When I think about the noise in my world right now, the first thing that comes to mind is my girls’ dance studio lobby and parking lot around 3pm. Mini vans and suburbans backed up looking for spots. Tiny ballerinas racing in the door with bags flapping behind them. Some are crying. Because, hey, it’s really nap time. And some are wired from a sugary snack to get them through dance class before they crash. There are carpool car seat swaps. Backpack exchanges. Diaper changes in the backs of SUVs. Instructions from mom to preschooler: “Remember grandma is picking you up and taking you to Susie’s to play until your brother’s game is over.” The lobby is full of snacks and crayons and sippy cups of siblings who have to stay and wait. Moms come in the door weighted down with bags and cups and kids. Maybe a computer to do a few minutes of work while they wait. It is absolutely insane. A study in logistics and operations, and I’m convinced the best operations expert out there could not figure out the intricate workings of the dance studio comings and goings. It’s like an unsolvable math problem: if kid a had to be at ballet at 2pm, but kid b has to be picked up at school and taken to basketball at 2:30pm, and kid c has a doctor’s appointment at 3pm, and mom has a meeting at 2:45pm, and everything is imperative then how long until it all just doesn’t work any more? And yet? We do it. We make it work. We run ourselves ragged fitting the pieces together. But my question. My real, true question? Is why? Why do we do it? Why do we go so hard and so fast that it becomes an SAT word problem just to make a schedule for a preschooler, kindergartener, and a stay at home mom? And, friends? No judgment. I’m right there with you. Grinding so hard to do all the things. And to be quite honest? I don’t get it. So I’m quitting. Quitting the grind and the chaos. Saying no to what’s normal and doing what feels right. And I’m telling you. It may not feel like you can. But you can quit too.
And we can seek with intention a quiet and meaningful rhythm for our families. Where we gather around the table and go for walks and take spontaneous day trips and tell our kids “yes!” when they ask to do something they love. So many times, my girls will ask me for a play date or a beach day or a library visit, and I say no because we don’t have time because of the a schedule I created for them. It hurts my heart to hear “Mama, when we are not so busy, can we please go to the playground?” The simple pleasures they love in life are denied because I left no room in our schedule for THEM to choose.
So this first 4 months of the year have been a heart check for our family. Where are our opportunities to quiet? Is there a different way? What can we give up or change or rethink to bring better connection into our home and family? And guys? It hasn’t been easy. It’s been really hard to rethink how we live out each day. And as we’ve recognized patterns that aren’t serving our family? It’s been really hard to admit that some things need to go or be drastically changed. And it’s been really hard to look people in the eye and explain some of our decisions. To see the skepticism and disagreement run across their faces. To hear the doubt in their voices when they say “Really?” And to fight the urge to defend our decisions in a way that makes sense or pleases others. When really? The only reason we are making these choices is because they are the best choices for our family. No explanation needed. I’m not living to make the world comfortable. I’m living in a way that works for my family. And hopefully? In a way that will encourage others to see the choices they also have. Just because it’s normal to be busy and over scheduled and exhausted doesn’t mean you have to be. You actually get to choose. And you can choose. Just stop thinking about what other people think and do what is best for your family.
So what exactly does it all mean for us? After months of recognizing some hard truths and making big decisions in pursuit of quiet? With a fervent effort to prioritize margin and connection for our family? Where have we landed? Well really, it’s a constant analysis. A new frame of mind with which to approach every opportunity and decision. And we are getting better as we go. But I’ll share three huge changes we are making in the name of quiet.
Dialing our preschool schedule way back for next school year.
So this is the one people look at me sideways about. I’m taking our middle child, Mae, who is currently is school five days a week, out of school altogether next year, and I am not putting baby Bonnie in preschool. Is there anything wrong? No. Does she hate school? No. Has she had a bad year? No. The simple answer is that I miss her. She is a homebody and and likes to be with me. And she will never be 3 again. This year, I needed her to be in school every day because I needed time with baby Bonnie and I needed time to teach Mini Motions because that income is important to our family. But now? Mae and Bonnie get the chance to become best buddies. And Mini Motions is ready for growth in a new way, which is going to free my schedule up to be home more.
