Finding Your Parenting Purpose
I want to have a fun, meaningful and fruitful life. Who doesn't? I want to look back in 20, 30, 50 years and know that I’ve done something worthwhile. I want to thrive in my surroundings and not just survive them.
I am tired. I have a to-do list that’s overwhelming to even look at. I have four small people who are always chatting my ears off. I can't even complete one task without starting another.
So what does that mean for me right now? My days are currently full, and they’re to the brim with things that I HAVE TO DO, so how can I make room in an already full schedule?
Everyone STOP, because I have found the answers.
Purpose, priorities and intentionality.
This Fall I went through a time when I felt so discouraged about the life that I was living. I had spent the entire summer at home with all four of my boys (which I think is a feat in and of itself). The dynamic when all of them are around is a mixture of chaos in its most intense form and a weird sense of relief because now they are no longer dependent upon me for everything; they can now entertain each other. This relief comes at a cost though, because even though the older two are quite responsible for being four and six years old, they also wind up the little's like it’s their main purpose in life. They can also tell the difference between me listening to the sounds they're making as they’re talking, and actually listening to the words that are coming out of their mouths.
They require more attention, but in different ways than the little's. With the baby and the three year old, I have to pay attention to them to make sure they they’re not trying to stick a fork in an electrical outlet or climb up their dresser drawers as if they were stairs. With the bigger kids, I have to actually pay attention to the things that they’re requesting or one of us gets into trouble. How often have I answered a question while distracted and then yelled at one of them for doing something that I gave them “Permission” to do? “Why are you eating a brownie at 7:30 in the morning!?” or “Who said that you could play with your fossil making kit!?”.
Needless to say, the Summer of 2016 was exhausting. I found myself doing the same things with the kids over and over. I knew what worked, and it terrified me to do anything outside of our few usual activities. We went to the park, we went to the sprinklers, we walked 25 blocks to their favorite coffee spot/playplace, we rode scooters and kicked a ball around at the botanical garden down the street. Other than that, there wasn’t much else that we did. For two months, thats was it. Yes, we scattered in the zoo once (when Daddy was around to help) and went to the city a few times when we had guests in town, but for the most part we stuck to those few things. Now, most people would say, “You need to give yourself a break!” or “That sounds like a fun time to me” and I should, and it was, but when September hit, I realized that Summer, my once favorite season was gone. It disappeared, and I had nothing to show for it.
A List That Actually Matters
I started thinking about the friends that I know who had, at the beginning of the summer, posted “Bucket lists” of the things that they wanted to accomplish over the course of July and August, and I had the realization that those things weren’t just a sweet idea, they were purposeful and intentional. I LOVE lists. I love feeling accomplished, even at the little things. I’m the kind of person who, when I make a "to-do" list, I write down things that I’ve already done JUST so that I can cross it off of the list. So why hadn’t I made one? I’m not sure what the answer is to that one; maybe I was afraid that I couldn’t fill up a page with fun things. Maybe I just didn’t make time to sit down and think about what I actually wanted to do. Maybe I was too busy tending to the needs of the boys that I didn’t take a minute to think about what they may want.
In talking with a few friends about these challenges, we stumbled upon “Present Over Perfect” by Shauna Neiquist and this book (coupled with a few others) has changed the way that I’m now looking at my life. Shauna starts the book talking about her own experience with filling her life with X, Y and Z and being stretched so thin, so tired. She was doing the things that she felt obligated to do and not doing the things that she wanted to do. She then goes on to say that what she ultimately did to change her life around was to figure out what her PURPOSE is in life and then based her PRIORITIES on those few things.
This was exactly what I needed. Exactly. I read through the book faster than I had ever read through anything else and decided to put what I had read into practice. Now, some people have read this book and what they have taken away is that they need to pare down their lives, be less busy and focus on the things that bring them life and make them happy. My experience was a little bit different than that. My life was full, I had people to take care of, meals to cook, a house to clean and more, but the decision that I made after reading this was that I needed to be more proactive in making my life look the way that I wanted it to - that may actually mean that I’m more busy than I have been, but I’ll be busy doing the things that actually matter to me. Things that, when I look back on my life in years to come, I can say “I’m so glad that I did that”. What does that look like to you? Imagine yourself 50 years from now - what do you want to see when you look back?
For me in this season of life, I decided that my purpose in life was to be a lover of Jesus, a lover of my husband, and a lover of my kids. LOVE. Love was going to be the reason that I did anything. I’m going to read my bible because I LOVE Jesus and want to learn more about him and want to be like Him (the REAL Him, not the Him that some people claim that he is). I’m going to do the dishes because I LOVE my husband and that’s one way that I can show it. I’m going to put down my phone and play because I LOVE my kids and want to create memories with them. This perspective changed everything. I’m no longer just going through my day on auto-pilot, there’s now a reason for everything that I do. It’s still something that I’m figuring out, but as I go through these weeks, I’m learning more about what works and what doesn’t.