Change is the essence of life. Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become. – unknown
Fall is such a lovely time of year. For most of us, it’s an exciting time as we transition from the heat of summer and move into this cooler, restoring season. The energy of summer is one that celebrates a carefree, spontaneous and playful lifestyle where we tend to let go of our usual, daily routine. That’s fun, but as the symbols of fall return, we welcome the newness that comes with it.
I get excited about the new school supplies and pulling out my soup recipes. I love the changing leaves and envision afternoons of playing with my boys in the big freshly raked piles. I get the hankering to reorganize and long for the shorter days and earlier bedtimes. And can’t you just smell the cinnamon, apple pie and new box of crayons?
The shift in season also offers a wonderful opportunity to reestablish a sense of order and routine. I take this time to assess my family’s needs and make sure to plan our day accordingly. My 9-month-old still takes two naps a day, generally one in the morning and one in the afternoon. My 3-year-old is very active all morning so we plan our fun activities, playtime and outings then, and after lunch we share quiet time together. We like to spend many days at home, but try balancing that with adventures on the go. Family time is important to us so my husband gets home in time for dinner, evening walks and to help with bedtime.
The family needs all seem to be getting met — naps, clean clothes, organic meals, baths, play, quality time, love, laughter, snuggles…check, check, check. But after feeling a bit worn out and sluggish at the end of summer I had to take some self-reflection time to assess my own personal needs, and make sure they were getting met as well.
It is so easy for us moms (or dads) to put everyone’s needs before our own, and what usually happens is we think “I’ll workout when the kids go to bed.” Or “I’ll eat my breakfast after the kids are off to school.” Or “I’ll take that painting class when the kids are a little older.” Or whatever it is, we will do it “later” and most of the time we are just too darn exhausted to ever get to “it.” And the “it” is usually something that has great meaning to us — our personal wellness, a hidden dream, a creative yearning, a desire to be something other than “mom” all day every day. The only thing we might have energy for at the end of a long day is to read a few paragraphs in a book, or more likely, to watch some mindless reality TV show and veg. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with that, (I still love watching Survivor), but when we move through each day and never find time to do the things that bring us joy, meaning and stillness, it’s time to make some changes. And what better time to make personal and life changes, than during this beautiful season of change?
When I clued in to my sluggish, exhausted self, I noticed that I wasn’t taking the time to eat a healthy breakfast like I had in the past. I was making a nutritious breakfast each morning, but I was feeding three other people and maybe saving myself a few bites if no one asked for seconds. My art room turned into the chaotic playroom, which was fun for the kids, but it left me no time or space to paint. My phone was ringing less often because all my mom friends were in the same boat – maybe we all suffered a little heatstroke and just forgot how to take care of ourselves! These were all sure signs that our sense of balance had gotten a little out of whack.
I grabbed my journal one day and on one sheet of paper I wrote, “What I Do,” and journaled for 10 minutes, swiftly and without much thought, all the things I do in a day’s time. On a second page I wrote “What I Love,” and again, quickly journaled all the things I love doing. Then I compared the two. I was happy to see that both lists were quite similar. I am actually doing many of the things I love every day. But, there were some major things, like my own personal wellness, that I’d started slacking on over the summer. Things like getting to a consistent yoga class, going to bed earlier for meditation and quiet time, reading, scheduling some time with my girlfriends, and making space for downtime (alone).
When I did this writing exercise, I could see how much time I was spending on the children while trying to keep rhythm within the home. With my husband’s increasing workload, I started taking on a lot more responsibilities so the things that I wish I had more time and energy for, like my career, exercise, yoga, art, alone time, and fun with friends, were getting pushed aside.
After taking a good look at my list I was reminded that in order for me to make space for the things most important to me, I needed to let other things go or ask for help. I cleared and organized our toy clutter and hired a cleaner to come once, sometimes twice a month, to help me with the deep cleaning. This has given me more time for things like reading and rest. I’ve hired a sitter twice a week so that I have a set work schedule, which also gives me some alone time while sipping on a warm drink at the coffee shop. I’ve scheduled an art night once a month with my girlfriends. I’ve reserved Sunday mornings to go to yoga class. I now run for a half hour a few evenings each week. And all of this is happening because I’ve set my need to maintain mind, body, and spirit balance high on the priority list. (Remember, none of it was happening until I made sure it made our daily and weekly calendar!) I feel happier. I’m more energized. And I’m definitely more present with my children because I’m not distracted by the things I wish I could get to.
If you are feeling like your personal wellness path has gotten a little off track, try this very simple writing exercise:
Grab a pen and two sheets of paper. On the center of the first sheet write “What I Do” and on the center of the second sheet of paper write “What I Love.”
Take 10 minutes to write as many things that come to mind when you think about all the things that you do in a day’s time. Don’t give it too much thought (or judgment), just write whatever comes to mind. Then, take another 10 minutes to write all the things you love to do.
Once you feel like your lists are pretty complete, take a colored marker or highlighter and circle all the things on your “What I Love” list that you currently don’t have time for in your life right now. You may find that both lists are fairly similar – that the things you do each day are actually the things you love most. That’s wonderful! But maybe you’ll find that there are still some things like exercise, or eating healthy, or scheduling massage, or spending time with your friends, or date night with your partner, or asking for help, or taking small steps towards building your career, or simply soaking in the bath with no one yelling “mom” for 20 minutes, that still never seem to happen. Marking those things on your “What I Love” list helps you have a visual reminder of what you value and what you need to make more time and space for.
Now you have some clarity as to why you may be feeling a bit out of balance. As you create the new fall family schedule, it is going to be up to you to make sure the things that rejuvenate your energy, that inspire your creativity and that enrich your personal wellness make the priority list in your daily life.
Consider signing up for that class and letting the family know that Wednesdays are going to be mom’s night out, even if that means asking a friend or sitter for help. Feeling bogged down by all the housework? Look for a house-cleaner that could start coming, even if just once a month, to relieve some of the pressure off you. Have you had a secret book idea for years? Let go of some evening TV and start writing. Are you missing time alone with your friends? Plan an art night and have everyone bring some wine and their favorite snacks. Whatever it is, now is the time to make space for the things that will restore and rejuvenate your energy.
Embrace this new season with open arms and celebrate the changes yet to come. Because the change truly does start with YOU.
Shannon Kinney-Duh is the mother of two fun and energetic boys. When she’s not opening a box of new crayons and playing in her art room or having picnics in the park, she creates e-courses that inspire women to live more fully. Visit Free Spirit Knits to learn more.