allow this to be a time of togetherness. Talk together. And listen. Allow the slowness of February to bless you rather than burden you. Let go of expectations and just be, even if just for an hour. Use this time to reaffirm your intentions, the ones that can’t be bought in a catalog. When we honor the stillness, we teach our children to do the same, and that lesson is greater than any that they would learn if we just keep rushing through.

A Shift in Perspective

I am very familiar with the postpartum time. We are frequent friends. During that time I often feel overwhelmed and need help. Over the past 6 months I have had the privilege of being on the other side, as the doula, the one offering help, and it has given me some new insight. None of it is earth-shattering but can definitely help the postpartum mom, and all mothers, to shift her perceptions and hopefully re-evaluate her expectations. In spending 3 hours with a family during the early postpartum weeks, I am able to do a couple of loads of laundry, prep dinner, and some light cleaning. It doesn’t sound like a lot but the three hours is full, leaving only a little time for a quick snack and to incorporate the help of young siblings. As the doula, I have the luxury of focusing on these tasks for the three hours that I am there.

I make these points for two reasons. The first is to reassure the mother. It took me three hours to do all of these things. During that time I was not the one feeding and diapering the baby. If I had been, those tasks would have stretched into 5 hours or more.

Another thing I noticed was that I did these tasks without any of the emotional drudgery that I often bring to my own household chores. Even though there was a lot to do, I met the work with a cheerful outlook. So often, when we are in our own homes and recovering during the postpartum time, we see all the things that we cannot get done with the efficiency as we could before baby was born. We may feel like our house is falling apart around us. Typically, it’s not as bad as it seems from our postpartum perspective, but our physical and time limitations in the early weeks (and often throughout the whole first year or so) make even the simplest tasks like folding a load of laundry feel daunting.

So what does all of this mean? First and foremost, the postpartum mother must be gentle with herself. She is only one person and no one person can do everything. Secondly, she should look closely at her personal expectations and decide what is truly reasonable to accomplish during this transitional time. Speaking from experience, the most that can be expected is caring for the new baby and siblings, food to eat, and sleep. Doing a little laundry here and there helps so that you have at least a few clean clothes, but expecting that you will maintain your pre-baby routine is not realistic. Eventually, a new routine will emerge and the postpartum haziness will lessen, but it is a transition. It does not happen all at once. Some days are smoother than others and some days just aren’t. That’s the way it is. It’s normal. It’s real. And you, the mother of this new baby, are doing the best you can and that is enough.

This is a good reminder for those of us not in the immediate postpartum period as well. It takes time to put healthy meals on the table, do the laundry, and clean the house. And on a daily basis, we may also be nursing the baby or toddler, helping children with schoolwork, tending to sibling squabbles, and countless other worthwhile activities. It all takes time and there are 24 hours in a day. There will be things left undone at the end of the day and that is ok. Just like the mom of the newborn who is recovering from childbirth, you are doing the best that you can and that is enough.