Well it’s officially been a year of mostly staying home in a worldwide pandemic. The vaccine is being rolled out to older folks and to those with health issues that might make the virus particularly challenging for their immune system. And it’s hopefully only a few weeks away for me!
I feel like I’m sitting at an airport with a delayed flight – watching everyone else get on their flights to get to where they are going and I am just sitting here, waiting.
For me, this year of the pandemic has been divided into different phases or “chapters”:
Covid – Table of Contents
March 2020-May 2020….Total nightly anxiety but peace-filled days with my kids playing in the backyard. We had teddy bear picnics, made long chalk train tracks, celebrated V’s first birthday, and didn’t get takeout at all. I drank a lot in the evenings and ate a lot of bags of chips. I gained weight.
May 2020-June 2020….Optimism and our first Covid bubble family with our neighbors across the street. That was a great time.
June 2020- August 2020….Construction. A pipe cracked in our bathroom and was leaking down two stories into the basement. We had many contractors in and out of the house at that time and I was very nervous about getting covid.
September 2020 – November 2020…. A second wave of optimism and our second covid bubble family with DK’s best friend’s family. Another great period of time in 2020.
November 2020 – January 2021…. Total reclusiveness. Relishing the coziness of home through the season and enjoying the simplicity of the holidays with our children.
End of January 2021 – February 2021…. My panties were in a twist, y’all. Frustration, impatience, exhaustion were the emotions on the tip of my covid emotional iceberg.
March 2021….A third and hopefully last wave of optimism and planning for the future. Sitting in the airport gate excited to get on my “flight” to an amazing vacation (aka waiting for the vaccine so I can see people again).
What has your year looked like? Have you also had very distinctive “chapters”?
A Year of Personal Growth
Despite all these separate chapters, one thing that remained consistent throughout is my determination to make this period of our lives focused inward on personal growth.
It was during this year that I worked to establish some good home routines for our family. Bedtime routines, a daily family clean up, and meal plans.
It was also during this time that I took on some personal goals. I got back into my habit of reading, which had dropped off my radar with V’s birth and buying and renovating our house. I started taking weekly Spanish lessons online with a one-on-one tutor in Vera Cruz, Mexico through Verbling.com. I joined Noom and began prioritizing my own nutritional health in a quest to lose the baby/pandemic weight. I quit drinking wine every night as a way to wind down from the day and dull the pandemic anxiety. And most recently I started running using the Couch to 5k app. I’ve been going out nearly every morning (mostly to get away from my family for 30 minutes, I’m not a saint), and I’m up to running for 8 minutes straight. People no longer look at me as I wobble past them in the plaza and wonder if I’m okay and if I need an ambulance.
And yet despite all that I have accomplished for myself, I still found myself feeling down that I hadn’t found time to write on my blog. I love writing. I love the creative outlet. I have tons of ideas bouncing around in my head for posts I want to write. But it’s just so time intensive and requiring deep focus! Who has time for that right now?!
I found myself resenting that I didn’t get time to write. That much of the time I got to myself was three minutes here to log my food with Noom, thirty minutes there to go for a run, an hour a week to learn Spanish. What I wanted was several hours of peace and quiet to deep dive into my thoughts and research and just write. At the same time, I felt guilty for taking the time I did take for myself. I felt guilty for using my phone at the dinner table to log my food with Noom. I felt guilty for not taking my thrill-seeking daughter in the jogging stroller when I run. I felt guilty for my Spanish class starting at 8 pm and rushing through the kids’ bedtime routines once a week so that I could attend on time.
Thank goodness my husband is free of the pathology of mom-guilt and has been able to tell me many times: don’t feel guilty about that. He has encouraged me to get out of the chaos of the house and write, to take a break from the kids. But do I listen to him? No. I let the mom-guilt continue its cascade.
One morning on my run, I was listening to a podcast and I heard another mother talking about the subject of personal growth.
She said that the truth was that we can’t have it all all of the time. We can have some things sometimes and other things at other times.
Right now we are in a global pandemic and reliable childcare isn’t really a possible option for us at the moment. And that’s okay. This is a season. Reframing my “I have to be with my kids again today” to “I get to be with my kids today” is a good reminder to me that this is a season, I won’t always get to be with my kids. And when I’m in that future season, maybe that’s when I will write more.
Maybe right now is when I do the living that I will later write about.
In this podcast interview, this woman had written a book and she was telling us about the process of writing it and publishing it as a mother of four kids under the age of ten. I’m inspired by her, but I also hate her just a little bit (hey, I already told you – I’m not a saint).
