Make Space

Our heavy front door closed on New Year’s Day, 2017, and the silence pressed into me, squeezing out in small tear drops while I sat nursing my son on the couch.

My husband looked at my overwhelmed face, and understood.

“It’s okay to be sad,” he assured me.

The kindness spurred more tears, but the permission was appreciated. After ten wonderful days with family to celebrate the holidays – first, my in-laws, and then my parents, brother, and sister-in-law, the silence of a visitor devoid home crushed me. Of course, being just 12 weeks postpartum with my son, our second child, and coming off the worst flu my two-year-old daughter had experienced in her little life didn’t help.

Oh – and my return to work loomed over the dwindling holiday season, as I looked down at my final week of maternity leave and wondered how I would ever navigate my busy job, the demands of two small children, a marriage, and the tedious tasks of daily life.

That first day of the year, I took license with the permission to dwell, and simply felt sad. I wished we would win the lottery, that the calendar would miraculously flip back to maternity leave: week one (minus the immediate post-delivery sensations and a newborn, please!), and worried about how we would ever survive this new season.

One sad day to mourn sufficed, and I was ready to move on to organizing us into success. I’m so thankful for all the women the Lord sent my way that week to build into me, offer words of advice, and pray for me.

Praying for an easy transition!

Make space – and don’t feel guilty about it.

You will never be able to do things the same with your second, and you can never feel badly about it.

These words I harbored in my heart to pull out for review over the coming weeks as I transitioned back.  Above all, I clung to the advice to make space. To guard what is absolutely precious and non-negotiable, and accept that the rest may have to be imperfect – subpar, even – and make space for what matters.

In January, our goal was to survive. We did it.

In February, our goal was to budget. We made one, and mostly stuck to it.

In March, my goal was to layer in a workout routine. Unless eating Cadbury cream eggs in bed somehow counts, I don’t think this one quite happened. Instead, I took my little spaces, launched a business, and let the rest go.

Sometimes, I bring store-bought cookies when we share meals. Sometimes, I make homemade play dough with my daughter. Really, I would prefer to be as fit as I was when I ran regularly, as crafty as my Pinterest account implies, and as polished as my professional self can occasionally portray. But, instead I am as fit as lifting a 30-pound toddler, as crafty as keeping a family fed and on a budget, and as polished as trying to stay on trend, albeit with lovingly applied Finding Dory sticker accents.

And so, as winter winds into spring and we’ve begun to hit our new stride, I’m finding space in between the schedule juggling, the meal planning, the e-mail sending, and the bedtime battles. Sometimes, I just have to make that space.

On things you simply won’t give up

What is a core component in your life that grounds you?

I’m not looking for a Sunday school moment here (Jesus! God! Or, in my two-year old’s case: Noah!) Instead, I’m talking about, outside of faith, a practice, activity – even an indulgence, that brings restoration. In recent days, I’ve been dolling out advice to both friends and co-workers to define their non negotiables – and to protect them. This non negotiable should usher in true rest, stripping away the demands of the week, the home, the family, and returning you – a restored version of your former self – back to your roles with fresh enthusiasm and perspective. Sleep? A manicure? Running? Reading? Doesn’t matter. And shouldn’t. If the point is restoration, the practice should be naming the need and leaving the justification – and its accompanying guilt – behind.

I don’t know a single mom – regardless of whether she occupies her days at home wrangling kids or in an office wrangling employees and clients – who doesn’t have at least occasional bouts with crushing self-doubt and despair at some life decision. Colloquially, we call this “mom guilt.” I want to blame social media for this crushing pressure, but maybe I’m simply crushing myself under the weight of unreasonable expectations and a desire to be perfect. And so, to combat the pressure, self-doubt, and that often-discussed “loss of self” to motherhood, I determined I didn’t want to live without some sense of thriving. To do this successfully, three things need to happen:

  1. Define your non-negotiable
  2. Make a plan to protect it
  3. Tell your support system so they can help

In my own life, my non-negotiable is feeling like a girl. The first component of this is embarrassing, though I suspect it may resonate with more than a few. I need to get my hair done sometimes. I’m now entering my third decade of hair battles, thanks to the thick, wavy, stubborn locks I was *ahem* blessed with, and let’s be real: nobody in my house is happy if I’m unhappy with my hair. And so, this is non-negotiable. I book an appointment every 4 months (baby year: no judgement), duck out at nap time on Saturday for the salon, and waltz back in, three to four hours later, with smooth shiny hair, confidence, and not an ounce of guilt.

The second component of this is “girl time.” As a work-at-home momma with two littles, this is not happening through play dates with kids or coffee breaks with colleagues. For an extrovert such as myself, this can be excruciating. So, my husband challenged me as I headed back to work this year to get out weekly. I’m not even coming close. But, I’m striving for it, and have taken that first step: giving myself permission to leave – for something other than an errand.

Protecting this practice in restoration is so much easier because of my husband. We’ve never used language, to describe either of us watching the kids, to include “babysitting.” And we don’t keep score. Because really, we both win when one of us comes in the door, refreshed and excited, ready to partner and parent and love well.

Restoration feels indulgent, but it really should be routine practice.

Time management experts tout all the wasted time we have lingering in the margins of that life. (Or, for many of us, all the wasted time we have leaning over the counter, delaying dishes, scrolling Facebook). How would you feel if you shifted your margin to include something that breathes life into you? For just a moment.