2011 Me: "Oh you think you're tired?" I thought to myself. "She's only got one kid. One grown kid actually. She gets off work at 4:00 pm and is done. Like that's it. I bet she sleeps all night too. Amateur."
These are not thoughts I am proud of but I can promise you they are mine to own.
In 2011, I was teaching English at Woodrow Wilson High School, working as a youth director at First Baptist Church, and growing a hobby of photography into a business. I had 3 kids, a coaching husband, and a new home that was stretching our income monthly. Stress was normal; in fact, it was so normal, I didn't recognize it as stress. I remember a church friend came over to babysit one morning and she said the words I loved to hear most, "I don't know how you do it all."
YESSSS!!!! There it was, my busy badge.
You would think I got into heaven with something a little extra for all the things I could accomplish in 24 hours. A normal person would take breaks throughout the day right? Not me. Nope. I would simply bounce from one thing to another. Take a break from teaching? Time to write my lesson for church. Done teaching at church? Time to edit. Done editing? Time to grade papers. Done grading papers? Time to schedule a youth group event.
Life back then was constant. Its hard to describe and yet so easy. I was productive 19+ hours a day - no exaggeration. There was NO time to play in the floor. No time to read bedtime stories. No time to go to dinner with my husband. No time to work out. No time to get my nails done.
You guys, I'm getting anxiety thinking out it.
In some ways I thought I was better than all those moms out there who rested. Resting was for whimps. Am I right? Naps are for sissys. Moms who had time to go to park - Do you know what all has to be done today??? I somehow wanted my to-do-list to be longer than all the other moms. I took some kind of pride in listing off all the things I needed to do. Funny thing is, I could do them.
I am actually a highly functioning human who CAN work 19 hours a day and do all the things pretty well. Yep. This isn't a story of, I could do it all until I failed miserably. Nope. All the things were getting done, and getting done pretty well. The problem? I was dying. Not literally, well maybe, I mean I wouldn't have had time to tell if I was. My marriage was fine - but just that, fine. I wouldn't have had time to notice if Tim was unhappy or sick - that wasn't on my list.
I looked amazing. I weighed like 125 lbs and people would tell me how good I looked - BAHAHAHAHA - another win right? Nope. I didn't have time to eat more than toast. I felt like butt most days. My body hurt all the time.
One day I was walking through Books a Million and a book caught my eye, "Hands-Free-Mama." I picked it up and bought it, knowing I didn't have time to read it, ironically.
I guess I owned that book for a few weeks before I opened the first page. Then I did. There it was, a story about a mom who missed it. She was missing life. She was missing her kids grow, laugh, learn. One day she collapsed on her bed in tears overwhelmed by overwhelm.
I sobbed. You guys, I don't cry. I HATE emotions but there I was crying over page one of a book by girl who seemed to know me.
I continued to read.
She told the story of rushing through the morning, missing hugs. Of pretending to listen to her kids, while really focusing on an email. She talked about being distracted all the time and not really ever being present.
Me. Me. Me.
The book continued and I knew it was time to give up my "busy badge". I had to give up "Winning" at busiest mom. My kids were signed up for things they didn't even like. I was agreeing to help with things I hated. I was saying yes to everything just to show how highly capable I was. What in the actual world was I thinking?
I sometimes blame this on being young. Sometimes I think it was because I lived in constant fear of returning to my poor life and there was no shame in my hustle. I'm not really sure if those things are true but one thing I do know is that I loved, and still love, doing things I'm good at. I love people to compliment me on my abilities and no one was giving me an award or bragging on me for resting, sitting, or taking a break, so I never did.
This life had to end.
It was time to be intentional about life. If you are reading this and FEEL it. Know that there is hope. You don't have to continue this mindless hustle. It's not too late. You can take a moment each day to make a change and start to actually live this life you've been given.
Here are some ways I started:
1. Leave my phone in the car for one hour a day.
2. When my kids wake up, do not multi-task for at least 30 minutes.
3. Do not multi-task during meals.
4. Repeat "play time is not a waste of time" - over and over.
5. Make eye contact when my kids tell stories.
I am not perfect at this, even still, but I am so much better than I was.
I know most people look at my current life and see much of the same thing, I'm always busy; however, I have scheduled times for soccer games, volleyball tournaments, and date nights. The time is still filled but filled in a different way. If I take a one hour break to sit in the floor with Cole and someones pictures have to wait - it will be ok. If I have to not work an evening because Gracie has a basketball game and I miss out on that perfect sunset session, there will be another one. If I have to say no to a wedding because Emma dances in Narnia or Katie plays in DC, it's ok. That couple CAN find someone else to photograph them but my kids can't ask another mom to watch them.
Life will NOT always be the way it is today. Nope. One day my house will be clean and quiet and I will be able to work all I want - but for what? Busy, just plain ole' busy won't get me anywhere friends, and it won't get you anywhere either. Today, take ONE hour, just one to intentionally live. One hour to not check your phone. One hour to not answer questions that come from anyone you're not related to.
You really won't get any kind of award for doing the most. I never did.