The Wrong List | Teaching Self-Government

The Wrong List

Mother cuddling on bed with children

I participate in a few discussion groups that have inspiring and thought-provoking conversations. I remember many years ago the topic on one of these groups was how much alone time parents need to be refreshed and ready to meet all the tasks on our daily lists. We all talked about how much “alone time” we needed daily. As expected, some women needed more time than others to maintain good mental health.

All of this discussion really got me thinking. I found myself asking, “Why do we need alone time?” I came up with two things a parent needs energy for:

1. The energy of the children
2. The lists of things that parents have to do to raise a family and serve in their communities

Regarding #1: Some people are more affected by noise and overall energy than other people. If you’re one of those people, you either have to increase your ability to tune things out or schedule a daily quiet time for your children so that you can refresh. Even washing dishes alone is a different experience than doing it surrounded by family noise.

Regarding #2: Oh the overwhelming, never-ending lists of things we do each day! I don't know if I’ve met very many people, especially mothers, who haven't lamented about how they wish they could get more things done from their daily lists.

We all have two lists: the "have-to-do-right-now" list and the "have-to-get-it-done-sometime" list. Cleaning dishes, preparing food, changing diapers, holding a crying baby, doing laundry, etc. are all "have-to-do-right-now" things. They take first priority, which means things on the other list like read my own book, write in my journal, plant the garden, call my sister, etc. take a back seat.

Most people lament about not getting to the items on the second list. People crave progress, which is what keeps us working toward our goals and changing the world. The only problem is that we become disappointed when we can't feed this craving. We need to keep things in perspective during the different phases of our lives. There are simply times when we will be able to check more things off list two than other times.

I learned a trick to help me check more things off of my second list. I just had my fourth baby and was going through a pretty overwhelming time in my life. I was talking to my friend Janis one day about how I wasn’t getting anything done. Janis has eight children and has gone through many days like I was experiencing. She looked at me and said, "You’re making the wrong kind of list. What are you doing with your days right now?" I responded, "Well, I mostly just hold and feed the baby and try to give the other children the attention and love they need."

She told me, “Your list should say, ‘Hold the baby. Hold the baby. Hold the baby.’ Then it should say, ‘Cuddle with Londyn. Read with Paije. Play a game with Quin.’”

She was 100% right. Why was I sabotaging myself? I should’ve been putting things on my list that I would really do. I already believed in praising my children and husband, so I should also allow myself a few good marks daily.

I realized that by thinking I wasn't getting anything done, I was really saying that I thought my alone things, like reading my book, were more important than building relationships with my children. Relationship-building didn't even make it on my list. This was a huge revelation for me.

I started making new lists. I wrote all the relationship-building things I needed to do for my children and husband. At the end of the day I crossed tons of things off my list. Even though all the old things on list two were still there, it didn't matter to me because I had put things into perspective. I also found that focusing on doing things for others helped me think less about myself. My needs were fulfilled by meeting their needs. I had a huge paradigm shift.

Try it, it really works!

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