Let’s read a story.
Let’s go to the park.
We’re going to meet up with friends to play.
Sure, you can have 30 minutes of iPad time.
Modern parenting is often focused on keeping kids “engaged”, “learning”, “entertained” and frankly just not bored. There is even research showing that kids need more time being bored.
Unfortunately, moms do NOT have this problem when it comes to their own fun and leisure. We have the opposite problem. There is never enough time for us to focus on our own fun and leisure. Even vacations are spent making sure everyone else is having a good time.
Personally, I don’t have any consistent hobbies. I wish that I did. I secretly envy other people with consistent activities like singing, painting, knitting, playing softball, etc.
While I do hang out (without kids) with other women every few months, I don’t have regularly scheduled leisure or fun. In the WifeMotherLeader Wheel of Life Exercise, my fun and leisure rating was a 3. This wasn’t a surprise to me, although I was disappointed. I’ve been feeling this area suffering for a few years.
Of course, part of the problem is the “season of life” that I am in with small children and my husband building his career. However, these are also my 30s and I never get them back. I don’t get this level of health and energy back. I don’t get this time with two healthy, living parents. I don’t get this time back to show my kids how to both give and serve others (family, friends, community) AND make sure to find time for themselves.
So, I’ve started taking steps to improve this area. My approach to improving an area of your life or creating a new system is always two-fold. First, there is an immediate action that I try to take to build some momentum. Second, I spend some time trying to plan out how I can make the change or system sustainable for the long term.
Too often, I think we get overwhelmed with trying to make a big change overnight. We treat our lives like an episode of “Extreme Makeover.” That approach overwhelms us and causes too much disruption for our lives and families. Then, we deem the change impossible and give up. I’ve been through this cycle multiple times and it’s frustrating:(
The other mistake that we make is trying to change too many things at once. We try to improve our diet, exercise more, do self-care activities, and start a weekly date night with our husbands.
All of these changes are good.
And, all of them are possible. But, not at the same time! They should be staggered and built over time so that they can all be successfully integrated into a “newer” version of your life. You can’t LEAP from your current reality to your ideal life. You have to build a path or bridge and then walk across it as you are building it.
Here are 6 steps to start a new habit or create a new system in your life:
- Pick a small action that you can start within 7 days
- Do that action
- Reflect on how it went and get feedback from anyone affected (spouse, kids, etc.)
- Create a plan to make that small action consistent.
- Identify any additional resources, tools, or people to help you make it consistent and grow that area of your life.
- Identify other actions or activities that you can slowly add to complement or build upon the first action.
What I noticed in my own patterns was that I was doing a good job finding time away from the kids for events (dinner with other moms, occasional networking event, etc.). But, I didn’t ever just take time to do something for myself that wasn’t a “self-care” activity like exercise or a massage. Those are great and exercise has been my top priority for this year, but they are not necessarily my fun and leisure activities.
I love to read and have a physical and virtual pile of books that are awaiting my attention. I don’t typically read at night because I am so tired that it would just put me to sleep. I also love to bake but don’t do it for fun anymore. I only bake now for specific events, etc.
The mistake I would have made in the past is to try to start doing BOTH. RIGHT NOW! Instead, I am focused on re-starting my reading habit. It has a lower barrier and is something I can fit into smaller time windows in my life.
So, I am going to start reading 3 times per week for 15 minutes per day. I will start with a single book (and not try to read 2 or 3 different ones). I will commit to doing this consistently for one month and then revisit. My goal is to increase to 30 min per day, 3 times per week after a month. I will put a reminder in my phone for 3 days per week (Sunday, Wednesday and Friday).
Here are my 6 steps summarized:
- Pick a small action that you can start within 7 days: Reading a book for 15 min per day, 3 times per week
- Do that action: Starting on Sunday, May 14th and then continuing Sunday, Wednesday and Friday each week
- Reflect on how it went and get feedback from anyone affected (spouse, kids, etc.): Evaluate on Sunday, June 11
- Create a plan to make that small action consistent: Increase to 30 min per day consistently
- Identify any additional resources, tools, or people to help you make it consistent and grow that area of your life: Initially, use reminders in my calendar on 3 designated days. Also, ask husband to check-in with me once a week about what I am reading.
- Identify other actions or activities that you can slowly add to complement or build upon the first action: None yet
What habit could you start to put in place in the next 7 days?