Turning “Have to” into “Get to”
I won’t lie. I hate bedtime. Of all of my parenting duties, following the bedtime routine is right up there with washing wet-the-bed sheets. At the end of the day, I’m tired. By the time 7:30 rolls around, I am D-O-N-E.
There are 80 teeth (plus or minus a few based on current tooth fairy visits) to be brushed. 4 sets of clothes into the hampers and 4 sets of jammies to be put on. 1 bottle and 3 drinks of water. It’s a have to. When I’m getting my babes ready for bed, I’m typically not thinking about preparing them for a night of rest. I’m not focused on getting them settled and helping them feel safe and secure. My mind is on me. My needs. My time. My agenda.
And then I’ll walk into my daughter’s room to say goodnight, and see her sitting on her bed, bundled up in her cozy blankets, nose in a book – lost in a literary adventure. I sit on the edge of her bed, lean down to kiss her head and remind her not to stay up too late reading, and then like magic – she confides in me. She’ll pull me close, tell me she loves me, and open up in a way that doesn’t happen during the day. And my perspective shifts.
I don’t have to, I get to.
I’ll walk into our boys’ bedroom full of frustration, and see our two year old pat the space next to him on his bunk. “Song?” he says in his little voice. I’ll sigh, but indulge my little man – working his God-given dimples to capacity. And then my precious boy with a bit of a speech delay will sing! Right before my eyes, my prayers for him begin to be answered as he shows signs of progress. The have to turned into a get to. I get to sing with my child. I get to witness developmental milestones. I get to snuggle with my son. I get to. I walk into that room just wanting to get downstairs. My book, a quiet house, and some mindless television are waiting for me. I’m not thinking about Harry. I’m not thinking about meeting his needs. I’m focused on ME. My needs. My time. My agenda.
When we’re focused on ourselves, everything we do that isn’t for our benefit will be a have to. Everything.
Every day in the life of a mother, especially a mother with children at home, is long. Our days are demanding – our schedule rigorous. We’re sleep deprived, stretched, and forced to play many roles throughout the day. We can approach this phase of our life with a have to type of attitude. We can funnel all of our stress and exhaustion into a powerful cyclone of negativity and resentment, as we turn our days into nothing more than a series of obligations and duties to check off.
But when we spend our days looking through the lens of have to, we cheat ourselves and those around us. Until we choose to see past the crazy, the chaos, and the endless “have to’s”, and recognize all of the “get to’s”, we will always be simply “managing” or “getting by.” We cannot thrive in a life comprised of duties and obligations. We will never live this life to the fullest if we are focused on our needs – our time – our agenda.
This phase of life- this phase comprised of noise, mess, and general chaos can be nothing more than that – if we choose to see it that way. We can see these difficult years as nothing more than laundry, homework battles, temper tantrums, messy floors, and diapers. We can trudge through motherhood, ticking off our list of have to’s, keeping our focus on our needs, our time, and our agenda.
Or, we can approach these crazy days with a get to attitude. We can choose to shift our focus and change our perspective. We get to serve our family and our children. Wet get to witness new discoveries, watch understandings unfold, see creativity blossom, and help guide our children as they grow into adults. When we approach life with an others-first attitude, the have to’s turn into get to’s. A person with a get to attitude and approach can thrive, even in the most difficult phase of life.
Are you thriving – living life with a get to approach? Or, are you just getting by, struggling from day to day, as you deal with a have to approach? Seek to find small ways to shift your perspective. Actively look for the get to moments that can turn a have to situation around. Press on. In every task and every have to situation, there is an opportunity to serve and show love. Shift your focus from self to others, and see how your world changes.