My journey through the transition from a full-time student to a full-time stay-at-home mom has been on my mind a lot lately. Just looking back at all the things I had to learn and to learn quickly, as well as all the things I feel like I still haven’t mastered even two and a half years and almost three kids later. The transition was HARD. And honestly, I blame our culture’s failure to raise women to be mothers for my struggles. But that’s beyond the point. What is the point is that my Heavenly Father has lead me through a personalized tutoring program to help me figure this new lifestyle out, and I am for each day grateful to Him.
Today, I want to share a principle that has seemed to be magnified in my life this last while that I have really come to realize is a key to my happiness:
We have to create each day.
I’ve talked about this principle before (view here), but to summarize: I came to the realization once that I was reliant on a boss or a teacher to fill my day with purpose and meaning. Work and homework were my focus, and thus, I wasn’t ever really left to my own to figure out what I should do each day. Once I switched into my stay-at-home mom role, I found out that 16 hours a day is a looooonggg time when you are alone with a child with whom you don’t know how to interact with. I was going crazy, so I just started following my husband around and bringing the babe with. Andrew is a horse trainer and farrier, so it was fun to just go hang out. But Baby two put an end to that, and I found myself again at home.
Now don’t get me wrong, taking care of children is a full-time job, more full-time than any other job–there is no break, no separation of work and home, no leaving work behind to rest up and hit it hard again in the morning–it is your life. And I struggled to find fulfillment in meeting the needs of my children and spouse all day, everyday. I knew what I was doing was good and right, but I felt so trapped. And with a husband who frequently works out of town, I began to dread the days he would be gone, for one summed up reason: I struggled to create my own days.
What does that mean…It basically means planning and goal setting. I learned the importance of these two fundementals on my mission in Austria. My first while out, I was in the country lands right outside of Salzburg. It was absolutely beautiful. No lie, each day, I felt like I was in a dream. The European charm and the rich history and the lush landscapes were flowing through my veins every day. But I hated it. I really struggled to find joy in the work. The people were very culturally Catholic and that was about it. We had a few people we taught, but most of our time was spent finding more people to teach, and going door-to-door was really about all we did. We’d door out entire villages in a week, just “no” after “no” after “no.” I couldn’t handle it. I was discouraged and struggled to maintain any hope that our conversations that day would bring any potential. And the one thing I dreaded even more than “dooring” was when an appointment would fall out because that meant more dooring! I cared more about us not dooring than us actually teaching the gospel, my outlook was so poor.
And then, the Lord taught me about planning and goal setting. And I learned that if my backup plan was always something that was not inspired, not productive, not aligned with my original goal, I’d continue to get the same result: discouragement. In other words, and quick because none of you care about bettering the life of a missionary, if our goal was to teach a lesson to a member the church who had lost interest or activity and we have an appointment to do so, when we get there and they aren’t home, our backup plan shouldn’t be to go door and find a new person who would be interested in our message–it should be to go teach a different less-active member. And as we began to align our original goals with complimenting back-up plans, we began to see the miracles: we’d finally get contact with a lost member no one had had contact with for a long-time, or we’d cross paths with a different member we were trying to reach, or we’d meet people along the way to our new destination who would be interested in learning more. But mostly, the vision of the day ceased to be one of filling time from start to finish and it began to be a day full of faith as we worked and prayed to know how to meet our goals, even when plans changed. I learned that the Lord will do a lot more with a productive plan than with habitual, fruitless, and unmotivating effort.
So now, as a mother, I began to realize that a big reason to why I dreaded everyday by myself was because I had no plan, I had no goals. My days were simply to be endured and somehow filled with something. I was having to think on my feet, in the trenches, of what we were going to do that day that would be beneficial for any of us instead of having the kids watch movies while I cleaned, again.
I wasn’t creating a day, I was dragged through a day. I wasn’t being proactive, I was being reactive. I wasn’t happy and it was my fault, not the lifesytle’s fault. It wasn’t that I just wasn’t cut out to be a stay-at-home mom, just as it wasn’t that I wasn’t cut out to be a missionary–I just wasn’t doing it smart.
So for the past month, every Sunday, even if I must stay up late, I do weekly planning and goal setting (as I did as a missionary). I set goals for what I want to accomplish, things I want to change, things I want to try again since last week I didn’t do them. I meal plan, because not knowing what we should eat is my biggest cause of anxiety and dread. And then I chart out each day: what’s scheduled, what is Andrew needing me to do or when he’ll be working, and what open time is there. Then, with the open time, I plan.
How and when will I meet my goals? What would be fun to do with the girls? Who should we spend time with? What is something we can do that I would look forward to? What do I need to do that I keep avoiding, but really needs to be done? What events are going on around us? Who should we invite over for dinner?
Honestly, I say a prayer before I start planning and goal setting. And I promise inspiration comes. And after I’ve got a skeleton of what I want my week to look like, with goals and a plan in place, I go and create each day. Each day becomes of my own vision. I’ve put effort and prayer into them. They become meaningful. And I watch the Lord perform miracles.
Today, I woke up with a slight emotional break down. Andrew was going to be gone again, and I couldn’t remember our plan, and I straight up was not looking forward to this Wednesday. After I sagged on the Lord’s shoulder for a minute, I went and got my planner: I had scheduled playgroup for today, which I had only invited one person to (who had come to mind while planning), but who I hadn’t heard anything back from, but had forgotten to announce it to anyone else (I’m in charge of the playgroup in my ward). And then I had some stuff at home I was to get done, but I hadn’t planned anything else. Annoyed at myself for not planning better and for not telling anyone, but still knowing taking the girls out to play on the scheduled playground by ourselves would be good for them and would get us out of the house, I went to work getting us all ready for the day. No joke, as I was beginning to pack us up to get in the car, my friend texted me telling me she was coming to playgroup, but would be late. WHA?? I was late too, since I didn’t think she was coming, I hadn’t rushed. But just like that, a miracle. Playgroup happened. And my friend who had come to mind during my planning session came and we were able to catch up. Isn’t God good?
And now both babes are bushed and sleeping from playing hard, and this mama got some unplanned alone time, and instead of spray painting like I had planned becasue I forgot about primer, the Lord gave me some inspiration to blog about on my long-forgotten blog that was my goal to get to sometime today.
The Lord can truly take what we create and either He’ll pave the way for it to happen or open the way for what He needs us to do instead. My days just go so much better when I’ve created them. And happiness and fulfillment are my usual companions by the end of the day.
Long story short, good luck out there mamas and I hope this helps.