Spring is here in force, and my boys and I have been spending as much time outside as possible. Because we live in a downtown apartment, going outside is a little more involved. I always have to go with them, and because we'll be blocks rather than steps away from home, we have to find socks and shoes and hats and water cups and on and on and on.
It’s not really that big of a deal, but, on days when I’m trying desperately to accomplish as much as possible, it can feel like it.
So for a while there, I wasn’t making a point of going outside nearly as much. However, in its absence, I remembered just how precious unstructured time outside is—for my boys and for me. They need to romp and run. I need time among green grass and trees. It fills me up and helps me feel like I can fully exhale.
With all this in mind, I recently asked some dear friends if we could meet for a hike. The plan was to hike a lovely trail with our littles. The morning had started with scattered thunderstorms, but we hoped the predicted break in the clouds would give us time for an adventure. If the weather didn’t cooperate, well, it’d be more adventure yet.
The weather was perfect, but we never made it past the playground at the trailhead. There was a small creek across the road, and, once the kids discovered it, that was all the adventure they needed. There were fascinating rocks (chunks of quartz and geodes everywhere!), critters to discover, and, of course, water. It was in the low 70s much of the time, but even the littlest of the soon-drenched crew wasn’t fazed.
Eventually, our thoughts turned to lunch. Spare clothes that we brought in case of rain were a perfect follow-up to the creek, though my children didn’t make it into pants right away. I laid their soggy shoes out to dry, and we all pavilion picnicked together.
As a quick aside, I highly recommend making friends with at least one chef. I’m still licking my lips thinking about those roasted potatoes and that tofu scramble over lentils.
We ate and chatted and took turns chasing down kids and telling them not to stand on the empty picnic table . . . in their underwear . . . next to a family we didn’t know. (Yep, that was one of my kids.)
After we had stuffed ourselves and the kids had returned to the playground, we officially decided to skip the hike. The clouds had fully parted. It was getting hot. The kids were doing their best to hide how tired they were becoming, but it was obvious they were nearly toast.
I was a tiny bit disappointed, but I knew it was the right call. And really, what was there to be disappointed about? It had been a delightful day.
I’ve continued to think about that experience.
As I’m finding my new work-from-home rhythm, I’m learning that things don’t often go exactly how I hope they will.
I’m slowly learning how to expect the unexpected in this new context. For me, some of that means including buffer time in my schedule, and doing my best to under- rather than over-estimate how much I can accomplish in a given day.
Typing that feels a bit disheartening, like I’ve just disqualified myself from the “successful go-getter mom” category that I should be trying to fit into. But here’s the thing: I have a three-year-old and a one-year-old at home with me each and every day. They want my attention too—and I want to be able to give it to them.
There’s still part of me that insists, “Surely, there are supermoms out there who have more children than I do and still manage to accomplish a ton every single day. I only have two kids; shouldn’t I be able to check everything off my list each day?”
However, I’ve been listening to some of those “supermoms” lately. They spent years burning the candle at both ends and learned a lot. You know what they’ve been saying? SLOW DOWN.
Yes, we can and should work hard toward our goals. But on the days when I’m feeling frustrated, I need to take a step back and remind myself why I’m attempting this juggling act of working from home:
I want to be home FOR my kids.
As Dr. John Trainer (apparently not C.S. Lewis) said, “Children are not a distraction from more important work. They are the most important work.”
Of course, sometimes the most important work for my child is kindly showing him that he isn’t the center of the universe. Being home for my children doesn’t always mean dropping everything each time one of them calls. I think it’s completely healthy and helpful for kids to learn to be patient and to entertain themselves. I’ve also been seeing some great perspective about the value of telling our kids about our work and inviting them to be part of the team.
However, it would be a shame for me to work from home and never be fully present with my kids. I think that’s the thing that makes the most sense right now. Just as I need time to focus if I’m going to edit client work or write a blog post, I also need to be just as intentional about periodically setting aside work in order to truly connect with my boys.
I’m still sorting out exactly what this looks like each day. My trusty, allowed-to-be-ugly bullet journal and time blocking are helping, but It’s very much a work in progress.
Maybe that’s the key for me right now: celebrating progress, in whatever form it takes.
Even if it looks different from what I originally had in mind, it’s still progress.
Going back to the day trip that got me thinking, I could focus on the fact that we didn’t hike, and thus feel like the trip was a failure. Or I could recognize that, sure, we didn’t make it onto the trail, but we all had a fantastic time in a beautiful setting, which was actually the true point of the whole thing anyway.