Rachel Heath

Intentional Living: learning to be fully present

On Our Have-To’s and Want-To’s

simplicity bannerOne of our major goals this year is to make sure we’re spending our time, energy, and money in a way that’s consistent with out values. For example, I deeply value time spent face-to-face with my husband and daughter. I love to feel healthy and fit, which means time spent being active and cooking every meal fresh and from scratch. I feel aimless if I’m not spending regular time in prayer, bible-study, and worship.

So how do I actually spend my time and energy?

  • Two days a week, I sit at Starbucks working while Izzy plays with my blessed and wonderful mother. I’ve gotten very good at time management because I know I only have 8-10 hours a week to meet my deadlines.
  • Four or five days a week, I go to yoga, swim, or lift weights. Isabella loves the gym nursery so much that she’ll often ask to “play… gym?” We’re both much happier afterwards.
  • One morning a week I go grocery shopping. Somehow this takes an entire morning. I don’t anticipate it taking any less time when I’m doing it with a toddler and an infant.
  • In the summer a minimum of 3 days a week are spent hiking… but it’s 7 degrees outside right now and I don’t want to talk about it.

A typical day at home:

We get up when Izzy does, anytime between 6:30 and 8.

Stephen makes our breakfast protein shakes, ideally retreating to his office (our bedroom) within a half hour to start working. Sometimes he starts much later because the kitchen is dirty and he just can’t help himself, it must be cleaned. Hopefully one of us remembers to feed the dog.

It’s cold right now, so we’re stuck inside. I spend the morning alternately:

  • photo (13)playing with Isabella (stacking blocks, coloring, reading books, chatting, swaddling  the same stuffed animal eight hundred times)
  • on my phone, absent-mindedly wasting time on social media when I get bored, followed shortly by guilt
  • checking my work email and trying to take care of necessary admin stuff while trying to keep Isabella from turning my computer off (that little power button is so inviting)
  • doing chores (dishes, laundry, cleaning, tidying up the crap that inexplicably accumulates on every surface)
  • On rare occasions like today, actually writing while Izzy plays happily (today, in an empty box from costco. “I got box!”)

The three of us usually eat lunch together. These days I’m tired enough that I need to share Isabella’s afternoon nap. We wake up mid-afternoon and play some more or go to the gym.

When Stephen gets done working I try to make dinner. I say “try” because Isabella, who has been knocking on Stephen’s door and begging for his attention all day, often chooses this moment to completely ignore him and instead claw desperately at my legs and whine while I try to cook. I get annoyed because Stephen (understandably) feels unwanted and retreats to facebook or ESPN. Sometimes we try to discuss our day and we both end up annoyed with Isabella because she’s (understandably) bored and needy and acting out.

I actually love to cook for my family, but making dinner is can easily become a joyless and frustrating experience for me. I think this is the most stressful time of day for all of us but we haven’t yet found an easier way.

Stephen usually puts Izzy to bed around 7:30. We’re both mentally and physically tired and often spend our evening watching TV online. After a couple hours we retire to bed having barely looked at each other the entire day, which is ludicrous considering we’re both at home, no more than 30 feet apart at any given moment. Less often, Stephen will get more work done while I read or write, or we’ll worship together if one of us is one the worship team and needs to practice.

It sounds pretty monotonous. I suppose it often is. Part of it is simply life unavoidable: work must be done; paychecks must be earned; clothes and dishes must be cleaned; dinner must be cooked. Everyone can break their life down into “have-to’s” and “want-to’s.” But after I fulfill the day’s needs, am I giving space and attention to the right wants? For me, many of the less important things win out: TV over time spend with my husband or engaged in something meaningful; social media over taking a rare opportunity to write; inefficient home management over valuable interaction with my child.

Take time to honestly evaluate your own average day. Are you pursuing the things that you’ve defined as most lasting, most valuable? Or are you (like me) wasting time on things that… aren’t?

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2 thoughts on “On Our Have-To’s and Want-To’s

  1. You are balancing a lot in life, but you sound so organized with it. That time in life, with little ones, is so busy! My mom once told me she didn’t have many regrets, but she wished she would have realized the dust would always be there but us kids wouldn’t be. She told me, “Get on the floor and play with your kids as much as you can. The time goes by too quickly.” She was right of course. It sounds like you have this priority firmly in place!

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