If you feel like you are not accomplishing what you "should" be doing while you have kids...
This may be the single most important thing that helped me manage when I became a parent.
In 2013 I took a class called The Power of Decision.
It changed my life.
It was based on a book The Power of Decision by Dr. Raymond Charles Barker. A Science of Mind leader, Dr. Barker was from New York City and he pulled no punches.
"I will show you that indecision is actually a decision. It is a decision to fail."
What?! Hold on a minute, the book has barely begun and you hit me with this? Can we ease into it a little bit?
And so it went. Powerful, short sentence after powerful short sentence drilling into you the knowledge, and the power, and even the dreadful failures, of your own decision-making.
No whining allowed. No excuses, either.
Dr. Barker gives examples of those who decide and of those who do not and he writes, without shyness or apology, about how he avoids people who just don't take their lives into their own hands.
"I cannot help anyone unless he has made up his mind..."
But, but, but... you're a Reverend, aren't you supposed to be there for everyone? Not when he has decided his time is valuable and he will not waste it. Ouch.
I loved it.
But while the entire book was fabulous what really struck me was his message about children.
"Children are afraid of making mistakes because of their strong emotional need to please their parents."
(And Indecisive adults are still worried about displeasing someone.)
It had never occurred to me before: children are not always taught to be good decision makers.
But how do you do this? How do you teach them to be good at making decisions?
His answer is simple: tell them they are good at making decisions.
So if a child asks: "Where should I put my wet towel?" You could say: "If you were alone in the house, and no one was here to help you, where would you put it?"
And they may say: "On the side of the tub."
And then you have to stop yourself from correcting them because you might really want it hung up on the hook. But maybe that's harder than you thought because they are much shorter than you. And honestly, it was a darn good decision to put it on the side of the tub because the answer was not "on the couch" or "in my bedroom" or "here, you take it".
So yes. Yes. That was a good decision. That would satisfy the requirements of keeping the house safe from a wet towel. Thank you. You make good decisions.
If you keep this up, if you keep telling them they make good decisions, they will bloom right before your eyes into the adults you hope they will be. Ones who make good decisions.
This is one of the most profound parenting principles there is:
This world is full of options. That's a blessing. But some days it doesn't feel like one.
Play dates. Classes. Social groups. Outings. Family gatherings. So many things to do.
Are you feeling stressed out by all of the options? Yes, choices are a blessing but when it's play dates, classes, social groups, outings, family gatherings, sports...
How do you eliminate the planning stress?
When I feel put upon, stressed out, or cornered, I have to remember: What do /I/ want?
That changes everything.
Instead of feeling like the world is throwing boulders at me that I have to catch or duck lest I get pummeled, instead I remember: I get to choose.
And not only that: "Look at how many amazing choice I have!"
From there the rest is easy. That's because I've practiced listening to my intuition, and my kids have, too. Intuition is your soul, your Big Guidance, and it never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever steers you wrong.
It even does scheduling.
I have a 6 month old baby, a 10 year old a daughter and a 6 year old daughter. I have a husband who works from home. I have a big summer ahead of me. What do I want?
Ease, of course.
Fun, oh heck-yes.
I want to be easy. I want it to be in our Highest Good. And I want it to be awesome.
So now, from this perspective, nothing seems stressful. Possible sleepover? Trip to Great America? Maybe. If we want. If it is something our Higher Self says "ooooh!" to.
And if it is not?
There is no pushing. No protecting myself (under the guise of protecting my kids). No guilt for saying "no thank you" and no fear of missing out, doing it wrong, or screwing up.
It is just... perfect. As it is. And as it is not.
So now: bring it.
An email box full of invitations? I can handle it. My soul already knows what my summer looks like, and from that perspective, it is AWE-SOME.
I have another baby so that means it's time to get cracking on organizing my life differently. By "differently" I mean "don't get all cranky because you can't get anything done".
Important Note: Don't let the word "baby" stop you parents of kids, tweens, or teens from reading this post. This strategy works for parents with kids of all ages. I just happen to have a baby right now, OK?
Now where was I? Oh yes.
Take my To Do list.
(No, really, take it. Ba-dum-CHISH!)
In the past, it was great to have a running To Do List. It was all I needed. Skim the list, pick something to do, do it, check it off. It was so simple.
But then I had a baby.
Suddenly that To Do list was a huge, looming pile of "Can't Get Done's" - a shadow of shame and frustration hanging over me, weighing me down. Nursing, changing diapers, rocking, holding a baby.... all great times when my body was busy while my mind was free to watch the clock tick, the dishes pile up, the emails to go unanswered, my hair to grow split ends, the thank you cards to be unthanked...
I felt like I couldn't get anything done. I got frustrated when I was interrupted - again. It was stressful.
So I started playing with how to organize my time. First I tried creating a smaller, daily To Do list from my main one. That seemed like a great idea. I could just pick the top three to five things I would, (really, truly, would) do that day that were critical.
Except it didn't work.
Now I had a smaller, but even more pressing To Do list looming over my head throughout the day as I changed diapers, rocked, held, soothed... and I felt even more stressed out because it was a shorter list and I wasn't even able to get thatdone right away.
After years of research and trial and error I have found the To Do list system that works for me - particularly when I have a baby or a toddler. You know, one of those constant-interuptus little people who, bless their hearts, might not take a 2 hour nap that day when you need it.
My system is all about flow.
It's main design is not necessarily to get things done, but to keep me from feeling stressed out. Which, ironically, means I end up getting more things done. (Tricky, but true.)
Instead of assuming I have complete control over time, my To Do list works in a world where I don't have to. (You mean I don't have to control time? No! Yay!)
I will still pick the top three to five things that I really want or need to get done that day and put them down on paper, but instead of just making a list, I categorize them into time opportunities. Or, because I still have a daily paper organizer (in addition to my online calendar) I will pencil in the To Do near the part of the day in which they can - or are most likely to - get done.
What can I do while the baby is awake?
- Folding laundry. (He loves to play with the socks on the bed.)
- Light cooking. (He loves to be held and I am a one-handed wonder at the stove.)
What requires babysitting so I can leave the house?
What requires the baby to be home with me but occupied or asleep and I am OK to be interrupted?
- Digging out the garage
- Taking a shower
What requires the baby to be occupied or asleep at home with someone who can tend the baby if he wakes or needs something so I am uninterrupted?
- Email to a client
With this new framework I feel more flexible and generous about getting my own needs met.
I can actually do that while the baby is in the carrier and I'm standing outside.
Writing a blog post?
This good for my soul and my creativity but I don't need to write every day. How often? Weekly would be great. If I am feeling well rested and inspired, I am totally happy to write in the morning - and get interrupted to change a diaper like just now - but only when the older kids are in bed and it's just the baby and me. Right now at 5 months old he's still very quiet. ;)
Knowing this means I can look forward to one morning when it lines up. Because it does. I don't have to push it.
With this type of To Do list I can:
Once I stop fighting reality or stressing out, it all flows.
That feels fantastic.
And, incidentally, so does getting stuff done. :)
Is more than one person in the room cranky pants at the same time?
How do you answer when you are reading Cinderella and your little one asks, "Mommy, why are Cinderella's step-sisters so mean?"
If you try this little technique (it only takes a few minutes, max) it will make your outings with kids - of any age - easier, or more relaxing, or more fun, or more in the flow than ever before.