My friend was going through some old pictures the other day and came across a huge bunch of them featuring us and our kids doing all kinds of super amazing things.  Apparently we used to be fun and full of energy! We would load our combination of six small humans (some still in DIAPERS!) into the car and haul them to zoos and amusement parks and museums and plays and overnight trips and pools and the lake and air-shows and tons of other places that now wear me out just thinking about.

After those crazy-full days we would somehow regroup and throw these awesome adult gatherings. We actually made “table-scapes” and colored cream-cheese to make homemade mints! We got excited about new recipes and creating fun personalized invitations.  People seemed to have as much fun at our parties as we did throwing them….

Now don’t get me wrong. I remember many instances of coming home from these outings or gatherings and having someone collapse on the rug and fall asleep two feet from the door. Sometimes the collapser was a child, and sometimes it might have been me.  But then we would rally and do something else equally amazing the next day. We were like a herd (or pack? Passel? What do you call a group of rabbits?) of Energizer Bunnies that couldn’t be stopped. And you know what? We loved it! We had fun in our exhaustion and found joy in our chaos.

Fast forward to today. It appears that this Energizer Bunny actually contains a rechargeable battery that is no longer able to accept much of a charge. Even when I do “recharge” it doesn’t last nearly as long as it used to…and it can go from full to empty in a surprisingly quick amount of time. I realize I am getting older, but that doesn’t seem to fully explain this drastic change. I suspect it may have something to do with my current lifestyle as well.  Let me explain…

When the kids were younger it was hard. A constant state of chaos labeled “The Busy“. They needed help with almost everything and it was virtually impossible to complete a household task in one sitting.  BUT…there were quiet moments.  Certainly when the kids were napping or had gone to bed…but also in the moments when everything else stopped and we turned our focus 100% to a child.  Maybe this was during meal time when they needed help, or rocking someone to sleep, or reading a story, or even making some time to just play. There were walks and sweet times of pushing someone in a swing, and there were playdates–which was code for hanging out with a friend while your kids ran around doing pretty much whatever they wanted. My point is: in between The Busy came moments of rest. Yes, we still had to scramble to get life chores done, but it was acceptable to leave the dishes in the sink or pull clean underwear out of a laundry basket. The priorities were people, activities and relationships.

Today my kids are pretty self-sufficient. I can let them out of my sight without a real fear of death or partial dismemberment, and I can stay in my bed on Saturday mornings when they decide to all wake up early (earlier than they normally would for school! Why?).  I won’t lie–some of that is pretty darn sweet.  But here’s the rub; I think I’ve somehow lost the moments in between The Busy.

When I drop the kids at school I have about 7 hours (which is actually 6.25 with travel time).  One might think, “6.25 glorious hours stretching languidly out in front of me to refresh and renew my soul…and maybe tone my arms!”  The reality? “Only 6.25 stinkin’ hours?  How am I supposed to get our home and yard taken care of, do all the errands this family of five needs, get groceries and have dinner ready to go, fulfill the myriad of volunteer jobs I’ve shouldered, and–if by some miracle I squeeze it all in–try and work off the box of Girl Scout cookies my friend Tiffany forced in my car last night!!!??? And Gah! I have to get a new clarinet book, jazz shoes and 120 hot dogs today too!!!

You see…when you have that long stretch of time, it becomes no longer acceptable to have dishes laying in the sink. Or to not have laundry put away. Or the yard half-raked. There is a guilt (which I realized may be partially self-imposed….but only partially) about sitting down to do a Bible Study or read a book or eat lunch or just letting the sun warm your face. Everything seems to need to be effectively completed in that 6.25 hour chunk of time because of what comes next…..

The After School Insanity Shift.

This is when a parent-of-older-kid’s world does a radical daily focus shift from “the rest of life” to “kid’s chaos”. There are activities to chauffeur them to, homework that needs oversight and assistance, talks that need to be had, dinner that needs to be eaten (not prepared mind you…that should have happened before the AS Insanity Shift), stories that need to be read, kids that need late pick-ups, and–when that gets done–spouses that need some time spent with them too! When “kid time” gets crunched into a 3pm-9pm frame things get pretty compressed. There are no in between The Busy moments to be found there either.

This is what I meant about my waning energy being caused by current lifestyle. By deciding to make sure everything is completely done before the kids are done with school so that I can turn all of my attention onto them when they are finished…i have left no time available for the mini-recharges that my old battery seems to need. Without those little recharges, I’ve discovered that my amount of patience and joy seem to bottom out pretty early in the day. The very idea of throwing a get-together makes me yawn.  Looking for “table-scape” ideas on Pinterest makes my left eyelid twitch.  I mean….the results of these things would be fun…but I am so so so so so tired by 8:37!

I realize this all seems kinda like a long grumpy woe is me kind of complaint list  Actually…it’s been more of a road to realization. By taking some time to recharge during the day I am able to find more joy, patience, and even energy during the second shift.  If I take an actual lunch break–sit down and eat something real (no…cheezits and an apple don’t count), and read a book/play on the computer/sit outside in the sun…I just plain feel better. I start thinking about fun things, instead of needs-to-be-done things. I remember friends that make me smile and I even plan some time together with them. I might escape into some trashy fiction novel or have God rock my world with some scriptural truths in a Bible study. When I deliberately seek and expose some quiet moments, my focus changes–however briefly–from hurry-hurry-get-it-done to people, fun activities and relationships.

And you know what else?  I’ve learned that nobody has died or gotten cholera if I have to write out the monthly bills while they are talking to me.  Not one of my charges has been held back a grade or lost a limb because they had to run an errand with me after school.  If the jazz shoes wait an extra day to be purchased nobody spontaneously explodes.  It’s freeing, really.  And because my mind has a bit more energy, I can focus on the fun.

I am consciously trying to take breaks in my daily first shift so that I can be “all-there” in my second shift.  The breaks don’t come as naturally as they did when the kids were younger, but with a little foresight, I can make them happen.  You see…teenagers don’t go to bed at 8 like little ones do.  You don’t get to clock out until waaaaaay later.  There is very little “me-time” in the evening anymore.  Those early-day recharge sessions are actually really necessary…and I would challenge both you and myself to find and take them.

Life is busy.  Seasons are busy.  That’s just a fact.  I realize that I’m still going to be a tired lady, but my hope is to be a tired lady who has a small half-smile on her face when she falls into bed thinking about fun times and brightly colored cream cheese mints.

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