Every day is filled with choices. Fold the laundry or check your email. Prep tonight’s dinner or wipe down the bathroom. Waste time on facebook or sweep the kitchen. We spend our days choosing between tasks and duties. We tick things off our to-do lists and accomplish as much as we can.
It struck me the other day how often I choose work over my family. All too often, my children are seen as an interruption – a deterrent to my work schedule – interferences. I noticed my responses – my tone of voice, my body language, and my words when one of my children “bother” me while I’m working. I began to recognize how often I responded with, “just give me a few minutes” or “can it wait?”
And that’s really the heart of the matter – can what I’M doing wait? Can I give them just a few minutes? Or is what I’m doing more important than them?
Because one day, I fear that I will look up and see perfectly folded piles of laundry, floors without crumbs, a gloriously empty inbox, and children I don’t know. My house will be clean, my career will be on the up and up, and my kids won’t want to spend time with me anymore – because I never made time for them.
My kids have to come first. I LOVE my work. But, here’s the thing….I love my kids more.
Work will always be there. My kids won’t.
I can answer emails, draft blog posts, and work on my book tomorrow. But tomorrow, I can’t watch my child muster the courage to glide down the driveway on his scooter for the first time or see the joy on my daughter’s face as she masters 3 digit subtraction. Re-organizing my closet – that can wait. So can vacuuming the family room for the fourth time, reading status updates, and creating the perfect holiday mantle. But, my babies? They’re growing up before my eyes – changing and maturing every day. One minute it’s lullabies and Goodnight Moon. The next minute it’s pre-teen pop and Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Kids that were once clamoring to sit on my lap are beginning to spend more and more time on their own.
My children are not the center of my world, and I am far from a helicopter mom. We’ve taught our children to be independent, self-reliant, and to enjoy imaginative play with their siblings. We encourage everyone in the family to have time alone, to pursue things they love. I thrive when I have time to work. I am energized and excited by what I do, and spending some of my time on my writing and my ministry is healthy – and necessary. But, there were some changes I needed to make to truly relish these years before me….the years when my house is full of noise, chaos, and excitement. Right now, the days are long, but the years are short – and I want to be fully present for my children during these formative years.
When my children want my attention, I will shut my laptop, put down my book, or pause the tv. I will look them squarely in the eye, and give them my full attention. Their news, no matter how trivial- takes precedence. What matters to them, matters to me.
I will work in such a way that I have extra time for my family. I will make the most of my down-time, work ahead when possible, and strive to maintain an organized and efficient home. I will not squander my free-time. If an activity does not bring me joy or benefit my family, my ministry, my household, or my career, I will not waste time on it. I will guard the time I am given, so that I can give the bulk of it to my children.
Because, at the end of the day, I’m not smiling to myself as I remember how perfectly I put away the laundry. I’m not eager to tell my husband how I spent half an hour online shopping. I’m not excited to share a photo of the family room that’s only clean because I didn’t let anyone play in it. Instead, I’m looking back on the time I spent with my kids. The best parts of my day are the moments I was truly present in with them. It’s the pillow fort, the bug hunt, and the extra chapter at story-time. It’s the rather lengthy conversation about Ninjago, the five minutes spent cuddled up on the couch talking about recess, and the time spent pushing them on the swing out back.
So today, I will strive to make these years more about them, and less about me. When we are together, I will be mentally and emotionally present for them. I will make sure they know they are more important to me than the computer. Their news, accomplishments, and ideas matter more to me than the things I so often busy myself with. I will show up. I will treat them the way I want to be treated, and speak to them in a loving and respectful tone.
Life is short. As my kids get older, they will spend less and less time at home. These years are crazy-hard and exhausting – but they are once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. So today? The laundry can wait.