That is my dream, to someday write a book. But maybe I don’t write my book until I’m 50 years old. Or maybe I write my book when I’m 75 years old. I’ll definitely have more wisdom to put in its pages at 75 than I would at 33.
However this doesn’t mean that I shouldn’t try to make time to practice the craft of writing, because it is a creative outlet I enjoy, and practice will make me a better writer. So I’m writing this post on my phone while I snuggle my daughter to sleep.
Bringing My Kids Alongside
In her book, The Brave Learner, Julie Bogart encourages each individual in the family to have a Big Hairy Audacious Goal (commonly known as BHAGs in the business world) and for the family to work together to help each other achieve their personal goals. For my husband, he wants to work extra hours on a side project that is needed at work and might be the kind of thing that lands him a promotion. So I get up early with the kids so he can work late into the night on his professional goals. DK wants to build a railroad in the backyard. So we bought him a set of books about a boy and his grandpa who built a model railway on their farm so that he could “do research”. I’m not sure what V’s BHAG is, as she’s 2 years old, but she loves to help me cook, so I stand patiently by while she makes a huge mess with the flour and stirs in too many raisins. Someday perhaps she will cook a meal for us. And for me, my kids and husband say “have a good run!” when I trot out the door every morning on my quest to run 5k.
Bringing my kids alongside me in my goals shows them through osmosis how to work towards goals – The hard work, the time investment, and the importance of practice towards progress. When I was in 9th grade, my mom went back to school. Seeing her study and write papers gave me a great perspective of what kind of work ethic would be required when I too went to university. Realizing this has helped me let go of the mom-guilt. My children want a mother who is healthy and intellectually fulfilled. They are learning how to pursue their own passions by seeing me pursue mine. It is good for my children to see me struggle and get frustrated with something I am learning how to do – and how I keep at it until I can do it. I am a better mother when I’m not resentful and despondent at the groundhog nature of my days.
A good friend of mine recently started a custom cookie business. She had it in her mind that she’d like to learn how to bake and decorate sugar cookies, and so after years of wishing, she bought some tools and got started. And here’s the truly amazing thing – she’s incredibly talented at it. Like seriously, check out some of these pictures of her cookies. You can follow her on instagram @humbleandkindcustomcookies.
In a few short months she has built a beautiful brand and sells stunning cookies. All of this success is hard to balance though with a busy life with two kids, but she can let go of the mom-guilt knowing that while she builds this business, her boys are seeing what it takes to be an entrepreneur. They are seeing attention to detail and brand management. They are seeing design and creativity. They are seeing accounting and time management. They are seeing their mom as a woman with passions and talents outside of her identity as their mother and they are seeing their father support her in her goals. And someday they will understand and support their spouses in the same way.
Charlotte Mason said “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, and a life” and my friend’s sons are getting a great home education as they bear witness to work.
I wonder if bringing our kids alongside us in our dreams of pursuing our careers and achieving our own big, hairy, audacious goals is the antidote to the mom-guilt that plagues so many moms who work outside and inside the home.
Pockets of Time in Imperfect Places
When I was single, I had this little one-bedroom apartment on the fourth and top floor. Outside my windows was the foliage of a big birch trees and my home felt a little like a nest in its branches. I would spend Friday nights cleaning so that Saturday morning I could wake up to a quiet, clean, and peace-filled apartment, make a cup of tea, and sit down and write. The sun trickled in through the tree leaves and bounced off the warm, cream-coloured walls. It was my dream writing environment: quiet, clean, organized, sunny, warm, and with a view of nature.
I continue to tell myself that I can’t possibly write anything decent without the perfect writing environment at home. But my home is so rarely quiet or clean. Trying to prepare the perfect writing environment takes time away from when I could actually be writing.
When I was doing my Master’s degree, I was trying to get through a ton of readings. I would print journal articles and read through them while I waited in line at the campus coffee shop, while I waited at stop lights, or while I waited for class to start. I do know from experience that pockets of time can yield great efforts towards a goal. And yet I need to remind myself daily not to expect the perfect moment – but to do it in the here and now, a little at a time in an imperfect moment.
In this season of my life, I need to accept the time given to me in the imperfect spaces of my day: waiting for the shower water to heat up, waiting for the lunch noodles to cook, the three minutes per day that my children actually play nicely together, or sitting in the dark with my daughter while she falls asleep as I type slyly on my phone.
What about you? Do you have any Big Hairy Audacious Goals you have been putting off because you “just don’t have time”? How could you bring your family alongside to work on goals together? Where do you have pockets of time?