The following article was written by Jamie Harper, author of the Brown Paper & Strings blog, for our “May”keover Month series:
I am a stay at home mother of three kids, ranging in age from 7 to 3. My kids go to public school, and I have a confession: School is driving me crazy.
I was under some sort of delirious delusion that I would have a bunch of free time to write books and blogs when my kids started to school.
In case you are wondering, I am not the sort of mama I wish I was with the tidy house, excess time, and well behaved children. Most days I am not sure I qualify to give anyone parenting advice. I feel I should probably save it up for another day when I am old and gray, but Cammie graciously asked me to participate in her “May”keover Month at Shepherd My Child, and I am excited to participate.
So why is school driving me crazy? Well, I have learned that in allowing my kids to go to public school, I trade off the priority of time spent with them for what I hope is a quality education in a traditional setting. My kids ride the school bus and are away from home approximately 9 hours each day. They sleep roughly 10 1/2 hours each night. There are 24 hours a day, which means I have only 4 1/2 to five hours a day with my kids. This number is a little depressing to me, because mothering is more to me than just shoveling food and drink in, keeping my kids and their clothing clean, and shuffling from one activity to the next. Obviously none of those activities are bad, they are quite necessary. However, I have to be intentional about the time I have to share with my children. Giving my kids the nourishment of myself and my Jesus is of utmost importance to me.
I’ve been studying Beth Moore’s Law of Love: Lessons from Deuteronomy, and she says (paraphrasing) that it is not about homeschooling, but we should all be schooling our children at home. She says to be successful mothers, we need to Love the Lord your God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our mind.
The law is summed up in that verse to love and the action and doing of Deuteronomy is summed up in 1 Corinthians 10:31, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all to the glory of God.” Whether you rise, or sit, or walk along the path, think about God and teach Him to your kids. I have been thinking about what this looks like for us for many months now.
It starts with me.
Recently, I have found myself quite overwhelmed with all the activities of motherhood – cooking, cleaning, laundering, running to and from school for various school activities, plus the extra stuff I put on myself like blogging, writing bible studies, leading multiple bible studies. I love the Lord – I want other people to love the Lord, but most of the time my sweet Abba Father doesn’t want me doing all this stuff I do for Him. I look around and see what I think are perfect homes and parents, and I say yes before I think through what my yes means I am saying no to, and then I am exhausted and overwhelmed, and running on empty, and suddenly I have nothing to give or add to the four or five hours I’ve been given to share with my children. I’ve drained my resources before I’ve had time to give to the ones who I know God has given me to treasure most during this season. Don’t get me wrong, sometime we are meant to be in seasons of busy. Remember if all of it is done to the Lord, then that is what matters. However, I began to find myself overworked and was distracted in the doing from the being still with Him.
Here during this second year of school, I’ve learned that I really cannot add more to my plate of activities just because my kids are in school, not if I still want to embrace some hours and activities at school during the school hours, which I do when I have the opportunity.
As mothers, we need to know our priorities. We need to limit the activities we involve ourselves in, so we can give our children our best hours. And we need to drink deep from the Vine of His truth, being sure to take in adequate nourishment from Him to cover all that we are doing.
But mama who is or has been just like me, there is grace for the failing and for the doing too much. Remember that. He gives us the right amount of grace for each and every moment, mishap, and failure of our days. So if you are too busy, breath deep. It’s okay to try and fail and figure it out soon. There is grace enough for today. And there will be grace enough for tomorrow, even if it is the worst day ever.
How in the world do I make those hours count?
First of all, during the school time, I have another little one at home with me, so I have to be mindful that I am using the time I have with her wisely as well. It is a balancing act that I do not claim to have all figured out.
I live in a house mostly full of strong willed introverts and actually learning what happened at school does not always come easy. I’ve had to be creative in deciphering our family needs and then also in meeting them. So I will share my action plan, but you need to assess your own household. What works for us as a family may not work for your family.
