They were well-meaning comments.
"You must have SO much time on your hands now!"
"Ooh, girl, you've been working towards this moment for so many years, right? And now it's here: freedom!!"
"What are you going to do today without your kids?"
Our youngest just started kindergarten, and I find myself in a position I have longed for for years. Both our children are now at the same school, a short walk from home, and I finally have kid-free time that doesn't require arranging for a babysitter, planning ahead to have grandparents take them, or paying for preschool.
Why do I feel so crappy, then? Any why do these well-meaning comments rub the wrong way?
Here's my reality:
YES, I do have much more "time on my hands". But that doesn't mean I know how to use it well.
YES, I have been working toward this moment for a long time. But that doesn't mean it's all sunshine and roses now that it's here.
YES, I have "free time". But I also have family relationships to nurture, a moms' prayer group to coordinate, a small business to run, friends to hang out with, a Sunday School class to lead, coaching clients to support, a house to clean, and meals to prepare. Where, exactly, is the free time in all that?
Maybe you can relate. You have so many things on your mind, a to-do list that just won't quit, and you're reacting to life instead of living it. I've talked to so many moms who've been in your shoes.
A client with a one year old shared, "I have all these ideas of what I could do, but I'm always on my phone, and nothing's getting done. All the ways I didn't do what I wanted to is a constant burden."
"I wake up feeling already behind," said a mama of three young ones. "I want to be more present and loving to my kids. I don't want to have an emotional reaction when they bombard me in the mornings."
A mom at my workshop last weekend confessed, "I feel like every moment is taken."
When we don't know what our priorities are, life becomes a series of responding to needs and minor crises (we're late, but Josh can't find his socks - again!). What needs to happen to get off of this hamster wheel?
Here is my process, if you'd like to see:
I know life is full. But as you go through your week, notice what is filling your time. What commitments do you have? Work, kids' sports teams, extended family, volunteering? Are there ways you aren't using time as well as you'd like? YouTube (guilty as charged), putting off chores, multitasking in a way that's not productive?
2) Take time to choose your priorities.
Clear a block of time to sit down. Then list every possible commitment you have, or could have, in this season. Sit with them a while. If you have a spiritual practice, pray or sit in silence - use it to guide you. Then pick the top ones - the non-negotiables. It's okay if you're not 100% sure about them. You can always adjust. For now, just pick the ones that seem most important, the ones you want to give time to.
3) Make time for what's important.
Here are a few things I've decided are important to me this fall:
Walks / time with God - Walks are my exercise, my mental health boost, and my time to pray. To make time for this, I walk the long way home after school drop-off (vs. having to build my own momentum to leave the house in the middle of the day).
Growing my coaching practice - I'm dedicating Tuesday and Thursday mornings to work, starting after my morning walks. Every other Wednesday I take extra time to finish and send my newsletter (if you haven't subscribed, what are you waiting for?!).
Seeing friends - Summertime was a dry time, socially, for me. To make sure I reconnect with friends, I'm leaving Wednesday and Friday mornings more open to hang out with women I love.
Feeding my family - My husband is the main lunch-packer in our house, but I've taken to doing something on Sunday evenings to help. Cutting a bunch of carrot sticks, making a batch of sandwiches to stick in the freezer, or preparing fruit for easy packing helps me contribute to a peaceful morning.
4) Reflect and reassess.
After a week or two, take time to check in. How's it going? Are your priorities being reflected in how you use your time? How does it feel? This is a good time to make tweaks.
I recently heard a mom say, "If I could just get things ready the night before - pack the lunches, lay the clothes out, get the things ready - we would be SO much less stressed in the mornings." She's onto something! It takes intention to think ahead and make space for the things that are most important to us. When you know your priorities, you know how to use your time, and life gets better.
If you'd like a guide to walk you through this process, I'd love to be that person. I'm dual-certified to help women like you find their focus, make time for what's important, and end their days feeling happy and productive.
Get help to use your time well
If you've read the steps above and still feel overwhelmed, I'd love to help. Get one-on-one time with me, and find more peace by identifying your priorities. It doesn't have to be this hard. Click below to book your complimentary session.