I’ve come to realize lately that I have forgotten how to be quiet. And that’s really disturbing. I am an introvert who has always craved alone time, quiet time, time to reflect and clear my mind. Anymore, when those rare moments do happen, I’m typically reflecting on the to-do list that hasn’t been done. Or, the fact that I should get out of the hammock and fold that load of laundry. Or, that the kids are napping, so I should probably not spend time brainstorming my novel, but instead clocking billable hours for clients.
In recent years, I have fallen into the trap of productivity, of making sure every minute matters. When did this happen? Well, about eight years ago this October. Yes, I can track the steady trend and rise in the need to be productive with every spare minute of my day to when I first became a mother.
Before I was a mom, I had plenty of blue sky time, time to reflect, ruminate, and, let’s face it, zone out whenever I felt like it. After all, as a freelance writer, that time was necessary to my job. Then motherhood came. My schedule and availability were beholden to one, little, often-cranky infant who rarely slept and frequently nursed. Then two more little ones with their own needs and demands entered the picture. Suddenly that time for reflection faded into the background and the blue skies turned stormy.
I can sense when I haven’t had enough time to breathe. I know my brain feels scattered into a million little pieces. My breathing becomes shallow. My typically low blood pressure rises. I become snappy, irritable and, well, cranky
As a mother, it’s hard to find that space to relax and simply breathe. Even when we do carve out that time, our minds are often bombarded by noise and notifications, to-dos and what-ifs. And, if you’re like me, you sometimes feel guilty about kicking back in the hammock when you could be accomplishing so many other things in those few spare moments.
Then I was reminded of this truth:
“What kind of value do we place on a day with nothing planned? On a day not filled with lists of accomplishments, but with peace and quiet: a long walk to a coffee shop to enjoy a book, a phone conversation with a family member with whom we’ve lost touch. Will we tell those stories, or leave them out? There is value in both the busy days and the slow, reflective ones. There is value in finding time for oneself.” [excerpt from “With the Kids Off at School, How I Answer, ‘So What do You do All Day?’” by Lauren Knight]
And, you know what? She’s right. There is as much value in the reflective days and moments as there is in the busy ones.
I’ve just entered a new life stage where my oldest two are in school all day, leaving me with just one child (it’s amazing how “just one child” feels so different now than it did when I had only one child). Some days, I have felt almost guilty about the freedom and the space I’ve had in my days; the ability to fly by the seat of my pants; the chance to be super productive, or just kick back and turn on HGTV for a few minutes.
But, you know what? I’ve never been a fan of mom guilt.
I know the truth is that we were designed to thrive on a rhythm of on-time and off-time. We were created with a need for rest and that by honoring that, our lives function with peace and contentment because “Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind.” (Ecclesiastes 4:6)
I know that the novel I’m writing will come together so much better if I give more time to brainstorming and less time to powering through because I have 20 minutes before the youngest is scheduled to wake. That friendship will thrive when I make time to meet face-to-face and spend a few hours chatting instead of firing off a few text messages during spliced moments throughout the day. That bond with my daughter will deepen if I forget about the messy kitchen, ignore the notification pings, and instead watch her practice cartwheels in the backyard.
It’s time I remember how to be quiet, how to be slow, how to not fall into the trap of productivity. As that article said, sometimes we need to simply say, “Enough.” I believe this so much that I even put it into practice today. After the youngest finished her breakfast, I loaded her into the bike trailer and hit the river path. We biked for a total of an hour. During that time, I was free from dings and distractions and daily demands. My mind wandered as I pedaled and pulled my way along the path. I had time to breathe deeply (and huff and puff a bit). I had time for my mind to be consumed only by the nature around me and the random thoughts that drifted in and out of my mind. You know what those 60 minutes were? Vital. Necessary. Enough.
Sometimes it takes a bit of creativity to find that quiet time in the midst of motherhood. But when we do, we find it’s more than just enough. It’s necessary.
So tell me, how will you reclaim the quiet in the busyness of motherhood?