It started last night in the kitchen… Isaac was whipping about, sautéing meat and prepping dinner. “I had a tough conversation with the kids today.” “yeah?” I replied…”You know when they say that I’m stern, and I don’t feel like I am, but they feel like I am?” “uh… yeah.” came out of my lips, but my heart was sinking as I kinda knew what was next. He continued… “So even though I don’t feel like I am, they still feel that I am. And that’s really important to pay attention to. It means I need to change something.” I was silent at this point, because I knew this intro was very likely not about him, and very probable he was sharing the story to add a little sympathy sponge to the harsh blow that was coming. He’s so good like that. His heart just oozes compassion and grace, and he never comes at me with.. “you need to change this”… He always leads with a story of how he’s messed up, and needed grace, and the struggle to change. He leads like Jesus would want him to. And I’m so thankful for that. I stood there. Fridge light on my face, wondering what was next.
“So, I was talking to the kids about your retreat, and how you need to go away to be with your staff so you can focus. And that means that when you come back, you can all the more focus on them. I explained that was why it’s important that Mommy has her time away. She can focus on work when she’s there, and focus on us when she’s home. But then one of the kids said… ‘But Dad, she doesn’t do that. She works all the time.” Insert heart plummet. He saw the look on my face, empathized with a sweet smile and continued…. “And then Zay jumped in and said… ‘Yeah dad, she always says just 5 more minutes and then she’s on the computer for like an hour.” At this point I felt like I shouldn’t even consume oxygen. I needed to find a way to hide beneath the floorboards of our home and never come out. I didn’t deserve this beautiful family. I shouldn’t have this wonderful home and these 3 gorgeous kids and a swoon worthy hubby. I didn’t deserve any of it. Because obviously.. I can’t even enjoy what is right in front of me.
I sank… completely and utterly inward in this downward spiral of guilt, self hatred, and the feeling of being torn in two by the loves of my life. My family. And my work. It’s at this point that I somewhat feel kindred with Chris Soules as he felt madly in love with two women at the same time. Oh the nerve of him! Not really. I’m guilty too. But it’s not women… It’s family and business.
There are times, like yesterday, that this truth hits me like a midnight train to Georgia. I am overcome by self hate, sadness, anger and guilt. I pack on the lies as if they sit heavy on my shoulders like our one year old son. They are present. Tangible. I chew on them over and over and over until the insecurities have woven through my pours and start to effect everything I do. And the way I move, talk, breathe, push on. I love my work. I love it. And if I’m not careful, it has the power to take over my whole world. I feel it in my bones as much as breathing. Eating. I don’t think there is anything wrong with it actually. I think God Himself breathed it into my soul. Like Noah and the ark if I can be so bold. It was his passion. His calling. He kept going for years despite the naysayers. He knew it was his purpose, and to stop would be disobedience to His very maker.
Honestly, I feel very Noah. I empathize with what he probably felt and the works of his hands, and heart. I’m not saying I’m going to build a boat in the park behind my house, but what I am saying is that I am passionate to the core. Fiercely stubborn. And have an addictive personality. As I was texting with my sis this morning my next “crazy idea”, she responded.. “Well… when you’re determined, you usually get what you want, so I’m not worried.” Boom. True. I could’ve been offput by her words. I could’ve taken them, slanted them, and mutated them into some oddly contacted bash of my persistence. But that’s not what she meant. She meant I’m passionate. And persistent. And it’s good. God made me that way on purpose.. for a purpose… greater than me.
It’s that same persistence that has build Pursuit Community.. and Intentional Home and countless other random projects, businesses, and movements I’ve put my soul into over the past decade. It is good. It is. But it desperately needs to be put into check at times. And that is the train that ran over me in the kitchen yesterday.
Check mate. It said.
There’s no getting out of this one. There’s no escape. Perception IS reality when it comes to your kids. And your own childhood for that matter. Think back to your own childhood… what sticks out? What do you remember? What kind of parents did you have? Were they Angry? Mellow? Disengaged? Or, looking back, did they simply have a lot going on in their own world that you as a child couldn’t yet understand? Were they depressed? Lost a job? Experiencing loss, or betrayal, or divorce? Were you putting them through living hell with your own drama and they didn’t know how else to respond?