Raines stayed home with me until she was 3, and we had all kinds of adventures. I have zero regrets now that she’s a big girl - enrolled in PreK for the Fall. I’m so glad I had all those days just with her. We were bored a lot? Yes. Was I lonely so many days? Yes. But did we explore and get messy? Yes. And did I get to say “yes” a whole lot to her? Yes. Was she behind when she started school because she stayed home until age 3? Nope. So Mae will be ok, too. She will be great. She will thrive. She and Bonnie will have a chance to grow their sweet sister bond. And I will love and cherish this special year with Mae forever. I can’t wait for Mae’s “Mama year”, as we’re calling it.
This was a decision we never thought we would make at the beginning of this school year. We thought she’d always stay in school every day, and that Bonnie would start school this next year, too. Because once we started down that path, it’s easier to just stay on the path than to choose a new one. But once we really thoughtfully and intentionally considered our options, this choice became so clear and so right for our family. So we’re switching it up, and going rogue. Mama year, here we come!
Changing the entire operations model for Mini Motions.
Mama year, right? Yep, it causes a huge problem for my business. When we first decided to keep Mae and Bonnie home, we were stumped about what to do with Mini Motions. We crunched the numbers and talked through the possible schedules for so many different scenarios until our heads were spinning. And everything seemed to leave us in a complicated mess of a situation. Until it hit me. The clearest and most exciting answer. What if I hire an amazing teacher? After two years of working in schools, building a reputation, creating a curriculum, and understanding how best to serve my families and schools, I am ready to share this beautiful business with a new face. I don’t have to stop my business to stay home with my kids. I can actually GROW it! This is some beautiful soul’s dream job. There is someone out there who is made to teach Mini Motions, to shine her light for these precious little dancers, and to be part of growing something special for this community. I am honored and humbled that Mini Motions is ready to grow in this way, and I’m prayerfully searching for the person who is meant to be part of this journey with me.
Having a phone “curfew.”
We got this idea from Jordan’s boss, who implemented this rule at his home when his teenagers got phones. At 9pm, they put their phones on the kitchen counter for the night. When I first heard this, I thought: how great, we’ll have to do that when our kids are older. But the more I reflected on it, the more right if felt for our family right now. Even though our kids are only 4, 2, and 1. What if for the next 10 years before, before they start getting their own devices, they watch us every single day put our phones away for the night? Not part of dinner, or bath, or bedtime. Not present at all. Just like we make them “close the playroom” at dinner time. Our phones “go to bed” before dinner. Right now, we’re not all over our devices while we’re doing the night time routine. But they’re present. We might check a message or play music while the kids are in the tub. We just decided we want a clear line. We want to lead by example that devices don’t matter as much as people. That people are worthy of our full attention. And that boundaries are good. And hopefully, when the teenage years come, they will know what to expect and even value and find relief in some disconnected time in the evenings.
This new rule is even in place for me and Jordan after the kids’ bedtimes. We’ve argued plenty over it, but we are giving it a try. Jordan says that the after bed time hours are when he usually sets up his workouts for the next morning. Who’s going. Who’s riding with who. What if he misses that? And me? I usually get a barrage of texts in the evenings from my mom squad because that’s the only time we have to communicate - after bed time. I set up my social media posts for the following day for Selah, and respond to messages and emails I’ve not had time to address during the day. But, here’s the thing. I had a professor in grad school who checked and responded to his emails only one time per day, between 5am and 6am. He made this very clear to students, friends and colleagues. He gave out his cell phone number to everyone in case of a true urgent situation. And guess what? Everyone respected his boundaries, nothing terrible happened, and people hardly ever actually used his cell phone number. Because what we often consider urgent, when really examined, actually isn’t. We condition people to our communication style. If our friends and colleagues know we are out of touch from 5pm-5am except for phone call worthy situations, then they will communicate within those parameters. So friends, we are going off the grid. We are getting old school alarm clocks, and we are focusing our evenings on family connection. We are reworking our own schedules to accommodate what we usually do in the evenings at other times. Jordan will set up his workouts in the afternoons, and I will respond to messages during the girls’ quiet time, and organize social media posts and respond to emails in the early morning. We’re quieting our evenings, creating sacred family time, and setting an example of healthy boundaries for our girls.
Finding quiet in this chaotic world is not easy. I’m realizing it takes a lot of intentional thought, self observation, and creative problem solving to really create the lives we want for ourselves and our families. And maybe, if we all do just a little simplifying? Cut one thing? Streamline one process? Assess and question our normal every once in a while? Maybe, together, we can calm down the dance studio parking lot. And give are brains and our hearts a break. Breathe. And be quiet.