What Aren’t Your Priorities?

What’s even more important than listing one’s priorities is listing those things that you do not consider priorities. These are things that slowly siphon your time away. You can say “I want to cross the ocean” all you like, but if you don’t recognize that your boat has a leak, you’re not going to get very far.

So now we’ll discuss the things that are holding me back, things that inhibit our progress to peace and happiness.

For anyone else who is following along with this blog so far, be forewarned: this is a difficult task to undergo. This list will likely reveal a host of things, some tangible, some not, that are inhibiting you, without you even realizing it. It will probaby reveal an addiction you were ignoring, a habit you’re surprised by, or a ritual you’ve been neglecting. Guilt, anger and pride will likely rear their ugly heads. You will likely experience resistance and shame in some cases. Personal growth comes with its own “growing pains” and this will probably sting.

I am saying this to myself, as I prepare to bare it all. Shall we begin?

My first task is to reflect on the past couple weeks and think about the things that I feel guilty or angry about. For example, as much as I love her, I often feel I don’t spend enough time playing with my daughter. I also feel I should be able to accomplish more housework than currently maintained. But why? What is holding me back?

  • Too much TV
    Ahh, there is the first sting. You know what is most sad about this? We don’t even have a set of rabbit ears. We have no cable, no satellite, no Netflix. What we do have, however, is a laptop hooked up to a television and we watch episodes online, from shows that aired the night before. And it is so easy to get sucked into that comatose state, isn’t it? So easy to fall prey to the heros on TV whose lives, personalities and appearances come across as so perfect, so seamless, so much better than our own.

    My husband (and subsequently, I) spend too much time watching TV. It’s a form of release for him, as television and movies are a passion of his and a way for him to relax and destress after working at his very difficult job. As much as I can see and understand this, it is also well past it’s limit. And therefore, I must impart some basic rules to help deal with the issue. For us, the rules will be:

    • No TV before 7:30pm or before baths, chores and clean up are done. The exception to this is Friday nights, our TV night.
    • No violent, dramatic or unpleasant television while Naomi is awake (clean comedies only). (Side note: we do not let her watch television, but there’s no reason to be watching something unpleasant while she is awake, in case she does get a glimpse. They estimate babies who are allowed to watch TV see something like 2000 murders by the time they’re two.)
  • Too much iPhone
    Ahhh, the wonderful iPhone. How quickly you get addicted to these wonderful little handheld devices. Mine even comes to bed with me (“It’s the only ‘me time’ I get, and the only chance I have to blog without interruption,” I hear myself saying to my husband.). It has begun weighing on ny conscience, especially since I have begun noticing my daughter either looking at it sadly or eagerly grabbing for it. Oh beloved iPhone, you have become far too dear to me. I am afraid we must break up. Can we not still be friends?

    • Delete any and all crap apps (approx. 90% of them).
    • Stop keeping daily information on them — no more routines, to do lists, etc.
    • Limit email/social media checks to 1 per hour. Immediate or necessary replies only. All others can wait til nap time.
    • Pick a few specific purposes for the iPhone. For me, that would include blogging, social media, information, family appointments. The majority of it’s uses are just as easy to be done analog.
    • Keep gaming to a minimum. I have two games I play with my husband and one I play myself. That is enough.
    • Set aside some iPhone-free time. For me, when my daughter is awake, when my husband is home, etc. Keep a running list of things to do or look up or do on the phone during this time for when you have the time later.
  • Perfectionism
    This one gets all of us, and we don’t even realize it. I waste so much time on so many useless, trivial things, because they aren’t perfect. I will (metaphorically) spend so much time polishing the silverware, that I never get to eat with it! (Side note: For anyone who struggles with this, I highly recommend checking out FlyLady.net. She has helped thousands of people, and if you can get past her product placement and constant referrals to her friends, she really does have good things to say.)

    • Give up. I’m not perfect. I wasn’t born perfect, I’ll never be perfect, so stop trying to be perfect.
    • Acknowledge it when I realize I’m doing it, and move on.
    • Limit the time I have to focus on a task. Set a timer for 2-15 minutes and only allow myself that much time to complete the task.
    • Utilize my resources. Spellcheck, erasers and Freecycle are there to help us cope with our errors.
  • Bad Habits
    We all have things that we do unconsciously that diminish our lives. A dependency, a desire, a weakness. Perhaps you love collecting chess sets, or have a vast collection of books you never read, or (my vice) are drawn to blank paper of all kinds. This interferes with your life routine when you find yourself spending too much or being overburdened with your habit.