There are a myriod of answers to all of those questions.. but still… interlaced into all of those things is your perspective. YOUR reality. Of what your childhood was like. 18 years. 18. If God sees to bless us with it. My brothers best friend died suddenly at their football practice when he was 13, and I was 10. He was our only neighbor growing up in the country, and like my big brother for those ten years. And then, he was gone in an instant on a Wednesday night. Since then I’ve always had this twisted picture of how little time we have, and how we don’t really know how much we are going to get. It’s haunted, or blessed me, my whole life. 18 years. That’s all the time we have to make up our children’s memories. And probably less since kids don’t usually start remembering their childhood until the ages of 4-6. So in actually, it’s more like 12-14 years. 12 to 14. Do you see that? Do you feel that? 12-14 years with our kids remembering their life at home with us. 12-14 birthdays. 12-14 summers. 12-14 Christmas’s. What are we doing with that time? What am I doing?
It’s been plaguing me for a while. Taking up residence in my brain like a hobo under the bridge I drive by each day. It has no right to be there, but it is. And it feels very safely at home there. This fear. What if I miss it all? What if I miss their faces because Apple and I have become best friends. What if I miss their laughs because I’m laughing at something my friend across the country just posted on IG? What if I miss the cuddles with our one year old because I’m too worried about what I can’t type with one hand? It makes my heart sick. Two times over really. Because I don’t want to miss them. Yet I also don’t want to miss what God has clearly asked me to do outside of this home either. It’s the bachelor season finale all over again. But with eternal impact.
These stakes are high friends. Too high. I sat there in a cloudy daze as the words from my children’s lips, and my husbands compassion washed over me like a fresh spring rain. It soaked in from my ears, to my brain, to my heart and escaped out through my breath. The truth. I’m addicted to work. The truth. I need to change some things. The truth. I’m blessed beyond my comprehension at how grace filled and loving the people that make up my family are.
And they deserve better.
So here it goes. From what I’ve heard the first step to overcoming addiction is to realize it, and own it. So here I am. I have a problem. And I freaking LOOOOVEEE my work. I have another problem. I freaking LOOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVEEEE my family even more. And they both can’t carry first place trophies. There’s no tie in this race.
It’s time for a change. Not just one that I feel. One that they feel. A change that is so dynamic and powerful that they look back and say.. hey.. remember that spring when our Mom changed? Remember the year we got her back? That’s what I want. I’m not saying this to whoa is me, or paint the picture that I’m some crazy disconnected mom. Because that’s actually super far from the truth. I’m actually a great Mom. I am very present, and I love my kids. I sow into them and their little hearts and their gifting. We go on dates and have traditions. We laugh and have dance parties all the time. We have a super fun family environment. What I’m really saying in all of this is… it can be better. I can be better. I know in my heart that I’m divided. And that is what needs changing. Isaac went on to ask the kids… “Well, how often does this happen that Mom is on the computer so long?” Ava quickly said.. “Oh, it’s only been 2 or 3 times.” Knowing this brought a bit of relief to my heart, but not enough. I can still be better. I want their perception of childhood to be that I was there for them. Present. Not divided. I want them to know that they are the priority. Not my work. Not my staff. Not my emails… and certainly, not my Instagram.
So here’s what I’m going to do.
1. Change where I sit first thing in the morning-
I know, I know, this probably sounds really silly, but studies show that a physical change is enough to snap you out of habitual patterns. For example… if you always pick up your phone when you’re on the couch, and you’re trying to cut out phone time, stand up and walk somewhere else. If you head to the refrigerator when you get a bad text or see something upsetting on social media, go outside instead and walk around the block. Do something opposite of what you did before. This will help form new habits and break you out of the old ones.
For me this looks like my cozy pink chair at my desk. Every morning, without fail, I take the kids to school, I come home, and I head straight for that chair. It doesn’t even matter if I have work to do! It’s just habit! So this morning I decided to start to break the addiction to be at my desk. After the kids were at school I sat in the rocking chair. I had my cup of coffee beside me, and reached for my Bible instead of my computer. Just a simple change in where I was sitting was enough to snap me back to what was really important, and what I wanted to fill up my life more than work. Getting God’s word in my mind and heart first thing in the morning has been a huge shifter for me. And it sets up the day to be more successful.
