Making Time for What’s Important

“A clock with the big hand at 12 and little hand at 10” by Tristan Colangelo on Unsplash

A few years ago, I tripped across the line:

Replace the words “I don’t have time” with “It’s not important to me” and see how it feels.

The idea was to recognize prioritizing certain things over other things. The things that are important should have room in your life.

I ran across this line again the other day, or a variation thereof. A few years ago, I was all over that line, thinking “YES! I can feel so much better if I can only focus on the things that are IMPORTANT to me!” Now, I’m not so sure.

A few years ago, I read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, a book dedicated to fierce decluttering of the home, and only keeping items that “spark joy.” Quite literally, holding an item in your hands and saying “Do you bring me joy?” If not, get rid of it. While I appreciated the overall sentiment of the book, I found myself wondering if it could really apply to everything. A can opener doesn’t really bring me joy, but I need to keep it. Diapers certainly don’t bring me joy.

Kondo clarified later to look at necessary household objects along these lines: “If I don’t have a can opener, I cannot open cans. Therefore, this item brings me joy. If I don’t have diapers, the baby poop will be everywhere. Therefore, diapers bring me joy.”

When re-reading the line recently about saying “it’s not important to me” I found myself with similar misgivings that I had when I read Marie Kondo. We are not an overly-scheduled family. My kids (ages 8 and 6) do swimming lessons for part of the year because swimming is a necessary life skill, and for six weeks in the winter they participated in a one-hour afterschool art class, but that’s it. No soccer practice, no music lessons. We have done activities through the park district and taekwondo classes in the past, but found that the kids much preferred to just be at home. And that is completely fine — we enrich their lives in other ways, like trips to the museum, or playdates with friends. Just not recurring commitments.

So then I look at the waking hours of the day and still wonder how I can fit it all in. Laundry is important, so that we have clean clothes. Helping my son practice his spelling words is important, so that he can do well on his test. Work is important, so that we can pay bills. Talking to my husband every night is important, so that we can keep our overall household running.

I do write, daily, though not nearly as much as I would like. Often it is merely recapping the day, or a blog post. I often feel that I then have to move writing up and down the rungs on the ladder of priority. Running to Target because we are out of cereal might have to occupy my morning instead of sitting with a cup of coffee and writing, no matter how much I wish it were otherwise.

Recently, a woman I know announced that she has the final proof of her book in her hands. I was so happy for her… and a bit jealous. She blogged about how she spent several years working on it, and pushed other things aside to focus on her book, saying “there were times I have to put the book first.”

I was jealous, because I can’t put writing first, no matter how much I want to. I have three young kids and putting writing first would mean (short of outright neglect) that I would miss out on these limited years I have with them. It would mean relying on my husband to take on a larger share of household duties so that I could lock myself in a room and right and that’s not what he signed up for: we work hard at being equal co-parents.

I try to tell myself that it will not always be this way. In the distant future, the kids will all be out of the house (quite distant, since I have a 7-month-old). The demands on my day will be less. I console myself further that the small amount of writing that I am doing now will lend itself someday to a more dedicated practice.

This morning, the baby woke up at 6:15. After changing her diaper, I sat her beside me while I wrote. She played with a stuffed animal and gurgled while I was able to spend about thirty minutes before the rest of the household woke up. Literally hitting publish as my big kids came barging into the room.

It is important. And for now, it is enough.

To read the writing that I do about pregnancy loss and grief, you can head over to my blog, Grieving Out Loud.

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