The problem is we think we have time

This week, Mother Nature forced us to stay home and relax in what Portland called “snow storm 2016.” Portland is pretty dramatic when it comes to snow, so if there’s anything more than an inch, everyone freaks out and the entire city is paralyzed. This week, I was totally ok with it. The kids found any slope they could on our property and sledded down it, we baked breads and gifted them to our neighbors, and I actually started doing some projects with the kids that I had pinned on Pinterest ages ago ( I knew we’d get to them eventually) .

During any normal week, I typically spend the days carpooling the kids around trying to squeeze in all of the activities that we have set out for the day. Oddly enough, though we are constantly busy I never feel that accomplished. The first part of this week was like any other, all of the tasks that we completed felt insignificant, but then something magical happened. It snowed. Suddenly we were forced to stay at home. Literally everything in the city was closed and there was nowhere to go. It was surprising how deeply rewarding it was to read as much as I did to them, take the extra time to really watch their puppet shows, and of course, bake together. What are we really filling our lives with that has us so busy anyway? It seems we label ourselves as being “too busy”, almost as if it is beyond our control. Do we not have a choice in the things we fill our lives with? What is it that we really want our lives to be filled with?

I’m a mother of three kids, we own a business, and my husband is in medical school, there is most certainly fullness in our life. I’ve found that although at times we can lose our perspective on the life we really want as a family, our kids are always there to guide us back to what is essential for us as a family, and for them as children.

One of the most beautiful aspects of children is their inability to see time. Yes, in our “busy” lives, it can be frustrating that they have no concept of time, but there they are guiding us once again. They are so present: “look mommy, a butterfly” says my youngest while I’m deep in an email reply on my phone. I didn’t even see it go by. “Look at the bunny rabbits!,” my son will shout as I’m contemplating what I should make for dinner. They notice everything that is happening right now and are never concerned with what needs to be done. They are satisfied with themselves and what is happening only now.

As we become adults, society shapes our view of time and we quickly conform to the concept that time is money. In fact, our very worth as a person begins to be valued in time. Naturally, we come to the conclusions that the more we can squeeze into the time we have, the more valuable we become. The truth is, what makes our life valuable is not how much we cram into it, but rather how present we are in the moments that we do have.

I know that as mothers we have always had a lot expected of us. Expectations have only risen in recent decades with women working outside the home, while still being expected to cook, clean, organize, volunteer, and be a Pinterest goddess. Society creates an ever changing smorgasbord of expectations, but those expectations don’t have to rule our existence. We have the power to say no to that volunteer group, to that organization, or to that play date. We owe it to ourselves and we owe it to our children. We shouldn’t worry about how others will judge us, and we shouldn’t judge ourselves for knowing our limits and prioritizing the things that are important to us.

It’s been my experience that the worst critics of our lives, are ourselves. Our house doesn’t have to look perfect, all that we planned doesn’t have to go the way we thought it would,  and the kids don’t have to rush from one place to the other. It’s ok to be late or not show up at all. If you are the type of person that absolutely hates showing up late, then consider scheduling less things and giving yourself plenty of time to do them. In any case, things will come up. It’s ok that they broke something, spilled something, or got all muddy right before you left for an appointment. It’s ok if they take forever to put on their seatbelt only to remember that they have to go to the bathroom, we don’t own time. They will remember us for how we respond to life. Lets smile more often than we say “no” or “hurry up”. To do lists are only suggestions, they are goals that you have set for yourself, and you have the power to adjust your own goals. Most things on that list can wait for another day. Our best self comes through when we embrace life’s hiccups with compassion and love.

The children are here today. They are here telling us their stories, knock-knock jokes, and wanting to play make believe. They won’t want that in 10 years, they want our presence now. Maybe we can let go of the schedule a little, pretend we are snowed in and have nowhere to go. We can make a mess in the kitchen and (gasp) not clean it up so we can snuggle with them and watch a movie. Let’s listen to our ever present children who won’t remember when they’re adults that we accomplished our to do list, but will remember when we put down our phones to read them a story, listen to their puppet show, and play in the snow.

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