Healthy Changes

If you read the last post, then you know that we’re in the parenting stage that basically means we fall into bed exhausted every night.

Interestingly enough though, this year seems to be the time where I’m finally in the headspace to see certain things more clearly. As in, I know what the root of the problem is now, and I can see where we need to make changes to help deal with things.

Because of where we’re at as parents and the needs of our kids, and the fact that we live and work in the same place, in a role that means we don’t really have “off” time it’s easy for me to feel overwhelmed with things. Not in an outward way, but rather in a way that leaves me feeling like there’s always this thing tugging at me. Some days that tug is my kids and others it’s work and kids and others it’s that I feel like I’m not keeping up with things at home. Chris has needs. Our marriage needs nurturing. Our kids each have their own needs. Our family has needs in order to stay healthy in this environment. We have to do certain things to keep our home functional and working. We have work commitments. And all of these things are good and needed. It just takes balance.

I talked at length in the last post about the realization that our parenting right now is taking a lot more energy that we had expected. And that is needed right now for the health and well being and development of our kids. I hate being that cranky mom, who because she’s feeling pulled between too many things, ends up barking at her kids all day. Sadly, that’s happened a lot and it means an unhappy home. And that in itself is exhausting. I know I can do better than that, but it means being deliberate about some things.

One thing that has been hard for me is that, because of a commitment to setting a good example for our employees, Chris and I have maintained a Monday to Friday, 8 hour work day. For me that often means I feel pulled between mission obligations and my kids/family/home. I didn’t ever want to be a full time working mom, so this has been a grating challenge. I don’t want to step back completely from the mission, and really can’t. There are things that I bring to the table in our role as Directors that Chris can’t and doesn’t, and everyone within our organization is fully aware of that and happy that we balance each other out so well. And, I like being hands on. I just know that I need to be more deliberate about where I put my hands, so to speak.

So, one of the changes we’ve made in the last couple of weeks as a family is that I am no longer “working” full time. Olivia doesn’t have school on Fridays, so Friday is now my “off” day where no one will be expecting me to be doing any mission related work, with the exception of payroll every other week which takes maybe an hour to do. Fridays will now be spent with my kids and taking care of home stuff, whether it’s doing a bunch of baking or food prep to help with meals throughout the week, or meal planning and organizing things that need to be taken care of around here. When I told Olivia that I wasn’t going to be working on Fridays anymore her whole face lit up and she said, “So you can spend time with me?!” Wow. If that isn’t a teller of things then I don’t know what is! Also, Thursday mornings I am available, but am basically free to be with Alex if he needs me while Yonese is away at the market and to do other stuff around the house without feeling like I have to be “working”. I am realizing that I can’t do both momming and mission stuff at the same time and do them well. I end up resenting something. And, I don’t think anyone outside of our home has ever had the expectation that I do all of it. It’s been completely internally imposed by us.

As an aside – this sort of snuck up on us. When we were first married the work load was lighter because the mission was smaller. Over time it’s grown and our family has grown right alongside it. The demands on my time have slowly increased and I’ve kept trying to do it all. Having Ryan here this year has been great because he’s taken some of my work load, tweaked it and made it more manageable so when I have to take it back life will be easier.

Two weekends ago I spent about an hour and made up a schedule that breaks down my time each day Monday – Friday. It now sits on the wall next to my desk for everyone to see, but mostly for me. See, I needed to give myself permission to focus my attention on other things during the “work day”. It may sound crazy, but it’s true. Yes, God has called us into this ministry and he has given me a specific role in that, but I will always be Chris’ wife, and I will always be Olivia and Alex’s mom, and those roles need my attention before the mission does.

It’s amazing the change in my disposition that this sort of small thing has created. Chris and I have been working through the love languages book and even thought I’ve read it twice before, I’m only really now understanding that my love language is “words of affirmation”, and in this particular area I needed to hear Chris say, “Yes, our family’s needs have changed and you need to be doing this right now, ” rather than it being this thing I kept talking about and we sort of knew was there. Strange but very true.

