How I Simplified My Parenting

I am a big fan of minimalism. The fascination started out for me mainly in the area of physical possessions. I very much like the look of less stuff. There’s hardly a better feeling to me than decluttering a room and getting rid of unnecessary things. It’s freeing. It makes me feel calmer, less anxious. Marie Kondo is my hero.

But the idea of minimalism and simplicity is about more than physical objects. Every aspect of our lives can be simplified.

To me, simplifying means cutting out the unnecessary and making time for what really matters. So in the case of physical stuff, as Marie would say, only keep things that “bring you joy!” This means you have to actually take time to figure out what exactly brings you joy, and what things are possibly worth giving up. As Ron Weasley would say: you need to sort out your priorities.

I recently decided that my parenting needed an overhaul – a simplification, if you will. I knew there were important things that I wanted to do as a mom, but it seemed like there was never time to do them. It felt more like I was trying to get through each day, rather than enjoying the precious moments with my child that I would never get back.

I’m a full-time working mom, so on the weekdays it really doesn’t leave a lot of real quality time for me to have with my son, Calvin. He’s 4 years old (4 and a HALF, I’m sure he would want me to say.) In the mornings, it’s a race to get all of us ready and loaded up in the car to get to daycare and work on time. In the evenings, it feels like a race to get dinner fixed for everyone, do the dishes (if they get done at all), and maybe have a bit of time to be together before it’s time to start getting Calvin ready for bed.

BEFORE simplifying our parenting…

We let Calvin watch t.v. in the evenings after getting home from daycare. We had previously agreed upon a set amount of t.v. he was allowed to watch (3 episodes), after he cleaned up his room. Well, by the time he cleaned his room and watched all his episodes, lo and behold, it was pretty much time to start the bedtime routine. We had even (I’m embarrassed to say) been letting him eat dinner in front of the t.v. most nights because otherwise there was not enough time for him to get all three episodes in. I felt frustrated – I knew that it was important for us to be eating at the table together as a family, but there just didn’t seem to be enough time.

Plus, there always seemed to be unfinished tasks that needed to be done: the dishes, folding laundry – and letting Calvin watch t.v. was useful in that it allowed my husband and I time to finally get some of those things completed. (At least that’s what we told ourselves.)

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The Busiest I’ll Ever Be…

Well friends, I am just about done with my first semester of grad school! I survived! (Though the online group project just about killed me…)

I have my last assignment due next Tuesday and then I get a three-week break until summer courses start! Those three weeks are going to be so amazing, I am already feeling less stressed now that most of my assignments are done!

I have to say, this is the busiest I have ever been in my life – I keep thinking at some point in my life the level of busy-ness will taper out, but so far that has not been my experience. When I was in college, I thought I was busy – and I couldn’t wait to graduate so I could be less busy.

While post-college life had less assignments and homework (until now), it did not prove to be less busy. Once I started teaching, I had never felt so busy or worked as hard! My first year teaching 2nd grade, I would spend hours and hours at home grading papers, I was tired all the time, I could never keep up!

Fast forward a few years to having a baby – I didn’t work during the first year of Calvin’s life, but I can assure you I felt like this would surely be the busiest and tiredest I would ever feel! Well… I was wrong yet again.

Here I am, working full-time, taking 6 graduate hours, and balancing life with a husband and almost-two year old… and despite being wrong in the past, I have convinced myself that surely THIS will be the busiest I will ever be in my life!

Is anyone else’s life panning out this way? Do you find yourself just waiting and looking forward to the times when you aren’t busy? Do you ever wish the next few weeks or months were already over? Do you try to catch your breath in the few unplanned hours or minutes of each week before plowing full steam ahead into the next one?

We recently had a reunion with our Re-Engage group- we hosted dinner at our house. (See my previous post about our Re-Engage experience.) We decided to go around and have every couple share how things were going in their marriage, post-Re-Engage. Almost every single person talked about how busy things were, and for some of us, we really noticed a negative effect on our marriages. I know for me, being so busy with school and work, I have certainly felt like I can’t find the time to do the things that were so strengthening to our marriage – things that we did while participating in Re-Engage. It’s hard to sincerely devote yourself to very many things, and as typically happens, sometimes we forsake important things (marriage, family, health) for urgent things (work, deadlines, homework.)

At that dinner we also discussed the concept of Sabbath – we discussed how hard it is these days to even take a few hours off to relax, and devoting an entire day to rest seemed practically impossible! It really got me thinking thought about why God required his people to take a Sabbath. I think sometimes we convince ourselves that the concept of a Sabbath is old and outdated, and that back then people didn’t have so many demands on their time like we do … but I think that is a myth. I think it’s a cop-out to not feel guilty for our busy-ness and to justify it by saying that’s just how our culture is.

I think God knows that being too busy hurts us – it hurts our relationships, our marriages, our families, our health even! Stress from being too busy can sometimes consume us – it makes us less patient, less Christ-like. We focus on the urgent and forget to take care of what’s most important – we get distracted. When I feel overwhelmed with busy-ness, I definitely don’t take care of myself the way I should – I don’t meditate, I don’t exercise, I don’t take time to pray or be with God.

I recognize all this, yet I feel so conflicted about how I could be less busy. I don’t want to give up my hobbies or time with friends – I don’t want to stop working or quit on grad school – I don’t want to give up being involved at my church when I feel called to do so. So what can I do to be less busy? What is God calling me to give up in my life so I can nurture the things in my life that are really important?

Today after work, I decided to try to find a few verses in the bible about busy-ness and here’s a few that stuck out to me:

Matthew 6:33 – But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.

Matthew 13:22 (Jesus explaining the parable of the Sower) – The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.

I also found a great article online titled, “Busyness Is Not a Spiritual Gift.” It is a great read and really articulated some of the things I had been thinking about nicely. 

I think the next steps for me will be to really sort out my priorities and decide what is most important – then take a good look at my actions to see if they align with those priorities. As the article mentions, God might want me to get rid of some of the things that I really love, and even some things that are good, which is why this is so hard. But I think it comes down to having faith that God knows what is best, and that seeking Him first really will let the other things in my life fall into place.

There’s so much more I could say about this, but I will leave it at that for now. I’d love to hear your thoughts on this if you want to share.