Monday, July 25, 2011

Just a Mom, part two - 5 Key Principles to Getting Started

Last week I shared some thoughts on why it's good for us to strive for more than being "just a mom" (part one - it's okay to want more).

Today, I'll offer some principles that will help turn our desire into a reality. Tomorrow, I'll pull out some practical tips on making it happen.

1. Make a list.

Are you surprised that my first suggestion involves list making? Really, though, the list is the most important step.

List all the things you wish you could do but don't have the time for. List all the things you used to do but felt you had to give up. List your personal hobbies, interests, dreams, and goals. Write it all down!

Once your list is written, begin sorting the items on the list according to a few categories: no longer important to me, something for later (whether a different phase in your life or your kids' lives), and important for today. If your 'important for today' list is fairly long, you'll need to rank the items by priority.

On my list of things I'd like to start doing today: writing, building friendships, regular dates with my husband, being involved in my church. For lots of women fitness makes it way onto the list, or a crafty hobby like scrapbooking, or volunteering at the kids' school.

2. Start small.

For most of us, going on a diet doesn't work if we attempt to revamp our entire lives in one day. It's the gradual, consistent implementation of changes that convert our lifestyles and our waistlines. The same is true of finding time for ourselves apart from our children. Slow and gradual just works better.

Choose one item from your list that you'd like to fit into your life and only focus on that item.

When we first moved (nearly two years ago now), building friendships ranked number one. Little by little, I saw that beginning to happen. So then I bumped writing to the top. I'm still working on building friendships, but have reassigned some of my attention to writing.

3. Search for windows.

Windows of time, I mean. In every mom's day, there are little chunks of time that are not filled with motherly duties. Others refer to these as pockets of time or margins. Whatever you call them - they're there. Your job is to identify them.

Not only do you need to find those windows, you need to figure out what's filling them right now. Then decide which matters more to you - the thing you're currently doing that uses up your chunks of time, or the thing you wish you were doing.

Building friendships - I decided that this was something I could incorporate into daily living. I didn't need to set aside a special time or make crazy childcare arrangements. I could invite a new friend and her kids over virtually any day. It just meant that sometimes I had to plan ahead as far as housework. Just because it was cleaning day didn't mean I couldn't have coffee, it simply meant I needed to clean around the coffee date - either before, after, or on a different day that week.

4. Schedule.

If it's important to you, schedule it in. Most moms these days have a day planner or a smart phone or something to keep track of appointments on. Use that same tool for allowing yourself time to add that one thing.

If it's in the calendar, it feels less like wasting time or stealing time (from the ever-present housekeeping needs) and more like time well-spent. Scheduling things, even fun things like singing lessons - if that made the top of your list - makes it feel more intentional and less frivolous. It's a mind-set thing.

Writing - I realized that I spent a lot of time on Facebook and reading blogs. Hours spent entertaining myself that could be spent crafting words. So I gave myself a rule - no reading until after the writing. The first thing I do in the mornings (following my quiet time) is write my blog post. Then I reward myself with a quick skim of FB status updates. After lunch, I try to do a bit more writing-related stuff, then I get to read up on other people's blogs.

5. Don't live by the schedule.

Yes, I did just contradict myself. The thing is, you can't be so married to your schedule that you become inflexible. It's okay to skip a day of knitting - if that's what made your list - in order to babysit a friend's child. Life happens, children get sick, emergencies come up, time gets away from us... The best way to handle life's interruptions is to be flexible.

For example, read Friday's blog post. I was busy packing for a two events - a boy's week at camp and a wedding that our whole family was attending. I realized that writing this post simply could not fit into my morning without me turning into a stressed-out shrew.

So go ahead. Make your list. What's stopping you?

What activity (or activities) make top priority on your list for today?

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