I was recently listening to the brilliant Danielle LaPorte talking about how you need to scale back your life when in the middle of an intense creative project (writing a book, starting a business etc….). She suggested creating a list of things you could – temporarily – stop doing. These include the usual day-to-day trivia, things that could be postponed without too much harm.
This makes perfect sense – if you’re adding something time-consuming to your life, something, somewhere will have to give.
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Then it occurred to me that raising a family and keeping a home could also be described as intense creative projects.
But do we create space in our lives to give them the attention they require? Or do we just try to squeeze in the extra commitments, on top of everything else (and then get downhearted when we fail to do everything).
This is especially true when it comes to raising children. Parenting can be full on for a few years – admittedly quite a lot of years – but not forever. The demands of offspring do ease up (so I’m told!). These days, the average human life span is around 80 years and whilst there are no guarantees that we’ll be lucky enough to reach that, if we err on the side of optimism (always my favourite side), this means that the mad-busy child-rearing phase will account for just a fraction of our many years.
With this long-term view, it makes no sense to try to cram all our goals and plans into what is probably the most intensely busy period of our whole life. Though I am a a big fan of pursuing hopes and dreams and creating our ultimate lives, does it help us to go after everything we want in life right now? For the sake of our present quality of life – is there anything we can designate to the (quieter) future years?
For instance, I have some BIG travel dreams. But dragging a young family to the farthest flung locations may not be the most enjoyable way to see the world. So for now, while my children are young, I am sticking to Europe and the UK (which actually has so much to offer, it could keep me happy for decades.) I believe that one day I will get to Hawaii, New Zealand and Easter Island, but probably not this year. Or even next. I still dream of those places, but I am happy to put them on the ‘future’ list for now, and this relieves the pressure of what I have on my plate today.
Staggering or spreading out our goals over a longer period can really take the pressure off (hello happy sigh of relief!). It can also free us up to enjoy what is available right now, such as…. home and family. Though these things may feel like a ‘challenge’, they are also the very things that many people dream of. Despite the hours of hard labour, this can be a richly rewarding time of our lives. These could actually be the good old days!
So if you’re trying to shoehorn all you want from life into an extremely busy phase, and feeling overwhelmed by it all, it may be helpful to ask:
- Is now the best time for ________?
- Is there anything that can wait?
- Does everything that’s on your plate or in your plans need to be there, during this busy spell?
- And do these things mean more to you than your vision of a harmonious family life or a home that you love?
I’m currently asking these questions about many of the things I want to do with my life. And though my hunger for adventure is probably not going to go away, I am learning to be more patient. Really – what is the rush? Besides, it’s just possible that I will make it to Easter Island one day, then come home to a spotless home and a free and easy timetable – and I’ll miss the noise and fun and mayhem of these crazy days!
If we can ease up on the urgency to do everything now, there is less pressure, more space, more time to breathe and appreciate what’s good about life today. We might just be able to embrace the current (temporary) madness and mayhem – and enjoy it.
PS. I’d love to hear your take on this! What do you think about putting your dreams on hold? Or do you have any tips or tricks for simplifying the home and family busyness?
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