The last two weeks I’ve gotten up with a sense that I had time alloted for the things I wanted to do, and needed to do. Every morning I’ve gone between all our rooms and tidied up quickly, meaning I’m not feeling like our stuff is controlling us and that I’m leaving it all for Yonese. Yes, Yonese is here every day to help in these areas, but it’s our home and we want to be setting a good example to our kids about how we all need to be working to keep it livable for everyone. In the back of my heart and mind I was struggling with leaving everything for her. I don’t want that relationship with her, or with out home. Walking into our room throughout the day and seeing a made bed is so small but it helps. Keeping counters cleared and the table tidy and not waiting for Yonese to do it helps us all feel better.

Having time where I can be on my computer doing non-work related things like blogging, email and facebook guilt free is great. I can then spend the time that I have blocked out for specific work tasks more efficiently, and I have been. I’ve realized that I wasted a lot of time sitting in front of my computer simply because I felt like I needed to be working, even though I really wasn’t being super productive most days. I really do work better when I have an alloted time for something rather than this floating window. Since we’ve been putting these changes into action when I have sat down to do work I’ve burned through my list quickly and been happier with the outcome. That feeling of accomplishment and productivity leaves me feeling more satisfied and less pulled and spread out, which carries over into the other areas of my life.

I’ve been working at making small changes on the home front too, so I’m not feeling so pulled in that department. Our house is fairly small, coming in under 900 sq feet. As I’ve shared, I’ve slowly been working at de-cluttering each area. It’s a work in progress, and I’m not pushing myself, but rather trying to take the time to be really intentional. I’ve sat down and made a list, room by room, of what’s bugging me. What makes me feel overwhelmed? What makes it feel cluttered? What makes it feel like more work? What makes me feel like it’s controlling us rather than it being the other way around? Then I wrote down possible solutions to those things. Stuff I can actually do.

The storage room is overwhelming – go through it section by section and either get rid of or put away things in longer terms storage elsewhere that we don’t use regularly, keeping that space for everyday stuff. 

The kids shelf unit looks like one big hot mess when O puts away cleans up her room – build a shelf unit with toy box on the bottom so stuff can  be thrown in there but be out of sight. 

Things like that. If it isn’t doable the problem will continue.

Another area for me is just in generally taking care of myself. I know I’ve chatted about this in bits and pieces here and there, but it is a struggle. And what I’m talking about here is making myself a priority to the point where I feel good about myself. The message I’ve been telling myself for the last however many years revolves around everything else being more important than taking a few minutes of my day to do simple things like give my face a good scrub or slap on some mascara if that’s what makes me feel more ready to face the day. It has nothing to do with what other people think about me, but rather about asking myself what I might need that day to give me a bit of a boost. It’s other things too like recognizing that I’m getting older and my skin needs different care, and taking the time to do that.

I was also sick over Christmas, and have been feeling bad off and on since then. Literally feeling like I constantly have a cold coming on, but then not having it run typical fashion for me. I finally went to the doctor on Monday (because we finally have an American doc in the area!!!) and figured out that I probably have a combo of an acute sinus infection and slight allergies from the dry season. He gave me strong antibiotics, some strong anti-inflammatory meds and some allergy pills. My head is still clearing up, but my energy level has come back and I’m feeling better than I have in about two months. That’s a good thing. It was a nagging thing that was taking me away from the things I wanted and needed to be doing.

My point in all of this is this – sometimes the process of stepping back to see what’s really there is hard, but it’s worth it.

In two weeks I’ve started to feel more peaceful, I’m seeing a different contentment with our kids, and because I’m not feeling so pulled it’s affecting all my other relationships in a positive way. I feel more productive in all areas and therefore better about myself.

I believe this is what God wants for us. He wants us to do like Jesus did when he went away by himself. Jesus knew he had gotten to a point where he needed some self-care in order to continue being effective. It was just his preaching and teaching, it was his relationships. He was physically tired. He needed rest and renewal. We are to seek that wisdom from God and focus on the important things that he’s put in our paths. He wants the best for us, and the best from us.

~Leslie

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About Leslie

I'm Leslie. Wife. Mother. Missionary. In the day to day my husband and I are responsible for running Clean Water for Haiti, a humanitarian mission that builds and distributes water filters to Haitian families. Living in Haiti full time provides lots of stories, and as I tell my husband, our grandkids probably won't believe most of them. Maybe writing them down will give me some credibility.

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