After Digestion is the Time to Add More
I envy my son’s ability to sense when he is full and stop eating. I wish my eating sensor wasn’t broken from years of not listening. Middle age also brings a slower metabolism. And, I’m attempting to retrain my sensor. Like most things in life, that means intensive learning to know what, when, how often, and how much I need to eat.
About the same time my metabolism slowed down, so did my life. I’m sure the two are related, but here’s a different connection.
About 18 months ago, I emptied my plate. I was mother and wife only. I paused in other roles to deliberately consider each responsibility and activity I pursued with my time. Since then, I’ve added only the activities, events, and situations that I knew I could eat and digest with room to still move around.
On the surface this might seem like a glorious state—free time! It looked like that to those outside my immediate family. Some said, “You’ve cleared your plate, you certainly have time for this, and this, and this.”
I, more than anyone, wanted to take what was offered and eat it passionately. Last week, I shared this quote, “You cannot eat all of the pastries in the bakery at once. You will get a tummy ache.” My heart, not my tummy, ached with empty, not full; yet, I still felt internally restrained to do more.
When I allowed in a few personal pursuits, I learned how I take in what’s new, digest and use it. A period of growing and learning often consumes me. Over time, the learning curve—or eating, in this metaphor—slows, and I allow that new knowledge, responsibility, or endeavor to absorb into my life’s routine. This pattern repeats with several examples from my life:
Home management In my early years as a wife and mother, I spent lots of time perusing recipes, creating menus and lists. I organized household tasks like laundry cleaning, shopping and planned how to fit them into my day and week. I also took time to teach and supervise my children to help perform those tasks. Now, they know their responsibilities, and they just need to report to me on them. Sometimes we have to redo, but they are surprisingly capable.
Service I volunteer my time in our church to teach a daily religion class to high school students before they go to school. It is time-consuming to prepare and administer, especially at the start of the year, but once I set up the class structure, I am more efficient in the day-to-day preparation and service.
Technology I spent the first six months of last year getting reacquainted with the Internet. I started a website, developed connections online with social media networks, and learned more online-language. Now, I feel comfortable with where I am, and it doesn’t take as much time to read, comment, interact and participate with technology.
Motherhood When my first child, a girl, and my second child, a boy, were born, I read all the books, talked to all the moms, and learned about all the stages and steps. When child number three arrived, I just added her right in without all the time given to more information about how to do it. When I felt confident with the temporal aspects of motherhood, I could concentrate on the most important part of the relationship—nurturing.
A friend of mine has gone back to school and is preparing to reenter the work force as a teacher next year. We talked about children and how work might impact them. She said, “They’re getting a lot older, now.”
I don’t think she meant, their getting older and they need me less. I think she meant older in her experience and theirs. Obviously, their hands-on needs are fewer, but she’s also had years of putting in place the patterns, routines and expectations. Her family time is probably now spent more on nurturing relationships and guiding decision-making rather than on fixing ten snacks a day and restraining temper tantrums.
Another friend said it this way: “You think your life is always going to be cutting up pancakes and tying shoes.”
Put time in at the beginning of a child’s life, a new home or a new assignment to establish a foundation of routines and expectations. Once that’s digested, it will become part of the whole, but won’t take up as much room to maintain. Then, your plate will empty for something else.