As a mother of three, my days are super busy. Some days it’s enough to simply get the basics accomplished. Recently I was having more and more days where, at the end of the day, I felt like I had been around my children all day but I hadn’t truly spent quality time with them. I don’t want to look back and think, “Wow, my house sure was clean during those years; I got a lot accomplished.” I want to look back and think “Wow, I enjoyed my children while they were young; I really enjoyed being a mother.”
However, I’m also a person who likes an organized home. I like my routine. I like things to be just so. I can get rather absorbed in these endeavors. And it’s not only my kids who sometimes hear me say, “Just a minute!” or “I’m almost done with this!” Sometimes it’s God who hears that from me too.
In order to remedy this situation I picked up a copy of Jacques Philippe’s Time for God. It is a wonderful introduction on prayer, specifically meditation. Again, I’m a busy Mom so finding time for actual quiet meditation on top of my regular prayer routine seemed a bit of a stretch, but a dear priest encouraged me to give it a try. In his book Philippe talks a lot about how it is possible to be immersed in other activities and pray, but we must also learn to stop what we are doing in order to spend time with God. And not just God, with other people as well.
He says, “Someone who believes he loves his wife and children despite having a very active life, but who cannot find any time to be one hundred percent available to them, may be kidding himself. Without that free space, love will soon be stifled. Love expands and breathes in an atmosphere of free giving. We must be able to waste time for another person.”
Waste time? Did I read that correctly? Do I have time to waste time? Don’t I have enough to do already? Meals to cook. Dishes to clean. Diapers to change. Laundry to do. I was so struck by these words because I know it’s true. The meals, dishes, diapers and laundry mean nothing if I am not first spending time, or rather wasting time, with the people for whom I’m cooking, cleaning, and organizing.
This is not easy for me to do, but lately I’ve been making a more conscious effort to be absorbed in the people around me rather than the things on my to-do list. When my baby daughter is tugging at my leg I get down at her level and play hide-and-seek.
When my oldest son builds something with his Legos and wants me to come see it, I immediately stop what I’m doing, and I head to the other room to offer praise. When my three year old wants to sit down for a nice chat I set aside my list, find a comfortable spot on the couch, make eye contact, and listen. When my husband walks in the door from work I stop everything and go to him with a kiss.
These are simple things, but I have to believe that when I drop what I’m doing in order to become absorbed in what they’re doing, my husband and children see that they are my priority.
I’ve applied the same effort in my spiritual life. Sometimes I step out of the kitchen or laundry room or wherever I am to find a quiet spot in my house in which to encounter Our Lord. It is an opportunity to collect myself and enter into a place of peace. I am usually distracted during the first few minutes, so I force myself to sit for about ten. I give myself time to shift from being Mom, to daughter of God. Again, this is not easy for me, as there is always something else demanding my attention, but I find myself looking forward this time with God.
I am discovering that in making a conscious effort to waste time I am actually saving time. I am more at peace. I feel more energized. Our household has a greater sense of emotional order. I have a greater sense of focus when I go to accomplish something on my list. There is no longer a tug of war going on with my priorities. I think it’s safe to say that wasting time isn’t so bad after all.
Sarah enjoys wasting time with her husband and three children, especially during their weekly Family Day Sundays when they go for nature walks, read stories, and laugh together. She writes about their adventures at The Happy, Resourceful Home.