This week I am celebrating my 33rd birthday. Today is the day of the week I have my mother-in-law watching my kids so I am taking the day to myself. Normally I try to accomplish as much as possible on my day alone, but today I am taking the time to slow down, take care of myself, and flow with what my heart decides it needs. This morning I started the day off with a massage, then went to coffee and breakfast ALONE (it was glorious!), followed by a walk on the beach, and now sitting at a coffee shop with my favorite drink (Americano with caramel syrup and oat milk) to write. It doesn’t get much better than this. Of course I feel a small pang of guilt in being grateful and enjoying alone time as much as I do when I could instead be with my children, but I’m a better human when I have a day that is relatively unscheduled that I can have quiet and nobody needing me to have time to focus on myself and do things that light me up. I absolutely love my children and love spending time with them AND I love time alone. I find that using “and” instead of “but” makes a big difference in how something feels. Words are powerful. If I instead said, “I love my children and spending time with them BUT love spending time alone”, it feels like one is exclusive of the other and that they cannot be equally true or that one is even a lie. Using AND instead of BUT is more inclusive of me as a whole, integrated human. It highlights the truth in both statements.
It’s so easy to lose yourself in motherhood because you are so focused on trying to be a good mom, wife, professional, etc but above all else, you are you. What makes you who you are is how God blesses those around you with your light. However, if you are trying to conform to others’ opinions and views and who you *think* you should be, you are setting yourself and everyone up for failure. We serve God, our family, our community, and ourselves by being the best version of ourselves, not someone else’s version of you. If you hate noisy environments that are full of people but choose to spend your time with your children there because you think they’ll enjoy it more, you will be miserable or at least unsatisfied (even if you try to be positive about it) instead of doing something that lights you up like taking your children on a walk in nature. Maybe the kids won’t find it as exciting as the noisy environment, but maybe that’s exactly what they need. We all need time to slow down, get quiet, to hear their inner voice (no matter how young or old they are), to connect with nature and God, and to feel their mom’s joy emanate because she’s doing something that lights her up. When we are true to ourselves and follow our passions and interests, we are acting as a good example. We don’t want to model staying small or doing the things that we are “supposed to do” instead of the things we are passionate about or our children will have a harder time following their own passions. A beautiful quote about this that struck me was by Ed Mylett: “One of the most insidious forms of child neglect is a parent who doesn’t chase their dreams and potential.” Let that sink in. This doesn’t just apply to those big dreams and big passions, this is true for the small things that light you up. We get far more joy out of doing lots of small things that light us up instead of the one big thing and it’s so much more attainable to incorporate the little things in each day.
My husband enjoys doing the big social events that the kids enjoy so I encourage him to take them to do those things and let me stay home. Even though he may have some anxiety about taking the kids to a busy place alone, he is usually grateful that I decided to stay back so he could bond with the kids in a setting that lights him up. It fosters confidence in himself as a parent and the kids get much needed bonding time with their daddy. When I’m around, I am the sun in the kids’ solar system- their world revolves around me and my husband is almost always in the shadows. This seems to be a pretty common theme through most families. But when my husband has the kids alone without me there, he gets to be the sun, which is good for him, the kids, and for me.
Find what lights you up, makes you feel like yourself the most, and find ways to incorporate that into your day. Even if it’s a teeny, tiny incorporation- the small things add up and ultimately make up a life more than the big things.