There’s a saying that you vote with your money, that is, the way you spend your money manifests your priorities, your values, and so on. I’d argue that the same is true of your time. The way you spend your time is a show of what’s important to you and what isn’t (even if you think it should be).
I was recently talking to a couple of friends who had just welcomed their second children. We talked about the changes in our perspectives on mothering when there was more than one little one in our care. For me, the biggest shift was in giving myself permission to take time—time to heal physically, time to adjust the family’s schedule, time to let my work flow back into my day-to-day without causing an upheaval.
Along with this, of course, came John studying for his test and our preparing for our move. Every evening, John and I consider what needs to get done and how much of that we can reasonably accomplish. Our family’s time is carefully managed, and when it isn’t, to be honest, we pretty much just pass out.
Managing time during the day with two little ones is a different story. There are days when I want to get other things done, but a little voice saying, “Mommy, want to play toys with me? Let’s play fire truck!” win out. When I choose my tasks over time with him, there’s a real difference in his behavior, and one that I don’t think is really his fault. This isn’t to say that Jacob can’t play by himself—he can and he does, every day. But he can’t play by himself all day. And I don’t want him to; I want to enjoy him as a two-year-old, just as I enjoyed him as a baby and I will enjoy him as a grown up, one day (ahh!).
Anyway, our last weekend in Brooklyn, we all slowed down. I had a morning to write. John and I both got our hair cut. At said haircut, I opted to read a novel rather than make small talk with the hairdresser, which I’m pretty horrible at. Writing and reading like that—with enough time to really commit to it—reminded me why I love these things so much. When there isn’t time to do them, I wonder why I bother; they don’t seem like fun when they’re jammed into little crevices of “free” time. But when we make an intentional effort to work them into life, they are so, so enjoyable.
It’s odd to connect the two, but I find the same is true of parenting. When I focus on making it my number one priority minute-by-minute, rather than day by day or an even broader margin, it’s enjoyable. Does that make sense? Of course parenting is my number one priority always in theory, but sometimes I think I can multitask a little too much, and I lose focus on everything. When I try to squeeze something else in to the day, it all falls apart. On the other hand, when I give my schedule room to breathe, everything is easier, more fun, and more productive. My kids are happier, I’m happier.
I realize this is not my doing. Just before things started to fall into place a little more, I’d begun saying morning prayer with Jacob over snacks. We missed a few days here and there, but he’s learned to gently remind me when I forget. We are taking time together, in the smallest of communities, to let prayer into our lives this way.
How do I manage to keep calm when I am tired from the heat, a teething baby, and a toddler who desperately wants to help with food prep that only involves a very sharp knife? Not because I found the key to parenting, but because I welcomed Jesus back into our house in prayer. The more time we spend that way, the closer our family becomes, the better off our children are, the happier our marriage is.
This summer has been hot. It has been busy. There have been teething and fevers and minor allergic reactions. We’ve traveled a lot and messed with our sleep schedules. But at the end of the day, we have each other and we have a Faith that strengthens us. And that—in every minute of every day—is more than I could reasonably ask for.