Empty Spaces

By Mary

A while ago a friend and I were talking about balance in life, and the curse of busyness. She was gently suggesting that perhaps my life would be easier if I left some open spaces in my schedule, blanks where nothing needed to happen. I knew that she’d learned that wisdom through her own struggles with time management. But at that point in my life, struggling between homeschooling, wedding planning, and a tight book deadline, I honestly felt that there was nothing in my life to cut.

“I’m doing okay,” I told her. “And it’ll only be for a little while longer that I’ll be this busy.”

My friend still thought that my life at that point was a little too hectic to be healthy. But she simply said, “Well, as long as  you have time to talk to your children.”

I reassured her that though the days were crazy, I still managed to carve out moments to chat here and there. And I did.

But that comment stuck with me. When we get busy, it really does seem that communicating with our loved ones is one of the first things to go by the wayside. Scurrying from place to place just doesn’t allow the kind of leisurely moments most likely to coax confidences from children. And yet they so much need moments to talk with us, to share what’s deep in their hearts. Not just surface stuff, but stuff that comes out only after you’ve been talking awhile.

I have far to go in this department. That’s probably why my friend’s comment stuck with me. It had that irritating grain of truth that can be so hard to hear. As a writer, I tend to live in my head a lot, to value quiet and time to think. And as a doer, I always have lists, in my head and on paper, of what I need to accomplish next. Those tendencies don’t make it especially easy for me to pause, and focus outwardly, and wait for what a person might have to say to me.

But I’ve been working on it, step by baby step. Taking a extra moment to ask a second and a third question about someone’s day. Pausing to look people in the eye instead of multi-tasking. Trying hard to sit –just sit, just BE — when someone comes to snuggle against me for a hug in the morning.

I’ve always prided myself on using my time efficiently, on getting lots done. And certainly there are moments when multi-tasking can work beautifully- when great conversation can be had in the middle of canning tomatoes or driving to soccer practice or eating breakfast, if only I’ll get out of my head and into a child’s heart. But like my friend suggested, it is wise to make sure that life also includes a bit of ‘nothing’  time. Because maybe, just maybe, someone precious is waiting for a quiet moment to say something important…or  something small…if only they can find a minute when I’m not busy.

I am grateful to my friend for reminding me of that.

Mary Ostyn is the mother of 10 children. She has written A SANE WOMAN’S GUIDE TO RAISING A LARGE FAMILY and FAMILY FEASTS FOR $75 A WEEK. She also writes at Owlhaven.

5 Responses to Empty Spaces
  1. Kelly
    August 23, 2009 | 2:46 pm

    Margin. It’s hard to find, isn’t it? Yet I’m starting to believe it’s crucial to parenting, to being a healthy woman, to growing as a disciple of Jesus.

    I also really resonated with your descriptions of writer and doer. It’s a double whammy. When I’m not involved in internal dialogue, I’m pushing away at a project. It makes it very hard to just “be.”

  2. Empty Spaces — Owlhaven
    August 23, 2009 | 4:32 pm

    […] over at 5 Minutes for Parenting today, talking about empty spaces. Do you have any? Share and […]

  3. Carrie
    August 23, 2009 | 9:50 pm

    Great reminder. My oldest is only 20 mos. now, and sometimes I even feel almost guilty when I take time from housework & just sit & play with him, I think, “shouldn’t I be getting something done?” but then his face lights up when he realized I’m just there to play with him, and I know it’s important. It must be much more difficult with more children, too.

  4. Jenna
    August 25, 2009 | 8:13 pm

    Thank you for that gentle reminder to be available. I work from home and have 4 kids age 5 and under, and it is too easy to be busy all the time. There was a time before I was working again when I had 15 minutes set aside for each child every day to do what they wanted with just me. It was so simple and yet it meant so much to those little people to whom God has allowed me to be mommy. I need to find a way to squeeze that time back into our day.

    Thank you.

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