Step Away From the “To-Do List”

I was with a group of young parents I hadn’t met before. And we were going to be in the same room for the next 60 minutes. We were doing the typical sharing: where you work, kid stories, etc., but I wanted to accelerate the getting-to-know-you process. I said, “This may sound dorky, but I really don’t know how else to say it or how else to know you all a bit better – quickly.” Pause. “But what are your interests or hobbies?”

If you’re a parent, you know how difficult it is to have interests or hobbies. And if someone would have asked me this question even before Owen was born, I would not have known how to respond. Because I am really into accomplishing tasks. I guess that is a hobby. But since starting this Recovering Martha blogging journey, I’ve forced myself to reconsider what I spend my time and energy on. Now don’t be fooled: I still spend a ridiculous amount of time on meaningless tasks (mostly related to way too much social media or a clean house – when people ask Jim about his wife, he describes me as “Monica Gellar“). But I’ve also learned the physical and mental benefits to a yoga workout, getting my accomplishment fix via gardening, and I’ve gotten way more comfortable with publicly announcing my wine habit. So I shared those things with this small group. And I felt like the odd one out.

I was proud of a couple people: one guy in a basketball league, another woman into home decorating (and announcing it took 3 years to build this cool bench out of 3 chairs. I was uber impressed she finished that in only 3 years. No sarcasm; I’m seriously so proud of her.)

But several people seemed to downplay their interests as something they didn’t have time for, or that it wasn’t important.

But it is important – especially to me! I know what it’s like to be completely out of whack with allowing yourself any time or enjoyment (see this beef post and my complete meltdown moment for reasons why I started this blog). And it’s important that we all find “our thing.” Because one day your kids will move out and you won’t know who you are anymore.

I have heard empty nesters describe having to date each other again once all their kids left because they didn’t know how to just be with one another anymore. I’ve heard these same empty nesters struggle to find things they are passionate about. I’ve also heard of some feeling completely lost in their own identity, and depressed because they feel like they wasted their life. Now don’t get me wrong. These women loved taking care of their children and wouldn’t trade that decision, but as they have time to think and reflect, they wish they would have spent a little more time with friends because no one is there for them now. They wish they would have had one night a week where they pursued a hobby: going to jazzercise/studio/horseback riding, so they could feel purposeful and have something to look forward to in an effort to get out of a quiet house.

I don’t want to be in that position someday. I want to feel an identity of more than “worker,” “mother,” and “wife.” I want to be “blogger,” “yogi,” “gardener,” “ wine drinker” (it’s about expectation management – and happiness). I want to be better about identifying myself as “God’s child” because I choose to spend time in His Word and in prayer. And it’s important that my husband and son see me as those multiple roles – not only full-time employee, mother, and wife.

There are a few friends in my life who help me see myself in those other roles – and encourage me to get out of the house. We might get together with our kids because we work and want to have it all: friends and family time. But I’ve tried to be intentional with at least checking in with these women so we don’t totally lose connection (or many times, they are actively pursuing me). It may be a text, email, or lunch date every six months, or it might be a quick yoga workout in a basement once a month. But I’m grateful for these women and their ability to make me feel like someone important and needed in their lives too. I hope I’m meeting a similar need in their life as we continue this struggle to be nearly everything, except, for a moment, “to-do list” people.

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