This February I gave birth to our fourth son, Riley. Life with a newborn is hard. The sleepless nights, constant feedings, caring for your other children and the basics of everyday life like food and baths require a lot of sacrifice and love. It’s the “I can’t remember the last time I brushed my teeth” kind of tired. This season of life with young children can be daunting and if I’m not careful, I can quickly get overwhelmed and frustrated by focusing on all I haven’t gotten done or am not doing. As I live the day-to-day with our kiddos I see more clearly the importance of making time for five key priorities.
- Make time for God. Is your soul feeling depleted? Does God feel distant? Can you even remember the last time you prayed or read your Bible? The fantasy of getting up before your kids and sitting on the porch with a fresh cup of coffee and delicious pastry to accompany the reading of your Bible and prayer time may not be your reality right now (it sure isn’t mine!), but your soul still longs for and needs time with God. Maybe it’s reading the Bible on your phone while breastfeeding (easier before I had 4 kids), praying or journaling during your kids’ nap time or scheduling time alone on the calendar to go to a park to soak up creation and read your Bible. Communicate this need to your husband and work to make it happen as close to a regular basis as possible. Maintaining intimacy with God is important in helping to maintain intimacy in your relationships with others.
- Make time for Self. What refuels you? What helps you feel like you? Not just the mommy, wife or any other role you play, but truly you? Maybe it’s music, scrapbooking or hiking. Maybe it’s writing, painting or building something with your hands. Whatever it is, schedule time on your calendar to do the activity that makes you feel like you on a regular basis. Investing in your own interests provides much needed balance in the busy day-to-day of caring for others. God delights in His children enjoying all of who He designed them to be and do.
- Make time for Fun with your Husband. Can you remember the last time you had an actual conversation with your spouse that didn’t involve pausing and restarting several times? Schedule a regular date night with your husband so that you can reconnect over a hot meal, cup of coffee or a glass of wine. Be sure to do something where you are looking at each other face to face, not only going to see a movie. Movies don’t allow for conversation for the two hours you are watching it. A picnic or walk, out doors, anything away from distractions helps to refuel your marriage as you and your spouse reconnect. Reconnecting helps maintain marital intimacy and keeps you strong as a parenting unit.
- Make time for Fun with Girlfriends. When was the last time you had a good laugh with your girlfriends? Granted, you may end up talking about your children when you are with your friends, but at least you are getting time out to catch up, listen, share and laugh with other adults. This time could include exercising together, going out for dessert or dinner with just the girls or hanging out at a friend’s home. Whatever the location, the point is to make sure you get time to talk and listen with other grown-ups you enjoy that nurtures your friendships and refuels you and your roles as wife and mom.
- Make Structure for your Family. Do your kids ever tell you they are bored? Do they seem to find trouble if they don’t have something planned to do? As our family has grown I’ve learned that it’s important to have time where we chill out as a family. I’ve also come to realize, with the different temperaments and personalities of our children that too much unstructured time can lead to boredom and boredom can lead to trouble. So, in general, have a plan for your day with the kids who aren’t yet in school and for special occasions like spring break when your school agers are home. Schedule play dates or go to the park and library. You will find that both you and your kids are less frustrated, the opportunity for trouble is reduced, and you get to bond as a family.
As a mother of four, life never stops moving. Plan things on the calendar and they’ll be more likely to happen. Get in front of your weeks and months and you’ll feel like you’ve got more time than you really do. As we are intentional about slowing down and dedicating time to relationships with God and others, we are better able to meet our own soul needs and goals so that we have something to give to others.