2. Recommit to work hours-
Computer ONLY during nap time.. other work (like packaging, shipping, writing notes, reading) when Logan is awake and happily entertained. No more computer work when he’s awake. Just because he’s happy, doesn’t mean it’s healthy.
I’m going to stick hard and fast to my work hours of 9-2 Monday/Wednesday/Friday with writing/personal days on Thursdays, and school on Tuesdays.
3. No phone AND No computer from 3-8 pm.
This is family time. They ARE my priority, and they need to see that they are my priority. Our oldest child is almost ten, and she will have her own phone soon. I don’t want her learning my ugly habits and engaging more with people in other places than the people right in front of her. Electronic addiction ends today.
I’ve actually been doing fairly good at the no phone rule. My phone is my poison. So I know pretty well I need to steer clear of it. Like…. not even have it within reach during those hours. If it’s in arms reach. I WILL touch it. I may not even be looking for anything or needing anything, but I will just touch it… because.. it’s an addiction.
The computer however was almost like this little secret weapon addiction. I had no idea. When Isaac said that yesterday I was like “WHOA… that is not true.” But then I started watching my habits. The computer is in the living room. So I can sit there in my comfy pink chair and “be involved” with what the family is doing. It’s so sneakily deceptive!!!! I totally thought I wasn’t addicted to the computer, and then I realized where I sit down the second I come home from dropping off the kids at school. Or where I sit when the kids watch tv after school. Well.. NO MORE. I will not sit there outside of my “hours”. I can also put my phone in the other room, or turn it on do not disturb before 8:30 am and after 3 pm.
4. Get outside
For me, nothing puts things back in perspective like getting outside, or hanging out with friends and family. GET OUT!!!!! As a work at home Mom, days can be dreary, and repetitive, and lonely. No wonder all I can think about is work. It’s all I do! It’s my connection to the outside world!
Learning to schedule time out of the house once or twice a week has been a huge shift for my introvert heart. I love being at home, but being at home too much tends to cultivate a mindset that is completely centered around me. Getting outside reminds me that this life is bigger than me. Even if it’s going for a walk outside or taking the kids to the park. Just seeing something being these walls changes my gears, and my heart.
5. Document what truly matters
I’m going to start using #writingtheirchildhoodstory on my IG posts. I feel like I need a constant reminder of what really matters. What I do today. What I say today. What I show them is important today… those things will be what they remember. And I feel like keeping track of those intentional decisions to lay work aside and choose them with a feed of pictures will really help me. My kids are 9,8 and 1. The older two are very much in their prime years of writing their childhood story. These are the days they will remember. As Isaac and I look back on our childhood, and what stuck out to us.. most of those things happened between the ages of 6-16. My kids are there friends. And maybe yours are too. If you want to join me… feel free to use the same hashtag. I would love for us to encourage each other in this!
I also use the app Day One on my phone. It sends me an alarm every evening to write in my journal. As a writer, this was actually hard for me at first. I felt like I needed to write something amazing and brilliant each day, so I didn’t write at all. Now I use it almost as a ledger. About a month ago, my brothers and I were going through my grandfather’s desk after he passed away and we found his ledger. There was only one, maybe two thoughts every day. “Today I turned 90.” he wrote… another day he was having flashbacks of the war. Strangely, those daily little ledgers of his simple existence meant more to me than probably a huge long journal. It meant that every day mattered, that there was something to share, to document, to hold onto. So now I use Day One for that. I simply share what we did that day, funny things the kids said, and pictures of our day. I choose to write something, everyday, even if it’s just a few words. It helps me keep a big perspective. That all of these little somethings, are what make up our life.
6. Unload your plate
This is actually THE thing I’m working on the most right now. I do lots of things. I juggle lots of duties. And I don’t need to. I tend to overload my plate more than anyone else overloads it. I once heard the phrase… “If I’m too busy to make the kids lunches, I’m too busy.” And that rang so true in my heart. But lately… their lunches have been exhausting me. And that was a wakeup call.
I have too much on my plate. And I need to fix that. I am responsible for what I let be on there.. nobody else is. So I have to focus on what is most important, and do that.
I really hope that sharing my story and these tips to get my life back have been helpful for you.. if they have, I would love to hear your story in the comments below.