A few weeks ago, my sister-in-law told me that she was giving up social media for Lent. What a fabulous idea, I thought, and quickly committed to doing the same. While the silence from the scroll was 90% easy, there was still that 10% of the time where I genuinely missed supporting others, or posting an occasional photo that was sure to bring a laugh or a smile to the faces of friends and family. Overall, giving up the time on the phone was a good decision –it provided me with the ability to be more present, put hours back into my day and was a challenge that I could certainly handle. So I stuck with it.
A few days later, our country went into lockdown due to the quickly spreading corona virus. My husband and I made the decision to fully comply, which meant giving up our playdates, errands, gym, activities, school and any babysitter help (not that any of this was an option once the states officially closed down). Now THIS was something new. The selfish overachiever in me had always pushed myself to accomplish more…do more…be more to more people…I had the babysitter help so it was only fitting to take on more, right? But without all of the distractions, to-do lists and the paper calendar I’d often found myself glued to, I was sure to lose my mind. I believed with all my heart that these things were what had been “holding me together” during the baby and toddler “jail time,” as so many others had referred to this season of my life. I believed I was weird and wired differently than everyone else…that I somehow needed these things in my life in order to thrive and survive as a Mom.
I woke up day #1 of quarantine, as I did any other day, expecting the familiar negative thoughts to go through my head: Beating myself up for not waking before the kids to do devotions or work out. I waited for the panic to set in as I considered what on earth we were going to spend entire (napless) days and nights (and possibly weeks and months), doing. I waited that morning, while watching the kids play. My hair was disheveled, pajamas still on (I am a type A, enneagram 3. You have to understand that being in pajamas and accomplishing nothing all day has NEVER appealed to me). I waited and waited some more, all but holding my breath for the moment when my mind would connect with what this was going to do to my sanity…
Afternoon came. We had watched some TV but for the most part had spent the morning just putzing around the house. I was still bracing myself for the misery that would surely set in. I knew it was close by, waiting to consume me. But it never showed. Another day and night went by – still, nothing. Instead, I was surprised to find myself taking a long, foreign, fulfilling breath with the realization that there was nothing for which to get ready. Nothing causing us to rush out. Nothing causing me to drink (and ultimately spill) my coffee in the car. …to swear when I got halfway there after realizing that we’d forgotten someone’s shoes. …to ask the kids for forgiveness because of how impatient I’d been. To rush around so as not to be late to pick the kids back up. To get the baby down quickly so that we could make it to the next activity on time and still be home and prepared to cook a healthy, homemade dinner. Those first few days, I checked the calendar again and again and again, like usual…only to find crossed out plans, erased appointments and a vast nothingness to be getting ready for in the near future. All of the sudden, I found myself taking a second breath that my days usually didn’t allow.
Our days were filled without any buzz or hurry. We didn’t try to come up with a schedule for the day unless we wanted to. Unless we felt like it. We just went with it, one day at a time. Sometimes we did “school;” sometimes not. Sometimes we went outside; sometimes not. There were no rules. The further I got from commitments, the more allergic to them I became. I realized that I didn’t have to etch “family time” onto the calendar any more, or “make it happen.” We’d eat dinner and take a walk through the woods. No one had to take turns with the kids, plan out when to run errands or ask when the other was free. We just were.
During this time, I noticed that moving my body felt good. Moving my body felt necessary. I went for lots of walks, worked out to online classes, and ran. During a very intense and much needed run one evening, I felt…powerful. I even felt some pride sneaking in – I was so strong! If I could conquer this quarantine and first run of the season at the same pace I’d ran last year, then I could do anything!!! Bring on the rap music wooooooo! And as I began to ascend up a hill, I felt my thoughts go quiet. I knew that “power” feeling – it was a feeling from my past. From the girl who used to thrive off of self-sufficiency. I quickly prayed for God to remove from me any shred of pride or dependence upon anything but Him. There are many things that God has been ridding me of during the last few years and pride was one of them, hanging on by a thread.
The next morning, I did a workout that I had actually taped and intended to post, online. Maybe I could get into leading workouts, I’d thought. Just another one of my million ways to stay busy and productive during this time, you see. God must have laughed out loud as I pushed through one last set of bicep curls, having had an amazing, sweaty, riveting workout…proud of having captured it on tape. A project, I thought. How fun! Yes, this could be my new thing. As I quickly pushed the weights aside and rushed over to the camera, my foot collided with a weight. I heard the crack, and in an instant, I knew that any shred of dependence upon working out, having another online endeavor or of feeling in control during this quarantine, was over. We really shouldn’t ask God for things unless we want Him to answer!
So today as I type this, I find myself in quarantine from the social media world, but also from leaving our home, following the calendar, running errands, going to school, having playdates, getting to activities, planning or attending events and even squeezing in fitness (yes, I broke a bone in my foot!). I am quarantined from everything that could distract me, entertain me, make me feel powerful or productive, fill my heart with temporary satisfaction from people’s approval or busy up my mind. The problem isn’t that any of these things are bad. In fact, most of them are very good and difficult to turn down! I just think we are trying to do too many of them. And I think God is using this time to show some of us, just that.
I feel peace in the quietness. Don’t get me wrong – there are hard days. But I am not going back to believing the lie that busy is best, ever again. I’m not buying in to the part where I need to be doing something in addition to mothering, to feel accomplished. I don’t have to say “yes” to projects or people or anything to have good friends and a loving family. Being busy and distracted does not make me a better mother. Leaning in and spending more time and effort on the very littles I’ve been blessed with, does. There is a threshold that I’ve crossed. Some part of control that I have surrendered. I used to spend so much effort trying to squeeze the kids into my life. I’ve been squirming in this motherhood role, trying to figure out how to do everything and be everything I used to be + add kids. I was fearful of what would happen to me if I didn’t! Resentful of how hard it’s been and how much of a toll it’s taken on me. Why doesn’t anyone tell us how hard motherhood will be??? But now, I see. There is a time and a place for me to accomplish everything that I want to accomplish, and I will. But I had it backwards. It’s not that I should be trying to figure out how to squeeze the kids into my life. It’s always been that I should be trying to figure out how I can best squeeze me into their precious lives. How lucky am I, that God chose me to be their Mom? Their wanting me in their lives would be the greatest accomplishment I could ever imagine.
During this quarantine, I’ve pictured myself carrying all of the activities, the busyness, the crazy schedules we juggle as moms…and shoving them in the closet at the end of the hall. I know that they’re still there, and that they’ll be there when this special time at home comes to an end. But for now, I’m going to bask in the free space and time that I’ve been given. And I’m seriously re-thinking how many of the items will be allowed to come back out.
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A special thank you to all of the friends in my life who have lovingly showed up at the doorstep with meals or snacks, or just to say a sweet “hello” from the car. Thanks to those of you who have sent Bible verses, stories, games, recipes, and kiddo activities during this time. Thank you to the strangers who have shown us kindness. Although I know it’s there, I’m teary eyed and spellbound by the great presence of love and togetherness that show up at times like these. Most of all, I send my prayers and respect to those families who are struggling with being affected by the corona virus. It is not lost on me that a home quarantine is not even a comparable feat to that of falling ill from this awful enemy virus we now face. You are in our thoughts and prayers.