    • Ask myself, is it worth it? I stopped collecting magazines years ago when I realized I could get any of the articles I liked off the Internet. It wasn’t worth it to keep them all.
    • Keep only the things I love. I had a desk full of blank journals. I realized they were weighing me down and tossed most of them. Now I keep my journals in blogs or on my iPhone.
  • And finally, Too Eager to Please
    I am that person. The one who wants to make everyone happy. The one who wants to be sure no one’s feelings get hurt. The one who doesn’t object when I specifically ask that no one buy my daughter clothes, but they do anyways. The one who ignores a chill remark about breastfeeding by a family member because I don’t want to hurt their feelings. The one who let’s her home and life get overcluttered because I can’t say no.

    • Ask myself, again, is it worth it? Is my happiness not worth as much as anyone else’s? Why should I sacrifice my home and family to please people who aren’t even part of it?
    • Grow a backbone. Make sure that I inform others when their acts, behavior and attitude offend or go against my wishes.
    • Be prepared for the backlash and accept it for what it is. 9 times out of 10, people don’t even realize that what they’re doing is offensive or disagreeable. But that doesn’t mean it is acceptable, and we all hate to be wrong. I need to be gentle, but firm, and accept that not everyone is going to take my criticism lightly.
  • This list could go on for eternity. But this is a good start. If I can accomplish this much, I will be well on my way.

    Welcome to the miniMOMist

    “I worry she’s too stressed,” my husband Michael said of our daughter one December evening. She had been crying again for what appears to us to be no valid reason and we didn’t understand her needs. Our daughter, Naomi was only 6 months old at the time. From birth, we had never left her side. We¬†practice¬†cosleeping, babywearing, breastfeeding and taken her with us to each and every event we attended. We were practicing attachment parenting and seeing wonderful results from it. Our beautiful baby girl had always been ahead in her development; she rarely fussed or cried without valid reason. She was a bright, cheerful and happy baby.

    So the idea that she could possibly be stressed baffled me. How was this possible? She had no reason to be stressed! We lived for her, did everything we thought we could do for her. How was it possible she was stressed?

    After Michael’s comment, I began to look around me and started to realize where it was Naomi’s stress might be derived. Our home life, work life, diet, energy, social life, and finances were in crisis. I couldn’t keep up with the housework. Michael loathed his job. We were in debt. We ate carbs and protein almost entirely with very minimal variety. We were always tired and sick. We were more often than not neglecting or avoiding non-crucial social gatherings, especially church. Our hobbies had long since been put on the back burner.

    It quickly became apparent that it wasn’t just Naomi who might be stressed out, but her parents as well!

    Now before anyone jumps to conclusions, I wish to make the following point completely clear and understood: Neither of us in any way see or believe our attached parenting style had anything to do with our current situation. We had decided before her birth that these guidelines were chosen and implemented in order for us to provide for her what we feel is a loving, comforting home. And what’s more, we had been seeing results almost from day one! Naomi slept through the night from about day five to present day, had never been sick, was clear with most of her communications and was one of the best behaved babies we had ever known. In short, even though we knew we were biased, our choices had helped us culture in our daughter the lovely and friendly little girl that she is.

    What had happened, I realized, was we had been duped by the traditional line fed all new parents: the gorgeous, cooing baby lying docile in his crib, while his lovely, perfectly dressed mommy (usually in a crisp white blouse and pearls) leaned over his crib and sighed dreamily at her little bundled angel. The rooms they were in had surely never seen a speck of dirt since the mother had turned 13. All babies slept on schedule, ate neat and clean, all housework was done without effort, no cost need ever be considered. In short, all new mommies and daddies should be able to do it all, and what’s more, maintain the perfection they had in their pre-baby lifestyle.

    Well, reality was quickly settling in. No baby is perfect, and what’s more, certainly no parent is perfect. And what’s more, having a baby changes you, your spouse, your life, everything. And no one and nothing prepares you for it.

    I thought about this over the next several days. I knew there were some things that I couldn’t change. I couldn’t make my husband’s job more agreeable, nor could I immediately decrease the amount of debt we currently had. But I could start making sure that my time was spent wisely. I could trim the fat of my day and focus on what actually mattered. I began to look at my day and realized that there were many, many changes that could be made to make my home life and family life simpler, more productive and easier on us all.

    I began listing changes I intended to make, striving to come up with ways of working the current situation in our favor. And the more I looked at it, the more I realized that the simple acts of simplifying, minimizing and downsizing could indeed help us reach our goals.

    And that is how miniMOMist came to be. Here we will share how minimalism impacts us and our world as a family. Through green living, upcycling, simplifying, thoughtful actions, nurturing, caring and loving, I intend to decrease the chaos that surrounds us and create a comfortable, sustainable lifestyle for us.

    I look forward to sharing this exciting endeavour with you all and eagerly await your interactions. Over the next 6 days, I plan to lay out my plans, objectives and goals that I anticipate for the coming year.

    Have you chosen to make 2011 a time to simplify your life? Is there an area you need to work on in order to make life less stressful for yourself and your children? I’d love to hear about it!