8 Ways to Incorporate Rest and Quality Time
1. Our mom-hearts need to be in tune with God. We need to come to Him each day asking for our daily dose of grace, and we need to submit to Him our plans and see if they are His plans. This doesn’t mean I spend hours in prayer or bible study. But it means that in some way I need to refresh myself in Him. If the only time you have to do this is in the shower, or while you are making breakfast for your kids listening to praise music, that is okay. We need Him each day. We need to stay rested in His presence and fellowship and when we are not, it is time to re-evaluate our activities, and ask Him where we may be out of balance. I am convinced we have to want Him completely before we can do anything else to be a good mama. We always fall short without His grace.
2. Know how God has gifted you. One vital thing I have learned during this time of too-busy is that I am not resting when I am not using His gifts. Though I wouldn’t necessary say I am a gifted writer, during this busy season, I gave up writing for a time, and found myself more stressed and tired than I was when I was writing. I believe we stay rested when we are working in the capacity for which we were created.
3. Plan ahead. For my own sanity, I like to make sure the living room is decluttered and the table by the door is ready to welcome the kid’s belongings. I like to prepare my heart for the kid’s homecoming as I wait for the bus. I am ready to give them a snack and begin reading and doing schoolwork with them. I have also learned to have some sort of weekly meal plan, so I am not floundering or wasting time figuring out what to cook.
4. Have children come alongside you as you make dinner to maximize your quality time with them. Kids can help make dinner or do other kitchen chores as you cook. My oldest daughter is learning to love to help cook in one way or another. This creates more opportunity for quality time and conversation with her.
5. Treat the table as a sacred place. I believe God intends mealtimes to be sacred, so I am learning more and more to treat the table as a sacred place. I have a lot of picky eaters, so mealtimes are not always fun, but the goal is that eventually the table would be a place of fellowship. We take turns sharing events of the day, highs and lows of our day, and sharing prayer requests. We are working on the idea of regularly inviting friends and neighbors to our table to fellowship with us.
6. Use stories to make bible time family time. Our mornings are hectic and time is limited as the kids rise early for the bus, so we do the bulk of our bible reading in the evening. We do this as a whole family. We also use the bed time routine as a time for more specific prayer time and for sharing stories. As I studied Deuteronomy, it became a priority to me to tell my children not only the stories of the Bible but my stories – the stories of my faith and how God has shaped me throughout my walk with Him. My oldest also came up with a fun game where she picks an age and I tell her as much detail as age appropriate about my story at that time in my life. I spend the bulk of time with my girls and my husband spends the bulk of time with our son, but some nights we trade off. Also before my daughter started school, I taught her how to tell me stories, so I could learn what she’d done at school through storytelling. Now, she’s better able to communicate things, but they are rare to come up unless I am intentional to spend lots of time with her.
7. Do something fun together. Fun or not, reading to the kids has always been something I’ve tried to prioritize because I think it accelerates their learning and brain power. I have to say reading outside of homework activities is sometimes hard to do with limited hours. However, I try to read to the kids while my husband baths one of them. I read and he bathes the kids or we trade out. However, you could always play outside, watch a show on the TV, or anything else you like to do.
8. Create space. Though I’ve given lots of options on time together, being in a mostly introverted family, finding time for space and freedom to explore on your own is also important. My son spends 30 minutes (at least) just hopping in his room. School leaves him needing to get the wiggles out. Creating space allows us to connect better when we are together.
(Image above credited to Flickr Creative Commons User: hello-julie)
Thank you, Jamie, for your wise insight and suggestions to help us “may”keover our current shepherding routines and aid us all making rest and quality time a priority! We appreciate your participation in our “May”keover Month series!
Readers – Check back next Wednesday for the fourth post of “May”keover Month!
In the meantime, check out Jamie’s blog at www.brownpaperandstrings.com. You can “follow” Brown Paper & Strings on Twitter, “like” it on Facebook, or “Pin It” on Pinterest as well!