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Wednesday October 27, 2004: Finding Enough Time: Part Two

        When you are a single parent and the kids are little, you tell yourself things will get better; the kids will take on their own responsibilities as they grow older. Kids do take on chores, but when their world gets too busy, most moms I know end up squeezing the kid's chores back into their own busy schedules. We're more concerned that they finish the school project, or fill out the application forms, or get a decent night's sleep after the exhaustion of a cross country race.

          Linda's son is an Eagle Scout and goes on camping/rock-climbing trips every chance he gets. Today he'd called to inform her she had to make dessert for the pre-trip meeting they'd just chosen to hold mid-week.  The Scouts decided to throw in an extra weekend of climbing while the weather holds, which (for Linda) means an extra trip to the store before she rushes home to launder the clothes and gear from the previous week's outing. Yes, Linda's son could have done his own laundry, but Linda explains he has band practice and a paper due. If the clothes and gear are to have time to line-dry before packing, she'd rather take on the responsibility herself and let him finish his school projects. I can't fault her because I'm the same way. 

         Yes, I know the arguments of some parents. Let the kids do it; or at least get take-out dinner and buy food for the meeting at the store. These are the same people who tell us to hire someone else to clean the house. Time-saving ideas sound wonderful when you have the extra money, but Linda and I understand the mother's money trap.

          If I had extra money for a maid, I'd put it toward the cost of Winter Percussion competitions, or the Band's trip to Florida. If the kids didn't need it, I'd buy myself books or Teaching Company tapes. Linda would spend it on the new hiking boots her son needs, or pay down her own school loans. We both believe in assigning chores to our children, but feel their main responsibilities should be keeping up their grades and keeping a balanced life of activities. Notice the focus on balance for our children; I never wanted my boys pushed into a day so packed with activities that they had no time to reflect on what they were experiencing.

            There's the rub. To give my children the freedom to experience their childhood, often meant sacrificing my own free time.  As Jenise would often say, why have kids if you aren't going to devote your time to parenting? She was livid over a friend who left a newborn with the grandparent and took off for a week-long vacation with her husband.  We tended to raise eyebrows at this type of mother: the kind who feels kids are wonderful, but it's important to first take care of your own interests, the kind who feels kids make life complete, not should not seriously interfere with the rest of  your lifestyle.

            As a single mother, I quickly learned to be realistic about some needs. The first big lesson was saying no to most volunteer opportunities.  Even the stay-at-home moms get burned out by taking on all the projects that need parental support. I'd check my own energy levels and anticipate the demands of the week before saying yes, taking on only what I could reasonably handle.  

         I became a big believer that regular exercise generates more energy. I worked exercise into smaller segments of time, and quit worrying so much about whether I did the same amount of exercise every day or every week. If I went days or even weeks without exercising, I just started in again when my schedule opened up, trying to develop a solid habit but tolerating haphazard effort. During sane periods of life, I would get up an hour earlier to stretch out. When the week was too hectic, I'd hit the snooze alarm.

            As for spiritual exercises -- the lack of regular, uninterrupted time led to radically different ways of focusing on God. Thinking back to my mystic days, when I was single and could meditate twice a day, every day, it did have wonderful moments. Intensity would build with regular discipline, the body became used to the routine, and the mind settled into stillness more easily.  Some people claim that once conditioned to meditate at the same time every day, if the pattern was broken and they found themselves in public during the regular meditation time, their body still went into a mildly altered and definitely peaceful state.

           Sitting every day in meditation was easy when I was single. As the demands of family filled the time before and after a full-time job, it was back to the choice of giving up what precious sleep I was getting, or rethinking how I found time for God. My friends who insisted on keeping up daily meditations learned to sleep sitting up but I wanted to actually use that time to connect with God.  I had to become more creative in my approach, and in the end, I believe it made all the difference in the world. 

To be continued.....


Posted on Wednesday, October 27, 2004 at 05:14AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | CommentsPost a Comment

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