If you're a mom, you've heard this question. I hear it all the time. "Gabe, how do you find the time to...write a book, volunteer, work, make supper, take a shower, work on a blog, sleep..." How do any of us find the time? We are each given twenty-four hours in the day, no more, no less. How do we make good use of that time?
I look at my time like I would a budget. How can I get everything done in the time I am allotted? I am not suggesting a written schedule (tried that, didn't work), but I am suggesting that we look at the things we need to accomplish and try to arrange our day so that we can get it done efficiently. I am always learning, always growing, always trying something different. If my first (or second, or third) try didn't work out, then I will take it back to the drawing board and try again. There are still many things in my life that I haven't been able to fine tune (like laundry - it seems to be getting worse), but there are some things, like cleaning my house, that I have been able to find a system for and feel I have a handle on it.
Having twins, I am finding that as soon as I get a schedule arranged, the boys decided to change it. We used to put them to bed at 8:00 p.m., on the nose, and they would wake up at 7:30 a.m., like clock work. Now, I am lucky if they fall asleep before 9:30, because they don't need as much sleep anymore. (Side note, it is 9:34 p.m. as I write this and I can hear them playing in their bedroom). I have found that the best plan is to be flexible - especially with twins. I try to stay consistent, but when I consistently find that it isn't working, we scrap the plan and move on to try something new. When my girls were little, I didn't have a schedule - and it showed. My girls were crabby in the morning, crabby in the afternoon and crabby in the evening, depending on when they slept, how long they slept or if they slept at all, which made Hubby and I crabby, too. I have found over time that my best plan is to have a schedule, even if we have to change it a little from time to time, having a sleeping schedule is a must for little kids.
Here is just a little snapshot of some of the things I have to accomplish on an average day (of course, I don't do all of it everyday, some of it is weekly, bi-weekly or monthly, but a lot of it I do everyday): cleaning (vacuuming, laundry, dishes, sweeping, mopping, picking up, etc.), running here and there for MOPS, ECFE, AWANA, church, preschool, elementary school, play dates, shopping, library, volunteer activities, visits with family and friends, doctor's appointments, swimming lessons, piano lessons, Zumba, basketball lessons, birthday parties, and on and on. My days are also full of reading to my children, teaching, guiding, disciplining, dressing, bathing, feeding and playing with them. We have a dog and a cat who need attention, a yard that needs to be taken care of, vehicles and a home to maintain, coupons to organize, meals to plan and a business to run (just to name a few).
My husband is an amazing partner with all of this, but our relationship is so much more than just co-laborers. We have to be very intentional about our time together. Hubby is my best friend. I love him and respect him like no other person I know and I genuinely want to be with him. He makes me laugh, he makes me think and he challenges me to grow into a better person. We are great communicators and we enjoy spending time just talking, especially in the evenings when the kiddos are in bed. We also enjoy going on dates, going to sporting events, and spending time with our friends together. I value his opinion and I trust his decisions. I place our relationship as a high priority in my life, and it shows. I think we are both good at recognizing when we need to get away together, and we make it happen.
So, amidst all the organized chaos, how do I stay fresh, energized and ready to attack each day? I realize that not only do I have to meet the needs of five other human beings (some more than others), I also need to meet my own needs. By being intentional about the things I love and the things that are "me," like reading, writing, watching a good old movie, researching history, reading the Bible, listening to a good Bible-based teaching, I am enriching and strengthening the things that make me unique and I can offer my family the best version of "me". When the boys were really small, I lost perspective on the "me" aspect of my life. I had stopped doing all the things I loved and had found myself worn out, overwhelmed and dreading my daily routine. I had to give myself permission to take a little time (even if it was the last thirty minutes of the day) to do something just for me. When I did, it regenerated me.
I had to put some things, like writing, on the back burner for a while, knowing that I would be able to pick it up again one day - and that is okay. This season of parenting is fleeting. One day my children will be grown and I will have all the time I want, but, for now, I want to put my best efforts into giving them strong foundations for their lives and I know I have to sacrifice a great deal to do that - not everything (I still need to find ways to regenerate), but some things. Now that the boys are turning two and things aren't as hectic as they once were, I have found some time in my day to write again. Even though the time I get to write is usually during nap time and bed time, it is still something. The majority of my writing time is usually from 9:30 p.m. to 12:30 a.m. I just told Hubby today that if my first book gets published being written in the wee hours of the morning, just think how good my future novels will be if I can write them in the afternoon!
So, how do I find the time? By being intentional, being flexible and prioritizing my activities. And, just as soon as I have it all figured out, the kids will be graduating and leaving home, then we'll have to go back to the drawing board and figure out what to do with all our time again.