Time is a nonspatial continuum that is measured in terms of events which succeed one another from past through present to future. In terms of life, the time we have on Earth in this particular body is limited. How we spend our time is a choice, but we don’t often feel like we have a choice in how we spend our time. This is not true, but you can argue with me that you would rather be drinking a rum punch on a beach in the Caribbean instead of going to work. Of course, vacations are great but no one would want to drink rum punches on beaches every day of their life. Life would become rather meaningless and boring (although it might be fun to see how long it took to get bored).
I would challenge you to really address the problem within the counter-argument we all present when faced with the reality that we really can choose how we spend our time. Is it possible that the job you have chosen is not something you really enjoy? What would it take for you to embrace the job that would have you hopping out of bed in the morning? Personally, I love going to work. Ask Ian if you don’t believe me. It’s my favorite.
Where I get stuck is with the kids. The kids are a lot of work. I love them, and… and I don’t always enjoy all the work and lack of freedom that goes along with them.
Then, I start to wonder what my children would do without me. Would they be OK? Would they start doing things for themselves that I normally do for them? Probably.
It is funny. I often complain about the kids not doing things around the house like clean, laundry dishes, cooking, picking up, anything… I do not really set any hard and fast rules about people’s assigned chores. Part of the reason is that I like things done a certain way. I do not make a lot of room for someone to learn and make mistakes. It really sends out a message to the kids that they are not capable of doing things to my standard so don’t even bother. I also believe deep down I feel needed, even valued for my concierge like service and attention (Ha!).
My second oldest son is about to go off to college. I had a momentary panic that I had not really taught him how to separate the darks from lights in the laundry. So, I pulled him aside and made him pay attention to the task I mindlessly do at least 3 times a day (7 kids = lots of laundry). I also taught him other various important things like to hang up your clothes, you can wear clothes more than once (except underwear), and that you should cover certain foods in the microwave because they might splatter.
I rushed to impart my wisdom onto my son because I was running out of time. It made me wonder if I ever would have gotten around to teaching him these things without the running out of time pressure. I started to think about my other children. What if I was running out of time with them, too? What would I rush to tell them, teach them, pass on to them?
Then I wondered why do I parent (or live life) like I am not running out of time?
So, I sat down and made a list of all the things I would want to do if I only had a month left, a week left, a day left…
Strange things started to pop up on the list. I would make sure my oldest son actually got his driver’s license. I would teach him how to brown ground beef (a staple in his diet). I would tell my kids how much I loved them more often. I would let the little things go and focus on the really important things like making sure my kids felt important and valued for who they are. I would take the time to be excited about the little things that did happen in my precious few moments left with them. I would spend less time doing stuff for them and more time doing stuff with them.
Oddly, my list really looked a lot like the parent I would want to be every day regardless of how many days I had left with my kids.
Now this idea can apply to anything and anyone in your life, not just your kids. It does make you really start to recognize how valuable the dimension of time really is. Time is a wonderful gift, and we often detest it. We are always running against the clock. We are always urgent. We often say there is never enough time.
There is enough time. We just don’t prioritize according to what we really value. We have a list of things we think we “should” do. Those things are sometimes necessary but rarely are they important in the grand scheme of our lives.
I suggest modifying the way you think about what you are choosing to do in a moment. How do you really want to spend your time? Time is precious. I suggest valuing time as a motivator to be the person you want to be right now. None of us knows exactly how much time we have left with any one person. So, start being the person you would be if you only had a week left. What would you want people to remember about you?
What do you want your children to be able to do for themselves? Start teaching now!
Time is running out. This is a gift not a torture device. Time is the gift that allows us to pause and consider before we act. It would be tough if every thought we had resulted in immediate action. Yikes! I would probably be in jail…
Time also encourages us to prioritize our choices. I choose now to spend more time hugging my children, telling them how amazing they are, teaching them, asking them to do tasks with me so they can be confident, independent adults. I also have learned to identify those moments of peace and allow them to be peaceful instead of filling them with seemingly urgent tasks and thoughts.
So, next time you are conscious of what you are doing, ask yourself, “Would I choose to be doing this or acting this way if I knew I only had a limited amount of time left?” In reality, you actually only have a limited amount of time left.