This morning I was reflecting back on how my life was four years ago. We had our first two kids 16 months apart and the second, my daughter, needed a lot. She napped for 20 minutes intervals, on my chest. She cried from 4pm on til about 11pm. I was a wreck, I became a total mom martyr and lost all clarity on my mothering and marriage.
This thing happened in our marriage where I was so desperate for time away, a break!, that I would become a bear about it. We were both exhausted and frustrated and there was this horrible cycle of resentment and anger in our marriage that neither of us knew how to manage (cue the investment in marriage counselling! #worthit). So, amongst all the mess, as we tried to pinpoint things we could do to scramble our way out of this and we realized that our schedule was a big source of stress. We each needed/wanted time away but it was hard to ask for, hard to fit in last minute or to make it feel like it was equally distributed between us (why did we think we needed to keep score?).
We realized we needed to get assertive about asking for time away AND that we needed to PLAN FOR IT.
WHAT TO SCHEDULE
So, began our weekly calendar meetings. Because Conor’s shift work is a week on a week off we would usually do it on his last evening of work, so just as we are jumping into the week off. (Guess it is actually a bi-monthly meeting in our case). We look at the calendar as it is with all the kid activities and any work I have scheduled, then it gets filled with things like gym time for Conor, a work out for me, any house projects we want to do, any errands we need to run, anything that we need to prep for the kids, maybe even a date, or a time for a kid-parent date (I know the wording is horrible, but you know what I mean). We found that it helps us plan better family time. If we can protect a Sunday afternoon, or make the point of planning a camping trip – then we can make sure we do the things we want to do as parents. The days don’t pass by with us wondering what happened and why we never did all the things we said were important to us.
At first, these were slightly painful. There was still residual resentment and scorekeeping was a passive aggressive way we were expressing this. The weekly calendar meeting felt like a chore, but at the same time, we both knew it was necessary to designate that time we needed away.
This was four years ago. A LOT has changed in our marriage, in our parenting and in our home (praise the Lord, a literal answer to prayers!). We still hold a lot of value in these weekly meetings and if we miss one we find ourselves saying halfway through the week that we should have done one.
ENCOURAGE ONE ANOTHER
So, these days, our meetings are less stressful because we are less stressed. We get stuff scheduled, we even encourage each other in ways we could take time away or work on something we know the other person wants to. For instance, I’ve been trying to work out twice a week and Conor will encourage me to ensure I am making time for this. I encourage him to do things he loves like organize nails into jars or go fishing or chop down trees. Maybe a big part of this is that we never really had ‘goals’ when we started, but now we are working on ‘living life on purpose’ and we plan them together every New Years and so we know how we can encourage one another through the year. It feels like night and day from where we were.
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WRITE IT DOWN
Everything we decide on during the meeting gets written on the calendar on the fridge. This may as well be written in blood. As the saying goes in our house ‘IS IT ON THE CALENDAR?’. If it is not on the calendar it is not given priority. Ok, confession, If there is something I can work on as a person, in general, it is spontaneity. If Conor asks me at 3pm to go to the gym later that night, my brain short circuits. I need an unreasonable amount of thought time to process and plan how my day will still go when something in it changes. If someone (*cough, Conor) wants to make alterations to the calendar I generally have zero chill about it.
If it is written on the calendar, respect the calendar!
I’d say we are both working on this in finding ways to give my brain the planning time it needs and allowing scheduling changes to happen as they work best.
THE BIGGEST BENEFIT
If you are reading this all and thinking ‘it is alright I don’t know if it is necessary’ then let me tell you friend, this will MAKE YOUR LIFE BETTER!
The simple power of knowing there is time reserved for you to DO YOUR THANG helps you get through the days when you just need a break already!
If I am home all week with the kids and I’m momming so hard, I need to know there will be a reprieve on the horizon. If I know I am leaving to a yoga class on Thursday night, or meeting friends for breakfast on Friday, or the house will be empty on Wednesday morning…..man, it is like I have superpowers to get through the next couple days. I can be so IN IT with the kids: crafting all the things, referring spats every thirty minutes, ignoring my phone, making the painfully long walk to the park that is two blocks away only to freeze while I push kids on swings and then make the walk back. I even find myself enjoying my kids more because I know I get a break from all this soon. I am a better mom, wife, friend and person when I have time scheduled for me to do whatever I want to do.
THE NEXT LEVEL
Our weekly meeting is simple, it takes like ten minutes. I’ve been reading about couples who have ‘marriage meetings’. I’m not sure how to sell Conor on a meeting where we talk about FEEEEEEEELINGS but I could see how this would take it to the next level. These meetings include things like affirmations, appreciation, chores, finances, and things to work on as a couple. If I can’t convince him with the promise of matching underwear (do I even own any anymore??), maybe the Art of Manliness can convince him with this article. I think a nice starting point might be to make the point of saying what we have noticed the other person do this week. Like Conor keeps the garbage area in the garage so tidy. I would never even think of doing this and when I see it I’m like, that guy is cool. I should tell him more.
JUST TRY IT
There is no wrong way to do this. And if you feel like you and your spouse have a system that works then maybe a weekly calendar meeting isn’t necessary for you. BUT if you are looking for ways to improve how you spend your time as a family, and you want to get some SELF time in there then try a quick calendar meeting. We sometimes do it right after dinner real quick, kids are running around, I can’t find a pen that works and we are just throwing out wildcards like ‘let’s redo the stairs!’ (still not done), or ‘let’s purge the pantries!’ (Be Chill Shawna! Be Chill!). I’m sure you could make this a more special time. If you want to make it something to look forward to maybe make some nice coffees, have a special dessert or do it with a nice bottle of red.
We never regret taking a little time to make a plan and everyone is better able to be in the present moment with whatever we are doing (renos, parenting, work, exercise) because we know all these things have been given a slot on the week ahead.
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