Updated: May 18, 2020
Friends, sun, sand, and sea, that sounds like a summer to me. – Unknown
I love summer, and this one felt extra special. My husband is a teacher so he has the summers off. My daughter just started school (pre-k) last year so this was her first summer break. And for me, this was my first summer not working since I quit my job at the end of December to stay home with my kids. We had lots of time together as a family, and we tried to fit in as much fun as we could.
The kids did swim lessons and then practiced what they learned in various pools throughout the summer. We visited the splash pad and went to the beach several times, one of our favorite family activities. We went to a baseball game and played at the park. We also had the opportunity to travel to San Diego to hang out with some family. Then, we spent two weeks in Colorado with more family and got to hike, swim, and enjoy the beautiful scenery of the Rocky Mountains. We definitely enjoyed the freedom of making our own schedules, staying up late, and sleeping in.
But as always seems to happen, summer went by too fast, and it has (unofficially) come to an end for our family. My husband went back to work this week to start getting ready for his students to arrive next week. Ava still has a few more weeks til she begins kindergarten, but we are starting to get back to some normal rhythms around here, which is bittersweet.
As much as I enjoy summer, it’s probably good that it’s just a season. I often feel a little disoriented during summer because my normal rhythms get thrown out the window for the sake of family, fun, and freedom. We need seasons like that sometimes that break away from the norm and allow us to breathe a little deeper, but I’ve also come to realize the importance of healthy rhythms in my normal, everyday life. I need to have some regular and intentional practices set up that nourish my body, mind, and soul. So while I’m sad to see summer go, I’m also excited to get back to the rhythms that keep me balanced.
This is what those rhythms look like for me….
Waking Up Early
I am not a morning person. Waking up is one of my least favorite times of day. When I had kids, I was forced to wake up earlier, but I still tried to wait til the last possible moment. Somewhere along the way, I realized that if I stay in bed until my kids wake me up, there is a 90% chance that we will have a rough morning. I am irritable when I first get out of bed. I need some time before I have to use words. Kids don’t really understand that. They also seem to have a lot of urgent matters that need tending to while I’m trying to get ready. If I want to interact with them in a way that will be beneficial and enjoyable for all of us, I need to get myself up before them and have time to get ready in silence.
Spending Time with Jesus
I’ve also realized the importance of starting my day with Jesus. After I get ready in the morning, I have some time to sit on the couch with my coffee, Bible, and journal before the kids wake up. This isn’t just something that I do to check off my list, but I know that I need to be with God, learn and be reminded of who He is and how he’s called me to live, and be refreshed by him. If I save this for any other time of the day, I will end up just rushing through it to get on to the next thing. I have come to truly treasure and enjoy this time with Jesus in the morning.
Going to Bed Early
In order to be able to wake up early, I have to get to bed early so that I can get enough sleep. It’s hard to be disciplined in this area. When the kids are finally asleep at night, I really just want to indulge in kid-free time to do things I want to do and eat things I don’t want to have to share with them. But I recognize how much sleep affects everything in my life. When I’m tired, I’m irritable and unmotivated, I struggle with mental clarity, I’m more susceptible to getting sick, and I get tension headaches. So I try to be intentional about getting to bed early enough to allow for (close to) 8 hours. Sometimes that means that I have to say no to late night hangouts or put off watching episodes of my favorite shows til the weekend, but the benefits of sleep are enough to make me think it’s necessary.
Using Free Time Wisely
As a stay at home mom, my windows of free time come when my kids are sleeping. Naptime and bedtime are my opportunities to do some things that fill me up. When I’m out of my normal rhythms or feeling a little off, I really just want to watch tv or look at social media and not think during those times. While there is nothing wrong with watching my favorite shows or checking out Facebook here and there, I know that if I spend too much time doing those things, I don’t feel good. Those activities don’t refresh me. Instead, I try to use the small windows of times to read, write, or do yoga. My goal is to do each of those activities at least 2-3 times per week, but I’m also learning to find the balance between being disciplined and giving myself grace when it feels like I’m trying to force those things. I know that I feel more refreshed when I make time for these activities that I enjoy and that nourish my body, mind, and soul.
Connecting with Friends
One of the things that fills me up the most is having time to connect with friends. This isn’t just hanging out and doing something fun, but I value the deep, intentional conversations in which we can update each other on our lives and speak truth and encouragement to one another. I think that in most life stages, we can get so busy with all of our responsibilities that it’s easy to neglect time for that kind of interaction. I have to be really intentional about scheduling time with friends, and I know that I can’t have that kind of time with every friend. I have a handful of close friends that I try to meet up with individually once a month or at least every other month. In addition to that, as a stay at home mom, I make it a habit of meeting up with other moms (or friends with flexible schedules) along with the kids at least twice a week. It can get lonely spending the majority of my days with just the kids so this time with others feels like a breath of fresh air.
Rhythms look different for each person and can change from one season of life to another, but they are so important in helping us to create a healthy balance in our lives. It’s necessary to make sure that we are intentionally creating space to tend to our physical, mental, and spiritual needs. We each have roles, tasks, and people that we must be responsible for, but we do not need to lose ourselves in the process. I believe that a big part of living the life that God called us to is finding balance, and there is a balance between laying our lives down for the sake of others while also nurturing the life that God gave us.
This is a lesson that I’ve been learning and re-learning over the past several years. It comes so naturally for me to care for others, but it is hard to make the time to care for myself. Being a mom and having small people demand just about every ounce of my energy doesn’t make it any easier. But I am recognizing the permission and necessity I have to take care of myself. I need to do things that fill me up so that I can be healthy and whole, so that I can grow more into the person God created me to be, and so that I can continue to love the people around me. Jesus tells me to love my neighbor as myself, but it’s hard to love my neighbor if I don’t know how to love myself well.
What are the rhythms in your life that help to keep you balanced and refreshed? If you don’t have any of those rhythms set up right now, take some time to think about what activities would refresh you by nourishing your body, mind, and soul. If you don’t feel that you have time to implement new healthy rhythms, you might want to think about what you need to say “no” to so that you can make sure that you are caring for yourself.
Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me – watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.
– Matthew 11:28-30 (Msg)