This is day 14 of Soulful Simplicity, a 31-day series through the month of October. The first week of the series can be found here. I hope you are enriched by this series. If you have any questions or would otherwise like to connect, feel free to send me a note: lightandloveliness [at] gmail [dot] com.
Note: As I wrote out this post, it grew longer and longer, so I have broken it up. Part 2 will be up tomorrow!
Yesterday I shared on my habit of planning one day ahead, and today I would like to follow that with a practice I refer to as “Pacing the Day,” a technique I have employed with my family for quite a few years. Please note, this is not a complicated concept to implement, but it is a little tricky to describe, so please bear with me, and if you have questions by the end, I am glad to hear them!
Ok. So you plan one day ahead and know what is coming at you from the perspective of tasks that need your attention, and details you need to keep in your mind, but you also have these
wildcards children who might be on board with your awesome one day plan, or they might figuratively tear your plan to pieces with any of a number of sly moves—terrible attitudes, fits of screaming, stubbornness, apathy, selective listening, getting suddenly sick, squabbling over the tiniest things…are you with me? So what is a mom to do when she has a list and the very real possibility that accomplishing her list might be completely impossible that day?
Pace the day.
If you have young children, you already know that one day to the next, you have no idea if the house will still be standing by bedtime. You have no idea if your children will cooperate at any level while you try to get them out the door. You have dreams of being able to perfectly execute your to-do list and soul-care and child-care, but you know that it is not ever going to look like what it does in your dreams. It’s called reality, and mamas know exactly what I’m talking about.
Reality is what it is, but the way we look at it—or the perspective we take on it—makes a huge difference in how we respond to it.
Pacing the day is about sharpening your intuition to recognize the cues your children give so you can anticipate their needs instead of respond to them after the fact, and employing proactive strategies for smoother days. I am specifically referring to non-verbal, nuanced cues that give you insight so you can design the flow of your day as it unfolds around the present needs of your family. This allows you to capitalize on your kids’ energy when they have an abundance of it, build in times for rest and connection when that is prudent, and hopefully allows you a measure of peace in the midst of a challenging but wonderful season of life.
Most mothers pace the day at some level instinctively, but I’d like to look at it in more detail because like anything interesting, the more you dig in the more you discover.
I have a tiny backstory for you. I first started putting these thoughts together when my second baby was about 6 months old. With my first baby, I was a young mom with a steep learning curve (i.e. zero previous infant experience), and I mothered her as an infant with this cycle: baby cries, mom responds, mom tries everything she can to make the baby stop crying, baby stops crying; repeat x100 daily. It was an endless cycle of cry, satisfy, cry, satisfy, and I was all over the place trying to satisfy that child. With my second-born, I started to notice that my son had specific subtle cues when he was getting sleepy or hungry. He wasn’t yet crying, but he was subtly communicating. I was able to recognize little signs before there were big tears and tend to needs early with very little crying. I have had four more babies since then, and over time I have come to believe that little ones are absolutely capable of telling us what they need if we are able to observe and respond to their cues proactively instead of reactively. I have been able to anticipate their needs before we’re in all-out-frazzled mode, and as such my babies have not spent much time crying.
Please note, every baby is different and this is in NO way intended to insinuate that if you just do xyz, your baby will never cry. If they do cry, it is not a poor reflection on you or evidence that you can’t do this. This is not a formula, and not a prescription—simply a look into what I have discovered within my family in case it helps you.
The wonderful thing about the discovery of this concept: it works with older children too. It is possible to anticipate what the best next-step will be during the day by evaluating where your child is at. It takes far more energy to put out a fire than to prevent one in the first place. Is it always possible to prevent fires? No, of course not. But if there is a way to cut down on the number of fires I have to put out each day (spending my precious limited energy to do so), you can bet I will put a little effort in on the front end to save a lot of effort later.
That is the main idea behind pacing the day.
I use the term ‘pacing the day’ because motherhood feels something like a sprint on a marathon track. We wake to little faces with big needs and funny personalities, and we have to be on our toes all day long. The thing is, we have to be diligent regarding this mothering task not only for the day in front of us, but for years to go.
Motherhood is a marathon, and if you run it like a sprint, you are going to injure yourself or your children somewhere in the process.
Pacing the day is an invitation to slow down and make strategic decisions about how help your children develop healthy habits, communication skills, and ultimately emotional intelligence—all in the course of an ordinary day. Pacing the day is about attentiveness. It is about staying engaged with your children and understanding the leadership role you hold in your household system. It is about recognizing that you have tools at your fingertips that can help you proactively manage the environment of your home. You do not have to hunker down and brace yourself for the drama, but you can gently direct and guide your children into a pattern of healthy habits that will serve them in the present and long after they leave your house. There may still be some drama—but you are not obligated to participate in it. You can instead strategically respond to the cues your children give you about the best next-step for the day. Pacing the day is about understanding that a mother is uniquely gifted to stand at the helm and steer the family ship with intention and wisdom.
Tomorrow, I will share in complete detail how I use this method in my family. Between now and then, if this idea happens to resonate with you, would you think about a mama you personally know that might benefit from these ideas and share this post with her? I would love to encourage her with my experience, and I hope you’ll be back to check out the juicy stuff I have for you tomorrow. It’s going to be great.
“He gives strength to the weary, and to him who lacks might He increases power. Though youths grow weary and tired, and vigorous young men stumble badly, Yet those who wait for the Lord will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, they will run and not get tired, they will walk and not become weary.” Isaiah 40: 29-31
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