Last Saturday, I completed my LifeWays training and was left with bittersweet feelings. It was a wonderful, emotional year full of challenges and growth (I am pictured with some of my classmates to the left in the black dress surrounded by my loving kids). After emotional goodbyes to the lovely, strong, and passionate women I met over the course of last year, I left the LifeWays Milwaukee center feeling a bit unbalanced. Though proud of graduating and feeling honored to be chosen as the blog coordinator, I was not sure what my next step in life was supposed to be.
I have gone back and forth between wanting to work outside of the home and wanting to stay home while my children are young. I was hoping my angel would give me a stronger glimpse of my destiny, or maybe I’d be “called” to do something. The reality was a frank conversation with my husband, with him telling me that I might not be “called” to do any one thing but that what really matters is fully committing to something I feel strongly about. Being a mother who models a healthy and balanced way of living is very important to me and therefore, is something that needs my full commitment.
Though the importance of rhythm in a young child’s life was stressed to us from the first week of LifeWays training, it really did not fully hit home until my final week. All year long, my husband and I continued to improve our life at home by incorporating what I learned through my training. We assessed our daily rhythms with the help of creating a Daily Living Arts chart, where we outlined a basic rhythm for each day of the week. Creating this helped me see where we needed to improve, but I guess I wasn’t ready to make the changes until now.
My husband is a melancholic, phlegmatic person who loves rhythm, probably a bit to a self-declaring fault; I am more choleric and sanguine, loving social gatherings and planning for the next big thing. I had most mornings of the week filled with playgroups, park trips, and running errands. Even though this was usually only 2-3 hours each morning and we were always home for nap, it began to feel overwhelming and started to interfere with our family’s sense of balance as our children aged and became more active. Though I knew being home was best for young children, I didn’t feel I could be happy just being at home doing the same rhythmic things each day.
We are now one week into our new and improved daily rhythm. Many components are similar, but we are now bringing rhythm to each day. For instance, every morning we wake up, cuddle and have a small snack (coffee for mama!), change diapers, get breakfast started (usually with a helper or two), sit down to eat together with candle and blessing, have oldest two children do their own dishes, clean up the kitchen while the kids play, brush teeth, make beds, get changed and ready for our day, and work together to complete the daily cleaning task (e.g. Monday is dusting and vacuuming, Tuesday is windows, etc.), all before we go play outside. Our morning rhythm is just that, it ebbs and flows, breathes in and out. Sometimes it is smooth and other times, it requires a lot of reminders, fun games to encourage cleaning, and creating silly voices coming from their beds claiming they are cold and need Ellia and Lincoln to cover them up.
We also overhauled how we eat. The major changes we made were to outlining specific breakfasts for each day of the week (e.g. Sunday is eggs and potatoes, Monday is smoothies, Tuesday is oatmeal, etc.) and picking a category for our dinners (e.g. Sunday is surprise night, Monday is soup night, Tuesday is chicken night, etc.). This has helped for meal planning and for creating a rhythm for healthy eating. I was hesitant to do this for I thought it would be confining, so I am happy to admit that I was completely wrong. Having stuck to these rhythms for about a year now, I can say that meal rhythms are de-stressing in such a busy and chaotic world.
As I mentioned, we are only one week into our new daily home rhythms but I can tell you they are here to stay. The truth of the matter is that by utilizing what I learned through the LifeWays training and committing to being in the moment, I have had a wonderful week. I found myself being present more than ever with my babes, having more fun, less stress, and feeling very proud that I was doing what I knew was healthy for my family.
They too were much happier, especially my middle child. He had been having a very difficult time with tantrums and transitioning. Reflecting on the week, I realize we barely had any problems in this regard. In addition, naptimes have been a breeze this week. While my inner agitation to a screaming or tantruming child flares up once in awhile, or I lose myself to past or future thoughts, I am able to maintain a calm demeanor more often by reminding myself that my children chose me to be their mother so I must be capable, and that they are experiencing their world through the developmental period they are in. For example, my son is almost 3 years old and is currently experiencing the transition from being connected to mom to becoming a separate self. I try to keep this in mind when he is ebbing and flowing between wanting me to hold him and wanting to do everything all by himself.
Settling into my role as mother, caretaker, nurturer, and homemaker, I am realizing how vital this job is. What I feel strongest about and take the most pride and joy in is the fact that my husband and I are now modeling for our children how important it is to slow down. Life is not a race and it is not about the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It truly is about each moment, whether it is spent washing a dish, kissing your little one’s owie, watching your child finally summersault after knowing he has been working on it for days, or simply just sitting down at the end of a long busy day.
In addition to strengthening our family’s daily rhythms, I also started a new practice each morning. Mornings are my toughest time, especially as a sleep deprived mom. Now, each morning I say, “Thank you for this day. It is a gift. Please give me the strength, wisdom, patience and love to make this a good day.” It may not be a magic cure, but it sure seems to start my day off in a beautiful, rhythmic, gracious manner.
Mara Spiropoulos is the blog coordinator and parent voice for the LifeWays North America blog. She is a recent graduate of the LifeWays training program, resides in Milwaukee, WI, and a full-time mother to 3 young children. Mara enjoys spending time in nature, reading and researching natural parenting and living, and crafting. She would love to hear from anyone willing to be a guest writer and you can reach her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.