I’m a goal-making junkie.
Always have been.
As I send my first child off to all-day school and my second child to preschool, this fall feels like a season of change. I want to take advantage of our new day-to-day schedules and build in some new habits and ways of doing things.
I started my goal-making process like this.
First, I thought about the changes I’d like to see in myself and the way my family functions. Some of the things that came to mind were being less distracted by technology, putting more effort into making my marriage more fun and fulfilling, deepening my bonds with my children, growing closer to God, and more actively practicing gratitude and mindfulness.
Then, I thought about three specific things that would bring those changes about. Here’s what I ended up with:
- Phones off by 9:30 p.m. My husband and I made this a ground rule awhile ago, but ever since I started this little website of mine a few months ago, I’ve loosened up on it. When we do stick to it, I notice a big difference. That hands-free time opens the door to more communication with my spouse, less anxious thoughts at night (which is when I’m most susceptible to them) and an easier time winding down for sleep. Also, it frees up time for our favorite Netflix shows. Hey-o! Cuddling on the couch and watching something together is way more connecting than zeroing in on our own little worlds in the palms of our hands.
- Instagram regulation. Hi. I’m Kim, and I’m addicted to Instagram. I feel better already. Now that I’m more active on social media, I feel the need for more discipline too. Without it, I’m on and off Instagram countless times a day. Even if it’s only a few minutes here and there, it adds up more quickly than I realize. It makes me a little sick to think of how many hours I’ve wasted scrolling through pictures with nothing substantial to show. So, I’m limiting myself to three intentional Instagram time slots a day: One in the morning before the day starts, one in the afternoon when the kids are sleeping/having quiet time, and one more after the kids have gone to bed. The day-checks are shorter (10-15 minutes) and night is longer (30-40 minutes). I may have to break out a timer to keep me on track with these ones.
- Social Media mini-fasts. Although a year-long sabbatical sounds nice, that isn’t realistic for me right now. Instead, I take one day a week where I log out of social media for the entire day and evening. We take a lot of little trips as a family, so I also pick a couple of those trips where I’m totally Instagram-free. (I delete the app off my phone. It might sound crazy, but that’s how I’ve gotta do it!)
- Use my words. I’m always telling my kids to use their words to express themselves instead of yelling or whining. Words have a huge impact on the way we act and feel. They also have so much power over the way we make our children feel and how they view themselves. I’ve felt a strong impression lately that I need to focus more on the words I speak and the way I say them. It’s fitting, because I launched my “Talk Wordy to Me” brand and my tagline “using words to uplift and inspire.” I need to live up to that.
- Practice reacting in love, not anger. Being a mom has unveiled a little anger problem in me. I was all sorts of patient before I became a mom. It’s a slow process, but I’m learning that I can control my reactions. Not without a lot of discipline and effort, though. Thinking of patience as a skill I need to practice and not master instantly, just like learning a new language or instrument, helps me be gentler on myself and keep working at it instead of just accepting it as a permanent weakness. I’m not expecting to be the picture of patience, here. Just to react in love more times than I react “Trunchbowl-style,” as I’ve said before.
- Monday Mommy Adventures. When I dedicate uninterrupted time to my kids every day where I’m fully focused on them and making them happy, it dissolves a lot of mom-guilt. Also, I notice better behavior in my kids when they have that quality time with me. So every Monday, after my oldest gets home from early-day at school, I’m going to have something planned that the kids can look forward to. It will not be anything fancy. Sometimes we’ll go to the park. Sometimes I’ll read them a new book or play a new game with them. The important thing here is that I am making a concerted effort to have fun with them.
Even if you aren’t part of a religion, I think it’s important to actively do things to keep in touch with your own spirituality and to bring you closer to your source of inspiration and guidance. I’m a Christian, (a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), and I’ve noticed that my relationship with God is like anything else—it gets stale and regresses if I don’t make an effort to deepen it.
In this busy stage of my life, I’ll admit I’ve been feeling a bit indifferent and unmotivated to make that effort. But when I’m being lazy in that area of my life, I notice a stark drop in the peace and happiness I feel. I notice less perspective and clarity, less personal guidance. For me, these are the three things I need to recommit to:
- Daily gospel study.
- Temple attendance.
- Prayer. (Personal prayers morning and night, family prayer and couples prayer before bed.)
- Kiss more. It’s like the prayer of marriage. Keeps you close and the channels of communication open. Hallelujah.
- Plan a reconnection retreat. This one was Clay’s idea, and I’m giddy about it. Our little babe is still going strong with nursing, but come Spring, I wont be a milk factory anymore. We’re going to escape (kid-free!) to somewhere remote, and our phones are not invited. Our only goal will be to have deep conversations and quality time together to strengthen our bond and reconnect with what our relationship was like pre-kids. Two weeks after I had my first baby, I interviewed a couple who won the happiest couple award in the magazine I wrote for. The couple shared a piece of advice I’ve never forgotten since: “As you have children, don’t put your marriage on the back-burner. Because when they’re gone, your relationship will be too.” I don’t want to be the couple that has nothing in common or doesn’t enjoy each others company anymore once the kids are out of the house. Now, where should we go on our retreat?
- Again with the words. I feel like I can tell my husband anything. But that doesn’t mean I should. I mean things like, “You’re washing that laundry wrong.” or “You put the wrong outfit on the baby.” You get the idea. Nitpick this, nitpick that. I’m going to focus on all the things he does for our family (hello, he did the laundry!) and get over the minor details that the control freak referee in me likes to blow her whistle at. Instead, I want to offer more words of affirmation and gratitude. I feel like that will go a long way to create deeper feelings of love and companionship.
- Cultivate gratitude. I love the practical tips to cultivating gratitude I got when I interviewed a psychologist for this article. I’m going to put one of them to use and at our family dinners every night. We are each going to share 3 “Gs” from our day: Something good, something not good, and something we’re grateful for. I hope that by starting this habit now, we will help keep the lines of communication open as our kids get older and harder to squeeze information out of.
- Meditate. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned about managing that little anger problem I mentioned before (and this also works wonders for anxiety) is to take time to meditate. It doesn’t have to be anything hippy-dippy or abnormal. For me, it’s just carving out even three minutes of uninterrupted alone-time when I am not doing anything but relaxing. Not worrying, not doing something “productive.” Just laying or sitting somewhere peaceful and pondering. We spend so much time plugged in to something. I think it’s important to make room for silence.
I have other goals that fall under the friendship, fall cleaning, and health categories, and I’d be happy to share those with you upon request. But for now, I think I’ll leave it at this.
I would really love to hear some of the goals you’re working on and I welcome any suggestions for improvement in the areas I mentioned here.