I have taken some time off from writing over the past couple of weeks mostly because of the hectic pace that comes with this time of the year, but also because I have been spending a lot more time thinking and less time producing. Writing for me helps me think, actually. Journaling does this for me. But sometimes I need space to process and contemplate stuff. There are moments in my day, many moments actually, when both my girls will tell me something at the same time while I am in the middle of listening to my husband tell me about his day all the while Judson is yelling over us vying for our attention to put more food on his tray.
This leaves little space for thoughtfulness.
So I put the kids down to bed at night and I grab a cup of peppermint tea, diffuse some oils, and read. I read everything- fiction, non-fiction, classic literature, the latest New York Times Bestseller, you name it. I love to sit at the feet of great writers and learn from their craft while being drawn into a great story. The best writers are excellent storytellers.
Sometimes the noise (even the best noise like my four-year old’s laugh, or my toddler’s xylophone skills) silences contemplation. I don’t even know what I am doing at times (mostly I try and simply keep everyone alive), but if I can get away to process, pray, plan, and dream I feel like I have some sort of vision not only as a wife and mom, but as a person. Because mamas, we are persons too!
I think the reason many mothers lose themselves in this parenting gig is that they make little space for leisure. I just got through reading a book entitled, Leisure: The Basis of Culture by Josef Pieper, and its premise is that leisure when rightly understood is the foundation of culture. It involves carving out time for contemplation of God and enjoying nature. Work for work’s sake as a means to an end will, in Pieper’s mind, destroy culture. This book was written in 1958, not that long ago, but not necessarily modern either. However, I found that the suggestions Pieper made regarding work and leisure to be quite relevant for today, and especially for me personally as a mother.
Leisure is not inactivity (moms are rarely inactive, even in the middle of the night). Leisure involves awareness, consideration of meaning, worship of God, prayer, observation of nature, and wonder. Just today I watched my four-year old leisurely enjoy a lady bug scurrying around on a picnic table. My little girl held out her hand for the ladybug to scamper onto her fingers and up her arm leaving her in tickles and giggles. As we left the park, my daughter excitedly shared with me how beautiful that ladybug was while describing all of its colors. Kids get leisure. Unfortunately many of us leave leisure in our childhood when we enter the grown up world of paycheck to paycheck, Monday to Friday, and from work to home. Or in the world of moms, from car pools to pb&js, from soccer practice to piano lessons, to washing dishes and mopping sticky floors. Oh, but we don’t have all that extra time to waste as we did when we were kids! But this is the whole point- leisure is not a waste of time- leisure is what gives meaning to our time. Why do we work? What is our essential purpose? Moms can get burned out even knowing that the cleaning, lunch prep, disciplining, and kissing boo boos are all a part of loving our kids and cultivating their hearts. Because we are persons too, and we can only give so much.
We need to refill again and again. We need leisure.
How to Leisure as Busy Mom
I am still discovering leisure, so there is much more to share on this, but here is a start.
- Make YOUR Moment
Get up before the kids, put on a T.V. show, or send the kids out in the back yard to play. Whatever you have to do, make time to have your moment in God’s Word, prayer, to journal, and be still. It can happen, and sometimes your moment will have background noise, but you can still have your moment. You don’t have to be a Trappist monk to have peace in your heart. Make your moment for leisure in your way with what works for your family dynamic.
2. Learn in Leisure
With homeschooling I am engaged with my kids most of the day, so I do not feel so bad when I ignore them at some point in the day. Like say, dinner prep time. By that point I need some Selah before I go psycho, and my people will want to eat by 5:30ish, so mama has got to get cooking. This is usually our T.V. time in the day, and I do not feel guilty one bit. While the kids watch a show on Netflix, I get busy in the kitchen listening to one of my favorite podcasts. I relish this time to learn, discover, explore, and become inspired while getting dinner prepared. You can find time to learn in your day too. For you it may be listening to an audiobook while you put on your makeup (maybe only 5 minutes of an audiobook, but still- that’s 5 min. of leisure!), or it may be reading a chapter or two in a book while your kids nap or have quiet time. Leisure does not have to be a week long vacation. It can be (and should be) something that occurs in increments throughout our day.
3. Look Beyond the Surface
My biggest fit with busyness is not so much that I cringe at the nervous energy it brings, but that I miss so much of what is really going on. Just last night my whole family (even the toddler) busted into a dance party in our kitchen led by my 5 going on 15-year old daughter. It was a moment that could have been dismissed or rushed, but we did neither. The surface of what happened was just a bunch of goofy kids and parents letting off steam after a long day, but as I finished washing dishes last night the thought occurred to me that more was going on there. We bonded. We celebrated being together in the joyous of ways. Leisure allows us to look beyond the surface, to marvel at sunshine-soaked summer days, constellations in a clear sky, the warmth of a baby falling asleep against a mother’s chest. We will miss so much without leisure.
Sometimes we think that we have to give something up in order to rest, think, pray, etc. But the truth is that we give up so much more when we don’t rest, think, pray, etc…leisure! And overachievers (like myself), don’t look for a purpose to leisure as a means to an end. If the chief end of man is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever (Westminster Shorter Catechism), then even leisure is to be done unto Him as are the pb&j sandwich making and potty training. God shapes us through all of this, but we consider Him best in leisure. So, moms, take a break without the guilt. The kids will be okay, really. In fact, they will be all the better for it.
“Be still and know that I AM God.” Psalm 46:10